|Hot Planet Mercury! |
Castro On Bush! Rogue Waves!
Bush On Guard! Iraq War Illegal?
Hawking Revises Black Holes!
|Messenger Mission Tackles Hot Planet Mercury|
|By MARCIA DUNN |
AP Aerospace Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL July 26, 2004 (AP) - NASA is about to embark on its hottest mission ever, to Mercury. The Messenger spacecraft, to be launched next week, will be blasted by up to 700-degree heat as it orbits the tiny planet closest to the sun — so close that it would be as though 11 suns were beating down on Earth.
Remarkably, the only thing between the probe's room-temperature science instruments and the blistering sun and pizza-oven heat will be a handmade ceramic-cloth quilt just one-quarter of an inch thick.
"If it doesn't stay toward the sun, it will fry everything," said Neal Bachtell, mechanical technician and master quilter.
Bachtell used X-Acto blades to cut the 3M Nextel fabric and then — relying on sewing tips from his mother — used an industrial sewing machine to stitch the off-white pieces together into an 8-by-9-foot quilt, using Teflon-coated fiberglass thread. It was a nasty job; the itchy, ceramic-fiber cloth sheds and is bad to inhale.
"Neal, you're making history today, buddy," Jack Ercol, the project's lead thermal engineer, said during a mid-July spacecraft showing in an ultraclean room.
"It's cool, it's cool," Bachtell replied.
Messenger will be the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury and the first in more than 30 years to come close. Even at that, members of the Johns Hopkins University spacecraft team assembled in Cape Canaveral realize this mission can't compete with Mars and its rovers, or Saturn and its newly arrived sentry, Cassini.
That's an Earth year of study. A Mercury year lasts 88 days — Earth days, that is.
It will go down with a pair of U.S. flags, decals solemnly placed on one of Messenger's most heat-resistant surfaces.
|Castro Slams Bush Past Alcoholism|
|By Vanessa Arrington |
The Associated Press
SANTA CLARA Cuba July 27, 2004 (AP) - Fidel Castro's ongoing battle with President Bush turned personal Monday night as the Cuban president brought up his nemesis' past drinking habits.
Summarizing arguments made in Justin A. Frank's book, Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, Castro said Bush apparently had replaced his drinking with religious fundamentalism.
"He depends on religion as a defense mechanism, substituting thought," said Castro, paraphrasing from the book by the Washington, D.C.-based psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry during Cuba's Revolution Day celebration in the central city of Santa Clara.
"In some ways, he doesn't even have to think."
In an autobiography written when he was Texas governor, Bush wrote about swearing off alcohol in 1986, when he was 40. Bush said a spiritual awakening prompted his decision to quit.
Castro began Monday's 11/2-hour speech by disputing Bush's recent charges about sex tourism in Cuba.
Castro said the claims were false, and show that what the White House considers to be the truth about Cuba is "that which the president makes up in his head, whether it corresponds to reality or not."
"There are many in the world who know very little about the Cuban Revolution, and could fall prey to the lies diffused by the United States," Castro said.
But he said those who know Cuba have witnessed the benefits for children, such as universal education and health care.
During a speech in Tampa this month, Bush accused Castro of encouraging a sex-tourism industry designed to attract U.S. dollars to the impoverished nation.
"The regime in Havana, already one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, is adding to its crimes. Castro welcomes sex tourism," Bush said at the July 16 conference on "human trafficking," forced labor, sex and military service.
Bush said Castro had turned Cuba into a major destination for sex tourism, which is "a vital source of hard currency to keep his corrupt government afloat."
Although prostitution does exist, it has been far less visible since Castro launched a massive crackdown on street crime in early 1999.
Earlier Monday, Communist Party faithful gathered for the speech in this provincial capital, where red, white and blue Cuban flags hung from the sides of buildings in observance of the island's Revolution Day. The celebration marks the 51st anniversary of the failed July 26, 1953, attack on a military barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution.
"With the heroism of always," said a banner hanging over a street in this city about 125 miles east of Havana.
The top leaders of Cuba's ruling Communist Party were among about 1,000 people attending the annual event in Santa Clara, home to a major monument housing the remains of revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
Castro's annual Revolution Day speech is considered among his most important.
Communist leaders, who consider July 26 Cuba's true Independence Day, do not recognize the May 20 holiday celebrated by anti-Castro Cuban exiles to mark Cuba's break from Spain in 1898.
|Monkey Apes Humans|
|By DAN WALDMAN |
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM July 21, 2004 - A young monkey at an Israeli zoo has started walking on its hind legs only — aping humans — after a near death experience, the zoo's veterinarian said Wednesday.
Natasha, a 5-year-old black macaque at the Safari Park near Tel Aviv, began walking exclusively on her hind legs after a stomach ailment nearly killed her, zookeepers said.
Monkeys usually alternate between upright movement and walking on all fours. A picture in the Maariv daily on Wednesday showed Natasha standing ramrod straight like a human. The picture was labeled humorously, "The Missing Link?"
Two weeks ago, Natasha and three other monkeys were diagnosed with severe stomach flu. At the zoo clinic, she slipped into critical condition, said Igal Horowitz, the veterinarian.
"I was sure that she was going to die," he said. "She could hardly breathe and her heart was not functioning properly."
After intensive treatment, Natasha's condition stabilized. When she was released from the clinic, Natasha began walking upright.
"I've never seen or heard of this before," said Horowitz. One possible explanation is brain damage from the illness, he said.
Otherwise, Horowitz said, Natasha's behavior has returned to normal.
|Rogue Waves Sink Ships!|
|European Space Agency News Release |
July 21, 2004 - Once dismissed as a nautical myth, freakish ocean waves that rise as tall as ten-storey apartment blocks have been accepted as a leading cause of large ship sinkings. Results from ESA's ERS satellites helped establish the widespread existence of these 'rogue' waves and are now being used to study their origins.
Severe weather has sunk more than 200 supertankers and container ships exceeding 200 metres in length during the last two decades. Rogue waves are believed to be the major cause in many such cases.
Mariners who survived similar encounters have had remarkable stories to tell. In February 1995 the cruiser liner Queen Elizabeth II met a 29-metre high rogue wave during a hurricane in the North Atlantic that Captain Ronald Warwick described as "a great wall of water… it looked as if we were going into the White Cliffs of Dover."
And within the week between February and March 2001 two hardened tourist cruisers – the Bremen and the Caledonian Star – had their bridge windows smashed by 30-metre rogue waves in the South Atlantic, the former ship left drifting without navigation or propulsion for a period of two hours.
"The incidents occurred less than a thousand kilometres apart from each other," said Wolfgang Rosenthal - Senior Scientist with the GKSS Forschungszentrum GmbH research centre, located in Geesthacht in Germany - who has studied rogue waves for years. "All the electronics were switched off on the Bremen as they drifted parallel to the waves, and until they were turned on again the crew were thinking it could have been their last day alive.
"The same phenomenon could have sunk many less lucky vessels: two large ships sink every week on average, but the cause is never studied to the same detail as an air crash. It simply gets put down to 'bad weather'."
Offshore platforms have also been struck: on 1 January 1995 the Draupner oil rig in the North Sea was hit by a wave whose height was measured by an onboard laser device at 26 metres, with the highest waves around it reaching 12 metres.
Objective radar evidence from this and other platforms – radar data from the North Sea's Goma oilfield recorded 466 rogue wave encounters in 12 years - helped convert previously sceptical scientists, whose statistics showed such large deviations from the surrounding sea state should occur only once every 10000 years.
The fact that rogue waves actually take place relatively frequently had major safety and economic implications, since current ships and offshore platforms are built to withstand maximum wave heights of only 15 metres.
In December 2000 the European Union initiated a scientific project called MaxWave to confirm the widespread occurrence of rogue waves, model how they occur and consider their implications for ship and offshore structure design criteria. And as part of MaxWave, data from ESA's ERS radar satellites were first used to carry out a global rogue wave census.
"Looking through the imagettes ends up feeling like flying, because you can follow the sea state along the track of the satellite," Lehner said. "Other features like ice floes, oil slicks and ships are also visible on them, and so there's interest in using them for additional fields of study.
|More Sonar Whale Deaths Suspected|
|FUERTEVENTURA COAST, Spain July 23, 2004 (Reuters) - Two dead whales have landed in Spain's Canary Islands, raising fears they may have been hurt by NATO military exercises off Morocco and that more could have died, officials said on Friday. |
The two whales arrived in the area within 24 hours and were dead for several days before their bodies drifted ashore, said Tony Gallardo, environmental expert with the local government of the island of Fuerteventura, one of the Canaries, which lies only about 60 miles off the southern Moroccan coast.
"There is a strong suspicion that their deaths were related to the NATO exercises that finished a few days ago," Gallardo told Reuters.
Naval and air force units from 10 countries involving 20,000 troops and more than 20 warships took part in U.S.-led NATO military exercises off Morocco from July 11 to 16.
NATO officials had no comment.
The Canary Islands regional government dispatched a helicopter to search remote stretches of coastline after fishermen reported seeing something that looked like a third dead whale floating a few miles from the shore.
Fourteen whales beached in the Canaries in 2002 during multinational military exercises there. It was one of several mass strandings of whales that scientists have linked to the use of naval sonar systems.
A year later, researchers published a study in the science journal Nature that found sonar may cause a type of decompression sickness in whales and dolphins.
Scientists suspect sonar signals disorientate the mammals, forcing them to come up to the surface too quickly, which could cause the formation of damaging nitrogen bubbles in their tissue.
Military sonar systems blast areas of ocean with sound waves to detect submarines.
|Bush On Guard!|
|Bush Military Payroll Records "Found" by Pentagon |
WASHINGTON July 23, 2004 (Reuters) - Payroll records related to President George W. Bush's service in the Air National Guard three decades ago that the Pentagon said earlier this month were accidentally destroyed now have been located, defense officials say.
Bush's whereabouts during his service as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard in the United States during the Vietnam War have become an election-year issue, with some Democrats accusing him of shirking his duty.
Defense Finance and Accounting Service spokesman Bryan Hubbard said the microfilm payroll records were found in Denver.
He blamed a clerical error for the Pentagon's previous failure to find the records.
WASHINGTON July 24, 2004 (AP) - Newly discovered payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard shed no new light on the future president's activities during that summer. A Pentagon official said Friday the earlier contention that the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."
Democrats have sought to contrast Bush's National Guard service with Kerry's Vietnam War record. Kerry enlisted in the Navy, volunteered for combat in Vietnam and earned several medals including a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. After returning from Vietnam, Kerry became a prominent anti-war activist.
|No Mailman-Shaped Dog Treats|
|TORONTO July 23, 2004 (Reuters) - Dogs chomping on mail carrier-shaped treats is no laughing matter for Canada Post. |
The not amused Canadian postal service -- whose carriers endure more than their share of real dog bites -- convinced Pet Valu Inc. stores to stop carrying Bark Bars, dog biscuits that come shaped like cats and letter carriers.
"This is not in any way, shape, or form funny for us, and to make light of that ... I don't see that as funny at all, not even in the least," said John Caines, Canada Post's national media relations manager.
The pet store chain, which has 292 outlets in Canada, agreed to withdraw the treats after it received a letter from Canada Post saying that employees were concerned about the risks mail carriers face from dogs and unhappy with having dog biscuits shaped in their likeness.
Earlier this summer, a letter carrier from Chatham in southwestern Ontario broke both her wrists and had part of her ear ripped off when she was attacked by two pit bull-like dogs.
Caines said that in the first six months of 2004 there were 160 dog attacks on mail carriers across Canada.
|World Court: Iraq War Illegal?|
|LONDON July 23, 2004 (Reuters) - Forty British parliamentarians have asked U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan to seek the opinion of the U.N.'s International Court of Justice on the legality of the Iraq war, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported on Monday. |
It said that the cross-party group, which had written a letter to Annan dated July 20, believes Prime Minister Tony Blair's government breached the U.N.'s charter when it joined the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The letter asked for an "advisory opinion" from the court in the Hague.
"Lots of people have concerns about the legitimacy of the war and it seems we do need to have clarification on this," said Alan Simpson, an MP from Blair's own ruling Labour party, who is leading the group.
The British public has long been suspicious of the motives behind the invasion of Iraq and a report earlier this month by former civil servant Lord Butler has given Blair's critics fresh ammunition to question his credibility.
Butler cleared Blair of distorting spies' assessments on Iraq but exposed faulty intelligence. He criticized Blair's informal style of government and its closeness to secret agents.
The parliamentarians' letter to Annan said: "It is clear that, in Britain and the United States, war was justified on the basis of intelligence reports of current and serious threats from weapons of mass destruction, purportedly held by Iraq, all of which turned out to be without foundation."
"We look to the court for an advisory opinion on this war, not only to address the casualties and damage done to the people and country of Iraq, but also to offer clear guidelines for the future about the legality of pre-emptive wars."
|Gay Rights: House Passes Anti-Gay Marriage Bill|
|By MARK SHERMAN |
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON July 23, 2004 (AP) - Gay marriage opponents wanted more, but House Republicans gave them at least a symbolic election-year victory. Republicans passed legislation in the House on Thursday, 233-194, to prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex unions that took place in other states. Democrats objected to the bill as an unconstitutional attack on gays and the federal judiciary to satisfy the GOP's political base.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said the legislation is a welcome interim step. "It provides us the opportunity to isolate some of these judicial rewrites of marriage. Until we can get an amendment to the Constitution, this will keep it from spreading," Perkins said.
Supporters said the House legislation would protect the institution of marriage by reining in federal judges who might otherwise impose gay marriage on states that have banned it.
"Marriage is under attack," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., referring to the Massachusetts state court decision allowing same-sex marriages.
Florida Invalidates Transsexual Marriage
|Professor Hawking Revises His Black Hole Theory|
|By Peter Griffiths |
DUBLIN July 21, 2004 (Reuters) - Cosmologist Stephen Hawking lost one of the most famous bets in scientific history Wednesday after he rejected the 1975 black hole theory that helped make his name.
The best-selling author of "A Brief History of Time" conceded that American physicist John Preskill was right to doubt his theory and gave him a baseball book as a prize.
"I am now ready to concede the bet," said Hawking, 62. "I offered him an encyclopedia of cricket, but John wouldn't be persuaded of (its) superiority."
Hawking, who has a crippling muscle disease and is confined to a wheelchair, accepted the bet in 1997 when Preskill refused to accept black holes permanently destroy everything they suck up.
For over 200 years, scientists have puzzled over black holes, which form when stars burn all their fuel and collapse, creating a huge gravitational pull.
Hawking now believes some material oozes out of them over billions of years through tiny irregularities in their surface.
He gave brief details of his U-turn last week and expanded on them at a conference in Dublin after making a last-minute request to speak.
"I always hoped that when Stephen conceded, there would be a witness -- this really exceeds my expectations," said Preskill, pointing at the banks of TV cameras in the packed auditorium.
|Genre News: Toons! Henriksen, Ving as Kojak, Gish, Forbes, Medium, Cumming, Chastity, Cho & More!|
|Toons Take Over! |
By John Dempsey
Atlanta July 25, 2004 (Variety) - Journeying to Atlanta three weeks ago for an investors seminar hosted by Turner Broadcasting, a platoon of media analysts got bombarded with PowerPoint tributes to the high-octane performances of movies, the NBA and "Law & Order" on TNT and movies, "Sex & the City" and "Seinfeld" on TBS.
The TNT/TBS part of the presentation mostly reinforced what the analysts already knew. But Turner caught many of them up short when it started laying out the numbers for Cartoon Network, the 11-year-old sibling of TNT and TBS.
The bottom line: Cartoon Network, almost without warning, has shot up to the exalted position of fastest-growing network within the Turner Broadcasting portfolio.
Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, the Powerpuff Girls and their cohorts helped Cartoon rack up $650 million in revenues last year and $241 million in cash flow.
Those dollar figures made Cartoon more profitable than CNN and the rest of the Turner news operation for the first time ever.
A gaudy 17% of the earnings of Turner Broadcasting now gets chalked up by Cartoon, compared to only 14% for news.
Historically, credit for laying much of the groundwork for Cartoon's ascendancy goes to Ted Turner, whose shrewd deals helped Turner Broadcasting amass a bigger cartoon library than either the Walt Disney Co. or Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon. Cartoon Network now draws on more than 14,000 series and shorts from Warner Bros., MGM, Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon's own ramped-up production operation.
Its inventory bulging with more than 2,000 animated characters, Cartoon not only conjures up new figures through series like "Codename: Kids Next Door" and "Aquateen Hunger Force," says Lazarus, but "reinvents" some of the old ones with updated remakes, turning the venerable Daffy Duck into a bumbling superhero known as "Duck Dodgers."
Pre-sell orders for the second "Hunger Force" DVD are even more robust than the first.
While only 38% of Cartoon's revenues come from cable operators, a strapping 54% comes from advertisers, a ratio Abbott says is the sure sign of a healthy network.
Lazarus says Cartoon is trying to stay ahead of other revenue streams that are still in the early stages, working with cable operators, for example, to give them programming for their video-on-demand platforms.
Hollywood July 22, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Genre favorite Lance Henriksen told SCI FI Wire that he plays a supporting role in the upcoming SCI FI Pictures original vampire movie Out for Blood.
[Lance Henriksen's Official site features his own line of stoneware pottery. Lance is a master potter and does every piece himself (and they are amazing!) Check it out MillenniuM fans! Ed.]
Fox MillenniuM DVD site - http://www.foxhome.com/millennium
LOS ANGELES July 23, 2004 (Zap2it.com) The USA Network has started production on an update of the 1970s series "Kojak," with Ving Rhames in the title role.
Hollywood July 22, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Manny Coto, co-executive producer of UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise, told SCI FI Wire that as one of the show's new head writers, he wants the show to link up more with the original Star Trek series and its subsequent series.
To bridge the gap, Coto envisions a story arc in which a revolutionary Vulcan—Coto calls him a "Lawrence of Arabia" of Vulcan—proclaims that Vulcans have strayed from the teachings of Surak, the legendary Vulcan who ushered in the Time of Awakening and founded the movement based on logic and peace.
"And Enterprise will get involved in this." As a result of this resurgence, the political situation with the Andorians changes, and mysterious dissidents on the planet Vulcan attempt to stir up a civil war (and will later be revealed to have been Romulans in disguise), he added. "That's an example of the kinds of stories that we're going to tell this season," Coto said.
Star Trek Enterprise Official site - http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ENT/index.html
LOS ANGELES July 25, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Annabeth Gish, who co-starred on the last two seasons of "The X-Files," has joined Showtime's untitled drama pilot about two ambitious brothers -- one a politician, the other a gangster.
Based on the DC Comics series, "Global Frequency" revolves around a worldwide independent defense intelligence organization led by Miranda Zero (Michelle Forbes) that uses ordinary people as agents to fight black-ops projects, unexplained phenomena and other problems that government agencies struggle with.
Hollywood July 22, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Rene Echevarria, executive producer of USA Network's hit limited series The 4400, told SCI FI Wire that he's deep into the development of his next genre project, Medium, starring Patricia Arquette (Stigmata).
LOS ANGELES July 19, 2004 (Zap2it.com) The premiere of "Stargate Atlantis," the spin-off of the Sci Fi Channel's popular "Stargate SG-1" series, delivered some of the best ratings in the network's history.
July 25, 2004 (Variety) - Anchored by projects from Cher and Chastity Bono, Alan Cumming and Margaret Cho, MTV Networks' digital gay-themed cable network Logo unveiled its premiere development slate on the final day of the TV critics summer press tour.
Execs said Logo would not be an adult-oriented network featuring the kind of racier content seen on FX and HBO.
Instead, its programming mix -- a lineup of light reality, docs and acquired movies -- was selected to make it suitable for both young and older demos.
Farber said Logo will offer a video-on-demand service that will have choices more in line with the content of premium cablers.
Logo also is in development discussions with producing duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and actress-comedian Sandra Bernhard.
Logo also has partnered on projects with its Viacom siblings. CBS News and MTV News will help launch a newsmag with contributions from the Advocate; TV Land will co-produce a spec about gay influence and presence in TV; VH1 will co-produce "The Big Gay 100" countdown; and Out Traveler magazine is teaming with the cabler on a travel show.
LOS ANGELES July 23, 2004 (Zap2it.com) "Rescue Me" has joined its predecessors on FX as some of the most-watched series premieres in the history of basic cable.
It ranks No. 8 all-time among series premieres on basic cable. "It is really gratifying to get off to such a great start," says John Landgraf, president of entertainment at FX.
"[Creators] Denis Leary, Peter Tolan and everyone involved in the show have delivered us a fantastic series, and we believe it continues to get better with each upcoming episode."
Joss Will Add Firefly Comix
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