Will Kerry Grow War?
Endangered Boxing Orangutans,
Red Storm Rising, Mad Cows,
Amazon Dying & More!
Will Kerry Grow War?
By FLAtRich
Proud Independent Voter

August 1, 2004 (eXoNews) - I watched parts of the DemCon last week and I was very impressed by some of the speakers. Mrs. John Kerry was cool. Bill Clinton was excellent (after a boring intro from his wife.)

Illinois Senator Barack Obama was positively riveting!

I felt like I'd slipped through a Star Trek time rift and was watching a speech by the first Black president of these United States sometime in the future.

The time rift thing is apt because Star Trek has played a role in Obama's success.

Our own favorite Borg, Miss Jeri Ryan from Star Trek: Voyager, set in motion a series of events that, for better or worse, destroyed the political career of her ex-husband Jack Ryan. Not a violation of the temporal prime directive, just a dicey divorce record, but Jack Ryan was Barack Obama's Republican rival in his race for the US Senate. Obama now runs virtually unopposed.

Most of the other speeches were tedious and non-essential. I would file all speeches by the children of candidates in this category, unless they are running for something other than, say, child of the vice-president.

When did America start electing families to public office? Is this part of the horrible family values dodge our politicians harp on to try to censor the press and otherwise strip our civil liberties?

If you really think we need a royal family, just take a look around the world and see what a mess other countries have made of their kings and queens.

Anyway, I digress.

I was talking about speeches and about to say I was surprised by both of the major Democratic candidates. John Edwards surprised me because his speech put me to sleep.

What a boring guy he turns out to be after all those excellent campaign sound bites. And what about that hair? Is that hair real? I kept staring at his part all through his speech. Could that be a comb-over? A rug?

John Kerry was pretty good. Not as good as Bill Clinton and he doesn't hold a candle to Barack Obama, but his hair is definitely real. He seems genuine enough.

My big connection to this candidate is his protest record. He served in the military but came out against the Viet Nam War. I was one of the million or so civilians who marched on Washington a couple of times back then to express a similar opposition. We marched to bring the boys home. We marched to end war.

I have protested every war since in some way or another.

Being anti-war is a personal decision, of course. US citizens have a constitutional right to oppose anything their Government decides, as long as they do it peacefully. It's not an anti-gun or anti-soldier thing for me. I really don't care if you own a gun or want to drive a tank for the Army. That's your choice.

I just don't believe in settling an argument by killing my opponent. Yes, there are a lot of Big Bads out there who are doing horrible things and need to be stopped. No, I can't suggest an alternative to war when somebody brings up Hitler or Saddam. Yes, I often wonder what I would do if I was in a gunfight with somebody trying to kill me.

I am sure that I could not have made the Truman decision to drop an atomic bomb on a Japanese city. I am sure that I couldn't have escalated the Viet Nam War like Jack Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson.

A guy I knew, Yanni Stamos, once said to me "Murder is never justified." That's right, Yanni.

So I thought Kerry's well-documented and logical opposition to that out of control Viet Nam War was a connection between us. But Kerry surprised me in his speech.

He promised to grow the military.

I could hardly believe my ears. I woke up the next morning thinking about Lyndon Johnson and went to the Kerry for President site and downloaded the speech.

Yep. There it was, the phrase that rang in my subconscious all night: "double our special forces."

Mr. Kerry was referring to anti-terrorist "special forces" in his speech, but what does that mean? Aren't US troops in Iraq there to fight terrorists? That makes them "special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations" - doesn't it?

Some of you may be yelling "out of context!" Here's the whole military section of the Kerry speech, including what scared me. (For the rest of the speech, try http://www.johnkerry.com)
You can decide for yourselves:

"And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

"I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home. 

"Here is the reality: that won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership -- so we don't have to go it alone in the world.

"And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us. 

"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

"We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives - and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

"To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way."

To Mr. Kerry, I say, I hope your help isn't going to sacrifice the lives of more American kids, on the way.

Endangered Orangutans Forced to Fight in Thai Boxing Bouts
BANGKOK July 29, 2004 (AFP) - An international animal rights group has called on Thailand to ban controversial kickboxing fights between endangered orangutans held daily at a Bangkok wildlife park.

The orangutans, wearing boxing gloves and garish Thai shorts, are put in a ring and encouraged to fight their opponents using fists, knees, elbows and feet. 

The operators of the Safari World animal park say the fights -- which start with the Rocky movie theme and include chimpanzees wearing bikinis carrying cards with the bout number -- are choreographed and that no animal is harmed. 

But animal rights groups said the apes were being exploited for easy profits and they were destined for a short and miserable existence after their days in the ring were over. 

"It's outrageous. There's no question of it being justifiable in any sort of way," said Cyril Rosen, a board member of the International Primate Protection League. "Most young animals are very flexible and they do what they are told, it's what happens to them afterwards. Their eventual fate is an early death." 

Rosen said that such treatment of the endangered orangutans could have a long-term effect on the species' survival and called for a tourist boycott of the park. If orangutans are deprived of their long upbringing, they lose their maternal instincts, which in turn hits their chances of breeding, he said. 

"They are doing no good to the animals, no good to the species and making a mockery of the animal," he said. 

After watching a fight Wednesday with some 400 Thai primary schoolchildren, one spectator from California said he would not have brought his three children to the show if he knew it was going to be an animal brawl. 

"It was all about hitting and violence and as the audience was mostly very young children it was very inappropriate," said the tourist, who gave his name only as Nick. "It was basically about teaching the animals and the children watching to hit one another," he said. 

Not everyone was concerned. The Thai audience cheered enthusiastically as two orangutans named Sum Luck and Num Singh pummeled each other and a young British couple described it as "harmless fun". 

"If we were doing a cruel show we do not have to let anyone tell us. We would cancel it ourselves," Safari World managing director Pin Kewkacha told AFP. "This show has been there for 20 years without anyone complaining about it because it is merely an action show," he added. 

But Thai animals rights groups say they have contacted Safari World about the orangutan fights many times in the past. 

"We have tried to talk for so many years, to try to stop this but they won't stop because it is good for business and not illegal," said Roger Lohanan from the group, Thai Solidarity for Protection of Animals. "There is not an animal cruelty law in Thailand covering this sort of thing."

Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia but hunting and loss of habitat has seen their numbers tumble to fewer than 20,000, according to the Orangutan Foundation. The demands are growing for an end to the animal brawling, with Taiwanese animal activists also calling on tourists to boycott the safari park. Taiwan's Ping Tong Technology University Wild Animal Protection Centre called for the boycott after its director saw the orangutan fights while in Thailand, according to the Bangkok Post. 

Indonesia also criticized Safari World and Thailand and is demanding the return of at least 100 allegedly smuggled orangutans discovered during a raid by Thai wildlife officials on the park last year. 

The government was set to fast-track DNA testing of the apes to check their origin after stone-walling on previous demands by Indonesia, according to reports.
US Sweathogs
Saint Louis University Press Release

ST. LOUIS July 28, 2004 - Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, affects a much larger proportion of the U.S. population than previously reported, according to new research. 
Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University, said that an estimated 7.8 million people in the United States suffer from hyperhidrosis. 

"I was a little surprised at the high percentage of those affected," she said. Glaser conducted a national survey of 150,000 households to determine the prevalence of hyperhidrosis in the United States population and assess the impact of sweating on those affected by axillary hyperhidrosis. Results will be published July 28 in the August issue of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 

People suffering from hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating on the underarms, palms of hands, soles of feet and the face, to name a few places. Cold, wet handshakes, soiled or damaged shirts, papers and shoes are just some of the symptoms of hyperhidrosis. Anxiety and stress often accompany hyperhidrosis, as well. 

"The results suggest that in axillary hyperhidrosis, sweating often impedes normal daily activities and can result in occupational, emotional, psychological, social and physical impairment in a substantial proportion of individuals," Glaser said. 

Prior to this survey, there was very little research available regarding the prevalence or impact of hyperhidrosis. 

The findings include:

Hyperhidrosis affects a much larger proportion of the U.S. population than previously reported. An estimated 7.8 million individuals, or 2.8 percent of the population, have hyperhidrosis. 

Of this population, 50.8 percent (4.0 million) have axillary hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating of the underarms. 

The prevalence rates were significantly higher among people 25-64, which is the prime working-age population. 

Females are far more likely to discuss their condition with a health care professional (47.5 percent of women versus 28.6 percent of men.)

"This condition is a not a mild nuisance experienced by a few people," Glaser said. "This is a big problem for many people."

Saint Louis University - http://www.slu.edu
Red Storm Rising
Sandia National Laboratories News Release

ALBUQUERQUE July 27, 2004 — Red Storm will be faster, yet smaller and less expensive, than previous supercomputers, say researchers at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Sandia National Laboratories, where the machine will be assembled.

The first quarter of the $90 million, 41.5 teraflops (trillion operations/second) machine should be installed at Sandia by the end of September and fully up and running by January, says Bill Camp (Sandia’s Director of Computation, Computers, Information and Mathematics), who heads the effort to design and assemble the innovative machine.

Performance testing will begin in early 2005.

By the end of 2005, the machine should be capable of 100 teraflops, after each single-processor chip is replaced with a new chip that contains two independent processors, each running 25 percent faster than the original chip.

Japan’s Earth Simulator, currently the world’s fastest supercomputer, has a peak eight megawatts of power compared to Red Storm’s projected two megawatts and takes up approximately three times the space.

Red Storm, an air-cooled supercomputer, is being developed by Sandia and Cray Inc. using mostly off-the-shelf parts.

Design innovations permit the machine, from concept to assembly, to be completed with unusual rapidity. While manufacturers typically require four to seven years from concept to first product on a new supercomputer, Cray says Red Storm will begin testing at Sandia less than 30 months after conceptual work began.

The main purpose of the machine is work for the U.S. nuclear stockpile: designing new components; virtually testing components under hostile, abnormal, and normal conditions; and helping in weapons engineering and weapons physics. The machine is expected to run ten times as fast as Sandia’s ASCI Red computer system on Sandia’s important application codes. (ASCI Red held first place on the top-500 list of the world’s supercomputers for three-and-one-half consecutive years.)

But the machine, because of its uniquely inexpensive design, may become the center of Cray’s future supercomputer line, says Camp. “From Cray’s point of view, the approach we’re pioneering here is so powerful they may want their next supercomputers to follow suit.”

The machine has unique characteristics: it is scalable from a single cabinet (96 processors) to approximately 300 cabinets (30,000 processors). In addition, the system was designed with a unique capability to monitor and manage itself. Much of the cost incurred for the machine is non-recurring engineering design costs.

“We couldn’t afford a ‘Rolls Royce’ — an entirely custom-designed machine,” says Camp. “The way Red Storm is designed, we don’t have to shut down to replace a part. We work around failed components until we decide to fix them — all without shutting down.”

Cray was chosen because the company was “forward-looking, flexible, willing to work with us to design a new architecture, and had the lowest cost proposal.”

The machine itself — a few facts

The machine has 96 processors in each computer cabinet, with four processors to a board. Each processor can have up to eight gigabytes of memory sitting next to it. Four Cray SeaStars — powerful networking chips — sit on a daughter board atop each processor board. All SeaStars talk to each other “like a Rubik cube with lots of squares on each face,” says Camp. “Cray SeaStars are about a factor of five faster than any current competing capability.”

Messages encoded in MPI (the Message Passage Interface standard) move from processor to processor at a sustained speed of 4.5 gigabytes per second bidirectionally. The amount of time to get the first information bit from one processor to another is less than 5 microseconds across the system. The machine is arranged in four rows of cabinets. There are a total of 11,648 Opteron processors and a similar number of SeaStars.

The SeaStar chip includes an 800 MHz DDR Hypertransport interface to its Opteron processor, a PowerPC core for handling message-passing chores, and a seven-port router (six external ports). SeaStars are linked together to make up the system¹s 3-D (X-Y-Z axis) mesh interconnect.

IBM is fabricating the SeaStar chips using 0.13-micron CMOS technology. Visualization will occur inside the computer itself — a capability unique to Red Storm among supercomputers.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia - http://www.sandia.gov

Earth Simulator - http://www.es.jamstec.go.jp/esc/eng 

Please Don't Eat My Submarine!
Australia July 30, 2004 (BBC) - Australian researchers have built what they claim is the world's smallest submarine: a 40cm-long, self-controlling submersible called Serafina.

The tiny submarine, no bigger than a toy, can dive to around 5,000 meters (16,500 feet), turn, somersault and perform a range of scientific tasks. 

Its designers say the Serafina could be used in shipwreck recovery, in search and rescue and may have military uses. 

The Serafina has a plastic hull, five propellers and rechargeable batteries.

It can travel at the relatively fast underwater speed of one meter per second, equivalent to walking pace, and can hover, tilt and right itself if overturned. 

Dr Uwe Zimmer said his department of systems engineering team at Canberra's Australian National University had refined the design so the submersibles could be produced relatively cheaply, starting at about A$1,000 (US$700) each. Its development and production costs were a tiny fraction of what autonomous submersibles usually cost. 

"Being small, for a submersible, is not only a very good thing to have but is actually a very excellent thing," Dr Zimmer said. "To handle a fully-blown autonomous submersible, you need to have a crane, you need to have a specialized boat, you need to have a calm sea, you need to have a full crew on the sea to operate the vehicle. This is a big improvement." 

Dr Zimmer added that the Serafina's small size made it much easier to pressurize than larger submersibles. The only possible problem with the submarine's size, is that it could possibly be eaten by an aquatic creature. 

It can be programmed in advance and last on a mission, with its current battery capacity, for up to a day.
Bush Mad Cow Position Angers Everybody
By Carey Gillam

LOUISBURG KANSAS July 30, 2004 (Reuters) — The brown-and-white spotted calves appear happy and healthy as they amble through the tall grass of a northeastern Kansas field, never straying far from their mothers. But back at the barn — and in countless barns, feedlots, slaughterhouses, and packing plants around the United States — the health of cattle like these has become a hot-button issue.

Calls for widespread testing of the nation's beef supply have stretched from Tokyo to Arkansas City, Kansas, after the United States detected its first-ever case of mad cow disease in December.

The news sent shock waves through domestic markets and triggered an immediate halt to important international trade, including deals with Japan, which typically buys about $1.4 billion of U.S. beef annually.

Still, the U.S. government has refused to support widespread testing of the nation's cattle herds.

Instead, the Agriculture Department has launched a limited voluntary testing program that its own inspector general said may be scientifically invalid. Critics are also accusing the government of favoring big businesses that oppose extensive testing, at the expense of small cattle companies that back it.

"It is truly a mess," said Thomas McGarity, who teaches food safety law at the University of Texas and heads the Center for Progressive Regulation think tank.

Rare but Feared

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called mad cow, is feared around the world because it can trigger fatal brain disorders in humans if they eat certain tissue from an infected animal. But the brain-wasting disease is rare, and transmissions to humans are even more uncommon. The only known U.S. case was found in a cow in Washington state.

Japan and many other countries routinely test their slaughtered cattle for the disease and have demanded that beef they buy from the United States must prove free of mad cow.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture says widespread testing is unnecessary. Its new "surveillance" program, expected to cost taxpayers $70 million, aims to test about 270,000 animals in the next 18 months, compared with about 35 million slaughtered annually.

Only animals that show certain symptoms will be tested through the program, which depends on voluntary participation.

As of Monday, some 23,000 cattle had been tested, with no detection of the disease. The government hopes to show it is virtually nonexistent in U.S. herds.

"The testing is a one-time enhanced surveillance program where we will test as many as we physically can," said USDA spokesman Jim Rogers. "It will give us a snapshot of our animal health among that population."

But criticism is rapidly growing louder.

In an audit released earlier this month, the USDA inspector general said the testing program was poorly designed, falsely assumed only high-risk animals could be infected, and inappropriately relied on voluntary submissions for testing. Last week, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa requested an investigation, saying the government's strategy appeared to be "stumbling." And of the 12 university-based laboratories designated to handle the testing, five that were supposed to be operating by June 1 still have not received the green light by the USDA to get under way.

Meanwhile, in trade talks this month, the Japanese continued to insist that all the beef they buy must test free of mad cow.

Capitalism Held Captive?

Some private beef companies who have seen their profits sink because of lost sales to Japan have asked the USDA to allow them to buy government-licensed kits that they could use to test their entire herds at their own expense. They believe they could then market the beef as free of the disease and restart their Asian sales.

But the government has refused those requests. The Organization for Competitive Markets, an independent farmers group out of Nebraska, and other critics say the USDA's position favors corporate agriculture over small businesses.

The large processors that supply a mostly unconcerned domestic market have not seen their businesses suffer the way specialty suppliers of beef have, and critics say they don't want to pay for increased testing or have to compete with companies that do.

Those representing the U.S. meat industry say the U.S. government's testing program is more than adequate.

"We're confident in the statistical confidence of the program," said American Meat Institute spokeswoman Janet Riley. "We think it is an extremely comprehensive program."

Riley said widespread testing of young and otherwise healthy animals would be unscientific and largely pointless, and allowing private companies to test their own animals would be unprecedented.

Condom Necklaces Banned 
MEDFORD OR July 23, 2004 (AP) - A nylon necklace strung with condoms has sparked outrage at the county fair. Chris Borovansky, manager of the Jackson County Fair, said he has asked Planned Parenthood to stop teaching teenagers how to make "condom leis" after numerous complaints were filed with fair officials. 

"We talked to them today and asked them not to do that," said Borovansky. "We asked them not to flaunt something or make something more than it is." 

But a bowl of free candy-colored condoms was allowed to remain in the booth according to the terms of Planned Parenthood's fair contract, he added. 

More than 15 people e-mailed or called to complain about the project in which older teens were allowed to make condom necklaces fashioned of nylon netting, condom packets and pipecleaners. Planned Parenthood representatives said the activity was aimed at removing the stigma and secrecy from contraceptive use. 

"The intent is to make condoms a normal part of life," said Paul Robinson, community relations director. "You do what attracts the older youth." 

The necklace project was so popular among older teens that the booth ran out of supplies, said Deanna Leitner, public affairs field organizer with Planned Parenthood. But younger children were not allowed to make the necklaces or take free condoms. 

"We were talking about condoms and being safe," she said. "I'm certainly not doing what I'm accused of doing, which is distributing condoms to very young children." 

The presence of condoms at the fair outraged Niquita Wilkinson, 45, of Eagle Point. She said she saw two teenage girls stringing condom necklaces Tuesday night. 

"It's not a bar, it's not a truck stop, it's not a bowling alley," said Wilkinson. "The fair is like the biggest kids' thing around. It's just not appropriate here," she said.
Amazon Dying!
Deforestation Threatens Amazon River!
By Vivian Sequera
Associated Press 

BRASILIA, Brazil July 30, 2004 (AP) — Deforestation has provoked drastic changes along many Amazon tributaries and scientists warned it was only a matter of time before it affects the main trunk of the river.

A four-year study on the effects of deforestation found many of the Amazon's 7,000 tributaries were drying up, while fertilizers and pesticides have profoundly altered their ecosystems.

"So far this hasn't affected the Amazon river ... and we don't want to get to that point," Alex Krutsche, a biologist at the University of Sao Paulo who was involved in the study, said Thursday.

Although the Amazon rain forest has lost as much as 20 percent of its original forest cover — some 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — Krutsche said little environmental damage was apparent along the main trunk of the 6,800-kilometer-long (4,223-mile-long) river.

The forest is being cut down at an ever faster pace to make way for cattle ranching — and more recently, large grain plantations, especially soybeans which require lots of fertilizers and strong pesticides to flourish in the equatorial region.

"For now it's speculation to say whether the Amazon will disappear or not," said Reynaldo Victoria, a University of Sao Paulo researcher, who added that the smallest tributaries are among the most affected. "To save them we only have to follow the law."

To keep the river from drying up, Brazilian law requires that farmers not disrupt the forest within 50 meters (165 feet) of any river bank.

Another law limits clear cutting to only 20 percent of the forest property — though the remaining 80 percent can be logged selectively with a government-approved forestry management plan.

But these and other tough environmental laws are routinely flouted in the massive Amazon region that covers an area larger than Europe. The government has few environmental inspectors in the rain forest.

The results were presented at the final day of the third conference on the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia.

The experiment, which began in 1998 and is expected to continue through 2006, studies the interaction between the Amazon rain forest, the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness, and regional and global weather patterns.

It involves more than 1,000 scientists and specialists from over 100 research institutions including NASA, and is being called the largest international environment research project ever.

Save the Rainforest - Eat a Tree?
University of Utah News Release

July 29, 2004 - A University of Utah experiment conducted in Peru's Amazon Basin shows insects increase the diversity of the rainforest when they munch on trees. Such seemingly destructive behavior keeps dominant tree species under control but allows other trees to thrive. 

"The battle between plants and insects increases the number of habitats in the rainforest," thus increasing the diversity of trees living there, says biology doctoral student Paul Fine, first author of the study published July 30 in the journal Science. 

Study co-author Phyllis Coley, a biology professor at the University of Utah, says the research sheds light on the amazing diversity of species in tropical rainforests. 

"Understanding diversity is a holy grail in ecology," Coley said. "Part of diversity is how many species you can pack into a given habitat, but part is how many different habitats exist that can harbor different species" – an issue clarified by the study. 

Fine and Coley conducted the study with Italo Mesones, a student at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon in Iquitos. The study was Fine's Utah doctoral thesis, which he completed while also working at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. 

Some trees grow on red clay, others on white sand 

In the Peruvian rainforest, many trees live on fertile red clay soil, while others live on nutrient-poor white sand soils. In the new study, the scientists transplanted red clay tree species onto white sand soil, and transplanted white sand tree species onto red clay soil. Net-covered enclosures were built around half the transplanted trees to protect them from insects. Other transplanted trees were left unprotected. 

Trees that normally grow on red clay soil thrived when transplanted onto white sand soil – but only if protected from hungry insects, which included grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and various sap-sucking insects such as cicadas and aphids. 

In fact, when protected from insects, the red clay tree species transplanted onto white sand soil grew roughly twice as tall and had twice the leaf area as white sand species. That's because the white sand species grow slowly because they put more energy into defenses against insects – either tough leaves or chemical defenses. 

"A plant can't be extremely well-defended from insects and grow very fast," says Fine. "It's similar to why you can't have the heaviest, safest car and the fastest car."

Unprotected, the red clay trees transplanted onto white sand soil died at twice the rate of trees that normally live on white sand soil. 

Meanwhile, white sand trees transplanted onto red clay soil grew more slowly than the trees that normally live on clay soil. Net enclosures didn't increase their survival because they already had natural defenses against insects. 

The findings mean red clay tree species would grow on and dominate both habitats – red clay soils and white sand soils – were it not for the presence of insects that normally prevent the red clay tree species from living on white sand soil. 

"My results suggest that if bugs weren't around, the faster-growing clay soil plants could live in both soils, and the white sand tree species would go extinct," Fine says. "Therefore, bugs promote diversity in the rainforest by making it impossible for red clay trees with low defenses [against insects] to live in poor white sand soils."

Coley says: "Most people think of herbivores as detrimental pests – bugs eat plants, which is not good for the plants. Yet without insects, clay tree species would take over all forest types. Bugs beget tree diversity." 

Implications for diversity and the origin of species 

The study shows different soil types are not adequate by themselves to define habitats or niches – what trees grow where – in the Peruvian rainforest. The findings contradicted a hypothesis that trees normally growing on red clay soil would not survive on white sand soil due to inadequate nutrients and water. 

"People have thought soil alone is enough to explain why you get two different communities of plants growing on those two soil types," says Fine. "But we showed that if it wasn't for their insect enemies, it's possible the same kind of plants would grow on both soil types. The insects cause the difference between habitats to become sharper."

Red clay tree species also are attacked by insects when they grow on clay soils, but the soil is so rich that the trees grow faster than they are consumed. And other insects and birds in the lush red clay forest help control plant-eating insects. 

Coley says the study has implications for rainforest conservation: "White sand soils have unique species, sand patches are not as extensive as they used to be, and land conversion [development] therefore could have a big impact on diversity if it hit the relatively rarer sand forests." 

In fact, during the study Fine and Mesones fended off a land grab by speculators, even though their study site in the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve supposedly was protected already. Mesones started an environmental group that helped stop the land grab. 

Fine says tropical rainforests are known for biodiversity, with about 10,000 tree species in the Amazon compared with 500 to 600 in North America's temperate zone. 

Yet the tropics really aren't different than other regions in terms of variations in soil, altitude and rainfall. So why do tropical rainforests have greater species diversity? 

"In a world without herbivores, our study predicts there would be a much lower diversity of trees in the tropics," Fine says. "Trees would just follow the physical features of the environment – whether soil, temperature or rainfall. Adding pressure from plant-eating insects into the mix increases the number of different niches or habitats." 

Fine says the study showed that differences between two habitats – red clay and white sand soil – are magnified by the effect of insects eating trees. He says plant-eating insects might have the same impact on accentuating differences between habitats defined by differences in altitude, rainfall or other factors. 

The study also adds support to a controversial theory of how new species originate, Fine says. The traditional view has been that new species can arise when two groups from the same species become geographically separated, such as when the groups live on separate, distant islands. But in recent decades, biologists have started to wonder if a new species can arise even when two groups live in close contact, such as trees living near each other but on different soils. 

How the study worked

Fine and Mesones conducted the experiment from May 2001 to February 2003. 

The study involved 20 species of tree seedlings, matched in 10 pairs. One species in each pair normally lives on red clay soil, while the other species in the pair was a closely related tree that normally lives on white sand soil. 

The researchers built 22 cage-like enclosures made of nylon netting to keep insects out. Each cage measured about 10 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 6.5 feet tall. They also built another 22 net roofs without sides, to make sure trees planted under them were exposed to insects but got the same amount of light as trees in the enclosures. 

One seedling of each of the 20 species was planted in each of the 22 cages and under each of the 22 net roofs. That meant a total of 880 seedlings were transplanted: 440 red clay seedlings transplanted onto white sand soil, and 440 white sand tree seedlings transplanted into red clay soil. Half of the seedlings were protected from insects. 

The transplanted trees were allowed to grow for 21 months. Every two months Fine and Mesones determined how fast each tree was growing by measuring its average leaf area and the height to its meristem – the part of the tree where new branches and leaves emerge. They also counted how many seedlings died.

University of Utah - http://www.utah.edu

Amazon Greenhouse Gas Estimates Too Low 
By Axel Bugge

BRASILIA, Brazil July 30, 2004 (Reuters) — Many estimates of the amount of greenhouse gas given off by burning and deforestation in the Amazon are far too low because they fail to take account of gas released by rotting vegetation, researchers reported to a deforestation conference this week. 

Scientists from Brazil's National Institute of Amazon Research said about 400 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent were emitted in 2003 — 60 percent more than one estimate by other scientists at the conference.

"It's emitting much more than it is absorbing," said Philip Fearnside, a researcher at the institute, challenging a view presented to the conference on Wednesday that the jungle is a small net producer of oxygen. The conference is discussing the findings of the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia, the world's biggest study of jungle deforestation.

It started in 1998 and is being conducted by Brazilian and foreign organizations, including the U.S. space agency NASA.

The Amazon, a continuous forest covering an area larger than the continental United States and home to up to 30 percent of the world's animal and plant species, lost 5.9 million acres) to logging and burning in 2003.

Fearnside said that hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, for instance, should be included because rotting trees in flooded areas release methane gas. The Amazon's four dams produced more emissions between them than Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, he said.

But Carlos Nobre of Brazil's National Institute of Space Research disputed Fearnside's theory.

"His number is not believable," said Nobre, who estimated Amazon burning produced 250 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent last year.

The issue is politically sensitive because Brazil is due to publish an inventory of its emissions this year as required by the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Scientists expect the inventory to give a figure of around 300 million tons for Brazil's total emissions, which would make the country one of the world's top 10 polluters. Fearnside's figure could tip it into the top five.

For many countries, the Kyoto treaty involves added costs as they seek ways to balance economic growth with emission levels. Developing countries like Brazil are under close scrutiny from richer nations as to whether they honor their commitments to curb pollution.

Brazil could lower its registered pollution output by claiming carbon dioxide "credits" for the gas absorbed by the Amazon, a course which environmentalists are urging as a way to reduce deforestation.

If the Amazon's destruction stops, credits could be used in the fledgling market for "carbon trading," giving Brazil a financial incentive to save the Amazon.

But Brazil's government has been skeptical. "Some key (government) people believe deforestation is inherently out of control," said Fearnside.

Genre News: Catwoman, West Wing, Sperm Race, Hercules, Strangers With Candy and Eugene Roche
Catwoman Purrs and Yawns
By FLAtRich

July 31, 2004 (eXoNews) - Within the comic book to live action movie genre, where The Hulk was an F and Spider-man (either film) is an A, I'd call Catwoman a B-movie. There are extenuating circumstances to consider, however, which raise the newest incarnation of the DC Comics character to a B+.

Catwoman was a classically minor Bob Kane dark horse in his Batman universe until the delightful Adam West TV series of the 1960s presented viewers with a changing array of cat ladies. According to comic book historians, our feline phantom first appeared in issue #1 of Batman comics as The Cat in 1940.

Catwoman remained a Batman Comics enigma until she finally got popular enough for a book of her own after Michelle Phieffer cracked the whip in Batman Returns.

The new Halle Berry film suffers mostly from this history, as the audience is forced to wade through a rather tedious introduction to the movie logic behind graphic artist Patience Phillips (Berry) donning the latest leather suit.

The actual mysterious toxic exposure and Midnight resurrection scenes almost make up for a yawnable overabundance of Patience backstory, but the screenplay also insists on providing us with a fallback "chosen one" destiny thing and even a catty lady "watcher" character to be Patience's spiritual advisor.

Holy slayer, Batman! Buffy strikes again!

The "chosen one" devices are obviously needed to explain and protect previous Selina Kyle / Warners Batman franchise Catwoman characters from obsolescence should Miss Berry or someone else continue to portray Patience Phillips / Catwoman on the silver screen.

After all, there are all the animated versions of Selina to consider and a new Batman movie is on the drawing board.

Ah, the complexities of big bucks! DC comics used to be ten cents and available weekly at the corner candy store. Now you might find them for $15 if you live near a shopping mall.

Too bad the new Catwoman didn't have Joss Whedon at her typewriter. The movie definitely needed something more than that worn-out evil cosmetics company cliché previously rewritten for every female-starring TV series from Charlie's Angels to Murder She Wrote and beyond.

Ironically, Catwoman's director Pitof (a.k.a. Jean-Christophe Comar) worked as visual effects supervisor on the Whedon-penned Alien: Resurrection (1997), but the Catwomen team seems to have missed required Buffyverse lessons on constructing empowered super women plots.

Catwoman has the action and special effects. Miss Berry is certainly resplendent in her black garb and every boy's dream with that snappy whip, but Catwoman should have laughed it up more to keep all the super nonsense in line.

Lambert Wilson is absolutely dreadful doing his Edward Fox imitation as cosmetics king George Hedare, out-hammed only by the lovely and equally humorless Sharon Stone as the evil cosmetics queen and toxic face cream addict Laurel Hedare. Alex Borstein was good if not non-essential as Patience's buddy Sally.

The film's straight female audience will swoon for Benjamin Bratt as Tom Lone, Catwoman's obligatory policeman / love connection.

And isn't that precious naming him Tom? Catwoman goes for a tomcat kind of guy, get it?

There are some nice scenes between Berry and Bratt, including a lick that pays homage to earlier lives. Berry acknowledges Eartha Kitt and other TV Catwomen (Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar) in a lot of her mannerisms and the one nostalgic Catwoman wisecrack:


But overall Halle Berry's Catwoman purrs and cuddles too easily and leaps away without much of a fight.

The fault is in the script, not Miss Berry.

She's a delight as always and a perfectly believable choice for the role - we all know she can kick ass with the best of them from Jinx in Die Another Day to Storm in X-Men. Catwoman will surely satisfy most fans as the introductory entry in a series of Catwoman movies.

For Catwoman purists, DC Comics released a special comic "Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale" in June 2004. The new book is a 208-page collection of nine tales spanning the sixty-year history of the dark heroine.

The writers are Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, Leo Dorfman, Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Doug Moench, Devin Grayson, Ty Templeton, and Ed Brubaker. Art is by Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Charles Paris, Kurt Schaffenberger, Frank Springer, Sid Greene, Irv Novick, Joe Giella, Tom Mandrake, Jan Duursema, Jim Balent, John Stanisci, Rick Burchett, Terry Beatty, Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Manley, with a cover by Brian Bolland.

Nine Lives goes for a measly $14.95 wherever you buy comics nowadays.

DC Comics - http://www.dccomics.com

Catwoman Official site - http://catwoman.warnerbros.com

Bugging FX Network

LOS ANGELES July 30, 2004 (Reuters) - A former television executive was charged on Friday with wiretapping staff meetings at Fox's FX cable network after the company fired him and he went to work at competing networks, prosecutors said. 

Randolph Steve Webster, 38, is accused of wiretapping a conference room via telephone at FX between July 31, 2001 and Jan. 20, 2004, prosecutors said. 

Webster surrendered on Friday, and was charged with one count of felony wiretapping. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison. 

Webster served as vice president of publicity at FX starting in 1999 but was fired in July of 2001. He went on to work at Sony Pictures, helping to plan the Game Show Network, then took a post at Universal Television Group in 2002, prosecutors said. 

District Attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons would not reveal what Webster purportedly did with the wiretapped data but said Fox went to authorities after its proprietary information was leaked to the public. 

Investigators served search warrants at Webster's home and office in February, she said. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 8.

West Wing Future

BOSTON July 28, 2004 (AP) - Apparently term limits apply to "The West Wing."

Richard Schiff, who plays White House communications director Toby Ziegler on the NBC political drama, says he doesn't expect the show to last much longer. 

"I honestly don't think it's the last year, but maybe the year after that," he said Wednesday night before a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert sponsored by the Creative Coalition, of which he is a member. 

"The plans are that it's going to go a full term, eight years. Thank God, constitutionally we can't go more than that," said Schiff, who was nominated for a best supporting actor Emmy in 2002. 

And if that's when the show does end, then "that'd be fine by me," he said. "I used to do a lot of movies. I was used to moving around a lot and I'm anxious to do that again." 

Presidents can serve two four-year terms — a total of eight years.

Sperm Race - Dutch Reality Programming
By Marlene Edmunds

AMSTERDAM July 29, 2004 (Variety) - Endemol's controversial new reality titles "Sperm Race" where men compete for the title of "most virile man" and "Make Me a Mum" where the winner is likely to provide sperm for a childless woman, may run afoul of Dutch law. 

Endemol is close to sealing deals in the UK and Germany and is in talks with broadcasters in Holland, but Joop Atsma, a member of parliament from the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), has asked the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to look into whether the programs might violate an "Embryo Law" which, among other things, does not allow the use of sperm for commercial purposes. 

Atsma said the CDA "has serious questions as well about the morality of a show that concerns itself more with ratings than the integrity and dignity of human beings." The center party the CDA is one of the largest political parties in Holland. 

Richard Lancee, a spokesman for the ministry, told Daily Variety no decision can be made until Endemol unveils the particulars of the formats. "This is unknown terrain for us and there are a lot of different factors that could affect such a ruling. Once they give us the details of the format, we can investigate whether it violates the Embryo Law." 

Endemol has said that despite the obvious shock value of the format titles, the subject matter addresses a serious problem -- infertility -- in an entertaining and informative manner.

Illinois Newspaper Sues Michael Moore for $1

BLOOMINGTON IL July 30, 2004 (AP) - Filmmaker Michael Moore's Bush-bashing documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" apparently has upset more than Republicans.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph newspaper in central Illinois has sent a letter to Moore and his production company, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., asking Moore to apologize for using what the newspaper says was a doctored front page in the film, the paper reported Friday.

It also is seeking compensatory damages of $1. 

A scene early in the movie that shows newspaper headlines related to the legally contested presidential election of 2000 included a shot of The Pantagraph's Dec. 19, 2001, front page, with the prominent headline: "Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election." 

The paper says that headline never appeared on that day. It appeared in a Dec. 5, 2001, edition, but the headline was not used on the front page. Instead, it was found in much smaller type above a letter to the editor, which the paper says reflects "only the opinions of the letter writer." 

"If (Moore) wants to 'edit' The Pantagraph, he should apply for a copy-editing job," the paper said. 

Lions Gate Entertainment did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Hercules - The Movie?
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES July 28, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Sean Astin, Leelee Sobieski and Timothy Dalton are set to star in NBC's four-hour miniseries "Hercules." 

British newcomer Paul Telfer has been selected from more than 200 candidates to play the title role in the $20 million project, which chronicles the life of the Greek hero who, after killing his two sons and two of his brother's sons, performs 12 labors to repent. 

Astin will play Linus, Hercules' music teacher. Sobieski will play Hercules' second wife, Deianeira. Dalton will play the hero's stepfather, Amphitryon. Angie Harmon ("Law & Order") is in talks to join the cast as Hercules' mother, Alcmene. 

"Hercules" is scheduled to begin production Aug. 23 in New Zealand with the premiere eyed for May 2005. 

While Telfer has an imposing physique, at 6-foot-2, the project will not follow the Hollywood formula of portraying Hercules as a Schwarzenegger-type muscle man with incredible physical strength. 

"His strength comes within," executive producer Robert Halmi Sr. said. "He grows strong emotionally, mentally and spiritually as he tries to redeem himself." 

Telfer is not a stranger to ancient times. He had roles on TNT's miniseries "Spartacus" and the upcoming indie "Alexander the Great From Macedonia." 

Astin, who played Frodo's best friend Sam Gamgee in "The Lord of Rings" trilogy, recently wrapped the feature "Caught in the Act." Sobieski's credits include starring roles in the miniseries "Joan of Arc" for CBS and "Uprising" for NBC. Dalton, best known for his role as Agent 007 in two James Bond movies, starred as Julius Caesar in Halmi's 1999 TV movie "Cleopatra."

The Ring's Nakata Remakes The Entity
By Claude Brodesser

HOLLYWOOD July 28, 2004 (Variety) - Japanese helmer Hideo Nakata ("Ringu," "Dark Water") will segue from a sequel to "The Ring" at DreamWorks Pictures to an under-$15 million remake of "The Entity" at Fox Searchlight. 

Pic is being produced by Mark Gordon and Bob Yari of Stratus Films and by Roy Lee and Doug Davison of Vertigo Entertainment. Stratus' Brad Jenkel will exec produce with Japanese producer Taka Ichise's Ozla Pictures. 

Based on the Frank De Felitta novel of the same name, the 1981 original "Entity" pic starred Barbara Hershey. Story follows a woman whose life crumbles when she believes she is being repeatedly molested and raped by an unseen paranormal force. Terrified, she turns to a parapsychologist to investigate her claims. 

Updated script comes from David DiGilio, who recently penned "Antarctica" at Disney's Buena Vista Motion Picture Group. That pic was to have begun lensing in April under the helm of longtime Mouse House physical production capo Bruce Hendricks but was put on ice because of a rising budget created by logistical problems. 

Fox Searchlight senior VP Julia Dray and VP Lawrence Grey are overseeing the "Entity" project's progress toward production.

Strangers With Candy - The Movie?

NEW YORK July 28, 2004 (AP) - Production has begun on a movie based on Comedy Central's now defunct cult TV show "Strangers With Candy." The film has a working title — not surprisingly, "Strangers With Candy: The Movie."

The film is now shooting in New Jersey. "Strangers With Candy," the TV show, aired on Comedy Central from 1999 to 2000. The comedy show's cast reunites for the story of Jerri Blank, an ex-junkie who returns to high school at age 46. 

Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert (of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show") together wrote the script and star in the big-screen adaptation. 

Also appearing in smaller roles are Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Sedaris, Dinello and Colbert have modest hopes for the movie. 

"This is the greatest assemblage of cast, crew and production companies since `Ben-Hur' ... on second thought, to hell with `Ben-Hur,'" they said in a joint statement.

Stranger Site - http://www.jerriblank.com

Eugene Roche - Magnum's Luther Gillis - Dies at 75 
AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES July 30, 2004 - Eugene Roche, a paunchy character actor who played the kitchen-cleaning "Ajax man" in commercials and had memorable roles in such television shows as "All in the Family" and "Magnum P.I" has died at age 75.

Roche died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack in an Encino hospital, family friend Timothy Wayne said Friday. He had been hospitalized Monday for tests after suffering a mild heart attack at his home in Sherman Oaks, Wayne said. 

Roche's name may not be familiar to most audiences, but his face surely was. 

Plump and jovial with glinting eyes, Roche costarred on TV's "Webster" as a lovable landlord, and was Archie Bunker's neighborhood nemesis Pinky Peterson on "All in the Family." 

Roche, born in Boston, also played the curmudgeonly "old school" private investigator Luther Gillis on "Magnum P.I.," the sly attorney E. Ronald Mallu on the sitcom "Soap" and the newspaper editor Harry Burns on "Perfect Strangers." 

One of his most memorable movie roles was in 1971's "Slaughterhouse-Five," based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Roche played a likable POW named Edgar Derby, who amid the scorched remains of a firebombed Dresden picks up an intact porcelain figurine as a souvenir — and is promptly executed for looting by his German captors. 

Survivors include his wife, Anntoni, and their nine children.

[Absolutely one of my favorite 70s-80s character actors. I always hoped for a Luther Gillis spin-off from Magnum. I wouldn't apply the term "curmudgeonly" to that character. Roche played him as a caustic, loud, middle-aged skirt-chaser who made Tom Magnum wince. A great actor. We'll miss his wit. Ed.]

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