Love It or Leave It?
Got Brain? BitTorrent, Bees!
Zombie Nets, Aerosol Threat,
Shrinking Seismosaurus & More!
Love It Or Leave It?

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA November 5, 2004 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site has shot up six-fold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President Bush's election win this week.

"When we looked at the first day after the election, Nov. 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high," immigration ministry spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said on Friday.

On an average day some 20,000 people in the United States log onto the Web site, www.cic.gc.ca  - a figure which rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday. The number of U.S. visits settled down to 65,803 on Thursday, still well above the norm.

Bush's victory sparked speculation that disconsolate Democrats and others might decide to start a new life in Canada, a land that tilts more to the left than the United States.

Would-be immigrants to Canada can apply to become permanent resident, a process that often takes a year. The other main way to move north on a long-term basis is to find a job, which requires a work permit.

But please spare the sob stories.

Asked whether an applicant would be looked upon more sympathetically if they claimed to be a sad Democrat seeking to escape four more years of Bush, Iadinardi replied: "There would be no weight given to statements of feelings."

Canada is one of the few major nations with an large-scale immigration policy. Ottawa is seeking to attract between 220,000 and 240,000 newcomers next year.

"Let's face it, we have a population of a little over 32 million and we definitely need permanent residents to come to Canada," said Iadinardi. "If we could meet (the 2005) target and go above it, the more the merrier."


Canada welcomes new
immigrants (SCTV)

But right now it is too early to say whether the increased interest will result in more applications.

"There is no unusual activity occurring at our visa missions (in the United States). Having someone who intends to come to Canada is not the same as someone actually putting in an application," said Iadinardi.

"We'll only find out whether there has been an increase in applications in six months."

The waiting time to become a citizen is shorter for people married to Canadians, which prompted the birth of a satirical Web site called www.marryanamerican.ca

The idea of increased immigration by unhappy Americans is triggering some amusement in Canada. Commentator Thane Burnett of the Ottawa Sun newspaper wrote a tongue-in-cheek guide to would-be new citizens on Friday.

"As Canadians, you'll have to learn to embrace and use all the products and culture of Americans, while bad-mouthing their way of life," he said.

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Mr. Incredible!
  

Expectations for Pixar Animation Studios' latest computer-animated creation, superhero satire 'The Incredibles,' are running so high that the pressure for blockbuster success is, well, incredible. And for that reason alone, it may seem odd, if not incredible, that Pixar entrusted the film, its first centered on human characters and tailored for adults as well as children, to a director who has made just one movie -- a commercial misfire loved by the critics. The character Mr. Incredible is seen in this publicity photo. (Buena Vista Pictures/Reuters) Official The Incredibles site - http://theincredibles.com

Got Brain?

Read Books, Get Brain
By Larry Fine

NEW YORK November 5, 2004 (Reuters) - New York officials were red-faced on Friday after they discovered that clothing ads on city buses that appeared to promote reading suggested a love of books could be rewarded with oral sex.

The advertisements that ran on about 200 buses across the city in recent months carried posters displaying a suggestively posed woman in hot pants kneeling among a pile of books beside the snappy slogan "Read Books, Get Brain."

What unhip, unsuspecting local transportation officials did not know was that "get brain" is street slang for oral sex.

The ads -- from hip-hop clothing maker Akademiks, which intended the double-entendre -- was stripped off New York buses on Friday after transportation officials discovered the street slang meaning.

Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman Tom Kelly condemned the "vulgar street phrases" in the racy ads he said were "demeaning women."

"To me and I believe to everyone else, while it was done by a clothing line, it would give the impression that it was also promoting reading and literacy," Kelly told Reuters. "It's easy enough to understand how that would get by based upon someone not knowing the expression."

A spokesman for the New York-based clothing maker noted the ad campaign had run since September and "we hadn't had any complaints at all."

New York officials may not be the only ones caught out.

Akademiks also placed the ads on buses and bus shelters in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Philadelphia, the company spokesman said. Kelly, who said he was his 60s, said that after he was tipped to the hidden meaning of the phrase on Thursday he ran a test among some young MTA workers.

"I went downstairs to the mailroom and showed some of the young guys a copy of the ad," he said. "I was watching their faces and they all start smirking. Apparently it's on all the music, in music that's how they refer to it. I didn't know anything about it and I'm sure the people that approved the ad didn't."

Kelly said it was sad that "you can't take things at face value any longer," adding, "We'll have to learn from experience before we accept ads."

Anti-Nuke Protest in Germany Draws 5,000

Ecologists take part in a demonstration against
a shipment of treated nuclear waste from France
to Germany in the western town of Dannenberg.
(AFP/DDP/Marcus Brandt)

DANNEBERG Germany November 6, 2004 (AFP) - Thousands of anti-nuclear protestors gathered in northern Germany to protest at the imminent arrival of a shipment of highly radioactive waste from France to a German storage dump.

The estimated 5,500 protestors gathered as a train carrying 12 containers of nuclear waste prepared to leave the La Hague nuclear plant in northern France later on Saturday.

The material left the plant Saturday evening and was expected to cross the French-German border on Sunday and to reach the German town of Dannenberg 24 hours later, where the waste is expected to be loaded on to trucks to cover the last few kilometers to the Gorleben dump.

After demonstrating in Danneberg market square on Saturday, demonstrators gathered at the railway station, temporarily blocking the tracks to be used by the train.

More than 12,000 police were deployed last year for similar convoys in one of the largest security operations of its kind ever mounted in Germany.

No protests were expected in France.

Anti-nuclear and environmental campaigners say the shipments are dangerous and that the waste will contaminate the water table at Gorleben.

Germany, which has no treatment facilities of its own, sends spent fuel rods for reprocessing at the La Hague plant before they are returned here for storage.

BitTorrent Grows!
By Adam Pasick

LONDON November 6, 2004 (Reuters) - A file-sharing program called BitTorrent has become a behemoth, devouring more than a third of the Internet's bandwidth, and Hollywood's copyright cops are taking notice.

For those who know where to look, there's a wealth of content, both legal -- such as hip-hop from the Beastie Boys and video game promos -- and illicit, including a wide range of TV shows, computer games and movies.

BitTorrent star Jon Stewart

Average users are taking advantage of the software's ability to cheaply spread files around the Internet. For example, when comedian Jon Stewart made an incendiary appearance on CNN's political talk show "Crossfire," thousands used BitTorrent to share the much-discussed video segment.

Even as lawsuits from music companies have driven people away from peer-to-peer programs like KaZaa, BitTorrent has thus far avoided the ire of groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America. But as BitTorrent's popularity grows, the service could become a target for copyright lawsuits.

According to British Web analysis firm CacheLogic, BitTorrent accounts for an astounding 35 percent of all the traffic on the Internet -- more than all other peer-to-peer programs combined -- and dwarfs mainstream traffic like Web pages.

"I don't think Hollywood is willing to let it slide, but whether they're able to (stop it) is another matter," Bram Cohen, the programmer who created BitTorrent, told Reuters.

John Malcolm, director of worldwide anti-piracy operations for the MPAA, said that his group is well aware of the vast amounts of copyrighted material being traded via BitTorrent.

"It's a very efficient delivery system for large files, and it's being used and abused by a hell of a lot of people," he told Reuters. "We're studying our options, as we do with all new technologies which are abused by people to engage in theft."

FOR GOOD OR EVIL

BitTorrent, which is available for free on http://bittorrent.com, can be used to distribute legitimate content and to enable copyright infringement on a massive scale. The key is to understand how the software works.

Let's say you want to download a copy of this week's episode of "Desperate Housewives." Rather than downloading the actual digital file that contains the show, instead you would download a small file called a "torrent" onto your computer.

When you open that file on your computer, BitTorrent searches for other users that have downloaded the same "torrent."

BitTorrent's "file-swarming" software breaks the original digital file into fragments, then those fragments are shared between all of the users that have downloaded the "torrent." Then the software stitches together those fragments into a single file that a users can view on their PC.

Sites like Slovenia-based Suprnova ( http://www.suprnova.org ) offer up thousands of different torrents without storing the shows themselves.

Suprnova is a treasure trove of movies, television shows, and pirated games and software. Funded by advertising, it is run by a teen-age programmer who goes only by the name Sloncek, who did not respond to an e-mailed interview request.

Enabling users to share copyrighted material illicitly may put Suprnova and its users on shaky legal ground.

"They're doing something flagrantly illegal, but getting away with it because they're offshore," said Cohen. He is not eager to get into a battle about how his creation is used. "To me, it's all bits," he said.

But Cohen has warned that BitTorrent is ill-suited to illegal activities, a view echoed by John Malcolm of MPAA.

"People who use these systems and think they're anonymous are mistaken," Malcolm said. Asked if he thought sites like Suprnova were illegal, he said: "That's still an issue we're studying, that reasonable minds can disagree on," he said.

GOING LEGIT


Future BitTorrent stars? (LucasFilm)

Meanwhile, BitTorrent is rapidly emerging as the preferred means of distributing large amounts of legitimate content such as versions of the free computer operating system Linux, and these benign uses may give it some legal protection.

"Almost any software that makes it easy to swap copyrighted files is ripe for a crackdown BitTorrent's turn at bat will definitely happen," said Harvard University associate law professor Jonathan Zittrain. "At least under U.S. law, it's a bit more difficult to find the makers liable as long as the software is capable of being used for innocent uses, which I think (BitTorrent) surely is."

Among the best legitimate sites for movies and music:

-- Legal Torrents ( http://www.legaltorrents.com/ ), which includes a wide selection of electronic music. It also has the Wired Magazine Creative Commons CD, which has songs from artists like the Beastie Boys who agreed to release some of their songs under a more permissive copyright that allows free distribution and remixing.

-- Torrentocracy ( http://torrentocracy.com/torrents/ ) has videos of the U.S. presidential debates and other political materials.

-- File Soup ( http://www.filesoup.com ) offers open-source software and freeware, music from artists whose labels don't belong to the Recording Industry Association of America trade group, and programs from public television stations like PBS or the BBC.

-- Etree ( http://bt.etree.org ) is for devotees of "trade-friendly" bands like Phish and the Dead, who encourage fans to share live recordings, usually in the form of large files that have been minimally compressed to maintain sound quality.

[And don't forget the new episode of Star Trek New Voyages, available as a free download in BitTorrent format at http://www.newvoyages.com Ed.]

Corny Disc

Corn-fed Blu-ray disc (AFP)

TOKYO November 4, 2004 (AFP) - Giving a new meaning to the term grassroots music, Pioneer Corp. said it had developed a next-generation disc made of corn to let the eco-conscious consumer dispose of data in the soil.

The Japanese electronics maker said the Blu-ray optical disc, which can be written once and stores 25 gigabytes of data, is 87 percent natural polymer derived from corn and biodegrades.

"If the starch polymer is incinerated, it will not emit dioxins and any other harmful chemicals," the company said.

While the disc can theoretically be eaten, it is coated by a 0.1-millimeter (0.004-inch) thick layer of resin and is too hard for even the strongest teeth.

Pioneer has yet to decide when to market the disc.

Earlier this year Sony Corp. and another Japanese company Toppan Printing said they had developed a paper disc that can be destroyed with scissors for fool-proof data security.

Bee News!

 No modern tropical honeybee could
have survived years in the dark and
cold without flowering plants

Bees Beat Dinosaurs!
Geological Society of America News Release

November 5, 2004 - The humble tropical honeybee may challenge the idea that a post-asteroid impact "nuclear winter" was a big player in the decimation of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Somehow the tropical honeybee, Cretotrigona prisca, survived the end-Cretaceous extinction event, despite what many researchers believe was a years-long period of darkness and frigid temperatures caused by sunlight-blocking dust and smoke from the asteroid impact at Chicxulub.

The survival of C. prisca is problematic and telling, asserts paleontology graduate student Jacqueline M. Kozisek of the University of New Orleans. Late Cretaceous tropical honeybees preserved in amber are almost identical to their modern relatives, she says.

If no modern tropical honeybee could have survived years in the dark and cold without the flowering plants they lived off of, Kozisek reasoned, something must be amiss with the nuclear winter theory.

"It couldn't have been that huge," says Kozisek of the Chicxulub-related temperature drops asserted by other researchers.

Kozisek will present her work on Monday, 8 Nov., at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver.

Modern tropical honeybees have an optimal temperature range of 88 to 93 degrees F (31-34°C) in order to maintain vital metabolic activities, according to entomological research, says Kozisek. That's also the range that's best for their food source: nectar-rich flowering plants.

Based on what is known about the Cretaceous climate and modern tropical honeybees, Kozisek estimates that any post-impact winter event could not have dropped temperatures more than 4 to 13 degrees F (2-7°C) without wiping out the bees. Current nuclear winter theories from the Chicxulub impact estimate drops of 13 to 22 degrees F (7-12°C) – too cold for tropical honeybees.


Tropical honeybees haven't changed
a lot in 65 million years

"I'm not trying to say an asteroid impact didn't happen," says Kozisek. "I'm just trying to narrow down the effects."

To do this, Kozisek took a novel approach for a paleontologist – instead of looking at what died out, she dug through the literature to find out what survived the massive extinction event.

"I made a list of all survivors and picked those with strict survival requirements," said Kozisek. She determined that those survival requirements were by calling on studies of the closest modern analogues -- which wasn't always easy for some species, she pointed out. There was, for instance, a very early primate that crawled out of the Cretaceous alive, but there is really no comparable small primate around today with which to reliably compare, she said.

On the other hand, a good number of tropical honeybees haven't changed a lot in 65 million years and a great deal is known about modern tropical honey bees' tolerances to heat and cold. What's more, amber-preserved specimens of the oldest tropical honey bee, Cretotrigona prisca, are almost indistinguishable from – and are probably the ancestors of – some modern tropical honeybees like Dactylurina, according to other studies cited by Kozisek.

Survival and Its Implications: Tropical Honeybees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Abstract may be viewed at: http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2004AM/finalprogram/abstract_80171.htm

Geological Society of America - http://www.geosociety.org

Bees Beat Arthritis?
Arthritis & Rheumatism News Release

November 4, 2004 - Since ancient times, healers have practiced apitherapy, the use of honeybee products for curative purposes. Within the last few decades, conventional doctors have joined holistic practitioners in exploring the potential of bee venom for treating a wide variety of conditions from acute tendonitis to chronic back pain to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While research has established anti-arthritic effects of bee venom, much about the way bee venom work remains a mystery.


(Kenn Wingle)

A team of researchers in South Korea recently conducted an investigation into the molecular mechanisms behind bee venom's therapeutic impact on RA, a chronic, destructive inflammatory disease. The November 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism presents their insights into melittin, a major component of bee venom and a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

To gain a better understanding of bee venom's potential benefits for RA patients, the researchers examined its action in rat treated to induce inflammatory arthritis. For rats with advanced RA, treatment with bee venom at very low doses resulted in dramatic reductions of tissue swelling and osteophyte formation on affected paws. "Although the issue for determination of an effective dose is needed for further study," observes one of the authors, Jin Tae Hong, M.D., Ph.D. "Our data show that the anti-arthritic effects of bee venom are related to the anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom."

In the next phase of their study, researchers examined the anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom on synovial cells – cells lining the joints– obtained from human RA patients. Their experiments focused on melittin, bee venom's principal peptide. They observed melittin's power to block the expression of inflammatory genes, much like COX-2 inhibitor drugs used to treat RA. Melittin effectively reduces inflammation by inhibiting the critical DNA binding activity of NF-kB (Nuclear Factor kappa B), which directly controls a number of genes involved in immune reactions. Thus, Melittin's targeted inactivation of inflammation may hold the key to the anti-arthritic effects of bee venom.

"The potency of melittin in the inhibition of the inflammatory response may be of great benefit in degenerative and inflammatory diseases such as RA," concludes Dr. Hong. "The extent of inhibitory effects of melittin in most parameters determined in the present study is similar to or greater than bee venom itself, suggesting that melittin may be a major causative component in the pharmacologic effects of bee venom."

Arthritis & Rheumatism - http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis

Zombie Networks
By Will Knight

New Scientist issue: 6 November 2004 - In June, the websites of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft disappeared for hours when their servers were swamped with hundreds of thousands of simultaneous webpage requests that they couldn't possibly service. It sounds a tough attack to orchestrate, but executing it couldn't have been simpler. A hacker kicked off the assault by typing a simple command into an internet chat room.

That command awakened dormant software "bots" that had been planted in tens of thousands of PCs around the world with the help of computer viruses. When the bots read the command in an internet chat room they were monitoring, they began firing a blizzard of page requests at the servers hosting the company sites.

Result: the servers effectively got tongue-tied trying to service the requests, and had to go offline until the attack ceased. This modus operandi is fuelling a growing crime wave against e-commerce in which these networks of bots, dubbed botnets, are increasingly being offered for hire by hacking groups.

Want to take down a commercial rival's website? Or how about spamming, perhaps sending out letters "phishing" for people's passwords and bank account details? And gambling sites that need a continuous web presence to make money are a favourite target for botnet-based blackmail.

The distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack on Yahoo, Microsoft and Google was especially effective because it targeted one of their web-hosting companies, Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Akamai is far from alone in falling prey to botnet sabotage.

For instance, just last week, UK online betting firm Blue Square fell victim to a botnet-based blackmail attempt. And an executive at a satellite TV firm in Massachusetts has been charged with hiring several botnets to disrupt the websites of three rivals, costing one of their web-hosting firms $1 million. The case marks a watershed:

"It's the first time we have prosecuted individuals for the mercenary use of botnets," says Frank Harrill of the FBI's cybercrime squad in Los Angeles. "But it won't be the last."

While DDOS attacks are nothing new, they used to have a limited impact. A group of hackers would agree on a time to simultaneously contact the target web server manually, but they could rarely conscript enough attacking PCs to overwhelm every channel of a major-league website.

But botnets make it a piece of cake to orchestrate distributed attacks from a vast ad hoc network. You could call it disorganised crime. So how does an innocent PC become part of a botnet? First, a computer virus installs a "back door" program that leaves an internet port on a PC open. Both SoBig and MyDoom employed this tactic. The hacker then probes PCs connected to the net to look for open ports and, when they find one, they install a bot on its hard drive.

Security experts call these bot-loaded PCs "zombies", since the hacker can wake them from the dead on command. Because bots can be placed on any number of PCs, and chat rooms provide a useful central location from which to control them, there is no technical limit to the size of a botnet, says Viki Navratilova, a systems administrator at the University of Chicago.

And the Internet Relay Chat protocol that chat rooms run is a very convenient means of command and control, says David Dittrich, a systems administrator at the University of Washington in Seattle, because it allows the person who runs the chat room to communicate with all members (or bots) simultaneously.

In January, attacking botnets typically comprised around 2000 innocent computers. But by May that had risen to more than 60,000, according to the latest research from e-security firm Symantec Antivirus. Fuelling this is the increase in always-on broadband connections, which makes it much more likely that a large number of zombies will be logged onto a chat room at any one time.

The botnet controllers are cashing in. Eavesdropped chat-room exchanges reveal that a DDOS attack appears to cost between $500 and $1500, with smaller botnet attacks priced between $1 and $40 per zombie harnessed.

"It's such a reliable way to make money that hackers don't need day jobs," says Navratilova. To detect zombies active in their networks, systems administrators check for telltale "master-slave" traffic.

"If you see 10 of your computers receiving the same data from a computer in Romania, and then rapidly trying to contact a large site, like a government one, you know your computers have become zombies," says Dittrich.

Once a zombie is found, the bot inside can be dissected to find the address of the controlling chat room so it can be taken down and the controller traced. But hackers are now covering their tracks by encrypting the chat-room address or by making the bots corrupt their own program code when extracted.

"It's kind of like cockroaches. You spray in the kitchen behind the wall but they find other ways to survive. You only get rid of some," says Navratilova.

New Scientist - http://www.newscientist.com
Anasazi Skeletons

Anasazi city ruins in the Southwestern US

SALT LAKE CITY November 3, 2004 (AP) - Archaeologists have begun excavating ancient skeleton remains believed to be those of possibly five people, probably Anasazis.

The bones were found on private land at the eastern edge of Kanab in southern Utah last week when a turf farmer was digging a trench to install an irrigation line.

"I was on a backhoe ... when the guy I was working with yelled at me. I saw a big femur bone sticking up," said Tom Willardson, the owner of Tommy's Turf.

"I stopped digging out of respect for who (the bones) belonged to," Willardson said Monday. He called police, who called the Kane County Sheriff's Office, which called Bureau of Land Management officials at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The discovery is just about a quarter-mile away from the Grand Staircase visitors center that opened in June.

The state archaeologist also was called in, and officials from the various agencies worked together to investigate the burial site.

Carbon dating of the bones has not been done, but scientists are estimating their age based on other evidence uncovered at the site.

BLM archaeologists turned over control of the dig to the Antiquities Section of the Utah Division of State History, said Marietta Eaton, the monument's assistant manager for cultural and earth sciences.

The state controls finds on state and private land.

Eaton said because of the 400-mile distance between state antiquities offices in Salt Lake City and Kanab, Utah officials asked BLM archaeologists to act as their agents to evaluate the site and remove the bones so Willardson can continue to work on his sod farm.

State Archaeologist Kevin T. Jones said that once the amount of remains and artifacts that would be affected by Willardson's work are documented and removed, they will be sent to Salt Lake City for further study.

Aerosols Threaten Earth!

Sunlight is reflected by aerosols in this plume off
the coasts of China and Taiwan (T), viewed from
the Space Shuttle at an altitude of 170 miles. The
plume (between arrows) is carried by northwest
winds from China more than 370 miles over the
ocean, and the plume's reflection of sunlight is
evident. (NASA Earth Sciences & Image Analysis
Laboratory, Johnson Space Center)

Brookhaven National Laboratory Press Release

UPTON NY November 1, 2004 - Climate scientists agree that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased about 35 percent over the industrial period and that it will continue to rise so that CO2 will reach double its pre-industrial value well before the end of this century. How much this doubled CO2 concentration will raise Earth’s global mean temperature, however, remains quite uncertain and is the subject of intense research — and heated debate.

In a paper to be published in the November issue of the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, Stephen Schwartz, an atmospheric scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, argues that much of the reason for the present uncertainty in the climatic effect of increased CO2 arises from uncertainty about the influence of atmospheric aerosols, tiny particles in the air. Schwartz, who is also chief scientist of the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Science Program, points out that aerosols scatter and absorb light and modify the properties of clouds, making them brighter and thus able to reflect more incoming solar radiation before it reaches Earth’s surface.

“Because these aerosol particles, like CO2, are introduced into the atmosphere as a consequence of industrial processes such as fossil fuel combustion,” says Schwartz, “they have been exerting an influence on climate over the same period of time as the increase in CO2, and could thus very well be masking much of the influence of that greenhouse gas.” However, he emphasizes, the influence of aerosols is not nearly so well understood as the influence of greenhouse gases.

As Schwartz documents, the uncertainty in the climate influence of atmospheric aerosols limits any inference that can be drawn about future climate sensitivity — how much the temperature would rise due to CO2 doubling alone — from the increase in global mean temperature already observed over the industrial period.

The global warming of 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) that has taken place since 1900 suggests that, if there were no aerosol influence, the effect of CO2 doubling on mean global temperature would be rather low — a rise of 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

But, the likelihood that aerosols have been offsetting some of the warming caused by CO2 all along, says Schwartz, means that the observed 0.5-degree-Celsius temperature rise is just the part of the CO2 effect we can “see” — the tip of the greenhouse “iceberg.” So the effect of doubling CO2, holding everything else constant, he says, might be three or more times as great.

“Knowledge of Earth’s climate sensitivity is central to informed decision-making regarding future carbon dioxide emissions and developing strategies to cope with a greenhouse-warmed world,” Schwartz says. However, as he points out, not knowing how much aerosols offset greenhouse warming makes it impossible to refine estimates of climate sensitivity. Right now, climate models with low sensitivity to CO2 and those with high sensitivity are able to reproduce the temperature change observed over the industrial period equally well by using different values of the aerosol influence, all of which lie within the uncertainty of present estimates.

“In order to appreciably reduce uncertainty in Earth’s climate sensitivity the uncertainty in aerosol influences on climate must be reduced at least threefold,” Schwartz concludes. He acknowledges that such a reduction in uncertainty presents an enormous challenge to the aerosol research community.

An editorial accompanying the paper credits Schwartz with presenting “a unique argument challenging the research community to reduce the uncertainty in aerosol forcing of climate change in order to reduce the uncertainty in climate sensitivity to an extent that would be more useful to decision makers.” The editorial also suggests that, “Schwartz’s calculations are not only of interest for the issue of climate change but may serve as a paradigm for environmental issues in general.”

This research was funded by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Stephen Schwartz web page - http://www.ecd.bnl.gov/steve/schwartz.html

Bhopal Clean Up Urged

It is been estimated that at
least 3000 people died as a
result of this accident, while
figures for the number of
people injured currently
peak at 600,000.

BHOPAL, India November 5, 2004 (AP) — Experts on Thursday urged the removal of thousands of tons of toxic waste from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in central India, where a devastating gas leak killed 15,000 people 20 years ago.

The gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Madhya Pradesh state capital, Bhopal, was one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

At a seminar on the disaster, experts said nearly 25,000 tons of toxic waste remain inside the factory since it stopped operations on December 4, 1984 — a day after lethal methyl isocynate gas leaked into the atmosphere killing thousands of people and contaminating local water and soil.

"The remediation of the site must include dismantling of the existing building and plant and the excavation and pretreatment of polluted soils, and it has to be done as a first step in the clean up process," said Harald Burmeier, an expert in hazardous waste management.

Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow Chemical Co., accepted moral responsibility for the disaster but blamed it on sabotage by a disgruntled employee.

"The biggest obstacle to clean up the Bhopal factory has been the lack of corporate responsibility and the political will to make it happen. Clearly, the responsibility of bearing the cost of the clean up lies with Dow Chemical Co.," said Vinuta Gopal, a campaigner with Greenpeace India.

The experts said the clean up would take about four years and the treatment of contaminated groundwater would take 10 to 25 years. Both operations would cost a total of around US$30 million (euro 23 million).

Greenpeace and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal organized the seminar ahead of the 20th anniversary of the industrial disaster.

Shrinking Seismosaurus!

Seismosaurus got 40 percent shorter

Geological Society of America News Release

November 5, 2004 - The longest animal that ever lived just got 40 percent shorter. A reappraisal of Seismosaurus has chopped it from 170 feet – about the length of ten hummers – to about 110 feet – a bit more than six hummers. The new look at the lengthiest beast also suggests it might also be a very close relative of a more common type of dino –Diplodocus.

Though drastically shorter, the new length estimate does not necessarily knock Seismosaurus off the throne as the Earth's longest creature, says paleontologist Spencer Lucas of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. On the other hand, it does bring Seismosaurus within the range of the lengthiest living animal – the blue whale, which runs about 100 feet.

A poster explaining how Lucas and his team arrived at the new measure of the longest animal will be presented on Tuesday afternoon, 9 Nov., at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.

"The bottom line is it's very, very hard to estimate length of dinosaurs from isolated bones," says Lucas. "These estimates are not ideal."

The key to resizing Seismosaurus, he says, was knowing where to place tail vertebrae of the incomplete, lone known specimen. Earlier researchers decided the tail, or caudal, vertebrae belonged far down the tail, meaning that to taper to an end after these vertebrae, the dino's tail had to trail on for a good distance more.

To figure out if the initial placement of the caudal vertebrae was correct, Lucas and his colleagues scaled up a smaller, similar Diplodocus dinosaur to compare its caudal vertebrae. What they discovered was that instead of placing the caudal vertebrae as numbers 20 through 27 on the tail, they fit better higher up the tail as numbers 12 through 19. That was enough to shorten the estimated length of the animal by about 60 feet.

"The more defensible estimate is 33 meters (110 feet)," Lucas concluded. The comparison to Diplodocus has also raised the possibility that Seismosaurus doesn't really belongs in its own genus. It's arguable, Lucas says, that Seismosaurus is just a big new species of Diplodocus. If so, it could get a scientific name change from Seismosaurus hallorum to Diplodocus hallorum. The more earthshaking name "Seismosaur" would likely endure, however, as sort of a "stage name," says Lucas.

The new, revised Seismosaurus length is already incorporated into the Age of Giants exhibit which opened in August at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. In fact it was because of plans for the exhibit that Lucas and his colleagues decided to recheck the length of Seismosaurus, he said.

All that is known about Seismosaurus comes from fossilized bones from the hip and part of the back of a single skeleton found in ancient riverbank deposits near San Ysidro, New Mexico in 1979. It was plain before the fossilized bones were extracted from the ground that this was an exceptionally large animal – even for a dinosaur.

The actual fossil remains of Seismosaurus are now on public display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

Geological Society of America - http://www.geosociety.org

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science - http://www.nmmnh-abq.mus.nm.us/nmmnh/nmmnh.html

Genre News: Serenity, Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanaz, John Lennon, Lost, Enterprise & More!

Buy the Firefly Complete Series DVD set
before you see the movie...
Joss on Serenity

Hollywood November 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the upcoming SF movie Serenity, told SCI FI Wire that it's been a challenge adapting his low-rated Fox TV series Firefly for the big screen.

"It's incredibly hard, you know, building a story that doesn't repeat or contradict what we've already done, that satisfies the fans, and yet is really made for people who have never seen the show," Whedon said in an interview on the film's set at Universal Studios in Los Angeles last August. "[It's] incredibly tricky. There's pitfalls everywhere."

Serenity, set 500 years in the future, picks up the story of the intrepid crew of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity. Fox canceled Firefly in the middle of its first season, but fan enthusiasm for the show and its subsequent DVD release persuaded Universal Pictures to green-light a movie adaptation. "It's the hardest story I've ever had to structure," Whedon said.

But, he added, "once I get writing these people, it's the easiest thing in the world, because I know them so well. The other thing is, a TV show is built around slow development of character. A movie ... is built around momentum. They're very different things. So ... you have to let some things drop, and you have to speed some things up, and you have to sort of know which ones are which."

Serenity also marks longtime TV veteran Whedon's feature-film directorial debut. Whedon has been critical in the past about how his movie scripts for such films as Alien: Resurrection and the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie have been realized.

Joss Whedon directing

"After Alien: Resurrection I said the next person who ruins one of my scripts is going to be me," he said, with tongue in cheek. "And I think I'm doing a fine job. Actually, I think that the director on occasion could use a little more imagination and the writer could have shut up occasionally. We fight, but we're still getting along better than I usually do."

Seriously, Whedon said, "It's been great. ... Unlike TV, I have the time to really explore what it is I'm doing and to go back and reassess every day. But the piece is so fluid, because it's a domino effect. Every time you shoot a scene, it affects 50 other scenes.

"It's not like you have eight days and you know exactly what you need, and you're out and you go on to the next one. It's constantly shifting. Hopefully not so much that it doesn't know where it's going."

Serenity, which is in post-production, opens April 22, 2005.

[A novel of the movie story will be available as a paperback in early April. Ed.]

Buy the Firefly DVD Set from Fox - http://www.foxstore.com/detail.html?item=960&u=1084853791

Sarah Michelle Gellar Makes Films for Fans
By Hugo Rifkind


Sarah Michelle in current number one box office
hit "The Grudge"

London November 5, 2004 (Times UK) - “I had a bunch of covers in the States all one week,” says Sarah Michelle Gellar, matter-of-factly. “Somebody said to me: ‘How do you go to the grocery store?’ But I’m the girl who hasn’t washed her hair, and is wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I don’t look like I do in the magazines in the supermarket. That’s not me at all.”

Obviously, this is all very humble and refreshing and down-to-earth. But, to be honest, it’s sheer nonsense.

Gellar looks exactly as she does in the magazines in the supermarket. She’s in heels, some tight brown trousers and a floaty poncho-ish thing that I can’t even name. She is a very beautiful woman. She must know this, and she’s pretending she doesn’t. It’s disarming, and it’s sneaky. The thing is, actors are paid to tell lies and pretend it’s the truth.

Gellar spent seven seasons pretending that she was an angst-wracked vampire slayer, who was pretending to be a normal schoolgirl.

Right now, she’s either being extremely friendly, chatty and forthcoming, or she is pretending that she is. I can’t figure out which.

She’s here to promote her new movie, The Grudge. It’s a remake of the Japanese horror film, Ju-on. Unusually for such a genre, it has the same Japanese director (Takashi Shimizu), a Japanese crew, and is set in Japan. It opened at the top of the US box office, taking $40 million (£22 million) on its first weekend.

I saw a screening two days ago. “What did you think?” asks the star. The way her eyes twinkle, the way she cocks her shiny blonde head, I very nearly believe that she cares.

Terrifying, I tell her, quite honestly. Properly, butt-clenchingly horrible. I’m not great at horror films, but knowing she was in it, I wasn’t too worried. Along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gellar has been in Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer and both Scooby-Doo movies. I was expecting some kind of horror-lite. I was badly mistaken.

The Grudge is an Omen, a Carrie, an Exorcist. The Japanese setting gives it an atmosphere of unsettled alienation throughout, to which the frequent use of subtitles only adds. It might not be the most original horror in the world but Gellar’s performance is polished and restrained and, notably, joke-free. Some fans are going to be in for quite a shock.


Sarah does it for the fans, not the
critics (Fox)

“It’s not Buffy,” agrees Gellar. “To leave that show was a huge step. I had everything there.”

So why leave? A desire to do other things? The fear of being irrevocably typecast?

She snorts. Albeit, not unattractively. “If I got typecast for the rest of my life as a strong heroine . . . well, there could be worse things in life to be typecast as. But as an actor, you need new challenges, because otherwise it can get old for you. And if it gets old to me, it’s got to be old to an audience.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a good run. It began in 1997 and kept on stabbing, thumping and generally high-kicking demon butt until 2003. It was funny, sassy and just a little bit sexy. Most of all, it was a witty parody on the endless Beverly Hills 90210 US high school clones.

“It’s the metaphor version,” is how Gellar puts it. “High school is demonic and horrible, and we just brought that to life.”

Gellar branched out into movies increasingly towards the end, but the critics were rarely kind. “I don't make movies for reviewers,” retorts Gellar. “I make them for fans.”

Read the rest of this interview at http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14931-1345707,00.html

David Boreanaz Pilots for ABC


David Boreanaz, star of 'Angel' on MTV's
'TRL UK' at the MTV Studios in London's
Leicester Square, Friday, Oct. 29, 2004.
(AP Photo/ Anthony Harvey)

LOS ANGELES November 1, 2004 (Zap2it.com) "Angel" fans will probably be happy to have star David Boreanaz back on the small screen, but the actor's new ABC drama project could put a temporary stake in all of those "Angel" telefilm rumors.

After taking a one year television vacation, Boreanaz is set to star in an untitled drama from Warner Bros. TV intended for ABC. The pilot, based on the life of undercover hit man Jack Ballantine, has received a script commitment from the network.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Boreanaz will play a cop who goes undercover in the world of murder for hire. The pilot is written by Patrick Smith Kelly ("Don't Say a Word"), with Kelly set to executive produce along with Eric Tannenbaum and Kim Tannenbaum.

Ballantine, a long-time member of the Phoenix Police Department, spent years doing deep cover work as a mob hit man and motorcycle gang member among other dangerous assignments.

Boreanaz originated the part of vampire-with-soul Angel on The WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the occasionally violent bloodsucker became the focus of his own show on the netlet in 1999, running through last spring. The actor won a trio of Saturn Awards for the performance, although his cult success on the small screen hasn't yielded any immediate big screen success. Boreanaz's biggest feature success thus far is the slasher dud "Valentine," while the indies "Mr. Fix It" and "The Hard Easy" are upcoming.

New Lennon Releases Include Acoustic
By Melinda Newman


Lennon in 1972 (AP)

LOS ANGELES November 6, 2004 (Billboard) - It's no coincidence that two new John Lennon albums, "Acoustic" and "Rock 'N' Roll," were released simultaneously earlier this week via Capitol.

As its name implies, "Acoustic" features 16 Lennon tracks recorded acoustically at home. "Rock 'N' Roll," originally released in 1975, captures Lennon singing tunes made famous by his idols.

"It's very dramatic to have 'Acoustic' and 'Rock 'N' Roll' together," Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, tells Billboard. "They're the totally opposite sides of John's character."

For Ono, overseeing the projects is a way of keeping Lennon's memory alive.
We were partners, and then John kind of left it to me to take care of it. I feel honored about it," she says.

As Ono culled through Lennon's material for "Acoustic," she discovered that much of his piano acoustic works had been miked in a way that the piano overshadowed Lennon's voice and "there was no way to fix it," she says. Therefore, the 16 tunes on "Acoustic," seven of which are available officially for the first time, are all guitar-based.

Ono says she learned something new about her husband in the process. "I realized what an incredible acoustic guitar player he was," she says. "We're so used to listening to his electric guitar. But I thought this album has to go out because I want to encourage kids who want to learn guitar. And for the professionals, I think it will be inspiring to listen to his arrangements -- they're sometimes strange and sometimes beautiful."

Work on the "Rock 'N' Roll" reissue was in some ways more challenging, Ono says, recalling the struggles Lennon and producer Phil Spector went through during the project before Lennon finished the album on his own.

"When I first heard it again, I was crying because the power of these classic songs hits you anyway, but it's not just that," she says. "This is his wife saying it, but I think his versions are better than the originals because of the love he had for these songs."

As for the remaining material in the Lennon vault, Ono says there is not enough to make another album, but she expects that the songs will find other outlets, such as the new Las Vegas show planned by the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil or the upcoming musical based on Lennon's material.

Toons Line Up for Oscar


Ghost in the Shell 2

LOS ANGELES November 5, 2004 (AP) - Eleven films, including "Shrek 2," "Shark Tale" and the Japanese movie "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence," are eligible to be nominated for the best animated feature film Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced.

Just three of them can be nominated.

The competing movies include four that hadn't opened by Thursday, when the list of eligible films was released: "The Polar Express," "Sky Blue," "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" and "The Incredibles."

Also on the list: "Home on the Range," "Clifford's Really Big Movie," "Disney's Teacher's Pet" and "The Legend of Buddha."

Nominations for the 77th Academy Awards will be announced in January.

The Oscars will be presented Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Official Oscar - http://www.oscars.org

Kill Bill's Brother Joins ESPN's Tilt
By Kimberly Speight


Michael Madsen in Kill Bill 2

LOS ANGELES November 5, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Madsen has become the latest actor to join the ensemble cast of ESPN's upcoming drama series "Tilt."

The series, which debuts at 9 p.m. EST on Jan. 13, centers on the fictitious World Poker Championships in Las Vegas and examines the drama of high-stakes gambling as well as the lives of the professional gamblers away from the table.

Madsen will take the role of Don Everest, aka "the Matador," who is considered the top player and most influential man in Vegas gaming and also is the center of conflict.

Madsen joins previously announced cast members Eddie Cibrian (news) and Chris Bauer in the series.

Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote and will direct the pilot episode of "Tilt."

Madsen recently appeared in the "Kill Bill" films. His film credits also include "Die Another Day," "Reservoir Dogs" and "Thelma and Louise."

On the TV side, Madsen recently appeared in the USA Network telefilm "Frankenstein."

Lost at Number One: New Show Ratings
By Rick Kissell

New York November 4, 2004 (Variety) - More viewers found ABC's hot drama "Lost" on the eve of the November sweep, while NBC got some encouraging returns for "The West Wing" one night after the presidential election.

"Lost" was easily the night's No. 1 program, rolling in the 8 o'clock hour among adults 18-49 (6.7 rating/17 share) and overall audience (18.73 million) -- adding 2 million viewers from last week for its largest turnout, according to Nielsen.


ABC's Lost is the surprise hit of the season (ABC)

Survival skein now ranks No. 2 among new shows this season, trailing only the same net's "Desperate Housewives."

ABC also looked good at 10 with "Wife Swap" (4.7/13 in 18-49, 10.67m), which placed second to CBS' "CSI: NY" (5.5/15, 14.71m) and for the first time moved into a tie with the crime drama in adults 18-34 (4.1/12).

At NBC, "West Wing" (4.3/10 in 18-49, 13.82m) won at 9 in both demos and total viewers, matching or hitting its best scores in about a year.

White House drama could have received a boost from the wave of interest in politics the day after the election, and may have benefited from a stronger (although still modest) lead-in from "LAX" (2.5/6, 8.01m), which was up nicely week-to-week.

Fox got off to a decent start with unscripted skein "Nanny 911" at 9 (3.8/9 in 18-49, 8.64m), which was about even with ABC's "The Bachelor" (3.9/9, 9.00m). Dating show hit fall highs but again relinquished a big chunk of its "Lost" lead-in.

Still, ABC won the night in 18-49 (5.1/13) and total viewers (12.8 million).

CBS did well at 9 with "King of Queens" (slot-leading 4.3/10 in 18-49, 11.53m) but then fell off at 9:30 with week two of "Center of the Universe" (3.6/9 in 18-49, 9.53m).

At the netlets, UPN's "America's Next Top Model" hit season highs at 8 (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.67m), but "Kevin Hill" dipped a bit at 9 (1.6/4, 3.54m). The WB's "Jack & Bobby" (1.0/2, 2.34m) was weak following "Smallville" (2.5/4, 5.02m).

Lost Official Site - http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost


The crew of Enterprise (Paramount)

Enterprise Ratings Up

Hollywood November 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - The first of three Star Trek: Enterprise episodes featuring guest star Brent Spiner ranked first in ratings among men 18-49 in its premiere Oct. 29, UPN reported.

The episode, "Borderland," drew a 1.7 rating among men 18-49 and also improved ratings for UPN in the Friday 8 p.m. ET/PT timeslot among total viewers, with an audience of 3.2 million, the network reported.

The second of the three-episode arc, "Cold Station 12," airs Nov. 5. In it, Spiner's character, the criminal scientist Arik Soong, is reunited with his genetically engineered creations called Augments, who break into a medical outpost where Soong once worked to steal the embryos of hundreds more potential Augments.

The third episode, "The Augments," airs Nov. 12th

Official Star Trek - http://www.startrek.com

Teri Polo to West Wing

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Teri Polo, whose last TV role was a movie star, is set to play a would-be first lady in her next gig.


Teri Polo

Polo, who starred in ABC's "I'm with Her" last season, will have a recurring part on "The West Wing" this season. She'll play the wife of Jimmy Smits' Texas congressman and presidential aspirant.

The actress is scheduled to appear in four episodes of the NBC series this season, which will introduce some of the contenders vying to succeed President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in the White House, including Smits' character, a Democratic congressman and ex-Houston mayor, and a moderate Republican senator played by Alan Alda. Polo has an option to take a larger role next season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Aside from "I'm with Her," in which she played a movie star who falls for a schoolteacher (David Sutcliffe), Polo is best known as Ben Stiller's fiancee in "Meet the Parents." She's set to reprise that role in the sequel "Meet the Fockers," due for release in December.

Her other credits include "Northern Exposure," "The House of the Spirits" and recurring roles on "The Practice," "Felicity" and "Sports Night," which, like "The West Wing," was created by Aaron Sorkin.

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