Ancient Pyramids!
SHGbo2+14a - Alien Contact?
TV=Teen Sex, Where's Osama?
Dangerous Gold & More!
Ancient Pyramids!
Wal-Mart Threatens Teotihuacán
By Lorraine Orlandi

TEOTIHUACAN, Mexico September 4, 2004 (Reuters) - In the shadow of colossal pyramids left by a great Mexican civilization, a Wal-Mart rises, and some locals have gone to court to overturn its approval. 

The sprawling warehouse-style Bodega Aurrera, a unit of Wal-Mart in Mexico, is due to open in December in Teotihuacán, the site of major archeological ruins outside Mexico City. 

Workers are putting on the roof this week.

"It's not just that commerce in Teotihuacán will be affected. It affects first of all our soul, our identity," said local teacher Emanuel D'Herrera, who joined legal action to stop the store. 

As a young father, he planted his newborn son's umbilical cord at the ancient temples for protection. 

"We are Mexicans and very proud of our history," he said. "One of the landmarks of our history and culture is Teotihuacán." 

Amid rising controversy, Mexico's government said a small pre-Hispanic altar was found buried under what will be the store's parking lot, located in a commercial area within the archeological zone. 

The construction lies less than a mile from the gated tourist park housing the main ruins and is visible from atop the Pyramid of the Sun that has defined the skyline for 2,000 years. 

Wal-Mart Mexico has local and state approval for the store. Federal archeologists monitoring construction say it poses no threat to the ruins, and officials say most people welcome the store for the low prices, investment and jobs it will bring. 

"This is a development opportunity," town secretary Jorge Lopez said. "We need water, drainage, pavement, schools." 


Opponents have acted to block the store from operating by filing a criminal complaint that the authorities acted illegally in approving the project. A civil complaint was filed on the same grounds. There is no timetable for a decision by either court.

All opposition has not been passive. Wal-Mart said in an earlier statement that protesters attempted to shut down construction on Aug. 6 and became violent and threatening. 

"Wal-Mart energetically objects to these violent acts and reserves the right to go before the proper authorities," it said. 

But opponents say Wal-Mart will erode a tradition of family-owned enterprises such as handicrafts and a community lifestyle dating back centuries. 

"This is a classic case of modern corporate greed against the traditional cultural values of a society," said Al Norman, a U.S. author and activist who has taken on Wal-Mart Stores Inc . . "American tourists can go from the monuments to the Wal-Mart store and buy a rubber pyramid, made in Beijing."

No one knows for sure who founded the ancient seat of power and then abandoned it around 600 AD. The Aztecs later came upon it and named it Teotihuacán (The Place Where Men Become Gods). 

The National Institute of Anthropology insists the project is strictly monitored.

"The argument that it's a threat to the ruins is really weak," said spokesman Ruben Regnier. 

Supporters of the store say opponents are a small minority, mainly merchants, who fear losing economic clout. 

Lifelong resident Emma Ortega disagrees. A local restaurateur and healer, she was named spiritual protector of Teotihuacán by a council of elders. She has fought commercial encroachment before. 

Next to the Wal-Mart site stands the rust-colored Hotel Quinta Sol, a project she and others failed to block. A huge yellow sign for the Elektra electronics store chain and a broken Coca-Cola billboard dot the landscape. 

Ortega, 59, climbed the Pyramid of the Sun on Thursday and turned to the four corners of the world, asking for strength.

French Egyptologists Defend Pyramid Theory 
Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt September 4, 2004 (AP) - A pair of French Egyptologists who suspect they have found a previously unknown chamber in the Great Pyramid urged Egypt's antiquities chief to reconsider letting them test their theory by drilling new holes in the 4,600-year-old structure. 

Jean Yves Verd'hurt and fellow Frenchman Gilles Dormion, who has studied pyramid construction for more than 20 years, are expected to raise their views during the ninth International Congress of Egyptologists in Grenoble, France, which starts Monday. They also published a book about their theory this week. 

Standing in their way is Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who heatedly rejected the theories during a Cairo press conference this week. 

"There are 300 theories concerning hidden rooms and other things inside the pyramid, but if I let them all test their theories they will do untold damage to the pyramid, which was built with the blood of Egyptians," said Hawass. "I will not let Egyptian blood be damaged by amateurs."

He said earlier requests from the same pair were turned down in 1999 and 2003. 

In their book, "The Room of Cheops," Dormion and Verd'hurt write that 1988 study of an area below the queen's burial chamber in the pyramid found what appeared to be an 11-foot "structure," according to the French magazine Science and Future. 

"The study of this part of the pyramid was always neglected because there had been a grill to block access," they wrote.

"While we were working on ventilation in 1988, we were able to penetrate into the depths and study briefly but not enough to state anything essential." 

Verd'hurt laughed off Hawass' "amateur" tag, citing previous close relationships with Egyptian antiquities officials and work that he and Dormion had conducted in 1998 on the Medium pyramid south of Cairo, which dates back more than 4,500 years to the 4th pharaonic dynasty. 

The work at Medium, according to Verd'hurt, led to the discovery of two rooms and two passages that had been previously "undisturbed and unknown." They want to do similar work at the Great Pyramid, built by Khufu, a ruler also known as Cheops. 

"To be sure of this process, we wanted to verify the result of our architectural works using a radar that confirmed the location of a passage and a system of closures. So I think that now we should at least take these results into account in order to go further in our work."

Verd'hurt said Egyptian opposition to his theory is a "shame." They are expected to raise the issue again with Hawass in Grenoble, but the Egyptian antiquities official said he will not speak to them. 

Verd'hurt said he was disappointed by Hawass' refusal. 

"It's true that Cheops arouses and attracts passions but, with regard to history, it's really too bad," he said. "I think it's too bad that he doesn't sit down with us to let us explain ourselves." 

Associated Press reporter Kate Brumback in Paris contributed to this report.

New Tomb Discovered at Giza
Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt September 2, 2004 (AP) - Egypt's antiquities chief on Thursday revealed a 2,500-year-old hidden tomb under the shadow of one of Giza's three giant pyramids, containing 400 pinkie-finger-sized statues and six coffin-sized niches carved into granite rock.

Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said archaeologists had been working for three months to clear sand from a granite shaft found between the pyramid of Khafre -- also known by its Greek name of Chephren -- Giza's second-largest tomb of a pharaoh, and the Sphinx. 

Under blaring sun Thursday, Hawass said Giza's latest ancient discovery came to light after archaeologists detected what appeared to be a four-sided shaft.

The antiquities chief verified it by climbing a pyramid to get a bird's eye look. 

Excavators later removed several tons of fine sand to descend 33 feet below ground level to where they found the niches. 

Hawass said a wooden coffin and a pile of turquoise-colored figurines made of faience, a non-clay ceramic material used by ancient Egyptians, were also found. 

"The statues, called 'shawabtis,' depict servants.

Their task was to answer questions for the deceased in the after life and to serve the dead people," Hawass told The Associated Press. 

Hawass said workers will continue clearing sand from the shaft for a further 33 feet, where he believes more antiquities, including a granite sarcophagus, could be unearthed. 

The shaft was built in the 26th pharaonic dynasty during a period of cultural revival when "remarkable, huge tombs" were constructed, Hawass said.

Take a virtual tour inside the Great Pyramid at 

SHGbo2+14a - Alien Contact?
PARIS September 5, 2004 (AFP) - He's cute, he's got a tortoise-like face and blue eyes, a finger that glows, he wants to phone home and he would like to help us.

Or: His face is shaped like a tear-drop, his lips are pinched, his nostrils are tiny slits, he has long skinny arms and dark, almond-shaped, chilling eyes. 

Maybe he is something repugnant, slimy or tentacular, a menace to us humans. 

But then, what if he's a Star Child, invisible to our eyes and our technology, an ethereal being ordained with godlike lives? 

Well, whatever form the extraterrestrial takes, why -- if he exists -- doesn't he get in touch with us? 

That question has sparked a furious debate ever since it was raised by the physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950 in a challenge to the post-World War II sci-fi frenzy. 

Hopes that intelligent life is trying to contact us briefly rose a notch last week when New Scientist reported that an intriguing radio signal was being closely examined by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. 

The signal, named SHGbo2+14a, apparently emanating from a point between the constellations Pisces and Aries, had been picked up twice by an ingenious SETI scheme which harnesses screensaver programs on millions of personal computers to sift through cosmic noise picked up by a giant radio telescope in Puerto Rico. 

Alas: There's nothing there to show SHGbo2+14a is E.T.'s calling card.

Indeed, it is only one of a batch of low-grade "candidate" signals that have been sifted from trillions -- and, given the risk that it could be a statistical freak or the result of equipment interference, it has so far not even been upgraded to the category of "promising," says SETI's Seth Shostak. 

New Scientist "has inadvertently wandered into a sticky vat of hyperbole," Shostak says wearily. 

So nearly six years of scouring the skies by SETI@home have drawn a blank. Ditto the result notched up by Project Phoenix, which has had its ears open for radio signals from some 800 nearby stars for the past 10 years. 

These and several other professional searches can be traced to a proposal sketched in 1959 by two Cornell University scientists that the radio telescopes then under construction also be used to listen out for any signals from aliens. 

They argued that radio waves are the best way to communicate over interstellar distances, even if such a signal takes tens of thousands or even millions of years to get here. 

What cosmic listeners would love to hear is a repeat signal or a signal that says, in effect, "I'm an intelligent lifeform -- are you, too?" 

Particular interest is being focused on the so-called water hole, a usually tranquil region in the radio spectrum where the white noise comes from emissions by hydrogen atoms in the cosmos.

The theory goes that extraterrestrials may send their message via the water hole, since (at least in human experience) all life is connected with water, whose components are hydrogen and oxygen. 

But would intelligent life necessarily manifest itself this way? 

No, according to rival theories aired last week in the British weekly science journal Nature, which suggest we have been looking for evidence in the wrong place. 

To send a long message on a radio beam, repeatedly over a very long time and across a wide galactic scale, in the hope that someone eventually receives it, is a hugely inefficient use of energy. 

It would be more energy-efficient to send out space probes or inscribed artifacts, "effectively messages in a bottle," suggests Woodruff Sullivan, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Washington state. 

Whichever method is used, the quest for E.T. has many critics. 

They say it is rooted in an ancient human reflex -- the dread that we could be all alone in the Universe, and to compensate for this fear we create gods, demons... and aliens. 

"Nothing except statistics supports the idea that life, or at least intelligent life, exists anywhere else but the Earth," the British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss wrote in a bleak commentary in 2001.

Bookie Gives 10,000 to 1 Odds Against Alien Life

PARIS August 25, 2004 (AFP) - An online bookmaker is taking bets on the outcome of 10 big scientific endeavors, including the search for life on other planets and the quest to harness nuclear fusion as a substitute for oil.

British bookie Ladbrokes has set starting odds of 10,000/1 that the US-European spacecraft Cassini/Huygens will discover "intelligent life" on the Saturnian moon of Titan by 2010, the British weekly New Scientist says. 

It calculates odds of a 100/1 that a fusion power station, using the same energy source that powers the Sun, will be built by 2010. 

Odds of a mere six to one are being laid on the discovery by the same date of the Higgs Boson, a sub-atomic particle so elusive that frustrated physicists call it "the God particle." 

Ladbroke's website is offering the odds on 10 multi-billion-dollar "monster" schemes that have been launched in space exploration and fundamental physics, identified by New Scientist in this Saturday's issue.

Bush: OB-GYNs Kept from 'Practicing Their Love'
POPLAR BLUFF MO September 7, 2004 (Reuters) - President Bush offered an unexpected reason on Monday for cracking down on frivolous medical lawsuits: "Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." 

The Republican president, long known for verbal and grammatical lapses, included the anecdote about obstetrician gynecologists in his stump speech attacking Democratic presidential rival Sen. John Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, a former trial lawyer. 

At a rally of cheering supporters in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Bush made his usual pitch for limiting "frivolous lawsuits" that he said drive up the cost of health care and run doctors out of business. 

But then he added, "We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." 

Unfazed, Bush went on to deride his rivals as "pro-trial lawyer," and concluded, "I think you've got to make a choice. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. I made my choice. I'm for medical liability reform now."
TV Causes Teen Sex!
By Michael Conlon 

CHICAGO September 7, 2004 (Reuters) - Teenagers who watch a lot of television with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in intercourse than those who watch few such programs, according to a study published today. 

The study covered 1,792 adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were quizzed on viewing habits and sexual activity and then surveyed again a year later. Both regular and cable television were included. 

"This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities," said Rebecca Collins, a psychologist at the RAND who headed the study. 

"The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior," she added.

The study found that youths who watched large amounts of programming with sexual content were also more likely to initiate sexual activities short of intercourse, such as oral sex. 

It found that shows where sex was talked about but not depicted had just as much impact as the more explicit shows. "Both affect adolescents' perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior," Collins said. 

She said the 12-year-olds who watched a lot of sexual content behaved like the 14- or 15-years-olds who watched the least amount. "The advancement in sexual behavior we saw among kids who watched a lot of sexual television was striking." 

Her comments were released in a statement in conjunction with publication of the study in the September issue of "Paediatrics," the journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics. 

The survey did not break down the amount of sexual exposure in terms of hours per week or percentages of material viewed, Collins said in an interview. 

It did find that the 10 percent of those who watched the most television with sexual content were twice as likely to have initiated sexual intercourse when checked a year later than adolescents who were among the 10 percent who watched the least amount of sexual content. 

"The best way for parents who are trying to figure out what is a lot versus little is to realize that the average (U.S.) child watches about three hours of television a day, and that the heaviest rates of sexual content are in prime time which is probably what those hours are made of," she said. 

The report said earlier studies found that about two-thirds of TV entertainment programs contain sexual content, ranging from jokes and innuendo to intercourse and other behaviors. 

The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

[I'll believe this when these guys learn how to spell Pediatrics. Ed.]

Plutonium Fallout in UK
By Paul Rincon 
BBC News Science Staff

Exeter UK September 6, 2004 (BBC) - Radioactive fallout from nuclear tests and the Chernobyl disaster can be detected in UK soil and crop samples in an archive going back 160 years. The samples have been collected through one of the longest-running continuous field experiments in the world. 

Scientists matched fallout in them to specific nuclear tests conducted in the 1950s in Nevada, US, confirming the tests did in fact contaminate Europe. Details are given at the BA Festival of Science being held in Exeter this week. 

The study is a collaboration between the University of Southampton and Rothamsted Research, where the samples are stored.

It used mass spectrometry to measure levels of the radioactive elements plutonium, radium and caesium in the samples. 

The researchers were able to tie plutonium in the Rothamsted samples to tests conducted by the US military in the Nevada desert in 1952 and 1953. 

"Each weapons test has a characteristic signature of different isotopes; in this case it is two different plutonium isotopes, but it could be two different uranium isotopes," said Professor Keith Goulding of Rothamsted told the British Association's annual meeting. 

The new mass spectrometers at Southampton enabled them to look at the ratios of the different isotopes in the Rothamsted samples and then compare those with the samples they have from the tests. Nuclear fallout from tests at Bikini atoll in the Pacific and from the reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union can also be detected. 

"By doing that, they were able to detect which tests produced which fallout," said Professor Goulding. 

Dr Ian Croudace, of Southampton, said the samples provided "the first evidence" that plutonium from the tests contaminated north-west Europe. However, Professor Goulding stressed the amounts of fallout were small and therefore of little health concern. 

The Rothamsted experiment was originally set up in 1843 to study the impact of different fertiliser regimes on crop yields and soil health. Scientists are also using the experiments to study patterns in air pollution and climate change. 

"A common feature of long-term field experiments is that they come to be used in ways their founders could never have predicted," said Professor Goulding. 

"Events such as the industrial revolution, the introduction of unleaded petrol and acid rain can all be seen in the changing chemistry of the sample archive."

Where's Osama? Dept.
US to Capture bin Laden "Soon"

ISLAMABAD September 5, 2004 (Reuters) - The United States and its allies have put Osama bin Laden on the defensive, increasing chances of his capture soon, a U.S. counter-terrorism official said in remarks published in Pakistani media on Sunday. 

Cofer Black, State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said in Islamabad the entire "infrastructure" was in place to capture bin Laden and his close lieutenants, Pakistan's English language Daily Times reported. 

"In counter-terrorism, the programs are in place. We are after these guys globally," Black was quoted as saying after holding talks with Pakistani security officials. 

"Success against people that you know about, Osama, could happen tomorrow, could happen the day after, a week from now, or a month from now," he added. 

Black's comments, made only to Pakistani media, came just a few days after President Bush, who is standing for re-election in November, said that three-quarters of known al Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed. 

"Osama bin laden is probably the most hunted man in the planet now. Osama bin Laden and his associates at that level are primarily defensive, they spend most of their time trying to keep from getting caught," Black told private Geo Television. 

"If he (bin Laden) has a watch, he should be looking at it because the clock is ticking. He will be caught. 

"Programs are in place and what I tell people (is) I would be surprised but not necessarily shocked if we wake up tomorrow and he has been caught along with all his lieutenants," said Black, who went to Bangladesh on Sunday. 

Pakistan -- a key ally of the United States in it war on terror -- has arrested more than 70 men linked to al Qaeda as part of a major crackdown since July. 

Pakistan's crackdown followed the arrest of Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, a computer expert officials say has provided crucial information about al Qaeda operatives and the organization's plans to launch attacks in Britain and the United States. 

However, Pakistani officials and intelligence sources say they do not know if they are any closer to catching bin Laden.

Reclusive Russian Solves Poincare Conjecture
EXETER England September 7, 2004 (Reuters) - A reclusive Russian may have solved one of the world's toughest mathematics problems and stands to win $1 million -- but he doesn't appear to care.

Grigori Perelman from St. Petersburg claims to have solved the horrendously complicated Poincare Conjecture that tries to explain the behavior of multi-dimensional shapes in space, thereby making himself eligible for the prize offered by the Massachusetts-based Clay Mathematics Institute. 

But there's a snag. He has simply posted his results on the Internet and left his peers to work out for themselves whether he is right -- something they are still struggling to do. 

"There is good reason to believe that Perelman's approach is correct. But the trouble is, he won't talk to anybody about it and has shown no interest in the money," said Keith Devlin, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University in California. 

"There won't be a golden moment when he is suddenly accepted as being right. There will just be a drift in that direction," he told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

[I didn't bother looking up Grigori's website - I really have no idea what they are talking about here, but it sounded sort of Trekkie :o)> Ed.]

Dangerous Gold!
Protests Against Gold Mining Sacred Peruvian Mountain

LIMA Peru September 7, 2004 (AP) — Some 300 farmworkers and students on Monday blocked the main road to Mount Quilish in northern Peru to protest gold prospecting they fear will pollute the water supply coming off the mountain, which they believe is sacred.

"They are still blocking the highway, peacefully," said a police spokesman, who declined to give his name. "There are about 300 of them."

Minera Yanacocha, which is majority owned by U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp., issued a statement Monday that it had halted exploration for gold on the mountain. The company said it planned to launch an extensive environmental impact study with the "widest participation of the population" to address local concerns.

Police clashed on Thursday with several thousand protesters from Cajamarca, 350 miles (560 kilometers) north of Lima in the Andes Mountains. Six police were reported injured, and eight demonstrators were arrested.

Last year, Peru's Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Yanacocha could go ahead with plans to mine Mount Quilish, striking down the city of Cajamarca's designation of the mountain as a protected environmental zone.

Yanacocha has held exploitation rights to Mount Quilish since 1986 and estimates it holds 3.7 million ounces (105 million grams) of gold.

Mining Minister Jaime Quijandria said Monday that the government and company have "an immense" job convincing Cajamarca residents that exploration for gold on Mount Quilish — traditionally considered a mountain deity, or apu — should continue.

"We are confronting a general belief that has to do with, firstly, a sacred mountain, an apu, so it is very difficult to advance an argument," he told CPN Radio. "I don't wish to discount anyone's beliefs, much less be disrespectful."

He said three independent studies have shown that Quilish provides less than 5 percent of Cajamarca's potable water and that mining would not contaminate the watershed.

On Sunday, Yanacocha published advertisements in several newspapers saying, "The violent acts registered as a result of the exploration in Mount Quilish have their roots in the drought that has affected the northern regions for the last two years. Yanacocha is ready to hold a dialogue and to deal with the concerns of the population, but this requires the establishment of a climate of peace and tranquility."

Environmental Damage from Gold Mining

PHNOM PENH Cambodia September 7, 2004 (AP) — The increased use of highly toxic chemicals in gold mining could cause serious environmental damage and health hazards in the Cambodian countryside, a report warned Monday.

The report, titled "Small-scale gold mining in Cambodia," was jointly produced by the government's Ministry of Industry and Oxfam America.

Traditionally, only sluicing and panning were used in Cambodia to process gold ore, the report said.

"However, as the gold mining sector has developed both in size and technology, chemical extraction techniques that can recover lower concentrations of gold have been increasingly adopted," it said.

Use of toxic mercury and cyanide are the two most common techniques at many of the 19 known gold deposits in Cambodia, the report said.

It warned that the chemicals "hold great potential to pollute surface and groundwater resources" on which fish and villagers depend.

The report cited a case of cyanide poisoning in a river in northeastern Cambodia caused by mining operations early this year. It said many fish and cattle died and some villagers fell sick after drinking the tainted water.

The report said the problems are caused by a lack of government enforcement and a failure by mining companies to abide by the terms of their contracts to protect the environment.

There are 5,000 to 6,000 people working as gold miners during the peak mining season, which runs from November to May. Most are unskilled migrant workers who earn US$1.50 to US$2.50 (euro 1.2 to euro 2) per day.

The workers are also exposed to serious health risks because of a lack of protective gear and poor training in storing, using, and disposing of mercury and cyanide, it said.

The report said gold mining has also led to deforestation and a disappearance of wildlife.

"Once forests are felled, agricultural soils destroyed, wildlife hunted, and water resources polluted, it is difficult and expensive to remediate the damage," it said.

It called on the government to demand that mining companies adopt better operating standards and take more responsibility for safety, health, and environmental issues.

Romania Spills Heavy Metals in Gold Mine Accident

BUCHAREST Romania September 7, 2004 (Reuters) — Romanian environmental officials on Sunday investigated a spill of toxic heavy metals into a river in the north of the country that has reportedly caused neighboring Ukraine to cut water supplies to five towns.

"A faulty hydro-transport pipeline at the Baia Borsa gold mine in Romania had broken and started to spread sludge containing zinc, lead, and copper into the Cisla River," said an official from the regional environment authority.

The spill occurred in northern Romania, some 60 miles (100 km) from the border with Ukraine, Romania's Environment Ministry said. Cisla is a tributary of the Viseu River, which flows into the Tisa River which flows into Ukraine and then into Hungary.

The incident, which occurred at midnight on Saturday, is being investigated by a commission of experts, the regional official said.

"We moved quickly and managed to pump 80 cubic meters of polluted water off the (Cisla) river and the situation was under control.... We found no dead fish," the official said, adding that the spill did not spread into Viseu or the Tisa River.

"We notified environment authorities from Ukraine and Hungary in due course," the official said.

BBC quoted a report by Ukrainian television TV 5 Kanal as saying water supplies have been cut off in five towns and villages in the Ukrainian Transcarpathian Region. It said hospitals were advised to store drinking water to last for three days and residents were asked not to fish for the time being.

Four years ago, the mining town of Baia Mare, near the border with Hungary, was the site of an ecological disaster after a dam at a local gold smelter collapsed and spilled lethal cyanide and heavy metals into the Danube River.

[Actually, 130,000 cubic yards of cyanide-contaminated water was released into the Tisza and Danube rivers. 100 tons of fish were killed and 1-2 million people were affected. Ed.]

Friends of the Earth -

Genre News: Father of the Pride, Hawaii, Angel, Johnny Depp, Nip/Tuck, Bitty Schram, Yoko Ono & More!

Father of the Pride and Hawaii
Reviews by FLAtRich

New York September 7, 2004 (eXoNews) - NBC sort of kicked off the new TV season last week with a couple of new shows and at least one returning cult favorite (Scrubs).

If the newbies are any indication of what is to come this fall, you might want to buy one of those by-the-month DVD rental deals at Blockbuster and plan to catch up on all the bad summer movies.

Father of the Pride, which NBC touted as the "first all-CGI network" series was as lame as its description.

Those of us who keep an eye out for animated innovations know perfectly well why NBC included the word "network" in that blurb. There have already been several attempts at all-CGI cartoon series on cable (Sci Fi Channel had one last season) and the lesser networks (UPN had one midseason CGI cartoon last year). None of them have fared particularly well, mainly because of bad scripts.

The NBC blurb is an elitist thing, you see. The so-called "big networks" (who are big financially but losing more viewers every season) prefer not to acknowledge the existence of their main basic cable competition publicly, while scrambling to acquire as many popular cable stations as possible to soften corporate losses. NBC's parent company, General Electric now owns Sci Fi Channel, Bravo and USA. GE also owns Universal Pictures.

With all that puffy bigness, not to mention John Goodman in the title role, I was hoping for a real kick from Father of the Pride. I was disappointed.

The CGI animation was good (almost getting old) Pixar-style 3D game looking stuff, but the storyline was beyond stupid and so, for that matter, is the premise.

Father of the Pride is a sitcom about the white lions in Siegfried and Roy's Vegas act. The lions talk and live in a little Flintstones' house. They hang out with pandas and other talking animals and they have a housecat (who also talks.) Siegfried and Roy show up once in a while, presumably to legitimize their franchise connection, but they are not voiced by Siegfried or Roy.

Father of the Pride is billed as an "adult" cartoon show, but it won the child audience in its premiere showing and got only a 5.0 rating overall, which is very low for NBC. I have to wonder why NBC didn't just remake the Flintstones in CGI instead of wasting Goodman as the soon to be forgotten Larry the Lion? Dave Herman, Orlando Jones, Wendie Malick, Garry Marshall and Carl Reiner are among other famous faces you hear but don't see. 

Reiner produced an all-CGI cartoon of himself for TVLand as The Dick Van Dyke Show's Alan Brady in 2003. It was awful too. 

Reiner should have known better. Ventriloquists have always been second-bill acts, even the good ones. You just can't do real comedy timing with a talking doll, even if it is "all-CGI".

The other show NBC started early was Hawaii, starring Michael Biehn, Sharif Atkins, Ivan Sergei, and Eric Balfour as detectives and Aya Sumika as a uniformed cop who wants to be one.

Again, this show had some elements I saw as hopeful. I've been to Hawaii a couple of times and I love the place. I have liked all of the other TV series set in Hawaii over the years (Magnum was the best, of course.)

And NBC roped in former Chris Carter alumnae Daniel Sackheim (X-Files, MillenniuM, Harsh Realm) to direct the first episode.

What could be better than that? Almost anything.

After an opening sequence that featured a Magnum tribute by way of a chopper flying through the wilder parts of paradise, Hawaii landed into the usual current CSI-clone forensics babble. Plot: the crack team has to figure out who has been beheading locals and throwing their bodies into the volcano. Ugh.

The actors are all good, especially Sharif Atkins as Michael Biehn's main sidekick, but the rest is ho-hum predictable.

In less tribute more insult to Magnum, Biehn drives around in a ten-ton red Cadillac, which is about the best one-line description I can think of for this turkey.

Neither show started well in the ratings, BTW, despite media reports that seem to jiggle the results. Lack of success will undoubtedly be attributed to "big network" audience taste or apathy depending on which side of the Peacock paymaster you stand.

NBC has been replaying Hawaii and Father almost every night since trying to find an audience. Good luck.

Father of the Pride Official -

Hawaii Official -

Angel Says No Indiana

Hollywood September 3, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Former Angel star David Boreanaz denied to SCI FI Wire several rumors swirling on the Internet involving his casting in some high-profile projects.

The latest buzz had Boreanaz attached to the fourth Indiana Jones film in development. But Boreanaz said in an interview that the talk is incorrect, even though he would love to be considered for it.

"That goes up there with the Superman and Batman rumors," he said. "It would be something I would die to do. Harrison [Ford] is a big idol, and I'd love to take the path that he took. That would be fantastic."

The most recent rumor says that Boreanaz will play the lead in a proposed fourth Jurassic Park movie. That rumor appeared on Dark Horizons.

Boreanaz did confirm that his next film will be the non-genre movie The Hard Easy with Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

Johnny Depp Getting Old?

VENICE Italy September 5, 2004 (AP) - Unlike legions of other Hollywood stars, hipster heartthrob Johnny Depp says he actually enjoys aging. The boyish-looking Depp — who plays the author of "Peter Pan" in his latest picture "Finding Neverland" — was asked if the children's character famed for never growing old made him wish for the same power.

"Nowadays, it's all a question of surgery, isn't it?" he joked to reporters at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday. 

"No, of course the notion is beautiful — the idea of staying a boy or a child forever. But I think you can. I've known plenty of people in their later years who were like little kids, had the energy of little children, the curiosity and fascination. I think we can keep that. It's important we keep that," he said. 

"But I think it's great fun growing old. I think it's great." 

Depp also discussed the Scottish accent he assumes for his role as writer J.M. Barrie. 

"Musically, rhythmically, I initially couldn't quite get a hold of it," he said. "Luckily I found this dialect coach who helped me out a great deal. ... Also, we had a couple of crew guys who were Scottish who picked up the falsities."

Nip/Tuck Banned

LOS ANGELES September 3, 2004 ( FX's drama "Nip/Tuck" hit its highest ratings ever last week, but it's pretty much guaranteed to lose a handful of viewers for its next episode. Of course, they're not ones likely to be measured by Nielsen anyway.

They're the inmates of the medium-security Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, which has just instituted a ban on the edgy series following a complaint from a female corrections officer.

"We decided it was all too much," prison spokesman Doug Harder tells the Oregonian newspaper. "Way too graphic."

The frequent and often graphic scenes of plastic surgery on the show, which stars Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon as Miami plastic surgeons, were apparently getting inmates riled up, as were regular depictions of sex. During a recent episode, a female officer reported, inmates were making catcalls and whistling at her.

"We don't like to get involved in censorship, but we were forced to take a hard look at this," Harder says.

Holly Ollis, a spokeswoman for "Nip/Tuck" producer Warner Bros. TV, says news of the show's ban at the prison raised her eyebrows a little.

"It's an unusual show, and I've heard a lot of unusual things," she tells the paper. "But this is certainly a new one for me."

Nip/Tuck Official -

Muppets Beat Scully and Spock

EXETER England September 5, 2004 (Reuters) - Muppets Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker defeated Dr Strangelove, Dana Scully of "X Files" fame and Star Trek's Mr Spock to be voted Britain's favorite screen scientists on Monday. 

They beat their closest rival by a margin of 2 to 1 and won 33 percent of the 43,000 votes cast in an Internet poll. 

Spock came in a distance second with 15 percent followed by The Doctor, from Dr Who, who garnered 13 percent. Scully, the only woman in the poll, came in sixth. 

"They are accessible, humorous and occasionally blow each other up," said Roland Jackson, of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 

The balding, white-coated Honeydew and flame-haired, bulging-eyed Beaker created an array of crazy gadgets on the popular television show. 

"They're the kind of scientists you would like to be but never quite dared to," said Alan Slater, a scientist at the University of Exeter in southwestern England. 

The poll, sponsored by the BA and the BBC cult television Web Site (, gave the public five weeks to choose their favorite scientist from a shortlist of 10 that included Dr Evil from the film "Austin Powers," Dr Frankenstein, Frank N Furter, of the "Rocky Horror Show Picture Show," Dr Emmett Brown, of the film "Back to the Future" and Q of James Bond fame. 

Results of the poll were announced at the start of the week-long BA science conference here.

Monk Axes Bitty Schram?

NEW YORK September 1, 2004 (AP) - Actress Bitty Schram and "Monk" have parted ways. The critically acclaimed USA Network program that stars Tony Shalhoub as an obsessive-compulsive private eye, is removing Schram's character, Sharona Fleming, Monk's personal nurse. 

"Monk  has decided to go in a different creative direction with some of its characters. Bitty Schram will not continue with the cast," USA Network announced Tuesday.

"We thank her for her notable contributions and wish her the very best." 

Schram's management told The Associated Press Wednesday the actress had no comment. A spokesman for USA says the network has yet to develop what the new direction for the show will be. 

It is a notable change of circumstance given that earlier this year, Schram was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in a television series for her performance on "Monk." 

She had been with the show since its beginning in 2002. Schram is also well remembered as the sobbing right-fielder in "A League of Their Own," whose bawling prompts Tom Hanks to exclaim, "There's no crying in baseball!" 

"Monk" is now in the middle of its third season, with new episodes to return in January. The USA show has been nominated for four 2004 Emmy Awards, including Tony Shalhoub for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series.

[Rabid Roswell fans will also remember Bitty as the girl who helped Max out when he visited Hollywood in the show's last season. Dropping Bitty from Monk seems like a dumb decision, but the lady has done a lot of films and may well be destined for bigger things. Ed.]

Monk Official -

Yoko Ono Cuts Up in London

LONDON September 6, 2004 (Reuters) - Experimental artist Yoko Ono brings her live performance to London for a sold-out show this month but is keeping the exact theme under wraps. 

Spokesman Murray Chalmers said Ono would not perform her "Cut Piece" during the event on September 15, as reported in a British newspaper at the weekend, but was sure to surprise. 

"Cut Piece," originally performed 40 years ago, involved audience members snipping pieces of clothing from Ono's body to leave her naked. 

"It'll be her style of public lecture," Chalmers told Reuters, adding Ono's appearance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts earlier this year included wrapping the audience in string and handing out shards of broken vase. 

"Anything could happen," he said of the show at the Tate Britain gallery. 

The Tokyo-born artist, musician, film maker and peace campaigner is best known for her marriage to the late Beatle singer-songwriter John Lennon.

Media Muzzles Dissent
By Elizabeth Guider

HOLLYWOOD September 5, 2004 (Variety) - Dissent is not being stomached very well in America these days, and you didn't have to be watching the Republican National Convention last week to pick up the vibe of intolerance. 

Not only were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in New York dismissed or downplayed last week by the media (despite the fact that more than a few were billy-clubbed and 1,800 were arrested), but the parent companies of the media are becoming increasingly reluctant to go out on a limb about anything controversial. 

The corporate agendas of these mini nation states have become so complex and politically sensitized that anything perceived as out of the mainstream is automatically viewed by top brass with suspicion. 

Just imagine: Lawyers and lobbyists perennially on the qui vive to determine if any marketing gimmick, any news item, any movie, any loudmouth talkshow host could cause trouble in D.C., jeopardize a deal in China or hurt cooperation between moguls. Such a scenario of congloms second-guessing themselves at every turn is not so far-fetched. 

Latest example is Warner Bros.' decision not to release an anti-war doc by David O. Russell. 

The piece, financed by the studio, was supposed to consist of human-interest interviews with former Iraqi extras and crew members who had appeared in "Three Kings," the director's 1999 pic about the Persian Gulf War. (That film is being re-released by WB on homevideo/DVD and in a limited theatrical run in October.) 

But when the New York Times quoted Russell on Aug. 16 as saying the 35-min. "Soldiers Pay" was essentially an anti-war statement and that he hoped to get it out before the presidential election, the studio had second thoughts.

WB toppers were concerned the pic might run afoul of Federal Elections Commission rules or even be construed as a soft money contribution to the Democratic cause. It is expected that Russell will retain the rights and seek to get the partisan piece seen through other outlets. (It won't be on the DVD of "Three Kings.") 

I'm guessing HBO, another Time Warner outlet, and its rival Showtime, a Viacom outlet, will both pass, even though as pay cablers they aren't specifically held to the same rules about fair play as their over-the-air broadcast brethen. 

This latest move comes in the wake of Disney's decision not to distribute Michael Moore's anti-Bush doc "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the inability of Robert Greenwald to get much traction for his admittedly much less ambitious anti-Fox News expose "OutFoxed." 

The Mouse House has tax issues at its theme park in Orlando, Fla., and may not have wanted to rile the Bush clan in power there; anyone promoting "OutFoxed" would have, at the least, to endure a tongue-lashing from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. 

There is a long tradition of political docs in the U.S. -- from Robert Drew to Frederick Wiseman to Errol Morris -- and in many cases it was the Hollywood studios that funded or distributed the works. 

But today's congloms would probably be much happier to just churn out their franchises, sequels and remakes and to mount increasingly entertainment-led newscasts. They likely wish that this resurgence of polemical docs -- whose financial return is hard to calculate and whose impact hard to predict -- would just dry up. 

As Louis Menand pointed out recently in the New Yorker, however, the documentary impulse is to catch what's "off-camera," to show you what you were not intended to see, to film what was not planned to happen. 

Since there seems to be a lot these days that we're not supposed to see or know about -- more than just Amber Frey's love life -- the field for documentary exploration is only going to get more fertile.

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