Future Force Warrior!
Jungle Yeti! Here's Methane!
Starving Moose & More!
RoboNet - Intelligent Telescopes Look for Violence!
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council News Release

September 14, 2004 - British astronomers are celebrating a world first that could revolutionize the future of astronomy.

They have just begun a project to operate a global network of the world's biggest robotic telescopes, dubbed 'RoboNet-1.0' which will be controlled by intelligent software to provide rapid observations of sudden changes in astronomical objects, such as violent Gamma Ray Bursts, or 24-hour surveillance of interesting phenomena.

RoboNet is also looking for Earth-like planets, as yet unseen elsewhere in our Galaxy.

Progress in many of the most exciting areas of modern astronomy relies on being able to follow up unpredictable changes or appearances of objects in the sky as rapidly as possible. It was this that led astronomers at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to pioneer the development of a new generation of fully robotic telescopes, designed and built in the UK by Telescope Technologies Ltd.. Together the Liverpool Telescope (LT) and specially allocated time on the Faulkes North (FTN), soon to be joined by the Faulkes South (FTS), make up RoboNet-1.0.

Commenting on the need for a network of telescopes RoboNet Project Director, Professor Michael Bode of LJMU said "Although each telescope individually is a highly capable instrument, they are still limited by the hours of darkness, local weather conditions and the fraction of the sky each can see from its particular location on planet Earth."

Prof. Bode added "Astronomical phenomena are however no respecters of such limitations, undergoing changes or appearances at any time, and possibly anywhere on the sky. To understand certain objects, we may even need round-the-clock coverage - something clearly impossible with a single telescope at a fixed position on the Earth's surface."

Thus was born the concept of "RoboNet" - a global network of automated telescopes, acting as one instrument able to search anywhere in the sky at any time and (by passing the observations of a target object from one telescope to the next in the network) being able to do so continuously for as long as is scientifically important.

The first mystery RoboNet will examine is the origin of Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs). Discovered by US spy satellites in the late 1960's, these unpredictable events are the most violent explosions since the Big Bang, far more energetic than supernova explosions. Yet they are extremely brief, lasting from milliseconds to a few minutes, before they fade away to an afterglow lasting a few hours or weeks.
Their exact cause is still unknown, although the collapse of supermassive stars or the coalescence of exotic objects such as black holes and neutron stars are prime candidates.

To study GRBs, telescopes need to be pointed at the right area of the sky extremely quickly.

In October this year, NASA will launch a new satellite named Swift, in which the UK has a major involvement, and which will pinpoint the explosions of GRBs on the sky more accurately and rapidly than ever before. The co-ordinates of each burst will be relayed to telescopes on the Earth, including those of RoboNet, within seconds of their occurrence, at the rate of one event every few days. Telescopes within the UK's new RoboNet network are designed to respond automatically within a minute of an alert from Swift. It is in the first few minutes after the burst that observations are urgently required to enable astronomers to really understand the cause of these immense explosions, but until now such observations have been extremely difficult to secure.

RoboNet's second major aim is to discover Earth-like planets around other stars. We now know of more than 100 extra-solar planets. However, all of these are massive planets (like Jupiter) and many are too near to their parent star, and hence too hot, to support life.

RoboNet will take advantage of a phenomenon called gravitational microlensing (where light from a distant star is bent and amplified around an otherwise unseen foreground object) to detect cool planets.

When a star that is being lensed in this way has a planet, it causes a short 'blip' in the light detected, which rapid-reacting telescopes such as the RoboNet network can follow up.

In fact, the network stands the best chance of any existing facility of actually finding another Earth due to the large size of the telescopes, their excellent sites and sensitive instrumentation.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) have funded the establishment of RoboNet-1.0, based around using the three giant robotic telescopes at their sites across the globe.

The "glue" that holds all this together is software developed by the LJMU-Exeter University "eSTAR" project, allowing the network to act intelligently in a coordinated manner.

Dr Iain Steele of the eSTAR project says "We have been able to use and develop new Grid technologies, which will eventually be the successor to the World Wide Web, to build a network of intelligent agents that can detect and respond to the rapidly changing universe much faster than any human. The agents act as "virtual astronomers" collecting, analyzing and interpreting data 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, alerting their flesh-and-blood counterparts only when they make a discovery."

If successful, RoboNet could be expanded to the development of a larger, dedicated global network of up to six robotic telescopes.

Professor Michael Bode of Liverpool John Moores University adds "We have led the world in the design and build of the most advanced robotic telescopes and now with RoboNet-1.0 we are set to lead the way in some of the most challenging and exciting areas of modern astrophysics".

RoboNet Official site -

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) - 

The Truth Is Out There!
[For better or for worse, these tales were published in the India Times last week by "Dr. Strangelove". The Truth is, there is nothing stranger on this planet than humans. Whew! Ed.]


New York: Rajeswari Ayyappan, 59, checked in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for brain surgery.
Medical personnel performed the operation flawlessly... but on the wrong side of the brain.

Neurosurgery chief Ehud Arbit was relieved of his duties. 

Multiple Personalities 

Appleton, Wisconsin: Nadean Cool, 44, sued her psychiatrist for malpractice in a suit alleging that Dr Kenneth Olson convinced her that she had 120 personalities, then billed her insurance company for group therapy.

Her insurance carrier, after adding up the bills it paid for her psychiatric care - about $300,000 - joined the suit.

Ms Cool claimed that Olson said her 120 personalities included a duck and angels. Thankfully, no one alleged that Cool was mentally healthy. 

Foot Fault 

Miami, Florida: A diabetic patient woke up after an operation to find that the surgeon had mistakenly cut off a foot and one toe. The State Board of Medicine reduced a state hearing officer's recommended stiff sentence, and fined Dr. Rolando Sanchez $10,000 and suspended his practice for six months instead.

"I'm not saying what he did wasn't wrong," board member Dr Edward Dauer explained. "But doctors are not God, and hospitals are not heaven either." 

Losing A Living 

London: Cancer patient Cyril Smith, 59, gave up his job when doctors said he had three months to live. After comfortably outliving that prediction, Smith, sued the doctors for loss of earnings.

"I just want compensation for their mistake, for the years when I could have earned a living to support my family. I want the hospital to apologize," Smith said.

"It's astonishing. People sue for anything, just about anything these days," a British Medical Association spokesman responded. 

Come Again? 

Albany: Francis Hugh Smith, a convicted burglar, sued the state of New York for $10 million.

He claimed that poor medical care was the cause for amnesia that made him leave his work release job and forget to return to prison. 

Hand It To Him 

Norfolk: Thomas Passmore was working at a construction site when he thought he saw ‘666', a demonic sign, on his hand. Recalling the instruction in the Bible, "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off," he did just that - with a circular saw.

Doctors at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital wanted to re-attach the hand, but Passmore refused to let them do so, saying that he would go to hell if he agreed. The doctors contacted a judge, who advised them to follow Passmore's wish and not re-attach his hand.

Later, Passmore sued both the hospital and doctors, claiming the hospital should have contacted his parents or sister to overrule the judge's decision and the hospital didn't tell the judge that he was incompetent.

Future Force Warrior!
The National Academies News Release

WASHINGTON September 10, 2004 - The U.S. Army should investigate alternative power sources, such as fuel cells and small engines, to create longer-lasting, lighter, cheaper, and more reliable sources of energy for the equipment soldiers will use in the future, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. In addition, the Army should step up its efforts to develop and acquire technologies that are more energy-efficient, said the committee that wrote the report. 

"The Army should immediately conduct a comprehensive analysis of power sources for future dismounted soldiers, looking beyond today's standard military batteries," said Patrick Flynn, committee chair and retired vice president for research, Cummins Engine Company Inc., Columbus, Ind.

"Many commercial energy sources exist, but they are developed for a consumer market, not the military. The Army must determine and select the energy sources that are most relevant to its needs."

The Army will equip its future warriors through a program called "Land Warrior," which, in addition to weaponry, includes high-tech electronics that significantly increase soldiers' awareness of the combat environment, such as helmets with visual displays, chemical and biological sensors, radios, and portable computers. But these devices are not energy-efficient and will need new power sources to operate efficiently.

The development, testing, and evaluation of these new energy sources will be carried out under a program known as Future Force Warrior.

The committee evaluated and prioritized options for supplying energy to various low- and high-power applications on the battlefield. In addition to disposable and rechargeable batteries, the committee considered fuel cells, small engines, and hybrid energy systems such as those combining a battery with a fuel cell, or a small engine with a battery. Existing military batteries can provide enough power for computer displays, radios, sensors, and electronics for a 12-hour mission, but longer missions will require other technologies to efficiently power operations lasting up to 72 hours. These include improved low-power electronics, sophisticated power-management software, and "smart" hybrid energy systems that automatically adjust to the soldier's operating environment on the battlefield.

Some of the applications requiring a higher level of power -- an average of 100 watts -- include portable battery rechargers; laser target designator devices used to guide a rocket, missile, or bomb to its target; and individual cooling systems for protective garments. For these applications, the committee concluded that hybrid systems operating on common military fuels would be needed. 

Other devices designed to enhance soldiers' performance on the battlefield use even more power, requiring between 1 and 5 kilowatts. For example, the "exoskeleton," which consists of a pair of mechanical metal leg braces and a backpack-like frame, literally takes the load off a soldier's back, allowing him or her to carry large or heavy packs without losing agility.

To power such energy-intensive equipment, the Army should consider use of lightweight engine generators, the report says. 

Among all possible energy sources, hybrid systems provide the most versatile solutions for meeting the diverse needs of the Future Force Warrior, the committee said.

The key advantage of hybrid systems is their ability to provide power over varying levels of energy use, by combining two power sources. 

"Products historically have evolved to become more portable, mobile, and wearable," Flynn said. "By integrating components and minimizing the energy they consume, tomorrow's military equipment will help soldiers operate in various conditions, extend the range and duration of their operations, and minimize their vulnerability."

Soldier Systems Center (a fantastic looking website!) -

National Academies -

Info on Land Warrior -

Elle Macpherson and The Knife

LONDON September 10, 2004 (Reuters) - A TV advert that features a lingerie-clad woman caressing a carving knife and then scrubbing blood from the floor is causing controversy, just days after it hit the airwaves.

The ad for supermodel Elle Macpherson's Intimates lingerie line features several vignettes by fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti. One spot titled "Kitchen" begins with a woman in bra and knickers pensively handling a large knife, then segues to her scrubbing blood from the floor. 

A middle segment, not shown on TV because it features frontal nudity but available on the company's Web site, has two naked women stalking each other in a knife fight.

Macpherson said in a statement she loves the "cinematic mystery" of the ads. 

The TV standards campaign group MediaWatch has said it plans to file a complaint with media regulator Ofcom.

The ads, which also drew complaints when they were aired in Australia, will only be shown after 9 p.m. under guidelines set by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. 

An Intimate print ad that showed a woman with her thumbs insider her knickers was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority in March.

Watch "The Kitchen" online - requires Flash - (prepare to be not shocked) -

Elle Macpherson's Intimates -

Hunting The Jungle Yeti
By David Green 
BBC News Manchester 

UK September 8, 2004 (BBC) - Two amateur explorers hope to prove the existence of the mythical "jungle yeti" by capturing the creature on film. Adam Davies, of Bramhall, Greater Manchester, and Andrew Sanderson, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, are traveling to Sumatra in Indonesia to hunt it down. 

Three years ago, the pair found a footprint and hairs which, when analyzed by scientists, did not match any known species. They believe it is evidence the orang pendek, as it is called, does exist. 

The creature - also known as the Little Man of the Forest - was first chronicled by the explorer Marco Polo in 1292 during his travels in Asia. 

Although widely believed to exist by islanders, the creature has been dismissed by most scientists as a myth, similar to the Himalayan yeti or the Loch Ness Monster

The orang pendek - which is reputed to be related to the orang-utan - is said to measure up to 5ft (1.5m) tall and walk like a man.

Most alleged sightings have taken place in the areas of Mount Tujuh and Mount Kerinci in the west of the island, where the two explorers made their discovery in 2001. 

The footprint and two red-brown hairs were analyzed by Dr Hans Brunner, who helped clear Lindy Chamberlain of murdering her baby daughter in Australia in the 1980s after she claimed it had been killed by a dingo. 

He said they were not from a known species, raising speculation that they might just be evidence of the orang pendek's existence. 

"What we want to do now is capture it on film," said Mr Davies, who spends his holidays hunting down mythical creatures. "I appreciate it is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I'm determined to give it a good go." 

"We've proved it exists organically and we're delighted about that," he claimed. "The hairs are organic proof." 

Dr Brunner said they were hairs from an unknown species of primate and that was backed up by a primatologist at Cambridge University who said the prints were also a primate's. 

"We're going to publish a scientific paper shortly based on years of research, not only by us but by [conservation group] Fauna and Flora International who have worked out there in Sumatra for many years."

But the future of the orang pendek - if it exists - is threatened by illegal logging which is destroying the jungle habitat, but which many Sumatrans see as their only way of making a living. Adam hopes that proving the creature's existence will bring the eyes of the world on the island and make the orang pendek a protected species. 

"Capturing it on film will light people's imaginations and arouse interest. That's important because that's an area which is under extreme environmental pressure and it will help that area to be preserved. But I would just love to see it. Now I know it definitely exists I want to give it a damn good shout at finding it." 

The pair's hunt for the orang pendek is just one of many crypto-zoology expeditions they have been on. Last year, they searched in vain for the Allghoi Khorkhoi - the Mongolian death worm - in the Gobi desert and were arrested on suspicion of being Chinese spies, before being released. 

In 1998 and 2000 they searched - again, in vain - for the Mokele M'embe - a dinosaur rumored to live in the Congo. 

"That was our most dangerous trip," remembers Adam. "There was a civil war going on and rocket launchers at the airport in Kinshasa." 

The orang pendek expeditions have been by far their most successful ventures, but the pair are still beset by skepticism from the general public. 

"It's very easy to be seen as a nutter," admits Adam. "And so we're very careful that anything we do find is analyzed independently by scientists."

How To Whip Bush!
LONDON September 9, 2004 (AFP) - As if Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" wasn't enough, Republicans can now get steamed up by a four-minute video of a ruthless dominatrix whipping US President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

For its 10th anniversary, upmarket London corset and lingerie boutique Agent Provocateur has put a clip on its website showing Bush, or rather an actor who looks like him, excitedly awaiting an after-lunch visit from his dom. 

In she struts on killer black stilettos, tying up the leader of the free world by the wrists,
twisting his nipple with a plumber's wrench before performing a striptease and whipping him on his boyish white briefs. 

The kinky scene reaches its climax when another man crawls into the room like a dog, dressed head to toe in black latex. 

Off comes his hood, and it's a goofy-grinning look-a-like of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Oil Depleted? Here There Be Methane!
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory News Release

LIVERMORE CA September 13, 2004 - Untapped reserves of methane, the main component in natural gas, may be found deep in Earth's crust, according to a recently released report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). These reserves could be a virtually inexhaustible source of energy for future generations.

The team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, Harvard University, Argonne National Laboratory and Indiana University, South Bend, through a series of experiments and theoretical calculations, showed that methane forms under conditions that occur in Earth's upper mantle.

Methane is the most plentiful hydrocarbon in Earth's crust and is a main component of natural gas. However, oil and gas wells are typically only drilled 5 to 10 kilometers beneath the surface. These depths correspond to pressures of a few thousand atmospheres.

Using a diamond anvil cell, the scientists squeezed materials common at Earth's surface -- iron oxide (FeO), calcite (CaCO3) (the primary component of marble) and water to pressures ranging from 50,000 to 110,000 atmospheres and temperatures more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit -- to create conditions similar to those found deep within Earth. Methane (CH4) formed by combining the carbon in calcite with the hydrogen in water. The reaction occurred over a range of temperatures and pressures. Methane production was most favorable at 900 degrees Fahrenheit and 70,000 atmospheres of pressure.

The experiments show that a non-biological source of hydrocarbons may lie in Earth's mantle and was created from reactions between water and rock -- not just from the decomposition of living organisms. 

"The results demonstrate that methane readily forms by the reaction of marble with iron-rich minerals and water under conditions typical in Earth's upper mantle," said Laurence Fried, of Livermore's Chemistry and Materials Science Directorate. "This suggests that there may be untapped methane reserves well below Earth's surface. Our calculations show that methane is thermodynamically stable under conditions typical of Earth's mantle, indicating that such reserves could potentially exist for millions of years." The study is published in the Sept. 13-17 early, online edition of the PNAS.

The mantle is a dense, hot layer of semi-solid rock approximately 2,900 kilometers thick. The mantle, which contains more iron, magnesium and calcium than the crust, is hotter and denser because temperature and pressure inside Earth increase with depth. Because of the firestorm-like temperatures and crushing pressure in Earth's mantle, molecules behave very differently than they do on the surface.

"When we looked at the samples under these pressures and temperatures, they revealed optical changes indicative of methane formation," Fried said.

"At temperatures above 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, we found that the carbon in calcite formed carbon dioxide rather than methane. This implies that methane in the interior of Earth might exist at depths between 100 and 200 kilometers.

"This has broad implications for the hydrocarbon reserves of the planet and could indicate that methane is more prevalent in the mantle than previously thought. Due to the vast size of Earth's mantle, hydrocarbon reserves in the mantle could be much larger than reserves currently found in Earth's crust."

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -
Dog Shoots Man!
PENSACOLA September 10, 2004 (AP) - A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver's trigger. 

Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was charged with felony animal cruelty, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. He was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist. Bradford said he decided to shoot the three-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn't find them a home, according to the sheriff's office. 

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies - one in his arms and another in his left hand - when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-calibre revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff's report said. 

Deputies found three of the puppies in a shallow grave outside Bradford's home, said Sgt. Ted Roy. 

The four others appeared to be in good health and were taken by Escambia County Animal Control, which planned to make them available for adoption.

[No charges were brought against the puppy, who pleaded self-defense. Ed.]

Starving Moose!
CASPER WY September 15, 2004 (AP) - Malnutrition and starvation have drastically reduced moose numbers in northwest Wyoming, according to the author of a new study that debunks the belief among some that wolves are a leading cause of the decline.

"I know people don't want to believe this ... but moose are not in the diets of wolves," Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, told Wyoming Game and Fish commissioners at a recent meeting. 

The 10-year study is one part of the larger debate in recent years about the effects of wolf predation on the state's big game species, particularly on elk in western Wyoming herds. 

Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists say wolves continue to expand their range in western Wyoming. Wolves have now killed elk on 14 of the 22 state-operated feedgrounds and have displaced elk at several feedgrounds in the Gros Ventre and North Piney area. But there was little data about wolf impacts on moose populations. 

Some outfitters and others have complained that moose numbers have been harmed by the transplanting of Canadian wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. 

But Berger said his study of three moose herds in the Jackson area shows the decline in moose populations is more of a problem with nutrition and habitat than with predators. 

"There's a lot of other things going on besides predators ... habitat, changing weather, lags in vegetation response, poor willow growth, disease ... and we're losing (moose) habitat not only in quantity, but in quality too," he said. 

"Wolf predation overall has not been intense in the unit ... and there's been little grizzly bear predation recently as well," Berger said. 

The Jackson moose unit population averaged 2,400 animals from 1998 to 2002, according to Game and Fish data. The population rose slightly in 2003 and was estimated at 2,736 animals. 

Berger's study showed about 14 percent to 18 percent of mortality in adult Jackson moose was due to grizzly bears and less than 2 percent due to wolves. Car collisions accounted for about 8 percent of total adult mortality, Berger noted. 

"About 60 percent of adult female mortality is due to malnutrition... Less than 5 percent of adult females are lost due to predation," he said. 

Berger said the study revealed that moose birth rates, and rates of twin births, are also down significantly. 

The Game and Fish Department averaged about 500 moose hunting licenses issued each year for the moose in the Jackson area during the 1970s and 1980s. Now, the agency sells about 145 permits per year. 

"To get back to the days of 500 permits ... it may not happen, but it will depend mostly on vegetative quality," Berger said. 

Commissioner Bill Williams said it was important to get the word out about the study to the state's sportsmen and hunters. 

"I was surprised... I think a lot of people have the misperception that wolves were responsible," he said. 

In order to help the Jackson unit's population, the state has been cutting back hunting permits in the area, wildlife biologists said. 

For the first time since 1971, no anterless moose tags will be issued for the Jackson herd during the 2004 hunting season. And for the seventh year, hunters may not take a cow moose accompanied by a calf.
Genre News: Star Trek Enterprise, Shatner, C-3PO,  Tru Vs. Point Pleasant, Jack & Bobby & More!

Enterprise Guests Brent Spiner
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 15, 2004 (eXoNews) - As if you didn't know, Brent Spiner (Mr. Data) returns to the Star Trek mythos as a guest star on Star Trek Enterprise this season in a three-episode arc and the folks at Star Trek have released a couple production reports that fill in some of the mystery about Spiner's role as Dr. Arik Soong, the great, great grandfather of Data's inventor Dr. Noonien Soong.

According to Trek reports, Dr. Arik Soong is a scientist who brings Earth close to a new 22nd century Eugenics War.

(There was an earlier Eugenics War in the Trek timeline. I'll leave it to you to figure out the Stardate, etc.)

But Arik Soong will hardly be the beloved and rather innocent Data character you know from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This is one of those Brent Spiner "evil" roles, like Data's evil twin Lore. Spiner fans probably like him playing evil as much as he seems to relish such parts.

Enterprise returns Friday October 8th at 8PM on the UnPopular Network, UPN. Hopefully, the injection of Spiner and (some speculate) William Shatner into the guest list will give Enterprise new life in its new time slot.

The Shatner visit remains a rumor. He was expensive before he got his Emmy and now the former Captain Kirk could be light years above the reported budget limitations imposed by Paramount to facilitate a fourth season of Enterprise.

Enterprise also won two Emmys last week, in the categories of Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), at the Emmy Creative Arts Awards presentation where William Shatner finally picked up his statue (see below.)

Leaving out the spoilers, various Star Trek production reports also add this data to the Spiner guestings:

"Arik Soong has been incarcerated in a high-security facility after stealing 20 embryos of genetically enhanced humans and bringing them to life."

"Dr. Soong is very much a 'Hannibal Lecter'-type character - he is widely feared, he's constantly trying to escape, and he loves to psychologically toy with everyone he talks to."

Apparently Dr. Soong's enhanced guys go bad. They begin "to wreak havoc by hijacking a Klingon ship and massacring its crew. It's a very volatile situation which could lead to war with the Klingons."

Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew are called upon to save the day. J.G. Hertzler (DS9) also returns to the Trek fold to guest star as a Klingon in the arc.

You can catch online previews of season 4 and Dr. Arik Soong here:

[Jolene Blalock (T'Pol) did a terrific guest shot on Stargate SG-1 on September 10th, BTW, returning to her role of Ishta, the rebel Jaffa leader. Ed.]

Shatner Gets an Emmy

[Reportedly, Shatner looked at his statue and asked "What took you so long?" A good question. Personally, I think he should have gotten one in 1959 for the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". I still glance out the window looking for gremlins whenever I'm sitting on the wing. According to the IMDb, Bill has had 173 other "notable" TV roles since 1956, not to mention 106 film roles and probably more additional "as Himself" appearances (49) than any other dramatic actor in recent memory. It's about time, Mr. Shatner! Congratulations! Ed.]

LOS ANGELES September 13, 2004 (AP) - Sharon Stone and William Shatner were among the winners at the creative arts Emmy Awards, which preceded next week's main ceremony. The creative arts awards, held Sunday night, recognized technical and other achievements for the 2003-04 season.

Both Stone and Shatner were honored for guest appearances in ABC's "The Practice." Shatner is reprising his character, attorney Denny Crane, in "Boston Legal," a reworked version of the drama debuting next month. 

For guest actor and actress in a comedy series, the winners were Laura Linney for NBC's "Frasier" and John Turturro for USA's "Monk." 

Among networks, HBO received a leading 16 awards, followed by Fox and PBS with seven each and ABC and NBC with five each. The HBO drama "Carnivale" was the most honored series Sunday with five awards. 

Honors for best comedy and drama series, best movie and other achievements will be given Sunday in a ceremony airing on ABC.

Emmy site -

Goodbye, C-3PO!
By Paul Majendie

LONDON September 13, 2004 (Reuters) - Bidding goodbye to the gold robot after almost 30 years, Anthony Daniels shed a nostalgic tear for the mechanical manservant who changed his life.

"Oh yes, it was with moisture. This was very much a fond farewell," Daniels said of his last scene as C-3PO, the android who became an icon in the "Star Wars" movies. 

His last scene in the sixth and final film was hardly the heady stuff of magic for Daniels. Digital effects saw to that. 

"I finished filming on the last film last week. For the final shot I walked along a blue corridor with a blue background behind me talking to someone who wasn't there." he said. 

"Revenge of the Sith" is due out next May and completes a trilogy of pre-quels, which tell the back story of the original movie about a battle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. 

Daniels makes no secret about his favorite of the six. 

"The first film spoke to everyone on the planet. It still works as a funny, bright movie. It still has legs," he said of the films by U.S. director George Lucas. 

When Lucas returned to the pre-quels, Daniels was not so sure. 

"George's devotion to digital effects over-balanced the films. Too many digital funky characters become a little bit wearing. The storytelling always gets subsumed." 


For the 58-year-old Daniels, playing a fastidious robot who sounds like a prissy English butler transformed his career. 

"He (C-3PO) gave me that lead into a strange kind of immortality. People are very fond of him. His image has haunted me around the planet," he said. 

There was also an undeniable sense of achievement from the self-deprecating British actor as he reflected on the squirming discomfort of clunking around the Tunisian desert in searing heat to make film history. 

"He has been a best friend for me. He is going to live forever in the ether," he told Reuters in an interview.

Critics may have admired his on-screen chemistry with fellow robot R2-D2 but Daniels said: "I was talking to myself all the time. It was a very lonely experience. I was locked inside a box and had a friend who didn't speak to me." 

The English stage actor was initially reluctant to audition for the part and even risked "losing his voice" to Hollywood star Richard Dreyfus as Lucas contemplated dubbing him over. 

"Now I have the honor of being the only person to have appeared in all of the movies and I have become the principal spokesman for them," he said. 

For there is plenty of life left in the "Star Wars" phenomenon with the worldwide DVD launch of the first three movies on September 20. 

Just listening to Daniels' schedule is exhausting. 

There is the Paris "Star Wars" convention, the "Star Wars" exhibition in Osaka, being inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, joining forces with storm troopers in London to launch the DVD. 

Then comes all the razzmatazz of the final pre-quel. 

But nothing will erase his treasured memory of the first time he saw a sketch of the android he was to play. 

"When I saw the painting by the design artist, the eyes of the character looked deep into my soul. He was a very forlorn figure with an abandoned air. He really did look into my soul. We made this tremendous contact."

Tru Cut - Point Pleasant On?
By Josef Adalian

Hollywood September 12, 2004 (Variety) - Fox is cutting back on "Tru Calling" before the show's second season even begins. 

Net Monday announced that the skein won't premiere as planned on Thursday, Nov. 4. Instead, the timeslot will be filled by Hawaii sudser "North Shore." 

What Fox didn't announce, however, is that the net seems ready to scale back the production order on the Eliza Dushku starrer from 13 segs to just six episodes.

Decision could be a death blow to the 20th Century Fox TV/Original show, insiders conceded. 

Fox execs made much of the decision to bring back "Tru" for a second season, hailing the call as evidence of the net's willingness to be patient and give shows with potential time to find an audience.

It's the same rationale the net used to pick up season two of the critically-hailed "Arrested Development." 

What's more, Fox execs are said to have liked the direction "Tru" writers have taken in early season two episodes. 

So why the change of heart? Insiders said simple economics may have played a role. 

With "American Idol" set to invade Fox's sked again come January, and reality skeins such as "Renovate My Family" and "Trading Spouses" off to a strong start, net may not want to spend the coin on a full order of "Tru," insiders claim. That's particularly true now that Fox has ordered "Point Pleasant" (also from 20th/Original) for a possible early 2005 bow. 

But there's also evidence senior News Corp. management believes that "Tru" may simply be too narrow in its appeal, and that the skein will never be able to break out. While scaling back to six episodes is not the same as canceling a show, it's rarely a good sign. 

One caveat: Some industry insiders believe there's still a shot "Tru" could produce its full 13-episode order, if only because under some scenarios, making the shows might be cheaper than not doing so. There's also a chance Fox might try the show on Friday night, some insiders said.

[No change evident on the Fox Fall Schedule page and Tru is still included in the January 2005 lineup as well. There is also no web presence or Fox listing for the show Point Pleasant. No mention of it on the Internet Movie Database or in the credits of its creator, Joss Whedon sidekick Marti Noxon. Ed.]

Tru Calling Official -

Fox January 2005 Schedule -

No Madonna on CBS

NEW YORK September 11, 2004 (AP) - Even Madonna doesn't always get what she wants. A deal for the pop diva to show a tape of one of her concerts on CBS has fallen through.

Madonna wanted the special to air for more than two hours and be commercial-free, said CBS entertainment spokesman Chris Ender. The network wasn't willing to give up more than two hours of its prime-time schedule and insisted on commercials. 

CBS had expected to tape the special somewhere during Madonna's European tour. Concert specials have become increasingly popular for broadcast networks. 

A call to a representative for Madonna was not immediately returned.

Official Madonna -

Dave Attell Goes Big Time?
By Nellie Andreeva 

LOS ANGELES September 10, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Comedy Central veteran Dave Attell is coming to network television.

The seasoned comedian, best known for his Comedy Central series "Insomniac With Dave Attell," has signed a development deal with Fox Broadcasting Co. and sister studio 20th Century Fox TV to star in a sitcom. 

"He is quite simply one of the funniest people on the planet," said Marcia Shulman, Fox's executive vp casting.

"He has a very specific point of view, he is really funny, very edgy, has a huge following that cuts across all age groups, and it's really a no-brainer for Fox." 

Given his writing background on "Insomniac" and NBC's "Saturday Night Live," it is possible that Attell would be involved in the development/writing of his starring vehicle. 

In addition to "Insomniac," Attell also appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn" and lent his voice to the channel's "Crank Yankers." His credits also include his own specials for Comedy Central and HBO and the feature "Pootie Tang."

[Oh, come on! What chance does Dave have on Fox? Has anybody on the Zorro Network even seen Insomniac? I hope they give you a lot of money, Dave. Bank it fast and run, dude! This is one sitcom nobody will ever see! Ed.]

Jack and Bobby and Tarzan

[I was going to review Jack & Bobby until I saw it and decided I wasn't qualified for that kind of show. It is billed as a crossbreed between producers of West Wing and Everwood, but it was mostly Everwood. David Nutter, who also directed last season's dismal WB botch Tarzan, gave the show a good first episode, but how the future president premise can ever create anything more than another WB primetime teen soap remains to be seen. I'll reserve judgment until Desperate Housewives starts opposite. Ed.]

Hollywood September 13, 2004 (Variety) - The WB's "Jack & Bobby" put up decent overall numbers in its premiere Sunday night, but it was a surprisingly big hit with young femmes. 

The favorably reviewed drama averaged a 1.7 rating/4 share in adults 18-49 and 4.6 million viewers overall, according to prelim nationals from Nielsen, retaining 77% of the 18-49 aud from the season premiere of "Charmed" (prelim 2.2/6, 5.3 million). 

This puts "Jack" down 19% from last year's October premiere of "Tarzan" in the timeslot (2.1/5 in 18-49), but lead-in "Charmed" was down as well, so the retention was similar. 

For a politically tinged drama, the biggest surprise was that it skewed so young, racking up a 5.2 rating in female teens (including a monster 11.3 in Gotham), compared with a 2.6 rating in women 18-34 and a 2.5 in women 18-49, according to Nielsen prelims. 

Frog noted "Jack & Bobby's" perf in most female demos was the best ever for a Sunday fall premiere on the WB -- a good sign for a net whose hit dramas are usually a magnet for young women. Where it could use some help is among men, where it did a 1.0 prelim rating among the 18-34 crowd. 

"Jack & Bobby," from Warner Bros. Television and exec produced by Thomas Schlamme, Greg Berlanti and Mickey Liddell, will get an encore airing on Thursday. Its regular Sunday competish in upcoming weeks will include dramas "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on NBC and the new "Desperate Housewives" on ABC. 

Also for the WB, it was a modest opening for the transplanted "Steve Harvey's Big Time" (prelim 0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.6 million) in the 7 o'clock hour. Second-year skein, which has expanded to an hour this season and moved from its Thursday slot, scored a prelim 1.0/4 in persons 12-34.

Silver City Satirizes Bush with Mystery
By Cameron French 

TORONTO September 11, 2004 (Reuters) - Describing his new film, "Silver City," as part murder mystery and part political satire, director John Sayles made it very clear on Saturday which politician the movie is satirizing. 

"(The) character is very much based on George W. Bush when he first ran for governor of Texas," he told reporters just before his movie made its world debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. 

Sayles, who started putting together the story shortly after the 2000 presidential election, and rushed pre-production so as to get the film into theaters before the Nov. 2 election, said he was discouraged by the deterioration of "the political and cultural conversation in the United States." 

"There's a real pressure not to raise your voice, not to question what's going on internationally or in the country itself," he said.

The film features Chris Cooper as grammatically challenged Colorado gubernatorial hopeful Dickie Pilager, a born-again candidate backed by his father, a U.S. senator with powerful corporate connections.

Pilager at first struggles to keep his composure when confronted by the press, delivering lines such as "Keeping the infrastructure in place, where it belongs, is a priority." 

While Cooper said he drew some of the character's traits from his own fear of public speaking, he acknowledged borrowing some mannerisms from Bush. 

"Certainly there are some recognizable characteristics in terms of our president," he said. 

The film at first plays like a political satire, but evolves into a whodunit after a body turns up while Pilager is filming a campaign ad. 

Former muckraking journalist Danny O'Brien is enlisted by Pilager's campaign manager -- played by Richard Dreyfuss -- to find out whether the corpse is part of an effort to derail the campaign, but he instead is drawn into a world of political corruption, illegal migrant workers and environmental destruction. 

The film features an ensemble cast that includes Billy Zane, Daryl Hannah, Kris Kristofferson, Tim Roth, Michael Murphy and Danny Huston as the journalist-turned-investigator. 

Huston's character at first is a cynical shell of his old self, but through the investigation regains what Sayles called "his sense of moral outrage." 

"His apathy is not unlike the American voter who doesn't vote, who doesn't care anymore," said Huston. 

The film makes its debut on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the defining moment of the Bush presidency, and a topic that moved Sayles close to tears when he spoke about it. 

"For me, the significance of it, I just think of this hole. It's literally a hole in the ground, and it's this hole in people's lives who lost people there," he said.

Silever City Official -

Sony Will Buy MGM
By Bob Tourtellotte
and Nathan Layne

LOS ANGELES/TOKYO September 14, 2004 (Reuters) - A group headed by Sony Corp. of America has agreed to buy Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for about $2.85 billion in cash to mine MGM's lucrative library for the booming DVD market.

MGM, the 80-year-old studio that owns the James Bond movies, said on Monday that the unit of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. would be joined by Providence Equity Partners Inc., Texas Pacific Group and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. 

Sony said it had reached a separate agreement with the top U.S. cable TV operator, Comcast Corp., for Comcast to offer Sony and MGM movies over its video-on-demand systems and on new cable channels that it would form with the Sony group. 

Emerging as victor in a drawn-out acquisition battle with Time Warner Inc, Sony will join forces with MGM to create the world's largest film library of about 7,600 titles, comprising some 3,500 movies from Sony and about 4,100 from MGM. 

Sony will pay $12 cash per share for MGM, controlled by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, and assume about $2 billion of debt. 

With roughly 237.6 million MGM shares outstanding at the end of July, the total value of the deal is about $4.85 billion.

The purchase of MGM is in keeping with Chief Executive Nobuyuki Idei's vision of creating synergies between Sony's consumer electronics products and music, movies and games. 

But investors said it would be some time before the potential merits of the deal become clear. 

"This will obviously help diversify earnings and it's an important library, an important source of content," said Marc Desmidt, head of Japanese equities at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers in Tokyo. "But I've got no idea (right now) if they've overpaid or not -- whether it's the right price." 

Some analysts had questioned the logic of the deal for Sony, saying the company should be concentrating management resources on its struggling electronics division, which accounts for $45 billion or two-thirds of the company's total sales. 

Sony's shares slid 1.52 percent to 3,890 yen on Tuesday, underperforming the Nikkei average, which rose 0.38 percent. 

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's said after the market close that it had put Sony on watch for a possible downgrade because the acquisition could cause deterioration the company's balance sheet and hamper structural reform. 

Sources close to the bid said Providence would contribute $450 million, Sony and Texas Pacific $300 million and DLJ Merchant Banking $250 million. The balance would be in debt.


MGM's film library is considered its crown jewel, generating a stream of revenue in the DVD market. 

Sony could also plumb the MGM library for sequels, and MGM's trademark Leo the Lion is a globally recognized brand. 

Including the titles owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Sony group will now control about 40 percent of all movies ever produced by Hollywood, according to some estimates. 

Sony, which bought Columbia Pictures in 1989 for $3.4 billion, will control the MGM venture. Comcast will manage the joint venture the two concerns will form for cable TV. 

An agreement, if finalized, would mark a sweet payout for 87-year-old Kerkorian, who holds a 74 percent stake in MGM and stands to make about $2 billion on the deal. 

Earlier this year, he pocketed about $1.4 billion through an $8 per share dividend, meaning he'd walk with about $20 per share for owning the studio a third time in its long history.

The announcement of the deal by MGM came after Time Warner withdrew, saying it could not reach agreement on price. 

Time Warner, the world's biggest media group, had offered $4.6 billion, according to one source. 

The company is now free to focus on a pending auction for bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications. 

For Sony, owning MGM could also advance its cause in the battle to establish the next DVD format.

Sony is part of a consortium that supports the Blu-ray format against a format called HD DVD, which is endorsed by Japan's NEC Corp. and others. 

Both HD DVD and Blu-ray technologies use blue laser light, which, with a shorter wavelength than red light used in conventional DVD recorders, can read and store data at much higher densities needed for high-definition recordings. 

"A close relationship with holders of movie content will be necessary to win the DVD format fight. The purchase of MGM can be viewed as positive in that light," said UFJ Tsubasa's Yamamoto.

Sony and its partners have locked in financing from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse First Boston for the bid, sources close to the talks said. J.P. Morgan is also leading debt financing for the deal. 

Shares of MGM closed up 44 cents at $11.55 on the New York Stock Exchange. Time Warner stock was off 6 cents at $16.45. 

MGM said the buyers had put down a deposit of $150 million, and added that management would likely recommend approving the proposed deal to its board of directors by Sept. 27. 

MGM, formed in 1924, produced such classics as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz." 

Kerkorian first bought it in 1970, then sold it to Ted Turner in 1986 before buying it back, only to sell it again in 1990 to Pathe Communications. He re-acquired the studio in 1996. 

(Additional reporting by Dane Hamilton and Kenneth Li in New York and Julie MacIntosh in Philadelphia)

Ernie Ball

LOS ANGELES September 10, 2004 (Reuters) - Guitar string maker Ernie Ball, famed for strings that almost single-handedly allowed rock groups in the 1960s to play wailing riffs and belt out endless vibratos, has died in San Luis Obispo, California, at age 74, his family said on Friday. 

Roland Sherwood "Ernie" Ball founded the Ernie Ball Company in 1962 after his strings became the hottest-selling item in his family's music shop. 

The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix used Ernie Ball Slinky Strings, sold in distinctive neon-colored packages. 

"He changed the way people thought of guitar accessories, and how they sold and marketed them, and to this day the Ernie Ball way is the industry standard," said Sterling Ball, Ernie's son and chief executive of the private San Luis Obispo company. 

Ernie Ball guitar strings are sold in 5,500 music stores across the United States and in over 75 countries.

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