Super-Earth Found!
Space Spies! The Munduruku!
Women & AIDS, Deep Impact,
New Nukes, Roswell & More!
Super-Earth Found!

Three planets orbit the star Gliese 876. The smallest of
the trio, barely visible to the right of the small red star,
is the most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet discovered.
(Image © Lynette Cook)

University of California - Berkeley News Release

Arlington VA June 13, 2005 - The world's preeminent planet hunters have discovered the most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet: a possibly rocky world about 7.5 times as massive as the Earth.
This hot "super-Earth," just 15 light years away, travels in a nearly circular orbit only 2 million miles from its parent star, Gliese 876, and has a radius about twice that of Earth. All the nearly 150 extrasolar planets discovered to date that are orbiting normal stars have been larger than Uranus, an ice giant about 15 times the mass of Earth.

"This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets," said team member Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. "It's like Earth's bigger cousin."

"This planet answers an ancient question," said team leader Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. "Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus argued about whether there were other Earth-like planets. Now, for the first time, we have evidence for a rocky planet around a normal star."

Enlarged view of the new Earth-like planet orbiting
Gliese 876. (Image © Lynette Cook)

Marcy, Butler, theoretical astronomer Jack Lissauer of NASA/Ames Research Center, and post-doctoral researcher Eugenio J. Rivera of the University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz presented their findings today (Monday, June 13) during a press conference at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va.

Part of a system that includes two other Jupiter-size planets, the new rocky planet whips around its star in a mere two days, and is so close to the star's surface that the astronomers say its temperature probably tops 200 to 400 degrees Celsius (400 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit) - oven temperatures far too hot for life as we know it.

Nevertheless, the ability to detect the tiny wobble that the planet induces in the star gives them confidence that they will be able to discover even smaller rocky planets in orbits more hospitable to life.

The team measures a minimum mass of 5.9 Earth masses for the new planet, which is orbiting Gliese 876 with a period of 1.94 days at a distance of 0.021 astronomical units (AU), or 2 million miles.

Though the team has no proof that the planet is rocky, its low mass precludes it from retaining gas like Jupiter. Three other purportedly rocky extrasolar planets have been reported, but they orbit a pulsar, the flashing corpse of an exploded star.

Gliese 876 (or GJ 876) is a small, red star known as an M dwarf – the most common type of star in the galaxy. It is located in the constellation Aquarius, and, at about one-third the mass of the sun, is the smallest star around which planets have been discovered. Butler and Marcy detected the first planet in 1998, and it proved to be a gas giant about twice the mass of Jupiter. Then, in 2001, they reported a second planet, another gas giant about half the mass of Jupiter. The two are in resonant orbits, the outer planet taking 60 days to orbit the star, twice the period of the inner giant planet.

Data on the Gliese 876 system, gathered from research the astronomers conducted at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, were analyzed by Lissauer and Rivera in order to model the unusual motions of the two known planets. Three years ago, they got an inkling that there might be a smaller, third planet orbiting the star. In fact, if they hadn't taken account of the resonant interaction between the two known planets, they never would have seen the third.

"We had a model for the two planets interacting with one another, but when we looked at the difference between the two-planet model and the actual data, we found a signature that could be interpreted as a third planet," Lissauer said.

Artist's conception of our Milky Way Galaxy. "There is going to be a large
population of smaller mass planets," Butler noted.

A three-planet model consistently gave a better fit to the data, added Rivera. "But because the signal from this third planet was not very strong, we were very cautious about announcing a new planet until we had more data," he said.

Recent improvements to the Keck Telescope's high-resolution spectrometer (HIRES) provided the crucial new data. Vogt, who designed and built HIRES, worked with the technical staff in the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory Laboratories at UC Santa Cruz to upgrade the spectrometer's CCD (charge coupled device) detectors last August.

"It is the higher precision data from the upgraded HIRES that gives us confidence in this result," Butler said.

The team now has convincing data for the planet orbiting very close to the star, at a distance of about 10 stellar radii. That's less than one-tenth the size of Mercury's orbit in our solar system.

"In a two-day orbit, it's about 200 degrees Celsius too hot for liquid water," Butler said. "That tends to lead us to the conclusion that the most probable composition of this thing is like the inner planets of this solar system - a nickel/iron rock, a rocky planet, a terrestrial planet."

"The planet's mass could easily hold onto an atmosphere," noted Laughlin, an assistant professor of astronomy at UC Santa Cruz. "It would still be considered a rocky planet, probably with an iron core and a silicon mantle. It could even have a dense steamy water layer. I think what we are seeing here is something that's intermediate between a true terrestrial planet like the Earth and a hot version of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune."

A paper detailing the team's results has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal. Coauthors on the paper are Steven Vogt and Gregory Laughlin of the Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University; and Timothy M. Brown of NSF's National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Combined with improved computer software, the new CCD detectors designed by this team for Keck's HIRES spectrometer can now measure the Doppler velocity of a star to within one meter per second - human walking speed - instead of the previous precision of 3 meters per second. This improved sensitivity will allow the planet-hunting team to detect the gravitational effect of an Earth-like planet within the habitable zone of M dwarf stars like Gliese 876.

"We are pushing a whole new regime at Keck to achieve one meter per second precision, triple our old precision, that should also allow us to see Earth-mass planets around sun-like stars within the next few years," Butler said.

The heat and the reddish light are among the few things
about the new planet that are certain, depending on the
thickness and if any - it could range from being a barren,
cratered ball of rock like Mercury or the Moon, to being a
featureless, cloud-shrouded cue-ball like Venus.

"Our UC Santa Cruz and Lick Observatory team has done an enormous amount of optical and technical and detector work to make the Keck telescope a rocky planet hunter, the best one in the world," Marcy added.

Lissauer also is excited by another feat reported in the paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal. For the first time, he, Rivera and Laughlin have determined the line-of-sight inclination of the orbit of the stellar system solely from the observed Doppler wobble of the star. Using dynamical models of how the two Jupiter-size planets interact, they were able to calculate the masses of the two giant planets from the observed shapes and precession rates of their oval orbits. Precession is the slow turning of the long axis of a planet's elliptical orbit.

They showed that the orbital plane is tilted 40 degrees to our line of sight. This allowed the team to estimate the most likely mass of the third planet as 7.5 Earth masses.

"There's more dynamical modeling involved in this study than any previous study, much more," Lissauer said.

The team plans to continue to observe the star Gliese 876, but is eager to find other terrestrial planets among the 150 or more M dwarf planets they observe regularly with Keck.

"So far, we find almost no Jupiter mass planets among the M dwarf stars we've been observing, which suggests that, instead, there is going to be a large population of smaller mass planets," Butler noted.

The astronomers' research was supported by NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the University of California and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

University of California - Berkeley -

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.

A faint rainbow forms in the distance as Rob Fischer cuts wheat on the family farm near Nashville, Kan., Wednesday, June 8, 2005. The 2005 Kansas wheat crop is looking good but low grain prices and high fuel costs are keeping farmers from getting too excited about the crop. (AP Photo/ Charlie Riedel)

Space Spies!

The MOL was going to make use of already designed NASA
Gemini capsules (BBC)

By Irene Mona Klotz

Kennedy Space Center June 8, 2005 (BBC) - The spy was definitely not called Bond, for that name is not among the military officers selected 40 years ago to conduct reconnaissance missions for the US from an orbital laboratory in space.

But secret agent Bond shares a number - 007 - with one of the US spies-in-training.

Space historians are trying to find out who the mystery man is after his spacesuit turned up, along with an identical outfit bearing number 008, in an abandoned space agency (NASA) blockhouse last used to launch Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom into space in 1961.

"I wish I knew how they got there," said Roger Launius, chairman of the space history department at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Suit 008 was easier to trace, as the word "LAWYER" was emblazoned on the left shoulder.

Though some, no doubt, would have applauded the idea, sending the NASA attorney into space was not part of the program.

Rather, the suit belonged to Air Force Lt Col Richard Lawyer, a member of the first group of eight military officers selected in 1965 to serve in a program known as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, or MOL.

Robot spies

Over the next two years, the program, run by the Air Force in cooperation with
NASA, signed up another nine aspiring space spies and began training them for what was expected to be month-long missions aboard an orbital outpost based on a modified Gemini capsule.

program died in 1969, as advances in robotics and satellite technology began to match what the military wanted to achieve by stationing human eyes in space - namely keep watch over its Cold War Soviet foes - and do so at a fraction of the cost.

program didn't get too far," Launius said. "In the end, the program didn't require humans in the loop.

"Plus, with the pressures on the military during the Vietnam War, it was a pretty easy decision on the part of the secretary of defense to cancel MOL."

Program relics, including at least 22 flight training suits made by Hamilton Sundstrand, were collected over the years and dispatched to the Smithsonian, which serves as the official US space program archivist.

But at least two of the sky-blue suits disappeared.

No one knows how long the suits languished in the dark and rodent-infested Blockhouse 5/6 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center.

Space mouse

Late last year, however, fire marshals inspecting part of the facility noted piles of decomposing film and deemed them a fire hazard, said Luis Barrios, a design specialist hired by Kennedy Space Center to work with its museum and tourist center.

When security officials went to clean out the blockhouse, they found a locked annex with no key. After tracking down a master key, the officers stumbled upon a blue box on the floor of the building and opened it.

The suits were found in amongst the boxes (BBC)

A hand-painted NASA meatball emblem adorned the inside cover and nestled inside the container were two blue spacesuits and four or five pairs of gloves.

"We had to open it up and look at the suits because [with KSC] being a wildlife preserve, you never know what else might be in there with it," NASA security officer Dann Oakland said.

The officers did, in fact, find a mouse nest in the box and tossed it away before packing up the space artifacts and taking them to a secure site.

Lawyer's suit has already been shipped to the Smithsonian, which will soon begin the restoration process. Suit 007 would be following shortly, Barrios said.

For its efforts, KSC will be getting another MOL suit to display at its visitors center museum.

"It's a reward for something that nobody expected to have the good fortune of finding," Barrios said.

White House Environmental Cheater Resigns
WASHINGTON June 13, 2005 (Reuters) — A senior official at the White House Council on Environmental Quality has resigned, days after a newspaper reported he changed some government reports to downplay links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Philip Cooney, the council's chief of staff and a former energy industry lobbyist, resigned Friday, two days after The New York Times reported he edited some descriptions of climate research in a way that cast doubt on links between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino confirmed Cooney had resigned from the council but said it was unrelated to the Times story.

"Mr. Cooney has long been considering his options following four years of service in the administration," she said. "He had accumulated four weeks of leave and decided to resign and take the summer off to spend time with his family."

The Times said it obtained the environmental documents from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that provides legal help to government whistle-blowers.

The White House has denied Cooney had watered down the impact of global warming.

The newspaper noted Cooney previously worked at the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group for the oil industry.
The Munduruku

The Tapajos River

By Alan Clendenning
Associated Press

BRANGANCA Brazil June 13, 2005 (AP) — By the slow-moving Tapajos River, monkeys murmur in the forest and Munduruku Indians with bows and arrows tiptoe along the riverbank, hunting turtles. Two boys fish for the family lunch, not even bothering with bait. To attract the piranha, they simply bang on the side of their boat.

It's a picture that suggests an Amazon idyll of life intertwined with nature. But in fact the Munduruku are caught between two worlds, and they fear one may soon be trampled by the other.

A highway is being paved 30 miles away to speed the soy crops to export markets, and when that happens, the Indians worry, loggers and slash-and-burn farmers won't be far behind.

Unlike the more remote tribes that speak their own languages and practice ancient religions, the Munduruku in Braganca have been Roman Catholics and Portuguese-speakers for generations.

Tribal leader Fortunato Rocha wears a feathered headdress, jeans and a red T-shirt with an Indian-rights slogan: "Indigena!, Sim!" Or, "Indigenous! Yes!" Another leader, Edimilson dos Santos, sports Bermuda shorts and a necklace of jaguar teeth to scare away snakes.

Each day double-decker river boats haul freight and people along the mile-wide Tapajos, bringing the influences of a modern industrial state to Braganca's three settlements. But it's still easier to travel the muddy road to the village on horseback than in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

There's no electricity, television or store. The closest phone is more than 10 miles away. But news travels fast. Arriving with a photographer after a bone-jarring five-hour trip, I was promptly informed that Pope John Paul II had just died. The villagers heard about it on their battery-powered radios.

Next day they held a mass in their tiny church festooned with woven palm garlands. They sang hymns to the beat of a single drum carved from rain forest wood, and mourned a pope they considered an ally of the Indians and the rain forest.

"With the pope dead, things are getting complicated," said Rocha.

"We still have an abundance from the forest," he said as he barbecued fish, using a wood fire because his family had run out of the bottled gas for their ancient cooking range. "But we have to take care of it, and the road could bring a lot of threats that will ruin our society: People, drugs, prostitution."

A paved road could bring modern comforts like phones and electricity, but the Indians believe the downside outweighs the advantages. The highway called BR163 is already accelerating development along its shoulders, and the Indians fear for the forest that provides them with their food, building materials and natural medicine.

The language of the Mundurucus Indians
only includes the words for the numbers one
to five. Cacique (village chief) demonstrating
Mundurucu precise computation using fingers
and toes, a technique that does not allow them
to associate a number name with a quantity
greater than five. (Bom Jardim/ Kaburuα)

The trees give us fruit, they help make the rain that gives us water and they shelter the animals," said dos Santos. "When farmers and ranchers come, they destroy the forest for profit, but the only thing we have is nature, and we have to protect it to use it."

Loggers have selectively cut many of the 75-foot-tall Itauba trees the Munduruku use to fashion canoes. Forest outside traditional Munduruku land has been burned down to make way for cattle.

A small river feeding into the Tapajos, which in turn joins the Amazon, has dropped more than three feet over the last several decades. The Indians believe deforestation is reducing rainfall.

The short, dark-skinned Munduruku worry that pieces of their culture could evaporate as tall, European-descended Brazilians arrive eating different food, drinking bitter herbal mate tea instead of super-sweetened coffee, speaking a different-sounding Portuguese.

"When something new comes, people want to try it: To become blond, a new drink, new slang," said Milenilda Rocha, 23. The daughter of a tribal leader, she lives 44 miles from Braganca, in the city of Santarem on the Amazon River, where she is training to be an Indian rights activist.

As night falls and the forest quiets down, the Munduruku leaders gather in a communal building lit by kerosene lamps. They nod appreciatively as dos Santos speaks of his nightmare vision of the jungle giving way to endless, orderly fields of soy.

"These soy farmers poison the soil with fertilizer," he says. "Our Amazon is being destroyed by people who don't realize what a treasure it is."

Oldest European Civilization
By David Keys

Europe June 11, 2005 (Independent UK) - Archaeologists have discovered Europe's oldest civilization, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

More than 150 gigantic monuments have been located beneath the fields and cities of modern-day Germany, Austria and Slovakia. They were built 7,000 years ago, between 4800BC and 4600BC. Their discovery, revealed today by The Independent, will revolutionize the study of prehistoric Europe, where an appetite for monumental architecture was thought to have developed later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In all, more than 150 temples have been identified. Constructed of earth and wood, they had ramparts and palisades that stretched for up to half a mile. They were built by a religious people who lived in communal longhouses up to 50 meters long, grouped around substantial villages. Evidence suggests their economy was based on cattle, sheep, goat and pig farming.

Their civilization seems to have died out after about 200 years and the recent archaeological discoveries are so new that the temple building culture does not even have a name yet.

Excavations have been taking place over the past few years - and have triggered a re-evaluation of similar, though hitherto mostly undated, complexes identified from aerial photographs throughout central Europe.

The network of dozens of temples is 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the
Pyramids. (Reuters)

Archaeologists are now beginning to suspect that hundreds of these very early monumental religious centers, each up to 150 meters across, were constructed across a 400-mile swath of land in what is now Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and eastern Germany.

The most complex excavated so far - located inside the city of Dresden - consisted of an apparently sacred internal space surrounded by two palisades, three earthen banks and four ditches.

The monuments seem to be a phenomenon associated exclusively with a period of consolidation and growth that followed the initial establishment of farming cultures in the center of the continent.

It is possible that the newly revealed early Neolithic monument phenomenon was the consequence of an increase in the size of - and competition between - emerging Neolithic tribal or pan-tribal groups, arguably Europe's earliest mini-states.

After a relatively brief period - perhaps just one or two hundred years - either the need or the socio-political ability to build them disappeared, and monuments of this scale were not built again until the Middle Bronze Age, 3,000 years later. Why this monumental culture collapsed is a mystery.

The archaeological investigation into these vast Stone Age temples over the past three years has also revealed several other mysteries. First, each complex was only used for a few generations - perhaps 100 years maximum. Second, the central sacred area was nearly always the same size, about a third of a hectare. Third, each circular enclosure ditch - irrespective of diameter - involved the removal of the same volume of earth. In other words, the builders reduced the depth and/or width of each ditch in inverse proportion to its diameter, so as to always keep volume (and thus time spent) constant.

Archaeologists are speculating that this may have been in order to allow each earthwork to be dug by a set number of special status workers in a set number of days - perhaps to satisfy the ritual requirements of some sort of religious calendar.

The multiple bank, ditch and palisade systems "protecting" the inner space seem not to have been built for defensive purposes - and were instead probably designed to prevent ordinary tribespeople from seeing the sacred and presumably secret rituals which were performed in the "inner sanctum" .

The investigation so far suggests that each religious complex was ritually decommissioned at the end of its life, with the ditches, each of which had been dug successively, being deliberately filled in.

"Our excavations have revealed the degree of monumental vision and sophistication used by these early farming communities to create Europe's first truly large scale earthwork complexes," said the senior archaeologist, Harald Staeuble of the Saxony state government's heritage department, who has been directing the archaeological investigations. Scientific investigations into the recently excavated material are taking place in Dresden.

The people who built the huge circular temples were the descendants of migrants who arrived many centuries earlier from the Danube plain in what is now northern Serbia and Hungary. The temple-builders were pastoralists, controlling large herds of cattle, sheep and goats as well as pigs. They made tools of stone, bone and wood, and small ceramic statues of humans and animals. They manufactured substantial amounts of geometrically decorated pottery, and they lived in large longhouses in substantial villages.

One village complex and temple at Aythra, near Leipzig, covers an area of 25 hectares. Two hundred longhouses have been found there. The population would have been up to 300 people living in a highly organized settlement of 15 to 20 very large communal buildings.

HIV/AIDS: Women Now Most At Risk!

A woman walks past an AIDS awarness poster at a
Beijing subway station. Premier Wen Jiabao told a
top UN official that China is 'determined and capable'
of controlling its exploding HIV/AIDS epidemic.
(AFP /Frederic J. Brown)

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions News Release

June 9, 2005 - A Johns Hopkins physician and scientist who has spent a quarter-century leading major efforts to combat HIV and AIDS worldwide has issued an urgent call for global strategies and resources to confront the rapid "feminization" of the AIDS pandemic.

In an article appearing in the journal Science online June 10, Thomas C. Quinn, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Hopkins and a senior investigator at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, reports that women have in the last 20 years moved from those least affected by HIV to those in whom the disease is spreading fastest.

"There has been a shift in the AIDS pandemic, and the victims are different now," says Quinn, senior author of the Science article.

"Women make up nearly half of the 40 million people worldwide currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and in some developing countries, women represent the vast majority of those living with HIV/AIDS," Quinn writes, whereas, at the start of the pandemic in the early 1980s, men accounted for almost 90 percent of cases in developed countries. In the United States from 1999 to 2003, the yearly increase in AIDS cases rose by 15 percent, but only by 1 percent in men.

"HIV/AIDS first targeted gay men and hemophiliacs in the early 1980s, then subsequently spread most quickly among intravenous drug users and heterosexuals," he adds. "Now, it is having the most profound impact on women."

Internationally, Quinn and his team have led clinical trials of the first effective treatments that prevent HIV from replicating, helped establish laboratory and treatment facilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Uganda, and counseled other governments across Africa and Asia about control efforts.

In the new article, he argues that women deserve a separate strategy because of the increasing and disproportionate numbers becoming infected, and the social consequences of so many young mothers dying and leaving behind children who may also be infected as well as orphaned. He also points out that medical research suggests hormonal and developmental factors place young women at greater risk than men for contracting the virus when exposed to it.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of people living with HIV are female, Quinn says, and in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, young women ages 15 to 24 are three to six times more likely to be infected than men. Women make up half the adult population living with the virus in the Caribbean and one-third of those in Latin America.

The reasons for the rise in female cases differ among countries, with 97 percent of female HIV infections in the United States due to heterosexual transmission (81 percent) and intravenous drug use (16 percent). In the developing world, heterosexual transmission is responsible for nearly all of the infections among women, and mother-to-child transmission during childbirth further contributes to the spread of the disease. Women are particularly vulnerable to such cultural factors as their relative lack of power in sexual relationships, widespread poverty, policies that deny women an education and tolerance of violence against women.

Excessive biological vulnerability to HIV among young women, although not fully understood, is believed to be due to an immature genital whose mucosal lining is easier for the virus to penetrate; to hormonal factors, such as the use of birth control pills; and to a high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, which inflame the female genital area and provide additional target cells for the virus to infect.

According to Quinn, "societal changes will help over the long run, but immediate and faster action requires coordinated efforts to focus on women, develop effective microbicides that women can use themselves and a gender-specific vaccine program that takes into account the different immune responses between women and men."

Also needed, he says, are cultural programs for reshaping gender roles, such as educating more women about safe-sex practices, use of condoms, lessons on negotiating safe sex, and awareness campaigns about where to seek testing and treatment.

"Women are different when it comes to HIV infection," says Quinn. "If medical progress is to continue on how best to prevent and treat the disease, then developing specific strategies that empower women will be key to its success."

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions -

300,000 Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises Killed Yearly!

(Photo: Greenpeace)

By Hrvoje Hranjski
Associated Press

MANILA Philippines June 10, 2005 (AP) — From Southeast Asia to the Black Sea, fishing nets have become deathtraps for thousands of whales, dolphins and porpoises -- species whose survival will be threatened unless fishing methods change, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.

The U.S.-based environmental group released a marine scientists' report that listed species threatened by accidental catch, and recommended low-cost steps to reduce their entanglement in fishing gear.

The report identified dolphins in the Philippines, India and Thailand as urgent priorities.

Researchers estimate that fishing gear kills about 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises a year in the world's oceans. Threatened populations include Irrawaddy dolphins in Malampyaya Sound off the Philippines' Palawan island, about 220 miles south of Manila. The WWF report said only 77 remain.

Dolphins also face the threat of traders who sell them to aquariums, especially in Asia, the report said.

Other threatened populations include Spinner and Fraser's dolphins in the Philippines' Sulu Sea. The WWF report said up to 3,000 Spinner dolphins may be caught each year in gillnets, which stretch from the sea floor to the surface and are hard for dolphins to see or detect with their sonar.

If the mammals are trapped underwater in nets and can't get to the surface to breathe, they drown.

Dolphins are also under threat in Indonesia, Myanmar, India's Chilka Lake and Thailand's Songkhla Lake, the WWF said.

Fishing gear kills thousands of porpoises each year in the Black Sea, the report said. Atlantic humpback dolphins face the same fate off the coasts of Ghana and Togo in Africa, as do Franciscana dolphins in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, it said.

Indo-Pacific humpback and bottlenose dolphins often die in nets off the south coast of Zanzibar, the report added.

Most of the animals are threatened by the widespread use of one type of fishing gear -- gillnets, the WWF report said. U.S. fisheries in 1993-2003 introduced changes that reduced by a third the number of dolphins accidentally killed by fishing, or bycatch, the WWF said. But few other countries have followed that example, "and in much of the rest of the world, progress on bycatch mitigation has been slow to nonexistent," the group said.

"These accidental deaths can be significantly reduced, often with very simple, low-cost solutions," said Karen Baragona of WWF's species conservation program. "Slight modifications in fishing gear can mean the difference between life and death for dolphins."

The report will be submitted next week to the International Whaling Commission meeting in South Korea, the WWF said.

Deep Impact On July 4th!

NASA poster illustrates the Deep Impact mission

JPL/NASA News Release

June 9, 2005 - After a voyage of 173 days and 431 million kilometers (268 million miles), NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will get up-close and personal with comet Tempel 1 on July 4 (EDT).

The first of its kind, hyper-speed impact between space-borne iceberg and copper-fortified probe is scheduled for approximately 1:52 a.m. EDT on Independence Day (10:52 p.m. PDT on July 3). The potentially spectacular collision will be observed by the Deep Impact spacecraft, and ground and space-based observatories.

"We are really threading the needle with this one," said Rick Grammier, Deep Impact project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "In our quest of a great scientific payoff, we are attempting something never done before at speeds and distances that are truly out of this world."

During the early morning hours of July 3 (EDT), the Deep Impact spacecraft will deploy a 1-meter-wide (39-inch-wide) impactor into the path of the comet, which is about half the size of Manhattan Island, N.Y. Over the next 22 hours, Deep Impact navigators and mission members located more than 133 million kilometers (83 million miles) away at JPL, will steer both spacecraft and impactor toward the comet. The impactor will head into the comet and the flyby craft will pass approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles) below.

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft photographed its
quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million
miles. (NASA)

Tempel 1 is hurtling through space at approximately 37,100 kilometers per hour (23,000 miles per hour or 6.3 miles per second). At that speed you could travel from New York to Los Angeles in less than 6.5 minutes. Two hours before impact, when mission events will be happening so fast and so far away, the impactor will kick into autonomous navigation mode. It must perform its own navigational solutions and thruster firings to make contact with the comet.

"The autonav is like having a little astronaut on board," Grammier said. "It has to navigate and fire thrusters three times to steer the wine cask-sized impactor into the mountain-sized comet nucleus closing at 23,000 miles per hour."

The crater produced by the impact could range in size from a large house up to a football stadium, and from two to 14 stories deep. Ice and dust debris will be ejected from the crater, revealing the material beneath.

The flyby spacecraft has approximately 13 minutes to take images and spectra of the collision and its result before it must endure a potential blizzard of particles from the nucleus of the comet.

"The last 24 hours of the impactor's life should provide the most spectacular data in the history of cometary science," said Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park. "With the information we receive after the impact, it will be a whole new ballgame. We know so little about the structure of cometary nuclei that almost every moment we expect to learn something new."

Artist Pat Rawlings gives us a look at the moment of impact
and the forming of the crater. (Courtesy of NASA/ JPL/ UMD.
Artwork by Pat Rawlings)

The Deep Impact spacecraft has four data collectors to observe the effects of the collision. A camera and infrared spectrometer, which comprise the High Resolution Instrument, are carried on the flyby spacecraft, along with a Medium Resolution Instrument. A duplicate of the Medium Resolution Instrument on the impactor will record the vehicle's final moments before it is run over by Tempel 1.

"In the world of science, this is the astronomical equivalent of a 767 airliner running into a mosquito," said Dr. Don Yeomans, a Deep Impact mission scientist at JPL. "The impact simply will not appreciably modify the comet's orbital path. Comet Tempel 1 poses no threat to the Earth now or in the foreseeable future."

Deep Impact will provide a glimpse beneath the surface of a comet, where material from the solar system's formation remains relatively unchanged. Mission scientists expect the project will answer basic questions about the formation of the solar system, by offering a better look at the nature and composition of the frozen celestial travelers we call comets.

The University of Maryland is responsible for overall Deep Impact mission management, and project management is handled by JPL. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about Deep Impact on the Internet, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit:

Official Deep Impact site -

W. Mark Felt Makes Money, Bradlee Says So What?
NEW YORK June 7, 2005 (Editor & Publisher) - Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has no problem with W. Mark Felt's family trying to cash in on the revelation that the former FBI official was Deep Throat.

"How does that make her different from anyone else?" Bradlee asked of Felt's daughter, who has admitted a potential payday was a factor in convincing her father to unmask himself. "Her motive was to get him some glory, and he obviously doesn't mind," he told E&P this afternoon. "I don't see anything wrong with her motives."

In fact, he doesn't give much credence to any of the recent criticism of the famous source. "Who is criticizing Felt?" Bradlee said. "Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson? They don't have much to tell America about morality."

A week after the identity of Deep Throat was revealed -- setting off days of debate and discussion over his actions and those of the Post -- the former executive editor is ready for a break.

"I was getting ready to go on vacation," Bradlee said about his disrupted plans for last week. Vanity Fair's surprise announcement of Felt's admission threw Bradlee -- along with his former reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, into a whirlwind of TV appearances, editorial discussions, and interviews. Now he can once again focus on more relaxing matters: "I'm going to Australia and New Zealand later this month, and then I am coming home and going to Long Island for a month in East Hampton, and then later to Europe."

The former editor also said he is planning to write a book, unrelated to Deep Throat, but he would not elaborate on the subject. He said the busy week forced him to put off discussions. Now, he said, he can get back to those efforts.

Looking back on the week that was, Bradlee said he was glad that the story unfolded the way it did, even if Vanity Fair broke the news instead of the Post, after Felt died. "If we had broken it on his death, it would have been questioned," he told E&P. "Now it is not questioned. The only question is from [former Nixon aide John] Dean, who has identified three people in the past and doesn't like this one."

Bradlee added that he was surprised at the interest the revelation prompted. "I'm always surprised by the staying power of this story," he said. "Thirty years is a long story; it has lasted a long time." The former editor also adds that he has no plans to write anything about his involvement in the Deep Throat saga, unlike Woodward and Bernstein, both of whom will be involved in an upcoming Woodward book.

"This is their story, not mine," he said. "It's Woodward's story."
Nuke News!

Nuclear Power Is Back!
By H. Josef Hebert
Associated Press

WASHINGTON June 13, 2005 (AP) — For two months, Ray Ganthner took to the road, visiting a dozen power companies to find out if his bosses should take a $100 million gamble.

Asking executives "eyeball-to-eyeball" about their future generating capacity needs, he wanted to know just how serious utilities were about building a new nuclear power plant in the United States for the first time in three decades.

"I was surprised at the consistency of the answers," Ganthner, a Lynchburg, Va.-based senior executive for the French reactor manufacturer, Framatome, said in an interview.

Based on what he found, AREVA, Framatome's parent company, is now investing $100 million on U.S. marketing and to get a design certificate from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its newest reactor, one already being built in Finland.

It may be a long shot. Two other manufacturers, Westinghouse and General Electric, have a head start. But the French company's decision to make it a three-way race demonstrates the resurgent interest in nuclear power in the United States, where no new reactor has been ordered since 1973.

The 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, followed by the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine ended any U.S. interest in more reactors beyond those already under construction.

Recently a consortium of eight U.S. utilities, called NuStart, announced potential sites where one or more of its members might put a new reactor. Two other American utilities are pursuing separate licensing efforts.

While no one has yet committed to construction, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman recently told an industry group, "If all goes well, we could see new plants on line by 2014."

Framatome-built pressurized water reactor
owned by E.ON Kernkraft GmbH, Isar-
Amperwerke AG. (AREVA)

Westinghouse Electric Co., a subsidiary of the British company BNFL, already has approval from the NRC for its new 1,000 megawatt AP1000 reactor design and General Electric will submit an application for its 1,500 megawatt ESBWR reactor later this year.

Both companies are working hard to line up customers, convinced that electricity demand a decade from now will require more large power plants, and that some will be nuclear.

"We think everything is heading in absolutely the right direction," says Vaughn Gilbert, a Westinghouse spokesman. "Nuclear has to be part of the energy picture. We expect the U.S. market will come back and eventually be robust."

The new reactors are described as "evolutionary" advancements over the 103 now in operation in 31 states. They basically use the same technology, but with fewer valves, pipes and pumps, and -- in the case of Westinghouse and GE -- passive safety systems that, if needed, can shut the reactor down and pour in cooling water without human intervention.

Other modifications such as setting the radioactive fuel lower into the ground were added in response to post-Sept. 11 worries about terrorism.

President Bush has pushed nuclear power as a way to take the pressure off fossil fuels -- oil, natural gas and coal.

While the United States gets 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, France meets 78 percent of its electricity needs with nuclear power.

Even some environmentalists have abandoned their opposition to nuclear power, arguing it is needed to address climate change because reactors do not produce so-called "greenhouse" gases as do fossil fuels. Other environmentalists are not convinced, citing worries about reactor waste and safety.

At the heart of the resurgent interest in nuclear power are the high cost of competing energy sources and improved reactor efficiency. A University of Chicago study concluded that a new fleet of reactors can be expected to produce power as cheaply as coal and natural gas, given's today's prices.

"People are getting comfortable with nuclear," Paul Dabber, a vice president for mergers and acquisitions at J.P. Morgan, told a conference on new reactor technology in February. One reason is that existing nuclear power plants have been making profits, he said.

Wall Street has long been skeptical about committing $2 billion or more to a new nuclear reactor and investors still consider such a venture risky unless the government provides tax breaks or other incentives to get the first group of reactors started.

Without some government help, no new reactors are likely to be built before 2025, says the Energy Information Agency, the government's energy statistical agency.

Congress is considering loan guarantees for new-design reactors, and lawmakers are expected to come up with other tax breaks to stoke investor interest. But a Bush proposal to provide "risk insurance" to protect the industry against licensing or legal delays has attracted little interest on Capitol Hill.

A recent anti-nuke protest (AP)

No one has yet committed to building a new reactor and despite the optimistic rhetoric, utilities are moving toward that decision cautiously.

A premature pronouncement about a new reactor could rattle investors and depress a utility's stock, industry experts say. Utilities and investors still remember the pitfalls of long licensing delays that doubled and tripled the cost of many reactors in the 1980s. In one of the biggest cost overruns, the proposed twin-reactor Seabrook plant in New Hampshire was projected to cost $850 million in 1976 and be finished in six years, but ended up costing $7 billion when completed in 1990 even though the second reactor was canceled.

"My company lost $5 billion to $10 billion on the last round of nuclear construction," Exelon chairman John Rowe said in a recent speech, explaining why he is approaching new reactor investments with caution.

Rowe, whose Chicago-based utility company owns 17 nuclear reactors, more plants than any other utility, also says his company won't invest in a new plant until there is more progress in dealing with reactor waste. A proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has had a string of setbacks and the date for its completion is optimistically put at 2012.

Still, Exelon and two other utilities, Dominion and Entergy, have separately applied to the NRC for early site permits for reactors with the idea of shortening the licensing process if a decision is made to go ahead with one.

"There is a growing recognition that if we are going to meet our future need for electric energy and also reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases ... we simply must build the next generation of advanced nuclear energy plants," said Marilyn Kray, an Exelon vice president and head of the NuStart consortium.

In an interview, she said the goal is to preserve the nuclear option by testing the NRC's streamlined licensing process.

Also testing the water is Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, N.C., which, moving on its own, is talking about possibly having a new reactor operating by 2014. Dominion, based in Virginia, also is making plans to seek an NRC reactor construction permit. Neither company has made a final decision.

The Energy Department is paying half the cost of the various initial licensing efforts, including an expected $46 million next year.

"Adding nuclear capacity ... makes a lot of sense," says Henry "Brew" Barron, in charge of nuclear operations at Duke Power, a subsidiary of Duke Energy that serves 2 million customers in the Carolinas. By 2014, Duke will need at least one more large power plant to meet demand in one of the country's fastest growing regions.

Many other utilities around the country are facing similar electricity demands.

Once the logjam is broken with the first orders, the U.S. reactor market could become the world's second largest, after China, given expected growth in U.S. electricity demand and environmental and cost concerns about rival fossil fuels, says Andy White, president of GE Energy's nuclear business.

"We've probably never had a better situation," White said in an interview, predicting that 60 or more new reactors may be built in the United States over the next 20 to 30 years with several designs finding customers.

No Risk Nukes?

Yukon a-bomb test (LLNL)

London June 10, 2005 (BBC) - There is categorically no evidence that living near nuclear power stations increases the rate of childhood cancers, says a report. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment based its conclusions on data on 32,000 childhood cancer cases from 1969-93 in the UK.

Overall, children living within a 25km radius of a site were no more likely to get cancer than those living elsewhere.

However, there was a cluster of cases close to the Rosyth nuclear dockyard.

There were slightly more cases of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma within the immediate vicinity of the Rosyth site than was expected, which conflicts with previous studies of this nuclear installation.

The authors said there were many possible explanations for this other than radiation and recommended more research as soon as possible.

Past and the current data show similar clusters close to other nuclear (but non-power station) sites, such as Aldermaston, Burghfield and Harwell in the area of Berkshire and South Oxfordshire.

The latest research is the largest study so far looking at the cancer risk posed, if any, by power stations.

Professor Bryn Bridges, chairman of COMARE during the preparation of this, its 10th report, said: "We think this is as definitive a study as one can do.

"There is no evidence from this very large study that living within 25km of a nuclear generating station in Great Britain is associated with any increased risk of childhood cancer."

"We can give power stations a clean bill of health," said Professor Bridges.

Critics maintain power stations do pose a cancer risk.

Chris Busby of Green Audit, an environmental consultancy and review organization, said: "By looking at a 25k radius they are not dealing with the actual real world movement of radioactivity from power stations to people.

"The wind blows in particular directions and the materials are released into the environment in particular ways. Much of it ends up in the sea and the coastline. We have told them this. These radial studies are meaningless.

"Also, they should be looking at adult cancers, particularly female breast cancers, as well.


"Childhood leukemia is a rare disease and the numbers involved are going to be so small that it is much more difficult to get the levels of statistical significance that you need to see an effect."

But Professor Bridges said it was better to look at childhood cancers because children were more sensitive to the effects of radiation and they were less likely to have moved around a lot geographically, making it easier to check for any link.

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: "It is important to reassure the public that this research found no evidence of an excess of cancer cases around any of the nuclear power stations in the UK.

He said that although there was no evidence of a causal link for cancer clusters around nuclear sites, other than power stations, the department recognized it was an important issue.

"The department has an ongoing program of radiation protection research set up to address these issues," he said.

Cancer Research UK's Professor John Toy said: "We are extremely pleased that this report found no evidence for an excess number of cases of cancer in children who live near nuclear power stations.

"However, the excess incidence of certain childhood cancers near some types of nuclear installation sites remains a real worry.

[Right! Tell it to the Chernobyl survivors! Ed.]

93% of Americans Want New Energy Technologies
Yale University News Release

New Haven June 9, 2005 - A new Yale University research survey of 1,000 adults nationwide reveals that while Americans are deeply divided on many issues, they overwhelmingly believe that the United States is too dependent on imported oil.

The survey shows a vast majority of the public also wants to see government action to develop new "clean" energy sources, including solar and wind power as well as hydrogen cars.

92% of Americans say that they are worried about dependence on foreign oil

93% of Americans want government to develop new energy technologies and require auto industry to make cars and trucks that get better gas mileage

The results underscore Americans' deep concerns about the country's current energy policies, particularly the nation's dependence on imported oil. Fully 92 percent say this dependence is a serious problem, while 68 percent say it is a "very serious" problem.

Across all regions of the country and every demographic group, there is broad support for a new emphasis on finding alternative energy sources. Building more solar power facilities is considered a "good idea" by 90 percent of the public; 87 percent support expanded wind farms; and 86 percent want increased funding for renewable energy research.

According to Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, "This poll underscores the fact that Americans want not only energy independence but also to find ways to break the linkage between energy use and environmental harm, from local air pollution to global warming."

Results of the poll indicate that 93 percent of Americans say requiring the auto industry to make cars that get better gas mileage is a good idea. Just 6 percent say it is a bad idea. This sentiment varies little by political leaning, with 96 percent of Democrats and Independents and 86 percent of Republicans supporting the call for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

These findings come on the heels of Congress' rejection of a proposal to require sport utility vehicles and minivans to become more fuel-efficient and achieve the same gasoline mileage as passenger cars.

"This poll suggests that Washington is out of touch with the American people - Republicans, Democrats and Independents, young and old, men and women-even S.U.V. drivers-embrace investments in new energy technologies, including better gas mileage in vehicles," said Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which commissioned the survey.

The survey also revealed broad support for action to improve air and water quality but growing discomfort with "environmentalists." Likewise, the public's confidence in TV news as a source of environmental information has fallen sharply.

This survey is one element of a broader research project at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies focused on environmental attitudes and behavior. Funding for this project, directed by Associate Dean Dan Abbasi, is being provided by the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation and Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., which has been ranked as Fortune Magazine's "Most Admired" aerospace company based on criteria including social responsibility.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies by Global Strategy Group from May 15 to 22, 2005. The survey was conducted using professional phone interviewers. The nationwide sample was drawn from a random digit dial (RDD) process. Respondents were screened on the basis of age, i.e., to be over the age of 18. The survey has an overall margin of error of ±3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

The survey questions and full results can be found at the website for the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
UFO News!

Alien corpse at a Roswell Museum

Roswell UFO Festival

ALBUQUERQUE June 13, 2005 (AP) - They come in all shapes and sizes, these earthlings -- elaborately costumed or just curious, for a chance to take part in what's become an annual tradition in southern New Mexico: Roswell's UFO Festival, planned for July 1 to 4.

While some wander around in alien costumes and others defend their UFO research, the festival is generally aimed at providing food, entertainment and a little education.

It was 1947 when the so-called "Roswell Incident" drew attention to this desert town. A crash north of Roswell spawned decades of debate, which still continues: Was it merely a weather balloon, as the government claimed, or a UFO?

Event coordinator Julie Shuster said the main goal is for people to have a good time.

"If they learn something about the UFO phenomena or the Roswell Incident while they're here, then even better," she said.

Visitors can check out the UFO Museum and Research Center or special festival events, like a parade, concerts, pony rides for kids -- and a workshop on alien mind control techniques.

Hacker Looking for UFOs

Gary McKinnon (AP)

LONDON June 11, 2005 (AFP) - He's alleged to be the biggest military computer hacker of all time, but the Briton facing extradition to the United States on charges of breaking into high-security US military computers was looking for no more than proof that UFOs really do exist, his lawyer says.

Gary McKinnon, arrested in London on Tuesday, had been indicted in 2002 on eight counts of computer-related crime in 14 states by a US federal grand jury.

He faces extradition on allegations he broke into 53 US military and NASA computers between February 2001 and February 2002.

"Mr McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time," said Paul McNulty, a US district attorney in the state of Virginia.

Downloading sensitive information, making the US military district of Washington "inoperable," deleting about 1,300 user accounts and stealing 950 passwords are among the allegations he faces.

One count alleges that McKinnon- known as "Solo" online - obtained secrets which could have been "directly or indirectly useful to an enemy" of the United States.

Genre News: Nip/Tuck, Mr. Bill, Tobey Maguire, VHS Dies, Snowcap and More!
Nip/Tuck Stars Get Raise
By Nellie Andreeva

Walsh and McMahon play doctor in Nip/Tuck

LOS ANGELES June 13, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - The stars of FX's drama "Nip/Tuck" are getting bonuses just in time for the start of production on the Golden Globe-winning series' third season.

Sources said Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh have each received a paycheck in the $280,000-$320,000 range, with FX providing most of the money and producer Warner Bros. Television contributing a small portion.

Both FX and WBTV declined comment on the matter Friday, while the actors' reps either declined comment or didn't return calls. Production on the third season begins Monday.

Talks between the actors, who are locked under multiyear deals, the network and the studio about a possible salary bump had been going on for months.

The lump-sum bonuses would beef up McMahon and Walsh's per-episode fees to more than $60,000, according to sources. Co-star Joely Richardson is also said to have received a bonus going into the third season, which starts production today.

While actors sign long-term series deals when they are cast in pilots, it is customary for the cast members on a hit show to renegotiate their deals after the first two seasons and receive a salary increase.

Getting bonus checks instead of per-episode fee bump increases is more unusual.

Most recently, the principal cast members of ABC's red-hot freshman dramedy "Desperate Housewives" were each given a bonus reported to be about $250,000 four months into the run of the show.

Separately, Rhona Mitra is joining the cast of "Nip/Tuck" as a recurring character.

Details about her character are being kept under wraps, but sources said Mitra will play a gorgeous and tough New York detective who comes to Miami to investigate the attack against Dr. Christian Troy (McMahon).

Mitra most recently co-starred as Tara Wilson on the final season of David E. Kelley's legal drama for ABC "The Practice" and the first season of its spinoff, "Boston Legal."

Nip/Tuck Official -

Mr. Bill Baulks at Big Oil
Associated Press Writer

Oh, no! Not the Big Oil!

NEW ORLEANS June 10, 2005 (AP) - "Saturday Night Live" icon Mr. Bill is saying a resounding "Nooooo!" to further appearances in a public awareness campaign aimed at saving Louisiana's wetlands.

In recent months state residents have watched as Mr. Bill, the animated clay character famous for his 1970s appearances on the comedy show, lent a hand to ads for the America's Wetland campaign.

But now Mr. Bill's creator, Walter Williams, is yanking his character from the campaign, saying he believes it is selling out to big oil companies — the very people accused of having a hand in destroying wetlands in the first place.

Williams said Shell Oil Co. is using the campaign — to which the company donated $800,000 — as a public relations move to masquerade as a green-friendly business. The last straw, he said, came when TV spots featuring Mr. Bill showed up in Shell-sponsored kiosks at tourist centers throughout Louisiana.

"If they had taken the Shell stickers and logos off that would have been fine," Williams said.

Darci Sinclair, a Shell spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company respects Williams' "right to remove his property from the America's Wetland educational kiosks" and that Shell will "continue its strong partnership" with the wetland campaign.

The campaign was kicked off two years ago by former Gov. Mike Foster to sell Americans on the idea that Louisiana's wetlands need billions of dollars in federal help.

Look out, Mr. Bill!

Levees, canals, and oil and gas exploration have been blamed for causing Louisiana to lose 1,900 square miles of wetlands — roughly the area of Delaware — since the 1930s. Advocates say another 700 square miles could disappear unless something is done.

The campaign and its slogan — "America's Wetland: Keep It Alive!" — have taken on a host of sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Tabasco and ConocoPhillips. Public and private money has paid for a documentary, brochures, TV spots and bracelets.

Even though Mr. Bill is pulling out, Williams said the campaign can still use previously produced ads as public service announcements on TV and as educational tools.

Mr. Bill Official -

Tobey Maguire Goes Mute
By Liza Foreman

Tobey Maguire

LOS ANGELES June 13, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Tobey Maguire is in negotiations to star in "Quiet Type," a romantic comedy about an unassuming mute from a small town who moves to New York to pursue his dreams of conducting an orchestra.

Maguire would also produce the New Line project with "Sideways" producer Michael London. New Line acquired the property in 2002 as a spec script from writer Rob Perez.

"It's a light, magical fable about a man able to get along without speaking because he doesn't need to, and what happens when he goes to the noisiest city on Earth, where everyone communicates by yelling and screaming," London said.

"Metaphorically, it's about what it means to get by in a world with no voice when everyone has one; everyone feels at times like they don't have a voice."

Adding a twist to the story and a special draw for Maguire, the character remains mute throughout the film.

He will most likely shoot the film after he finishes "Spider-Man 3," which is scheduled for a summer 2007 release. This fall, he is due to shoot the Steven Soderbergh-helmed "The Good German" in which he plays a seemingly innocent soldier drawn into a murder mystery. He also recently signed on to star in and produce an adaptation of the Isaac Adamson novel "Tokyo Suckerpunch" for Columbia Pictures.

London recently completed filming the romantic comedy "The Family Stone" for Fox 2000 and "The Illusionist," which stars Edward Norton as a magician who manages to secure the love of a woman above his standing.

Wheelies Win Better Movie Seats
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON June 8, 2005 (AP) - Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest movie theater chain, has agreed to alter nearly 1,000 stadium-style auditoriums so people in wheelchairs have better views, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Those in wheelchairs are often left to crane
their necks awkwardly from the less-desirable
front rows.

In addition, all new Regal theaters will be designed with wheelchair seating in the middle or farther back.

The terms are part of a settlement of a 4 1/2-year-old lawsuit alleging the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to give the disabled seating comparable to the general public.

Stadium-riser seating gives unobstructed views to most everyone in the theater. Critics, however, complain that those in wheelchairs are often left to crane their necks awkwardly from the less-desirable front rows.

"Opening everyday activities like a night at a movie theater to persons with disabilities is a core goal" of the landmark disabilities law, Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta said.

Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn., operates 6,273 auditoriums in 40 states under the Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres banners. About 3,500 have stadium-style seating.

The suit, filed against Hoyt Cinemas Corp. in December 2000, was one of several against movie chains begun by the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. Regal acquired most Hoyts theaters last year.

The company estimates it will spent $15 million to make changes, which must be done within five years.

Regal senior vice president Randy Smith said the company was pleased "to resolve all of our outstanding ADA claims with the government."

The Supreme Court last year left undisturbed lower court rulings against Regal and the Cinemark USA chain. Cinemark resolved its suit in November, agreeing to modifications in 81 theaters.

A suit against National Amusements Inc. is scheduled for trial in November.

A dozen different courts have dealt with suits over theater seating.

The National Association of Theatre Owners complained to the Supreme Court that the Justice Department "chose to sit on its hands while thousands of stadium-style movie theater auditoria were constructed based upon the reasonable and universal understanding among design professionals" that wheelchair patrons only had to be given an unobstructed view.

Justice Department ADA page -

Nielsen Claims More Watchers

NEW YORK June 9, 2005 (AP) - New electronic gadgets introduced by Nielsen Media Research to track television viewing show that more people — men in particular — are watching more television than measured under the old paper diary system.

Each of the four markets where the so-called people meters have been introduced showed an increase in the number of people watching television in May 2005 compared with May 2004, Nielsen said.

The biggest increase was men between
the ages of 18 and 49

The new local-TV ratings system, which replaces a written paper-diary system with a remote-control-like device, showed an 18.6 percent in TV viewing in San Francisco, followed by a 9.1 percent gain in New York, 1.4 percent in Chicago and 0.5 percent in Los Angeles.

Among TV watchers, the demographic that saw the biggest increase was men between the ages of 18 and 49, an audience that advertisers pay a premium to reach.

San Francisco saw a 31.3 percent jump in such viewers, while Chicago gained 16.3 percent, New York rose 12.7 percent and Los Angeles increased 7.5 percent, according to Nielsen, a unit of Dutch market research company VNU N.V.

The new meters electronically record the TV viewing of all household members on a continuously, allowing Nielsen to capture lower-rated channels that don't always receive ratings under the old diary system.

The latest people-meter data also showed that TV watchers are tuning in to two-thirds more channels than was previously recorded in diaries.

The new system, which is being introduced in 10 major markets by 2006, came under fire as it started rolling out last year from a number of media companies who said it undercounted black and Hispanic viewers.

Nielsen has countered that all TV shows, not just programs geared to minorities, have had their ratings affected when measured by the new electronic technology.

Wal-Mart Axes VHS Tapes
By Thomas K. Arnold and Kurt Indvik

LOS ANGELES June 13, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - The world's biggest retailer is getting ready to say goodbye to VHS.

Industry sources said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will be out of the videocassette business soon after the 2005 holiday season.

In the mega-chain's next September "reset" -- a thrice-yearly process in which video department planograms are redrawn and between 20%-40% of titles are replaced -- the company will realign its chainwide VHS inventory based on customer demand.

"In some markets, there will be more (VHS), in some markets there will be less," according to one high-ranking studio source who asked not to be named.

At a subsequent reset in February, VHS most likely will be cut out, according to the source. After February, "it is unlikely there will be any VHS left in any Wal-Mart store," the source said. There are more than 3,600 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S.

Wal-Mart did not return calls seeking comment. However, calls to electronics departments at several Wal-Mart stores across the country seemed to confirm the flight from VHS. An employee in Oregon said his store recently had cut back inventory by 50% and said more reductions are on the way. An employee in Texas said the goal there was to eliminate VHS by year's end.

Last month, it was reported that Target Stores is joining the flight from VHS. Industry sources said the retailer is phasing out VHS and will complete the transition in all of its 1,330 locations by the beginning of September. Best Buy and Circuit City already have exited the VHS business.

Noting the decline of VHS in Target and other major chains, analyst Dennis McAlpine of McAlpine and Associates sees Wal-Mart's move as the latest and biggest nail in the videocassette coffin.

"At some point you expect there would be a consolidation of the decline in the VHS business, and that's what you're seeing here," he said. Wal-Mart's actions will only precipitate greater flight from VHS, and the conversion from VHS to DVD "will be over soon," McAlpine said.

With the volume of DVD releases putting pressure on retail shelf space, getting rid of VHS to free up space for DVD is good for Wal-Mart and its customers, McAlpine said.

"There's no reason to have VHS out there anymore," he said.

By Chris Marlowe

LOS ANGELES June 13, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Snocap, the content management system for music distributed via peer-to-peer networks, is set to open its digital registry Monday.

Chief strategy officer Shawn Fanning described Snocap as a music registry that would serve as a clearinghouse for files that consumers are trading among themselves.

Each song has its digital "fingerprint" determined and entered into a database. Then when users share a song, Snocap checks the database for the associated copyright information and enforces whatever usage rules the owner has assigned. This will allow music retailers and P2P networks to offer a massive library of legal content without having to maintain relationships with each individual copyright holder, according to Fanning.

Anyone who controls music copyrights can upload their content into the digital registry and define usage rules on a global basis starting today.

"The idea is to make the system available for everyone -- independent artists, garage bands and others who are out there and whose music is probably already on P2P," said Snocap chief operating officer Ali Aydar.

"One of the goals Snocap has is to help get as much content into the digital marketplace as possible."

Snocap's system depends on copyright owners registering their songs and establishing what usage rules will be applied. "The rights holder has unlimited flexibility," Aydar said, explaining that the variables include burning and transferring options, pricing and window of availability.

Owners also can completely block their songs from being traded, he added.

"A traditional P2P network looks at your music folder and just blindly shares it all," Aydar said. "In a Snocap environment, the client asks Snocap what are the business rules that are associated with this work, if any."

Major labels began the registration and uploading process in 2004, starting with Universal Music Group.

It has since been joined by Sony BMG Music Group and EMI along with leading independent labels and aggregators including TVT Records, Ryko Group, Artemis Records/Sheridan Square Entertainment, Nettwerk Records and others. Discussions are under way with Warner Music Group, the last major label holdout, Aydar said.

"Snocap's core mission is to enable a world where fans have a nearly infinite pool of digital music and a variety of services to choose from," Aydar said. "In the long term, the digital registry is critical to bringing the deep, diverse and often obscure music selection that consumers demand into an authorized environment."

Registrants get a sophisticated software application for managing their content, and the nature of the application means any changes they make take effect all over the world within minutes.

Snocap also monitors which unregistered songs people attempt to share and has a system for alerting likely owners, thereby encouraging more tracks to be registered.

Founded in 2002 by Napster Svengali Fanning, Jordan Mendelson and Ron Conway, Snocap is backed by Conway, Morgenthaler Ventures and WaldenVC.

[Snocap comes as a very limited free service or in various expensive plans, of course. Ed.]

Snocap -

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