Tsunami Oddities!
Oregon Tsunami Overdue?
The Day The Earth Wobbled!
Prozac, Midseason TV & More!
Tsunami Oddities: Tribal People Knew Better!
eXoNews is horrified and saddened by the terrible loss of human life in what is now being tagged the Asian Tsunami of 2004.

Nonetheless, there are a few stories about this catastrophe that you may not have seen on TV.

Some of them seem to have an underlying theme: perhaps much of the loss was not due to a lack of technology - the so-called tsunami advance warning systems that we are only now hearing about -  but because a more basic understanding of the ways of nature have been lost with the advent of technocracy.

While we bury and mourn those who lost their lives, perhaps we should also be seeking to understand the reasons that many of the most "primitive" people in the area struck survived.

And why so few wild surface animals seem to have been affected by what is the most disastrous tidal wave in modern memory. Ed.

Tribal People Escaped Tsunami

Sea Gypsies Avoided Tsunami

Sea gypsies in Thailand (Phuket Magazine)

BANGKOK Thailand January 1, 2005 (AP) - Knowledge of the ocean and its currents passed down from generation to generation of a group of Thai fishermen known as the Morgan sea gypsies saved an entire village from the Asian tsunami, a newspaper said Saturday.

By the time killer waves crashed over southern Thailand last Sunday the entire 181 population of their fishing village had fled to a temple in the mountains of South Surin Island, English language Thai daily The Nation reported.

"The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared," 65-year-old village chief Sarmao Kathalay told the paper.

So while in some places along the southern coast, Thais headed to the beach when the sea drained out of beaches — the first sign of the impending tsunami — to pick up fish left flapping on the sand, the gypsies headed for the hills.

Few people in Thailand have a closer relationship with the sea than the Morgan sea gypsies, who spend each monsoon season on their boats plying the waters of the Andaman Sea from India to Indonesia and back to Thailand.

Between April and December, they live in shelters on the shore surviving by catching shrimp and spear fishing. At boat launching festivals each May, they ask the sea for forgiveness.

Andaman and Nicobar Islanders Not Affected By Tsunami
By Suresh Seshadri

PORT BLAIR India December 30, 2004 (Reuters) - India's dwindling aboriginal population in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands is safe as most lived in jungles, far away from the coast hit by a devastating tsunami, a coast guard official said on Thursday.

Stone Age tribal people were safe

Experts had feared that some Stone Age tribal people, who have been living on the far-flung archipelago for thousands of years, could be on the verge of extinction after the killer waves that have killed more than 120,000 people across Asia.

"There have been several media reports talking about a threat to the aborigines, indigenous people and tribals of the islands," Vice Admiral Arun Kumar Singh, director-general of the Coast Guard, which is involved in rescue operations, told reporters.

"I have personally verified the extent of this claim and let me tell you that it is absolutely rubbish."

The Andaman and Nicobar group is a cluster of more than 550 islands, of which only about three dozen are inhabited.

The island chain is home to about six tribes of Mongoloid and Negrito origin. Many of the indigenous people are semi-nomadic and subsist on hunting with spears, bows and arrows as well as fishing and gathering fruit and roots. They still cover themselves with tree bark or leaves.

Singh said the Nicobarese, the largest tribal group that lives on Car Nicobar and adjoining islands, bore the brunt of the waves, but the exact death toll was not known.

Andaman and Nicobar islands

Coast Guard surveys showed the rest of the tribes such as the Shompen, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese had escaped either because they lived in the jungles far from the coast or because their islands were barely touched by the waves.

"In the Middle Andaman the Jarawa tribes are there and there has not been a single report of casualty. The Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island, which some reports say have been completely wiped out, are all very much there," Singh said.

More than 13,000 people are dead or are feared to have died in India from the tsunami, but rescuers are still struggling to assess the toll in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Officials said more than 6,000 people were feared dead in the island chain alone, which is closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than the Indian mainland and is home to more than 350,000 people.

Around 30,000 of the islands' total population is tribal, the majority Nicobarese.

The rest are smaller groups. Some like the Great Andamanese are already down to 30 people while others like the Shompen number between 200-250.

The number of the Onge, one of the most primitive tribes, has fallen in past decades to about 100. There are about 200 Sentinelese, probably one of the world's only surviving Paleolithic people, who are generally hostile to outsiders.

"Our helicopter pilot who flew over the island told me that he has seen several groups of Sentinelese on the beach and that when he dropped food packets they threw stones at the helicopter."

6th Sense Saved Animals from Tsunami
By Ed Stoddard

No elephants among the dead. (AFP)

JOHANNESBURG December 30, 2004 (Reuters) - Wild animals seem to have escaped the Indian Ocean tsunami, adding weight to notions they possess a "sixth sense" for disasters, experts said Thursday.

Sri Lankan wildlife officials have said the giant waves that killed over 24,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's coast seemingly missed wild beasts, with no dead animals found.

"No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit. I think animals can sense disaster. They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening," H.D. Ratnayake, deputy director of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Department, said Wednesday.

The waves washed floodwaters up to 2 miles inland at Yala National Park in the ravaged southeast, Sri Lanka's biggest wildlife reserve and home to hundreds of wild elephants and several leopards.

"There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about dogs barking or birds migrating before volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. But it has not been proven," said Matthew van Lierop, an animal behavior specialist at Johannesburg Zoo.

Leopards - an animal "sixth sense" may have
been at work in Sri Lanka (AFP)

"There have been no specific studies because you can't really test it in a lab or field setting," he told Reuters.

Other authorities concurred with this assessment.

"Wildlife seem to be able to pick up certain phenomenon, especially birds ... there are many reports of birds detecting impending disasters," said Clive Walker, who has written several books on African wildlife.

Animals certainly rely on the known senses such as smell or hearing to avoid danger such as predators.

The notion of an animal "sixth sense" -- or some other mythical power -- is an enduring one which the evidence on Sri Lanka's battered coast is likely to add to.

The Romans saw owls as omens of impending disaster and many ancient cultures viewed elephants as sacred animals endowed with special powers or attributes.

The tsunami was triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean Sunday. It killed tens of thousands of people in Asia and East Africa.

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Not So Happy New Year

An Indian woman sitting in the rubble of a fishing colony in Akkrapattai. At least 123,470 people are reported dead around southern Asia and as far away as Somalia on Africa's eastern coast, most killed by massive tsunamis that smashed coastlines after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia's coast last Sunday. The death toll in India is 9,067. (AFP/ Prakash Singh)

Oregon Tsunami Overdue?

NOAA map illustrating the result of a November 23,
1873 earthquake that produced a tsunami in the
Pacific. Each color band boundary represents a one
hour tsunami travel time increment. (NOAA)

University of Oregon News Release

EUGENE OR December 28, 2004 - Earthquake-caused tsunamis as severe as those that swept southeast Asia on Sunday have happened in the past off the Oregon coast, according to a University of Oregon geoscientist.

In fact, a tsunami caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred on Jan. 26, 1700, wiping out Oregon tribal villages in low-lying coastal estuaries and causing damage as far away as Japan. Ray Weldon, who researches and teaches about of geologic hazards, says he hopes coastal residents will be motivated to learn about Oregon's tsunami potential in light of the devastation along the coasts of nine Asian nations on the Indian Ocean.

Weldon is leading a team of scientists studying uplift along the coast and how it informs the size of future earthquakes and tsunamis.

He says a comparison of modern uplift rates in the Pacific Northwest to that predicted by models of past earthquakes--like that big one of 1700--reveals many similarities.

"This tells us that the subduction zone is accumulating strain for the next great earthquake," he says. Historically, such events tend to occur, on the average, every 300 to 500 years.

Damage from an undersea earthquake as large as the one that shook the Indian Ocean could span from Northern California to Vancouver, B.C. Weldon and his colleagues estimate that the resulting tsunami would add to the damage in the low-lying coastal part of the Pacific Northwest and extend beyond the region to as far away as Japan.

Their data corresponds with written records in Japan and Native American legends about the 1700 quake, which are consistent with other geological evidence.

"From northern California to Vancouver, B.C., the Native American stories tell of battles between gods along the coast, whales carried over the land and dropped, rivers becoming salty during the flood, and canoes thrown into trees," Weldon says.

The aftermath of a March 1964
tsunami in Cannon Beach, Oregon
after an earthquake in Alaska. The
debris is the remains of the 200 ft
Elk Creek Bridge. (Oregonian)

These stories, related by survivors who lived on or escaped to higher ground, describe the destruction of villages in tidal estuaries. The geologic record now includes widespread evidence of submerged coastal estuaries, marine fossils and sand deposits carried by the tsunami far up coastal rivers, and drowned coastal forests. Radiocarbon dating and tree ring analysis established that most of these forests were drowned in the winter of 1699–1700.

Weldon, who has lived in Indonesia and has relatives in Thailand, says last weekend's tragedy brings home the need for coastal residents and tourists to learn about and take precautions against tsunamis.

"For an earthquake as strong as the one that hit southeast Asia, the shaking at the Oregon coast would last for up to 90 seconds and be great enough to cause significant damage and loss of life," he says. "Most significantly, a tsunami will arrive at the coast as soon as minutes following the shaking to within a half-hour."

If a major earthquake occurs off the coast it is crucial to move immediately to higher ground, preferably at least 100 feet above sea level. Weldon warns against becoming "lulled into complacency" by small initial waves or by the sight of the water withdrawing as this can rapidly reverse – a feature of the deceptive behavior of the ocean during subduction earthquakes.

To view maps of Oregon communities at risk for tsunamis, go to http://sarvis.dogami.state.or.us/earthquakes/Coastal/Tsumaps.HTM

Links to more information about Oregon's tsunami warning system, mitigation efforts and details about historic earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest are available at the website for the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, http://www.oregongeology.com/earthquakes/Coastal/TsunamiIntro.htm

University of Oregon - http://www.uoregon.edu

Cluster Earthquake Imminent In Pacific Northwest?
Oregon State University News Release

CORVALLIS OR December 29, 2004 – The newest studies on the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of the Pacific Northwest have identified a "clustering" of great earthquakes of the type that would cause a major tsunami, yielding a historical record with two distinct implications - one that's good, the other not.

According to scientists at Oregon State University, this subduction zone has just experienced a cluster of four massive earthquakes during the past 1600 years, and if historical trends continue, this cluster could be over and the zone may already have entered a long quiet period of 500 to 1,000 years, which appears to be common following a cluster of earthquake events.

Alternatively, the current cluster of earthquakes may have one or more events left in it – some clusters within the past 10,000 years have had clusters of up to five events – and within a cluster, the average time interval between earthquakes is 300 years. Since the last major Cascadia earthquake occurred in the year 1700, the next event may well be imminent.

"The Cascadia Subduction Zone has the longest recorded data about its earthquakes of any major fault in the world," said Chris Goldfinger, an associate professor of marine geology at OSU and one of the leading experts on this fault zone. "So we know quite a bit about the periodicity of this fault zone and what to expect. But the key point we don't know is whether the current cluster of earthquake activity is over yet, or does it have another event left in it."

The two most recent major earthquakes on this fault occurred in the year 1700 and approximately the year 1500, Goldfinger said. Those two events were only 200 years apart, and it's now been 305 years since the last one. From this perspective, there's some reason to believe the next major earthquake could happen soon.

As the death toll and catastrophic destruction from the East Asia earthquake of last Monday continues to mount, more and more attention is turning to the local version of that geologic setting – the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

According to Goldfinger, there are only two places in the United States with active subduction zones, or major areas where one of the Earth's great plates are being subducted, or forced underneath the other. One is in Alaska, the site of the great earthquake of 1964. The other is the Cascadia zone, a 600-mile long fault zone that runs from Cape Mendocino in California to Vancouver Island in southern British Columbia.

Major studies have been done on this fault zone, many of them at OSU, and they have identified 19-21 major earthquake events during the past 10,000 years. During at least 17 of these events, the entire fault zone appears to have ruptured at once, causing an earthquake around magnitude 9, and major tsunamis.

"There's some variation in intensity, the last event in 1700 appeared to be about average," Goldfinger said. "To track these events we use radiocarbon dating of deposits of sand called turbidites, which come from marine landslides. These deep-sea cores give us a pretty accurate picture of when and where an earthquake event happened."

According to Goldfinger, there are remarkable geologic parallels between what just happened in East Asia and what could happen in the Pacific Northwest. The Asian event happened where the India plate was being subducted beneath the Burma microplate, and it ruptured – for the first time since 1833 - along a 600-mile front that is just about the same length as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

That earthquake happened as the Indian plate moved towards the northeast beneath Asia, just like the Juan de Fuca plate is in the Pacific Northwest before it disappears beneath the North American plate.

What happened in Asia may give a vivid demonstration of the geologic future of the Pacific Northwest. For hundreds of years, these subduction zone plates remain locked, releasing little of their tension. The plate which is being subducted is forced down, while the plate above bulges upwards. Then, in a few minutes of violence every few centuries, the forces are released. The upper plate moves seaward, and a massive tsunami can be produced along with catastrophic destruction from earthquake shaking.

"In the case of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, you could have an area of ocean sea floor that's 50 miles wide and 500-600 miles long suddenly snap back up, causing a huge tsunami," Goldfinger said. "At the same time, we could expect some parts of the upper, or North American plate to sink one to two meters. These are massive tectonic events. Subduction zones produce the most powerful earthquakes and tsunamis in the world."

The question, Goldfinger says, is not whether or not the Cascadia Subduction Zone will break again. It's when. And that's where the study of past events may shed light on the present.

Following are the earthquake events on this fault zone during the past 9,800 years:

  • Oldest recorded earthquake, 9,800 years before present 800 year gap with no major earthquakes
  • Three earthquake events, 8,300 to 9,000 years before present 700 year gap with no major earthquakes
  • Five earthquake events, 5,700 to 7,600 years before present 1000 year gap with no major earthquakes
  • Two earthquake events, 3,900 to 4,700 years before present 500 year gap with no major earthquakes
  • Three earthquake events, 2,500 to 3,400 years before present 700 to 900 year gap with no major earthquakes
  • Four earthquake events from 1600 years before present to today

"We're going to continue to study the geology of these events and identify the patterns and likelihood of future events as best we can," Goldfinger said. "A few things are clear. There are clusters of earthquake events on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and there are big gaps. And we're either in a cluster right now or at the end of one."

"Whether the current cluster is over yet, we just don't know," he said. "One possibility is that we could be done with this cluster and looking at a period of many hundreds of years before the next earthquake."

"The other distinct possibility is we could still be in a cluster of events. If that's the case, the average time interval between earthquakes within a cluster is already up. We would be due just about any day."

Oregon State University - http://www.orst.edu

All Animal Experiments Inhumane!

Routine procedures are terrifying
for animals

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

WASHINGTON December 28, 2004 - Mice, rabbits, rats, beagles, geese, and other animals all show measurable physiological stress responses to routine laboratory procedures that have been up until now viewed as relatively benign.

The findings come in a new report published in Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science, based on an extensive review of the scientific literature by ethologist Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

For example, a mouse who is picked up and briefly held experiences several physiological reactions.

As stress-response hormones flood the bloodstream, the mouse exhibits a racing pulse and a spike in blood pressure. These symptoms can persist for up to an hour after each event. Immune response is also affected. In rats and mice, the growth of tumors is strongly influenced by how much the animals are handled.

Dr. Balcombe's paper appears in the journal's current issue, Autumn 2004, available mid-December.

Until now, humane concerns focused mainly on the experiments themselves. The new findings suggest that routine procedures, such as blood draws and use of stomach tubes, are terrifying for animals.

"In essence, there is no such thing as a humane animal experiment," says Dr. Balcombe. "Fear or panic ensues when the animal is touched or stuck with a needle."

The paper, a review of 80 previously published studies, is titled, "Laboratory Routines Cause Animal Stress," and focuses on three routine procedures: handling, blood collection and force-feeding. Independent of the invasive experiments themselves, these daily routines can cause an animal to experience elevated bloodstream concentrations of corticosterone, prolactin, glucose, and epinephrine, all indicators of stress. Impaired immune response has also been recorded in animals after anxiety-producing contact with lab personnel.

"Research on tumor development, immune function, endocrine and cardiovascular disorders, neoplasms, developmental defects, and psychological phenomena are particularly vulnerable to data being contaminated by animals' stress effects," notes Dr. Balcombe.

Dr. Balcombe's study follows closely a recent paper in the British Medical Journal, titled "Where Is the Evidence that Animal Research Benefits Humans?" The authors found that in many cases trials on humans were conducted concurrently with the animal studies and in other instances, clinical trials went ahead despite evidence of harm from the animal studies.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - http://www.pcrm.org

The Day The Earth Wobbled!

LOS ANGELES December 28, 2004 (Reuters) - The deadly Asian earthquake may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation -- shortening days by a fraction of a second -- and caused the planet to wobble on its axis, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday.

Richard Gross, a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, theorized that a shift of mass toward the Earth's center during the quake on Sunday caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds, or 3 millionths of a second, faster and to tilt about an inch on its axis.

When one huge tectonic plate beneath the Indian Ocean was forced below the edge of another "it had the effect of making the Earth more compact and spinning faster," Gross said.

Gross said changes predicted by his model probably are too minuscule to be detected by a global positioning satellite network that routinely measures changes in Earth's spin, but said the data may reveal a slight wobble.

The Earth's poles travel a circular path that normally varies by about 33 feet, so an added wobble of an inch is unlikely to cause long-term effects, he said.

"That continual motion is just used to changing," Gross said. "The rotation is not actually that precise. The Earth does slow down and change its rate of rotation."

When those tiny variations accumulate, planetary scientists must add a "leap second" to the end of a year, something that has not been done in many years, Gross said.

Scientists have long theorized that changes on the Earth's surface such as tide and groundwater shifts and weather could affect its spin but they have not had precise measurements to prove it, Caltech seismologist Hiroo Kanamori said.

"Even for a very large event, the effect is very small," Kanamori said. "It's very difficult to change the rotation rate substantially."

House Dust Hides Dangerous PBDEs!
National Institute of Standards and Technology News Release

Magnified house dust

December 29, 2004 - Common house dust may be an important source of a potentially dangerous class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), according to an exploratory study by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recent studies by others have found that PBDEs have been accumulating in human blood, fat tissue and breast milk.

PBDEs have been widely used in consumer products for years because they are effective flame retardants, greatly increasing the fire safety of products ranging from carpeting and cushions to televisions, computers and coffee makers.

In recent years, however, concerns have grown with evidence that PBDE concentrations are increasing rapidly both in the environment and in human tissues and body fluids. Toxicological data on PBDEs is still limited, but the compounds have been implicated in developmental, reproductive, neurotoxicity and thyroid effects in rats, mice and fish, and may be carcinogenic. Researchers in Europe and the United States found concentrations of PBDEs higher in Americans than in Europeans, although it is not known if these levels affect human health.

Some studies have suggested that people accumulate PBDEs through diet (similar to polychlorinated biphyenyls or PCBs), however, diet alone does not seem to explain the high levels of PBDEs that have been measured in human breast milk and serum. According to the new NIST/EPA study, house dust and the home environment are likely candidates for other sources of exposure.

A survey of 17 homes in the Washington, D.C., and Charleston, S.C., areas found high concentrations of PBDEs in household dust, ranging from 700 to 30,100 nanograms per gram. Researchers analyzed both dust from floors and clothes dryer lint for 22 variants of commercial PBDEs and found PBDEs in every sample. Interestingly, there was little correlation between PBDE levels and the age of the dwelling or the number of foam cushions or appliances, but smaller dwellings tended towards higher concentrations of the PBDEs commonly used in high-impact polystyrene for TV and computer casings.

Although the new study is limited, say researchers, it highlights the need to study house dust as the primary source of PBDE exposure. In particular, the authors note that small children are more at risk than adults to dust exposures since they are more prone to putting dusty hands and toys in their mouths.

NIST - http://www.nist.gov

Prozac Linked to Suicide and Violence!
BMJ-British Medical Journal News Release

December 30, 2004 - The BMJ has turned over confidential drug company documents that went missing from a 10 year old murder case to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review.

The documents, which were sent to the BMJ by an anonymous source, appear to suggest a link between the drug fluoxetine (Prozac), made by Eli Lilly, and suicide attempts and violence. They also suggest that Eli Lilly officials were aware in the 1980s that fluoxetine had troubling side effects and sought to minimize their likely negative effect on prescribing.

The documents reportedly went missing during the case of Joseph Wesbecker in 1994, who killed eight people at his workplace in 1989, while taking fluoxetine. He then shot and killed himself.

In 1994, some of the relatives of the victims brought a civil suit against Eli Lilly, alleging that the company had known about the side effects of fluoxetine for years (including the fact that it might increase violence). The company won the case, but was later forced to admit that it had made a secret settlement with the plaintiffs during the trial, which meant that the verdict was invalid.

One of the documents, dated November 1988, reports that in clinical trials fluoxetine can cause behavioral disturbances. The FDA recently issued a warning that antidepressants can cause stimulatory side effects such as agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, and aggressiveness.

These documents provide "the missing link" between the recent FDA advice and what Lilly scientists knew 16 years ago, says Harvard psychiatrist Dr Joseph Glenmullen.

Dr Richard Kalpit, the FDA clinical reviewer who approved fluoxetine, said he was not given the Lilly data. "These data are very important. If this report was done by Lilly or for Lilly, it was their responsibility to report it to us and to publish it."

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (Democrat, New York), who is currently reviewing the documents to determine whether Lilly withheld data from the public and the FDA, said: "This case demonstrates the need for Congress to mandate the complete disclosure of all clinical studies for FDA approved drugs so that patients and their doctors, not the drug companies, decide whether the benefits of taking a certain medicine outweigh the risks."

Lilly has defended their drug saying, "Prozac has helped to significantly improve millions of lives. It is one of the most studied drugs in the history of medicine, and has been prescribed for more than 50 million people worldwide. The safety and efficiency of Prozac is well studied, well documented, and well established."

BMJ-British Medical Journal - http://www.bmj.com

Genre News: Midseason 2005, Medium, David Duchovny, Spamalot, Erica Durance, Adam Baldwin & More!
Midseason 2005: What's New?
By FLAtRich

January 2, 2005 (eXoNews) - Midseason time, boys and girls! As usual, the networks will be regurgitating lots of contest shows and other garbage you don't care about, but there are some new genre diamonds in the rough.

Lost continues, followed by another season of Alias (ABC)

ABC returns Alias to Wednesday nights at 9PM ET/PT, following the mega-hit Lost at 8PM ET/PT. Desperate Housewives and Boston Legal will return on Sundays.

CBS adds former Northern Exposure star Rob Morrow in a new series called Numb3rs on Sunday, January 23, 10PM ET/PT.

Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz in Numb3rs. (CBS)

The regular airtime for this one, if anyone can remember the trick spelling, will be Fridays at 10PM ET/PT.

Here's what CBS wants us to know about Numb3rs: "To help capture a serial rapist-turned-killer, FBI Special Agent Don Eppes recruits his genius brother Charlie, who uses a mathematical equation to identify the killer's point of origin by working back from the crime scene locations."

Morrow plays Don. Charlie is played by David Krumholtz.

The cast also includes TV vets Judd Hirsch, Sabrina Lloyd (Sliders), and Peter MacNicol.

24 returns Mondays. Don't miss any episodes! (Fox)

Fox has three notables ones listed. 24 returns Mondays at 9PM ET/PT for still another season of cliffhangers that some of us would rather watch on DVD later. Fox wants you to know that 24 received 20 Emmy nominations in its first two seasons and 7 Golden Globe nominations.

Otherwise it will be the same formula as last time, so don't miss one or you'll have to wait for the discs.

Point Pleasant - let's hope it floats (Fox)

Fox is also launching Point Pleasant, the season's most anticipated suspense series, which arrives Thursdays at 9 PM ET/PT. Point Pleasant is produced by Marti Noxon, who was Joss Whedon's right hand on Buffy for a while and wrote many really cool Buffy episodes (alternate reality Willow and Buffy Meets Dracula among them.) If Fox supports Point Pleasant with typical Fox deference to genre series, this show could be over in three episodes so watch it while you can.

Fox also lists something called Jonny Zero as a debut in the Friday 9PM ET/PT time slot. They spelled it that way to be cool, I guess. (Not. Why Johnny Can't Read, etc.).

Jonny Zero and crew. Needs a spellchecker? (Fox)

This one is helmed by West Wing's John Wells and John Doe's Mimi Leder, so there may be some hope. It sounds like Angel without vampires and stars somebody named Franky G as a guy who gets out of stir hoping to redeem himself.

According to Fox he "uses his criminal knowledge and his entrιe into New York's club scene to solve crimes. Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to force him to go undercover and bust his old friends..."

Is House abandoned? (Fox)

It is unclear whether Fox will continue House at 9 PM ET/PT Tuesdays. I found this show pretty good for a hospital slice and dice thing.

Hugh Laurie is great as Dr. Greg House, but the competition on Tuesdays is heavy. Fox jumped House around into different time slots all fall and that usually indicates a short series life in TVLand.

Medium's Patricia Arquette

NBC premieres Medium this Monday at 10 PM ET/PT, executive produced by Glenn Gordon Caron ("Moonlighting") and starring the always-wonderful movie star Patricia Arquette (David Lynch's Lost Highway, Stigmata).

Medium is based on the adventures of real-life medium Allison Dubois. NBC says: "Allison Dubois (Arquette) is a strong-willed young mother of three, a devoted wife and law student who begins to suspect that she can talk to dead people, see the future in her dreams and read people's thoughts."

Sounds a little familiar and NBC has fumbled previous voyages into the unknown (most recently The Others), but Arquette has big guns behind her.

Will Klingons save Enterprise? (UPN)

Kelsey "Mr. NBC" Grammer is also an executive producer on this one. Just to keep us guessing, a second episode of Medium is airing the same week on Thursday at 10 PM ET/PT.

The WB doesn't seem to have anything new coming up for mid-season.
Smallville returns, so that's fine with me. Charmed does too, but this may be their last season as the Power of Three is not what it used to be.

UPN is basically a one trick pony with only Enterprise this year.

The least successful Star Trek spin-off of all time has gone back to its roots to save face, promising an upcoming three-episode Klingon arc and more possible guesting by Brent Spiner (you remember him as Data.)

I watch Enterprise with great concern for the future of science fiction on network TV, but I do watch.

Charmed Official - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||156,00.html

Enterprise Official - http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ENT/index.html

Medium Spooked Arquette

Hollywood December 28, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Patricia Arquette, star of NBC's upcoming supernatural series Medium, told SCI FI Wire she was a little worried about taking on the job of portraying a real person, Allison Dubois, who says she has psychic abilities.

The series, based on Dubois' life, explores what happens when an average wife and mother begins to work with the police to help solve missing-persons and murder cases.

"Before we even shot the pilot," Arquette said in an interview, "I went out to meet her and said, 'Are you really ready for this? This is going to be very weird. Pretty quickly things are going to have to separate off from you. And I don't want you to have your feelings be hurt or have you upset if you call and say, "Me and [my husband] Joe didn't have that fight."' I'm not having that problem, because at a certain point they're going to have to go with dramatic license."

Arquette added, "Right away I said, 'Here's some aspects of your personality that I know right off the bat I'm going to change, just because for TV it will be clearer in some kind of way' or 'These are things that I want to experiment with.' Yeah, there's a fierce responsibility, but we had that conversation early on, and we knew what we were getting into here, I hope."

For Dubois, who says she has seen ghosts and asserts that she has been able to tap into the thoughts of the living since she was a child, talking to the dead isn't nearly as strange as watching her life being played out on television.

"Seeing my life on TV," Dubois said in a separate interview, "it was very profound for me when I watched the pilot for the first time, because I felt that I had this whole world inside of me that other people didn't understand, and to see it laid out in front of my eyes, I've never had to look at who I am before. In that respect, it was very moving to finally ... feel understood on many levels."

Medium premieres Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT and will air Mondays in that timeslot.

David Duchovny (Reuters)

Duchovny Does Late Late

LOS ANGELES December 30, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - Frequent talk-show guest and multi-time Emmy nominee David Duchovny will help kick off the Craig Ferguson era on "The Late Late Show" next week.

The "X-Files" star will be Ferguson's inaugural guest as he takes over the CBS talk show on Monday (Jan. 3). Other guests lined up for the week include Golden Globe nominees Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") and Julian McMahon ("Nip/Tuck"), "Two and a Half Men" star Jon Cryer and The Donnas.

Ferguson is taking over "The Late Late Show" from another Craig, Kilborn, who left the show last summer.

The Scottish-born actor/comedian, best known here for "The Drew Carey Show," won the job after two stints as a guest host in October and November.

Duchovny, a regular guest on the late-night chat shows, also took a guest turn behind "The Late Late Show" host's desk in the fall. He's considered a go-to guest for his deadpan wit and ability to banter with hosts on just about any subject.

One of his four career Emmy nominations came from a guest appearance on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" in 1996, in which he played a cockeyed version of himself who gave an uncomfortable amount of attention to Larry (Garry Shandling).

Spamalot Is Very, Very, Funny

WASHINGTON December 28, 2004 (AP) - Killer rabbits and a legless knight. Are these the makings of a Broadway musical?

Eric Idle: "Very, very..." (AP)

Yes, says Eric Idle, a member of the zany British troupe Monty Python. He wrote the book for "Spamalot," the stage version of the 1975 comedy film classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," now playing in Chicago.

"To me, the musical is best when it's a musical comedy," Idle told AP Radio in a recent interview. "So if you have a very, very funny show, and very good, funny songs, that's what the musical does best."

"Spamalot," directed by Mike Nichols and starring Hank Azaria, David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry, will move to Broadway in February. Music and lyrics are by Idle and John Du Prez.

Idle said the other Python members approved the show.

"They're very cautious about what they allow. They've never allowed this sort of thing before. Everyone was enthusiastic and on board because the songs made them laugh," he said.

Idle said "Spamalot" is upbeat — not a downer like Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera."

"All the years when Andrew Lloyd Webber, people with plates over their faces moaning and groaning and singing, was for me dead loss. I hated all that stuff," he said.

Spamalot Official - http://www.montypythonsspamalot.com

Smallville's Lois Lane, Erica Durance

More Lois Lane for Erica Durance

Hollywood December 30, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Erica Durance, who is playing Lois Lane in The WB's Smallville, told the Sci Fi Pulse Web site that she'd love to reprise the role in the show's fifth season.

"I would be interested in coming back, of course," Durance told the site.

"That would be wonderful, to be able to be on this show for another season."

The Canadian Durance was signed to play Clark Kent's (Tom Welling) future love interest in 13 of the current fourth season's episodes.

As for next season, she said, "I think they're working on that right now and deciding how much of next season Lois might be back and where they could take the character.

"I know they'd love to bring her back, but there's the film coming up [Superman Returns] and there are all sorts of things in the upper echelons that I don't know reasons for, but I'll probably know what's happening for in [the] next couple of months."

Durance next appears in the Smallville episode "The Recruit," which airs Feb. 9. Smallville airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Smallville Official - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||126,00.html

Baldwin (far left) back from space

Serenity Co-Star Adam Baldwin Joins Fox Series
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES December 28, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Adam Baldwin has joined the cast of Fox's upcoming drama series "The Inside," playing a tough, seasoned FBI agent.

The project centers on a young, ambitious FBI agent (Rachel Nichols) who is assigned to the agency's Los Angeles Violent Crimes Division. Baldwin's character will be a man's man with 25 years on the job. Jay Harrington will also play an agent.

Baldwin, who co-starred in Joss Whedon's short-lived sci-fi drama for Fox "Firefly," will next be seen in "Serenity," Whedon's feature adaptation of the series, in which the actor reprises his role as Jayne Cobb.

[Baldwin also enjoyed a brief run in the last season of Angel and was a super soldier in the final season of The X-Files. Ed.]

SCI FI Channel Rakes In The Bucks

New York December 29, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - SCI FI Channel reported that 2004 was the network's highest-rated and most-watched year yet and the third-consecutive year the channel has broken its own prime-time ratings records. The channel reported its best-ever prime-time household ratings (1.0, or 1.2 million viewers) on average for the year, a 4 percent increase over the previous year.

SCI FI also reported ranking within the top 10 of all basic cable networks in ratings among key demographics, including persons aged 25-54, men 25-54, persons 18-49, men 18-49 and women 25-54. SCI FI ranked eighth in household ratings among all measured, non-news, ad-supported basic cable networks in prime time.

Other ratings highlights:

Stargate Atlantis was the highest-rated and most-watched
single episode of any series ever on SCI FI (Sci Fi)

SCI FI reported an average 1.0 rating and more than 1 million viewers in prime time in every quarter of 2004, a milestone reached over six consecutive quarters.

SCI FI delivered more persons aged 18-34 and 2-17 in prime time than in any other year in the network's history.

SCI FI proved itself a prime-time destination for families, reporting a 21 percent jump among viewers aged 18 and under compared with 2003.

The July 16 premiere of Stargate Atlantis was the highest-rated and most-watched single episode of any series ever on SCI FI and was also the first episode of any SCI FI series to deliver ratings over 3.0 and viewership over 4 million.

The premiere of SCI FI Channel's original miniseries Legend of Earthsea averaged a 3.2 household rating (3.7 million viewers) over two consecutive nights.

Legend of Earthsea was the highest-rated and most-watched program in cable prime time on Dec. 13 and 14. SCI FI was also the number-one network on cable in combined ratings and delivery on those two days. The second part of the miniseries was the highest-rated program to air on SCI FI in 2004.

Farscape's return made SCI FI the number-one non-sports cable network among
persons aged 25-54 and 18-49 for its time period over the two nights

The two-night, four-hour premiere of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars on Oct. 17 and 18 averaged a 1.7 household rating (1.9 million viewers), making SCI FI the number-one non-sports cable network among persons aged 25-54 and 18-49 for its time period over the two nights.

SCI FI's miniseries thriller 5ive Days to Midnight kept a total audience of nearly 9 million viewers over four consecutive nights, June 7-10.

Among SCI FI's original series:

Driven by the success of new Stargate SG-1 companion series Stargate Atlantis, the channel reported its best summer ever, with a record-breaking 1.1 household rating for June-August.

The summer season of Stargate Atlantis averaged a 2.3 household rating and nearly 3 million viewers, making it SCI FI's highest-rated original series ever.

The Oct. 6 premiere of Ghost Hunters earned a 1.4 household rating (1.1 million viewers), making it the most-watched Wednesday-night program on the network since January 2003 and ranking it in the top 10 of most-watched Wednesday programs in the channel's history. [But it is a boring show. Ed.]

The March 4 premiere of Tripping the Rift got a 1.8 household rating (2 million viewers), setting several SCI FI records and beating the 1997 series premiere of Comedy Central's South Park. [But it was an awful show. Ed.]

[Sci Fi needs to take a serious look at their overall schedule and stop bragging. The only US cable station devoted to science fiction, horror and fantasy is petty ante compared to Canada's Space Channel where you can see all of the Star Trek shows, X-Files, and dozens of other really famous series, including current shows like Stargate and Enterprise. Sci Fi needs a serious programming change if it really hopes to add to its current fringe viewership. 3 million viewers may sound excellent to Sci Fi, but even the little "real" networks like Fox and WB regularly axe shows that can't do more than 4 million. Ed.]

Sci Fi Channel - http://www.scifi.com

Space - http://www.spacecast.com

Oscar Voters Get Ballots
By Nicole Sperling

This time it might actually
be exciting!

LOS ANGELES December 28, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Oscar ballots have been mailed to the 5,808 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy said Monday the mailing took place over the weekend, and completed ballots must be returned by Jan. 15 to auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which will tabulate both the nomination and final award ballots.

Also, the Academy announced that midnight Friday marks the deadline for a feature film to begin a seven-day run in Los Angeles County to qualify for 77th Annual Academy Awards consideration.

Four films open Wednesday for Oscar consideration: "William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice," starring Al Pacino, from Sony Pictures Classics; "A Love Song for Bobby Long," starring John Travolta, from Lions Gate Films; "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," starring Sean Penn, from ThinkFilm; and "In Good Company," starring Dennis Quaid, from Universal.

Oscar nominations will be announced at 5:30 a.m. PST Jan. 25 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The awards ceremony will take place in Hollywood Feb. 27th.

Indecent TV Around The World
Associated Press Writer

LONDON December 29, 2004 (AP) - When the BBC recently announced it would air "Jerry Springer: The Opera," the West End hit famous for its vulgarity and a cast of characters including transsexuals and a man wearing a diaper, no one batted an eye. In Britain, after all, the biggest-selling daily newspaper carries a photograph of a bare-breasted woman every day.

How disgusting can they get? Cockroaches are allowed in the
mouth, but not snakes or worms? (eXoNews)

The musical inspired by the self-consciously salacious talk show will air uncut, though in keeping with the country's rules it will be shown after 9 p.m. with a warning that it may not be appropriate for children.

In European countries, people often regard U.S. rules about indecency on public airways - and their enforcement by the Federal Communication Commission - as puritanical. (The FCC's powers apply to broadcast TV and radio. It has no powers regarding cable TV, newspapers, the Internet or satellite radio.)

"The climate in the U.K. is much more liberal than in the United States regarding the kind of sexual content that there is on TV," said professor David Buckingham, a specialist in television at London University. "The Janet Jackson breast incident at the Super Bowl probably wouldn't have attracted much interest here."

Still, the issue is debated in Europe, too. The difference is that the content on the continent would make many Americans blush.

In Germany, where each state has its own agency to keep an eye on what airs on television and radio, there's a lot of leeway about nudity and sexuality, especially compared to the United States. Recently, the mass-market Bild daily newspaper ran a front-page story - complete with a topless photo - suggesting that a starlet's full-frontal nude scenes were cut from her TV movie because she wasn't pretty enough.

Last year, a new national media commission was set up last year to promote standards for TV, radio and the Internet. It was a response to a 2002 school massacre in Erfurt, Germany, carried out by a former student who authorities believe may have been inspired by violent video games.

The panel has gone so far as to order that reality TV shows about cosmetic surgery - including a German version of the beauty contest show "The Swan" - be shown after 11 p.m., because it was concerned that such programs sent the wrong message to children about "human worth."

Stations that break the rule can be heavily fined.

In addition, the popular German version of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" - in which German stars performed stomach-turning stunts - prompted some hand-wringing this year. But no ban was considered on the grounds of freedom of speech.

"What should one decide? How far can it still go?" asked Kurt Beck, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state and former chairman of its media commission. "Cockroaches are allowed in the mouth, but not snakes or worms?"

In Italy, the Communications Authority ruled in 2002 that every "adults only" TV program must air after 10:30 p.m. and be announced as unsuitable for children. Films shown on television also contain a color-coded rating regarding their suitability for youths.

Despite that, daily Italian TV is full of examples of scandalizing shows.

The latest edition of "Big Brother" stirred a nationwide debate, as participants threw parties with binge drinking, on-air sex and heavy cursing.

Earlier this year, a new show featuring people undergoing plastic surgery called "Bisturi! Nessuno e' Perfetto" ("Scalpel! No One is Perfect") stunned many viewers.

It featured a flat-chested young woman baring her breasts to the scalpel for implant surgery. The knife sliced through flesh, blood spurted, and viewers deluged the network's switchboard with calls of protest. Consumer groups urged Rome prosecutors to consider obscenity charges, but the show has not been fined or suspended.

For years, there was no debate or controversy about nudity or sexual explicitness on television in Spain (where independent commercial TV stations only emerged in 1989 after years of repression and censorship under the Franco regime). And the country had no regulations to control TV content.

But that changed this month when a campaign against "telebasura," or "rubbish TV," prompted the government and Spain's three main broadband TV stations to sign a code of conduct to safeguard children. The time a program can be shown depends on its intended audience.

In Russia, TV shows that are considered too racy for children must be shown after 11 p.m. - after which some stations show fairly explicit erotica. But there's a debate under way now about the possibility of the harmful effects of TV violence.

Last month, Russia's lower house of parliament unanimously approved - in its first of three readings - a sweeping bill that would ban showing "dead bodies, scenes of murder, beatings, the infliction of serious, medium and light injuries, and rape and other violent activity of a sexual nature."

Critics derided the draft as draconian, saying it would not differentiate between action flicks or scenes of violence in, for example, the film version of "War and Peace."

Media analysts said such a law also would muzzle journalists' coverage of stories involving violence.

Nonetheless, Russia doesn't know what to make of the American hubbub over "Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan dropping her towel and jumping nude into National Football League star Terrell Owens' arms or TV stations refusing to run "Saving Private Ryan" for fear of FCC fines.

As far as Konstantin Isakov of the MR&MC media consulting group is concerned, they only show that "life is less chaotic there, people generally obey the laws and, as a result, there's nothing better to talk about."

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