Veggie Dinosaurs!
46 Moons? Solar Sailing!
Toxic Chemicals, Zooplankton!
New Monkey Trial & More!
Falcarius Utahensis - The Veggie Dinosaurs

This artist's conception shows the bird-like
feathered dinosaur Falcarius utahensis. The
small, 4.5-foot-tall dinosaur lived 125 million
years ago and represents a missing link
between earlier, vicious meat-eaters and later,
plant-munching herbivores. (Mike Skrepnick)

Utah Geological Survey and the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah News Release

May 6, 2005 - Scientists have discovered a mass graveyard of bird-like feathered dinosaurs in Utah. The previously unknown species provides clues about how vicious meat-eaters related to Velociraptor ultimately evolved into plant-munching vegetarians.

Discovery of the bizarre new species, Falcarius utahensis, is reported in the Thursday May 5 issue of the journal Nature by paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey and the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

Scientists do not yet know if the creature ate meat, plants or both, says James Kirkland, Utah state paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey and principal scientist for the new study. But "Falcarius shows the beginning of features we associate with plant-eating dinosaurs, including a reduction in size of meat-cutting teeth to leaf-shredding teeth, the expansion of the gut to a size needed to ferment plants, and the early stages of changing the legs so they could carry a bulky body instead of running fast after prey."

The adult dinosaur walked on two legs and was about 13 feet long (4 meters) and stood 4.5 feet tall (1.4 meters). It had sharp, curved, 4-inch-long (10 centimeter) claws.

Falcarius, which dates to the Early Cretaceous Period about 125 million years ago, belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs. The group includes feathered dinosaurs such as Beipiaosaurus that were found in southeast China in recent years. Falcarius and Beipiaosaurus are about the same age and appear to represent an intermediate stage between deadly carnivores and later, plant-eating therizinosaurs. Falcarius is anatomically more primitive than the Chinese therizinosaurs.

The therizinosaurs are maniraptorans. Birds evolved from maniraptorans, a group that includes sharp-clawed meat-eaters such as Utahraptor and Velociraptor, the dinosaur popularized by chasing children through the kitchen in the hit film "Jurassic Park."

Falcarius "is the most primitive known therizinosaur, demonstrating unequivocally that this large-bodied group of bizarre herbivorous group of dinosaurs came from Velociraptor-like ancestors," says study co-author Lindsay Zanno, a graduate student in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah and the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Falcarius did not descend directly from Velociraptor, but both had a common, yet-undiscovered ancestor, says study co-author and paleontologist Scott Sampson, chief curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History and an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.


Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland stands near a
full-size cast of the newly discovered dinosaur Falcarius
utahensis. (Gaston Design, Inc.)

"We know that the first dinosaur was a small-bodied, lightly built, fleet-footed predator," he says. "Early on, two major groups of dinosaurs shifted to plant-eating, but we have virtually no record of those transitions. With Falcarius, we have actual fossil evidence of a major dietary shift, certainly the best example documented among dinosaurs. This little beast is a missing link between small-bodied predatory dinosaurs and the highly specialized and bizarre plant-eating therizinosaurs."

With almost 1,700 bones excavated during the past three years, scientists have about 90 percent of Falcarius' bones and believe the skeletal remains show several signs of this major evolutionary transition. It had leaf-shaped teeth designed for shredding plants rather than the triangular, blade-like serrated teeth of its meat-eating relatives. Its pelvis was broader, indicating a larger gut to digest plant material, which is more difficult to process than meat. Its lower legs were stubby, presumably because it no longer needed to run after prey. Compared with carnivorous relatives, Falcarius' neck was more elongated and its forelimbs were more flexible, perhaps for reaching plants to eat.

Sampson says: "Falcarius represents evolution caught in the act, a primitive form that shares much in common with its carnivorous kin, while possessing a variety of features demonstrating that it had embarked on the path toward more advanced plant-eating forms."

In addition to Kirkland, Zanno and Sampson, other co-authors of the study were fossil preparator Donald DeBlieux, who directed excavation for the Utah Geological Survey, and George Washington University therizinosaur expert James M. Clark. The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Discovery Channel to the Utah Geological Survey, which provided a matching $100,000.

A Place to Eat and a Place to Die

Falcarius means sickle-maker, so named because later plant-eating therizinosaurs had 3-foot-long, sickle-like claws. The species name, utahensis, comes from the fact the new species was discovered in east-central Utah, south of the town of Green River.

The new species was excavated from ancient gravely mudstones at the base of the Cedar Mountain rock formation, at a site named the Crystal Geyser Quarry after a nearby manmade geyser that spews cold water and carbon dioxide gas.

Kirkland estimates hundreds to thousands of individual dinosaurs – from hatchlings to adults – died at the 2-acre dig site.

In the past, scientists have suggested a number of possible explanations for such mass deaths in the fossil record, Sampson says. These include drought, volcanism, fire and botulism poisoning from water tainted by carcasses.

Kirkland leans toward a theory developed by Celina and Marina Suarez, twins who are geology graduate students at Temple University in Philadelphia. Their research on carbonate-rich sediments in which the dinosaurs were buried suggests the area was near or in a spring, and that there were at least two mass die-offs. That raises the possibility the dinosaurs were drawn repeatedly to the site by water or an attractive food source – perhaps plants growing around the spring – and then the spring occasionally would poison the animals with toxic gas or water, Kirkland says.

Falcarius is the fourth new dinosaur species Kirkland has discovered in the Cedar Mountain Formation's Yellow Cat member (a unit of the formation) in 11 years. Others are meat-eaters Utahraptor and Nedcolbertia, and an armored dinosaur named Gastonia.

An American Dinosaur?

Therizinosaurs have been found for 50 years in China and Mongolia, but were not recognized as a distinct group until about 25 years ago, Sampson says.

The only therizinosaur known previously from North America was Nothronychus, which Kirkland discovered in the late 1990s in New Mexico. It was 90 million years old, so scientists initially believed the older therizinosaurs in China had migrated over a land bridge from Asia through Alaska to the American Southwest.

But due to the constantly shifting plates of Earth's surface, Alaska didn't exist 125 million years ago – the age of both Falcarius and the oldest known Chinese therizinosaur, Beipiaosaurus. So scientists now wonder if therizinosaurs originated in Asia and migrated through Europe to North America before the Atlantic Ocean basin opened up, or if they originated in North America and migrated through Europe to Asia.

"Falcarius may have been home-grown," Kirkland says.


Lindsay Zanno, a doctoral student at the University of
Utah's Utah Museum of Natural History, with a sculpture
of the newly discovered dinosaur Falcarius utahensis.
(PaleoForms LLC, Provo, Utah)

"This discovery puts the most primitive therizinosaurs in North America," Zanno says. "This tells us that North America potentially could be the place of origin for this group of dinosaurs."

Kirkland says Falcarius likely was covered with shaggy, hair-like "proto-feathers," which may or may not have had a shaft like those found in bird feathers.

No feathers were found with the Falcarius fossils. Feathers rarely are preserved, but "a number of its close relatives found in China had feathers [preserved by unusual lake sediments], so the presumption is this animal too was feathered," Sampson says.

Therizinosaurs have been enigmatic. Until Falcarius, only "bits and pieces" of other species' skeletons had been found, and "their anatomy was so different from that of any other dinosaur that we didn't know what to make of them," Zanno says.

The most advanced therizinosaurs – which lived 94 million to 65 million years ago – had larger bodies, long necks, short legs, broad hips, short tails, lightly built skeletons, small heads and many small, leaf-shaped teeth – except at the front of the face where there likely was a beak and – in the case of Therizinosaurus – 3-foot-long claws.

The plant-eating, elephant-sized Therizinosaurus – a name that means sickle lizard – was "the ultimate in bizarre," resembling "a cross between an ostrich, a gorilla and Edward Scissorhands," Zanno says.

Kirkland says it is not surprising that Falcarius represents an intermediate step between carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs because "all lines of plant-eating animals had meat-eating ancestors."

Long before Falcarius existed, numerous plant-eating dinosaurs such as brachiosaurs already had arisen from meat-eating relatives, he adds. Sampson says the rise of plant-eating therizinosaurs "may have been directly linked to the spread of flowering plants about 125 million years ago."

A Fossil Thief Led Scientists to the Dinosaur Site


Assembled from the bones of various individuals, this photo
shows the fossil forearms and claws of the newly discovered
dinosaur Falcarius utahensis compared with a human hand.
(Don DeBlieux, Utah Geological Survey)

In 2001, Kirkland located the site where the new dinosaur species was discovered thanks to a commercial fossil collector who later was convicted of fossil theft.

"We never would have found it, at least for 100 years or so, if he hadn't taken us to the site," Kirkland says. "Once he figured out he had a new dinosaur, he realized scientists should be working the site. His conscience led him to get this stuff to me."

Kirkland first received fossils of the new dinosaur in 1999, when he worked in Colorado and people brought him the bones from a fossil show in Tucson, Ariz. Later, Denver fossil enthusiast John Scandizzo provided Kirkland with rough coordinates to the therizinosaur site, but Kirkland could not locate it. So Scandizzo introduced Kirkland to Lawrence Walker, who had taken fossils from the site.

Walker led Kirkland to the site.

Kirkland soon applied for a digging permit from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which asked Kirkland to give a legal deposition. In November 2002, Walker was indicted in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City for theft of government property.

He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to five months in prison and 36 months of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. He served his prison time in 2003 and then returned home to Moab, Utah.

Although Walker led Kirkland to the site, "we simply can't justify illegal activity because it might let us know of something we might not know otherwise," Sampson says.

"Illegal commercial collection of fossils has become a major problem globally," he adds. "Many highly significant specimens, a number of which represent animals brand new to science, are being lost to private collections. This unfortunate trend robs not only the scientists, but the general public, given that these fossils actually belong to the public and museums simply hold them in perpetuity for research, education and exhibit."

University of Utah - http://www.utah.edu

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Buena Vista!
  

This image released by NASA Thursday May 5, 2005 shows the Sombrero galaxy. The galaxy, called Messier 104, is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light it resembles a broad-brimmed Mexican hat called a sombrero. The new Sombrero picture combines a recent infrared observation from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope with a well-known visible light image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Sombrero is one of the most massive objects at the southern edge of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It is equal in size to 800 billion suns. This spiral galaxy is located 28 million light-years away and is 50,000 light-years across. Viewed from Earth, it is just six degrees away from its equatorial plane.  (NASA)

46 Moons?

Saturn's new moon S/2004 S11 is in the center
of the circle. (David Jewitt)

Saturn's 46 Moons!
By Dr David Whitehouse
Science Editor, BBC News

Hawaii May 4, 2005 (BBC) - Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing its number of natural satellites to 46. The moons are small, irregular bodies - probably only about 3-7km in size - that are far from Saturn and take about two years to complete one orbit. All but one circles Saturn in the opposite direction to its larger moons - a characteristic of captured bodies.

Jupiter is the planet with the most moons, 63 at the last count. Saturn now has 46. Uranus has 27 and Neptune 13.

The latest ones were found last year using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii. Confirmation observations were made last month using the Gemini North telescope also situated in Hawaii.

Planetary puzzles


From left to right, Saturn's moon's Mimas, Dione and Rhea,
on the far side of Saturn's nearly edge-on rings (the faint
line across the photo.) The image was taken in visible blue
light by the Cassini spacecraft on March 15, 2005, at a
distance of approximately 1.5 million miles from Saturn.
(NASA)

Dave Jewitt of the University of Hawaii, co-discoverer of the objects, told the BBC News website that they were found as part of a detailed survey of the outer planets in order to better understand their origin.

The newly-found satellites were probably formed in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and scattered out of it by the tug of Jupiter's gravity.

"The key question is how they became captured by Saturn. The current models devised to explain how such bodies are captured are unable to explain why they reach the orbits they do," said Dr. Jewitt.

"The new discoveries should improve our knowledge of satellite systems in general and should, eventually, lead to an understanding of how such small, irregular bodies are captured by the gravity of giant planets.

"Having more satellites to study will give us more data to plug into our computer simulations that may tell us what happened," he added.

Astronomers have found that all four giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - possess about the same number of small irregular satellites irrespective of the mass of the planet, the orbit of the satellites, or if they were captured or formed in orbit. This observation remains unexplained.

Dr. Jewitt's Saturn Page - http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~jewitt/saturn2005.html

Previously named 31 moons of Saturn - click here!

Phoebe From Outer Space
Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release


Phoebe is quite different from Saturn's
other icy satellites (NASA)

May 6, 2005 - Saturn's battered little moon Phoebe is an interloper to the Saturn system from the deep outer solar system, scientists have concluded. The new findings appear in the May 5 issue of the journal Nature.

"Phoebe was left behind from the solar nebula, the cloud of interstellar gas and dust from which the planets formed," said Dr. Torrence Johnson, Cassini imaging team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"It did not form at Saturn. It was captured by Saturn's gravitational field and has been waiting eons for Cassini to come along."

Cassini flew by Phoebe on its way to Saturn on June 11, 2004. Little was known about Phoebe at that time. During the encounter, scientists got the first detailed look at Phoebe, which allowed them to determine its makeup and mass.

With the new information they have concluded that it has an outer solar system origin, akin to Pluto and other members of the Kuiper Belt.

"Cassini is showing us that Phoebe is quite different from Saturn's other icy satellites, not just in its orbit but in the relative proportions of rock and ice. It resembles Pluto in this regard much more than it does the other Saturnian satellites," said Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist from the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Phoebe has a density consistent with that of the only Kuiper Belt objects for which densities are known. Phoebe's mass, combined with an accurate volume estimate from images, yields a density of about 1.6 grams per cubic centimeter (100 pounds per cubic foot), much lighter than most rocks but heavier than pure ice, which is about 0.93 grams per cubic centimeter (58 pounds per cubic foot). This suggests a composition of ice and rock similar to that of Pluto and Neptune's moon Triton. Whether the dark material on other moons of Saturn is the same primordial material as on Phoebe remains to be seen.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

For Phoebe images and more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

Our Lady of the Highway Bridge Vanishes!

The stain icon (AFP/ Jeff Haynes)

CHICAGO May 6, 2005 (Reuters) - A stain under a highway bridge that had drawn hundreds of faithful who thought it resembled the Virgin Mary was painted over by a road crew on Friday after a vandal defaced the image.

Chicago police said they charged a 37-year-old man with damage to state property after he used black shoe polish to paint "big lie" on the yellow and white stain which had become the site of an impromptu shrine for the past three weeks.

Some wept as a coat of brown paint was rolled over the stain on a wall next to a sidewalk where candles, flowers, pictures and other mementos had been placed.

Engineers had said the stain was most likely caused by a water leak from the road above, mixed with salt that had been used on the highway during the winter. Police did not say what the man's motive might have been in defacing the image.

Solar Sailing

The Solar Sail (ATK)

SANDUSKY Ohio May 3, 2005 (AP) — Scientists working with a synthetic material 100-times thinner than a piece of paper are testing their theory that the sun can power interplanetary spacecraft. They believe that streams of solar energy particles called photons can push a giant, reflecting sail through space the way wind pushes sailboats across water.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has invested about $30 million in space-sail technology, something that existed solely in science-fiction novels a decade ago. Yet the reflective solar sail could power missions to the sun and beyond within a decade.

"It's OK to breathe on it and touch it," said David Murphy, of ATK Space Systems, showing off the sail.

ATK Space Systems, based in California, is one division of a $2.4 billion company that makes rocket motors, advanced weapons systems and ammunition for the military and the Department of Homeland Security. It has about 14,000 employees at operations in 23 states.

Last year it delivered 1.2 billion rounds of small-caliber ammunition to the Army.

The Space Systems division developed the solar sail, which is being tested in the world's largest vacuum chamber at the Cleveland-based NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. It has a space environment simulation chamber 100 feet in diameter and 122 feet high. In that chamber, Murphy displayed four silvery, triangular pieces of sail stretched over four long booms, which form a square about 70 feet on each side. Murphy and others want to study how the sails will deploy and operate in a vacuum under various temperatures.

"We're going to cool it down and shake it out," Murphy said. Just in case, the fabric, which resembles Mylar, has rip-stop threads to keep it from pulling apart when the chamber is closed and the air is pumped out.

"To get a lower pressure you'd have to go to space," said Edward Montgomery, an engineer from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The chamber has been used to test rocket components, radiators for the International Space Station and the crash bags that protected twin rovers when they landed on Mars last year. The plastic like fabric used to make the sails is a spin-off from technology used to develop spacecraft paint.

First missions -- scientific payloads of a few hundred pounds -- are likely to be to the inner planets, Venus and Mercury, and to the sun. But NASA scientists think the technology is a good bet for eventually powering spacecraft into deep space.

Since its fuel is free and doesn't have to be stored, a craft with solar sails would not have to slingshot around the moon or other planets for a gravity boost to reach distant destinations, as other craft do. Craft propelled by solar sails could be launched on conventional rockets or released from space stations. In space, the force of sunlight would push the reflective sails, causing the craft to move, said NASA Marshall physicist Les Johnson. The first sail tested in space will be about 130 feet on each side. Those on an actual mission could be twice as large. While its thrust is low, it would be continuous so that the craft accelerates steadily, eventually reaching speeds of tens of thousands of miles an hour. Changing the sail's angle to the sun would allow the craft to slow down or speed up.

"Just by morphing its shape we can get it to turn," Montgomery said.

With the science worked out, Murphy said, it is now a matter of building larger sails.

"We have everything we need to do this," he said.


An artist's conception of a solar sail craft flying by Earth (ATK)

Solar Sail Test Successful
ATK News Release

Minneapolis May 6, 2005 – Alliant Techsystems and NASA have successfully tested the functional deployment and attitude control of an ultra-lightweight, high-performing solar sail propulsion system.

This was the first in a series of ground-tests for ATK’s sailcraft technology that will be conducted through July. All initial test objectives were met.

The test marks a critical milestone in developing an alternative in-space propulsion technology that uses the sun’s energy instead of onboard propellant to provide thrust. The new propulsion system enables unique orbits critical for communication links and solar activity observatories as well as long-term space exploration programs.

The 20 by 20 meter solar sail system was fully deployed in the 100-ft.-diameter vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn Research Center’s, Plum Brook facility, Sandusky, Ohio. Retroreflective targets measure the shape and dynamics of the system. The gossamer masts, located between the sail quadrants, weigh less than 70 grams per meter of length when sized for an 80-meter sail system.

ATK’s graphite coilable mast technology facilitates the gentle tensioning of reflective films on the sail that are 1/30 the width of a human hair. The ATK-developed scalable square solar sail (S4) architecture allows the system to be compacted by a factor of 100 for launch and remote deployment. Additional hardware includes payload fairing interfaces, in-space structural validation elements, an instrument extension boom, propellantless attitude control mechanization, and solar power panels.

Solar sail technology is being developed by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, managed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and implemented by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. ATK is a $2.4 billion advanced weapon and space systems company employing approximately 14,000 people in 23 states.

ATK - http://www.atk.com

Kitty Litter-Kwitter

SYDNEY May 4, 2005 (AFP) - An Australian mother fed up with cleaning up after her kids' cat has taken matters into her own hands and built a device which teaches felines to use the toilet.

Jo Lapidge of Sydney told AFP on Wednesday that after watching the movie 'Meet the Fockers', in which a cat uses a latrine, she decided to train her own Burmese kitten to do likewise. Lapidge said she had promised her children, aged five and eight, that they could have a kitten but that "after the first week of dealing with this disgusting litter tray I was really regretting it."

But after watching the comedy she decided to transform the family moggy into Jinx, the toilet-trained cat of the movie.

Lapidge bought toilet seats and other apparatus and created some 15 prototypes.

The invention met resistance from her cat Doogal but within three months he was fully toilet-trained. Most cats shouldn't take more than eight weeks, Lapidge said.

The 'Litter-Kwitter' system consists of three plastic trays which can be fitted inside a toilet bowl. In the first stage the largest is used as a normal kitty litter tray on the ground before being placed within the toilet bowl. In the later stages this is replaced by two other trays which have increasingly larger holes cut out of the middle and less litter. Eventually the trays can be removed altogether and the cat will learn to perch on the edge of the toilet seat.

Lapidge says she never intended to sell the device. But after receiving more than 2,000 inquiries, her product is likely to go on sale in about eight weeks for between 80 and 150 dollars (62 to 116 US).

Now, if Lapidge could just teach them to flush...

Earth's Most Toxic Chemicals
By Kevin Gray
Associated Press

PUNTA DEL ESTE Uruguay May 6, 2005 (AP) — The United States is looking to join an international treaty phasing out a dozen of the world's most hazardous pesticides and chemicals next year, a U.S. official said as delegates from 130 nations met.

The United States, along with Russia, is the biggest industrialized country that has yet to ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants -- a United Nations-sponsored treaty seeking to severely restrict 12 chemicals commonly known as the "dirty dozen."

Delegates opened high-level talks Thursday in this Atlantic Ocean beach resort on ways to eliminate toxins and narrow loopholes for a few countries still allowed to use some dangerous chemicals.

"Our hope is that next year we will be a party to the treaty," said Claudia McMurray, deputy assistant secretary for environment, speaking Thursday on the sidelines of the first U.N. meeting on ways to implement the treaty. "It's a pretty aggressive schedule but that's what we're shooting for."

U.S. President George W. Bush, who has faced heavy criticism for his environmental policies, hailed the treaty as a major breakthrough in a pre-Earth Day speech four years ago.

Nonetheless, disagreements in the U.S. Congress over how more toxic chemicals might be added to the ban in the coming years has slowed U.S. ratification, McMurray said.

In May 2001, the United States and 90 other countries signed the treaty, originally negotiated under the Clinton administration. But U.S. ratification has since stalled as the treaty took effect in May of last year.

Some 98 countries have ratified the convention that calls on countries to stop production, sale, and use of the substances, many of them found in poisons used to fend off or kill mosquitoes, termites and other insects found on crops or in homes.

Among them are Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, dioxins, and DDT. Others include furans and the pesticides aldrin, hexachlorobenzene, chlordane, mirex, toxaphene, dieldrin, endrin and heptachlor.

Scientists say the toxic chemicals tend to persist in the environment and travel long distances, posing significant health risks, including birth defects in humans and animals. The chemicals tend to accumulate in the bodies of both humans and animals and have been also linked to cancer and other diseases.

U.N. officials estimate the process to eliminate the chemicals -- known as Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPS, and replace them with new technologies or other methods could cost billions of dollars.

The use of DDT to combat malaria in Africa, for example, has been allowed, until a safer means to control the disease can be developed. Another priority for delegates is establishing a framework for adding new and potentially dangerous chemicals.

In the United States, the chemicals have been banned from production for use, but U.S. chemical manufacturers are not prevented from exporting them. Clifton Crutis, director of the global toxics program at the World Wide Fund, said he hoped the Bush administration moves swiftly to ratify the treaty after years of delays.

"The United States has been one of the most advanced countries in setting regulatory standards for chemicals," he said. "It's hard to believe that they are not a party to this treaty."

Compound 1080

WELLINGTON New Zealand May 5, 2005 (AP) — The mayor of a New Zealand tourist town on Thursday accused activists of eco-terrorism for apparently leaving poison pellets near the water supply in what may have been a protest against plans to use the poison against animals.

Authorities in the renowned whale-watching town of Kaikoura shut down the water system on Wednesday after pellets containing a poison known as Compound 1080 -- used to target possums and other pests -- were found on the ledge of a concrete water tank.

Police investigated whether the pellets were a protest against the town's plans to poison pests with an air drop of Compound 1080. The phrase "1080 kills" had been written in graffiti around the water tank.

Compound 1080 has been described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as "super toxic."

"The probable oral lethal dose (of Compound 1080) in humans is less than ... a taste (less than 7 drops) for a 150 pound (68 kilogram) person," the EPA said in a 1987 report. There is no known antidote to the poison.

Officials in Kaikoura on Thursday declared the water supply safe for the town's 2,100 residents. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for leaving the poison near the reservoir.

"It's moronic. I can't believe anyone would be so stupid as to put poison into a town's drinking supply to make a political point," Kaikoura District Council emergency management officer Mike Kennedy said. "Any respect people had around this town for the 1080 lobby has gone out the window, because this stunt has just absolutely panicked people."

Mayor Kevin Heays was angry over the apparent protest.

"It's almost terrorism," he told New Zealand Press Association. "A protest against 1080 would be more fruitful if a pamphlet was placed in a letterbox -- I'd read it."

Bottled water supplies in Kaikoura quickly sold out Wednesday night. The water supply was turned back on Thursday and was safe to drink, Kennedy said.

"During the night the peninsula reservoir was drained ... flushed out and filled with fresh water," he said.

Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to watch migrating whales.

Russian Sues NASA Over Deep Impact

NASA poster showing the Deep Impact experiment

MOSCOW May 6, 2005 (AFP) - A Russian court ruled that an astrologer could proceed with a lawsuit against the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration for plans to bombard a comet whose destruction would "disrupt the natural balance of the universe," ITAR-TASS said.

Star-reader Marina Bai's case was thrown out of a lower court because Russia has no jurisdiction over NASA, but the ruling was overturned when her lawyer, Alexandra Molokhova, was able to show that the agency's office in the US embassy in Moscow does fall under Russian jurisdiction.

Bai seeks a ruling that would restrict NASA in its plans to annihilate a section of the Tempel 1 comet in a project that has been dubbed "Deep Impact," as well as punitive damages of 8.7 billion rubles (300 million dollars, 240 million euros).

"My client believes that the NASA project infringes upon her spiritual and life values as well as the natural life of the cosmos and would disrupt the natural balance of forces in the universe," Molokhova was quoted as saying.

The lawyer said Tempel 1 had sentimental value to Bai because her grandparents met when her grandfather pointed the comet out to his future wife.

In a 279-million-dollar (215-million-euro) project, NASA in January launched the Deep Impact spacecraft which will travel to the comet and release an "impactor" -- a 370-kilogram (820-pound) self-guided mass -- on US Independence Day (July 4) which is expected to create a crater that could be as large as a football stadium.

Scientists believe that the exposed material from the resulting crater will yield clues to the formation of the solar system and provide important information on altering the course of comets or asteroids on a collision course with earth.

Effects of the collision will be visible from earth with an amateur telescope, according to the mission's website.

[NASA Deep Impact scientists are interested in the answers to four major questions:

1. What are the basic properties of a cometary nucleus and interior?
2. How do comets evolve?
3. What is the composition of primordial ices in comets?
4. If a comet collided with Earth, what would happen?

We sort of know the answer to that last one, but Deep Impact might provide us with a way to protect our planet from some future collision. Ed.]

NASA's Deep Impact site - http://deepimpact.jpl.nasa.gov/educ

Zooplankton!
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem News Release

May 5, 2005 - An international team of scientists from Israel, the United States and Germany, led by Prof. Amatzia Genin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, has provided, for the first time, evidence of the remarkable dynamics responsible for the formation of large aggregations of microscopic animals in the ocean.

From the surface, the ocean appears to be vast and uniform. But beneath the surface, countless number of tiny, nearly transparent animals, called zooplankton, are swept into clusters and patches by ocean currents. The very survival of many zooplankton predators--from invertebrates to whales--and the success of fishermen catches can depend on their success at finding those patches.

Zooplankton larva. (Mark Wunsch)

The new findings indicate that zooplankton are passively drifting with the current, as their name implies ("planktos" = "drifting" in Greek), but only in the horizontal direction, not in the vertical. Indeed, in the vertical, these creatures show a great ability to go "against the flow."

Although scientists and fishermen have known for a long time that zooplankton spend their life suspended in a constantly flowing environment, an understanding of their responses to ocean currents has remained elusive, mainly due to technological limitations in tracking the motion of the minuscule animals.

Now, the recent development of a three-dimensional, acoustic imaging system by Jules Jaffe of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has opened the door for a team of researchers to track several hundred thousand individual zooplankton at two coastal sites in the Red Sea. In addition to Prof. Genin, the team included his graduate student Ruth Reef; Dr. Jules Jaffe and Prof. Peter Franks from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Dr. Claudio Richter from the Center for Tropical Marine Ecology in Bremen, Germany.

Their findings, reported in the May 6 issue of the prestigious journal Science, show that these small animals effectively keep their depth by "treadmilling" against upwelling and downwelling currents at speeds of up to several tens of body-lengths per second.

Downward-flowing water in the ocean is always accompanied by horizontal flows, forming a convergence, or "downwelling" zone. When zooplankton swim upward against such a downward current, they form patches as more and more individuals are brought in with the horizontal currents and concentrated in the downwelling zone.

"Clumped distribution, termed 'patchiness,' is one of the most ubiquitous characteristics of oceanic zooplankton," said Genin, lead author of the Science paper. "Aggregations (of the tiny animals) are found on all scales, from millimeters to areas covering hundreds of kilometers. Understanding the mechanisms that produce zooplankton patchiness is a central objective in biological oceanography."

The new imaging system, Fish TV, uses multibeam sonar to uniquely measure animal movement. The system allowed the researchers to analyze the swimming behavior of more than 375,000 individual zooplankton swimming against vertical currents. Swimming in this manner allows the plankton to keep their depth, a behavior which was postulated long ago but had never been measured in the ocean until now. The scientists say it is remarkable that the small zooplankton are capable of remaining at a constant depth with such high precision in the face of such strong vertical currents. The ecological implications of this behavior carry far-reaching consequences for predatory fishes, whales and humans.

The results of the multinational research project were captured during three experiments lasting several weeks at two sites in the Red Sea, near the coral reef of Eilat in Israel and at Ras Burka off the coast of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. At the sites, scuba divers attached Fish TV's sonar head ("transducer") on a large underwater tripod, raised some 20 feet above the seafloor. The transducer was cabled to a control and data-acquisition unit consisting of a computer and other electronic hardware.

Fish TV's transmitters sent out 1.6 megahertz "pings" that bounced off the zooplankton and returned data to the instrument's receivers. It's a system not unlike those used in ultrasound procedures for biomedical applications.

"That small zooplankton are capable of remaining at a constant depth with a precision of centimeters, sometimes in the face of strong vertical currents, implies that these organisms have extremely sensitive depth sensors, the nature of which is yet unknown," said Genin. "That this depth-keeping behavior has evolved in so many different species implies that this energetically demanding behavior provides significant, yet poorly understood benefits. Revealing those benefits and the nature of depth sensing will be a major and exciting challenge for future research in zooplankton ecology and evolution."

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - http://www.huji.ac.il

New Monkey Trial in Kansas

Charles Darwin versus God - again? (PBS)

By Carey Gillam

TOPEKA May 5, 2005 (Reuters) - A six-day courtroom-style debate opened on Thursday in Kansas over what children should be taught in schools about the origin of life -- was it natural evolution or did God create the world?

The hearings, complete with opposing attorneys and a long list of witnesses, were arranged amid efforts by some Christian groups in Kansas and nationally to reverse the domination of evolutionary theory in the nation's schools.

William Harris, a medical researcher and co-founder of a Kansas group called the Intelligent Design Network, posed the core question about life's beginnings before mapping out why he and other Christians want changes in school curriculum.

School science classes are teaching children that life evolved naturally and randomly, Harris said, arguing that this was in conflict with Biblical teachings that God created life.

"They are offering an answer that may be in conflict with religious views," Harris said in opening the debate. "Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools. This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications."

Conservative groups are trying to convince state education officials to change guidelines for how evolution theory is taught in science classes at a time when Kansas education authorities are producing new science teaching guidelines.

The hearings -- organized by a committee of the Kansas Board of Education -- were taking place 80 years after the so-called "Monkey Trial" of John Scopes, a Tennessee biology teacher who was found guilty of illegally teaching evolution.

There is renewed debate over evolution in more than a dozen U.S. states and a resurgence across the nation in the influence of religious conservatives, who played an important part in the reelection of Republican President Bush last year.

TEACHERS AND PREACHERS

The Kansas hearing drew a large crowd that included students, teachers and preachers. National and local scientific leaders for the most part boycotted the event.

Pedro Irigonegaray, a lawyer defending evolution in the debate, said he planned to call no witnesses, though he did cross-examine witnesses, sometimes combatively.

Harris acknowledged under questioning that there were many people who saw no incompatibility between religious beliefs that God created life and evolutionary teachings about how life evolved through natural processes.

Outside the hearing room, outraged scientists challenged the validity of the hearings. "This is a showcase trial," said Jack Krebs, vice president for Kansas Citizens for Science. "They have hijacked science and education."

Ken Schmitz, a University of Missouri/ Kansas City chemistry professor attending the hearing said he worried that the attack on evolution could confuse students and endanger their ability to excel in science.

"They are not going to understand this," said Schmitz.

Changes to the curriculum proposed by the conservatives would not require inclusion of Biblical beliefs in science classes, also called "creationism" - the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

But they would involve questioning the principles of evolution as explanations for the origins of life, the universe and the genetic code. As well, teachers would be encouraged to discuss with students "alternative explanations."

Kansas has been struggling with the issue for years, capturing worldwide attention in 1999 when the state school board voted to downplay Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in science classes.

Subsequent elections altered the membership of the board and led to renewed backing for evolution instruction in 2001. But elections last year gave conservatives a 6-4 majority and the board is now producing new science teaching guidelines.

Genre News: Douglas Adams, Angelina Jolie, Farscape, SG-1, Spielberg, Red Skelton, James Brown & More!

Interview With Douglas Adams
By FLAtRich

May 8, 2005 (eXoNews) - Funny.

I dreamed that The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was finally released as a motion picture and I was assigned to interview its author and get his take on the film.

No easy task, as Douglas Adams died a couple of years ago.

I have my ways, however. I stumbled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. It was dark and cold. The small imitation antique clock in the hallway reported 4:44 AM. Wind whistled outside. The tune was unfamiliar at first, but as I grabbed my towel I found myself humming along. Definitely something classical.

I brushed my teeth and dived into bed with my towel, pulling up my blanket against the early morning chill. Assuming a position usually associated with crucifixion, I began to count backwards by three hundred sixty five.


Author Douglas Adams

eXoNews: Thank you so much for granting this interview, Mr. Adams. We know you have a busy schedule being dead.

D.A.: You're welcome. Am I dreaming?

eXoNews: No, this is our dream. It is really fabulous being able to speak to you! You are one of our favorite authors! We've read all your books and we brought our towel.

D.A.: I'm just a guy, you know. Are you sure I'm not dreaming? You seem to be speaking in the plural.

eXoNews: Well, it is possible. You could be dreaming in our dream, we suppose.

D.A.: And you all use the same towel? Is that permitted?

eXoNews: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was released in the United States recently. A long road for you, getting the picture made. We wonder what you think of the film.

D.A.: Hardly matters now, does it? What's that tune you're humming? Is that White Room by Cream?

eXoNews: That's it! White Room! We thought it was something classical! Mahler's 4th Symphony or something.


Cowboys International

At the exact moment I dreamed of Mahler's 4th Symphony, Robert Farringdon Woolworth was sweeping the gutters in front of the Victoria and Albert Museum at the corner of Exhibition and Cromwell Roads in London, England. Robert Farringdon Woolworth, or "Sneer" as he is known to his close associates, was the former bass player for Lactose, a Cream cover band who once almost gained fame in the early 1980s opening for Cowboys International at a pub in the Scottish village of Plockton.

When Cowboys International failed to show up for the Plockton gig, Lactose was hooted off the stage and disbanded soon afterwards. Left to his own devises for several decades, Sneer eventually took a job as a street maintenance worker in London.


Eric Clapton at the Cream
Reunion at Albert Hall.
(AP Photo/ Jane Mingay)

"What's this, then?" Sneer asked, picking up an unused ticket for the recent Cream Reunion concert at the Albert Hall on Kensington, just a few blocks from the Victoria and Albert Museum. "Damn! I could have seen old Clapton had I only found this ticket last week. Damn and double damn!"

In fact, Robert Farringdon Woolworth could not have found the ticket to the Cream Reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the gutter at the corner of Exhibition and Cromwell Roads in London the previous week because it had only arrived there a nanosecond earlier due to a collision between an 11th dimensional string and a yellow canary escaping from a gilded cage in a beach house once owned by Fred Gwynne in Malibu, California.


Fred Gwynne

Fred Gwynne was, of course, an extremely talented actor who died in 1993 after making over forty films and is only remembered for the role of Herman Munster in a TV show ripped off from another TV show based on the cartoons of Charles Addams.

The canary in the gilded cage was owned by Francesca Di Polito, an associate producer of a reality TV show called Eat Me! The premise of the reality show is to strand six lucky contestants a half a mile from a vicious tribe of cannibals along the Amazon River in South America and see how they make out.

Eat Me! will premiere on Spike TV during the summer of 2005.

Miss Di Polito was in a hurry for a meeting with the tribe and forgot to close the door on her gilded cage, allowing the yellow canary to escape.


Gustav Mahler

The collision between the 11th dimensional string and the yellow canary opened a space-time rift in the past and three-quarters of the way down the line of Cream fans waiting to be admitted to the reunion concert. The line ran from the Natural History Museum on Cromwell, up Exhibition past the Science Museum and left on Kensington Road to the Royal Albert Hall.

It so happened that Mr. and Mrs. Minh Lee, who traveled all the way from their dairy farm in South Korea to see Eric and the boys perform, were standing next to the rift. The yellow canary suddenly appeared in front of a startled Mr. Lee who swatted at it with his concert ticket. The ticket fell into the rift and was transported a week ahead in time, caught by a faint morning breeze and deposited in the gutter at the corner of Exhibition and Cromwell Roads.


Charles Hoy Fort

The canary escaped Mr. Lee's attack and proceeded up Exhibition Road singing the fifth violin part from the final movement of Mahler's 4th Symphony. Mrs. Lee still had her ticket to the Cream Reunion concert and thoroughly enjoyed her first evening without her husband in thirty years. She particularly liked "Toad".

The possibility of a collision between an 11th dimensional string and a yellow canary was predicted some eighty years earlier by anomalous phenomena researcher Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932), best known for coining the term "damned knowledge", which refers to any knowledge scoffed at because it does not align with current scientific disciplines.

Mr. Fort also claimed that the destinies of earthlings were ruled by aliens on Mars and other stuff.


Charles Addams (R) with members
of the TV Addams Family

Charles Samuel Addams, the famous cartoonist and creator of The Addams Family, died in 1988 and was probably not directly related to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Robert Farringdon Woolworth, AKA Sneer, is also probably not related to Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the famous Woolworth Five and Dime Stores, although Woolworth stores were once widespread in Britain and sold a popular pattern of china featuring yellow canaries in the 1930s.

Before tossing out Mr. Lee's lost ticket to the Cream Reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Sneer noted that the seat number printed on the ticket was 42.

Damned Knowledge - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damned_knowledge

Hitchhiker Official Movie Site - http://hitchhikers.movies.go.com

Angelina Jolie Pleads for Afghan Children


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie speaks in
Islamabad May 7, 2005. (Khursheed/ Reuters)

ISLAMABAD May 7, 2005 (Reuters) - Hollywood star and U.N. goodwill envoy Angelina Jolie asked on Saturday for increased international help to repatriate more than 3 million Afghans living in Pakistan.

"Their children still need to go to school, they need some health care. We cannot let funding completely drop for them," said Jolie, the goodwill ambassador of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, at the end of her four-day trip to Pakistan.

Jolie met President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz as she visited the country to draw attention to the plight of refugees.

The world should help Pakistan shoulder the burden, she said.

The star, her hair covered by a traditional shawl as she toured a refugee camp near Peshawar, in North West Frontier Province, said she was dismayed by the lack of funds spent on education. She said there was a need to boost development efforts in Afghanistan as fast as possible, "especially in the rural areas so that people can return to their homes."

U.N. officials say Pakistan receives $12 million a year in aid for around 1 million refugees in camps created to shelter Afghans who fled to Pakistan to escape an era of conflict that began with the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Despite wretched conditions in Afghanistan, some 2.3 million Afghans have gone home since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. Another 400,000 are expected to return this year, but many more have laid down roots in Pakistan and don't want to leave.

Farscape Meets Stargate SG-1


Claudia Black as Vala punches out Dr. Daniel
Jackson in "Prometheus Unbound" (Sci Fi)

Hollywood May 6, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Former Farscape star Claudia Black told SCI FI Wire that her character in the upcoming ninth season of Stargate SG-1 will bedevil Michael Shanks' Daniel Jackson for the season's first six episodes. Black reprises the role of the mischievous Vala first introduced in last season's "Prometheus Unbound."

"I've come to make Michael Shanks' life a misery," Black said in an interview at the Saturn Awards in Los Angeles this week. "The character I'm playing is sort of the hair-pulling variety. She's really infuriating, but, I hope, funny."

Black added: "She's the naughty kid that says everything that everyone else is thinking, but doesn't dare say. She's irreverent. Everything she says is to get a rise or reaction out of someone. ... She's also a highly comedic character. She provides a lot of energy and comedy. And that was something. ... Aeryn [her Farscape character] was a very dramatic, weighty, serious character, and I think smiled once a season. Vala is completely the opposite from that perspective alone."

Black finds herself again sharing a show with Farscape's Ben Browder, who joins the regular SG-1 cast as Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell, a new member of SG-1. But Browder said that he won't share much screen time with his former Farscape on-screen flame. "They're trying to keep us apart," Browder said. "But we'll break them down eventually. They've got to give us one [scene together]!"

Black added: "There's a good reason, though, [for keeping us separated]," she said. "It underlines how obviously different our characters are this time around. It's a whole different ballgame."


Ben Browder joins the regular
SG-1 cast

Browder said that the SG-1 cast has been nothing but welcoming. "The interesting thing about joining a show that's been going on for such a long time is, really, when you work on a show after a period of time, it's actually refreshing to have new people come in and mix it up," he said. "At least, that was I think our experience on Farscape. As long as they didn't take me away from scenes with [Black], that was fine. So they've been very gracious and welcoming. You know, it would be hard to ask for much more in regards to the cast taking us in."

Black and Browder added that they hope Farscape lives on, though it ended its run on SCI FI Channel last year with the miniseries Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars. (The miniseries won three Saturn Awards.)

"I'd love to see a Farscape feature film, but for now I'm very happy launching the ninth season of Stargate [SG-1] with Beau Bridges [who joins the cast as Maj. Gen. Hank Landry]." He added: "Beau Bridges is running the show. Every time he comes into the room, I stand at attention."

"We all do," Black added. Stargate SG-1 has resumed production at its base in Vancouver, B.C., and returns to SCI FI Channel in July.

Sci Fi Hall of Fame Does Steven Spielberg


Steven Spielberg (AP)

SEATTLE May 7, 2005 (Reuters) - Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and author Philip K. Dick were among the luminaries of the science fiction world inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on Friday for their contribution to the medium of fact, fiction and fantasy.

The induction ceremony, which also honored stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen and artist Chesley Bonestell, was the first for the year-old Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, a pet project of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen.

Spielberg, known for science fiction films such as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Jurassic Park," said he was humbled to join the group.

"It (science fiction) really is the only genre that lets you use your imagination without limitations," Spielberg said in a pre-taped acceptance speech.

Harryhausen, known for animating tiny figures for classic science fiction films such as "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and "Jason and the Argonauts," is still alive but was unable to attend from London, where he lives.

The late Dick, whose fiction inspired some of Hollywood's most famous science fiction films including "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," and "Minority Report," joined other Science Fiction Hall of Fame authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Jules Verne.

The late Bonestell's artwork of planetary exploration and futuristic worlds graced the covers of the classic science fiction magazine "Astounding," and "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction."

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 in Kansas but moved nearly a year ago to the museum in the shadow of Seattle's Space Needle.

The museum houses such artifacts as Captain Kirk's chair from the "Star Trek" series, the first edition of H.G. Well's "Time Machine," and numerous high-tech exhibits.

With Friday's four inductees, the Hall of Fame now includes 40 science fiction figures.

NBC Wants 24


Kiefer Sutherland as Jack (Fox)

LOS ANGELES May 6, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - It's a secret, last-second twist worthy of Jack Bauer: NBC is reportedly angling to poach the drama series "24" from rival FOX.

FOX and 20th Century Fox TV, which produces "24," are currently negotiating a license fee for renewal of the thriller, which stars Kiefer Sutherland as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer. The show's current license agreement expires after this season.

At the 11th (or 23rd, maybe, in this case) hour, though, NBC has made it known that it would love to bring a fifth season of the series of the show to its airwaves. "I can tell you that NBC has not been shy about expressing their interest in '24,'" a source who requested anonymity tells the New York Post.

NBC's reported interest comes despite the fact that the network and studio are both units of News Corp. (as is the Post), which would seem to make the Peacock's odds of wresting the series from FOX pretty slim. Even disregarding the corporate connection, it seems unlikely that FOX would let one of its better-performing series go.

Nearly 12 million people per week are watching "24," which unfolds in real time over the course of 24 hours, this season, a marked improvement over last season's average of 10.2 million. The jump is even more impressive considering that "24" had ratings juggernaut "American Idol" as a lead-in for much of last season, whereas this year it's had to be more of a self-starter.

The broadcast networks are less than two weeks from announcing their 2005-06 lineups at the upfronts; NBC's presentation is scheduled for Monday, May 16, with FOX's set for three days later.

Red Skelton Gets Theater

VINCENNES IN May 6, 2005 (AP) - The widow of comedian Red Skelton says her husband always dreamed of having his own theater and would have been thrilled to know one carrying his name will open later this year in his hometown.


Comedian Red Skelton outside New York's
Carnegie Hall in 1977 where he performed
with a 17-piece orchestra conducting his
own musical compositions and his famous
comedy skits. (AP Photo)

Lothian Skelton toured Vincennes University's Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on Wednesday to see how work is progressing on the $15 million center, which is expected to be finished by December.

She said her husband's lifelong dream was to have his own theater and that he once tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Pantheon Theater in downtown Vincennes.

"Red would have been very excited, because it would have been like a dream," Lothian Skelton said. "Red always dreamed of having a theater during his lifetime. He would be very proud."

Skelton, who was born in Vincennes in 1913 and died in 1997, entertained 1950s TV audiences with characters such as Clem Kadiddlehopper and the Mean Widdle Kid, whose favorite expression was "I dood it!" He also appeared in more than 30 movies.

The Red Skelton Performing Arts Center is being built about one block from the late comedian's boyhood home.

Aside from being used to stage performances, the performing arts center will also display some of the more than 250 boxes of Red Skelton memorabilia Lothian Skelton donated to the university last year. But she doesn't want those relics to be the center's focal point.

"I see it as something for the future, for our younger generations," she said. "... The fact that Red has his theater at last, and that young people will be able to study and have their own stages to become performers in the future is very exciting."

James Brown Gets Statue
By ELIOTT C. McLAUGHLIN
Associated Press Writer


'Godfather of Soul' James Brown
performs during a Java Jazz
Festival concert in Jakarta
Indonesia, March 4, 2005.
(AP Photo/ Dita Alangkara)

AUGUSTA GA May 7, 2005 (AP) - James Brown was born in South Carolina but grew up here — and lets the world know it. Town folks appreciate that and wanted him to know it. Their way of showing him: a life-sized bronze statue of the Godfather of Soul himself in middle age, grinning broadly and wearing a cape.

Brown unveiled his 72nd birthday present Friday at a ceremony downtown attended by hundreds.

"I hope I didn't disappoint anyone and I'm so glad you did what you did," Brown said of the statue.

The statue was supposed to be unveiled last May, for Brown's birthday, but the city postponed the ceremony because the entertainer, who has spent time in jail for drugs and assault, was facing domestic violence charges for pushing and threatening his wife. He did not contest the charges, saying he wanted to keep his family matters private.

"We need to let Mr. Brown settle those issues in his private life before we move forward with a very public recognition of his professional life," Mayor Bob Young said last year.

This year, in a statement about the unveiling, Young made it clear that the statue commemorates Brown's musical accomplishments.

"All of Augusta should be proud of the professional accomplishments of James Brown. He is truly an icon in his profession," Young said.

At the ceremony, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Brown's former road manager, said the statue will stand as a reminder that everyone gets knocked down, but champions get back up.

"This is not a statue for his ego," Sharpton said.

Funds for the $40,000 statue came from private donors and the city's downtown development authority.

Growing up poor in this town of about 200,000 located 140 miles east of Atlanta, Brown danced for change on the sidewalks that now surround the statue, according to a news release from the city.

He won his first talent show at the city's Lenox Theater and used to stand outside the Del Mar Casino on Walton Way — now James Brown Boulevard — to hear his idol, jazzman Louis Jordan of "Let the Good Times Roll" fame. Brown went on to be named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

After seeing success, Brown moved to New York, but returned to Augusta in the 1960s and is now known for giving bicycles and turkeys to the less fortunate during the holidays.

After thanking the crowd and sharing anecdotes from his childhood, Brown said: "God bless you and God is good and please, please, please don't forget me."

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