Weird Politics!
Fluffy Rex, Corn Genome,
Dr. Cosby,
Brain Power,
Star Trek Enterprise & More!
Weird Politics!
[Well, maybe not that weird, but there are a few political stories slipping through the cracks as mainstream media tries hard to appear to be unbiased and impartial during the last weeks of the US presidential election race. We gathered some of them for you here, along with our usual weekly collection of probably more important news stories that you may never see on TV. By the way, in case you're wondering, sure we're biased here at eXoNews! We think anyone who would want to be president of the USA must be certifiable. Enjoy! Ed.]

In a clandestine oval office meeting last month, Presley
showed up to offer his support for the Bush campaign.
"I've got guns," Elvis told George W. (eXoNews)

Elvis Sighted At Bush Headquarters!
By Mark Egan

NEW YORK October 11, 2004 (Reuters) - The U.S. presidential campaign between George W. Bush and John Kerry has prompted a frenzy of gossip and conspiracy theories among Internet bloggers, hybrid online sites that blend news, gossip and opinion.

As Bush and the Massachusetts Senator slug it out in a neck-and-neck race ahead of the November 2 election, partisan bloggers have flooded the Internet with alternative views about both candidates, which they hope will help sway voters.

Experts say much of the gossip on the Internet is as loony as supermarket tabloid stories claiming Elvis Presley lives, but that it still has a role to play in the campaign.

"Blogs probably pretty accurately reflect the level of polarization and paranoia and frustration among everyday Americans that the entire campaign reflects," said Vanity Fair media critic Michael Wolff, characterizing the new form of overtly-biased journalism as "the voice of the mob."

After Tuesday's debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Kerry's running mate Sen. John Edwards, blogs quickly refuted Cheney's claim that he never met Edwards, posting a picture of the two together within moments of his statement.

And ahead of Friday's second debate between Bush and Kerry, the Internet was abuzz with gossip that the president wore a listening device during last week's debate allowing an unseen puppet master to whisper cues and tips in his ear.

The Bush campaign said that rumor -- likening the president to Milli Vanilli, the infamous singing duet unveiled as frauds for lip-syncing -- was totally false.

"It's a laughable, left-wing conspiracy theory," said Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Online magazine on Friday examined the morass of "evidence" offered on myriad blogs and concluded, "As for whether we really do have a Milli Vanilli president, the answer at this point has to be, God only knows."

Driving the latest incendiary blogging is a picture posted on the Internet of Bush during the debate in Florida. Shot from behind, the image shows what appears to be a bulge beneath the president's suit jacket below his shoulder blades.

Robert Thompson, pop culture professor at Syracuse University, called the accusation "the biggest conspiracy theory" of the campaign to date. "Until there's a credible source I'm not sure I buy it," he said.

A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project found more than two million Americans have their own blog. Most have few readers but some garner thousands of hits daily as the American public becomes increasingly distrustful of mainstream media.

Bush isn't alone in being targeted. Conservative bloggers accused Kerry of using a cheat sheet during the first debate and have also issued critiques of his Vietnam war record.

Self-styled Internet commentators scored a victory recently when they questioned the authenticity of documents used by television network CBS to challenge Bush's military service in the National Guard during the Vietnam era. CBS admitted it had been duped into using questionable documents for the report.

Not to be outdone, the Kerry campaign released
a statement late today claiming that the Senator
actually served with Elvis Presley in 1960,
earning a gold record. The Kerry statement was
accompanied by this photograph. (eXoNews)

Many bloggers have been so partisan that they have even raised money for the candidate of their choice -- something that has led most media watchers to take much of what appears on the sites with more than a grain of salt. (Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg in New York and Adam Entous in Washington)

[We here at eXoNews are aghast at such practices occurring among our fellow Internet rumormongers! BTW, did you catch our recent UFO issue? Ed.]

Was Bush Wired?

CHANHASSEN, Minn. October 9, 2004 (AP) - Campaign aides to President Bush on Saturday laughed off rampant Internet speculation about whether the president was wired to get help from advisers during his first debate with Sen. John Kerry.

"It's not true. It's ridiculous," Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

A still photo from television footage of Bush as he debated Kerry on Sept. 30 in Coral Gables, Fla., appears to show a small, boxy shape between the president's shoulder blades.

Campaign officials declined to discuss it further because they weren't certain a bulge even existed and do not want to appear to take seriously what they consider a "wild accusation."

Bloggers and others began to muse on various Web sites that the bulge could have been a radio receiver that the president's aides could use to give him answers during the debate. One Web site,, is devoted solely to the matter.

"Some people have been spending too many hours looking at left-wing conspiracy Web sites," Stanzel said. "Did you hear the one about Elvis moderating the third debate?"

[Nonsense! I noticed that box myself during the second debate. It was clearly the positronic brain control that the CIA installs in all US presidents immediately before their inauguration. Check it out. They all had 'em. Ed]

16 Million Tune Out Debates
LOS ANGELES October 11, 2004 (AP) - The second Bush-Kerry presidential debate drew a smaller audience than the first but viewer interest remained high, according to ratings figures released Monday.

An estimated 46.7 million viewers watched last Friday's contest between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, compared to the 62.5 million who viewed the Sept. 30 debate.

By comparison, the second debate in 2000 between Bush and former Vice President Al Gore drew 37.6 million viewers.

NBC, with 12.3 million viewers, was the most-watched network, followed by ABC with an audience of 10.3 million, CBS with 8.1 million and Fox with 3.8 million.

Fox News Channel led among cable channels with 7.1 million viewers, while CNN had 3.4 million and MSNBC had 1.7 million.

A third and final debate between Bush and Kerry, focusing on domestic issues, is scheduled Wednesday. CBS newsman Bob Schieffer will moderate.

The sole debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards drew 43.6 million viewers.
Fluffy Rex Found in China
Beijing October 8, 2004 (BBC) - Chinese scientists have unearthed the earliest known relative of the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. What is more, the creature, which lived 60 to 70 million years before T. rex, had fluffy feathers covering its body.

Xing Xu and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing found their tyrannosauroid in the famous fossil beds of Liaoning Province.

Xu told Nature magazine the discovery would help us understand how some early dinosaurs controlled their body heat.

The dinosaur called Dilong paradoxus was about 1.5 meters long and lived between 128 and 139 million years ago. The researchers found a partial skeleton with a nearly complete skull, together with fragments from other individuals.

The team describes the animal as "small and gracile" with "relatively long arms with three-fingered hands".

The dinosaur is said to show the distinctively square-snouted profile of its much larger and more famous Late Cretaceous (70-65-million-year-old) cousin.

Evidence of hair-like "protofeathers" was located on the tail and jaw of the animal.

The fossil evidence shows T. rex had scales, not feathers. But Xu suggests the fierce beast may have been like some large mammals today, such as elephants, which lose most of their body hairs as they mature.

"We don't have any evidence that T. rex was covered with feathers," Xu, from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, told BBC News.

"For the last few years in the western area of China, there have been many feathered dinosaurs found from that area. This latest find is a primitive tyrannosaur covered with primitive feathers.

"So based on all this other evidence, we can conceivably say that even T. rex had fluffy feathers for some stage in her life."

The team includes co-workers from the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and the Museum of Natural History, Tianjin.

Probe of Anti-Kerry Broadcast
By Brooks Boliek

WASHINGTON October 12, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - The Democratic Party and 18 senators are seeking a pair of federal investigations into Sinclair Broadcast Group's plans to preempt network primetime programming on its 62 TV stations nationwide later this month to air a documentary critical of Sen. John Kerry's antiwar activities.

The Democratic National Committee plans to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that alleges that the documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" is an illegal in-kind contribution to President Bush's campaign. Many of the stations the Baltimore-based company owns are in critical "battleground states."

Meanwhile, the Democratic senators have asked the FCC to investigate whether Sinclair's plan was an improper use of public airwaves.

The documentary by Pennsylvania-based Carlton Sherwood, a former journalist and Vietnam veteran, chronicles Kerry's 1971 testimony before Congress and links him to activist and actress Jane Fonda. It includes interviews with Vietnam prisoners of war and their wives who claim that Kerry's testimony -- filled with "lurid fantasies of butchery in Vietnam" on the part of U.S. troops -- demeaned them and led their captors to hold them longer.

DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe said the company was acting as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party rather than a legitimate news outlet.

"In this election cycle, they have put their money where their right-wing mouths are," he said. "Sinclair's owners aren't interested in news; they're interested in pro-Bush propaganda."

Sinclair executives have given thousands to the Bush campaign, and the company refused to air the April 30 "Nightline" episode in which hundreds of names of American troops killed in Iraq were read by ABC anchor Ted Koppel.

Democratic FCC commissioner Michael Copps called Sinclair's decision "an abuse of the public trust."

"It is proof positive of media consolidation run amok when one owner can use the public airwaves to blanket the country with its political ideology -- whether liberal or conservative," he said. "This is the same corporation that refused to air "Nightline's" reading of our war dead in Iraq. It is the same corporation that short shrifts local communities and local jobs by distance-casting news and weather from hundreds of miles away."

Mark Hyman, vp corporate relations at Sinclair and also a conservative commentator for the company, said Monday that the show would contain some or all of the 42-minute film as well as a panel discussion of some sort. He said final details had not been worked out but defended it as a legitimate news.

"Would they suggest that our reporting a car bomb in Iraq is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign?" Hyman told the Associated Press. "Would they suggest that our reporting on job losses is an in-kind contribution to the Kerry campaign? It's the news. It is what it is. We're reporting the news."

The specifics of when Sinclair plans to run "Stolen Honor" in its various markets remained unclear Monday. Sinclair owns stations reaching nearly 23% of the nation's TV households. The majority of its stations are affiliated with Fox, the WB Network and UPN, but it also owns ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.

One source familiar with Sinclair's plans said the group wants to air the program on different nights depending on the station's affiliation. The source said that Sinclair was targeting an Oct. 22 airdate for the film on its 21 Fox affiliates to avoid having to preempt any of the network's highly rated baseball league championship and World Series games.

A Fox spokesman declined to comment on the prospect of the preemption, as did representatives for other broadcasters. A source at one of the Big Four networks said Sinclair was within the rights of its affiliation contracts to do the preemption under clauses that allow station owners flexibility to bump network programming for local news or other programs deemed in the interest of the community served by the station.
The Corn Genome - Twice as Many Genes as Humans
Rutgers University News Release

NEW BRUNSWICK/ PISCATAWAY October 12, 2004 – Rutgers researchers, with the support of the National Science Foundation, have pushed back the frontiers on the genetic nature and history one of the world's most important crops – corn. This crop dominates agriculture in the United States, where approximately 9 billion bushels are produced annually at a value of $30 billion. Maize (or corn) is also an important dietary staple in much of the third world.

Rutgers' Joachim Messing and his colleagues announced this month discoveries about the inner workings of corn, its origins and evolution, with implications for breeding, genetic engineering and future genomic studies.

"This latest research, conducted with worldwide collaborations, led us to a new understanding of maize that will help enable scientists and farmers to make major improvements in one of the world's most significant crops and gain new and important insights in plant genomic studies," said Messing, director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The findings are presented in three papers in the journal Genome Research and one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists conducted the most comprehensive survey of the maize genome ever performed and established for the first time the genome's magnitude – approximately 59,000 genes – and the relative position of the genes. This is twice as many as the human genome and the highest number of genes of any genome sequenced to date. Messing emphasized that this survey is only a first step and conducting a whole genome sequence is a priority dictated by nutritional, economic and societal needs.

The research further established that in addition to its immense size, the corn genome is extremely complex due, in part, to positional instability as well as its genetic history. Messing and his colleagues concluded that maize genes are scrambled, having moved around to different locations throughout the genome – an occurrence unheard of in other species, including the human genome. This has important implications for genetic engineering.

"An argument often cited against the introduction of external genes, a common practice in genetic engineering, suggests that it would create an unnatural instability in the genome," said Messing. "With all the maize genes moving around by themselves in nature, perhaps conveying some selective advantage in doing so, this argument is unfounded."

Through sophisticated computational analysis, the researchers concluded that today's corn is the product of two very closely related ancestral species that no longer exist. About 5 million years ago the species crossed and, in doing so, doubled the number of genes. Through mechanisms not yet revealed, many of these genes were shed and then others duplicated through gene amplification as this process is termed.

When compared to closely related species today, the researchers found that as much as 22 percent of the maize genes could be identified as being different. This was surprising, considering that other close relatives – such as chimpanzees and humans – differ in less than one percent of their genes.

"It looks like significant evolutionary change happened in a relatively short time," said Messing. "Because they are immobile, plants have to adapt to changes more rapidly than animals that can move to escape environmental impacts. Plants are continually faced with a variety of seasonal challenges and assaults by a series of different pests which may well lead to evolution on a fast track."

While the findings offered in the four newly published papers provide exciting, new glimpses into the nature of maize, Messing stressed the need for the completion of a whole genome sequence, a more detailed analysis of gene expression in maize, and a better understanding of its genetic and cellular mechanisms.

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey -

Giant Pumpkin Wins Prize
HALF MOON BAY CA October 11, 2004 (AP) - A retired Washington state firefighter who grows giant pumpkins in his spare time produced the winning pumpkin Monday at the 31st annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

The pumpkin, grown by 55-year old Joel Holland of Puyallup, Wash., tipped the scales at 1,229 pounds — 49 pounds heavier than last year's winner. Its circumference was 13 feet, 7 inches.

Holland, whose prodigious pumpkins won the contest three years in a row, from 1992 through 1994, planted this year's winning pumpkin plant in May. He transported the giant gourd to California on a huge flatbed pickup truck, covering it with towels and blankets to protect its skin from dehydration.

Contest spokesman Tim Beeman said 80 pumpkins competed for the top prize, and eight weighed more than 1,000 pounds.

"It's our deepest field yet," Beeman said.

Holland wins $5 for each winning pound of pumpkin — a total of $6,145 — and both he and the pumpkin will be the lead attractions at the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival this weekend.

The Safeway Pumpkin Weigh-Off is one of the oldest such competitions in the country and is considered by many pumpkin aficionados to be the most prestigious.
Chat with Big Brother
TROY NY October 11, 2004 (AP) — Amid the torrent of jabber in Internet chat rooms flirting by QTpie and BoogieBoy, arguments about politics and horror flicks are terrorists plotting their next move?

The government certainly isn't discounting the possibility. It taking the idea seriously enough to fund a yearlong study on chat room surveillance under an anti-terrorism program.

A Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute computer science professor hopes to develop mathematical models that can uncover structure within the scattershot traffic of online public forums.

Chat rooms are the highly popular and freewheeling areas on the Internet where people with self-created nicknames discuss just about anything: teachers, Kafka, cute boys, politics, love, root canal. They are also places where malicious hackers have been known to trade software tools, stolen passwords and credit card numbers. The Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that 28 million Americans have visited Internet chat rooms.

Trying to monitor the sea of traffic on all the chat channels would be like assigning a police officer to listen in on every conversation on the sidewalk virtually impossible.

Instead of rummaging through megabytes of messages, RPI professor Bulent Yener will use mathematical models in search of patterns in the chatter. Downloading data from selected chat rooms, Yener will track the times that messages were sent, creating a statistical profile of the traffic.

If, for instance, RatBoi and bowler1 consistently send messages within seconds of each other in a crowded chat room, you could infer that they were speaking to one another amid the "noise" of the chat room.

"For us, the challenge is to be able to determine, without reading the messages, who is talking to whom," Yener said.

In search of "hidden communities," Yener also wants to check messages for certain keywords that could reveal something about what's being discussed in groups.

The $157,673 grant comes from the National Science Foundation's Approaches to Combat Terrorism program. It was selected in coordination with the nation's intelligence agencies.

The NSF's Leland Jameson said the foundation judged the proposal strictly on its broader scientific merit, leaving it to the intelligence community to determine its national security value. Neither the CIA nor the FBI would comment on the grant, with a CIA spokeswoman citing the confidentiality of sources and methods.

Security officials know al-Qaida and other terrorist groups use the Internet for everything from propaganda to offering tips on kidnapping. But it's not clear if terrorists rely much on chat rooms for planning and coordination.

Michael Vatis, founding director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center and now a consultant, said he had heard of terrorists using chat rooms, which he said offer some security as long as code phrases are used. Other cybersecurity experts doubted chat rooms' usefulness to terrorists given the other current options, from Web mail to hiding messages on designated Web pages that can only be seen by those who know where to look.

"In a world in which you can embed your message in a pixel on a picture on a home page about tea cozies, I don't know whether if you're any better if you think chat would be any particular magnet," Jonathan Zittrain, an Internet scholar at Harvard Law School.

Since they are focusing on public chat rooms, authorities are not violating constitutional rights to privacy when they keep an eye on the traffic, experts said. Law enforcement agents have trolled chat rooms for years in search of pedophiles, sometimes adopting profiles making it look like they are young teens.

But the idea of the government reviewing massive amounts of public communications still raises some concerns.

Mark Rasch, a former head of the Justice Department's computer crimes unit, said such a system would bring the country one step closer to the Pentagon's much-maligned Terrorism Information Awareness program.

Research on that massive data-mining project was halted after an uproar over its impact on privacy.

"It's the ability to gather and analyze massive amounts of data that creates the privacy problem," Rasch said, "even though no individual bit of data is particularly private."

Dr. Cosby Talks to Kids
Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND VA October 12, 2004 (AP) - Bill Cosby spoke bluntly to students at Richmond's mostly black public schools Monday, urging them to dedicate themselves to graduation, not gangs, and to control anger that threatens to derail their dreams.

Cosby toured four schools with former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is running for mayor.

But instead of talking politics, Cosby stuck to his no-nonsense message to inner-city black children that at times has made him the target of criticism.

"Study. That's all. It's not tough. You're not picking cotton. You're not picking up the trash. You're not washing windows. You sit down. You read. You develop your brain," Cosby pleaded at Fred D. Thompson Middle School, where 65 percent of the 700 students meet low-income criteria for free or reduced-price lunches.

There and at George Wythe High School, the 67-year-old actor and comedian implored black children in their teens to begin studying in groups, for girls not to allow themselves to get pregnant and for boys not to compensate for love they lack at home with gangs or sex.

"I'd like to tell you I don't think things have changed since I was 14," Cosby said.

"There are still old people who drink, do drugs — who will stop and take the time to tell you don't be like them. Have you heard them? Pay attention to them."

Cosby mentioned sex and an auditorium packed with sixth- through eighth-graders buzzed with laughter, catcalls and whistles. Then he mentioned algebra and the room momentarily quieted.

"Everybody knows about sex. Not too many people want to know about algebra," he said.

"Let's think about love. Let's think about where it is and where you can get it, but not sex. You're too young for sex," he said, joking with the children. "You don't have sex 'til you're 50 years old. What, that's too old? Well how about 49?"

In urging young blacks to find self-worth in academics, Cosby's comments were similar to those he made in May in Washington, D.C., when he upbraided some inner-city blacks for squandering opportunities won in the civil rights movement.

Cosby was criticized by some black activists, just as Wilder has been in speaking bluntly in his mayoral race about black poverty, joblessness, crime and what he says is a lack of black leadership in this city of about 195,000.

Wilder and Cosby, however, said the visit grew out of their longtime friendship and its timing three weeks before election day had nothing to do with politics. Wilder, who in 1990 became the nation's first elected black governor, and Cosby, who helped desegregate prime-time television in the 1960s, said Cosby's appearance was not a tacit endorsement. Cosby said he wouldn't consider endorsing Wilder without first meeting his opponents.

"This is not a campaign piece," Wilder said. "I don't think it helps my campaign, I don't think it hurts my campaign."

With a national political portfolio, Wilder's campaign treasury and fame dwarf those of his opponents, including incumbent Mayor Rudolph McCollum.

Cosby was annoyed at the political speculation.

"I'm not running for any office and I think that Gov. Wilder — let's all face it — would not need to set up a smoke screen in order to get the two of us to get some kind of publicity," Cosby said.

Democrats Say Something Fishy About Federal Salmon Study
By Erica Werner,
Associated Press

WASHINGTON October 12, 2004 (AP) — House Democrats recently called for an investigation into a report that federal biologists rewrote an analysis that said a water transfer plan could hurt endangered salmon in northern California.

In a letter to the inspectors general of the Interior Department and the Commerce Department, the lawmakers said the report suggested a "catastrophic failure of oversight."

At issue is a recent report in the Sacramento Bee that said federal biologists evaluating the effects of shifting millions of gallons of water to Southern California from rivers in the north were ordered by their superiors to revise a conclusion that the plan would hurt endangered salmon.

Biologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initially found that the water project would harm fish in many rivers in northern California, including salmon in the American River.

But NOAA administrators overruled the findings and supervised a rewriting of the analysis, according to documents obtained by the Bee. An updated version, dated Sept. 27, no longer concluded that winter-run salmon or other fish could face extinction by the extra water diversions.

The reported actions "may further undermine public confidence in the Bureau of Reclamation's and NOAA fisheries' ability to appropriately manage the resources that the public has entrusted to them," the Democrats wrote.

The letter was signed by 19 House members led by Rep. George Miller, D-California, and including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, top Democrat on the House Resources Committee.

NOAA officials, including the assistant regional administrator who supervised the rewriting, contended the revisions were justified.

"This was just supervisor-employee stuff. I received a draft document that had some errors in it, and when those were corrected it changed the conclusion," said James Lecky, assistant regional administrator for the southwest region for NOAA.

He said he was confident that the conclusion that fish would not be harmed was accurate but noted that a final version of the report still has not been issued.

"What got leaked was a very preliminary draft, and then a subsequent more developed draft that had some different conclusions in it," he said.
Maya Atlantis?
Mexico City October 12, 2004 (SAPA/DPA) - A team of international archaeologists have set sail from Mexico to seek a sunken city that has been dubbed the "Mayan Atlantis", press reports said on Monday.

Quoted by the Mexican newspaper Milenio, team leader Paulina Zelintzky, a Russian archaeologist, said sonar equipment had given indications there could be ancient structures on the ocean floor between Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and Cuba.

According to Milenio, resonances showed geometric images similar to pyramids and round structures. The archaeologists will search the area using a mini-submarine known as "Deep Worker".

Signs there could be Mayan remains on the seabed first surfaced in 2000 when the area next to Cuba's westernmost tip was being explored for petroleum.

Before beginning their project, the archaeologists had to raise $2-million (about R13-million). They set sail from the port of Progreso in eastern Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula.

Nuytco Research Ltd -
Bad Technology Kept Front Line US Commanders in the Dark?
WASHINGTON October 12, 2004 (Reuters) - Front-line U.S. troops often lacked access to surveillance and intelligence data during the invasion of Iraq because of computer glitches, Technology Review magazine reported on Tuesday, citing a classified report by Rand Corp.

One battalion commander told the magazine he had almost no information on the strength and position of Iraqi forces after his division took control of a key bridge south of Baghdad on April 2, 2003.

Lt. Col. Ernest Marcone said he was told to expect one Iraqi brigade advancing south from the Baghdad airport, but instead was forced to battle three separate Iraqi brigades advancing from three directions, the magazine reported.

What ensued was the largest counterattack of the Iraq war. U.S. troops won because of their superior weapons, greater firepower and air support, but not because they had any real insight into enemy positions through new technology, the magazine said.

"Next to the fall of Baghdad, that bridge was the most important piece of terrain in the theater, and no one can tell me what's defending it," Marcone told the magazine. "Not how many troops, what units, what tanks, anything. There's zero information getting to me."

Marcone's experience was typical, according to a largely classified report being prepared for the Pentagon by the Rand Corp, which concludes that front-line commanders often did not benefit from cutting-edge technologies. These were aimed at moving toward a smaller, smarter fighting force connected by advanced communications systems.

Walter Perry, a senior Rand researcher, told the magazine the report uncovered a "digital divide" that allowed division commanders to get a good view of the battlefield, but left front-line commanders basically in the dark.

The problems preventing effective relaying of crucial data included lengthy download times, software failures and lack of access to high-bandwidth communications.

Pentagon officials highlighted the success of networked forces during the Iraq war, including the case of a U.S. radar plane detecting Iraqi troops during a blinding sandstorm and ordering in bombers using satellite-guided bombs.

But the report found that ground forces had serious problems getting access to vital intelligence and surveillance data. In three cases, U.S. vehicles were attacked when they stopped to receive data on enemy positions, it said.
Using 80% of Our Brain Power
University of Rochester News Release

October 6, 2004 - There’s an old myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but researchers at the University of Rochester have found in reality that roughly 80 percent of our cognitive power may be cranking away on tasks completely unknown to us.

Curiously, this clandestine activity does not exist in the youngest brains, leading scientists to believe that the mysterious goings-on that absorb the majority of our minds are dedicated to subconsciously reprocessing our initial thoughts and experiences. The research, which has possible profound implications for our very basis of understanding reality, appears in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

"We found neural activity that frankly surprised us," says Michael Weliky, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. "Adult ferrets had neural patterns in their visual cortex that correlated very well with images they viewed, but that correlation didn’t exist at all in very young ferrets, suggesting the very basis of comprehending vision may be a very different task for young brains versus old brains."

A second surprise was in store for Weliky. Placing the ferrets in a darkened room revealed that older ferrets’ brains were still humming along at 80 percent as if they were processing visual information. Since this activity was absent in the youngsters, Weliky and his colleagues were left to wonder: What is the visual cortex so busy processing when there’s no image to process?

Initially, Weliky’s research was aimed at studying whether visual processing bore any resemblance to the way real-world images appear. This finding may help lead to a better understanding of how neurons decode our world and how our perception of reality is shaped.

Weliky, in a bit of irony, set 12 ferrets watching the reality-stretching film The Matrix. He recorded how their brains responded to the film, as well as to a null pattern like enlarged television static, and a darkened room. Movies capture the visual elements that are present in the real world. For instance, as Keanu’s hand moves across the screen for a karate chop, the image of the hand and all the lines and color it represents moves across a viewer’s visual realm essentially the same way it would in real life. By contrast, the enlarged static—blocks of random black and white—has no such motion. Weliky was able to graph the movie-motion statistically, showing essentially how objects move in the visual field.

The test was then to see if there was any relationship between the statistical motion of the movie and the way visual neurons in the ferrets fired. Each visual neuron is keyed to respond to certain visual elements, such as a vertical line, that appears in a specific area of the ferret’s vision. A great number of these cells combine to process an image of many lines, colors, etc. By watching the patterns of how these cells fired while watching The Matrix, Weliky could describe the pattern statistically, and match those statistics of how the ferret responded to the film with the statistics of the actual visual aspects of the film.

Weliky found two surprises. First, while the neurons of adult ferrets statistically seemed to respond similarly to the statistics of the film itself, younger ferrets had almost no relationship. This suggests that though the young ferrets are taking in and processing visual stimuli, they’re not processing the stimuli in a way that reflects reality.

"You might think of this as a sort of dyslexia," explains Weliky. "It may be that in very young brains, the processing takes place in a way that’s not necessarily disordered, but not analogous to how we understand reality to be. It’s thought that dyslexia works somewhat like this—that some parts of the brain process written words in an unusual way and seem to make beginnings of words appear at their ends and vice versa. Infant brains may see the entire world the same way, as a mass of disparate scenes and sounds." Weliky is quick to point out that whatever way infant brains may interpret the world, just because they’re different from an adult pattern of perception does not mean the infants have the wrong perception. After all, an adult interpreted the visual aspects of the film with our adult brains, so it shouldn’t be such a surprise that other adult brains simply interpret the visual aspects the same way. If an infant drew up the statistics, it might very well match the neural patterns of other infants.

The second, and more surprising, result of the study came directly from the fact that Weliky’s research is one of the first to test these visual neurons while the subject is awake and watching something. In the past, researchers would perhaps shine a light at an unconscious ferret and note which areas of the brain responded, but while that method narrowed the focus to how a single cell responds, it eliminated the chance to understand how the neural network of a conscious animal would respond. Accepting all the neural traffic of a conscious brain as part of the equation let Weliky get a better idea of the actual processing going on. As it turned out, one of his control tests yielded insight into neural activity no one expected.

When the ferrets were in a darkened room, Weliky expected their visual neurons to lack any kind of activity that correlated with visual reality. Neurologists have long known that there is substantial activity in the brain, even in darkness, but the pattern of that activity had never been investigated. Weliky discovered that while young ferrets displayed almost no patterns that correlated with visual reality, the adult ferrets’ brains were humming along, producing the patterns even though there was nothing to see. When watching the film, the adult ferrets’ neurons increased their patterned activity by about 20 percent.

"This means that in adults, there is a tremendous amount of real-world processing going on—80 percent—when there is nothing to process," says Weliky. "We think that if you’ve got your eyes closed, your visual processing is pretty much at zero, and that when you open them, you’re running at 100 percent. This suggests that with your eyes closed, your visual processing is already running at 80 percent, and that opening your eyes only adds the last 20 percent. The big question here is what is the brain doing when it’s idling, because it’s obviously doing something important."

Since the young ferrets do not display similar patterns, the "idling" isn’t necessary for life or consciousness, but since it’s present in the adults even without stimulus, Weliky suggests it may be in a sense what gives the ferret its understanding of reality. The eye takes in an image and the brain processes the image, but 80 percent of the activity may be a representation of the world replicated inside the ferret’s brain.

"The basic findings are exciting enough, but you can’t help but speculate on what they might mean in a deeper context," says Weliky. "It’s one thing to say a ferret’s understanding of reality is being reproduced inside his brain, but there’s nothing to say that our understanding of the world is accurate. In a way, our neural structure imposes a certain structure on the outside world, and all we know is that at least one other mammalian brain seems to impose the same structure. Either that or The Matrix freaked out the ferrets the way it did everyone else."

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

University of Rochester -

Genre News: Enterprise, Chris Reeve, The Grudge, Geldof, The Dandy, Arsenio Hall & More!
Storm Front Part 1: Enterprise Season 4 Premiere
Review by FLAtRich

October 10, 2004 (eXoNews) - After a season chasing interplanetary terrorists, you'd think the producers of Star Trek Enterprise would want to lighten up a little. I thought that might be what was happening at the end of last season when Producer Rick Berman slid us into an alternate Earth featuring alien Nazis fighting WW II battles in the USA.

I thought a premise so worn that it eclipsed modern science fiction could only be intended as self-parody, maybe relating to the classic Star Trek series episode Patterns of Force?

In that TOS show, Kirk and his crew encountered a Nazi regime on the planet Ekos, readying for war against neighboring planet Zeon. This was during Star Trek's second season and pretty cool at the time. The Germany versus the Jews analogy (Zeon = Zion) was a little dated, but the episode was still apt in light of the runaway Viet Nam war and growing peace movements in February 1968.

In the end of Patterns of Force, Kirk and company defeat the baddies and leave the two sister planets working for peace. It was the perfect Roddenberry ending.

So maybe that Nazi guy at the end of Enterprise Season Three was just a joke, right? Maybe it was some kind of Sliders Meets Quantum Leap It's All A Dream deal and the Franchise would laugh it off and finally let us get back to the business of saving the Alpha Quadrant from the Romulans?

Sorry, fans. Enterprise Season Four's opener, Storm Front, was still more frowning lock-jawed big yawn serious Enterprise melodrama.

The Enterprise Nazi bit is suspiciously similar to what avid science fiction fans already saw plenty of in Sliders Season Four.

The Sliders Nazis were dimension-hopping, superior technology-toting Kromaggs. I guess Berman never watched Sliders. In any case, Storm Front was certainly not as pertinent as the good old TOS Nazi episode or anywhere as exciting as the 1998 Voyager two-parter The Killing Game.

Yes, Ensign, Star Trek: Voyager fought the Germans too. In Season Four (that seems to be the season for Nazi clichés), Nazi Hirogen trapped Janeway and her crew in a WW II holodeck simulation. Janeway finds herself in the French Resistance and Seven is a possible Nazi informant. By the end of Part 1, WW II has moved out of the holodeck into the ship. In Part 2, Janeway calls up holographic Klingons, Seven sets off an anti-holo device, and the Hirogen and Janeway negotiate a truce.

Voyager's Killing Game, written by Joe Menosky and Brannon Braga, (Braga co-wrote the Season 3 Enterprise episode that dumped us back into a Nazi plot,) is actually far more complex than that, but you can look it up yourself or catch the episode in reruns.

Enterprise's Nazi tale offers us nothing new, which is Enterprise's biggest failing as a series. The ship and Archer have been transported to an alternate Earth where the real Nazis successfully invaded the US with alien Nazi allies because the Temporal Cold War (a vague concept left over from Enterprise Season One involving baddies who choose to ignore the Temporal Prime Directive) has gotten out of hand while Enterprise was trying to save the world from the Xindi superweapon last season.

But these new temporal bad-guys are apparently not related to the temporal bad-guys who were manipulating Time to get the Xindi to build their superweapon and blow up Earth. No, Mr. Wells, those were different temporal aliens ignoring the Temporal Prime Directive. These new Nazi temporal aliens are, however, being guided by bad-guy Temporal Cold War agents from the future.

Oh and there is a bad-guy Suliban soldier named Silik from the future hiding on board the Enterprise when they show up in Naziworld. The Suliban were working for the bad-guy Temporal Cold War agents from the future when Archer took off to tackle the Xindi.

And Archer is also being advised by Daniels, a good-guy temporal agent from the future. (Not to be confused with Daniel Jackson, who ascended into a being who knew the future in Stargate SG-1.)

At the end of last season, Daniels showed up to tell Archer that he will be one of the founders of the Federation. Unfortunately for us, Daniels didn't show up and tell Archer he and his crew would be transported to 1944 to fight the Nazis. Maybe they would have all mutinied and set sail for Risa.

Daniels does die in Part 1 of Storm Front and leave a final Rosebud warning that Archer must stop the bad-guys.

Had enough? I know I have. You can probably guess what will happen next week. I know I can. The Nazis will lose. Enterprise will make it back to whatever century they came from (I'm still not too clear on that - is anybody?) And Brent Spiner will show up for a three-episode arc that hopefully has nothing to do with Nazis or bad-guy Temporal Cold War agents from the future.

Unless, of course, UPN just says the hell with it before then and cancels Enterprise. Ratings for the first show of the season dropped again from last year, not that UPN seemed to care much. UPN pre-empted the Enterprise October 8 premiere in some places with a baseball game.

William Shatner was right when he said the Star Trek franchise needed new blood. Berman may not be helming the ship this year, but that's obviously not enough.

Enterprise has good actors and directors but Trek lost all of its seasoned writers by the time Voyager ended. Most notably writer-creator-producer Michael Piller, who went on to helm The Dead Zone for USA Network and ace writers like Joe Menosky and Ronald D. Moore (Roswell and Battlestar Galactica.)

Star Trek fans want the legacy to continue, to be sure, but if Star Trek producers don't get savvy to what else the fans want soon, all will be lost.

Forget the Xindi and the Nazis! We want Klingons and Romulans and Vulcans and Bajorans! Forget prequels! We want a DS9 movie and a Voyager reunion mini-series!

We want Worf! We want Seven of Nine! We want Quark! We want Sulu! We want Major Kira and Jake Sisko!

I'm afraid that time is running out for the crew of the starship Enterprise, Ensign. It's a dark day for the Federation, indeed.

Star Trek -

[Not surprisingly, the Franchise is defending Enterprise rather than changing it. A recent story on the Trek Today site quotes Scott Bakula as saying he is tired of Enterprise critics. "Why are you spending energy and time on 'Enterprise'? Move on to other shows," Bakula said. Unfortunately, a quarter of last year's Enterprise audience appear to have done just that. Mediaweek reports a 26% drop in fan attendance for the premiere. My final advice on the subject goes back to my very first criticism of Enterprise: lose that awful theme song! Ed.]

Christopher Reeve Feature Will Continue
By Sheigh Crabtree

LOS ANGELES October 12, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - A computer-animated feature film that paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve had been directing at the time of his death last weekend will remain in production, its producer said Monday.

"Yankee Irving" centers on a father and his baseball-playing son who overcomes personal obstacles to realize his dreams.

Reeve previously described the project, which he had overseen for the past year, as "captivating, with the perfect blend of warmth and wit."

Despite his paralysis, Reeve had been overseeing production weekly from his home office in Pound Ridge, N.Y., via a videoconferencing system set up by the film's producer, IDT Entertainment. He also regularly sent electronic files of character designs and animatics filled with notes to and from IDT's animation production offices and held meeting with key production staff in his office, which was lined with animation storyboards.

Reeve died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack and slipping into a coma while being treated for a bedsore the previous day. He was 52.

IDT CEO Morris Berger said the company has yet to decide who will take over as director, but maintained that animation will proceed as planned.

"We've just been addressing personal issues and the great loss and reassuring our staff that the production will go on," Berger said. "Tomorrow we'll think those things through."

Voice casting and theatrical distribution for "Yankee" have yet to be announced. The movie is scheduled for release in 2006, Berger said.

Gellar Says Yes Grudge, No Buffy Soon

Hollywood October 12, 2004 (eXoNews) - In an interview with Paul Fischer posted on the Dark Horizons site yesterday, Sarah Michelle Gellar talked about her upcoming horror film The Grudge and added another nail in Buffy's coffin - sort of.

The Grudge, directed by Japanese horror master Takashi Shimizu, is a remake of Shimizu's Japanese film Ju-on: The Grudge (2003), which starred Japanese beauty Megumi Okina. It opens this month everywhere and there is a very cool interactive website for it that you should take the time to visit (see below.)

Regarding The Grudge, Sarah Michelle found it a whole lot easier than Buffy. She said she was warned that movie work could involve long hours and replied "And I'm like, 'What? I'm from television. What are you talking about?'"

The actress worked continuously as a child, did daytime soaps as a teen and seven seasons of Buffy. Sometime Buffy guest star Eliza Dushku once called Gellar the hardest working actress on the tube.

The former slayer said she would consider a Grudge sequel (the original Japanese version had one) but wouldn't consider a Buffy movie - this year, at least. It might not be the right time, she said,  and she didn't want to do her Buffy fans wrong.

Sarah Michelle said she thought the Buffy series finale was a good send-off after seven years killing vampires and other demons, but "it should have been two hours. I believe there wasn't enough Xander, that certain things get left out, and when you make a film you're setting your self up to disappoint people."

Gellar is currently shooting Southland Tales, a musical comedy. She won't sing in the film, despite the cult success of Once More With Feeling, the Buffy musical episode. She said Joss Whedon's all singing all dancing episode was the "most miserable experience of my entire life" because there wasn't enough time to get it perfect.

Full interview at Dark Horizons -

Do You Have A Grudge? -

Geldof Seeks Help for Africa

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia October 11, 2004 (AP) - Irish rock star Bob Geldof has acknowledged that solutions to Africa's poverty, disease and conflict elude a commission set up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to craft ways of helping the continent.

Speaking on the final day of a meeting of the Africa Commission, Geldof said Friday that increased aid, debt relief and fairer trade weren't enough to end the woes of the world's poorest continent.

"There is something else, something else that all of us are missing and I keep wanting to hear the new idea," the singer said.

Geldof is a member of the commission working to spell out what Africa needs to develop and explain what has held it back. Its findings are expected in time for Britain's presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized countries and the leadership of the European Union next year.

"Of course we are going to apply more aid — that is an absolute given," Geldof said. "Debt relief isn't even an argument anymore. The argument is won, get on with it. Trade is not an argument — it is completely biased against the poor world."

Western countries spend about $1 billion a day supporting their farmers, subsidies that African countries argue undercut the competitive advantage of one of their main revenue sources and effectively cut them out of markets they could dominate.

African officials said the subsidies are threatening the livelihood of millions of African producers and their elimination could change the lives of millions of poor African farmers.

Bob Geldof official site -

Dandy Longest Running Comic Book
By Paul Majendie

LONDON October 11, 2004 (Reuters) - The world's longest-running comic - The Dandy - relaunched itself on Thursday with a cast of 21st century characters joining old pre-war favorites like Desperate Dan in a bid to halt sliding circulation.

Enter supersleuth Dreadlock Holmes and video-game nut Jak with the annoying big sister -- cool kids aimed to appeal to young readers.

The Dandy started life in Britain in 1937 with a front page spread featuring Korky the Cat and built up a devoted core of readers in the English-speaking world in the days before television and computer games. But a comic that sold almost 2 million a week in the 1950s is down to about 50,000 now and fresh blood was needed.

However the Dandy's creators are fiercely resisting any temptation to become politically correct.

Desperate Dan, the grizzled Wild West hero, may find himself wrestling with bank PIN numbers rather than outlaws these days but he will still keep chomping through a cholesterol-rich diet of cow pies, horns sticking through the pastry as usual.

The Dandy, with its target audience of seven to 11-year-olds, has a place in Guinness World Records for its longevity.

Kids may have other distractions now but its global appeal remains as nostalgic parents keep the tradition alive.

"We get e-mails in from all over the world, from New Zealand to Australia and South Africa. It's nice to know that British culture travels and has a place," said Ben Gray, executive manager of publishers DC Thomson in Dundee, Scotland.

Dreadlock Holmes made his Dandy debut on Thursday as the comic's first mainline black character.

"He is a legend in his own mind, a kid with an overactive imagination who sees mysteries everywhere. He fancies himself as the world's greatest sleuth," Gray told Reuters.

Gray denied that the comic had bowed to political correctness.

"If we became politically correct, it would be the death of The Dandy. In fact we are gunning for political correctness," he said of the comic that revels in naughtiness.

"I would stick my tongue out and blow a big raspberry at anyone who suggests we are politically correct."

Kids are being asked what they plan to do with this week's "sticky tongue" free gift and Gray even suggested "putting it in a sandwich or hanging it over the rim of a toilet."

Above all, he said it was vital to make kids laugh.

So this week young reader James Thomson was awarded 25 pounds and a free t-shirt for telling readers: "I know why Robin Hood was so good at climbing trees and walls and stuff. He had a ladder in his tights."

DC Thomson -

Moore Tries Pay TV

LOS ANGELES October 9, 2004 (Reuters) - Filmmaker Michael Moore and the distributors behind "Fahrenheit 9/11" are in talks to bring his anti-Bush documentary to pay-per-view television on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, a source in Moore's camp said on Friday.

The plan under discussion would present the movie as part of a three-hour telecast titled "The Michael Moore Pre-Election Special," carried by pay-TV distributor iN Demand Networks, said a source close to the Fellowship Adventure Group, which holds rights to the film.

The Nov. 1 program would air between 8 and 11 p.m. EST, with the pay-per-view giant charging $9.95 for the telecast, the person said, confirming details of a proposed deal first reported in the entertainment trade paper Daily Variety.

"It's being talked about and worked out," the source said, adding, "there's no deal yet."

The prospective telecast would package Moore's controversial film together with interviews of politically active celebrities, according to Variety.

News of a potential pre-election pay-per-view deal came three days after Moore's scathing critique of President Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq was released on DVD by Sony's home entertainment division.

Sony reported first-day DVD sales of 2 million copies, a healthy figure on par with the studio's expectations.

Home video distributors are typically reluctant to agree to TV presentations of a film currently for sale on DVD for fear that it would diminish the movie's value in the home-video market.

A Sony spokeswoman declined to comment on reports of a possible pay-per-view showing of Moore's film, and there was no word from iN Demand, a video-on-demand and pay-per-view service whose shareholders include Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc..

Moore previously gave up a chance to enter his film in the Oscar race for best documentary in hopes of having it shown on television before the Nov. 2 election between Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Under rules established by the Academy of motion Picture Arts and Sciences, documentaries shown on TV within nine months of their theatrical release are ineligible to compete for the documentary Oscar.

But some Oscar watchers have speculated that keeping "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of the running for best documentary may help its chances to be nominated in the coveted best picture category.

The film, which won the top prize at the Cannes film festival in May, has generated nearly $120 million at the U.S. box office alone since its theatrical release in June, making it the highest-grossing political documentary ever.

Fantastic Four To TV Toon Again?

LOS ANGELES October 9, 2004 ( With a live action adaptation of Marvel Enterprises' "Fantastic Four" heading for movie screens in 2005, the company is also close to a deal to bring the franchise back to the small screen in animated form.

According to the Hollywood trade papers, Marvel and Antefilms are expected to announce the production of 26 half-hour episodes. The announcement for the series, which wouldn't premiere until late 2006, will come at the MIPCOM international TV sales convention in Cannes.

The series focuses on four astronauts who, after being exposed to radiation, become the superheroes Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Thing and The Human Torch.

In the feature, set to be directed by Tim Story, the parts will be played by Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans.

Depending on your way of counting, this will be either the third or fourth television take on "The Fantastic Four," beginning with the 1967 Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The 1978 "The New Fantastic Four" omitted the Human Torch.

Very few fans are likely to count the 1979 Hanna-Barbera offering "Fred and Barney Meet The Thing," which somehow managed to mix Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble with the rock-bodied "Fantastic Four" character.

Marvel and Antefilms (which produces Cartoon Network's "Code Lyoko" and "Funky Cops") hope to give the series an all-ages appeal to bridge the gap between fans of the original series and new viewers who flock to the feature. Marvel hopes to use the series, as well as a new video game property, as a way to tide fans between the first movie and what the company hopes will be sequels.

Thus far, Marvel has yet to secure a deal with any television networks for the show, though there have been discussions.

Arsenio Hall Directs?
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Arsenio Hall is adding the title documentary filmmaker to his resume.

Hall has inked a deal with Lions Gate Television to direct and executive produce a feature-length documentary that will take a behind-the-scenes look at the black standup comedy circuit.

Tentatively titled "The Other 23 Hours," the film will explore the lives of urban comedians on and off-stage, focusing on relatively unknown up-and-comers.

"I'm going after this new world; I'm kind of like the ringmaster to a new circus," Hall said. "These guys make you laugh for an hour, but I want to also document the other 23 hours of their lives that I find to be compelling and entertaining and interesting."

A veteran standup comedian, Hall got the idea to chronicle the new generation of black comedians in 2000, when, after a 10-year hiatus to do his talk show and features, he returned to the comedy circuit. While touring the country, he did shows with such younger comedians as Mike Epps, Tracy Morgan, Mo'Nique and Bruce Bruce. The more up-and-coming black comics he met and got to know offstage, the more passionate he became about the idea of showcasing them in a documentary.

"I was realizing that they're funny onstage, but in the (other) 23 hours, they are just as funny," Hall said.

Lions Gate, which has been on the lookout for breakout unscripted longform projects since launching a documentary unit last month, quickly sparked to the idea.

"He told us about those comics who are poised to break out beyond the core audience they cater to at the moment," Lions gate TV president Kevin Beggs said. "I thought it was really compelling and, if done right, could become far bigger."

Like all projects to be produced by the unit, Lions Gate will shop "23 Hours" to the networks. After securing a TV home, the company also will explore the possibility of a theatrical and video release as the film nears completion.

Lions Gate's documentary unit's first documentary feature, "Grizzly Man," is slated to premiere in fall 2005 on Discovery Channel.

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