Whales Dying!
Tsunami Sim, Yucatan Asteroid,
Apple Crimes! FCUK! Teflon!
Black Hole Snacking & More!
Whales Dying!

A beached pilot whale is seen in this photo released by the
U.S. Coast Guard. More than 30 pilot whales beached
themselves early Saturday, and by afternoon at least
15 were confirmed dead, a spokeswoman for the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The whales
were across a five-mile stretch of the coastline near Oregon
Inlet on North Carolina's Outer Banks. (U.S. Coast Guard)

17 Whales Dead in North Carolina

MANTEO NC January 16, 2005 (AP) - At least 22 pilot whales beached themselves on the coast early Saturday, and at least 17 of them died, officials said.

The whales were stranded along a five-mile stretch of land near Oregon Inlet in the northern Outer Banks, said Laura Engleby, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We suspect there are more than 30" stranded whales, she said. "The sea conditions have been fluctuating, making it difficult to account for all of them."

It is not uncommon for pilot whales to beach themselves, but scientists do not know why. The pilot whale is a protected species but not endangered.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service was coordinating a recovery effort that involved biologists, Coast Guard crews and the National Park Service.

If biologists determine any of the whales are likely to survive, the Coast Guard will help move them back out to sea, said Petty Officer Donnie Brzuska.

Brzuska said mass strandings of pilot whales are not unusual in Florida and New England, but the stranding on the North Carolina coast was unusual.

Adult pilot whales can reach 20 feet long and weigh up to three tons.

Endangered Whales Found Dead in Massachusetts

BOSTON January 14, 2005 (AP) — Four endangered whales have been found dead in the past six weeks - including two just this week, scientists said.

A dead North Atlantic right whale was spotted off the coast of Georgia on Wednesday, a day after one was found off Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Two were found in late December off Virginia and Nantucket.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said biologists hope to perform autopsies on the whales found this week to determine the causes of death.

"What we do know is losing that number of animals in such a short period of time puts us generally on a slippery slope to extinction," he said.

There are currently between 325 and 350 of the whales known to scientists. That's an improvement from 2000, when the population was counted at about 300.

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
1st Landing in Outer Solar System
  

After its seven-year journey through the Solar System on board the Cassini spacecraft, ESA’s Huygens probe has successfully descended through the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and safely landed on its surface.

The first scientific data arrived at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, January 14th at 17:19 CET. Huygens is mankind’s first successful attempt to land a probe on another a world in the outer Solar System. (ESA)

Use Search above to find previous eXoNews articles about the Cassini-Huygens mission and links to mission sites. Our most recent reports are here.

Tsunami Simulation Posted

Still from the Cornell tsunami video
(Cornell University)

ITHACA NY January 15, 2005 - Cornell University researchers have created a video simulation of the deadly Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami that shows in graphic detail how the massive wave system spread outward from the epicenter of an undersea earthquake northwest of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The simulation makes it clear how the tsunami struck the coastlines of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India with such devastating force, then continued as far as East Africa.

The video, about 7 MB, can be seen online at http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Jan05/tsunamiVid320.html

A 640x480 Quicktime version, about 43 MB, is available at http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Jan05/tsunamiVid640.html

The video compresses 10 hours and 30 minutes in the life of the tidal wave into one minute, showing in contrasting colors the advancing high water and the trough behind it, as well as the receding waters observed along coastlines near the epicenter before the wave struck. It shows high water in red and low in blue. The more intense the color, the greater the displacement from sea level. A clock in the animation starts at the moment of the Sumatra earthquake.

The computer simulation was created using a numerical model called the Cornell Multigrid Coupled Tsunami model, or COMCOT, developed by Philip Liu, Cornell professor of civil and environmental engineering, and graduate student Xiaoming Wang. The model was originally created by Japanese scientists, further developed by Liu and several of his students, and most recently refined and updated by Wang. Wang created the final video with Tso-Ren Wu, a Cornell post-doctoral researcher.

Liu, who helped develop the Pacific Ocean tsunami warning system, is currently leading a delegation of scientists studying the effects of the tsunami in Sri Lanka, and will report findings at a symposium there Jan. 15.


A woman sits stunned in the wreckage of her village after the
recent Asian tsunami. (AFP)

The computer model assumes that the up-and-down motion of the sea floor caused by the earthquake occurred in just a few seconds, so the sea water above was deformed in the same way as the earth below, since there was no time for the water to get out of the way.

Tsunamis are created when water is lifted by energy generated by earthquakes and then falls back.

Based on earthquake data and information about the topography of the sea floor provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the COMCOT model calculates the elevation of the sea surface at a series of grid points on a map of the area over a period of time.

The video is generated from this information. How closely the simulation corresponds to what actually happened will not be determined until data is collected in the field, Wang said.

Accurate seismic data generally is available only after an event is over. With the future development of seismic technology, a more accurate and rapid estimation of seismic data might be provided, he said.

It then might be possible to use such simulations to predict tsunami behavior immediately after an earthquake is detected.

News service Web site for relief efforts:  http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Jan05/tsunami_relief.html

Donate Frequent Flyer Miles to Tsunami Relief
United Charity Miles Tsunami Relief Donations

January 6, 2004 (eXoNews) - United Airlines Mileage Plus members can contribute their Mileage Plus miles to charities participating in Asian tsunami relief efforts through United's Charity Miles program. Members can contribute from a minimum of 1,000 miles via United's website.

United relief partners are Airline Ambassadors International, American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Operation USA, Save The Children and Sarvodaya USA.

United will donate 2 million miles as a direct contribution to be divided equally among these charities.

The Charity Miles web page - http://mymileageplus.com/mmps/65461/199638/dfad918d472ee9f1b537c89c02bf53d7

[If you fly and accrue miles via other airlines, check their websites for similar miles for tsunami relief efforts. Ed.]
Yucatan Asteroid Research Threatens Marine Life

Artist's rendering of the Yucatán event 65 million
years ago. (Dixon)

By Lisa J. Adams
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY January 14, 2005 (AP) — Scientists working off the Yucatan Peninsula are preparing to use sound waves to search for information about an asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But environmental activists are trying to shut the project down, saying the technology could harm whales, sea turtles and several varieties of fish that provide a livelihood for thousands of Mexicans along the gulf coast.

Marine seismologists from the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics, the Geophysics Institute at Mexico's Autonomous National University and Cambridge and London universities will use underwater seismic pulses to learn more about the Chicxulub (pronounced Sheek-shoo-LOOB) Crater, a depression measuring about 120 miles in diameter and centered just outside the port of Progreso, 190 miles west of Cancun.

The same technique is routinely used by scientific research vessels around the world to study earthquake faults, tsunami dangers and climate change, scientists say. It is used in Mexico by the state oil monopoly, Pemex, to search for new energy reserves.

But Rosario Sosa, president of the Yucatan-based civilian Association for the Rights of Animals and their Habitat, said the sound waves "damage the brain, or damage the cochlea of the ear, and disorient the animals so that they beach themselves or crash into boats."

"They are no longer capable of looking for food using their sonar," she said.

Scientists acknowledge there's evidence that points to Navy sonar causing whales to beach themselves. But they say there's no proof that seismic pulses have harmed marine animals, though much more research is needed to draw firm conclusions.

Thus far "there has not been any significant evidence that there is any harm being done to the marine animal population," said Maya Tolstoy, a research scientist with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The observatory is in charge of operating the Maurice Ewing, the research vessel from which the scientists will work, about 50 miles offshore. The boat is owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Located half-onshore and half-offshore, the Chicxulub Crater is believed to have been carved by a comet or asteroid 65 million years ago, and occurred simultaneously with the mass extinction of species, including the dinosaur.

It is the largest and best-preserved "impact" crater on Earth, said Gail Christeson, a University of Texas marine seismologist involved in the project.

Researchers will send sound waves into the seabed via compressed-air guns to try to create the three-dimensional structure of the crater and learn the speed of the asteroid or comet, the angle at which it hit the Earth, and its effects on the environment.


The sound waves could threaten fish stocks
-- the livelihood of about 30,000 families
along the Gulf coast. (USA Today)

The information could lead to knowledge of how to respond to possible future asteroid hits, Christeson said. She said the research also will help scientists to better understand the aquifer system of the Yucatan because the crater controls the water supply.

But Sosa says that after the Maurice Ewing conducted research in the waters between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico in October 2002, two beached whales were found in the area with evidence of damage to their ears.

She also says activists have come across dead dolphins and turtles in the gulf coast state of Campeche, where Pemex uses seismic pulses to explore for oil. An additional concern is that the sound waves could threaten fish stocks -- the livelihood of about 30,000 families along the Gulf coast.

Christeson says she has participated in at least four seismic cruises, "and we have never seen any effect on marine life."

"It has been observed that the Navy sonar may have contributed to strandings of marine mammals," said Christeson.

"Our sounds source is different from navy sonar. The amplitude is less and we also fire intermittently, so we will put a short burst of sound in water every 20 seconds. The Navy sweeps through different frequencies."

Mexico's national Environment Department granted the Maurice Ewing permission to operate after the scientists agreed to take along independent specialists to monitor sea animals; allow flight and underwater acoustic monitoring; work only during the day when it is easier to notice the animals; and maintain a 3,800-yard safety radius around the ship. The government will conduct its own monitoring flights as well, officials said.

The scientists also have agreed to stop testing when the presence of marine mammals is detected, and will gradually raise the sound wave decibels to warn the animals and give them a chance to leave the area.

The activists, who claim to represent 100 national and international organizations, say that's not good enough.

Benjamin White of the Washington-based non-governmental Animal Welfare Institute initially planned to tie himself with a rope to a fishermen's boat that would ride alongside the Maurice Ewing to prevent it from conducting the tests.

Now faced with orders banning them from approaching the boat, the protesters are considering peaceful weekend demonstrations in front of Yucatan state offices.

"I'm here as long as it takes to shut them down," White said.

The Boy Named Yahoo!
BUCHAREST January 13, 2005 (Reuters) - A Romanian couple named their son Yahoo as a sign of gratitude for meeting over the Internet, a Bucharest newspaper said Thursday.

Daily Libertatea said Cornelia and Nonu Dragoman, both from Transylvania, met and decided they were meant for each other following a three-month relationship over the net.

They married and had a baby this Christmas, whom they decided to name after one of the worldwide web's most popular portals. "We named him Lucian Yahoo after my father and the net, the main beacon of my life," Cornelia Dragoman was quoted as saying.
Apple Crime News!
Apple Pollution?
By Rachel Konrad
Associated Press

Big Apple Steve Jobs with latest potential
Apple iWaste. (Reuters)

SAN FRANCISCO January 12, 2005 (AP) — Apple Computer Corp. has become the darling of the technology sector for its wildly popular digital music player. But scorching iPod sales have also made it the target of an aggressive environmental coalition, which is trashing Apple as rotten to the core.

Environmentalists with the Computer TakeBack Campaign are planning a yearlong campaign to protest Apple's lackluster recycling efforts. Despite drizzle on Tuesday at the annual Macworld Conference & Expo, activists passed out leaflets and erected a giant banner proclaiming, "from iPod to iWaste."

The advocacy group, which last year badgered Dell Inc. until it significantly bolstered its recycling initiatives, plans protests at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters throughout 2005, a letter-writing and e-mail campaign, and other attacks against the maker of Macintosh computers.

Environmentalists said they're targeting Apple because the hardware and software company makes it difficult to replace batteries in its digital music players, and it charges many consumers $30 to recycle their unused or broken computers and laptops.

"We know consumers won't pay 30 bucks to get rid of something they think is junk," said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based Texas Campaign for the Environment.

"Apple can do a lot better -- they're lagging way behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard. "Now they need to take the next step and really 'think different,'" Schneider said, playing off Apple's advertising slogan.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said Tuesday the company would not comment on the environmental crusade. On Thursday, Apple promised to join eBay Inc. and Intel Corp., which launched an informational Web site to help motivate Americans to resell, donate or recycle used gadgets.

Apple doesn't charge consumers to recycle outdated electronics in Japan, Europe, Taiwan and South Korea, but environmentalists say the company is a significant contributor to the growing problem of "e-waste" in the United States.


Consumers retire or replace roughly 133,000
personal computers per day - the now-ancient
Apple Lisa computer.

U.S. consumers retire or replace roughly 133,000 personal computers per day, according to research firm Gartner Inc. According to a study commissioned by San Jose, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, roughly half of all U.S. households have working but unused consumer electronics products. Roughly 400 million gizmos will be thrown out by 2010.

Protesters said the popularity of the iPod and iPod Mini -- as well as more affordable gadgets such as the $99 iPod Shuffle, which debuted Tuesday -- make Apple an obvious target for environmentalists' scorn.

Apple sold 4.5 million iPods in the fourth quarter and more than 10 million since their debut in 2001. During the 2004 holiday season, three of the top five consumer electronics sold on Amazon.com were Apple products.

The falling price and diminutive size of iPods -- including the Shuffle, which weighs less than an ounce and is smaller than a pack of gum -- promotes the notion that they're disposable, said Mamta Khanna, program manager for Oakland, Calif.-based Center for Environmental Health.

"People think you can just trash these things," Khanna said. "No one's thinking about where they end up."

Student Publisher Fears Apple Retribution
By MARK JEWELL
AP Business Writer


Harvard University student Nicholas Ciarelli, 19.
Apple Computer Inc. is suing Ciarelli's Web site,
alleging it illegally published company trade
secrets. (AP Photo/ Steven Senne)

BOSTON January 14, 2005 (AP) - The 19-year-old publisher of a Web site facing a lawsuit over an article about a top-secret $499 Apple computer said Friday he can't afford to defend himself.

Apple Computer Inc. is suing Harvard University student Nicholas Ciarelli's Web site, www.ThinkSecret.com, alleging it illegally published company trade secrets. The Jan. 4 lawsuit also targets the Web site's unnamed sources for the leaks.

Ciarelli, whose identity as the site's publisher and editor was only published this week, is not named as a defendant. But he still needs a lawyer, and said he is hoping to find free or low-cost legal help to argue that he deserves First Amendment protection and used proper newsgathering techniques to break news about the Mac mini computer and other inside information about Apple.

"A lot of lawyers are interested in my case, but few are able to do it for free or low cost," Ciarelli, of Cazenovia, N.Y., said in an e-mail interview. "I'm seeking representation."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, said Friday it would not defend Think Secret even though it is defending two other sites, AppleInsider.com and PowerPage.org, that Apple is trying to subpoena to reveal sources.

Unlike the Think Secret case, those sites are not being sued.

"In addition to being subpoenaed for sources, he's being directly sued for trade secret misappropriation," said Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney with the organization. "We're trying to find him counsel."

Ciarelli, who described himself as "an enthusiastic fan of Apple's products since an early age," started www.ThinkSecret.com in 1998 when he was 13. The site, which accepts advertising, is read by Apple enthusiasts and industry analysts because of its exclusive stories about company developments.

On Dec. 28, the Web site published an article that, citing "highly reliable sources," revealed details of an inexpensive, bare-bones Mac mini computer that would be priced at $499 — two weeks before the Mac mini was launched at Apple's MacWorld conference.


Exclusive eXoNews photo of what reportedly is
the next big Apple product
. (Unreliable Sources)

Another Think Secret story on Jan. 6 correctly predicted Apple's rollout at this week's show of a $149, 1-gigabite flash-memory version of the company's popular iPod music player. The Web site goofed, though, on some of the details, citing sources suggesting Apple would also offer a 2-gigabyte version for $199.

In a statement Friday, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said the Web site "solicited information about unreleased Apple products from these individuals, who violated their confidentiality agreements with Apple by providing details that were later posted on the Internet."

Apple declined to answer questions Friday about whether Ciarelli, who called himself Nick dePlume online instead of using his real name, would also be sued.

Ciarelli's identity as the site's editor and publisher had circulated recently on the Internet, but the information only became widely known on Wednesday, when The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, confirmed it.

The Think Secret case is the third intellectual-property lawsuit that Apple has filed recently. Apple also sued two men who allegedly distributed pre-released versions of its upcoming version of its Mac OS X software, as well as unnamed individuals for allegedly leaking details about a future and as yet-unannounced music product, code-named Asteroid.

At the MacWorld show on Tuesday, executives said the company is merely defending itself.

"Innovation is what Apple is all about, and we want to continue to innovate and surprise and delight people with great products, so we have a right to protect our innovation and secrecy," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.

Bush Says US Voters Approved His War Policy

(Reuters)

WASHINGTON January 15, 2005 (AP) - President Bush says there is no need to hold anyone in his administration accountable for what has happened in Iraq because the voters have already spoken.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post for Sunday's editions.

"The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

In the interview, conducted Friday aboard Air Force One, Bush set no schedule for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army.

The session with the Post was one of a series of media interviews the president has held leading up to his inauguration to a second term on Thursday.

Bush said he will not press for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and has no plans to cut benefits for the approximately 40 percent of Social Security recipients who collect monthly disability and survivor payments.

He urged Americans to be patient as Iraq moves toward creating a democratic nation in place of a dictatorship.

"On a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad," he said. "I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy ... I am more patient than some."

He declined to second recent remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell that troop levels in Iraq could be reduced this year.

"The sooner the Iraqis are ... better prepared, better equipped to fight, the sooner our troops can start coming home," he said.

Rather than propose an expansion of the National Guard and regular army, the president said, "What we're going to do is make sure that the missions of the National Guard and the reserves closely dovetail with active army units, so that the pressure ... is eased."

Bush said he was pleased with the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. "I will be more pleased when he's brought to justice, and I think he will be," he said.

He acknowledged that U.S. standing has diminished in the eyes of some countries and said he has asked Condoleezza Rice, his nominee to replace Powell, to launch a diplomacy campaign that "explains our motives and explains our intentions."

He predicted most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy, but said: "There's no question we've got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about."

The Post reported that after saying in the interview he probably would not lobby for passage of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, White House spokesman Scott McClellan telephoned the paper on Saturday to say the president wanted to clarify his position.

The spokesman said Bush was "willing to spend political capital" but believes it will be virtually impossible to overcome Senate resistance until the courts render a verdict on the Defense of Marriage Act that attempts to block gay marriage by federal statute rather than a constitutional amendment.

FCUK Perfume Challenged

FCUK ad. ASA said the phrases "could be interpreted
as 'f---'. (FC) [What the frell is 'f---'? Ed.]

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

LONDON January 12, 2005 (Reuters) - UK advertising regulators signaled a weariness of the double entendre used by French Connection to sell its FCUK brand and warned the clothing chain again, this time over a promotion for its line of fragrances.

In an ad placed for French Connection by Zirh International in the Boots pharmacy chain's magazine, a picture of a young couple sitting on a bed in their underwear included fold-out samples of perfume with the phrases "open here to try fcuk her" and "open here to try fcuk him."

Though it received just two complaints, the UK's self-regulatory Advertising Standards Authority said on Wednesday the advert was likely to cause serious or widespread offence to the magazine's readers and warned the advertisers not to do it again.

It is the 13th time since 1999 that the ASA has published an adjudication regarding French Connection's adverts and the ninth time it has agreed with the complaints submitted.


Eau de Fcuk. Seriously. (FC)

The company is currently required to submit its outdoor adverts to the ASA for approval before they are posted, the second two-year sanction to which it has been subjected.

The first time -- from March 2001 to 2003 -- French Connection voluntarily submitted all its adverts, including those for magazines, to the ASA for review, a spokeswoman for the regulator said.

French Connection argued this time around that the phrases used the company's trademark, were clearly labeled as such and were to make clear they could open the fold-outs to sample the perfumes named 'him' and 'her'.


Fcuk me pumps? (FC)

It also said Boots manufactures FCUK beauty products and regularly puts the brand in its "Health & Beauty" magazine, which has a circulation of about 1.8 million.

The ASA said, however, that in the context of the ad, the phrases "could be interpreted as 'f---,' not just as the advertiser's brand name."

"The Authority reminded Zirh International Corp. that it had previously made clear in published adjudications that 'fcuk' should not be used in an advertisement if it could be interpreted as 'f---' and was concerned that they had done so in the advertisement," the regulator said.

The existing laws on taste and decency prohibit the ASA from handing out more severe sanctions against French Connection, the spokeswoman said.

The FCUK logo has courted controversy since its launch in 1997. Fashion mavens say the rebellious hip factor that helped catapult the brand to success has long since worn off.

French Connection issued a profit warning last November, but blamed a lack of fashion vision rather than the FCUK brand.

French Connection - http://www.frenchconnection.com

Homo Floresiensis Just a Pygmy?
By John Vidal
The Guardian


From left to right: skulls of Homo floresiensis,
an Australopithecine and Homo erectus.
(Image: Anna Salleh)

Australia January 13, 2005 (Guardian UK) - A growing number of scientists are challenging the sensational discovery last year of a new species of one-meter-tall intelligent humans whose 13,000-year-old bones were said to have been found in an Indonesian cave.

According to some leading anthropologists in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere, Homo Floresiensis is not "one of the most important discoveries of the last 150 years" as was widely reported last October.

They say he is but a pygmy version of modern Homo sapiens with a not uncommon brain disease.

Now a leading critic of the Homo floresiensis theory is to send researchers to a village near the cave where the bones were excavated to measure an extended family group whose males may be just a few inches taller than the skeleton.

The Guardian has traveled to the village and interviewed three male members of the family, the shortest of whom was 1 meter 25cm (4ft), compared with the estimated 1 meter of the skeleton.

Professor Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta said he would compare the villagers' measurements with those of the bones.

"It is quite possible that there are pygmy people living in the area who are related to the people found in the cave."

The dispute over the bones is dividing evolutionists between those who believe modern humans came "out of Africa" and those who say that they evolved in many parts of the world. But it is now getting personal with both sides hurling insults at each other.

Prof Jacob, who has been accused by the Australian scientists who led the excavation of "kidnapping" the bones from Indonesia's centre of archaeology, said the Australian team had "rushed" their work and lacked expertise.

"I have never known anything like this row before," said Professor Alan Thorne of the Australian National University in Canberra. "People are desperate for new species. There's a lot of politics going on."

Teflon Under EPA Investigation

"With respect to the potential nationwide
presence of PFOA in blood..."

By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON January 13, 2005 (AP) — A chemical used to make the nonstick substance Teflon is being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a potential health risk.

The EPA on Wednesday said that exposure to even low levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, or C-8, could pose "a potential risk of developmental and other adverse effects." Officials emphasized their draft risk assessment was not conclusive.

"We've not offered any determinations of risks," said Charles Auer, director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

Auer said the draft report, based on animal studies, would be sent to a science advisory board for helping determining the risks.

DuPont and EPA have been sparring over PFOA, used to make many of the company's most popular products, which range from auto fuel systems, firefighting foam and phone cables to computer chips, cookware and clothing.

The agency said in a statement it "has concerns with respect to the potential nationwide presence of PFOA in blood and with the potential for developmental and other effects suggested by animal studies." But it also said there are "significant uncertainties in the agency's quantitative assessment of the risks of PFOA."

Chemical maker DuPont Co., which is based in Wilmington, Del., and produces the chemical at a plant in Fayetteville, N.C., said Wednesday it welcomed EPA's report and was trying to minimize people's exposure to the chemical.

"Although, to date, no human health effects are known to be caused by PFOA, the company recognizes that the presence of PFOA in human blood raises questions that should be addressed," DuPont officials said in a statement.

Initial research by EPA suggests that PFOA could be carcinogenic in rats -- but the cancer hazard for people is less certain. It also indicates the chemical targets the liver and is present in the breast milk of rats.

The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that brought DuPont's record on PFOA to EPA's attention, said it believes EPA ignored its own scientific advice on defining the cancer-causing potential of the chemical to benefit DuPont.

"At every turn in this important process, EPA officials favored DuPont," said Ken Cook, EWG's president.

DuPont said its own study, based on 62 blood and urine tests among 1,000 employees at its Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., showed "no human health effects known to be caused" by PFOA. It showed elevated levels of total cholesterol and fats called triglycerides among workers exposed to PFOA, but noted that the study data "did not indicate that PFOA was or was not the cause of the increases in serum cholesterol and triglycerides."

Sol Max, DuPont's chief medical officer, said "no association would be seen in the general public" for cholesterol and triglycerides, because exposure to the chemical was minimal outside a work setting.

In September, DuPont and residents around the Ohio Valley Teflon-making plant entered into a proposed legal settlement to resolve complaints that PFOA contaminated private wells and water sources in West Virginia and Ohio. DuPont has agreed to pay as much as $343 million to settle those claims.

At an EPA administrative court hearing last month, DuPont battled charges by EPA that it did not fulfill its obligation to release PFOA information to EPA. DuPont said it did and maintained that PFOA was harmless.

DuPont shares rose 2 cents to close at $47.21 on the New York Stock Exchange. It is still down from a 52-week high of $49.50 in late December.

NASA Agrees Tsunami Earthquake Changed Earth's Rotation

NASA News Release

January 11, 2005 - NASA scientists using data from the Indonesian earthquake calculated it affected Earth's rotation, decreased the length of day, slightly changed the planet's shape, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. The earthquake that created the huge tsunami also changed the Earth's rotation.

Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. said all earthquakes have some affect on Earth's rotation. It's just they are usually barely noticeable.

"Any worldly event that involves the movement of mass affects the Earth's rotation, from seasonal weather down to driving a car," Chao said.

Chao and Gross have been routinely calculating earthquakes' effects in changing the Earth's rotation in both length-of-day as well as changes in Earth's gravitational field. They also study changes in polar motion that is shifting the North Pole. The "mean North pole" was shifted by about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in the direction of 145º East Longitude. This shift east is continuing a long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.

They also found the earthquake decreased the length of day by 2.68 microseconds. Physically this is like a spinning skater drawing arms closer to the body resulting in a faster spin. The quake also affected the Earth's shape. They found Earth's oblateness (flattening on the top and bulging at the equator) decreased by a small amount. It decreased about one part in 10 billion, continuing the trend of earthquakes making Earth less oblate.

To make a comparison about the mass that was shifted as a result of the earthquake, and how it affected the Earth, Chao compares it to the great Three-Gorge reservoir of China. If filled the gorge would hold 40 cubic kilometers (10 trillion gallons) of water. That shift of mass would increase the length of day by only 0.06 microseconds and make the Earth only very slightly more round in the middle and flat on the top. It would shift the pole position by about two centimeters (0.8 inch).

The researchers concluded the Sumatra earthquake caused a length of day (LOD) change too small to detect, but it can be calculated. It also caused an oblateness change barely detectable, and a pole shift large enough to be possibly identified. They hope to detect the LOD signal and pole shift when Earth rotation data from ground based and space-borne position sensors are reviewed.

The researchers used data from the Harvard University Centroid Moment Tensor database that catalogs large earthquakes. The data is calculated in a set of formulas, and the results are reported and updated on a NASA Web site.

The massive earthquake off the west coast of Indonesia on December 26, 2004, registered a magnitude of nine on the new "moment" scale (modified Richter scale) that indicates the size of earthquakes. It was the fourth largest earthquake in one hundred years and largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake.

The devastating mega thrust earthquake occurred as a result of the India and Burma plates coming together. It was caused by the release of stresses that developed as the India plate slid beneath the overriding Burma plate. The fault dislocation, or earthquake, consisted of a downward sliding of one plate relative to the overlying plate. The net effect was a slightly more compact Earth. The India plate began its descent into the mantle at the Sunda trench that lies west of the earthquake's epicenter.

For information and images on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/indonesia_quake.html

Black Hole Snacking!

LISA will observe gravitational waves from several
sources. One is the coalescences of massive black holes
that result from the merging of galaxies. (NASA)

Eberly College News Release

January 13, 2005 - As big fish eat little fish in the Earth's vast oceans, so too do supermassive black holes gorge on smaller black holes and neutron stars, making themselves more massive in the process.

Using sophisticated computer modeling, Penn State scientists have calculated the rate of this black-hole snacking, called "extreme-mass-ratio inspirals." They expect to see several events per year with the Laser Interferometer Space Antennae (LISA), a joint NASA - European Space Agency mission now in development.

Steinn Sigurdsson, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, discusses the inspiral rate today during a presentation at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego. These events will be a major source of gravitational waves, which are ripples in spacetime. Sigurdsson said that this type of black hole inspiral provides one of the cleanest tests for assessing Einstein's theory of general relativity.

"Most galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, and from time to time a smaller black hole or neutron star will fall in," said Sigurdsson. "Very little light, if any, is emitted. This is done in the dark. Our best chance of studying the process is through gravitational radiation."


LISA will observe gravitational waves from thousands of compact
binary star systems, including several known systems. Some will
contain black holes or neutron stars. (NASA)

Predicted by Einstein, gravitational radiation has not yet been detected directly. These waves travel at light speed. Yet, unlike light waves, the subtle gravitational waves hardly interact with matter. A passing wave causes all matter to bob, like buoys on the ocean. LISA works by setting out three spacecraft -- buoys in spacetime -- and measuring the change in their separation as they bob in response to passing gravitational waves. The three LISA spacecraft will be separated from each other by over 3 million miles, while the gravitational waves alter the distance between them by far less than the width of an atom.

These waves, Sigurdsson said, grow more intense in the weeks just before the larger black hole consumes the smaller object. That is when LISA could detect an imminent merger. Higher-mass objects falling into the black hole might produce detectable waves years in advance of the merger.

Sigurdsson puts the inspiral rate at about 1 per million years per galaxy. Because there are millions of galaxies in the visible universe, LISA might detect several inspirals each year.

Extreme-mass-ratio inspirals involve what scientists call compact objects -- stellar-size black holes, neutron stars, or white dwarfs. Supermassive black holes also can swallow stars like our Sun. But these stars get ripped apart first, and they do not produce detectable gravitational waves.


LISA in action. (NASA)

Compact objects are dense. Neutron stars, for example, contain the densest material found in nature. As a result, they act like trace particles falling into a black hole, a perfect physics experiment. This is a clean merger without splintering. So, the mergers serve as very precise tests for Einstein's theory of general relativity. Any discrepancy between observation and theory would point to a flaw in general relativity.

LISA's lasers will measure tiny changes caused by passing waves in the motion of freely falling test masses in each spacecraft at a sub-nanometer accuracy. Technology to detect such subtle changes is now in development at several institutes, including Penn State. An ESA-led "LISA-Pathfinder" mission is expected to launch in 2008 to test formation flying and other technologies. LISA will launch a few years after this.

"The study of gravitational radiation is the newest frontier in astronomy," said Lee Samuel Finn, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and director of Penn State's Center for Gravitational Wave Physics. "Scientists and engineers around the world are working together to make LISA a reality. Steinn's work, one important piece among many, builds upon theories and models developed in recent years at Penn State and other institutes."

LISA will detect low-frequency waves, in the millihertz range. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, will detect higher-frequency, kilohertz waves. The ground-based LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation. Observations are being conducted at the two LIGO facilities, in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.

LISA is a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency, and European national space agencies. In addition to leading the LISA Pathfinder mission, Europe will contribute much of the scientific instrumentation and the interplanetary propulsion systems to LISA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will manage the mission for NASA and will provide the spacecraft and final integration. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will supply NASA's test package on LISA Pathfinder and the scientific instrumentation and operations support for the main LISA mission.

NASA's LISA site - http://lisa.nasa.gov

Genre News: Battlestar Galactica Lives! 24, MI-5, Real Point Pleasant, Top Movies of 2004 & More!

The Cylon threat after all these years (Sci Fi)
Battlestar Galactica Lives!
By FLAtRich

January 15, 2005 (eXoNews) - It is a little hard to get excited about the Cylon threat after all these years. Back when I was a young lad and Star Wars was all the rage (not just a bunch of endless sequels), the Cylons were one of the few elements of the original TV show Battlestar Galactica that were actually original and not just a rip from Lucas.

Now the Cylons resemble a cross between their old Lucas storm trooper nemesis, the Terminators without their human disguises and most other nameless robots in recent movies.

The Cylons still have the silly red light bulb swishing back and forth in their visors (why do robots need visors?), but Ron Moore's new vision of Galactica for the Sci Fi Channel adds this signature to Cylon Raider ships as well, so maybe red light bulbs are a secret Cylon technology that Moore will explain later.
 

(Clockwise from top left) Katee Sackhoff,
Jamie Bamber, Grace Park and Edward
James Olmos. (Sci Fi)

Ronald D. Moore is very good at detailing this new Battlestar Galactica series and that's no surprise as he is from the federation of talented scribes who gave us the modern Star Trek series prior to the current Enterprise (STTNG, DS9 and Voyager.) He serves as head honcho for Galactica's new return (there have been several false starts since the original series), formerly the domain of TV heavyweight producer and Galactica creator Glen Larson.

Moore wrote the screenplay and story for the beloved Star Trek Generations movie, (the one where Captain Kirk and Captain Picard got together to save the universe), Star Trek First Contact, and was the gun hired to pump up the TV series Roswell when executive producer Jonathan Frakes tried to save that show from inevitable cancellation. Moore more recently did the story for Mission Impossible II and wrote one of the best episodes of the now-defunct USA series Touching Evil.

With all that experience, I expected a lot from Moore's Battlestar Galactica mini last year, but I didn't really like it the first time around. I can now admit that I was prejudiced by the contempt I felt for the original Galactica series.

The Larson show was not a favorite of hard-core science fiction readers / viewers in its day, reviled as a cheapo TV rip-off of Lucas with its Network family-oriented casting and plots.

Luckily for me, NBC (now the parent company of Sci Fi Channel) had the good sense to re-run the mini in prime time prior to the launch of Sci Fi's new series. After a holiday hiatus of reruns and unwatchable "reality television" events, I was ready to try Moore's new take on the old turkey again.


The new Galactica (Sci Fi)

This time I came away from the mini with the conviction that Battlestar Galactica could become something more than just another Star Trek / Star Wars clone.

Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) led his rag-tag flotilla of post-Cylon invasion human survivors onto my TV screen and I was rooting for them every light year of the way. The reworked Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Boomer (Grace Park) characters won my heart. Tricia Helfer, as the big bad human model Cylon, peaked my interest in robots. Mary McDonnell, as President Roslin, Aaron Douglas as Chief Tyrol, and Michael Hogan as First Officer Tigh proved that there is still room for excellent character actors on the small screen. [Movie fans may remember McDonnell from her wonderful performance in Dances With Wolves. Ed.]

The first two episodes of the new series, which Sci Fi bravely pitted against JAG, CSI Miami, Medical Investigation and 20/20 on Friday night, proved that everyone deserves a second chance and Ron Moore still has his chops. Mr. Moore wrote both episodes, which established the harrowing dangers of Cylon pursuit and possible Cylon infiltration of the Galactica fleet.


Jamie Bamber as Apollo and Katee
Sackhoff as Starbuck. (Sci Fi)

Although Battlestar Galactica leans heavily on spectacular outer space special effects, Moore brings a human equation to the space opera. Deep Space Nine kept its characters real and Battlestar Galactica continues that tradition. Everything not hanging in the vacuum between solar systems is close up on the hopes and fears of individuals among the scant fifty thousand humans who survived the Cylon invasion.

Mary McDonnell as the President is the ultimate face of humanity as events force the destruction of one of the human ships, the loss of precious water and the growing fear that Cylon moles are sabotaging Galactica's pilgrimage to Earth.

Grace Park was particularly notable as Boomer, not quite sure if she has been replaced by a Cylon double.

There are also some weak points in the new Battlestar Galactica for veteran TV science fiction viewers.

After several seasons of Farscape, a former Sci Fi Channel flagship, with arch villain Scorpious (Wayne Pygram) constantly appearing in the imagination of lead character John Crichton (Ben Browder), it is very hard to put up with exactly the same plot device used in Galactica between the aforementioned arch villain Tricia Helfer and Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis.)


James Callis as Dr. Baltar and Tricia
Helfer as Cylon baddie Number Six. (Sci Fi)

I can accept the possibility that Ron Moore didn't have much time to watch Farscape while he was writing all those laudable scripts and stories listed above, but am I to suppose that no one connected with Battlestar Galactica at Sci Fi Channel pointed out this too close for comfort similarity to Mr. Moore?

Farscape fans will not be pleased no matter how many times the delightfully perfect Helfer removes her clothes. (She is prettier than Wayne Pygram, but Scorpy was more fun.)

The Boomer duplicity thing also bothered the hell out of me. Grace Park did her bit well, but the construction of the Boomer in two places at once scenes in the second episode was confusing. Not just a wait and see what happens kind of confusing, but more a did they leave out some scenes here kind of confusing.

Moore has already begun work on a second season for Battlestar Galactica, so I'm sure the Cylon duplicate thing will clear up eventually.

Just as long as he doesn't subtitle season two War of the Clones.

Battlestar Galactica Official - http://www.scifi.com/battlestar

Galactica's Moore Plots Second Season

Hollywood January 15, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Ronald D. Moore, creator and executive producer of SCI FI Channel's original series Battlestar Galactica, told SCI FI Wire that he's already mapping out season two just as the first season began its 13-episode run on Jan. 14.

"The network has asked for backup scripts for the second season, so we're working on six scripts right now with the writing staff," Moore said in an interview at the TV networks' winter press tour in Universal City, Calif. "I'm deep into what the second season would be. The first season ends on ... multiple cliffhangers, ... and so it's a lot of resolving those cliffhangers."

Moore added, "Most of the things that we're doing in season two were at least begun in season one. A lot of the religious things that happened in the show in terms of the colonies and in terms of the Cylons. I think probably the big opportunity in season two that we didn't get in season one is to open up the Cylon world a little more. To see more of other Cylons. See how the society functions a little bit more. And give a sense of what that community is all about."


The Cylons will be back, already. (Sci Fi)

The first 13 episodes of Galactica, which have already wrapped production, pick up almost immediately where the 2003 miniseries left off.

The ragtag fleet of human survivors, led by President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Cmdr. Adama (Edward James Olmos), are trying to hold things together while continuing to flee the Cylon menace. Moore said he's pleased with how the first season ended up.

"The overall arc has to do with the relationship between Adama and Laura Roslin, the sort of transition of both of them from what you think is going to be their roles of the military hawk and the civilian dove. And starting to realize that actually ... she's a harder-line character than he is, and that he is the son, not of a long line of military men, but the son of a civil ... liberties attorney. And that he's actually very reticent to be her policeman, as he says in one of the episodes. And that by the end of the season, their conflict would come to a head."

Moore added that he felt that Galactica ended up having a lot to say about the current state of affairs in the real world.

"The show is of its time," he said. "It is a show that is about people dealing in a post-apocalyptic world and dealing with the fallout from that and dealing with issues of war and peace and terrorism and security and freedom. And it's set in a military world. So no matter what we did, in a certain sense, it was bound to resonate.

"And just as we got further into the show, it just became apparent that that was something that the show was comfortable doing and that I wanted to do. I wanted to comment on things that were going on around us. I wanted the show to be thought-provoking. I wanted the show to provoke people. I wanted the show to make people think about the world that they live in."

[Following in the footsteps of his old Trek colleague Michael Piller (Dead Zone), Ron Moore has begun a personal blog about Galactica on Sci Fi's website at http://blog.scifi.com/battlestar  Ed.]

Muslims Blast 24 Stereotypes


Jack (Keefer Sutherland) Fox

NEW YORK January 13, 2005 (Reuters) - The Fox television network said on Thursday it will provide its stations with TV spots that portray Muslims in a favorable way after it received complaints for featuring followers of Islam as terrorists on its hit television show "24."

On Monday, Fox premiered the fourth season of "24." The drama featured an upper-middle class Muslim family operating as a sleeper terrorist cell. The Muslim mother poisons her son's non-Muslim girlfriend because it was feared the girl could jeopardize the terrorists' plan.

A Fox spokesman said it would provide public service announcements sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations to its affiliate stations. Local television executives can decide if and when to use the spots.

The move was in response to the Islamic council's complaints about the show.

"What we are hoping to do is to try and mitigate the damages of the stereotypes because it can bring real-life consequences on American Muslims and their lives here," said Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Islamic group.

Citing a public opinion survey conducted by Cornell University last year, Ahmed said television influences viewers' perceptions of Muslims.

"There aren't any positive or even neutral portrayals of Muslims on TV; whenever Muslims or Arabs are portrayed it is always in a stereotypical way," she said.

"When average Americans don't have any personal interaction with Muslims, whether it be at work or at school, they base their perception of Islam and Muslims from what they see on TV," she added. "We did bring that to Fox's attention."

[As long as we're on the subject of 24, what about that bit where Jack held up the convenience store to delay the terrorist? He couldn't just shoot the guy's tire out or pull the guy's distributor cap? Stupid plot twists make Jack a dull toy. Ed.]

24 Official - http://www.fox.com/24

MI-5 Season Three and Four


MI-5 - Season 3 now showing and Season 4 is
filming (A&E)

LOS ANGELES January 14, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - Fans of the British espionage series "MI-5" won't have to wait as long between seasons three and four as they did between seasons two and three.

A&E, which carries the BBC show in the United States, announced Friday (Jan. 14) at the TV Critics Association press tour that it was picking up the fourth season of the show, which begins filming next week in London, for late this year. The series' third season debuted last week, more than a year after the cliffhanger ending of season two.

"A&E's enthusiastic commitment to 'MI-5' reflects the fervent support from the series' fans," says Bob DiBitetto, head of programming at the network. "We are delighted to be in production for a fourth season of episodes."

[Season three began here last week, and it was an excellent rebirth for this rather obscure series. Look for MI-5 on A&E if you missed it in the past. Ed.]

Triangle and Threshold Given Pilot Go

Hollywood January 14, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - UPN and CBS have both given the green light to SF-themed pilots, Variety reported.

UPN has given the go-ahead to Triangle, from executive producers John Sakmar and Kerry Lenhart, which begins when the wife of a young doctor mysteriously disappears while they're on their honeymoon. In order to find out what happened, he stays on the island and begins to treat the residents and visitors, the trade paper reported.

CBS, meanwhile, has honored its put pilot commitment to Paramount's Threshold, about a female government agent who leads a team of military and scientific officers to respond to an alien threat. Bragi Schut wrote the pilot and will serve as co-executive producer, while David Goyer (Batman Begins) will executive produce and direct.

David Heyman (Harry Potter) will also executive produce, with Mark Rosen on board as co-executive producer.

Gary Cole on TNT and Invasion Pilot at ABC

LOS ANGELES January 12, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - TNT has picked up a second drama series for a summer launch, a Los Angeles-set crime saga called "Rush."


Gary Cole (left) is currently the Vice-President
on West Wing. This news seems to lessen his
chance for the presidency.

The project, starring Gary Cole (The West Wing, Crusade), revolves around an elite team of crime fighters from federal and local law enforcement agencies who forms an undercover strike force to track down Los Angeles' most-wanted fugitives.

TNT ordered 13 episodes for the show, which was created by Jorge Zamacona (ABC's "10-8: Officers on Duty"). The cable network earlier gave the go-ahead to "The Closer," starring Kyra Sedgwick as a member of a special LAPD unit devoted to high-profile murder investigations.

Meanwhile, ABC has added three drama pilots to its slate of fall hopefuls:

"Pros and Cons" is a stylish caper focusing on a group of con artists who work for the FBI. "Alias" and "Lost" honcho J.J. Abrams will executive produce with Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner ("Elektra"), who wrote the script.

"Invasion" chronicles the bizarre occurrences in a small Florida town after it gets ravaged by a hurricane. Shaun Cassidy ("Cold Case") is the writer and executive producer.

"Laws of Chance" is based on the real-life exploits of Kelly Siegler and centers on a feisty female assistant district attorney in Houston who uses unconventional methods against the toughest old-boy Texas defense attorneys. Gary Glasberg (NBC's "Crossing Jordan") wrote the script and will serve as an executive producer.

Real Point Pleasant
By JOHN CURRAN
Associated Press


Elizabeth Harnois portrays a beautiful young
woman who washes ashore and begins the search
for her true parentage, in the new Fox television
series 'Point Pleasant.' (Fox / A. Rapoport)

POINT PLEASANT NJ January 14, 2005 (AP) - The streets are tree-lined, and mostly quiet. The breezes that blow in off the Atlantic Ocean? Heavenly. Even the teenagers are nice, says Eric Hansch, who sees more than his share of them in his Atomic CDs record store when school lets out.

"They're the politest kids you'll ever meet," he said.

Point Pleasant, indeed.

The question around here these days: What the devil was Fox thinking, bringing Satan's offspring ashore in such an idyllic place? Sure, the network's new series "Point Pleasant" is just fiction. But still.

"It's evil," said Barbara Stancel, a 60-year-old lifelong resident. "I'm not happy about it. Point Pleasant's known as a family town, and this won't do anything for Point Pleasant."

The one-hour drama centers on pretty blond Christina Nickson, who turns up on the beach in Point Pleasant, N.J., one day and soon begins raising hell — wherever she goes, storm clouds gather, candles blow out, cars explode in flames.

The reason soon becomes clear: She's the devil's daughter.

"Point Pleasant," which is set here but is being filmed in Southern California, premieres 9 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Why here?

Why not Hell, Mich.? Or maybe Devils Slide, Utah?

Better yet: Satan's Kingdom, Vt.

They're real places, too.

"It's such an evocative name for a spooky show," said Marti Noxon, executive producer. "It wasn't just the name of the town. It was the fact that it was this beautiful coastal place ... to show that really bad things can happen in sunny places."

Point Pleasant, the place, wasn't sunny enough, though.

The show's producers couldn't trust New Jersey's fickle weather climate to provide the sunshine and blue skies necessary for a show with lots of bikini-clad young women and buff lifeguards.

So they took the name, planted a "Point Pleasant, New Jersey State Beach" sign on a San Diego beach and started filming. In the pilot, Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois) falls off a cruise ship and floats into shore, where she's rescued by a lifeguard and taken in by a local family.

Then her wicked ways begin to manifest themselves. Bad things happen.

The network has ordered 13 episodes, and hopes the series — Noxon alternately describes it as "`Rosemary's Baby' meets `Peyton Place,'" or "`Twin Peaks' meets `The Omen'" — will catch on.

If so, there's a chance producers would film on location in the real Point Pleasant, she said.

So far, their only contact with Borough of Point Pleasant officials was to ask permission to use the borough seal in the filming. Borough officials wrote a letter asking if they'd get any money if they consented to it.

"We never heard back from them after that," said Mayor Martin Konkus.

"Point Pleasant" the show makes no distinction between the Borough of Point Pleasant and neighboring Point Pleasant Beach, which separates it from the ocean. But the show's producers enlisted Jenkinson's Aquarium gift shop manager Linda DiSpirito to help with set design, flying her — and several boxes of merchandise from her Point Pleasant Beach gift shop — to California to meet with show designers.

Producers might find more than gee-gaws if they came looking for material in the real Point Pleasant.

Turns out things go bump in the night here, too.

Ghosts reportedly haunt the Westside Tavern, a 19th-century building where owners and customers alike have reported falling glasses, broken windows — and poltergeists. Local lore has it that someone named Captain John locked his teenage daughter, Elsie, in a closet, and now both of their ghosts make their presences known in the building.

Then there's the legend about bodies from an 1846 shipwreck being stored in the basement.

A team of ghostbusters from New Jersey Paranormal Investigations combed the building in 2001, and concluded that it was haunted by at least three ghosts.

New owner John Magee, who bought the place in November, believes the legends. He was working by himself late one night when a chair fell down and crashed through a window.

Problem was that the table had stood so far from the window, the chair couldn't have fallen and reached the window — on its own.

"I said, `Mr. Ghost, if it's you, I'm a nice guy, I'm friendly, I don't want any trouble,'" said Magee.

Nearby, at Delicious Bagels, owner Tony Pontecorvo suspects his strip mall store is haunted. For the first two years after he and his brother, Wade, bought the place, each would faintly hear men's voices about 2 a.m., as they worked together preparing bagels.

They sounded as if they were coming from next door, but every time the brothers went looking, the rest of the building was empty.

"Neither of us wanted to admit we were hearing those voices, but we finally did," said Pontecorvo.

"This store gives me the creeps," said Wade Pontecorvo.


Two people walk along the boardwalk in Point
Pleasant Beach, N.J., Friday, Jan. 7, 2005.
(AP Photo/ Mike Derer)

But Point Pleasant (pop. 19,306) has never been home to cults, devil worship or anything else remotely supernatural, according to police Chief Raymond Hilling. For one thing, there's been only one murder in the last 15 years, he said.

"We have our issues, but nothing satanic," he said.

Like many people here, he welcomes the idea of a TV show based in Point Pleasant, N.J., even if it's in name only.

"It's pretty cool that there's going to be a show about Point Pleasant," said Hunter Knolmayer, 14, eating a hot dog outside a convenience store.

He plans to watch it.

So does the Rev. David A. Kaiser, pastor of the First Assembly of God Church, even though he worries about Hollywood's obsession with evil and the impact of shows like "Point Pleasant" on young people.

"I'm kind of dreading it, to tell you the truth," said Kaiser. "I don't want to watch anything that glorifies the devil. But I kinda have to. I have to know what's in it, just to converse with other people and tell them what I believe."

Point Pleasant premieres this Wednesday at 9PM on Fox. A second episode follows on Thursday at 9PM in the show's regular time slot.

Point Pleasant Official - http://www.fox.com/pointpleasant

Top 20 Money Movies of 2004
Compiled by Anthony D'Alessandro (Variety)

January 15, 2005 (eXoNews) - Wondering how much money those big hype films took in last year? Well, here's a surprise! Top dollar was grabbed by the big green guy and the talking ass. And Spidey really is more popular than Jesus!

Thunderbirds was probably the most anticipated genre failure of the year down near the bottom at 166 with a tiny $6,810,000. Also low on the list at 98 is the one everyone talks about but most of you haven't gone to see, Finding Neverland (Miramax)* at a mere $24,676,000.

TOP 20 Compiled by Anthony D'Alessandro (Variety)
 
1......Shrek 2 (D'Works).....$436,722,000
2......Spider-Man 2 (Sony).....373,378,000
3......The Passion of the Christ (Newmarket-Equinox/Icon).....370,275,000
4......The Incredibles (BV/Pixar)*.....251,657,000
5......Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (WB).....249,367,000
6......The Day After Tomorrow (Fox).....186,741,000
7......The Bourne Supremacy (U).....176,088,000
8......Meet the Fockers (U/D'Works)*.....162,461,000
9......Shark Tale (D'Works)*.....160,762,000
10......The Polar Express (WB)*.....155,112,000
11......National Treasure (BV)*.....154,522,000
12......I, Robot (Fox).....144,801,000
13......Troy (WB).....133,259,000
14......50 First Dates (Sony).....120,777,000
15......Van Helsing (U).....120,073,000
16......Fahrenheit 9/11 (Lions Gate/IFC/Alliance).....119,115,000
17......DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (Fox).....114,327,000
18......The Village (BV).....114,198,000
19......The Grudge (Sony).....110,176,000
20......Ocean's Twelve (WB/Village Roadshow)*.....107,006,000

*still in release
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