|By MICHELLE RUSHLO |
Associated Press Writer
PHOENIX October 14, 2003 (AP) - An asteroid discovered by Arizona astronomers last month passed within 52,000 miles of Earth — the closest documented approach of an asteroid that didn't collide with the atmosphere.
Close encounters with asteroids of its size, about 3 to 6 meters in diameter, are not unusual, astronomers believe, but catching images and documenting orbits of those asteroids are difficult.
"The coup is to actually see one of them ... so we had a bit of luck," said Edward Bowell, director of Lowell Observatory's Near Earth Object Search program.
Images of SQ222, as it's been dubbed, were captured by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff and documented by Fountain Hills-based nonprofit Minor Planet Research.
Minor Planet Research was testing a computer and image system designed to allow students to look for asteroids and other space objects when a researcher spotted three small white lines, images of an object moving about twice the speed of the moon.
The discovery was relayed back to Lowell and the Minor Planet Center, a Cambridge, Mass.-based Smithsonian Institution program, which asked other astronomers for help spotting the asteroid.
Using data from other observers and another sighting at Lowell, astronomers have been able to project the orbit of SQ222 and calculate how close it passed to the Earth, said Brian Marsden, director of the Minor Planet Center.
"It has made the closest approach to the Earth of any known asteroid in space," he said.
SQ222 passed 52,000 miles from the Earth, less than a quarter of the distance to the moon, on Sept. 27. Before its discovery a day later, the closest documented pass was about 65,000 miles, Marsden said. That asteroid, spotted in 1994, was slightly bigger.
Based on observations of SQ222 and subsequent calculations, Bowell said it does not appear that the asteroid will pass close to Earth again for at least another decade.
Had it struck the Earth's atmosphere, it likely would have simply burned up. "It is a very tiny object," Marsden said.
Astronomers are most interested in discovering and documenting the orbits of large asteroids, especially ones with any potential to damage Earth.
But the discovery of even small asteroids can help researchers better calculate the total number of asteroids. "You never know what you're going to find, and you're never going to find anything unless you look," Bowell said.
Paul Johnson, executive director of Minor Planet Research, said the discovery of SQ222 helps illustrate the importance of the human element in searching for asteroids and other space objects.
To save money and time, most asteroid research is done using computers with set parameters designed to identify objects, but Minor Planet Research's asteroid discovery system adds the human eye to the equation, Johnson said.
The nonprofit hopes to have the system installed at the Challenger Space Center, an education center in Peoria, near the beginning of the year so that students will have a chance to make their own discoveries.
Lowell Observatory: http://www.lowell.edu
Minor Planet Research: http://www.minorplanetresearch.org
Smithsonian's Minor Planet Center: http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/mpc.html
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington October 14, 2003 (Washington Post) - The U.S. Navy will drastically limit the use of a controversial low-frequency sonar system, which environmental groups say disorients and kills endangered whales and other species, under a court agreement disclosed yesterday.
Even as it accepted a permanent injunction against most applications of the new sonar, however, the Navy said it will press for final action on pending modifications to the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other laws to allow it to deploy the system more widely. The low-frequency sonar can detect modern, quiet submarines over long distances.
The accord, which limits the Navy to less than 1 percent of the global range that was initially approved by federal authorities, was reached last week in federal district court in California. Environmental groups cheered the Navy's decision to accept a permanent injunction against wider use of the new sonar as "groundbreaking" and vowed to begin a worldwide campaign against the high-powered sonar.
As part of the campaign, a bill was introduced in the European Parliament yesterday to limit NATO's use of the technology.
A Navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Cappy Surette, said the Navy does not see the agreement as a positive development and that "it will limit the readiness of our sailors and Marines to meet the submarine threats of the new century."
He said the agreement and permanent injunction "highlight why legislative change is required to achieve a statutory regime that effectively considers important national interests and national defense."
Both the House and Senate have passed versions of a bill sought by the Pentagon, called the Range and Readiness Preservation Initiative, as an amendment to the pending Defense Department appropriations bill. It is still being debated in a conference committee to resolve significant differences in the two drafts.
Surette said the Navy wants changes to clarify what constitutes "harassment" of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and to set standards for how many can be inadvertently harmed without breaking environmental laws.
Under last week's permanent injunction, the Navy will be allowed to use the new sonar -- which emits very loud, low-frequency sound that can travel for hundreds of miles -- only off the eastern seaboard of Asia, an area of about 1.5 million square miles. Both sides said they could not discuss the reasons for that exception.
The agreement prohibits the use of the sonar, called Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System-Low Frequency Active (SURTASS-LFA), within 30 to 60 miles of the coastlines of the approved area, which includes China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. In addition, the sonar cannot be used when marine mammals are migrating through.
Surette said that the Navy still believes low-frequency sonar does not harm sea creatures and that it spent $10 million on an environmental impact assessment that supported its position. But in recent years, as more whale strandings have been tied to the loud sounds of mid-frequency sonar, also used to detect submarines and other underwater hazards, some prominent researchers have warned that low-frequency sonar could be equally harmful.
Researchers are still not certain how the loud sonar blasts affect whales and other marine mammals, but the animals are known to be very sensitive to sound, which they use to communicate and determine their location.
Last week, English and Spanish researchers reported in the journal Nature that they had found gas bubbles in the tissues of some beached whales, indicating they may have risen too quickly to escape sonar noise and developed decompression sickness, or "the bends." The whales tested had beached in the Canary Islands, just a few hours after active, mid-frequency sonar had been used as part of a Spanish-led international naval exercise.
Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Navy, said the new restrictions would not be in force during times of war or times of officially-declared increased threat.
"This agreement safeguards both marine life and national security," he said. "It will prevent the needless injury, harassment and death of countless whales, porpoises and fish, and yet allow the Navy to do what is necessary to defend the country."
The new court agreement replaces a temporary injunction ordered in August by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte, who struck down the permit issued 15 months ago by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
At that time, Laporte told the Navy and the plaintiffs -- the NRDC, the Humane Society International and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society -- to negotiate a permanent injunction consistent with her ruling. The environmental groups said yesterday that they would start an international campaign to win global regulation of all types of active sonar, which send out blasts of sound that bounce off underwater objects whose location can then be identified.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is based in Europe and says it has 2 million members worldwide, said it will actively lobby European governments and the European Union to limit the deployment of the high-powered sonar.
Although much information about low-frequency active sonar remains secret, environmental officials said they believe some European nations, and the NATO organization, are testing new systems. Reynolds of NRDC said he did not believe any low-frequency sonar systems have been deployed except experimentally.
from Duke University Press Release
DURHAM NC October 13, 2003 - Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have taught rhesus monkeys to consciously control the movement of a robot arm in real time, using only signals from their brains and visual feedback on a video screen. The scientists said that the animals appeared to operate the robot arm as if it were their own limb.
The scientists and engineers said their achievement represents an important step toward technology that could enable paralyzed people to control "neuroprosthetic" limbs, and even free-roaming "neurorobots" using brain signals. Importantly, said the neurobiologists, the technology they developed for analyzing brain signals from behaving animals could also greatly improve rehabilitation of people with brain and spinal cord damage from stroke, disease or trauma.
By understanding the biological factors that control the brain's adaptability, they said, clinicians could develop improved drugs and rehabilitation methods for people with such damage.
The advance was reported in an article published online Oct. 13, 2003, in the Public Library of Science (PLoS), by neurobiologists led by Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., who is professor of neurobiology and co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering. Lead author of the paper was Jose Carmena, Ph.D., in the Nicolelis laboratory.
The latest work by the Duke researchers is the first to demonstrate that monkeys can learn to use only visual feedback and brain signals, without resort to any muscle movement, to control a mechanical robot arm -- including both reaching and grasping movements.
In their experiments, the researchers first implanted an array of microelectrodes -- each smaller than the diameter of a human hair -- into the frontal and parietal lobes of the brains of two female rhesus macaque monkeys. They implanted 96 electrodes in one animal and 320 in the other. The researchers reported their technology of implanting arrays of hundreds of electrodes and recording from them over long periods in a Sept. 16, 2003, article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers chose frontal and parietal areas of the brain because they are known to be involved in producing multiple output commands to control complex muscle movement.
The faint signals from the electrode arrays were detected and analyzed by the computer system the researchers had developed to recognize patterns of signals that represented particular movements by an animal's arm.
In the initial behavioral experiments, the researchers recorded and analyzed the output signals from the monkeys' brains as the animals were taught to use a joystick to both position a cursor over a target on a video screen and to grasp the joystick with a specified force.
After the animals' initial training, however, the researchers made the cursor more than a simple display -- now incorporating into its movement the dynamics, such as inertia and momentum, of a robot arm functioning in another room. While the animals' performance initially declined when the robot arm was included in the feedback loop, they quickly learned to allow for these dynamics and became proficient in manipulating the robot-reflecting cursor, found the scientists.
The scientists next removed the joystick, after which the monkeys continued to move their arms in mid-air to manipulate and "grab" the cursor, thus controlling the robot arm.
"The most amazing result, though, was that after only a few days of playing with the robot in this way, the monkey suddenly realized that she didn't need to move her arm at all," said Nicolelis. "Her arm muscles went completely quiet, she kept the arm at her side and she controlled the robot arm using only her brain and visual feedback. Our analyses of the brain signals showed that the animal learned to assimilate the robot arm into her brain as if it was her own arm." Importantly, said Nicolelis, the experiments included both reaching and grasping movements, but derived from the same sets of electrodes.
"We knew that the neurons from which we were recording could encode different kinds of information," said Nicolelis. "But what was a surprise is that the animal can learn to time the activity of the neurons to basically control different types of parameters sequentially. For example, after using a group of neurons to move the robot to a certain point, these same cells would then produce the force output that the animals need to hold an object. None of us had ever encountered an ability like that."
Also importantly, said Nicolelis, analysis of the signals from the animals' brains as they learned revealed that the brain circuitry was actively reorganizing itself to adapt.
"It was extraordinary to see that when we switched the animal from joystick control to brain control, the physiological properties of the brain cells changed immediately. And when we switched the animal back to joystick control the very next day, the properties changed again.
"Such findings tell us that the brain is so amazingly adaptable that it can incorporate an external device into its own 'neuronal space' as a natural extension of the body," said Nicolelis. "Actually, we see this every day, when we use any tool, from a pencil to a car. As we learn to use that tool, we incorporate the properties of that tool into our brain, which makes us proficient in using it." Said Nicolelis, such findings of brain plasticity in mature animals and humans are in sharp contrast to traditional views that only in childhood is the brain plastic enough to allow for such adaptation.
According to Nicolelis, the finding that their brain-machine interface system can work in animals will have direct application to clinical development of neuroprosthetic devices for paralyzed people.
Flash animation of the experiment - http://news.mc.duke.edu/filebank/2003/10/41/Robot_arm.swf
UK Hooker Ban
By Nigel Bunyan
London October 14, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - Police forces throughout Britain were yesterday given the go-ahead to use anti-social behavior orders to ban prostitutes from residential streets. In a landmark case, two High Court judges overturned a district judge's refusal to grant such an order against a prostitute operating in Preston.
The ruling against Lisa Potter, 32, means that police will be able to move prostitutes on from certain "problem areas". If they refuse, they can be arrested.
Paul Stephenson, the Chief Constable of Lancashire, sought to ban Miss Potter from streets around Deepdale in the town in July last year. Using the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, he claimed that she had acted in an anti-social manner "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress".
District judge Alan Lloyd Jones was told that the problems caused by local prostitutes had multiplied with the advent of the internet.
Unnamed prostitutes frequently abandoned used condoms and hypodermic syringes in such locations as the grounds of a mosque and a health centre.
The judge refused to grant the order against Miss Potter, saying there was no evidence that her own behavior had caused harassment, alarm or distress to others. He also said that although a police officer had given evidence about lone females feeling intimidated by the presence of prostitutes, no such women had given evidence in person.
Yesterday, Lord Justice Auld and Mr. Justice Goldring said the district judge had been wrong to disregard evidence of the aggravated conduct of other prostitutes when considering Miss Potter's case.
His conclusion that the evidence did not prove the offence to the necessary standard was "perverse and unreasonable and therefore erroneous in law".
During a recent hearing, Jason Bear, appearing for the chief constable, outlined the problems experienced by the people of Deepdale because of prostitution. Mr. Bear described how, although full sex was more likely to take place in cars, other acts often occurred in small alleyways, behind skips or between buildings.
Lone females were finding it an uncomfortable and frightening experience to use the streets, because of men looking for sex or local residents becoming hostile after mistaking them for prostitutes. Women staff at a doctors' surgery faced difficulties persuading their husbands to pick them up from work in case prostitutes got into their cars uninvited.
The police found that members of the public were reluctant to give evidence for fear of reprisals. To require them to do so was to impose "an unnecessary and illogical burden" on applications by the police.
Mr. Bear said of Miss Potter: "If she had loitered or solicited on a desert island, then it could not fairly be said that her conduct had caused or was likely to have caused harassment, alarm or distress. The fact that she had done so in a residential area that many other prostitutes also operated in, and some of those prostitutes engaged in more overtly anti-social behavior, was highly significant."
The judges agreed with the chief constable and granted him a judicial review. His lawyers did not press for Miss Potter to pay legal costs, saying she was serving a prison sentence for supplying heroin to undercover police officers.
A lawyer involved in the case said: "This ruling will provide chief constables with a very easy way of excluding prostitutes from areas where they are soliciting, provided that these are recognized 'problem areas'."
Pot Smokers' Speedy Sperm
University at Buffalo Press Release
BUFFALO NY October 13, 2003 - Men who smoke marijuana frequently have significantly less seminal fluid, a lower total sperm count and their sperm behave abnormally, all of which may affect fertility adversely, a new study in reproductive physiology at the University at Buffalo has shown.
This study is the first to assess marijuana's effects on specific swimming behavior of sperm from marijuana smokers and to compare the results with sperm from men with confirmed fertility. Marijuana contains the cannabinoid drug THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is its primary psychoactive chemical, as well as other cannabinoids.
Results of the study were presented today (Oct. 13, 2003) at the annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in San Antonio.
"The bottom line is, the active ingredients in marijuana are doing something to sperm, and the numbers are in the direction toward infertility," said Lani J. Burkman, Ph.D., lead author on the study. Burkman is assistant professor of gynecology/obstetrics and urology and head of the Section on Andrology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. UB's andrology laboratory also carries out sophisticated diagnosis for infertile couples.
"We don't know exactly what is happening to change sperm functioning," said Burkman, "but we think it is one of two things: THC may be causing improper timing of sperm function by direct stimulation, or it may be bypassing natural inhibition mechanisms. Whatever the cause, the sperm are swimming too fast too early." This aberrant pattern has been connected to infertility in other studies, she noted.
Burkman collaborated on earlier, published UB research that was the first to show that human sperm contains cannabinoid receptors, and that the naturally occurring cannabinoid, anandamide, which activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other organs, also activates receptors in sperm. This evidence indicated an important role in reproduction for natural cannabinoids.
Further research in the andrology laboratory showed that human sperm exposed to high levels of THC displayed abnormal changes in the sperm enzyme cap, called the acrosome. When researchers tested synthetic anandamide equivalents on human sperm, the normal vigorous swimming patterns were changed and the sperm showed reduced ability to attach to the egg before fertilization. Only about 10 laboratories in the U.S. perform this array of sperm function tests.
In the current study, Burkman received seminal fluid from 22 confirmed marijuana smokers and subjected the samples to a variety of tests. The volunteers reported smoking marijuana approximately 14 times a week, and for an average of 5.1 years.
Control numbers were obtained from 59 fertile men who had produced a pregnancy. All men abstained from sexual activity for two days before the lab analysis.
The samples from both groups were tested for volume, sperm-count-per-unit of seminal fluid, total sperm count, percent of sperm that was moving, velocity and sperm shape. Sperm also were assessed for an important function called hyperactivation (HA), a closely regulated and very vigorous type of swimming that is required as the sperm approaches the egg. The researchers evaluated HA and velocity while the sperm was in seminal fluid and again after washing and incubation, when the dead sperm were eliminated.
Results showed that both the volume of seminal fluid and the total number of sperm from marijuana smokers were significantly less than for fertile control men. Significant differences also appeared when HA and velocity, both before and after washing, were assessed, the study found.
"The sperm from marijuana smokers were moving too fast too early," said Burkman. "The timing was all wrong. These sperm will experience burnout before they reach the egg and would not be capable of fertilization."
Burkman noted that many men who smoke marijuana have fathered children. "The men who are most affected likely have naturally occurring borderline fertility potential, and THC from marijuana may push them over the edge into infertility," she said.
As to the question of whether fertility potential returns when smokers stop using marijuana: Burkman said the issue hasn't been studied well enough to provide a definitive answer.
"THC remains stored in fat for a long period, so the process may be quite slow. We can't say that everything will go back to normal. Most men who have borderline fertility are unaware of that fact. It's difficult to know who is at risk. I definitely would advise anyone trying to conceive not to smoke marijuana, and that would include women as well as men."
Porn Action Figures Selling Like Hotcakes!
By Andrew Hornery
with Daniel Dasey
Australia October 15, 2003 (Sydney Morning Herald) - And you thought Barbie's proportions were unrealistic. Spike was amused, and, well, a little disturbed, to see a line of action figurines selling on the internet and through at least one Australian retailer featuring "stars" of the porn world.
The US company Plastic Fantasy's Adult Superstar action figure line boasts leading lights of the bad lighting and cheesy music genre including current porn queen Jenna Jameson. Most figurines are about 20 centimeters tall and are, er, anatomically correct.
"All Adult Superstars are packaged fully clothed, but the clothing is removable," the company's website says.
"Tattoos and piercings are also included as well as accessories and a display base for each figure."
Other featured stars include the improbably proportioned Christy Canyon, Sydnee Steele (so named because she spent a childhood holiday in Australia), Sunrise Adams and Stephanie Swift.
Some models even come with their own scale-model pole for pole-dancing routines. Classy.
The Melbourne retailer Figure Mania has been selling the figurines for four months for $39.95, alongside its more regular stock of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Matrix miniatures. The company's (rather embarrassed) managing director, John Howard (not the bloke in Canberra), said he introduced the line as part of a contractual agreement with a supplier but planned to discontinue it.
"To be honest, we really don't want our name associated with the merchandise," he told Spike.
"We have sold some, but nothing of any consequence. We probably won't be proceeding any further."
Plastic Fantasy - http://www.pfstore.com
Cardinal Wants Condom Health Warnings
By Bruce Johnston
Rome October 14, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - The cardinal in charge of Vatican social policy yesterday called for condoms to carry "health warnings", arguing that they were not effective against the spread of HIV.
Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said that to treat condoms as reliable was like "playing Russian roulette". He argued that they were not foolproof against pregnancy, nor were they necessarily impermeable to the Aids virus, which was 450 times smaller than a single sperm.
The Roman Catholic Church is fundamentally opposed to artificial contraception and argues that abstinence outside marriage is the only way to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
"I propose that the ministries of health require the inclusion in condom packages and advertisements and in the apparatus or shelves where they are displayed a warning that the condom is not safe," Cardinal Trujillo said.
His comments followed a BBC documentary in which he said the Catholic Church "advises against people infected with HIV wearing contraceptives".
He said he was anxious not to mislead people, especially the young, by making them think that something was safe when it had not been proved.
"I simply wished to remind the public, sustaining the opinion of a good number of experts, that when the condom is employed as a contraceptive, it is not totally dependable, and that the cases of pregnancy are not rare. In the case of the Aids virus, which is around 450 times smaller than the sperm cell, the condom's latex material obviously gives much less security.
"Thus, to talk of condoms as 'safe sex' is a form of Russian roulette."
The World Health Organization branded the cardinal's remarks as "extremely dangerous, at a time when we are faced with a global epidemic which has already killed 20 million people, and where 42 million others are now infected".
|American Chemical Society Press Release |
October 10, 2003 - Drinking coffee may help prevent colon cancer, according to a group of researchers in Germany. They identified a potent antioxidant compound in the popular brew that appears in animal studies to boost the activity of phase II enzymes, which are thought to protect against colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
The study is scheduled to appear in the Nov. 5 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Although researchers have suspected for years that coffee consumption may offer some protection against cancer as a result of the drink's high antioxidant content, this study represents the first time that a specific, highly active anticancer compound has been identified in the beverage, say study leaders Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., professor and head of the Institute for Food Chemistry at the University of Munster in Germany, and Veronika Somoza, Ph.D., deputy director of the German Research Center for Food Chemistry in Garching.
"Until human studies are done, no one knows exactly how much coffee is needed to have a protective effect against colon cancer," says Hofmann. "However, our studies suggest that drinking coffee may offer some protection, especially if it's strong." For example, expresso-type coffee contains about two to three times more of the anticancer compound than a medium roasted coffee beverage, he says.
The anticancer compound, called methylpyridinium, is found almost exclusively in coffee and coffee products but is not found in significant amounts in other foods and beverages, Hofmann says. Its anticancer activity was unknown until now, he adds.
Methylpyridinium is not present in raw coffee beans but is formed during the roasting process from its chemical precursor, trigonellin, which is common in raw coffee beans. It is present in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and even in instant coffee, says Hofmann.
To investigate the theory that coffee fights cancer, Hofmann and his associates prepared a conventional coffee beverage using roasted, decaffeinated beans from Columbia. Specially prepared extracts of the brew were then exposed to laboratory preparations of human intestinal cells for three days and results were compared to cells that were not exposed to coffee.
In the cell study, coffee extracts significantly boosted activity levels of phase II enzymes in a dose dependent manner, the researchers say. In other words, the higher the quantity of coffee, the higher the increase in the activity level of the enzymes. Analysis of the extract showed that the most active anticancer compound was methylpyridinium.
To determine whether the compound had a similar effect in living systems, a group of 24 rats was evenly divided into three groups and each group was fed either a standard diet, a diet mixed with coffee extract, or a standard diet containing pure methylpyridinium.
Blood tests showed that rats fed the coffee extract had a 24 to 40 percent increase in phase II enzyme activity compared to control animals. Pure methylpyridinium also significantly boosted the enzymes' activity levels. The results provide strong support for coffee as a cancer fighter in living systems, Hofmann and Somoza say.
The researchers plan to conduct additional tests in the future to determine whether methylpyridinium is an effective cancer fighter in humans and whether it has any side effects.
If you don't like coffee but still want its anticancer benefits, there may be an option in the future: A pill or dietary supplement enriched with methylpyridinium could one day be developed, the researchers predict.
|The Lyon's Den |
Hollywood October 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - Lawyers everywhere! First Angel gets control of Wolfram & Hart, an evil corporate law firm in LA, and now Rob Lowe gives up a potential run for the Presidency on The West Wing to become a legal eagle for a giant DC law firm on NBC's The Lyon's Den.
I didn't know what to make of Lyon's Den after the first episode, but that Sunday at 10 PM time slot made it easy to go back for more, so I have seen three episodes now and I think I can safely give it my blessing.
Rob Lowe is always a pleasure. He's kind of a young Cary Grant in an American way, equally capable at drama and scatterbrained comedy and a good-looking chap at that.
He's assembled a strong cast for this new lawyer show (he's Executive Producer), and the writing and production has already lifted it way above its sagging competitor The Practice on ABC.
Lyon's den hasn't got the super-fast patter of The West Wing, but Lowe's Jack Turner has a likeable wit and sometimes familiar WW dumbfoundedness and the plots so far have been good, while perhaps not unique.
Let's face it, most TV viewers have already seen every Perry Mason rerun at least five times and enough modern law shows and daytime judges to make them swear off law and order forever and go hide in the woods.
So there is an intriguing underlying mystery hidden in The Lyon's Den: a senior partner who apparently offed himself in the pilot may just have been murdered. The firm also bears a slight resemblance to the aforementioned Wolfram & Hart. For one thing, they have a bunch of corporate clients who, while not exactly demons, are certainly not good guys.
The Lyon's Den supporting cast is mostly semi-familiar actors, some known for excellent character roles on the big and small screens. Matt Craven (wonderful as the blind fan in "Bleacher Bums") plays Jack's pal, pro-bono lawyer George Riley. Frances Fisher (the ultimate ice queen mom in "Titanic") is in cahoots with Jack's firm rival Grant Rashton (Kyle Chandler).
But the main Evil Star in The Lyon's Den seems to be Senior Partner Terrance Christianson, played to nasty perfection by James Pickens Jr. You'll all remember hating this guy as Mulder's bureau chief nemesis from The X-Files and Pickens has a similar conspiratorial role here. At least we know he reports to Jack's dad, who is corruptible and patronizing US Senator Turner (Rip Torn).
Elizabeth Mitchell is an interesting newer face as lawyer Ariel Saxon, who has a thing for Jack but is also trying to find dirt on him for Grant Rashton, and David Krumholtz is amicable as Jimmy Olsen-ish paralegal Jeff Fineman.
The Lyon's Den is building something solid and you should be watching. Check it out Sundays at 10PM / 9c on NBC.
Lyon's Den Official site - http://www.nbc.com/The_Lyon's_Den
Raising The Almost Dead
Hollywood October 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - The fall season premieres are all but over. Tru Calling is still coming on Fox (October 30th), but the rest of the tarot cards are on the table.
Big surprise! I see signs that TV is back and maybe it does know drama after all!
The best of the best is Angel. The WB thought that the combination of David Boreanaz and James Marsters would raise the David Greenwalt-Joss Whedon Buffy spin-off from the almost dead and they were right. Following a rather lurid fourth season the first new episodes have recaptured the sardonic comedy edge that made us love Angel in the first place.
The WB has also signed the show up for a full season (see below) after just two weeks.
The opening scenes of Angel literally went back to Season One, with our vampire champion saving a damsel in distress in the dark streets of LA. The final line in of the episode (written and directed by Whedon) set the tone for Season Five. Spike (Marsters) made a ghastly reappearance in a puff of smoke and Harmony (Mercedes McNab) poked her head around a corner and gushed a Valley Girl greeting that left fans rolling in the aisles.
All of this is perfectly in sync with the magical universe Whedon created for Buffy, of course. There simply isn't anything else on any network that matches the pace and fun of Angel - not to mention the action, romantic entanglements, twisty plots and a regular measure of the old wizard beheading stuff, etc.
In the second episode we discovered that Spike is now a ghost! Poor vamp! First it was an implant that stopped him from continuing his wicked ways, and then he went out and got himself a soul to try to win Buffy's heart, now he is so non-corporeal that he can't even throw a punch unless he possesses somebody else's body.
He is also blipping out completely from time to time, fighting a call from Hell.
Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Andy Hallett, J. August Richards and Sarah Thompson round out the cast, with likely guest bits from old Buffy and Angel favorites. (Sarah Michelle did appear in Episode Two, but only in a Hellmouth flashback. Word is she'll be back in the flesh in May.)
Veteran Whedon writers Tim Minear and David Fury are among the big creative names that have already shown up for what should be a major renaissance for Angel.
Angel Official site - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||139,00.html
E! Clip of Interview with Angel cast (10/11/03) - http://www.eonline.com/Multimedia/Moreclips/0,1523,10,00.html
Hollywood October 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - There are quite a lot of other good series in the running this season but I'm getting tired of all these reviews, so I'll just toss out the old star treatment and urge you to tune in and decide for yourself.
Not all of these are genre shows, per se, but at least there's a nice variety. (Four stars are way cool, three are mostly good, two are promising. Anything lower is not even.)
Andromeda *** (Syndicated)
Angel **** (WB)
Charmed *** (WB)
Daily Show *** (Comedy Central)
Enterprise *** (UPN)
JAG *** (CBS)
Joan of Arcadia *** (CBS)
The Handler *** (CBS)
Las Vegas ** (NBC)
Lyon's Den *** (NBC)
Navy NCIS *** (CBS)
Smallville **** (WB)
Tarzan **** (WB)
Threat Matrix ** (ABC)
Whoopi *** (NBC)
Can you say Batwoman?
Hollywood October 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - Warners Brothers is releasing a new full-length Batman cartoon "Batman: The Mystery of The Batwoman" on DVD October 21st.
The vocal talents for Mystery of The Batwoman include Kevin Conroy as Batman and Bruce Wayne, Mathew Valencia as Robin, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred, Tara Strong as Batgirl, David Ogden Stiers as The Penguin, Hector Elizondo, Kelly Ripa and Kyra Sedgwick as The Batwoman.
This latest animated tale of the Dark Knight is produced by Glen Murakami, written by Alan Burnett and directed by Curt Geda.
The team's Batman Beyond TV series won an Annie and multiple Emmys in animation categories in 2000 and 2001. Murakami also produced the most recent Superman cartoon series and many others.
Shirley Walker (Final Destination, Batman Beyond, Spawn and Space: Above and Beyond) did the score. Ms. Walker won an Emmy for her Batman Beyond score in 2001. She is best known to genre fans for her work with the writer/director team of Glen Morgan and James Wong (X-Files, MillenniuM, Willard, etc.)
The Mystery of The Batwoman DVD also includes the Batman short "Chase Me."
Visit the Official site for more info at http://www2.warnerbros.com/batwoman
Justin Does Elton?
UK October 13, 2003 (gay.com) - Justin Timberlake is being lined up to play Sir Elton John in a biopic film, according to press reports.
The US singer is apparently set to play Elton in the film of his life, portraying him in his mid twenties, while 2 other actors will play him at other stages of his career.
It is thought that Timberlake caught the eye of Elton after he starred in his video This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore, in which Timberlake dressed up as Elton during his Rocket Man days in the 70s.
"He's a really talented boy, he gave me the chills when I watched him in the video. It was actually so close to me," Elton told The Sun.
Sir Elton is currently writing the script with his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, with a view to making the film in the near future.
Elton Writes Rhapsody
Hollywood October 9, 2003 (gay.com) - Sir Elton John is to help write a new musical soap for US television, as well as contribute some of his best know hits to the show.
Working once again with songwriter Bernie Taupin, John will help write the soundtrack to Rhapsody, which is camply billed as a "murder mystery power struggle and a big grand love story" by producer Shaun Cassidy.
"Elton and Bernie's catalogue is one of the most well-known in popular music history," Cassidy told Daily Variety.
"At its heart, there are a lot of stories in there, and to be able to use those songs is a gift. The music will be a constant component of the show."
Rhapsody, which is said to be comparative to Moulin Rouge, will be shown on the country's Fox TV's Net channel.
Willow Does Laugh Tracks?
By Nellie Andreeva
LOS ANGELES October 12, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" co-star Alyson Hannigan is returning to the small screen.
The actress, also of "American Pie" fame, has inked a talent deal with NBC to star in a comedy project for the network targeted for fall 2004.
"She has such a natural effervescence, she brought into 'Buffy' a real sense of humor to the role of Willow, and between that and the 'American Pie' movies, where she's so winning, we really think that this is the right time for her to try a half-hour comedy," NBC executive vp casting Marc Hirschfeld said.
Hannigan, who is meeting with writers and reading scripts, played Willow Rosenberg, the best friend of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), on Joss Whedon's cult series. On the big screen, she most recently reprised her role as the nerdy band camp lover Michelle Flaherty in "American Wedding."
[As you probably know, Alyson Hannigan married Angel's Alexis Denisof last weekend after a long courtship. E! Online reports that Hannigan once explained their romance in Buffy-ish style: "Actually, I had a crush on him from the moment he showed up on set, and he was the good one who said, 'Not while we're working together...' blah blah blah, whatever." Ed.]
Joe Strummer's Final Album Released
LONDON October 11, 2003 (AP) - Friends and family toasted the late punk pioneer Joe Strummer at the launch of his last album.
Mick Jones, Strummer's former bandmate in The Clash, was among guests at the event at London's White Cube Gallery Thursday night to mark the release of "Streetcore."
Other guests included actor Keith Allen, comic Paul Kaye, actress Sadie Frost and her former husband, ex-Spandau Ballet star Gary Kemp.
Strummer's widow, Lucy, helped launch the Strummerville charity, which aims to help youth groups, organizations and individuals buy instruments, studio and rehearsal time.
Members of reggae band UB40 also attended, as did photographer Pennie Smith, famed for her striking cover shot for The Clash's 1979 album "London Calling."
Strummer, who made his name expressing his politics through his music, died on Dec. 22 after a heart attack. He was 50.
Roswell DVDs Due in February
Hollywood October 9, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - The TVShowsonDVD Web site reports that some of the music originally appearing on the teen-alien series Roswell will be replaced for the upcoming DVD release due to prohibitive licensing fees.
Capitalizing on a previously untapped revenue stream, record companies have been steadily increasing licensing fees for DVDs and home videos in the last few years, forcing distributors to choose between eliminating expensive songs by well-known artists or setting higher retail prices.
The site did not specify which songs had been dropped from Roswell, but the series featured music from such high-profile artists as Sarah McLachlan, Dave Matthews Band, Santana and Jewel.
The first season of Roswell is due on DVD in February.
Ultimate Roswell fan site - http://www.crashdown.com
Dean Cain Geeky?
By Chris Gardner
LOS ANGELES October 13, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Dean Cain is currently in Vancouver shooting the family film "Bailey" opposite Tim Curry and Jennifer Tilly.
In his own words, he plays "a geeky scientist guy who undergoes a little bit of a change in the middle of the movie -- I become less of a geek and more of a regular guy."
But before you go comparing that to a big-time character change, like say Superman or something, the transition is better compared to Cain's current career arc.
The actor, who is perhaps best known for his caped crusades on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," is making a move toward big-budget studio fare, hot off his starring turn opposite Denzel Washington in MGM's current release "Out of Time."
"I felt very comfortable playing opposite (Denzel), and I felt very comfortable in that big-time movie arena," Cain says in response to positive buzz on his role as Chris Harrison.
"I really like that, and I would like to continue making more movies like that. Fortunately now after having done this movie and playing opposite Denzel, people are taking me a lot more seriously. I'm the same actor I was before, but (director) Carl Franklin and Denzel gave me a shot."
He may get another shot thanks, again, to MGM: Cain is on a short list of actors being considered for another project at the studio. But for now, he has "Bailey."
"I watch all these kids' movies all the time, and I wanted to be able to do something that I can watch with my son."
Sutherland Sez Kill Jack?
RADNOR PA October 13, 2003 (AP) - Kiefer Sutherland thinks killing off his character in "24" wouldn't be a bad idea.
"I feel really strongly that if you want to jar the audience, take Jack out," Sutherland tells TV Guide for its Oct. 18 issue. "As much as it would break my heart not to do this show, I think it's important the audience believe that at any given moment, any cast member can go."
Sutherland reprises his role as Jack Bauer beginning Oct. 28 on Fox.
The show's executive producer, Howard Gordon, said there are no plans to kill the lead character, "at least not yet."
The show's creators, Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, promise a big surprise early in the season — "It's not Jack dying, but it's big," Cochran said.
Surnow is certain Sutherland was joking: "I said, 'What, do you have a movie offer?'"
Angel Gets Full Season Nod
Hollywood October 10, 2003 (eXoNews) - The Powers That Be have granted our champion and his loyal crew a full fifth season, according to TV Guide. The WB is pleased with the Angel's performance in its 9PM Wednesday time slot, despite heavy competition from The West Wing and baseball on Fox. The initial option for Angel's return was 13 weeks, but now we can expect a complete run and maybe even hope for Season Six.
Wednesdays are the most competitive nights on the TV grid this fall. Tuesdays were tops for a number of years, but the demise of Angel's sister show Buffy The Vampire Slayer seemed to signal the end of an era for the networks. The WB moved its big winner Smallville to Wednesday and the flag was down. All the networks want to win Wednesdays.
UPN's Wednesday genre selections are not faring as well.
Star Trek: Enterprise is fading in the shadow of Smallville's Man of Steel and Jake 2.0, UPN's attempt to clone their own Superboy, is no match for Joss Whedon and his family of actors, writers and directors.
Besides, Spike is back and the show is funny as hell - pun intended.
In fact, here's a nice change of fortune for the new management of the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart.
If you take a look at the Nielsen Primetime Metered Market Ratings for Wednesday October 1 and October 8 and compare Angel, Smallville, Enterprise, Jake 2.0 and The West Wing, Angel is the only show that actually picked up new viewers in the second week!
Take a bow, kids!
Angel Season Five airs Wednesdays on The WB at 9 PM / 8c. Thursdays on SPACE in Canada.
You can get the numbers weekly at our eXoNews Angel Fan Poll site - http://flatdisk.net/angel/angel_ratings.htm. And don't forget to vote!