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Dark Energy!
Black Holes and White Holes?
EPA Sued, Thermophiles,
Buckyballs & More!
Dark Energy Expands Universe

Vanderbilt University Press Release

September 16, 2003 - Measurements of 11 exploding stars spread throughout the visible universe made by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm earlier, ground-based studies which produced the first evidence that the universe is not only expanding, but expanding at an increasing rate.

The new study, which has been posted online at and will soon appear in the Astrophysical Journal, also provides some tantalizing new insights into the nature of the mysterious repulsive force, dubbed dark energy, that appears to be propelling this run-away expansion.

"As far as the ultimate fate of the universe goes, the most straightforward conclusion is that over the next few billion years it is going to become an increasingly thin, cold and boring place," says Robert Knop.

Knop is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University who led the analysis of the supernova data for the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), an international collaboration of 48 scientists directed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, Knop and his colleagues measured the light curves and spectra of a special kind of exploding star, called a Type 1A supernova, that occurs in binary star systems made up of a normal star and a collapsed star called a white dwarf.

Basically, the white dwarf pulls material from its companion until it reaches a critical size, at which point it is consumed in a giant thermonuclear explosion. Astronomers consider Type 1A supernovae to be so similar that their brightness provides a dependable gauge of their distance and so bright they are visible billions of light years away.

Knowing this, astronomers can get a good estimate of the distance of a Type 1A supernova by comparing its brightness curve with those of comparable stellar outbursts that have taken place nearby: The dimmer the image the greater the distance. Because it takes light time to travel these great, intergalactic distances, as astronomers look further out into the universe they are also looking back in time. So the estimates of the distances of the supernovae also provides estimates of the age of their images. By measuring the extent to which the light spectrum of each of these images has been shifted to longer, redder wavelengths – a phenomenon called redshift – the astronomers can determine how much the universe has expanded since the time when the star exploded. As the universe expands, the wavelength of light is stretched right along with the fabric of the space through which it is traveling. (For relatively nearby "local galaxies," this redshift looks just like the Doppler shift produced by the velocity at which these galaxies are moving away from our galaxy.)

By comparing the redshifts and look-back times of the supernovae, the astronomers can measure the rate at which the universe is expanding. The fact that the exploding stars are dimmer and older than expected based on their redshift indicates that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, something like raisins in a loaf or raisin bread that is rising faster and faster.

The new study reinforces the initial discovery made five years ago that the expansion rate of the universe appears to be speeding up, rather than slowing down as most scientists had expected. The discovery was made independently by the Supernova Cosmology Project and a competing group, the High-Z Supernova Search Team.

One of the most serious criticisms of the initial studies was the possibility that dust from the distant galaxies may have dimmed the images of the supernovae enough to skew their results. This is called the "host-galaxy extinction hypothesis."

The initial studies were done using data from supernovae obtained primarily with ground-based telescopes. Because the supernovae images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) are unaffected by the Earth's atmosphere, they are not only sharper and stronger than those taken from the ground, but also their colors are more accurate. The improved color measurements provided the scientists with a more stringent test of the host-galaxy extinction problem. In addition to absorbing and scattering the supernovae's light, the galactic dust should also make a supernova's light redder, much as the sun looks redder at sunset because of dust in the atmosphere.

Because the Hubble data show no anomalous reddening with distance, Knop says, the supernovae "pass the test with flying colors."

"Limiting such uncertainties is crucial for using supernovae – or any other astronomical observations – to explore the nature of the universe," says Ariel Goobar, a member of SCP and a professor of particle astrophysics at Stockholm University in Sweden. The extinction test, says Goobar, "eliminates any concern that ordinary host-galaxy dust could be a source of bias for these cosmological results at high-redshifts."

The new analysis also provides tighter estimates of the relative density of matter and dark energy in the universe. Using straightforward assumptions, the initial studies estimated that the composition of the cosmos is 63 to 80 percent dark energy and 20 to 37 percent matter of all types.

The new study narrows this range to 68 to 81 percent dark energy and 19 to 32 percent miscellaneous matter.

In addition, the new data provides a more accurate measure of just how effective dark energy is at pushing the universe apart.

Among the numerous attempts to explain the nature of dark energy, some are allowed by these new measurements -- including the cosmological constant originally proposed by Albert Einstein -- but others are ruled out, including some of the simplest models of the theories known as quintessence. [See background information below, What is Dark Energy?]

The current study points the way to the next generation of supernova research: In the future, the SuperNova/Acceleration Probe, or SNAP satellite, is being designed to identify thousands of Type 1A supernovae and measure their spectra and their light curves from the earliest moments, through maximum brightness, until their light has died away. Saul Perlmutter, the astrophysicist at the Berkeley Lab who heads up the Supernova Cosmology Project, is leading an international group of collaborators who are developing SNAP with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

NASA Tutorial on Dark Energy -

Black Holes and White Holes Created the Universe?

University of California - Davis Press Release

September 16, 2003 - The universe may have been created by an explosion within a black hole, according to a new theory by two mathematicians recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.

"It's a mathematically plausible model which refines the standard model of the Big Bang," said Blake Temple, professor of mathematics at UC Davis and co-author of the paper with Joel Smoller, professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan.

In the standard model of cosmology, the universe burst into existence with the Big Bang about 13 billion years ago. Since then, the universe, which contains an infinite amount of matter and is infinite in extent, has been expanding in all directions.

In the new model, the Big Bang is an actual explosion within a black hole in an existing space. The shock wave of the explosion is expanding into an infinite space, leaving behind it a finite amount of matter.

The universe is emerging from a white hole. The opposite of a black hole, a white hole throws matter out instead of sucking it in.

The shockwave and the universe beyond the black hole lies in our future. Eventually, the universe will emerge from the black hole as something like a supernova, but on an enormously large scale, Temple said.

The equations that describe a black hole were written by Albert Einstein as part of the General Theory of Relativity. Einstein's equations work equally well if time runs forward or backwards. But explosive shockwaves, which include an increase in entropy, are time-irreversible.

The new theory satisfies Einstein's equations while allowing the universe to expand.

Whether the matter emerging from the white hole came from matter that previously fell into another black hole is an open question, Temple said.

"It is natural to wonder if there is a connection between the mass that disappears into black hole singularities and the mass that emerges from white hole singularities," Smoller and Temple wrote.

Kennewick: The 4 Million Dollar Man

Associated Press

PORTLAND September 11, 2003 (AP) - The definition of "Native American" is at stake in deciding whether the 9,300-year-old skeleton known as Kennewick Man belongs to scientists or Indian tribes, lawyers for both sides told a federal appeals court Wednesday.

The Interior Department has fought with scientists since the bones were discovered in 1996 along the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick.

A group of eight anthropologists who want to do research on the skeleton went to court to seek permission. But then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt ruled three years ago the bones should be handed over to the tribes for reburial. Last October, U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks overturned Babbitt and approved research on the bones.

Jelderks agreed with arguments by scientists, who said there was no direct link between the skeleton and modern tribes.

The government and the tribes appealed and argued their case on Wednesday before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Susan Graber asked whether the legal definition of Native American could cover any bones found in North America that were so old they rivaled the age of ancient fossils in Africa or could qualify as "Adam and Eve."

"Yes, they would be considered Native American," said Ellen Durkee, a Justice Department attorney representing the Interior Department and various federal agencies.

Judge Ronald Gould questioned whether the timing of ancient migration to North America suggested that 9,300 years was long enough to separate the skeleton from any relationship to modern tribes, but said, "That's a metaphysical question that's outside my pay scale."

In 1990, Congress defined "Native American" as someone "indigenous to the United States."

Paula Barran, attorney for the scientists, argued Congress did not intend to include people who lived on the continent long before European colonization.

In the Kennewick Man case, the Interior Department has interpreted the term "Native American" to mean anyone who was in the contiguous 48 states before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

The skeleton drew scientific interest because it is among the oldest and most complete found in North America, with characteristics unlike modern Indians.

The case centers on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, aimed at returning Indian remains and discourage illegal trafficking in bones taken from burial sites.

The law approved in 1990 was intended to right the wrongs done to Indians in recent history, not to block scientific research to determine how ancient settlers arrived in North America, Barran said.

In his ruling last October, Jelderks said the term "Native American" requires "a cultural relationship" with a modern tribe to qualify under the grave protection act. But he said his review of 22,000 pages of court documents, including scientific reports, produced no evidence to support any cultural link between Kennewick Man and the Northwest tribes.

"We're not against science, and we're not against technology," said Armand Minthorn, spokesman for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. "But technology should not dictate what is done or is not done with these remains."

Alan Schneider, an attorney for the anthropologists, said such tests could avoid adding to the expense of a case that has already cost an estimated $4 million.

The appeals court is not expected to rule until next year.

EPA Sued Over Child Pesticide Exposure
By Gail Appleson

NEW YORK September 16, 2003 (Reuters) — The Environmental Protection Agency was sued by four states and a coalition of conservation, public health, and farmworker groups Monday for failing to protect children from unsafe levels of pesticide residue found in food.

The plaintiffs, who filed two separate cases in Manhattan federal court, seek court orders forcing the EPA to comply with a 1996 law requiring that the agency set pesticide residue standards 10 times stricter than those considered acceptable for adults.

One of the suits was brought by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. The other case was brought by an 11-member group that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Pesticide Action Network North America, the Breast Cancer Fund, and the Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Both cases focus on a group of high-risk pesticides used on fruits, vegetables, and nuts commonly eaten by children.

"Some of these pesticides are so toxic that a teaspoon can cause acute poisoning in people, resulting in seizures and coma," the NRDC suit said. "One is so potent that the EPA says to protect against acute toxicity, a toddler should not be exposed to an amount weighing less than a single grain of salt per day. Lower doses over time may cause neurological damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and cancer."

Despite this, the EPA has waived the required tenfold safety factor for the pesticides, the NRDC charged.

EPA spokesman Dave Deegan said he could not comment specifically on suits until the lawyers had reviewed the papers but added, "The EPA has not deviated from our ongoing efforts to completely implement the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996."

The suits state that children are far more susceptible to harm from pesticide residue on food than adults. This is because they are undergoing rapid growth, do not have mature metabolic functions to deal with toxic residues, and consume more food for their size than adults.

They said that the EPA had based residue limits on data from adults but that Congress passed the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act to require the agency to set residue levels that are safe for children. The act requires the EPA to use an additional tenfold margin of safety to account for the special susceptibility of infants and children when establishing tolerances for pesticides in food. The tougher standard can be waived only when there is comprehensive scientific information showing that a lesser standard is still safe for children.
Chandra's Lunar Riddle

WASHINGTON September 16, 2003 (AFP) - The Chandra X-ray Observatory may solve the mystery of how the Moon was formed, after finding elements common to Earth on the lunar surface, NASA said.

"We see X-rays from these elements directly, independent of assumptions about the mineralogy and other complications," said Jeremy Drake of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One theory on the formation of the Moon is that a body the size of Mars collided with Earth 4.5 billion years ago, flinging molten debris out of the Earth's mantle in the impact.

Over tens of millions of years, so the theory goes, the debris formed the Moon.

By measuring the oxygen, magnesium, aluminum and silicon across a wide area of the lunar surface and comparing them with the Earth's mantle, Drake and his colleagues plan to test the hypothesis.

"We have Moon samples from the six widely-spaced Apollo landing sites, but remote sensing with Chandra can cover a much wider area," Drake told a press conference at the "Four Years with Chandra" symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Data from Chandra also allowed a glimpse into the mystery of X-rays previously perceived as coming from the far side of the Moon.

"Our results strongly indicate that the so-called dark Moon X-rays do not come from the dark side of the Moon," said Brad Wargelin, also of the CFA.

"The observed X-ray spectrum, the intensity of the X-rays, and the variation of the X-ray intensity with time, can all be explained by emission from Earth's extended outer atmosphere, through which Chandra is moving," Wargelin said.

Pot News!

Chong's Bongs Land Him in Prison
By Josh Grossberg

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania September 11, 2003 (E!) - That recently proposed Cheech and Chong reunion movie may be up in smoke--at least for the next nine months.

Tommy Chong, one half of the pot-happy duo, was sentenced Thursday to nine months in federal prison and fined $20,000 for peddling bongs and other drug accoutrements over the Internet.

The 65-year-old comedian was busted last February for operating an online head shop and was the first to plead guilty as part of Operation Pipe Dreams, Attorney General John Ashcroft's crackdown on black-market distributors of drug paraphernalia over the Web.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents smoked out Chong after purchasing bongs and other pot props from Chong Glass, the now defunct Website run by Nice Dreams Enterprises, which takes its name after one of Cheech and Chong's stoner comedies.

The goods were then delivered to an undercover shop in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a small, conservative town northwest of Pittsburgh that doesn't take kindly to potheads, even famous ones.

Investigators impounded those and other Chong Glass wares, including "thousands of marijuana bongs and pipes," after conducting raids in his Gardena, California, offices and other head shops around the county.

Chong had asked for leniency from U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who instead threw the book at the comic. After serving his time in the federal lockup, Chong will be saddled with a year of probation.

The stone-funny actor, who appeared remorseful when he entered his guilty plea in May, didn't help his case. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chong made light of his predicament outside the courtroom, even suggesting it would make a good scenario in his next movie.

Prosecutors also cited an online chat hosted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which Chong was asked how he felt about the feds targeting pot smokers. He jokingly replied, "I feel pretty bad, but it seems to be the only weapons of mass destruction they've found this year."

Those remarks didn't sit well with the judge, who ignored pleas from Chong's attorney to delay punishment to have time to examine other sentencing options, such as confining Chong to a halfway house or home detention.

In court documents, Schwab also voiced displeasure with Chong over the lack of financial records given to the court, speculating that Chong might be trying to hide profits from the illicit venture. Schwab initially indicated he might toss Chong behind bars for a year and slap him with the maximum fine of $250,000, an amount prosecutors argued was necessary since they claimed he was worth $2.8 million and could easily come up with the cash.

A number of Chong's friends wrote in asking for clemency, including his agent, Michael Blake, who said Chong has "fans all over the world that would respond to his message that you can get higher on life without using drugs."

Chong's publicist, Brandie Knight, said the comedian and his family, who were expecting something akin to a slap on the wrist, were shocked by the sentence.

"He's actually really disappointed because everyone else involved with this got home detention, and he's going to jail," said Knight. "He doesn't have a record, he's never been in trouble before, and he's the one going to jail for nine months."

Knight also suggested the comedian is being made an example by the feds.

Now Chong is facing a seriously bad trip. The sentence forces the postponement of his reunion with old pal Cheech Marin in a new comedy, their first collaboration since 1985's music-video compilation Get Out of My Room. Ironically, Cheech and Chong were to have starred as anti-drug counselors in the film.

Chong, who most recently had a recurring role as, yes, a stoner on That '70s Show, remains free on bail and has been taking his comedy act across the country. The Canada native is expected to report to federal prison within the next few weeks.

Government Deals Bad Pot
By Franco Pingue

TORONTO September 16, 2003 (Reuters) - Canada's government-grown marijuana is unfit for human consumption and makes some patients sick, people who have tried it say.

The federal government has permitted more than 600 Canadians to legally buy medical marijuana, the first country in the world to do so. They are patients whose doctors prescribed pot after conventional treatments failed.

"It's not marijuana, it's ground-up stems, twigs and beads and it's not fit for human consumption," said Jim Wakeford, who uses marijuana to battle AIDS symptoms. "The marijuana was offensive and obnoxious smelling, it was not helpful and it gave me bad headaches the two times I tried it."

Marco Renda, who smokes marijuana to help symptoms of liver disease hepatitis C, said he temporarily used government dope after someone stole his marijuana plants.

"I don't like it, and even my doctor advised me not to use it because it does nothing to help my symptoms," said Renda.

A recent study by patients-rights group Canadians for Safe Access claims government dope contains 3 percent of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active ingredient, not the 10 percent the government says.

Phillipe Lucas, a spokesman with Canadians for Safe Access, who smokes marijuana to ease hepatitis C symptoms, said he cancelled his government-ordered dope.

Despite the complaints, Health Canada said its dope is effective and cannot be returned for refunds.

"We question the validity of the test results that they have put forward because they haven't been open and transparent about where the tests were done," said Krista Apse, spokeswoman at Health Canada.

Canadians for Safe Access, which said test marijuana was obtained through a reliable source with access to government pot, urged the government to conduct more tests.

But the government said the medical marijuana is produced using "quality standardized marijuana" and its THC content level is about 10 percent.

[Trust no one - goes without saying, really... Ed.]


University of Exeter News Release

September 15, 2003 - Tiny organisms capable of confounding the normal rules of life by thriving in temperatures up to the boiling point of water are the subject of an international conference at Exeter University from 15-19 September.

Called Thermophiles, these microorganisms can be found in the depths of the oceans, near volcanic vents called 'black smokers', and on land in the volcanic areas of countries like the USA, Iceland and New Zealand.

Scientists around the world are engaged in discovering how Thermophiles are able to exist in environments where previously life was thought to be impossible. Chemists are using the highly stable enzymes found in Thermophiles for use in industrial process such as the synthesis of very pure drugs. Astronomers are also excited by Thermophiles because they widen the parameters for the search for life on other planets.

Professor Jenny Littlechild heads the Thermophiles research program at Exeter University where £2.7 million has just been invested in a purpose-built centre to support her team's work.

She said: 'It is quite incredible that life is able to survive at virtually the boiling point of water and, in some cases, at incredible pressures too. Some Thermophiles are found at ocean depths of 6km. We are interested in the use of enzymes to synthesize drugs, but enzymes are not usually very robust when you heat them up or introduce them to solvents. But the enzymes found in Thermophiles are stable at temperatures up to 90 degrees and are also resistant to solvents. They have huge potential for our work and we are currently engaged in cloning the enzymes so they can be produced in the necessary quantities for industrial processes.'

The first paper of the conference will be given by Exeter astrophysicist Professor Tim Naylor on the subject of 'Finding extraterrestrial sites for Thermophiles.' He will be asking the Thermophile experts to help him draw up new parameters for the extremes of temperature and pressure that might still support life

Said Professor Naylor: "In the past the search for planets which could sustain life has concentrated on finding planets like earth. This is incredibly difficult because when you look at different solar systems the glare from their suns tends to blot out the existence of planets in close orbit. Looking into the near future the sort of technology we're likely to develop isn't going to overcome this problem so we are likely to find more planets like, say, Jupiter or perhaps Mars.

"Our knowledge of Thermophiles means such places may now be serious contenders for harboring life."

The conference has attracted experts from all over the world, including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Germany, Denmark, France, South Africa, Italy, India, and Iceland. It is the first time the conference has visited the UK.

For a full program for Thermophiles 2003 go to:

Bush Defends His New Environmental Rules

By Steve Holland

MONROE MI September 16, 2003 (Reuters) — President Bush Monday defended a change in clean air rules — which environmentalists believe will cause more pollution — as necessary to allow power plants to upgrade their equipment and keep the U.S. economy going.

"We have done the right thing," Bush said.

Wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, Bush toured a coal-burning power plant, the Detroit Edison Monroe facility, then gave a speech to employees and local political figures saying his environmental policies are working. Bush was on a day trip to two states crucial to his re-election next year, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to talk up his environmental record and add to a war chest that is now about $62 million.

He addressed Republican donors in rainy Drexel Hill, Penn., later Monday, raising $1.25 million from 775 attendees, telling them, "We're laying the groundwork for what is going to be a great nationwide victory in November of 2004."

Bush's Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a major rewrite of so-called New Source Review rules that govern the steps utilities, petroleum refiners, and thousands of other facilities must take when making major upgrades to their plants. It allows industry to make major plant upgrades without installing expensive pollution-reduction equipment and lets dirtier, older plants to operate well beyond their intended life span.

Bush said the policy needed to be changed to allow plants to upgrade quickly to improve their reliability rather than go through a complicated government review process. "The rules created too many hurdles, and that hurts the working people," Bush said. "It makes sense to change these regulations. It makes sense for the workplace environment, it makes sense for the protection of our air. Not only do I believe that, but union leaders believe that, manufacturers believe that, the utilities believe that, a bipartisan coalition of Congress believes it."

But several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, said the Senate should block confirmation of Bush's choice to head the EPA, Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, until the administration changes its clear air policy.

Environmental groups said Bush's policy will increase pollution, particularly at the Monroe plant, one of the largest coal-fired plants in the country.

"Thanks to new rules from a 'kinder, gentler EPA,' Detroit Edison can upgrade Monroe and other plants, even if pollution increases substantially as a result, without obtaining the permits and pollution controls that used to be required under the 'New Source Review' provisions of the Clean Air Act," said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former chief of civil enforcement at the EPA.

Outside the plant, guarded by police, was a group of protesters who had a giant papier-mβchι rat with the slogan, "Rat's Best Friend."

Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko said Bush's appearance was an effort to defend the policy. "I think it's important to literally clear the air on this rule," she told reporters.

The Bush administration contends its proposal would cut power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury by 70 percent.

Environmentalists say it would increase pollution compared with existing law and fails to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, thought to be a major cause of global warming.

Buckyballs Process Light

University of Toronto News Release

September 12, 2003 - Using molecules resembling 60-sided soccer balls, a joint team of researchers from the University of Toronto and Carleton University has created a new material for processing information using light.

Led by U of T electrical and computer engineering professor Ted Sargent and Carleton University chemistry professor Wayne Wang, the team developed a material that combines microscopic spherical particles known as "buckyballs" with polyurethane, the polymer used as a coating on cars and furniture.

The buckyballs, given the chemical notation C60, are clusters of 60 carbon atoms resembling soccer balls that are only a few nanometers in diameter. (A nanometer equals a billionth of a meter.)

When the mixture of polyurethane and buckyballs is used as a thin film on a flat surface, light particles traveling though the material pick up each others' patterns. These materials have the capacity to make the delivery and processing of information in fiber-optic communications more efficient.

"In our high-optical-quality films, light interacts 10-to-100 times more strongly with itself, for all wavelengths used in optical fiber communications, than in previously reported C60-based materials," says Sargent, a professor at U of T's Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "We've also shown for the first time that we can meet commercial engineering requirements: the films perform well at 1550 nanometers, the wavelength used to communicate information over long distances."

Light-made up of particles called photons-is widely used in fiber-optic networks to communicate trillions of bits of information each second over long distances. At the moment, these fast and free-flowing signals are difficult to harness. The new material is described in a study in the Sept. 15 issue of Applied Physics Letters.

"The key to making this powerful signal-processing material was to master the chemistry of linking together the buckyballs and the polymer," says Wang, Canada Research Chair in Emerging Organic Materials at Carleton University in Ottawa.

According to Sargent, the Nortel Networks-Canada Research Chair in Emerging Technologies, "this work proves that 'designer molecules' synthesized using nanotechnology can have powerful implications for future generations of computing and communications networks."

More info on buckyballs and nanotubes -

Close-ups of real buckyballs -

Genre News: Firefly Wins Emmy, Yoko, Whoopi, Jake, The Flash, Hebrew Hammer, David McCallum & More!

Boycott the Emmys Part 2: 2003 Creative Arts Emmy Genre Winners
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 16, 2003 (eXoNews) - Slim pickings for your favorite shows at the recent Creative Arts Emmy handouts, but at least Joss Whedon's Firefly finally got something. Buffy and Enterprise got nominations, but lost. Angel, Dead Zone and other genre favorites were ignored as usual. Alias and 24 and CSI won stuff, but they're pretty much mainstream aren't they?

The big genre winners:

Main Title Theme Music: "Monk," USA. Not the Randy Newman song used in season two - this Emmy was for Jeff Beal's excellent little jazzy theme from season one, which USA network apparently didn't appreciate. Nothing against Mr. Newman but I think the Beal tune suited Mr. Monk a whole lot better. Monk beat out Boomtown, Everwood, Miracles and Penn & Teller for the statue.

Special Visual Effects for a Series: "Firefly: Serenity," Fox. Trust no one, especially the Fox Network. Firefly won this Emmy for the original pilot episode that Fox didn't like and insisted on reshooting. It was finally shown in the US just before Fox axed Firefly and is part of the upcoming DVD box set. Universal recently picked up Fox's fumble and signed Joss Whedon to write and direct a feature film version of Firefly. Firefly beat sister Buffy and Enterprise for the Emmy.

Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special: "Frank Herbert's Children of Dune: Night 1," Sci Fi. No arguments here. This sequel to the Sci Fi remake of the David Lynch classic film version of the Frank Herbert novel did look better! If only Sci Fi would stop making so many bad "original" movies in between their biggies (like this and Taken) and bring back Farscape! Dune beat The Great Pyramid (BBC), The Lost World (A&E), Taken and something called Point Of Origin on HBO.

Some other creative arts winners include The Simpsons, Chased by Dinosaurs, Hitler, Six Feet Under, Nova, Cher, Primetime Glick, and Samurai Jack. Guest Star Emmys went to Gene Wilder, Charles S. Dutton, Christina Applegate and Alfre Woodard.

Why Best Guest is included here rather than in the big show is anyone's best guess. (Sorry.)

The creative Emmys are only the first volley in the Emmy awards. Best Mindless Sitcom and the other awards are given out in about a month.

Congrats to all the creative people in the TV industry who won or were nominated and regrets to those actors, writers and directors who were passed over for higher rated, big network or pay cable shows.

BTW, Bill Cosby will receive the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award this year, and he deserves it.

Don't get angry about television; just remember the immortal words of one of TV's most respected pioneers.

"Television: A medium. So called because it's neither rare nor well done." - Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962).

And be sure to BOYCOTT THE EMMYS when the TV show airs, damnit!

Get the full Emmy list if you really care -

Yoko Cuts to Peace
Associated Press Writer

PARIS September 15, 2003 (AP) - Yoko Ono performed her legendary 1960s "Cut Piece" Monday, inviting the audience to cut off her clothing with scissors in the name of world peace.

The 70-year-old avant-garde icon sat in a chair on stage alone at Paris' intimate Ranelagh theater and asked that each member of the audience silently cut off a piece of her clothing and send it to a loved one.

One by one, the 200 audience members filed onstage and snipped away pieces of Ono's outfit — a long black silk skirt with matching long-sleeved top. Among them was Ono's 27-year-old son, Sean Lennon.

At the end of the one-hour event, the Japanese-born artist was left seated in her black undergarments until an aide came onstage with a robe.

"I was just here to say imagine world peace, and to say I love you," Ono told Associated Press Television News in an exclusive interview after the show. "Let's create a peaceful world. I'm hoping these things will help."

The appearance repeats Ono's 1964 performance in Japan, which captivated the media and art critics at the time for its boldness. She also performed "Cut Piece" at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1965.

It was well before she and the late Beatles' star John Lennon became a couple — they met in 1966 and married in 1969.

"Following the political changes through the year after 9/11, I felt terribly vulnerable — like the most delicate wind could bring me tears," Ono wrote in a presentation for the show. "Cut Piece is my hope for world peace."

By allowing strangers to approach her with scissors, Ono said she hoped to show that this is "a time where we need to trust each other."

Spectators walked away saying the message was clear.

"Scissors usually have a violent connotation, but she turns it around to make it peaceful," said Katherine Williams, an 18-year-old Californian studying in Paris. "I think that's what she's saying — you can make peace out of violence."

Monday's performance marks Ono's extended presence in Paris this autumn, with an exhibit, "Women's Room," running at the Paris Modern Art Museum through Sept. 28.

TV Show Reviews Fall 2003
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 11, 2003 (eXoNews) - I'm happy not to include Star Trek Enterprise in this group of reviews. The first new episode of Enterprise was excellent and that's really all that needs to be said. You can read all about Enterprise at Trek Today (scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for links.)

Whoopi - NBC Tuesdays at 8 PM

I haven't watched a Big Network comedy in prime time for years and my heart sank for a moment when the first burst of laughter took me by surprise. I almost expected Whoopi to be without a laugh track - like Malcolm In The Middle - but a few seconds later I joined in with a snicker at something Mavis Rae said and honey, before long I was right in there yucking it up along with Whoopi's studio audience.

I assume it was a studio audience and not the Mr. Ed laugh machine, but it didn't really matter because falling in love with Whoopi Goldberg is so easy. One caustic remark under her breath or that narrow-eyed look or a tilt of her neck is all it takes to remember how many times she's won me over before.

When Whoopi gets rolling, she can do no wrong. The topical edge of her new sitcom - with Arab jokes (excuse me, Nasim - Persian jokes) and Black jokes and Whitey jokes and Bush jokes - could have been shotgun humor with anyone else at the helm, but with Whoopi it's funny and I came away from her first half-hour feeling good after some big guffaws and with a big smile plastered across my face.

It's about damned time, girl!

Whoopi Official site -

Happy Family - NBC Tuesdays at 8:30 PM

John Larroquette should know better. The last Larroquette sitcom I saw was The John Larroquette Show ten years ago, which took place in a bus station and featured a group of very talented character actors. I don't know why it didn't last because I thought it was very funny, and it was offbeat, like Night Court, and offbeat is where Larroquette's stone-faced humor works best.

Happy Family isn't offbeat and there hasn't been a happy family on TV since The Nanny, and that was also ten years ago. Family shows need one main crazy character, like Lucy or Fran Drescher to balance the schmaltz.

Family sitcoms nowadays usually feature five people standing around in their living rooms making snide remarks about each other and each other's mates and/or children. They are missing the Lucy or Fran. Dysfunctional group humor you can get at home. In fact, this kind of sarcasm has invaded every sector of society in real life. Why watch it on television?

Damned if I know and damned if I will. Happy Family tries a twist by giving us parents managing the lives of their grown up children, but who cares? I won't be watching Happy Family again - unless they do a crossover with Whoopi maybe.

Fran Drescher! Where are you? We NEED you, baby! (Someone said shut up! She's on Good Morning Miami?)

Jake 2.0 - UPN Wednesdays at 9 PM

Isn't this sort of the plot of Sci Fi Channel's late series The Invisible Man? Jake is a computer nerd instead of a felon who gets infected by nanites instead of implanted with a special gland that gives him super powers instead of invisibility and gets him drafted into a secretive government agency and watched over by a girl scientist who worries that the nanites will kill him.

That last bit is definitely the same as in The Invisible Man, but Jake doesn't have Paul Ben-Victor as a sidekick and before the opening episode was over there we were back in the same old boring industrial building with all the pipes where all the B science fiction shows go to shoot their final fight scenes.

What is it with TV science fiction writers and pipes? Do they really think refineries look futuristic or scientific or threatening? Lots of pipes and valves and vats of liquid are supposed to make up for thin plots and bad acting? Every time the setting shifts to a place like this I remember the basement of my junior high school. Never mind what I was doing down there, but it wasn't spooky. It just smelled.

Jake 2.0 smells of failure and I feel sorry for Christopher Gorham (Jake) because he is pretty likeable and he tries hard. Maybe a little bit too hard. He's no Tobey Maguire and this is no Spider-man, although UPN is obviously trying to meld Spidey and the WB's Smallville here (they probably never even watched The Invisible Man.)

Passable and entirely predictable, Jake 2.0 is just more of the usual slow-down and spin around camera tricks, the usual zoom in to the microscopic level animation, the usual people can't know that you have super powers conflicts.

I don't feel that sorry for Jake 2.0 though, because this show will be up against Angel as of October 1st and I want you and everybody else to watch Angel faithfully this year. I want Angel to pull in ALL the Wednesday ratings! I want to see ALL of Angel's competition die horrible deaths. (West Wing is the Big Bad!)

Jake 2.0 is just OK. I'll wait for the upgrade and watch Angel instead.

Jake 2.0 Official site -

[Jake did well in the ratings. Hollywood Reporter reports that the new kid showed a "promising retention of its Enterprise lead-in" at 3.7 million, 1.3/4 versus Enterprise at 4.1 million viewers, 1.6/6. Enterprise got mixed reviews according to Trek Today, but I don't know why - I watched it twice and it was great, except for the "new version" of same old bad theme song. Ed.]

WB Does The Flash

Hollywood September 12, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - The WB has ordered a pilot for a TV series based on the DC Comics series The Flash, Variety reported. Todd Komarnicki (Resistance) is writing the pilot and will executive produce the project via Warner Brothers Television and his Guy Walks Into a Bar company, the trade paper reported. The WB has attached a hefty penalty to the project if it's not picked up to series.

The Flash, which centers on a man with superhuman speed, is the Frog network's latest attempt to reimagine a comic or literary classic for prime time, following its Superman-inspired Smallville and this season's upcoming Tarzan, the trade paper reported.

As with Smallville, the new Flash will have a "no tights, no flights" philosophy, which means the character won't be clad in his classic red suit, the trade paper reported. The new show will also reportedly incorporate a time-travel element: The hero will be a fresh-out-of-college Gothamite who discovers he has the ability to move so fast, he can travel backward or forward in time.

[Hmmm. "..backward or forward in time."?? Prediction: this will be put up against Tru Calling if our favorite dark slayer's new show is a hit. And no suit? Apparently everyone has forgotten the great costume (see pix above) in Warners-CBS 1990 TV version of "The Flash," starring John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays!! Well, it was thirteen years ago.. Ed.]

Elise and Denzel Do Manchurian Candidate
By Josh Spector

LOS ANGELES September 16, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Kimberly Elise will reunite with actor Denzel Washington and director Jonathan Demme in the upcoming remake of "The Manchurian Candidate."

Elise starred opposite Washington in "John Q.," while the actress worked with Demme on the Oprah Winfrey vehicle "Beloved."

In Paramount's "Candidate," she will play the girlfriend of Washington's character, a Desert Storm war leader who is disgraced for having discounted terrorist theories.

Elise's credits include "Set It Off" and "Bait." She next stars as a recovering crack addict in the upcoming indie drama "Woman Thou Art Loose."

[See the original John Frankenheimer version from 1962 if you haven't! Frank Sinatra was the good guy and Angela Lansbury was the Big Bad! Ed.]

Babylon 5 the Screensaver vs. Looney Tunes

Hollywood September 15, 2003 (eXoNews) - Warners is promoting the DVD release of season three of Babylon 5 with clips, pix and a screensaver.

If that doesn't do it for you, check out the posters at Warners Looney Tunes Back in Action site. Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Heather Locklear and Brenden Fraser will join the classic toons in their new feature on November 11th in theaters everywhere.

Babylon 5 -

Loonies -

WB Elects to Run with New 'Jack'
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES September 15, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - The WB Network has a new campaign strategy for its fledgling drama project about a future American president.

It has hired "Everwood" creator Greg Berlanti and writer Vanessa Taylor to reconfigure the project, which revolves around two teenage brothers, one of whom will one day become president of the United States.

The series, now called "Jack and Bobby," was conceived by Steve "Scoop" Cohen, who was an early volunteer on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, and novelist Brad Meltzer. The WB originally ordered a pilot last year; it is now being redeveloped for fall 2004.

"I think at its core, it was a fabulous idea," said Berlanti, who will join Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing") as an executive producer. "I think Vanessa's take on it and her writing style, combined with the idea, makes it the perfect WB show -- it's got heart and smarts, it's still got a high concept at its core, and I think it promises to be a really compelling family drama about a single mom and her two sons, one of whom turns out to be the president."

Hebrew Hammer Hits Comedy Central

LOS ANGELES September 14, 2003 ( - The festival run for Jonathan Kesselman's "The Hebrew Hammer" has featured all of the usual stops: Cannes, Sundance and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

It's not entirely surprising, then, that this twisted Hanukkah-themed comedy will take an equally circuitous route to its 2003 Holiday Season release. "Hammer," which stars Adam Goldberg ("Friends," "Saving Private Ryan") will premiere on Comedy Central weeks before its limited theatrical run.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, "The Hebrew Hammer" will get a two-week window on the cable network starting on Dec. 8.

The film will then be pulled from Comedy Central and will get a multi-city release (courtesy of Cowboy Pictures), timed to coincide with Hanukkah.

The flick stars Goldberg as Mordechai Jefferson Carver, also known as The Hebrew Hammer, an Orthodox Jewish superhero. He has to work with the forces of the J.J.L. (Jewish Justice League) to prevent Santa's evil son, Damien Claus (Andy Dick) from destroying Hanukkah. Nora Dunn, Peter Coyote, Judy Greer and Melvin Van Peebles co-star in a film compared by its director to "Shaft."

This marks the second year in a row to feature a major release aimed at those who celebrate the Festival of Lights. Last winter, Adam Sander dropped the animated musical "Eight Crazy Nights." While that uninspired effort did better than landing a shin on your dreidel, the producers of "The Hebrew Hammer" hope that this time, everything will be coming up gimel and that there will be lots of gelt to go around. While people may only expect the film to screen for one night, it may miraculously last for eight. Instead of popcorn, people will bring latkes.

After its inevitably successful big screen run, "Hebrew Hammer" will return to Comedy Central for a four-year run, starting in December of 2004.

Hebrew Hammer Official site -

David McCallum Returns in Navy NCIS

LOS ANGELES September 15, 2003 (AP) - The mop of hair. The iconoclastic turtleneck. A beguiling foreign accent.

It worked for the Beatles in the 1960s and for actor David McCallum, who went from sidekick to sex symbol playing a hip secret agent in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

Nearly 40 years later, McCallum is back in a TV series with CBS' new military crime drama "Navy NCIS." He's still got the longish hair (a bit less blond, a bit more gray) and, as he turns 70, the same zeal for acting.

Whether he steals the show from star Mark Harmon, as he did from Robert Vaughn in "U.N.C.L.E.," remains to be seen. But McCallum's eccentric and roguish character in "Navy NCIS" clearly has potential.

He's Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, a medical examiner who assists the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, led by Harmon's Special Agent Gibbs, in tackling crimes connected to Navy or Marine Corps personnel.

As played by the youthful McCallum, Ducky is a middle-aged lecher but endearing nonetheless.

"If you have someone who likes to chat up young girls and you cast somebody who's really elderly looking, it could go tacky," he observed. "Somehow, I can get away with it, which I think is a great compliment."

Sasha Alexander, Michael Weatherly and Pauley Perrette co-star in the series, debuting 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 23, on CBS.

From "JAG" producer Donald P. Bellisario, "Navy NCIS" slices together the military flavor of "JAG" with the forensics flash made popular by another CBS hit, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

McCallum is glad to be part of the alphabet soup, even though it meant moving from his family and home in Manhattan and setting up a West Coast apartment. He also makes the roughly 70-mile roundtrip drive to the studio north of Los Angeles where Bellisario films his series.

"I don't believe in anything negative," McCallum said, recalling how he invited a colleague annoyed over a long day of shooting to consider those who would long for their jobs.

"Puh-leeze," McCallum said, heavy on the sarcasm.

He's enjoyed a steady career, one that began with a decision not to follow his parents into music. David McCallum Sr. was first violinist for the London Philharmonic; Dorothy Dorman was a cellist.

Born Sept. 19, 1933, in Glasgow, Scotland, McCallum studied music (the oboe, which he still plays) but fell for the actor's life. His appeared in films including 1958's "A Night to Remember," about the doomed Titanic, and 1962's "Billy Budd."

In 1964-68, he set teenage hearts racing as cool, Russian-born Illya Kuryakin, fighting the evil crime syndicate THRUSH with partner Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) under the direction of Mr. Waverly, played by veteran film actor Leo G. Carroll.

(A short-lived spinoff, 1966-67's "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," starred Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison, son of actor Rex Harrison).

Has he put his one-time burst of TV stardom into perspective?

"It's gone into its own perspective," he said. "It was great, and I'm very affectionate toward the whole thing."

He recalled an article which speculated that, were it not for "U.N.C.L.E.," McCallum probably would have made his career in England and ended up Sir David and a National Theatre stalwart.

"You can start going off on ridiculous conjectures about what might have happened, but you can do that if you cross one road or don't cross," the actor said.

Instead, he's worked in both Britain and the United States, appearing on stage ("Amadeus," "Julius Caesar," "Communicating Doors"), in smaller films and on TV (including parts on "Law & Order" and "Sex and the City" and in the British series "Colditz" and "Sapphire and Steel.")

[Let's not forget McCallum in the Fox series VR5 as Dr. Joseph Bloom! Or as Dr. Daniel Westin, The Invisible Man in 1975! Ed.]

Interviewed over a diet soda at a British-style pub in Santa Monica, McCallum mentions that he's a longtime U.S. citizen.

"I have always loved the freedom of this country and everything it stands for. And I live here, and I like to vote here."

He's been married since 1967 to interior designer Katherine Carpenter -- part of the venerable McMillen Inc. design firm, he says proudly -- with whom he has two children. He's looking forward to becoming a grandfather for the second time, with their daughter due to deliver later this month. (McCallum and his first wife, the late actress Jill Ireland, had three sons, one of whom died from a drug overdose.)

With "Navy NCIS," he's not expecting the kind of frenzied fandom he inspired during his "U.N.C.L.E." days. But McCallum likes to think his work still can have an impact.

"I hope I get letters from pathologists," he said.

Navy NCIS Official site -

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