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Deep Impact!
Witch Bottle? Tribal News
Big Bad Wolf? Save Hubble!
Inca Fibonacci
& More!
Deep Impact - Not a Sequel!

By FLAtRich
from NASA Press Releases

February 1, 2004 - Remember that Bruce Willis movie Armageddon where a bunch of oil riggers took off for an asteroid about to destroy the world and vanquished the thing with a bunch of big trucks? Or maybe you saw Deep Impact, another film that came out around the same time? That one nixed a comet before it hit Earth.

One of the results of these two sci-fi efforts was an increased public concern about nearby space objects colliding with our planet. It's happened in our ancient past and there have been a number of encounters of the far kind in recent years (some reported here at eXoNews - see our archives).

Earth people are finally able to study comets and asteroids close-up and personal. Last month NASA's Stardust project successful intercepted a comet and scooped up a sample of its tail, but space scientists have a much more dramatic comet confrontation coming up.

In December 2004, a Delta II rocket will launch the Deep Impact spacecraft toward the comet Tempel 1. The combined spacecraft will approach the comet and collect images. In early July 2005 the flyby spacecraft will point high-precision tracking telescopes at the comet and release the Deep Impact impactor on a course to hit the comet's sunlit side.

According to press material available at the Deep Impact website, NASA scientists are interested in the answers to four major questions:

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

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

NASA calls it's impactor "smart" because once it leaves the mothership it will deliberately move into the path of comet Tempel 1 and take pictures before it makes its final suicide connection.

NASA says that the impact will not bother the comet. "Because the difference between the momentum of the comet and that of the impactor is so great, the impact will not significantly disturb the comet in its orbit around the Sun. Like a small pebble hitting the windshield of a large truck, the impactor will not perceptibly disturb the larger moving object."

"The flyby spacecraft, after releasing the impactor, will divert to a new path allowing it to pass approximately 500 km (300 miles) from the comet.

"From this distance, the flyby will record data about the impact, the ejected material blasted from the crater, and the structure and composition of the comet's interior. The flyby will then pass through the comet's coma, will turn itself to look at the comet again, and will record additional data from the other side of the nucleus - all the while observing changes in the comet."

NASA's Deep Impact site -

U of Maryland Deep Impact site -

Get the Deep Impact poster -

Witch Bottle?

By Greig Watson 
BBC News

Nottingham January 28, 2004 (BBC) - A chilling reminder of our superstitious past has been unearthed from a rural farmhouse. The "witch bottle" was discovered buried in old foundations in the Lincolnshire village of Navenby. 

Containing bent pins, human hair and perhaps urine, the bottles were supposed to protect a household against evil spells. Dated to about 1830, it is evidence the fear of dark forces persisted far longer than previously thought. 

Discovered by accident during building work, the artifact initially sat unrecognized in a cupboard. Jo Butler, the house's owner, described what they found. 

"The builder was breaking up foundations with a pick and he came across the bottle, she said. "We saw it contained metal bits and this kind of strap but had never heard of witch bottles and put it under the stairs." 

It was only recognized when taken to a open evening held by the archaeology department of Lincolnshire County Council.

Finds Liaison Officer Adam Daubney first identified the artifact. "It was an incredible moment. It was the first one I had physically seen and they are really quite rare artifacts, so to have that handed in was quite something." 

The "bottle", in this case more likely to have been a glass inkwell or candlestick, had been damaged during discovery but still had its contents. 

Mr. Daubney said: "It seems a bit like voodoo, using human hair and pins but it's not entirely clear why these items where used. One theory is that the pins were put in urine so when the witch went to the toilet, it felt like they were passing the sharp metal. What the bottles were intended to do was bounce back spells on the sender. Even if you did not know who the witch was, you would make one of these and sit back to see who died, then that person was the witch." 

Death sentence

Britain in the late 1500's, and for 100 years after, was gripped by the "Witchcraze". This saw hundreds of women persecuted and sometimes executed, for alleged involvement in black magic. The most famous British trials were at North Berwick, in Scotland, in 1591 and Pendle, Lancashire in 1612.

Most "witches" were hanged, rather than the burning at the stake of popular imagination. Protecting hearth and home from such malignant forces took various forms, including putting shoes beneath the floorboards and walling up cats. 

Witch bottles, often made from stoneware, were most common in the 1600's, at the height of the witchcraft scares. The Navenby example, however, has been dated at 1830, a time when such beliefs were thought to have been dying out. 

"This late date is really incredible," said Mr. Daubney. "Such traditions do tend to linger in more rural areas like Lincolnshire and Norfolk but this is very rare. It could be either that the people who made this really believed in witches or it could be a kind of harmless tradition, a little like throwing salt over your shoulder. But the care with which this has put together, with a leather strap to hold it, could suggest the former." 

The bottle is being conserved and will go on display at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln later this year.

Russia Space Boss Slams Bush Mars Plans
By Sonia Oxley 

MOSCOW January 29, 2004 (Reuters) - Russia's top space official said Thursday that U.S. plans for manned missions to Mars were unrealistic and said the emphasis for space exploration should be completion of the International Space Station (ISS). 

Yuri Koptev, head of Russian space agency Rosaviakosmos, distanced himself from President Vladimir Putin's comments this week that Russia could work with the United States on President Bush's ambitious plans. 

He was particularly critical of Bush's plan for designing a spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the space station, the moon and Mars, saying he did not understand how this could be done since each destination had different needs. 

"Yes, we can agree that certain elements could be used. However, there cannot be a universal spacecraft as is being suggested at the moment," he said. "I don't think we will work together on this project." 

He dismissed Bush's ideas as an eye-catching ploy linked to his campaign for re-election. He said the 16-nation ISS was Russia's priority and called for construction there to be completed within the original time frame of the next two years, despite building being delayed for almost a year since the United States grounded its shuttle fleet. 

The shuttle has faced delays before, including the Russians being two years late delivering a key component, the Zvezda service module. U.S. contractors also have run more than $1 billion over budget. 

"We are insisting on the execution of the decision taken at the end of 2002 in Tokyo, which says the construction of the station should be finished within 1.5-2 years," Koptev told reporters, referring to a meeting between the leaders of space agencies involved in the ISS. He also said he wanted to boost the number of astronauts on the station to six as soon as possible, but did not explain how this would be done. A two-man crew is currently on the orbital platform. 


The building of the space station has been delayed since last February when the United States grounded the shuttles after Columbia exploded on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts on board. U.S. space officials have said the shuttles, the only crafts capable of delivering large sections of the station to the ISS for assembly, should return to service in September. 

Russia, temporarily the sole supplier of manned and cargo ships to the station, launched a Progress cargo ship Thursday, delivering food, fuel, water and scientific equipment to the outpost. 

Koptev said the European Space Agency could play a key part in the station, when its new cargo ship -- the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) -- makes its scheduled debut journey to the ISS by September. 

When Bush outlined his space plans earlier this month, he said shuttles would be retired in 2010 once the space station was complete. Koptev said Bush's plans to send humans back to the moon and then on to Mars were simply connected to his election campaign as had been the case with previous U.S. presidents. 

"We understand that to a large extent our U.S. colleagues came up with these plans as part of a pre-election campaign," he said, adding funding was the primary barrier.
Tribal News

Arlo Looking Cloud Trial to Begin
Associated Press 

SIOUX FALLS SD January 31, 2004 (AP) - When machine-gun-toting American Indian Movement militants took over Wounded Knee in 1973, the eyes of the world focused on the tiny Pine Ridge reservation village and the tense 71-day standoff with federal agents. 

Three years later, the body of AIM activist Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash was found on the reservation, shot once in the head and left in a ravine.

Some speculated Aquash, who participated in the standoff, was killed by AIM members because she knew some were government spies. Others said she was killed because Aquash herself was an informant. 

On Tuesday, more than a quarter-century after the slaying, a trial is set to begin for one of two former AIM members indicted last year on charges of first-degree murder in Aquash's kidnapping and death.

Arlo Looking Cloud, a homeless man who grew up on the reservation, will face jurors in Rapid City federal court. The other man, John Graham, pleaded innocent and remains free on bond in Canada. He told The Associated Press he will fight extradition.

Investigators have said the two men were instructed to kill Aquash, but AIM leaders have denied any involvement. Prosecutors and Looking Cloud's lawyer would not speak publicly about the case.

One of Aquash's daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou, said she hopes Looking Cloud's trial leads to some long-overdue answers.

"It may be the first step to closure," she said. "I'm not going to settle that these gentlemen get put in jail. We want explanations as to why her murder wasn't addressed."

Both defendants, who did low-level security at AIM events in the 1970s, would face mandatory life sentences if convicted.

AIM spokesman Vernon Bellecourt said he plans to attend the trial to determine whether the jury is unbiased and if there is enough evidence.

"No one knows who pulled the trigger, in that there is no forensic evidence other than hearsay, innuendo, conjecture and gossip," Bellecourt said in a telephone interview.

A member of Canada's Mi'kmaq Tribe, Aquash was killed at a time when tensions between AIM members and government-backed factions ended in numerous deaths on the reservation. Following the deaths of two FBI agents on the reservation in June 1975, the 30-year-old Aquash fled with several top AIM leaders. Six months later, she disappeared from a Denver home where she was staying. Her frozen body was found early the next year on the western South Dakota reservation.

In a 2000 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Kamook Nichols, former wife of AIM co-founder Dennis Banks, said Aquash was not a government informant, though Banks and fellow AIM leader Leonard Peltier probably believed she was. That, according to Nichols, is likely why Aquash was allowed to flee with Nichols, Banks and Peltier after the two FBI agents were killed.

"I think that maybe they wanted to keep an eye on her," Nichols said.

Peltier later was found guilty of killing the agents and is serving back-to-back life sentences at Leavenworth, Kan. He has maintained his innocence but several appeals have failed to overturn the conviction. Banks did not reply to a request for an interview, though in the past he has denied any involvement in Aquash's death.

Paul DeMain, a Native American journalist who has researched Aquash's death, believes prosecutors will attempt to establish that Aquash had heard Peltier brag about killing the two agents - and might also have heard AIM leaders talk about the killing of black civil rights worker Ray Robinson, who was killed during the Wounded Knee standoff.

"Motives that could be established at trial were that (Aquash) knew Leonard Peltier had shot the agents he was convicted of killing, and that she was probably knowledgeable about the death of ... Robinson inside Wounded Knee in 1973 and the involvement of several AIM leadership people in that death," DeMain said.

Peltier has sued DeMain for libel, partly because of the accusation.

Retired FBI agent Don Wiley of Rapid City said the case went unsolved for so long in part because of resistance to the agency on the reservation.

"I think it was just that people were not cooperative with the bureau's investigation," Wiley said. "You can imagine. Put yourself in a law enforcement officer's shoes and you're going around asking questions about a case that happened on Pine Ridge."

Nez Perce Indians Fight to Preserve Lost Land From Development
By Andrew Kramer
Associated Press Writer

Joseph OR January 31, 2004 (AP) - In 1877, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce Indians were forced to abandon their beloved Wallowa Valley in a trek that turned into a war with the U.S. Cavalry and ended with their surrender 1,500 miles away, near the Canadian border. 

Delivering one of the most heartbreaking surrender speeches in history, Chief Joseph said:
"I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever." 

Joseph's band was exiled to reservations in Oklahoma, Washington and Idaho. More than a century later, the Nez Perce are again engaged in a fight -  this time a legal dispute over building 11 upscale homes on 62 acres on a grassy ridge near a Nez Perce cemetery that includes the grave of Chief Joseph's father, Old Chief Joseph. 

The grave is on a 5-acre site that serves as the trailhead for a National Historic Trail that follows the route taken by Joseph's band of Nez Perce during their running battles with the Cavalry.

Because the subdivision is on a site closely tied to the tribe's history, fighting the development is a top priority for the Nez Perce, said tribal secretary Jake Whiteplume. 

"Remembering what our ancestors went through will help keep us going," in the legal fight, he said. "That was our homeland. We have that teaching in us today. We still remember." 

The Nez Perce and two other Northwest tribes have filed a legal challenge to the proposed housing development with the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners. The tribes argue the whole ridge is a site of cultural significance and a national historic treasure. The commissioners are scheduled to decide the issue at a hearing on Monday. 

Developers of the proposed project reject Nez Perce assertions that some of their ancestors may be buried beneath the building site. The developers point out there is already a seven-acre buffer zone separating the privately held 62 acres and the cemetery. The developers also say the construction project would bring much-needed jobs to this corner of eastern Oregon, hard-hit by the demise of the timber industry. 

"This is a simple land-use issue, and to compare this site to the war in 1877, and the atrocities that took place, is not fair to the owners," said Rahn Hostetter, an attorney for developer K&B Limited Family Partnership. 

The land was appraised at $1.8 million if it can be subdivided; if not, it is worth about $1 million, Hostetter said. 

The city of Joseph and Wallowa County are at odds over the housing development. In December, the county planning commission approved a tentative plan for the development. But the city has supported the tribes' appeal, arguing an archaeological study contracted out by the developers is insufficient. The subdivision and the Nez Perce cemetery are located on a ridge overlooking Wallowa Lake, in the shadow of the snow-draped Wallowa Mountains. Nez Perce bands caught sockeye salmon in the six-mile lake and hunted in the Wallowa Mountains. Young Chief Joseph was camped on the ridge in 1877 when his band of Nez Perce was expelled from the region. 

The band had retained the Wallowa Valley as a reservation under an 1855 treaty signed by Old Chief Joseph but later renegotiated by the U.S. government and Nez Perce tribal leaders in Idaho without the consent of the Wallowa band of the tribe. The new treaty of 1863 ceded the entire valley to settlers. 

On his deathbed in 1871, Old Chief Joseph reminded his son that he had not signed the revised treaty, according to Alvin M. Josephy's 1965 history of the Nez Perce war and exile, "The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest." 

The old chief told his son, according to Josephy: "Never forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body." 

But the band was forced to abandon the valley when U.S. General Oliver O. Howard threatened to attack. They fled through Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, fighting with Howard's troops along the way. Chief Joseph surrendered at Bear Paw, Mont., just 40 miles short of the Canadian border. 

Over the past decade, retirees and tourists have been discovering the scenic Wallowa Valley. And the city of Joseph - named after the young Chief Joseph - has succeeded in reinventing itself as an artists' colony and retirement destination. 

As Joseph has flourished, new homes and housing developments have begun popping up in and outside the city. 

The fight over the grave site comes as the Nez Perce reassert their ties to the valley. For decades they were not welcome: around the turn of the century, local residents unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Congress to prohibit Nez Perce Indians from living in the valley after some returned to hunt and work in hay fields. Today only two Nez Perce live in the Wallowa Valley. One is Joe McCormack, a tall, strapping man sporting a black pony tail and cowboy boots. 

McCormack moved to the valley six years ago to work in a native fish restoration effort and as president of the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center Inc. One of his jobs is buying land with his nonprofit for the tribes' use. He has already purchased 320 acres near an abandoned Indian camp site. The tribes may bid for the proposed development, called Marr Ranch, to preserve it if legal efforts to block the subdivision fail, McCormack said. 

"There have been other developments that built over grave sites," McCormack said. "I would rather not see it happen again here."

Indian Country Today -

Big Bad Wolf?

Wildlife Conservation Society Press Release

January 30, 2004 - Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? The survey says: it largely depends on who you are and what you do, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Wisconsin.

Published in the December issue of the journal Conservation Biology, survey results among people who live with wolves in northern Wisconsin revealed that deeply rooted social identities and occupations are more powerful predictors of their attitudes toward wolves than individual encounters, or losses of pets and livestock. 

Using a mail-back survey with a pool of 535 respondents, scientists found that bear hunters were the group with the least tolerance, with approximately 74 percent of the 124 hunters in the survey in favor of reducing or eliminating Wisconsin's wolf population. Attitudes among this group did not vary greatly between the perceived threat and an actual loss of hunting dogs, which sometimes fall prey to wolves.

By comparison, about 44 percent of livestock producers favored reducing or eliminating wolves, and only 28.5 percent of general residents supported the same. Overall, there is moderate support for wolf recovery statewide, with only 17.4 percent indicating that wolves should be eliminated. 

"This survey can help us identify those key areas where wolf recovery may be compromised by local intolerance," said Dr. Adrian Treves, a conservationist with WCS's Living Landscapes program and a co-author of the paper. "Logically, the survey respondents with the most to lose from wolves--livestock producers and hunters with dogs--were less tolerant than regular residents, but overall tolerance did not vary greatly between those who suffered loses and those who didn't. This indicates that attitudes lie deeper." 

Although eliminated from the state in the 1950s, wolves have re-colonized Wisconsin from Minnesota, with the state's current population numbering some 350 individuals. Since the survey was conducted, wolves have been federally down-listed from endangered to threatened, a change that has meant controlling wolves by lethal means when conflicts occur.

Another measure used in the survey found that education levels also influenced attitudes about wolves. Individuals with more education were found to be more tolerant of wolves and opposed to lethal control. However, Lisa Naughton, of the University of Wisconsin and WCS, the lead author on the team cautioned that, since ranchers and farmers rely less on academic training, this correlation may not reflect cause-and-effect results.

Attitudes about monetary compensation for pet and livestock loss were also measured, with the surprising results that payments did not improve individual tolerance towards wolves; further, bear hunters who had received compensation for the loss of a hunting dog were even more likely to approve of lethal control of wolves.

However, the authors of the study added that compensation should not be cut off, warning that increased hostility would result. 

"While wildlife managers face some daunting challenges regarding carnivore conservation, this survey can help us find publicly acceptable methods of controlling wolf depredations while compensating individuals for their losses," added Treves.

"On the whole, 73 percent of Wisconsin's residents support maintaining or increasing wolf numbers, and from that base of support we can find solutions for those who actually live in wolf country."

Wildlife Conservation Society -

Ancient Teotihuacán Settlement Found

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY January 30, 2004 (AP) - Archaeologists say they have discovered an ancient Teotihuacán settlement in central Mexico City, 30 miles from the pyramids where the culture flourished nearly 2,000 years ago. 

The discovery of structures and tools on a hill just behind the landmark Chapultepec Castle in December suggests the Teotihuacán culture spread and influenced the area around Mexico City even earlier than previously thought, archaeologists said Wednesday while giving reporters a tour of the site. 

The ancient city of Teotihuacán lies north of modern Mexico City. It remains largely a mystery, and was so even for the Aztecs, who are credited with founding Mexico City in the 1300s. 

Teotihuacán, one of the largest cities in the world around the time of Christ, had an estimated 150,000 inhabitants, and influenced art and architecture as far away as the Yucatan peninsula. However, it had been abandoned and crumbling for centuries by the time of the Aztecs. 

The artifacts discovered Wednesday may push the date of Mexico City's founding back to the classic Teotihuacán period of 300-600. 

Scattered settlements and relics dating to the time before the Aztecs previously have been found on the outskirts of modern Mexico City, but few have been found so close to the island that formed the Aztec city's center. 

Relics found in the 20-square-yard excavation include six pairs of ceramic urns of Teotihuacán style. The purpose of the urns is unclear, but archeologists suspect they may have been used to hold the remains of children sacrificed to the god of rain. 

The other relics found included ceramic domestic tools, a bone needle, and a figurine presumed to be used in rituals. 

In another 6-square-yard dig, officials uncovered remnants of a stone wall and floor dating from the same period. 

"This is a very important discovery, one that is just beginning," said Maria de la Luz Moreno Cabrera, the archaeologist leading the investigation. "It is very exciting to find such a site ... it helps to show the real historical importance of this area." 

These are the first remains to be found in Chapultepec park, which served as a retreat for rulers from Aztec kings to Emperor Maximillian. 

The castle was built in 1784 as a residence for the Spanish viceroys. Its construction likely destroyed evidence of the ancient civilization, some of which may have survived on the surrounding hillside. 

The new site's excavation began when the National Historical Museum undertook a complete restoration of the castle in 1998. Pre-Hispanic vestiges were discovered underneath the castle's structure and in the surrounding hill. 

New excavations on the southern and western flanks of the hill are now being proposed.

Save Hubble!

Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE January 30, 2004 (AP) - Sen. Barbara Mikulski told scientists Friday that she refused to take "no" for an answer when NASA's chief decided not to service the Hubble Space Telescope. But she cautioned that the telescope's future is not assured. 

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe at first denied her request to reconsider, she told scientists and staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which coordinates the use of the instruments aboard Hubble. 

"Well, I don't take 'no' for an answer," said the feisty Maryland senator, the ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget. 

O'Keefe relented and sent Mikulski a letter on Thursday saying that Adm. Hal Gehman, chairman of the board that investigated the Columbia shuttle breakup last year, will "review the (Hubble) matter and offer his unique perspective." Mikulski, however, told the cheering scientists that she did not want to raise false hopes and would accept whatever recommendation Gehman gives on the safety of a Hubble servicing mission. 

Scientists say the orbiting Hubble telescope has revolutionized the study of astronomy with its striking images of the universe. O'Keefe, however, had canceled a scheduled shuttle repair mission, citing the risk to the astronauts and President Bush's new focus for the space agency, including missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. 

Without the service mission, which had been planned for 2006, scientists believe the orbiting telescope could stop working several years before its scheduled 2010 retirement. 

O'Keefe's decision prompted letters from Mikulski and a joint letter from all members of Congress from Maryland, from where the orbiting platform is operated. 

"The scientific returns we have received from Hubble's service thus far have exceeded our expectations. ... We believe that NASA should make every possible effort to retain this proven window on the universe," the letter said. 

Hubble's fate has also become a cause for amateur and professional astronomers worldwide, and e-mails have poured in to the. 

"It's been overwhelming. My e-mail is overflowing," said Steve Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. 

"Every day, we've had offers of ideas, political support and even money," he said. "Every day, I get people who want to know how they can contribute to keeping Hubble alive." 

NASA spokesman Robert Mirelson said Thursday that O'Keefe has not changed his decision but asked Gehman to give "his view on basically all the questions on the table," including safety, scheduling and the recommendations of the Columbia board. 

Mikulski also said she supports the choice of Gehman for the review. 

"He will know whether this is a smoke screen to get rid of Hubble for a lot of other reasons," she said. 

Mikulski said Congress can appropriate money for the space telescope, but the safety aspects of the decision is in the hands of NASA. The telescope, however, is popular for more than merely scientific reasons, she said. 

"Why do people want to save the Hubble? It's because of the story the Hubble tells," Mikulski told the packed auditorium. "It's about discovery ... This country exists because of discovery."

Sign an online petition to Save the Hubble Space Telescope:

Castro Says Bush Plotting to Kill Him

Associated Press Writer

HAVANA January 31, 2004 (AP) - Fidel Castro accused President Bush of plotting with Miami exiles to kill him, and said he would die fighting if the United States ever invaded to oust him.

"I don't care how I die," Castro said at the end of a 5 1/2-hour speech that began Thursday night and continued into early Friday. "But rest assured, if they invade us, I'll die in combat."

The Cuban president didn't back up his accusations with details. He spoke at the close of a conference bringing together activists across the region who oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Castro has insisted over the past year that hardline Cuban exiles in Miami have been pressuring the Bush administration to invade the island - a charge U.S. officials deny.

Castro also has increasingly referred to his own mortality in recent years, promising to remain in power until his last breath.

"We know that Mr. Bush has committed himself to the mafia ... to assassinate me," the Cuban president said, using the term commonly employed here to describe anti-Castro Cuban Americans. "I said it once before and today I'll say it clearer: I accuse him!"

Castro has accused past U.S. administrations of seeking to assassinate him, and during his early years in power there were numerous documented cases of U.S.-sponsored attempts on his life.

The assassination of foreign leaders as U.S. policy was later banned in 1976 by an executive order signed by then-President Gerald Ford and reinforced by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Castro also criticized the Bush administration's Commission for a Free Cuba - a panel set up in October and headed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

When the United States announced creation of the commission, Powell suggested that the goal is not to ease Castro out but to plan a strategy for Cuba once the 77-year-old leader is no longer in power.

Earlier in his speech, Castro called on the more than 1,000 activists from across the Americas gathered here to work against the U.S.-backed free trade pact, which he said will only further impoverish their nations.

The Bush administration has progressively hardened its policies toward the island. Cuban authorities charge the strategy is aimed at wooing voters in Florida, home to most of the Cuban-American exiles living in the United States.

For more than four decades, the two countries have been without diplomatic ties and a U.S. trade embargo against the island makes most trade between the nations impossible, except for sales of farm products

German Cannibal Gets Eight and a Half Years
KASSEL Germany January 30, 2004 (UPI) - A German court Friday sentenced a computer technician to eight-and-a-half years in prison for killing and eating a victim he said was willing to die.

The court near Frankfurt sentenced Armin Meiwes for killing Bernd-Jürgen Brandes, who had responded to an Internet posting by Meiwes seeking someone willing to be "slaughtered," the New York Times reported.

The three-judge court rejected the prosecution's plea for a murder conviction and a life sentence.

"Both were looking for the ultimate kick," said the chief judge. "This was an act between two extremely disturbed people who both wanted something from each other."

The conviction on a lesser charge means Meiwes could be released on parole in less than five years.

His lawyer Harald Ermel said he would appeal the sentence. He had argued his client was only guilty of "killing on request," an illegal form of euthanasia that carries a maximum jail term of five years.

"He will voluntarily undergo psychiatric therapy to get away from his fetish for men's flesh. I'm sure he won't do anything like this again," the lawyer told reporters.

The killing took place after hours of consensual sex and sado-masochism, Meiwes testified, and the subsequent eating took place over a period of several months.
Incan Fibonacci?

By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery News

Florence January 29, 2004 (Discovery News) — The Inca invented a powerful counting system that could be used to make complex calculations without the tiniest mistake, according to an Italian engineer who claims to have cracked the mathematics of this still mysterious ancient population. 

Begun in the Andean highlands in about 1200, the Inca ruled the largest empire on Earth by the time their last emperor, Atahualpa, was garroted by Spanish conquistadors in 1533.

Long considered the only major Bronze Age civilization without a written language, they left mysterious objects that, according to the latest research, would have been used to store units of information. 

Recent studies are investigating the hypothesis that elaborated knotted strings known as khipu contain a hidden written language stored following a seven-bit binary code. Nobody, however, had been able to explain the meaning of these geometrical tablets known as yupana. 

Different in size and shape, the yupana had been often interpreted as a stylized fortress model. Some scholars also interpreted it as a counting board, but how the abacus would have worked remained a mystery. 

"It took me about 40 minutes to solve the riddle. I am not an expert on pre-Columbian civilizations. I simply decoded a 16th century drawing from a book on mathematical enigmas I received as a Christmas present," engineer Nicolino De Pasquale said. 

The drawing was found in a 1,179 page letter by the Peruvian Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala to the King of Spain. A simple array of cells consisting of five rows and four columns, the drawing showed one circle in the right cell on the bottom row, two circles in the next cell, three circles in the other one and five circles in the last cell of the row. The same pattern applied to the above rows.

According to De Pasquale, the circles in the cells are nothing but the first numbers of the Fibonacci series, in which each number is a sum of two previous: 1, 2, 3, 5. 

The abacus would then work on a base 40 numbering system.

"Instead, all scholars based their calculations according to a base 10 counting system. But calculations made to base 40 are quicker, and can be easily reconverted to base 10," Antonio Aimi, curator of the exhibition "Peru, 3,000 Years of Masterpieces" running in Florence, told Discovery News. 

"Since we lack definitive archaeological evidence, we tested this claim on 16 yupana from museums across the world. De Pasquale's system works on all of them," Antonio Aimi, curator of the exhibition "Peru, 3,000 years of masterpieces" running in Florence, told Discovery News. 

The Inca's calculating system does not take into consideration the number zero. Moreover, numbers do not exist as graphic representations.

According to Aimi, in most cases the Inca made their calculations by simply drawing rows and columns on the ground. The unusual counting way is described in an account by the Spanish priest José de Acosta, who lived among the Inca from 1571 to 1586. 

"To see them use another kind of calculator, with maize kernels, is a perfect joy... . They place one kernel here, three somewhere else and eight, I do not know where.

"They move one kernel here and there and the fact is that they are able to complete their computation without making the smallest mistake," Acosta wrote in his book "Historia Natural Moral de las Indias." 

The claim has sparked a dispute among scholars. 

Gary Urton, professor of Precolumbian studies at Harvard University, an authority on khipu research, told Discovery News: "The fact that an explanation can be constructed for one or even several yupana that conforms to this theory of a base 40 numbering system amongst the Incas is of some modest interest. 

"How would one explain the many statements in the Spanish chronicles, both those written by Spaniards and by literate Andeans, who stated quite straightforwardly that the Inca used a base 10 counting system? This system is also attested in a mountain of early colonial documents that describe how the Inca organized their administrative system according to a base 10 counting system." 

As Aimi concedes, the claim has the limits of any interpretative system that isn't proven with definitive historical evidence. 

"We would need to find a Rosetta yupana, something similar to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics from the Rosetta stone. Since we can't have it, I would consider a strong evidence the fact that the system works on all yupana examined," he said.

Genre News: Enterprise Rumors, Superman, Las Vegas, Hopalong Cassidy, The Black Forest & More!
Trek Rumors Grow - Borg Invade!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood February 1, 2004 (eXoNews) - Sci Fi Wire reports that Cinescape Online reports that according to an anonymous source Paramount might replace Rick Berman after February sweeps.

Wow! Now that's big-time news reporting guys!

All this is probably based on the recent announcement that UPN is shifting Enterprise into the Wednesday 9PM slot vacated by the rightfully canceled Jake 2.0. The animated series Game Over will debut on UPN at 8PM Wednesdays in March.

The premature reporting of Berman's demise seems to overlook a much-ballyhooed contract Rick Berman signed with Paramount a while back. Berman has a development deal with Paramount. When the big studios do that, it usually means they like the guy.

If Berman leaves after all those years as Trek head honcho, you can bet your tricorder that it will be on his own terms.

I'd say the correct interpretation of the Star Trek: Enterprise move is more logical, Mr. Spock. UPN has finally figured out that Enterprise is no match for Smallville, but it might give Angel some trouble. Anyone who bothers to look at this season's ratings for all three shows would probably agree.

[And you can look at those numbers at our very own Angel Fan Poll site, of course -  - Ed.]

Also of note: Vegas trekkers will be able to experience Borg Invasion 4D at the Las Vegas Hilton beginning March 18, 2004. If this group participation virtual trip is anywhere as good as the original Star Trek Experience, I'd say it will be worth the price of admission. Real fanatics may also want to attend the Grand Opening at $299 per person.

Hey! That includes hors d'oeuvres! (Gagh to you, Mr. Neelix!)

Borg Invasion Grand Opening tickets -

Star Trek Enterprise Official site -

Beyoncé SuperJohnny Rumors
By FLAtRich

Hollywood February 1, 2004 (eXoNews) - In other rumors, Harry over at Ain't It Cool reports that the new Superman movie is casting Beyoncé Knowles as Lois Lane and Johnny Depp as Lex Luthor.

Harry decries both choices, but I dunno. Given that Beyoncé Knowles looks too glam for a Lois at big events, but tone down all that glitz and put her in a business suit et voilà! Who says Lois has to be pale anyway?

And Harry! How can you doubt Johnny Depp? Hasn't Depp taught us that he is never to be underestimated? He is the Brando of our time, Harry! 

And you say you want Lex to be played by "somebody like a shaved headed version of Ralph Fiennes"!!

All I can say to that is, remember The Avengers?

Even Uma and Connery couldn't save us from the horror of Ralph Fiennes in that remake.

Anonymous Rex on Sci Fi

LOS ANGELES January 29, 2004 ( - A long-in-development movie about well-adjusted dinosaurs living among modern-day humankind is headed to the Sci Fi Channel.

"Anonymous Rex," based on a series of novels by Eric Garcia, is scheduled to begin shooting in March. The project has been in the cable network's development hopper for more than three years.

"It feels like this is the time for this concept to come to fruition," Mark Stern, Sci Fi's head of original programming, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I think the technology is really in the right place, and we can execute the dinosaurs and the fantasy elements in the right way."

The "Anonymous Rex" novels posit that dinosaurs never became extinct but instead evolved to become roughly the size of an average human being and assimilated into society by disguising themselves as humans. The main character is Vincent Rubio, a velociraptor/private eye.

Veteran science-fiction scribe Joe Menosky ("The Dead Zone," "Star Trek: Voyager") is writing the script for the movie, which could also serve as a series pilot. It will actually be based on Garcia's second "Rex" book, a prequel. Stern says telling the story that way will make the movie "cleaner and more understandable."

Julian Jarrold (the BBC's "Touching Evil" and "Great Expectations") has signed on to direct.

[If the premise sounds stupid, check out Joe Menosky's credits here. Menosky should make this a real trip! Can't wait! Ed.]

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel! 

Hollywood January 30, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Oscar-nominated writer David Reynolds (Finding Nemo) has closed a deal to adapt Robert A. Heinlein's SF classic Have Spacesuit, Will Travel for Warner Brothers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. David Heyman is producing the live-action film through his Heydey Productions company.

Originally published in 1958, Spacesuit tells the story of Kip, a high school senior who wins a real spacesuit in a contest, playfully calls out on the radio and unexpectedly contacts a passing spaceship. The adventure that follows finds the very fate of Earth in his hands, the trade paper reported.

[May be no big to you, but this was literally the first science fiction novel I ever read! I guess I liked it. Ed.]

Las Vegas is the American Dream? 
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES January 30, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - NBC has given an early pickup to dramas "Las Vegas" and "American Dreams" for next fall, giving both shows full-season, 22-episode orders.

In its first season, the James Caan-starring "Las Vegas" has averaged 12.3 million viewers and a 4.6 rating/11 share among adults 18-49, ranking as the highest-rated new drama this season in the key demographic. 

Said executive producer Justin Falvey: "We feel like we're starting to hit our stride and finding what works (on the show), which is a combination of procedural elements and a little bit of fantastical and escape for the audience to come to Vegas for an hour" 

Dennis Hopper is the latest big name tapped to guest star on the series following guest stints by Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin and Jean-Claude Van Damme. 

In its second season, "American Dreams" has averaged 8.6 million viewers and a 3.2/8 in adults 18-49 in the Sunday 8 p.m. slot.

"It's tackling issues of family, race, class, sex and things that almost no other show on TV is dealing with," said Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group. 

The news Thursday was not as good for ABC's freshman drama "Karen Sisco," as the network decided to pull the plug on the critically praised drama. After an underwhelming ratings start, the show was put on hiatus in November.

Sources said the network was unhappy with the creative direction of the scripts and scrapped its plan to relaunch the show. A total of 10 episodes of have been produced with three still in the can.

[If you haven't seen madman Caan as Big Ed, you should really tune in. Las Vegas is fun, not to mention the cleavage! Ed.]

Las Vegas Official site -

American Dreams Official site -

Hopalong Cassidy Trail

PALM DESERT January 30, 2004 (AP) - In honor of late longtime resident William Boyd, the city is naming its first trail after the actor known to generations of television viewers as Western star Hopalong Cassidy.

Hopalong Cassidy Trail will be dedicated Saturday.

Councilman Buford Crites, a longtime Hopalong Cassidy fan, encouraged the city to name the trail in honor of his childhood hero. Hikers, bicyclists and horse riders will use the trail.

"It's a bit of a tourist attraction, it's a bit of nostalgia, and a wonderful trail, all rolled together," he said. "Gene Autry is remembered in Palm Springs, appropriately, and here's a place for us to remember a local Western hero of our own."

Only a one-mile stretch will be open at first. Eventually, the trail will stretch like a backbone along the east side of the mountains for about seven miles, linking the Bump and Grind Trail in Rancho Mirage to the trail head of the Art Smith Trail.

Boyd moved to Palm Desert in the mid-1950s.

The city's trail system will soon have other trails named after prominent early Palm Desert residents. One will be named after George "Gabby" Hayes, another movie star who was perhaps best known as Roy Rogers sidekick.

[A bit insulting that the author of this item didn't identify Gabby Hayes as Hoppy's sidekick "Windy"! Yer durn tootin'! Ed.] 

Official Hopalong Cassidy site -

New TV Pilots: Same Old, Same Old

Hollywood January 29, 2004 (Variety) - CBS picked up three dramas, ABC landed two laffers and a drama while the WB added a sitcom as pilots took flight Thursday. 

New ABC laffers include "We Are Family," about a man and his estranged father, both of whom have babies at the same time. Rob Long and Dan Staley ("Cheers") are exec producers and writers; Tim Fall ("Men, Women and Dogs") will also write and co-exec produce. 

"We Are Family" comes from Touchstone TV. 

Alphabet also picked up the Universal Network TV sitcom "Plan B," starring comedian-thesp Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch").

Project features Rhea as a thirtysomething who finds herself struggling with career issues, weight gain and troubled romance. Scribes are Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia.

[Can't wait to see Aunt Hilda get fat... uh, er! Ed.] 

Then there's the untitled drama project from scribe Shonda Rhimes ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") that the net has unofficially dubbed "Sex and the Surgery." 

Greenlit pilot follows the professional and personal lives of residents in surgical training at a San Francisco hospital. Rhimes, whose credits include the upcoming "Princess Diaries 2," will write and exec produce.

Mark Gordon (who also has the pilot "HUB" at NBC) will exec produce as well. 

Meanwhile, CBS has ordered the pilot "Dr. Vegas," an hourlong drama that follows the exploits of an inhouse doctor at a Las Vegas casino.

[Look out Big Ed! How much you wanna bet CBS runs this opposite Las Vegas on NBC? Original thinking, guys! Ed.]

Helmer-scribe John Herzfeld ("15 Minutes") will exec produce, write and direct the pilot; Lawrence Bender ("Kill Bill Vol. 1"), Mark Sennett ("K Street") and Kevin Brown ("Roswell") will also exec produce. Eye had previously made a premium script commitment to the project, which comes from Warner Bros. TV, CBS Prods. and Bender-Brown.

Also from Warner Bros. TV comes the Eye drama pilot "Sudbury," exec produced by Sandra Bullock, Denise Di Novi and scribe Becky Hartman-Edwards ("American Dreams"). 

Hourlong drama will revolve around two sisters who struggle with the blessing and curse of harboring magical abilities.

[Don't get me wrong, I think Sandra is one smart wicca but hasn't she ever seen Charmed? We all been there, invoked that. Ed.]

Eye also ordered the hour drama "Wanted," a suspense thriller set in the fugitive department of the Los Angeles Police Dept. 

Warner Bros. TV, CBS Prods. and Sarah Timberman's 25C Prods. are behind the show, which will be written and exec produced by feature scribe Cynthia Cidre. 

Timberman and Carl Beverly will also exec produce, along with Thomas Carter ("Save the Last Dance"). Script is based on an idea by Robert Crais. 

Timberman and 25C also have the pilot "The Webster Report" at CBS. Eye had made a three-for-one pilot production commitment with 25C last fall. 

All three CBS drama pilot pickups are cast contingent. 

Over at the WB, Frog net has officially ordered "Survivor" exec producer Mark Burnett's sitcom based on his past life as a military commando-turned-nanny.

Untitled project, formerly known as "Commando Nanny," had already been given a put pilot commitment. Warner Bros. TV is producing the sitcom, which will be written and exec produced by Dave Flebotte. Burnett is an executive producer as well, while Conrad Riggs is co-exec producer.

[You're kidding, right? How about calling it Sargeant Mom? Ed.]

Another Sitcom and Buffy's Marti Noxon Returns

LOS ANGELES January 27, 2004 ( - Sticking with established behind-the-scenes names, CBS has inked a pilot deal with "Spin City" veterans Jay Scherick and David Ronn, while Marti Noxon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is working on a pilot for FOX.

Scherick and Ronn, who also collaborated on the feature scripts for "National Security" and "Serving Sara" are developing "The Amazing Westerbergs," a comedy for Sony Pictures Television. The series focuses on two 20-something brothers coming to terms with their own personal limitations in Manhattan.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal stems from a hefty deal that the duo signed with SPT back in the summer.

Noxon's FOX drama is described as "Peyton Place" meets "The Omen." A mysterious girl washes up in a beachfront community and, based on the show's description, it seems likely that her presence will turn things upside down.

John McLaughlin, who adapted A&E's recent take on "The Great Gatsby," wrote the pilot and will executive produce the series along with Noxon. Neal Moritz, Marty Adelstein and Dawn Parouse of 20th Century Fox TV-based Original TV will also executive produce.

Noxon is currently working on "Still Life," a drama that has yet to find a home in FOX's midseason schedule.

The Black Forest Online Radio Promo Debuts
Image Comics Press Release

ORANGE CA January 23, 2004 - As part of the ongoing promotion for the horror/adventure graphic novel THE BLACK FOREST, creators Todd Livingston, Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes will be releasing an original, online radio show. The show, which will run between seven and ten minutes in length and involve characters and situations from the book, will premier at the week prior to the book’s March 31st release.

"We recognize that fans have a lot of options when it comes to spending their money and we want to make them as familiar as possible with just what the book is, and to earn their loyalty," said co-creator Robert Tinnell.

"What’s more, we want to demonstrate to retailers our commitment to continue promoting and supporting the book. And beyond that, to be perfectly honest, it’s just plain fun, something all three of us have always wanted to do."

The show, entitled THE BLACK FOREST – EPISODE ONE: MYSTERY IN THE TRENCHES dramatizes events that occur just prior to those in the book.

Thus, listeners will get a unique, stand-alone story that will enhance their enjoyment of the GN itself.

Co-writer Todd Livingston is handling the production duties for the episode in Los Angeles.

"The really exciting thing," said Livingston, "in addition to the thrill of hearing your characters come to life, is the tremendous luck we’ve had in assembling a cast." 

The first to sign on was the gracious Yvonne Monlaur, beloved by genre fans for her work opposite Peter Cushing in the Hammer Film classic, BRIDES OF DRACULA. More talent followed suit, including veteran actor Dan Roebuck (RIVER’S EDGE, THE FUGITIVE, the AGENT CODY BANKS movies) and Xenia Seeberg, well-known among genre fans for her work on the Sci-Fi series LEXX, as well as a starring role in Livingston’s film SO, YOU’VE DOWNLOADED A DEMON. And Livingston and Tinnell say there are more surprises to come.

Artist Vokes, who completed the artwork for the book ahead of schedule, is excited about the show but disappointed he isn’t more involved. 

"I would love to do one of the characters. On my home answering machine I’m always doing crazy voices. The fan in me can’t wait to listen to it."

A couple of other notes of interest regarding THE BLACK FOREST: Vokes was unhappy at the thought of compromising the storyline and thus sought clearance from Image to increase the page count. Therefore, although solicited at 96 pages, the book will actually be 104 pages – with no increase in cover price.

The documentary chronicling the "making of" the graphic novel has completed post-production and will be making the festival rounds in the late spring and throughout the summer in support of the book.

THE BLACK FOREST is available for order now in the December issue of Previews and will go on sale March 31.

Image Comics is a comics and graphic novels publisher formed in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Since that time, Image has gone on to become the third largest comics publisher in the United States.

There are currently four partners in Image Comics (Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino), and Image is currently divided into three major houses (Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions and Image Central, which is the home of THE BLACK FOREST).

Image comics and graphic novels cover nearly every genre, sub-genre and style imaginable, offering science fiction, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today.

[Thanks to Robert Tinnell, co-author of The Black Forest graphic novel, for forwarding eXoNews this press release and the pix. Good luck with this, Robert! We'll be listening! Ed.]

Official Black Forest site -

Image Comic site -

Disney's Grateful to Dali for 'Destino' Idea 
By Sheigh Crabtree 

LOS ANGELES January 27, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Combine rare Salvador Dali paintings with a healthy dose of Walt Disney movie magic and you've got one of the most interesting offerings in the 2003 animated short film Oscar race.

Executive produced by Roy E. Disney, the former vice chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Co., and directed by Dominique Monfrey, who had been based at Disney's now-shuttered Paris studio, the short film "Destino" began with the unlikeliest of partnerships, one which dates back to 1945.

That's when Walt Disney, the studio's founder, first proposed a collaboration with Salvador Dali, the celebrated Spanish surrealist. 

That original teaming was abandoned in the following year because of the studio's financial setbacks after World War II. But the project was revived again 54 years later by Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney's nephew, when he came across Dali's original artwork and story sketches while he was overseeing the re-release of "Fantasia." 

Almost overnight -- if you set aside that 54-year hiatus -- the project was revived and became a six-minute short film that has since gone on to become the toast of the animated film festival circuit. 

"The story sketches had to be reinterpreted by an animator of today," Disney said Tuesday. "It was a labor of love. You get into these things and you begin to realize it's something special and you want to do right by what was clearly an amazing idea. Surrealism in 1945 was a modern art movement that not a lot of people understood." 

Disney recounted the story about Dali who said, when he came to Hollywood in the 1940s, he had met the two great American surrealists: Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney. 

"I've thought about that since and if you look at a lot of the film that was made in those days, in the 1940s, there's a tremendous amount of surrealism in it: dreamscapes and weird pink elephants on parade in 'Dumbo,' for instance," he said. 

Attempting to explain his creative process, Dali often said that he simply woke up from dreams, realizing that he'd just come up with a great idea. 

Disney cited that explanation Tuesday and added that when he himself awoke on this particular morning, he was delighted to learn of the Oscar nomination for "Destino." 

"But my dream was a little bit more concrete," he said. "Recognition of all that hard work by your peers is thrilling." 

He said he planned to drink champagne and celebrate the combined work of Disney's animators and the great surrealist.

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