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Inca Mummies!
Nuvo the Robot! Bad Apple?
Glenn Slams Bush, Osama & Elvis!
Ardipithecus Kadabba
& More!
Inca Mummies!

By Tania Mellado 

LIMA, Peru March 5, 2004 (Reuters) - Dozens of mummies dating back more than 500 years have been discovered on the path of a proposed highway on the outskirts of the Peruvian capital, near an Inca graveyard, archeologists said on Friday.

Archeologists uncovered 26 burial bundles, each containing one or more adult and child mummies dating from 1472 to 1532. 

In 1533, the Incas were defeated at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors. 

"This (area) is part of the largest Inca cemetery in Peru and the largest excavated cemetery in the Western Hemisphere, that of Puruchuco-Huaquerones," said archeologist Guillermo Cock, who was contracted by Lima's town hall to comb the area for artifacts before construction could begin. 

Cock said archeologists did not know the exact number of mummies at the site because they had not opened any of the bundles, which are still half-buried.

Some were already broken, exposing skulls and showing several hunched mummies with cloth bags tied to their bodies and offerings in their hands. 

The mummies were once farmers and craftsmen and lived under the dominion of the Lati and Ishma Inca leaders, who ruled over the Rimac River valley, home to modern-day Lima, Cock said. 

"These are local inhabitants, what we could now call middle class, belonging to the period of the Inca Empire, between 1472 and 1532," Cock told Reuters. 

He said they were textile makers: "Ninety-nine percent of the tools in the tombs are used for such production, from dressmaking to cloth dying. There are needles and looms. 

"The important thing about this discovery is that it is intact. ... The area around the mummies shows evidence of rituals prior to the burials. There are the remains of corn, beans, coca leaves and pots," Cock said. 

Despite the finding, the town hall said the road -- an extension to a busy urban highway -- will go ahead. 

"The works will not stop. They are an urban necessity. ... We will take the burial bales to a museum for conservation and for study. They could be plundered here," town hall spokesman Armando Molina said. 

But archeologist Federico Kauffmann said Peru would be better off running the road through a tunnel under the site because it could yield further findings. 

"In Peru, there is neither the money nor the techniques to preserve mummies, and there is no more space for mummies in the Puruchuco museum," he said. 

Archeologists have uncovered thousands of mummies in Peru in recent years, mostly from the Inca culture five centuries ago, including about 2,000 unearthed from under a shantytown near the capital in 2002. 

One of Peru's most famous mummies is "Juanita the Ice Maiden," a girl preserved in ice on a mountain. Last month, two mummies predating the Incas -- so well-preserved one had an eye intact -- were found under a school in southern Peru.

Japan Unveils Nuvo Robots!

TOKYO March 3, 2004 (AP) - A Japanese company unveiled on Tuesday a prototype of a human-shaped walking robot it said will be mass produced for sale at $4,600 by the end of the year.

Tokyo-based ZMP, which has so far only made robots for research and rental, expects to sell about 3,000 of the new Nuvo model, which will be manufactured by another company. The manufacturer and sales network have not yet been decided, ZMP president Hisashi Taniguchi told reporters at a Tokyo hall. 

Although other Japanese companies, including electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp. and automaker Honda Motor Co., have created humanoids, the machines have merely taken part in events and are not on sale for consumers. Sony's Aibo doglike robot has been mass produced and starts at $780. 

The 15-inch-tall Nuvo walks on two legs, picks itself up when it falls, recognizes voice commands such as "advance" and "stop," and is controlled by remote from a cell phone. It has a digital camera in its head that relays images of its surroundings to a videophone from Japan's top mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo. 

Its developers said Nuvo's design was kept simple with mass production in mind. While offerings from Sony and Honda resemble a child in their shape and movement, Nuvo has a more mechanical look because its head is lodged into its chest and its arms are steel rods with fingerless balls for hands. 

But developers hope its price will someday come down to the level of a laptop. 

"This robot is not merely for research. It is for commercial sale, and we want it to enter people's homes," said Kiyoyuki Okuyama, a designer who worked on Nuvo. 

But costs cuts remain a challenge. The prototype version rents for $3,200 a day and costs $27,500. 

ZMP also showed a $1,600 baseball-size security robot with 15 cameras to check on intruders through a DoCoMo videophone.

Virtual Religion
London March 5, 2004 (AP) - The Church of England has announced the creation of its first "virtual parish" and invited people to apply for the position of "web pastor".

The purpose of the Internet church, or "i-church", according to its website, "is to provide a Christian community for those who wish to explore Christian discipleship but who are not able, or do not wish, to join a local congregation".

The move comes at a time when the Church of England is suffering a continuing decline in attendance - down to about two percent of the nation on any given Sunday.

In an advertisement in the Church Times, the diocese of Oxford invites applicants for the post of "Web pastor" to build and oversee a groundbreaking Internet parish community.

The successful applicant, who will answer to the bishop of Oxford, will need to be as familiar with the information superhighway as he or she is with the Church of England, the advert says.

"We are looking for a dynamic, confident Christian (lay or ordained) who is able to build this new community, lead its core members and be available to visitors to the site," says the advertisement. "You will need excellent communication skills and the ability to work creatively in a new and untested environment."
Bad Apple?

Saint Louis University Press Release

ST. LOUIS March 5, 2004 - People would eat sweet potatoes on more days than Thanksgiving if Susie Nanney, Ph.D., acting director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Saint Louis University, had her way.

"People aren't eating the fruits and vegetables that contain the most nutrients," says Nanney, who is the author of new research in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. "People are quite frankly confused about nutrition. I feel their pain." 

Most Americans recognize a healthy diet should include at least five fruits and vegetables, but they're not making the most nutritious choices because messages about what to eat are unclear, the research finds. 

The most popular fruits and vegetables -- corn, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples and bananas -- aren't as rich in nutrients as other foods. 

"While people understand they should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, they are not translating 'variety' in a way to capture health benefits, such as reducing their risk of developing chronic diseases," Nanney says. "I'm just asking them to expand their interpretation of diets." 

Nanney, a dietitian, notes that United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other health groups offer conflicting messages about which fruits and veggies are most nutritious. 

"You can see how the public gets confused by inconsistency in the messages," she says. 

In other words, they don't know what's best for them. Research shows that eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A and C, betacarotene and fiber -- the so-called "powerhouse" fruits and veggies -- reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Yet, Nanney says, people don't know which foods work better than others. 

"Until nutrition messages become more consistent and direct, we may not see improvements in powerhouse vegetable and fruit intake behaviors to any great extent," she says. 

So how do you know which fruits and veggies have the most power in keeping you healthy? 

The veggies and fruits that do the best job in reducing the health risk for chronic disease are dark green leafy vegetables, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous. 

But even those guidelines can be confusing so Nanney suggests thinking about color to pack nutritional power in your diet: 

 White: Eat cauliflower more often than potatoes, onions and mushrooms. 

 Green: Add more dark lettuces, such as romaine and red leaf lettuce, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts to replace iceberg lettuce and green beans. 

 Yellow/orange: Substitute more carrots, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit for corn or bananas. 

 Red: Select tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries in favor of apples. 

"When we look at how to get the most bang for your buck, the most power, it's by eating these other fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional choices," Nanney says.

Saint Louis University -

Astronaut Glenn Slams Bush Space Plan

By Broward Liston 

CAPE CANAVERAL March 4, 2004 (Reuters) - U.S. space pioneer John Glenn said on Thursday that President Bush's space exploration plan "pulls the rug out from under our scientists" and might waste too much money to ever put astronauts on Mars.

Glenn, a retired Democratic senator from Ohio and the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, said NASA should not abandon research on the International Space Station and questioned the advisability of using the moon as a stepping stone to Mars. 

His stinging rebuke of the Bush plan came in testimony before the presidential commission charged with developing a strategy for building a permanent base on the moon, then sending astronauts on to Mars. The commission met at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Glenn's home state of Ohio. 

The octogenarian space pioneer's most cutting comments were reserved for NASA's plans to gut the International Space Station of a once-ambitious research agenda, limiting science only to studies applicable to the moon and Mars program.

"We have projects that are planned or in the queue now, projects that people -- academics and laboratories and companies -- have spent millions of dollars to get ready," Glenn said. 

"That pulls the rug out from under our scientists who placed their faith in NASA, and our scientists within NASA who devoted years and years to their work." 

Glenn said basic research had always been part of the human space flight program, dating back to his own three-orbit flight in 1962: "We tried to get everything we could on to every flight back in those days." 

He said cutting the research component of the space station program would save only about $2.5 million. 

"I think we're voluntarily stopping some of the most unique, cutting-edge research in the history of the whole world. Now we're going to let other nations do it and they'll be able to benefit from it. I just don't think that's right. I think that's a mistake. For a few bucks, we could continue this research," he said. 

NASA spokesman Glen Mahone said research aboard the space station will continue but will be limited to the effects of space flight on human physiology. 

"We're going to do the research that's important for us to fulfill the president's vision," Mahone said. 

Glenn said he would support returning to the moon for research purposes, but urged the panel to seriously consider whether building habitable moon bases as a stepping stone to Mars was cost effective. 

"In effect you're making a Cape Canaveral out on the moon. It would be a smaller one, I'm sure, but it would be enormously complex," Glenn said. "It just seems to me the direct-to-Mars (route) is the way to go." 

He warned NASA might "use up all our money on the moon and never get to Mars." One commission member, Neil de Grasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, called Glenn's testimony "refreshing in its candor."

Concerned Scientists Blast Bush
Public Library of Science Press Release

March 5, 2004 - The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report, "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science", criticizing the Bush administration's willingness to ignore scientific conclusions in the interests of advancing a political agenda. (See the report here  -

The report, which was signed by over 60 prominent scientists prior to its release on February 17, 2004, questions the integrity and independence of several scientific advisory committees. By law, such committees must be "fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee." (Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. Appendix 2, Section 5(b)2 and 3) 

In an essay published today in PLoS Biology, two members of the President's Council on Bioethics, Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, and Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago, outline their concerns about two recent reports issued by the council--"Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness"  ( and "Monitoring Stem Cell Research" ( - and about the process that generated these reports. 

The first report deals with, among other issues, current research in fertility and aging, and with related advances in biotechnology that could potentially cure genetic diseases or promote longevity. The second report concentrates on stem cell research and governmental funding of this research. 

Blackburn's and Rowley's criticisms center on the reports' selective use of science to support what they describe as an ideologically conservative political agenda. The first report raises the specter of "designer babies" and criticizes aging studies as focusing entirely on the desire for immortality. Blackburn and Rowley suggest that these characterizations misrepresent both the current science as well as the diversity of scientific opinion on the research. The second report promotes adult stem cell research while minimizing the limitations of that research, suggesting that research into embryonic stem cells is unnecessary. Blackburn and Rowley again contend that such a report should have presented the entire breadth of scientific research into stem cells and the full range of scientific opinions. 

Blackburn and Rowley conclude, "Continuing discussion will form the basis for future decisions on these topics; keeping such discussion open and balanced is of paramount importance." 

On February 27, 2004, Blackburn, an outspoken critic of the reports even before this essay, along with William F. May, a retired professor of ethics at Southern Methodist University, were dismissed from the President's Council on Bioethics by White House directive. 

Public Library of Science -
Cheney's Pal Gets Oil Rights

By Pete Yost
Associated Press 

WASHINGTON March 5, 2004 (AP) — The government has eased Clinton-era oil and gas drilling restrictions on a large tract of desert grassland in New Mexico in a decision that benefits a large Republican donor in the state.

The donor, George Yates, said his contributions and fund-raising assistance to Vice President Dick Cheney had nothing to do with the decision. The Interior Department says its drilling plan, while opening up more land in Otero Mesa, will be the most restrictive ever.

The Bush administration "would allow 141 oil and gas wells over about 7 million acres; Interior is committed to protecting our public lands," department spokesman Mark Pfeifle said.

However, environmentalists are crying foul.

The Bureau of Land Management "surrendered to the demands of one oil company and the political power of the name to which it was connected," the Campaign to Protect America's Lands said Thursday, in contrasting the Bush administration's plan for Otero Mesa with the Clinton administration's.

The environmental group said the Interior Department's estimate of 141 wells is based on an outdated plan for Otero Mesa before Yates drilled a successful well there in the late 1990s.

"We expect to see a lot more drilling than the BLM will admit, given the number of companies that now want access," said Peter Altman.

Pfeifle called the environmental organization "a special interest fund-raising group that focuses exclusively on partisan misinformation." Among its supporters is Eric Schaeffer, who resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency, contending the Bush White House was undermining antipollution efforts at power plants that violate clean air laws.

One of Yates' companies, HEYCO, drilled a successful natural gas well six years ago at Otero Mesa.

The BLM subsequently proposed restricting drilling in many areas to near roadsides, drawing sharp criticism from HEYCO.

"With all due respect, the notion that we can explore and develop the fluid minerals resource on federal lands by directionally drilling from the existing roads is silly!" a family member from George Yates' firm wrote the government in 2000.

Two months ago, the Bush administration eased the proposed drilling restrictions, saying that well drilling in Otero Mesa should be limited "to no more than 5 percent" of a leased area at any one time.

"The environmentalists are claiming that I was able to change a process to my benefit when in fact the result of the process is highly restricted land use," Yates said.

Cheney participated in a political fund-raiser hosted by Yates in 2002, and Yates has made more than $90,000 in personal campaign donations over the past five years, almost all to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.

"I never discussed Otero Mesa with the vice president," said Yates. "Having him in my home for a political fund-raiser and discussing personal business would be in my judgment bad form."

Yates said, "I'd give to more Democrats if I really wanted to buy influence. CEOs of large corporations that are worried about political access give to both, but I don't play that game. I give to people who represent my political philosophy, and as a result I stand to be criticized."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was energy secretary in the Clinton administration, is among those protesting the development plan.

Yates Petroleum, an oil and gas company controlled by relatives of Yates, contributed more than $100,000 in the 2002 elections, making it the No. 1 donor in New Mexico, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"My uncles and cousins don't have an interest in Otero Mesa on federal lands and I have no ownership in Yates Petroleum," George Yates responded.

Steven Griles, the No. 2 official at the Interior Department, once lobbied for Yates Petroleum, but "that has nothing to do with me or Otero Mesa," Yates said.

Osama Likened to Elvis

By Mike Collett-White
and Dan Williams

Kabul March 5, 2004 (Reuters) - "Sightings" of Osama bin Laden have been likened to those of Elvis Presley by United States military spokespersons inundated with speculative reports of the whereabouts of the elusive al-Qaeda leader.

The latest rumor in Kabul placed the world's most wanted man in the Tora Bora mountains south of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

It happens to be the same range where some say bin Laden narrowly escaped death during a US military assault late in 2001, shortly after the fall of Afghanistan's Taliban militia.

"I can't speculate on every Elvis/bin Laden sighting," said US spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Hilferty, said in reply to a question about the rumor in which he compared speculation about bin Laden to recurrent outlandish reports of sightings of the late rock star Elvis.

"I have no information on coalition troops in an operation in Tora Bora. Of course, we do have troops in Jalalabad and they constantly patrol in Nangahar province."

Hilferty says he fields questions every day about bin Laden's location, sometimes as many as 20.

"I wouldn't say I'm losing patience, but it does get tiresome sometimes to respond to obviously sensationalist speculation."

That speculation has intensified since the capture in Iraq in December of Saddam Hussein and foreign television crews have since descended in larger numbers on Kabul.

It is assumed that bin Laden and a small band of die-hard warriors are hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border, where tribal sympathy for the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks runs high.

That is assuming he is still alive.

The last definite proof that bin Laden survived one of the world's largest manhunts is nearly two years old, but an audio tape purportedly from bin Laden vowing more suicide attacks was issued by satellite broadcaster al-Jazeera last October.

A few weeks earlier, the broadcaster aired an undated video showing the tall and bearded bin Laden and his deputy, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, strolling on a rocky hillside, leaning on walking sticks and carrying automatic rifles.

Britain's Sunday Express tabloid said last month US and British special forces had bin Laden "boxed in" to a 25km² area north of the Pakistani city of Quetta. Pakistani officials laughed off the report.

Later in February, Iranian radio said bin Laden was captured in a tribal area of Pakistan. A senior US defense official described the report as "another piece of stray voltage".

Many Afghans are convinced bin Laden is already in US custody, waiting to be wheeled out closer to November when George W Bush runs for re-election.

The US military in Afghanistan has made surprisingly confident predictions that he will be caught or killed by the end of the year.

Pakistani forces have cranked up operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in tribal areas, while US forces in Afghanistan have promised a spring offensive.

They have announced a shift from large operations to on-the-ground intelligence gathering that involves smaller teams spending longer in remote areas.

The commando unit that helped to find Saddam is also being shifted to Afghanistan, if some reports are to be believed.

All the while, US officials insist they do not know where bin Laden is.

"If we knew where he was, we'd get him," is now a familiar phrase at the thrice-weekly US military briefings in Kabul.

Learn Elvish?
Birmingham UK March 5, 2004 (AP) - It's central England, not Middle Earth, but one school is offering its pupils the chance to learn Elvish.

Youngsters at Turves Green Boys' Technology College in Birmingham are being offered weekly after-hours lessons in Sindarin, a conversational form of Elvish invented by Lord Of The Rings creator JRR Tolkien and based on Welsh sounds.

Educational co-ordinator Zainab Thorp said she hoped the classes would help boost the self-esteem of pupils, some of whom have learning difficulties.

"The recent success of the Lord Of The Rings films has increased the interest in learning Elvish," Thorp said. "The children really enjoy it. It breaks the idea that education should simply be aimed at getting a job."

Thorp said Tolkien was an expert in ancient languages who had developed two forms of Elvish. Sindarin was based on Welsh sounds and was the more commonly used, while Quenya, which related to Finnish, was largely a ceremonial language.

"A couple of the boys are very into role-playing games. Knowing Sindarin is useful when giving orders to their Elvish armies," Thorp said.

"It's also very useful if they want to go on to university to study, as it involves looking at some of Tolkien's old manuscripts. This develops some very complex skills."

Turves Green - 
Patrick Stewart Condemns Films Portraying Violence Against Women

By Jeremy Lovell

London March 5, 2004 (IOL) - The film industry is partly to blame for the global culture of violence against women, Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart said on Friday.

"The entertainment industry has been extremely irresponsible in perpetuating and stereotyping the violent attitudes of men to women," said Stewart at the launch of an Amnesty International campaign against attacks on women.

Stewart, who revealed that as a child he had witnessed his father beating up his mother, picked out Quentin Tarantino's revenge tale Kill Bill for particular criticism.

"I condemn utterly films like Kill Bill. We are told it is about empowering women. All it does is empower a woman to kill other women," he told reporters.

The film industry had much to be ashamed of in its portrayal of women, he added.

"It's a lazy and sensationalist approach. I condemn it entirely. The entertainment industry has to be super-watchful over this," he said.

Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, came close to tears at times when he talked of his own experiences as a child. He said he had been degraded as he heard and watched his father's descent into alcohol-fuelled violence against his mother, and disgusted as the people around them simply turned a blind eye.

"I saw society - police, doctors and neighbors - conspire to hide the abuse," he said. "Violence against women diminishes us all. If you fail to raise your hand in protest you are part of the problem."

Amnesty said one in every three of the world's women - had been beaten, forced to have sex or otherwise abused - often by a friend or family member.

Around the world one woman in five would suffer a rape or attempted rape at some point, and the practice had even become a weapon of war, it said in a report "It's in our hands. Stop violence against women".

Eve Ensler, author of the award-winning Vagina Monologues play which donates part of its proceeds to women's projects said there were reports that 70 women a month were being abducted from Baghdad and sold to the sex trade since the American invasion last year.

"The future of the planet is at risk when women are desecrated," she said on the same platform as Stewart.

Ardipithecus Kadabba

By Maggie Fox
Health and Science Correspondent 

WASHINGTON March 4, 2004 (Reuters) - A 6 million-year-old creature that lacked sharp canines for fighting may be the first pre-human to have branched off from the ape line, researchers said on Thursday. 

The short, small-brained creature may provide a good hint of what the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans looked like, the researchers said. 

Fossil remains of the early hominid were found in Ethiopia three years ago, and it seemed to be a subspecies of a known pre-human, Ardipithecus ramidus. 

But the scientists have found more teeth from a group of the hominid, re-classified it as a distinct species and named it Ardipithecus kadabba. 

"Ardipithecus kadabba may also represent the first species on the human branch of the family tree just after the evolutionary split between lines leading to modern chimpanzees and humans," said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator and head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio, who led the study.

His team's report, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, suggests that the last common ancestor of chimps and humans had long canines used to fight -- something chimps have today, but not humans. 

The researchers dug up fossils from at least five individuals who once lived in a wooded environment, now a dry, rocky area in the Afar rift of Ethiopia's Middle Awash region -- a rich source of pre-human remains. 

They had enough to determine that it was an upright-standing hominid about the size of a chimpanzee that lived between 5.2 and 5.8 million years ago. 

Six new teeth were found at the site in 2002 and included an upper canine, premolars from both jaws, and upper molars. 

"We see a lot of primitiveness in the teeth," Haile-Selaisse said in a telephone interview. 

One key characteristic is a self-sharpening function. 

"The canine tooth comes across the outside face of the lower premolar and it sharpens that way," said Tim White of the University of California Berkeley, who worked on the report. 

"It is like honing a knife on a stone. Almost all of the monkeys and all of the apes, they have all very long and projecting canines (with this mechanism)."

In modern apes these sharp teeth are used by males for fighting, or to frighten off an aggressor. The theory is that hominids evolved more peaceable behavior, said White, with females choosing males who could stand upright and help raise young over males who were busy fighting and showing off.

Fossil remains of similar creatures found in Chad and Kenya are similar enough to suggest they are closely related -- even in the same genus as Ardipithecus, the researchers said. 

"We now have an assemblage or set of early canines and none of them are big and slashing," White said. 

"What this indicates is that earliest hominids had these small canines that were in the same animal as a small brain -- we know that from skull in Chad -- and that head was attached to a bipedal body." 

One of the most famous pre-humans, "Lucy" or Australopithecus afarensis, dates back 3 million years. "This doubles the time period all the way back to 6 million years that a small-brained, small-canine bipedal early hominid existed," White said. 

Genetics tells scientists that chimpanzees and hominids diverged from a common ancestor around 7 million years ago. "But genetics can't tell us what this animal was like," White said. 

It is also becoming clear that looking at chimpanzees, who evolved as much as humans did if not more over this period, do not provide a good model of the ancestor, either.

Genre News: Firefly, Buffy on Angel, Kingdom Hospital, Stargate Atlantis, Batman, Wonderfalls & More!

Firefly Flies!

Hollywood March 6, 2004 (eXoNews) - Variety reports that Universal Pictures has given Joss Whedon the go-ahead for "Serenity", the feature version of Firefly. Whedon, who wrote the script, will direct. Production begins in June, slated for a 2005 release.

"It was important that people understand that the movie isn't the series," Whedon said. "The movie is bigger, more epic than anything you can do in a series."

Universal said in a statement: "We have wanted to be in business with Joss Whedon for a long time and we're incredibly excited to be working with him on his feature film directorial debut. Joss is a true creator, whose talent crosses all mediums. His mythic worlds are inhabited with rich, detailed and very human creatures. 

"Serenity will provide him with a great opportunity to paint another larger-than-life canvas with very identifiable, real characters at the heart of the story."

The entire cast of the short-lived Fox science fiction series has agreed to appear in the new film, according to Variety.

For those of you who never got a chance to see this masterful show by the creator of Buffy and Angel, Firefly - The Complete Series is currently available in a DVD boxed set from Fox Home Video.

Fox Firefly DVD site - 

Buffy on Angel?

Japan March 3, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Sarah Michelle Gellar, former star of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told SCI FI Wire the reasons she reluctantly pulled out of appearing in the Buffy spin-off Angel earlier this season and left open the possibility that she might still make an appearance, if asked, before Angel winds up its fifth and final season this year on The WB.

Gellar, speaking for the first time about the issue, said in an interview that she had to bow out of a planned guest appearance on Angel when her aunt died late last year. Gellar spoke to SCI FI Wire during a break in the filming of her new project, the supernatural horror film The Grudge, in Tokyo.

Her Angel decision was "a really common misconception that people have written a lot about," Gellar said.

"They had asked me to do Angel, and it was a very bad time in my personal life. There was a lot going on in my family. And I had to back out. And you sort of never hear the second side of the story. You never hear why I didn't do it. And then all of a sudden, people get really angry, and nobody asks why it didn't work for you."

At the time, reports suggested that Gellar had pulled out because she wanted to distance herself from the Buffy franchise.

As for whether she will guest star in Angel's season-ending episodes, much as Angel star David Boreanaz did on Buffy when it wrapped its seven-year run last spring, Gellar said it hinges in part on her schedule. She's finishing the final weeks of 42 days of shooting on The Grudge, with at least nine more shooting days to go. The final Angel episodes are in production now.

"A lot has been written about recently, 'Oh, is she going to do it? Is she not going to do it?'" Gellar said.

"Well, to be truthful, I don't know if I'm even going to make it home before they finish. But no one's contacted me. I'll be totally honest. And it depends. I think.

"I go back and forth on the idea, especially because Angel had such a hard time, in my opinion, always getting out from Buffy's shadow. And it never got to stand on its own. And I would hate for it to go out being about Buffy. It'll all depend on if I'm home in time and what the ideas are."

Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon has said he'd welcome an appearance by Gellar.

For her part, she said she's open to it, explaining, "If everything falls into place, and it feels like the right thing at the time for the right people."

Angel returns to the WB with new episodes in April, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Do more to help save Angel at the Save Angel Campaign site -

And also at Saving Angel -

Save Angel Rally -

Vote to keep Angel via the latest E! poll at

Kingdom Hospital Revisited
By FLAtRich

March 6, 2004 (eXoNews) - Hey, I said that I would apologize! (See previous Genre News pre-review comments on Kingdom Hospital.)

OK, so Kingdom Hospital was very funny. So, Stephen King (who never finished that online novel I paid for) did write the teleplay and it was better than anything else he's written for TV.

So, there was a very scary moment with the talking anteater (if that's what it is - it might actually be Otto's talking German Shepherd.)

So, the prolonged entrance of Dr. "Steg" Stegman (Bruce Davison) had me laughing very, very hard (who knew that Davison would be funny?) The parking lot bit was absolutely inspired. Never let it be said that Stephen King does not understand modern paranoia!

But I wasn't entirely wrong. Without mentioning that specific show I warned against inevitably comparing it to, Kingdom Hospital still had nothing for the Lynch mob.

Most of the dark moments in Kingdom Hospital were beyond familiar to those who have seen films made from King books (some of which, admittedly, Mr. King did not like any better than I did.)

King did write and produce Kingdom Hospital, and he has always acknowledged his influences, so it is not surprising that horror genre clichés haunt those somewhat less than pristine halls. (Do hospitals really allow dogs? Even talking dogs?)

We live in an era of perpetual horror. Not just the constant onslaughts of slasher movies and Stephen King wannabes, but daily newscasts that make us groan in shame at being human. Slaughter in Africa, Haiti, Iraq. Senseless child murders in Belgium. Daily political and religious suicide bombers. The body count grows in direct proportion to the population.

Nothing ever changes. Everything is exactly as it seems.

These are the true horrors of modern life, and so, Kingdom Hospital fills no void. King has provided us with another offbeat show (within acceptable Network parameters), but as is often the case with King horror stories, the owls are just the same old owls. 

American television needs to grow up. The majority TV audience is not 14 years old. We read books and go to uncensored movies and plays. We talk dirty when we want to (we have the right, until Bush and other zealots rewrite our rights) and we know what a breast looks like.

We talk philosophy and religion and history. We ain't superstitious.

In short - we think.

Reworking the same old formulas may sell soap to the less sophisticated, but 21st Century TV is mostly one long vamp, waiting for the end. Kingdom Hospital was enjoyable to a point, but what exactly is the point?

Been there and done that. Haven't we?

And while I'm ripping, Tripping The Rift sucked much worse than anything else I've seen this year. It held my attention for about two and a half minutes. If this is the best adult entertainment Sci Fi Channel can come up with, they deserve to be dialed off permanently.

More "new" shows are launching this month as part of network attempts to recoup losses from earlier failed series. Wonderfalls looks hopeful on Fox, but we already like Joan of Arcadia on CBS. So now we have two girls talking to God?

How about asking Him to do something about bad TV, ladies?

USA will launch Touching Evil on March 12th, also at 9PM/8c opposite Wonderfalls. Touching Evil is executive produced by Bruce Willis and stars Jeffrey Donovan as Detective David Creegan, who has just come back on the force after a brain injury. That is apparently the entire premise for the show. USA says, "as a result of his brain injury, Creegan is apt to ignore common sense - and sometimes even the laws he is sworn to uphold - in his passionate, unending quest for justice." Great. Another over-the-top cop.

And so on.

You can be sure we'll be back if we find a show we really like. In the meantime, we must correct an error made in last week's tirade. Kingdom Hospital airs Wednesdays at 10PM/9c. ABC probably thinks this will keep people coming in - ten o'clock is when the networks traditionally show naked male buttocks, excessive ketchup and people rubbing naked shoulders - and people probably will.

There's nothing else on...

Official Kingdom Hospital -

Touching Evil Official -

Sci Fi Channel Tripping -

Stargate Atlantis

NEW YORK March 2, 2004 (PRNewswire) - Casting has been completed on SCI FI Channel's highly-anticipated original series, Stargate Atlantis. Joe Flanigan leads the cast of heroes, who will undertake humanity's greatest - and most dangerous - mission yet. Atlantis will debut with a two-hour premiere in July '04, which will feature cross-over appearances by members of the Stargate SG-1 team.

Following its premiere, 18 additional original episodes of Atlantis will air during the show's regular Friday night 10 p.m. ET/PT slot, as a companion series to the all-new eighth season of Stargate SG-1, giving sci-fi fans a double dose of Stargate adventures.

Stargate Atlantis is the newest addition to the hit franchise that introduced audiences to instantaneous travel to thousands of worlds through an ancient portal called the Stargate. Atlantis will take viewers to a completely new galaxy of Stargates for the adventure of a lifetime.

When a secret base, abandoned by the original builders of the Stargates, is found buried in the ice of Antarctica, the Stargate Atlantis team is born. Their discovery leads to a daring expedition to the distant Pegasus galaxy, where they encounter a primitive human civilization ... and a sinister new enemy that threatens human life everywhere.

The Stargate Atlantis mission is headed by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Tore Higginson), a specialist in diplomatic relations. Her political savvy is balanced by the go-with-your-gut bravado of her military counterpart, Major John Sheppard (Flanigan), a courageous and gifted pilot. Rounding out the crew are Rainbow Sun Francks as Lieutenant Aiden Ford, the enthusiastic young officer who becomes Sheppard's second-in-command, and David Hewlett, reprising his recurring Stargate SG-1 role of Dr. Rodney McKay, a clever and quick- witted astrophysicist. Rachel Luttrell plays Teyla, a beautiful young leader among the primitive alien civilization that the Atlantis team encounters.

In a special guest starring role, sci-fi favorite Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, The X-Files) will appear as Colonel Marshall Sumner in the 2-hour Stargate Atlantis premiere event.

Currently in production in Vancouver, British Columbia, Stargate Atlantis will be distributed by MGM Worldwide Television Distribution. Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper serve as executive producers on the new series. Cooper is currently executive producer on Stargate SG-1; Brad Wright is co-creator of Stargate SG-1, and served as the series' executive producer for six seasons.

Stargate Atlantis Official MGM site -

Batman Begins

LOS ANGELES March 4, 2004 (AP) - "Batman Begins" has begun. A new movie about the origins of the Caped Crusader started filming Thursday in Iceland, with "American Psycho" actor Christian Bale starring as the shadowy vigilante who protects Gotham City from psychotic villains. 

Filming will then move to London and Chicago. 

The movie is directed by "Memento" filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and co-stars Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne's trusted butler, Alfred.

Gary Oldman will play Lt. James Gordon, a younger version of the character most "Batman" fans know as Commissioner Gordon. 

The cast also includes Katie Holmes as one of Wayne's childhood friends, Liam Neeson as Batman's mentor, Morgan Freeman as a disgruntled employee of Wayne Enterprises and "The Last Samurai" Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe as the sinister Ra's Al Ghul. 

Warner Bros. is hoping to resurrect the character after 1997's "Batman & Robin" with George Clooney, which alienated many fans with its overly campy feel. 

"Batman Begins" is set for release in summer 2005.

Anonymous Rex
By Nellie Andreeva 

LOS ANGELES March 5, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Daniel Baldwin and Sam Trammell are set to topline Sci Fi Channel's two-hour backdoor pilot/movie "Anonymous Rex." 

Based on Eric Garcia's comedic mystery novels, the project centers on Vincent Rubio (Trammell), a high-tech private investigator, and his partner, Earnie Watson (Baldwin), who, along with hundreds of others on Earth, are in fact dinosaurs (in Rubio's case, a velociraptor, and in Watson's, a triceratops).

In the mythology of the books, dinosaurs never became extinct. Instead, they have evolved to be 6 feet tall and have integrated themselves into modern society by disguising themselves with human-looking latex costumes. 

In addition to the two-hour pilot, which is based on the "Anonymous" prequel novel, "Casual Rex," Sci Fi has commissioned two more scripts for the project. 

Production is slated to begin March 22 in Toronto. 

On TV, Baldwin most recently starred opposite Christine Lahti (news) in the CBS original movie "Open House." On the feature side, he most recently starred in "Irish Eyes." 

Trammell toplined Showtime's series "Going to California." His credits also include the feature "Autumn in New York."

Anonymous Rex Official -

Eric Garcia -

Janet Jackson to Host SNL

LOS ANGELES March 4, 2004 (Reuters) - She may not be ready for prime time just yet, but Janet Jackson has been booked on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" next month, her first planned network TV performance since baring her breast at the Super Bowl.

NBC said on Thursday that the 37-year-old pop diva will host and perform on the April 10 edition of the show, which is broadcast live on the East Coast from New York City.

Jackson previously appeared on "SNL" as a musical guest in 1994.

Jackson's last U.S. television appearance was her notorious Super Bowl halftime performance on Feb. 1, which ended with duet partner Justin Timberlake ripping open her costume to expose her right breast during CBS's live coast-to-coast telecast. 

A public uproar over the flash of nudity sparked inquiries by lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as an industry-wide crackdown by television and radio broadcasters on sexually explicit material.

Jackson, herself, was barred by CBS from the Grammy Awards telecast a week later after she rebuffed the network's demands to issue an on-air apology as a condition for appearing on that show.

She subsequently bowed out of plans to star in an ABC TV movie about singing great Lena Horne after Horne objected to being portrayed by Jackson, saying she was offended by the Super Bowl incident. 

Jackson's next album, "Damita Jo," is due out later this month. 

A spokesman for "Saturday Night Live" said he knew of no plans by the network to carry the April 10 show on a special tape-delay, as CBS did for the Grammys and ABC did for the Oscars as a precaution against unplanned vulgarities in the aftermath of Jackson's halftime show. 

"SNL" already has lampooned the incident with a recent promo in which guest host Megan Mullally of "Will & Grace" ripped off the breast pocket from "American Idol" star Clay Aiken. And in a parody of ABC's "Nightline," Ted Koppel (played by Darrell Hammond) stymied several Democratic presidential contenders by wanting to talk about nothing else but Jackson. 

"Saturday Night Live" has itself run afoul of network censors for profanity, such as the notorious 1981 utterance of the "f" word by Charles Rocket and a similar incident involving Norm Macdonald.

Caroline Dhavernas of Wonderfalls
Canadian Press

TORONTO March 5, 2004 (CP) - Already she's being compared to prime time predecessors like Claire Danes and Keri Russell. 

But Montreal-born actor Caroline Dhavernas remains nonplussed about her potential breakthrough as a household name as Fox TV prepares to debut its new hour-long drama series Wonderfalls on Friday, March 12 (simulcast on TV in Canada). 

"I can't say what's going to happen, you never know," the petite 25-year-old brunette says with caution during a shooting break on the Wonderfalls set deep inside a Toronto lakeshore film studio.

"I'm sort of prepared. I've been doing this for almost 17 years now, so it's not like I just started. I've lived a certain amount of fame in Quebec and my parents are actors, too, so I've seen people asking my parents for autographs forever. I know what this is. I think when you get a little piece of it before, you know what to expect. I'll be fine." 

Dhavernas' career began when she was eight, dubbing TV series like Babar and Mont-Royal. At 12 she landed a role in the film Comme un Voleur.

Her anglophone crossover came in 2000 with the lead role in the TV movie Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story, a part for which she spent months practicing her swimming and which eventually earned her lavish praise from the genuine article, Marilyn Bell Dilascio. 

At the time, though, she was struggling with voice coaches to erase lingering traces of her French accent, something she has clearly conquered now for her Wonderfalls role as Jaye, a 20-something American who toils as a gift-shop employee in Niagara Falls. 

"I just took a few lessons to make sure I knew what to listen for. I guess it's just living in New York and hearing the accent all the time. I didn't have to work really hard ... I learned so young and I remembered the sound of the language." 

Dhavernas has already profoundly impressed her director-producer Todd Holland, who calls her "da bomb" and a joy to work with. 

"I've worked with Claire Danes when she was 15, who was brilliant. I worked with Keri Russell on Felicity. Caroline is the top of the top of the top ... great actor, amazing presence on film. She's like this window and the colors just drip through and the light just filters through. She doesn't conceal anything, it's amazing what she gives the camera." 

Wonderfalls comes to air on the heels of a trend in new shows this season in which young women are spiritually or magically empowered. It seems to be the result of the so-called Buffy vacuum. There's Tru Calling in which the heroine can predict and head off untimely deaths, 1-800-MISSING where the star has psychic visions, and the miniseries Dead Like Me, which was created by Brian Fuller, the co-producer of Wonderfalls, in which a teenage girl dies only to become an apprentice grim reaper. 

The show that Holland concedes comes from the "same conceptual pool," however, is Joan of Arcadia, a success that will precede Wonderfalls on Friday nights. In that one, God in various human disguises dispenses life-altering advice to young Joan. 

In Wonderfalls, it's not the Lord per se, but some unnamed universal power, in the form of inanimate animal statuettes that come to life and direct Jaye to perform certain deeds. 

Dhavernas concedes the similarity but insists her show is more quirky and dynamic and less serious. 

Her character Jaye has just graduated from Brown University but returns to her home in Niagara (the more scenic Canadian side of the Falls substitutes for the U.S. side in exterior scenes) where she resists the over-achiever nature of her Royal Tenenbaums-type family. She lives in a trailer park, takes a mundane job selling souvenirs to tourists and generally puts her life on cruise control. And then weird, magical, hallucinatory things begin to happen. 

"Most teenagers would go through that moment, but she's in her mid-20s, not rejecting her family but rejecting their values and principles," Dhavernas explains. 

"People need a little more right now than reality shows. 

"We've seen so much CNN and high alert and I think we want to believe in something else, that life goes a bit further than all that." 

Holland agrees that post-Sept. 11, which rocked our sense of world order with the randomness of its evil, there's a need to believe in a guiding universal order as depicted in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. 

"I'm a big believer in higher powers," he says. "You just really want to reaffirm that there is ... great good, because there clearly is great evil."

[On the positive side, Roswell fans note that William Sadler plays Jaye's dad. Wonderfalls is produced by creators Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) and Bryan Fuller (Voyager, Dead Like Me). Tim Minear (X-Files, Strange World, Buffy, Angel and Firefly) is also on board as an Executive Producer. On the negative side, it's in a deathly timeslot and Kristin over at E! likes it, which, let's face it K,  may be more a curse than a blessing :o)> Ed.]

Be sure to read Kate O'Hare's Zap2it interview with writer-producer Tim Minear (Angel, Buffy, Strange World, Wonderfalls, X-Files) at,1002,271|86782|1|,00.html 

Wonderfalls airs Friday March 12 at 9PM/8c on Fox.

Wonderfalls Official -

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