|Looking For Aliens! |
Ancient Baseball, Fluoride,
Who Will Feed War Refugees?
Anthrax, Dust Mites & Ugly TV!
|Looking For Aliens! |
|ET Hunters Take Closer Look |
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Science Editor
Puerto Rico March 17, 2003 (BBC) - Mankind could be on the verge of finding intelligent life in space. The scientists behind the world's biggest distributed computing project are about to take a closer look at the most promising radio signals so far collected in the search for alien beings.
For four years, millions of people around the world have been running a special screensaver program on their desktops, sifting data for unique patterns that might represent an intelligent transmission.
Now, the most interesting radio sources picked out by the SETI@home project are to be re-observed using the giant Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico.
Researchers have about 150 radio sources they want to examine in the next three days.
Since it started in 1999, SETI@home (SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has become a massive hit with computer users.
Several million volunteers from more than 200 countries have downloaded the screensaver program that uses idle time on a PC to analyze data obtained by radio telescopes that scan the skies for unusual signals, possibly from intelligent lifeforms.
In so doing, SETI@home has become the largest computation ever done on this planet, having accumulated more than a million years of computing time.
Now, in a phase known as the "Stellar Countdown", the project will use the Arecibo radio telescope to re-observe the most interesting radio sources thrown up by the screensaver search.
David Anderson, SETI@home's Project Director, said: "After the re-observations of our Stellar Countdown help us eliminate candidates that are random noise or terrestrial radio interference, we will be very curious to see what candidates remain."
The SETI@home software downloads data from the Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions at the Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations (SERENDIP) project at the University of California at Berkeley, US.
The odds that it has succeeded in identifying a real alien transmission are very long.
Since 1960, there have been over 50 searches for intelligent signals from space, initially at radio wavelengths but latterly looking for laser pulses. Neither has produced definite detections.
Even optimistic scientists put the chance that SETI@home will find an extraterrestrial signal at less than 1%.
On-the-spot analysis of data during the Arecibo observing run will allow the astronomers to re-target any especially promising signals. A more detailed assessment of the Stellar Countdown results will be conducted offline after the SETI@home team returns to the University of California at Berkeley.
Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of SETI@home, will lead the team conducting re-observations at Arecibo. The researchers will observe the sky eight hours each day, staggering the time of day for each session to cover as much sky as possible.
The list of the most promising signal candidates far exceeded 150, but the project was allotted only 24 hours from March 18 to 20 to use Arecibo, making it impossible to examine all of the leads at this time. The candidate radio sources were chosen on the basis of several criteria:
- number of times the radio source was detected
- how closely different observations resemble each other
- strength of radio source
- proximity to known stars
- type of star
- the presence of known planets
Dan Werthimer said: "I believe that we will likely discover extraterrestrial civilizations in the next 100 years. Even if we don't find a signal from ET this time, I'm optimistic in the long run, since our search capabilities are doubling every year."
SETI@home - http://setiathome.berkeley.edu
Sky map of best ET candidates - http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/bestcands.html
Download the latest SETI software - http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/download.html
SIRTF Boldly Goes Where the Human Eye Cannot
NASA/JPL Press Release
March 17, 2003 - Equipped with advanced infrared technology, NASA will peer into unknown territories of the universe with the long-anticipated Space Infrared Telescope Facility. The space-based observatory, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is scheduled to launch in mid-April.
"This observatory is like the infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope. It sees things the Hubble can't see, which is part of the reason why we have the Great Observatories Program," said Dr. Michael Bicay, director of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility legacy science program.
With the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, scientists will seek out infrared light shrouded by cosmic dust. Infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye, is typically absorbed by Earth's atmosphere. Using infrared, scientists expect the observatory will help them probe the early life of the cosmos and detect discs around other stars, where planets may be forming.
The Space Infrared Telescope Facility is the final mission under NASA's Great Observatories Program, which includes Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. The mission is also an important part of NASA's Origins Program, which seeks to answer the questions: Where did we come from? Are we alone?
The mission brings with it several technological advancements, the most significant of which is that of infrared detector technology. "All this technology has always been out there, but until fairly recently we didn't have the means to use it for space exploration," Bicay said.
JPL is responsible for the observatory's mission operations, while all scientific data is processed at the Space Infrared Telescope Facility Science Center at Caltech.
SIRTF Home Page - http://sirtf.caltech.edu
SIRTF Webcam - http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/payload/missions/sirtf
The Evaporating Planet
NASA NEWS RELEASE
March 12, 2003 - For the first time, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have observed the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet evaporating off into space. Much of the planet may eventually disappear, leaving only a dense core. The planet is a type of extrasolar planet known as a "hot Jupiter." These giant gaseous planets orbit their parent stars very closely, drawn to them like moths to a flame.
The scorched planet, called HD 209458b, orbits only 4 million miles (7 million kilometers) from its yellow, Sun-like star. The Hubble observations reveal a hot and puffed up evaporating hydrogen atmosphere surrounding the planet. This huge envelope of hydrogen resembles a comet with a tail trailing behind the planet. The planet circles the parent star in a tight, 3.5-day orbit. Earth also has an extended atmosphere of escaping hydrogen gas, but the loss rate is much lower.
An international team of astronomers, led by Alfred Vidal-Madjar of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France, is reporting this discovery in the March 13 NATURE Magazine. "We were astonished to see that the hydrogen atmosphere of this planet extends over 124,000 miles (200,000 kilometers)," says Vidal-Madjar.
HD 209458b is too close to the star for Hubble to photograph directly. However, astronomers could observe the planet indirectly since it blocks light from a small part of the star during transits across the disk of the star, thereby dimming it slightly. Light passing through the atmosphere around the planet is scattered and acquires a signature from the atmosphere.
In a similar way, the Sun's light is reddened as it passes obliquely through the Earth's atmosphere at sunset. Astronomers used Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to measure how much of the planet's atmosphere filters light from the star. They saw a startling drop in the star's hydrogen emission. A huge puffed up atmosphere can best explain this result.
The planet's outer atmosphere is extended and heated so much by the nearby star that it starts to escape the planet's gravity. "The atmosphere is heated, the hydrogen escapes the planet's gravitational pull and is pushed away by the starlight, fanning out in a large tail behind the planet - like that of a comet," says Alain Lecavelier des Etangs at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France. Astronomers estimate the amount of hydrogen gas escaping HD 209458b to be at least 10,000 tons per second, but possibly much more.
Hot Jupiters orbit precariously close to their stars. They are giant gaseous planets that must have formed in the cold outer reaches of the star system and then spiraled into their close orbits. This new discovery might help explain why hot Jupiters so often orbit a few million miles from their parent stars. Like HD 209458b, they are not usually found much closer than 4 million miles. Currently, the closest distance is 3.5 million miles (5.7 million kilometers). Hot Jupiters have orbits that are as brief as three days, but not shorter. Perhaps the evaporation of the atmosphere plays a role in setting an inner boundary for orbits of hot Jupiters.
HD 209458b has a diameter 1.3 times that of Jupiter, and two-thirds the mass. Its orbit is one-eighth the size of Mercury's orbit around the Sun. The parent star is similar to our Sun and lies 150 light-years from Earth. It is visible with binoculars as a seventh magnitude star in the constellation Pegasus. In 1999 this star suddenly entered the astronomical "Hall of Fame" when HD 209458b was seen passing in front of the star and partly eclipsing it. This was the first confirmed transiting extrasolar planet ever discovered. In 2001 Hubble detected the element sodium in the lower part of HD 209458b's atmosphere, the first signature of an atmosphere on any extrasolar planet.
The team is composed of A. Vidal-Madjar, A. Lecavelier des Etangs and J.-M. Desert (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France), G. Ballester (University of Arizona), R. Ferlet and G. Hébrard (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France), and M. Mayor (Geneve Observatory, Switzerland). They observed three transits of the planet in front of the star with Hubble. Observations of the atomic hydrogen envelope were made in ultraviolet (Lyman-alpha) light with Hubble's STIS. Hubble's position above the atmosphere makes it the only telescope that can currently perform this type of ultraviolet study.
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope project is an international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
Ancient Model of the Cosmos
From Archaeology Odyssey Magazine
March 17, 2003 - Just over a century ago sponge divers off the coast of Antikythera, an island northwest of Crete, discovered a first-century B.C. Roman shipwreck. They later returned to the site, accompanied by archaeologists, and spent the next year diving 200 feet down to the shipwreck (without scuba gear or air tanks) to recover amphoras, statues, jewelry, coins and pottery.
The divers also brought up something puzzling: a complex mechanical device (now on display in the National Museum of Athens) consisting of a wooden frame and 32 bronze gears—some of them with fragmented Greek inscriptions.
One of the gears was inscribed with text from a parapegma, or astronomical calendar, similar to one produced in Rhodes in 77 B.C. It is likely that the Antikythera mechanism was manufactured in Rhodes, which was a center for astronomical thought during this period. (Rhodes had been home to Hipparchus [c. 190-135 B.C.], who catalogued the positions of 1,080 stars and calculated the length of the solar year to within seven minutes.)
Scientists early on speculated that the mechanism was an astrolabe—an instrument used to determine the altitude of the sun and the stars—though the earliest known astrolabe was from the seventh century A.D.
Then, in the mid-20th century, Yale University physicist Derek de Solla Price and Greek epigrapher George Stamires reassembled the mechanism’s gears (the wooden frame had collapsed soon after being exposed to the air). They concluded that it functioned as a kind of astronomical computing device. The mechanism’s differential gears controlled pointers that showed the motion of the sun against the zodiac, as well as the positions of bright stars and constellations throughout the year. The machine must have worked well and been prized by its owner, for it had been repaired at least twice.
Perhaps this was the kind of astronomical device described by the Roman orator Cicero (106-43 B.C.), who noted that his friend Poseidonius had created a machine that “reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon, and the five planets, that take place in the heavens every day and night” (De Natura Deorum 235: 87-88).
Archaeology Odyssey Magazine - http://www.bib-arch.org/bswb_AO/indexAO.html
|Ancient Baseball in Egypt? |
|By BRUCE WEBER |
New York Times
Egypt March 15, 2003 (NY Times) - No disrespect meant to Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright or anybody else who might claim responsibility for the game we call baseball, but Thutmose III had them beat by three millennia or so.
Thutmose ruled Egypt during the 15th century B.C., and is the first known pharaoh to have depicted himself in a ritual known as seker-hemat, which Egyptologist Peter A. Piccione has loosely translated as "batting the ball."
"The word they use is sequer, which literally means to strike or to hit," said Piccione, 51, a professor of comparative ancient history at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, "but in the context, he's there with the bat. I translated it as batting the ball."
The context he's referring to is a wall relief at the shrine of Hathor, the goddess of love and joy, in Hatshepsut's temple at Deir-el-Bahari, where Thutmose is seen holding a softball-size ball in one hand and a long stick, wavy at the end, in the other. The hieroglyphic over the scene reads: "Batting the ball for Hathor, who foremost in Thebes." The date is circa 1475 B.C.
The picture of Thutmose also shows two priests, small figures, in the act of catching a ball.
"They have their arms raised up and balls in their hands like you would catch a softball," Piccione said. "The inscription says, 'Catching it for him by the servants of the gods.' "
Piccione makes a specialty of Egyptian religion. He's particularly interested in the sports and games that the ancient Egyptians included in festivals honoring certain deities, a pursuit that led him to muse on the relationship between ancient Egyptian "baseball" and American baseball. His findings are included in a popular lecture -- called "Pharaoh at the Bat" -- that he recently delivered in Charleston and has been honing since delivering a paper on the subject at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. In it, he describes a relationship similar to the one between, say, pterodactyls and blue jays.
"There's no direct connection, and Egyptians don't play anything like this at all today," Piccione said. "But the Egyptian game did function as a precursor. There are only a few bat and ball games that have ever been around."
Actually, Piccione said, Egyptians probably batted the ball around for nearly 1,000 years before Thutmose III. There are references to the activity in inscriptions inside the pyramids dating to 2400 B.C.
It isn't known precisely how the game was played. "To be honest, we don't know if they did any running," Piccione said, "but I suspect they did, because kings did a lot of running rituals."
Actually, the connections Piccione's lecture makes between then and now are more broadly cultural in nature.
"It started in Egypt as purely a boys' game," said Piccione (who is, incidentally, a Yankee fan even though he grew up in Brooklyn). "And it was probably played in a festival, so the actual ball-playing took on some kind of religious meaning because it was played in a religious context."
When the king came out and played, therefore, the excitement and fun of the game and its religious meaning were consolidated, he said.
"Baseball functions the same way," he said. "Over time it has accumulated meaning. It's an interesting parallel development."
He cites the idea that every spring baseball starts up again, and as such it has become a ritual of the season.
He cites the mythology that grows up around the players and lasts for generations, the near godliness of figures like Babe Ruth, the identification of the game with our country.
Piccione ended his lecture and an interview with a reading from his own version of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's "Casey at the Bat," which ends, alas, just as badly for the home team:
O somewhere in the Aten's circuit, the sun is shining bright
Nubian drums play somewhere and Hittite hearts are light
In Babylon men are laughing, in Nineveh children shout
But there is no joy in Mud-brickville
Great Pharaoh has struck out.
Amazing Egyptian stuff! - http://www.sacredtravel.com/EgyptStore/papyrus.htm
|FBI Lab Screws Up 3,000 Cases |
|By JOHN SOLOMON |
WASHINGTON March 17, 2003 (AP) - More than six years after the FBI crime laboratory was rocked by controversy, the Justice Department has identified about 3,000 criminal cases that could have been affected by flawed science and skewed testimony.
It is letting prosecutors decide whether to tell defendants about the problems.
Government officials told The Associated Press they are aware of between 100 and 150 cases in which prosecutors have alerted defendants of problems they concluded were material to verdicts. None has resulted in overturned convictions, they said.
One of those cases already has reached the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this month that convicted murderer George Trepal was not entitled to a new trial despite evidence the FBI's chief toxicology chemist gave inaccurate testimony.
The identification of cases and prosecutorial reviews are the final stages of a scandal that shook the FBI during the mid-1990s when a senior chemist at the famed crime lab went public with allegations of shoddy work, tainted evidence and skewed testimony.
A Justice Department internal investigation concluded in 1997 that 13 lab technicians made scientific errors in cases or slanted testimony to help prosecutors. Several were reprimanded, but none was fired or prosecuted.
FBI and Justice officials say they continue to review cases handled by those technicians to determine if there are problems that could have affected verdicts. But they say the lab today is much different after a series of changes designed to ensure scientific and forensic analyses are subjected to checks and balances.
"I had confidence in the results of FBI laboratory exams even prior to 1998, but today my confidence level is even higher after the quality review process we have implemented," FBI lab director Dwight Adams said in a recent interview.
Those changes, Adams said, include a requirement that all lab examiners' work be reviewed first by another technician with the same expertise, then by a supervisor. In addition, the lab has earned and maintained accreditation from the scientific community every year since 1998, and it just moved into a new 500,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art complex.
Despite the changes, some criminal defense lawyers are concerned by the Justice Department's decision to let federal, state and local prosecutors decide whether to notify defendants of problems.
"That's like asking the fox to guard the hen house," said former federal prosecutor Neal Sonnett. He is past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and past chairman of the American Bar Association's criminal justice section.
"If there is a possibility that evidence has been tainted, then the Department of Justice or prosecutors should not be the arbiter of whether it's material," Sonnett said.
"The Department of Justice ought to err on the side of caution. It should be the defense attorney who makes a decision whether it's worth filing a motion with the court and then a decision made by an impartial arbiter, not an advocate for the other side."
Bruce Yannett, a former federal prosecutor, said the government's approach in the lab matter complies with the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Brady v. Maryland that defendants are entitled to know every piece of material information affecting their case.
"This is consistent with the way these sort of Brady disclosures are typically handled," Yannett said. "Prosecutors make the decision whether evidence is material and should be provided to the defense."
The head of a group that represents government whistle-blowers urged the Justice Department to divulge the problems to all affected defendants, regardless of the technical requirements of the Brady ruling.
"In this process, if you are going to do it honestly, you have to make it transparent and provide it to everyone," said Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. As a Senate investigator, he was instrumental in uncovering some of the lab's problems.
Kolesnik said he also was disappointed the Justice inspector general's office has not done more to highlight the number of affected cases as they grew. "We haven't heard peep from the Justice Department or the inspector general as that number rose from the original 55 cases that were identified," he said.
The FBI lab's woes came to light in the mid-1990s after FBI chemist Frederic Whitehurst went public with allegations of wrongdoing and shoddy work at the lab.
The inspector general conducted an 18-month internal investigation that concluded 13 lab technicians had performed flawed scientific analysis or provided inaccurate, pro-prosecution testimony in cases, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 World Trade Center terror attack.
The Justice Department subsequently created a task force of lawyers to review all work handled by those lab analysts and identified about 3,000 cases that could have been affected by shoddy work. About one-third are federal cases; the rest are state and local, officials said.
Adams, the current lab director, said the large number of cases isn't necessarily alarming for a facility with 650 employees that helps investigate more than 1,000 criminal cases a year.
"The numbers were that large because of the large number of cases we work on in this laboratory," he said.
The FBI: http://www.fbi.gov
|Kids Eat Too Much Fluoride! |
|New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation Press Release |
March 18, 2003 - Kids ingest excessive fluoride, studies show, not just from toothpaste, but from their foods, making water fluoridation unnecessary and unsafe.
University of Indiana researchers analyzed foods typical three- to five-year-olds eat and found diet significantly contributes to children's daily fluoride intake. This and many other studies show, children risk dental fluorosis from their food, alone.
"...because the prevalence and severity of dental fluorosis (white spotted, yellow or brown permanently stained teeth) appear to be increasing, there is a need to quantitate all potential sources of fluoride exposure," report Jackson, et al, in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.
Jackson found fluoride in McDonald's French fries, Aunt Millie's Homestyle Buttermilk White Bread, Iron Kids Bread, Lay's Baked and Ruffles potato chips, Heinz and Hunt's Ketchup, 12 different soda brands and fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, fats, oils, sugars and sweets.
Excluding fluoridated water, toothpaste, treatments or other sources, three- to five-year-olds in fluoridated Richmond, Virginia, average over 1/2 milligram (.05 mg) fluoride daily. Some eat one milligram daily - higher than American Dental Association recommendations.
Between ages 15 and 36-months, children's front teeth are most fluorosis-prone. To avoid fluorosis in all teeth, the National Academy of Sciences(2a) advises the following daily-fluoride-intake from all sources (food, air, water, toothpaste, medicines, and supplements):
· infants up to 6 months old - less than 0.01 mg (one hundredth of a milligram)
· babies from 6 - 12 months - less than 0.5 mg (half a milligram)
· children from 1 to 3 years old - 0.7 mg (seven tenths of a milligram)
· children from 4 to 8 years old - less than 1 mg
Children's tooth brushing introduces 0.8 mg fluoride into their mouths, averaging 0.6 mg swallowed or absorbed from two brushings. One quart of fluoridated water contains approximately one milligram fluoride.
Despite the scientific evidence that America's children are fluoride over-dosed, dentists via well-organized political fluoridation action campaigns convince trusting legislators to promote fluoridation and dose children with even more fluoride, wasting precious tax dollars and endangering children's health.
"The American Association of Pediatric Dentists' recent deal with Coca Cola further illustrates dentistry's unfamiliarity with or disregard for the medical literature," says lawyer Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation.
U.S. children are over-fluoridated; while soda still erodes their teeth. Fluoride can't prevent soda-eroded teeth.
"In our opinion, Coke made a shrewd move by associating with pediatric dentists. Unfortunately, children who may see the Coke emblem in their dentists' offices will get the implied impression that dentists encourage soda drinking," says Beeber.
"Meanwhile, organized dentistry may use the Coke money to deliver more fluoride to soda-drinking, over-fluoridated children," says Beeber.
"We should improve child nutrition to prevent cavities, remove soda machines from schools and reduce fluoride exposure by stopping water fluoridation," says Beeber.
New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation website - http://www.orgsites.com/ny/nyscof
|Martian Water Flows! |
|By Dr David Whitehouse |
BBC News Science Editor
Oregon March 13, 2003 (BBC) - Dark streaks on crater and valley walls may indicate that brackish water currently flows across the surface of Mars. New images and analysis suggest the slopes around the Red Planet's largest extinct volcano, Olympus Mons, contain dark stains caused by brine flowing down hill.
The discovery indicates that the substantial underground ice deposits on Mars can sometimes melt and flow across the surface.
It is bound to increase speculation that life may exist near to the surface of the planet.
According to researcher Tahirih Motazedian, of the University of Oregon, US, it is the first time that changes on Mars have been seen due to water.
She told BBC News Online that she had examined images of Mars taken at different times and had seen new streaks form within time intervals of months.
She speculates that geothermal activity driven by volcanic heat may be causing the melting of subsurface ice. The water dissolves surrounding minerals to form a super-saline brine which, because it contains salts, can remain liquid at lower temperatures and pressures than pure water can.
When the brine trickles on to the surface, it flows downhill staining the surface.
"The streaks originate from distinct geologic horizons below the Martian surface, where the water-ice table has been intersected by crater and valley walls," she said.
Significantly, the dark streaks are never overlain or cut by other features like craters or sand dunes, just as if they were made by water marking the surface.
"They passively overlay existing features except where they are forced to flow around obstacles," she said.
The dark streaks always begin upslope as a point and widen downslope, just like flowing water. The streaks have the same dispersive patterns that liquid water has when it flows downhill, "highly indicative of dynamic fluid flow", says Tahirih Motazedian.
Images taken of the Mangala Valles region show that the dark streaks are being formed at the present time. Two images taken a few months apart show new streaks have appeared.
"This demonstrates the existence of a currently active, short-term process of surface change on Mars," the researcher said.
|Who Will Feed The War Refugees? |
|By Rhoda Metcalfe |
Jordan March 17, 2003 (Radio Netherlands) - In a warehouse on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital Amman, workers are piling sacks of flour into an enormous white wall of food. Maarten Roest, from the United Nations World Food Program, explains that they want to be ready for the first shocks of a war, if it happens.
"Every sack here is 50 kilos. Our calculation is that it will feed four people for a month. There's another warehouse across the street that already has rice, oil and chickpeas."
The UN agency wants to have enough food in place in the perimeter around Iraq to feed about a million refugees for at least four weeks. Half the food is in place now. But there are money problem.
The international community has barely come up with a third of the 22 million dollars they need for just this first phase.
If the war stretches out, the real crisis may be inside Iraq, says Mr. Roest. Most Iraqis live entirely on food rations.
They receive the food through a very complex distribution system managed by the UN and the Iraqi government under the oil-for-food program.
"But what happens if that collapses? Then we have a major, major crisis. We may have to help up to 10 million people, maybe more."
The WFP representative says he can only hope that if a war starts, the international community will become more generous in helping to feed its victims. But food will not be the only problem. A war is likely to cause a crisis in clean water, medicine, housing, and many other essentials.
The best people to offer those emergency services are NGOs, non-government organizations with long experience in relief work. But the NGOs are caught in a dilemma. For the first time in recent history, they're facing a humanitarian crisis, created by western governments, the same governments who are in many cases their major donors. Is taking money from the US administration or the British, like taking blood money? The aid agency OXFAM has decided it is. Jo Nicholls is an OXFAM worker in Jordan.
"We will not accept money from belligerent governments during the course of any conflict. In order to be able to deliver aid effectively, we need to be seen as impartial as well as being impartial, so we need to have a safe distance from the military and distance ourselves from them as much as possible."
US relief centre in Kuwait
The US military would really like the relief agencies to set up camp in Kuwait, next to their military bases. They've even created a special facility, dubbed the Humanitarian Operations Centre, hoping the NGOs would come flooding in. The centre is practically empty.
Instead more than 30 aid groups have opened offices here in Jordan, where they feel they're in neutral territory. Save the Children US, a well-known aid agency group, has traditionally accepted US government funds. Now they feel torn, says program director Rajan Gill.
"The NGOs don't want to be seen coming in to Baghdad on the back of a tank. We do not work for the military. We are not the happy face of the military. But in this case, for me, I care about the kids...I'm worried that all these kids are going to come running across the border, they're going to be traumatized. Would we take no money at all - well, to not help them? I think they really do need help. And we're in a position to do it best."
Reliant on public funding
And unlike OXFAM, Save the Children doesn't have enough private donors to go it alone. Most NGOs don't. They need government funding. What's more many say that if the US and its allies are going to attack Iraq, they are morally obligated to help the victims recover.
The real question for relief agencies, if the war starts, is will they have the leeway to use government funds as they see fit, or will they be co-opted by the military and political agendas of the leaders who want this war.
World Food Program - http://www.wfp.org
Radio Netherlands Iraq war dossier - http://www.rnw.nl/hotspots/html/iraqwar.html
|Germ News: Anthrax and Dust Mites! |
|Anthrax Threat Needs Aggressive Plan |
Stanford University Press Release
March 17, 2003 - A reasonable defense against an airborne anthrax attack requires more aggressive action by the U.S. government than now planned, says a study published the week of March 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The government is relying too heavily on biosensors to pinpoint an anthrax attack and not doing enough to get large quantities of drugs and medical personnel to affected areas within hours, says the team headed by Lawrence Wein of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.
Wein, who is professor of operations, information and technology at the Business School, and his fellow researchers considered the possibility that drug intervention against anthrax could start earlier if the attack was detected by biosensors – devices that sniff out anthrax spores. Although the federal government is spending many millions of dollars to develop biosensors, their use alone is insufficient and could create a false sense of security, says Wein. We would also need aggressive distribution of prophylactic antibiotics, such as Cipro, and the ability to develop a large capacity of emergency medical care for rapid deployment in affected areas. Huge numbers of extremely expensive sensors would have to be spread throughout the nation in order to be in proximity to where the spores are released and to detect them, which is unrealistic. "There is still no substitute for getting people antibiotics and medical care as fast as possible," he said.
In earlier work published by the same researchers in the Aug. 6, 2002, issue of the PNAS, they argued for speedy mass vaccinations as soon as a case of smallpox appears in a population rather than the more time-consuming practice recommended by the government of identifying individuals the victim had been in contact with, locating them and then vaccinating them.
"Our country has made great strides in the past year at preparing for a potential smallpox attack," Wein said. "Although smallpox is a contagious disease, it is also a slower moving disease, and, as my colleagues and I showed in a study published last summer, post-attack mass vaccination would nip even a large smallpox attack in the bud. Unfortunately, controlling the consequences of an anthrax attack may be a bigger challenge."
Although anthrax isn't contagious like smallpox, it is a swift and durable pathogen. Treatment for those exposed must begin within hours of the first cases being diagnosed, rather than days as in the case of smallpox. Without antibiotic intervention, 90 percent of people exposed to the inhalation form of anthrax will die. Because anthrax is durable, lethal and available, it is a likely weapon in a bioterrorist attack. "It can survive an explosion, which makes it ideal for weaponization," Wein said.
Wein's coauthors in the anthrax study are David L. Craft, a doctoral student at the MIT Operations Research Center, and Edward H. Kaplan, professor of management sciences at Yale School of Management. They analyzed a variety of possible responses to a scenario in which two pounds of anthrax are dropped in a city of 11 million people (the approximate size of New York City) and 1.5 million are infected. Based on an analysis of more than 30 years of data, including a 1993 report from the now-defunct congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the authors propose the following as a reasonable scenario:
In their base case, every person in every neighborhood, in which one person shows symptoms and is promptly diagnosed, must take antibiotics to survive. However, by the time all of the drugs are distributed, within four days, 123,000 people in the city of 11 million would die.
The reason: If people don't get antibiotics quickly to keep the infection from developing, too many will become symptomatic and will overwhelm hospitals and medical facilities. Most will die before they get medical aid. Five of the 11 inhalation anthrax patients in the 2001 attacks on the U.S. postal system died despite being treated aggressively by teams of doctors far larger than would be available in a more widespread attack.
Wein suggests a four-pronged proposal for avoiding such a catastrophe. First, the person in charge – either President Bush, individual state governors or city mayors – needs to act decisively: As soon as a case is detected everyone in the area needs to be informed and directed to where drugs can be administered.
"The first people develop symptoms within two days of exposure, and many more would develop symptoms over the next week," said Wein. "Our response needs to be measured in hours, not in days or weeks." In addition, antibiotics need to be delivered as quickly as possible, and the authors recommend distributing them prior to proof that any attack has occurred. "Give it to the people now so that they can just turn on CNN and wait for Secretary Ridge to tell the people in their region to take their Cipro now," he recommended.
If this is deemed too risky, then Washington needs to set a goal of distributing antibiotics within 12 hours. "If we can vote in a single day, we should be able to hand out pills in a day," he said. This might mean changing the laws so that nonmedical personnel can distribute the antibiotics.
Third, the authors note that it is important to make people understand that, if they are in the exposure region, they must take the full course of the antibiotic, or risk development of symptoms and ultimately death. Finally, a drastic increase in surge capacity of medical professionals is needed to ease treatment bottlenecks at hospitals and clinics. According to Wein's calculations, even if antibiotics are distributed before an attack, to reduce the death toll in their base scenario from 123,000 to 1,000 would require one medical professional for every 700 people in the affected population.
Wein argues that this ratio can be achieved only by training non-emergency medical professionals; making maximal use of military and federal resources such as the Red Cross, the National Guard, and the VA hospitals; and developing a national volunteer system of pulmonary specialists who – acting much as a volunteer fire department – would get in airplanes and fly to afflicted regions. Wein, who is an expert in the theory of queues and in the management of manufacturing and service operations, said: "I think we need to tap into the large number of brave and selfless medical professionals in this country who are willing to do this.
"Deterrence was effective in the Cold War, but it is not going to work against terrorists. And counterproliferation – that is, getting the weapons out of the hands of the enemy – is very difficult in the case of biological weapons. So our security against a biological terror attack rests in a very strong emergency response."
Relevant Web URLs:
Germ Maps Human History
By Deborah Smith
Sydney March 10 2003 (Sydney Morning Herald) - The germ that causes stomach ulcers has been a constant traveling companion throughout tens of thousands of years of human migration.
From the arrival of the first farmers in Europe to the more recent slave trade out of Africa, the tiny spiral bacterium Helicobacter pylori has been hitching a ride inside the travelers' guts, new research shows.
Now the bug could help reveal details about these ancient movements of people.
A genetic analysis of the bacteria found in the stomachs of 27 groups of people around the world, including Australians, has identified five ancestral groups of H. pylori.
White people in Australia, not surprisingly, tend to be infected with European bacteria.
Maoris have a version that arose in East Asia, and the lack of diversity in their bacteria shows that only small numbers of people were able to island-hop all the way to New Zealand from Polynesia about a thousand years ago, the study concludes.
Native Americans have more genetically diverse bacteria derived from the same group as the New Zealanders, revealing the bug first made it to the New World more than 12,000 years ago when people crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska.
The research, by an European and American team, is an important contribution to understanding the pathogen, says Australia's leading expert on the bug, Barry Marshall of the University of Western Australia.
Professor Marshall and his colleague Dr Robin Warren revolutionized the treatment of ulcers with their 1983 discovery that they were caused by H. pylori and could be cured with antibiotics.
Professor Marshall's team is studying bacteria from Aboriginal people in Western Australia, to determine whether the germs are of European origin.
The research could explain the mystery of why Aborigines did not get stomach ulcers before colonization. They may never have been infected by H. pylori, he said. "We suspect there weren't any indigenous strains."
Migrations have usually been traced using archeological finds, by comparing the genes of different peoples, and analyzing similarities in languages.
Most bacteria spread quickly between humans. But H. pylori is unusual, because it is passed down within families, usually from mother to child, on shared food or eating implements or in contaminated water.
Canadian Helicobacter pylori site - http://www.helicobactercanada.org
Beds in US Homes Are Hoppin' with Dust Mites
By Charnicia E. Huggins
NEW YORK March 14, 2003 (Reuters Health) - More than 80 percent of homes in America have detectable levels of house dust mite, the microscopic critter that triggers dust allergies, a team of Massachusetts and Washington, DC, researchers report in the first national study on the topic.
Studies have shown that people who are allergic to dust mites may be at risk of developing asthma, a condition that has been on the rise in the US since 1980.
Yet despite the association between house dust mite exposure and an increased allergy and asthma risk, no nationwide estimate of house dust mite levels has been reported until now.
"Our study indicates that most people in the US can assume that they have some exposure to dust mite allergen in their homes," Dr. Samuel J. Arbes Jr. at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.
Based on data from the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing, which included 831 randomly selected households, Arbes and his colleagues found that 84 percent of US homes had detectable levels of dust mite allergen in a bed.
Dust mite levels in nearly half of the homes were at least 2 micrograms per gram, the threshold at which people can become allergic. In almost one quarter of the homes dust mite levels were five times as high, reaching the threshold associated with asthma development, the report indicates.
Older homes, homes in the Northeast and homes with high bedroom humidity were most likely to have high concentrations of dust mite allergen, as were homes with musty or mildew odors.
These conditions all directly or indirectly allow dust mites to thrive, according to the report.
Older homes may generally be dustier than newer homes, providing more food for dust mites that feed on the constituents of dust, including bacteria, pollen and human skin scales.
Homes in the Northeast and other non-western regions are, in general, more humid than homes in the West, which had the lowest concentration of dust mites.
Further, because dust mites absorb moisture from the air, they proliferate in homes that reek of musty odors and mildew, smells that are indicative of moisture-rich environments.
"We believe that avoidance of dust mite allergen may prevent the development of allergy and improve symptoms in people who already suffer from allergy and asthma," Arbes said.
To lower the levels of dust mite allergen, Arbes and his team advise that people use impermeable mattress covers, wash bedding every week in hot water and remove all non-washable items from the bed, including stuffed animals.
Arbes added that although dust mite levels can vary over time and by season, the homes included in the current study were surveyed only once. He said, however, that "the study design used was the most efficient design for estimating allergen concentrations across the nation."
The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2003;111:408-414.
|Genre News: X-Files II, Saturn Awards, Angel, Wicked, Phil Spector, Alien 5, Branded Entertainment & More! |
|X-Files II Is Out There |
London March 17, 2003 (Dark Horizons) - Could the sequel be coming sooner than expected? Gillian Anderson was on UK chat show "Parkinson" this weekend and 'BD' sent in details of what happened when that old charmer had his way with this redhead:
"She said that they're doing another X-Files movie hopefully by the end of this year. She said she and David [Duchovny] have signed, and that Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish are also back.
She had no idea or storyline, but said it might be a prequel set before the events of the TV series last season.
Anderson herself specifically said - "Chris doesn't tell anyone what he's writing about, so we have no idea what to expect. But I assure you it will be something quite good. It's taken all this time, it better be. David, Robert, Annabeth, Brian Thompson who played [the alien bounty hunter] and Mitch Pileggi, are all in it so it will be a nice reunion for us all."
Dark Horizons also thanked 'The Leprecauhns Are Out There' for the story.
[The second X-Files feature was always supposed to appear in 2004, according to comments made by Chris Carter at the end of the series. Glad to hear Brian Thompson will be in it - he's the big guy who carried an ice pick and had oozing green blood. Extraterrestrial encounters of the CC kind would be most welcome in light of all the bad X-Files clones running around nowadays! Ed.]
[Note: This whole lead story was later debunked as untrue but we kept it here for fanatical history reasons. Ed.]
Dark Horizons - http://www.darkhorizons.com
29th Annual Saturn Award Nominations
Hollywood March 18, 2003 (eXoNews) - In case you have been looking for the Saturn Award Nominations, we decided not to publish them this year because The Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films finally has a website of their very own at http://www.saturnawards.org
Despite the glaring omissions of Joss Whedon's Firefly in all the TV categories and Matt Frewer in the Best TV Supporting Actor category (for his outrageous performance in Taken), I got no beefs with this year's Saturn nominations at all.
Here are the top three:
Best Science Fiction Film
Men in Black 2
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Best Network TV Series
The Twilight Zone
Best Syndicated/Cable TV Series
The Saturns will be presented on May 18, 2003. Let's hope they're televised this year!
The Academy website also covers the history of the Saturns and explains how you can join, even if you aren't Boris Karloff.
See the rest of the nominations at http://www.saturnawards.org/san.html
Willow Sets Up Angel
Hollywood March 17, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - David Boreanaz, who stars in The WB's vampire series Angel, told SCI FI Wire that this week's episode, guest starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Alyson Hannigan, sets up Boreanaz's upcoming crossover to Buffy. Hannigan's character, Willow, appears in the March 19 episode to help deal with Angelus, Angel's evil alter ego.
"There's going to be a lot of stuff that she does that's going to bring up some things for Angel and reasons why he's going over to Buffy," Boreanaz said in an interview. "It's really going go be interesting to see in the next six or seven episodes how Angel actually gets over to see Buffy and why he's going back over there."
Boreanaz added that both Buffy and Angel will offer clues to viewers that sets up Buffy's series finale in May, on which Boreanaz will appear in a guest role.
As for Hannigan's guest spot on Angel, Boreanaz said it was nice to see her work with real-life fiancé Alexis Denisof, who plays Wesley. "It's good to see her and Alexis together, since the two of them are getting married in real life," Boreanaz said. "It was good to see her and have her back into the swing of our story. ... They were loving it. I'm sure that any chance you have an opportunity to work with somebody you're so close to really brings out really fun chemistry and a strong sense of relationship, and that definitely shows."
Angel airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Witch Schwartz Musical Will Be Wicked
By Kenneth Jones
San Francisco March 18, 2003 (Playbill) - "So much happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in..." is the way the San Francisco world premiere tryout run of Wicked is being explained.
Further casting for the new Stephen Schwartz musical about the early life of the Wicked Witch of the West - inspired by L. Frank Baum's "Oz" tales and Gregory Maguire's revisionist novel, "Wicked" - was announced March 7 in San Francisco. Performances play the Curran Theatre May 28-June 29. Tickets go on sale in April, on a date to be announced.
As previously known, Tony Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) is Glinda and Idina Menzel (a Tony nominee for Rent) is Elphaba (the titular witch). Also confirmed are Robert Morse (of the original How to Succeed...) as the Wizard of Oz, Carole Shelley (late of Cabaret and remembered from the original Odd Couple) as Madame Morrible, John Horton (Noises Off, Kiss Me, Kate) as Doctor Dillamand, Norbert Leo Butz (news) (Thou Shalt Not, The Last 5 Years) as Fiyero, Michelle Federer as Nessarose and Kirk McDonald (Parade, The Boys From Syracuse) as Boq.
The company includes Ioana Alfonso, Stephanie J. Block, Ben Cameron, Cristy Candler, Mellissa Bell Chait, Marcus Choi, Kristoffer Cusick, Kathy Deitch, Melissa Fahn, Rhett George, Kristen Lee Gorski, Kisha Howard, Manuel Herrera, L.J. Jellison, Sean McCourt, Corrine McFadden, Mark Myars, Jan Neuberger, Walter Winston ONeil, Andrew Palermo, Peter Samuel and Michael Seelbach.
Music and lyrics are by Schwartz, known for Godspell, Pippin, The Baker's Wife and collaborations on Rags, "Pocahontas" and "Prince of Egypt." The libretto, drawn from the novel by Gregory Maguire, is by Winnie Holzman, the writer known for her work on TV's "thirtysomething," "Once and Again" and "My So-Called Life."
Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune) directs, with choreography by Wayne Cilento (Aida, The Who's Tommy).
The untold story of the witches of Oz takes place "long before Dorothy drops in," according to the casting announcement. "One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. Wicked tells the story of a remarkable odyssey in which these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch."
Producers are Marc Platt, Universal Pictures and David Stone. It's expected for Broadway in fall 2003.
Designers are Eugene Lee (set), Susan Hilferty (costume), Kenneth Posner (lighting) and Tony Meola (sound). Musical director is Stephen Oremus, with orchestrations by William David Brohn and dance arrangements by Jim Abbott.
Stephen Schwartz Official site - http://www.stephenschwartz.com
Prime Suspect Returns
LOS ANGELES March 17, 2003 (Zap2it.com) - PBS fans can rejoice. Helen Mirren will return to her Emmy-winning role as Jane Tennison in a new "Prime Suspect" event.
"Countless fans have asked if Helen Mirren will do another Prime Suspect," says "Masterpiece Theatre" Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. "Now, we can answer with a resounding 'yes,' and assure them that this new 'Prime Suspect' will be worth the wait."
"Prime Suspect 6" will begin production in London starting next month and will feature tough-as-nails Detective Tennison in a new high-ranking position overseeing all murder investigations only to discover that the politics of her job are at odds with her desire for justice.
Peter Berry ("The Luzhin Defense" ) will write the script and the installment will be directed by Tom Hooper ("Daniel Deronda," "Cold Feet"). "Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgment" aired in 1997 and won the Emmy for outstanding miniseries, a prize also captured by two other editions of "Prime Suspect."
"'Prime Suspect has always been a cultural zeitgeist, and this new series is no exception, tackling contentious issues of the moment.
Helen Mirren is one of our greatest stars and we can't wait to work with her again," says Andy Harries, controller of Granada Drama, one of the series' producers.
For her performances as Tennison, Mirren has been nominated for four Emmys, winning in 1996 for "Prime Suspect 4: Scent of Darkness." The actress also picked up an Emmy for "The Passion of Ayn Rand." Mirren's film work has included "Gosford Park," "The Madness of King George" and "Caligula."
Spector Lawyer Says Phil Will Get Off
By DAVID K. LI
LOS ANGELES March 13, 2003 (NY Post) - A high-powered lawyer for troubled music genius Phil Spector predicted his client will dodge murder charges in a forecast that irked cops, who called the comment "improper."
Famed defense lawyer Robert Shapiro said he's sure Spector will not face murder charges, even though a B-movie queen was found shot to death in his mansion on Feb. 3.
"I am convinced that the thorough and accurate investigation of the evidence by the Los Angeles Sheriff's department, its criminalist and the county coroner will prove that Phil Spector is innocent of any crime," Shapiro told The Associated Press in his first public comments since Spector's arrest seven weeks ago.
Earlier in the week, an L.A. radio station reported that investigators believe actress Lana Clarkson accidentally shot herself to death at Spector's home in Alhambra, Calif. A defiant Spector told The Post he never should have been arrested.
A high-ranking sheriff's investigator accused Shapiro and Spector of waging a publicity campaign before the police investigation is complete.
"Someone wants us to go back and forth on this," said Capt. Frank Merriman. "We're not going to play that. We're going to let the ball bounce a few times on our side of the net. I think it's an improper way of dealing with this."
Cops busted Spector after they found Clarkson, a stunning 40-year-old actress, dead in the foyer of the maestro's mansion.
Officers had to use a taser gun to subdue Spector before arresting him on suspicion of murder.
The 62-year-old music legend spent several hours in jail before posting $1 million bail.
Sigourney Talks Alien 5
By PATRICK SAURIOL
Hollywood March 14, 2003 (Cinescape) - Star Sigourney Weaver spoke to Cinema Confidential and gave the latest word about a possible ALIEN 5 flick. The last news heard was that Weaver and director Ridley Scott had met and talked about the idea, and it seems not a lot has changed. What is new is how the September 11 terrorist attacks may have altered the concept of focusing the story on Earth.
"In the current atmosphere where there is so much going on on earth, I can understand people wanting to see an adventure that’s far away and so I, myself, would love to go and see something happening on another planet," Weaver told Cinema Confidential. "You know, out by Mars or something. But we don’t have any definite plans."
Freeman Pushes Arthur C. Clarke's Rama
Hollywood March 14, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Actor Morgan Freeman told SCI FI Wire that he's still intent on producing an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's award-winning novel Rendezvous With Rama and is just waiting on a final script. "The bugaboo there is the script," Freeman said in an interview while promoting his upcoming film Dreamcatcher. "A picture like this, that is written by Arthur C. Clarke, the problem is trying to get someone to understand what it is."
Rama follows a team of astronauts sent to explore a mysterious cylindrical object that has suddenly appeared in our solar system. Freeman will star in the film, with David Fincher (Seven, Panic Room) set to direct.
Freeman said that the script has gone through several drafts in an effort to balance the commercial aspects with the science of Clarke's original story.
"These things, they always want to make it into an action film," Freeman said. "So you've got to cowboy it up a little bit. You can't do it with this. And we've been having trouble getting someone to see the science aspect of this, the exploratory aspects of it, rather than the blood and guts and stuff."
The project remains a priority for Freeman, who has been involved in bringing it to the screen for more than two and a half years. "It's not in limbo," he insisted. "We're pushing hard at it constantly."
[Rendezvous With Rama is just one of many Clarke novels well worth the read. It was once released as a video game in 1996, BTW, and the author of Rama and 2001: A Space Odyssey also wrote for Captain Video and his Video Rangers in 1949! A little space trivia for yuh. Ed.]
Paul McCartney Press Release
London March 18, 2003 - Paul McCartney will go live on the internet to reveal an extra special first-in-his-lifetime addition to his European Tour on Wednesday March 19th at 3pm.
The surprise venue will be announced in a special Internet video-chat to be webcast live and exclusive from a secret London location, during rehearsals for McCartney’s first UK and European Tour in 10 years - “Back in the World”.
Music fans worldwide will be able to have their questions answered live during the interview and see Paul answer them directly on-screen at: http://msn.co.uk/mccartney
Paulie's website - http://www.paulmcartney.com
Kill Ugly TV Department: The Latest Bad Idea
Hollywood March 18, 2003 (eXoNews) - It used to be called "plugging the sponsor". Now it's called "branded entertainment", and it's the latest buzz word in the wonderful world of network television.
The idea is to integrate the products sponsoring a TV show into the show's content. Like the contestants on ABC's latest reality show "All-American Girl" making calls on Cingular phones.
What's really new about plugging the sponsor? Absolutely nothing. TV detectives raced their shiny cars into close-ups of the Ford emblem for decades before some lame network nitwit renamed it "branded entertainment".
Until now, such plugs were considered somewhat unethical. They were also a sign of payola. Like every time somebody on TV pulls out a laptop with an Apple label, some production assistant gets a free Apple laptop.
The truth is that the networks are testing a new way to sell soap to viewers and they want to condition viewers first by making it all look like a big media innovation. It isn't. TV is all about how much soap you sell. Ask any Firefly fan. Or Farscape fan.
It's not enough to have the lower fifth of your TV screen filled with irritating network logos and animations about the next show on tonight's schedule or some multi-million dollar turkey coming next month. The networks will do anything to sell more soap!
Before long your favorite characters will sell you products while they cut up cadavers or chase the baddies. Why not? The networks have you where they want you. They figure all's fair in the battle for consumers. You watch your favorite stars, but you ignore the commercials, don't you?
You can't click the mute button or zip past branded entertainment. It's the next best thing to subliminal advertising.
In fact, you might say it is subliminal advertising. Blipverts, anyone? (There's an obscure TV reference for you: does anybody even remember Max Headroom? Got canceled. Not selling enough soap.)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Coca-Cola is planning a show called "Diet Coke MovieFest" on TNT that will show old movies around a contest for would-be actors plugging the soft drink.
TNT general manager Steve Koonin said TNT's Movie Fest "is the new model" for TV's future.
John Wolfe of the American Association of Advertising Agencies told the Journal-Constitution that branded entertainment is " a very real trend. It is definitely going to grow." [Cue Frank Zappa singing "Plastic people! Oh, baby now, you're such a drag!"]
I agree, but I say branded entertainment will be the death of TV - and none too soon! TV sucks!
By the way, viewers told ABC's "All-American Girl" to drop dead in its premiere episode by giving it a measly 4.3/7 overnight rating compared to a rerun of Law and Order over at NBC with a 8.7/13. I wonder how much Cingular had to pay for that 4.3/7 overnight?
Maybe viewers will resent branded entertainment enough to tell the networks to drop dead too? Gee, I hope so!
Kill ugly television!
Max Headroom - http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/M/htmlM/maxheadroom/maxheadroom.htm
ABC's "All-American Girl" - http://abc.abcnews.go.com/primetime/allamericangirl/index.html