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Mars For Xmas!
Thanksgiving! Chaucer?
Granny Gorilla, Plain of Jars,
2.6 Billion More by 2050!
Mars for Christmas!

European Space Agency Press Release

November 13, 2003 (ESA) - Europe's mission to the Red Planet, Mars Express, is on schedule to arrive at the planet on Christmas Day, 2003.

The lander, Beagle 2, is due to descend through the Martian atmosphere and touch down also on 25 December.

Mars Express is now within 20 million kilometers of the Red Planet and the next mission milestone comes on 19 December, when Mars Express will release Beagle 2. The orbiter spacecraft will send Beagle 2 spinning towards the planet on a precise trajectory.

Into orbit

Beagle has no propulsion system of its own, so it relies on correct aiming by the orbiter to find its way to the planned landing site, a flat basin in the low northern latitudes of Mars.

ESA engineers will then fire the orbiter's main engine in the early hours of 25 December to put Mars Express into orbit around Mars (called Mars Orbit Insertion, or MOI).


When Beagle 2 begins its descent, it will be slowed by friction with the Martian atmosphere. Nearer to the surface, parachutes will deploy and large gas-filled bags will inflate to cushion the final touchdown. Beagle 2 should bounce to a halt on Martian soil early on Christmas morning.

The first day on Mars is important for the lander because it has only a few hours to collect enough sunlight with its solar panels to recharge its battery.

Waiting for signal

We then have to wait for the radio 'life' signal from Beagle 2, relayed through the US Mars Odyssey spacecraft, to see if the probe has survived the landing. This could take hours or even days.

If nothing is received on Christmas morning, the UK Jodrell Bank Telescope will search for the faint radio signal from Beagle 2 in the evening. The Mars Express orbiter can also search for the lander but, because of its orbit, it will not be in place to do this until early January.

If all goes well, Mars Express and Beagle 2 will then begin their main mission - trying to answer the questions of whether there has been water, and possibly life, on Mars.

European Space Agency -

Beagle 2 -

Beagle Spends Xmas on Mars

LONDON November 11, 2003 (AP) - A British-built craft designed to scour the surface of Mars for signs of life is scheduled to land on the planet on Christmas Day, scientists said Tuesday.

The Beagle 2 lander is traveling aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express craft, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 2.

Scientists told journalists at a press briefing Tuesday that the unmanned spacecraft was about 13 million miles from Mars and expected to reach the planet in mid-December.

"As of 16:00 (GMT) yesterday, Mars Express is on collision course for Mars," said John Reddy, the project's chief electrical systems engineer.

On Dec. 19, the craft will eject the Beagle 2 landing module - a 132-lb shell shaped like an oversized wok and packed with scientific instruments.

If all goes to plan, it will parachute to the surface on Dec. 25, flip open and begin conducting experiments.

Mars Explorer will orbit the planet for at least one Martian year, 687 Earth days. Its antenna will receive data from Beagle 2 and the orbiter's own instruments and beam it to Earth.

Reddy said scientists were "98 percent confident" all would go well.

Scientists believe Mars once had water and appropriate conditions for life but lost it billions of years ago, possibly after being hit by asteroids. It is believed that water might still exist on Mars as underground ice.

Previous attempts to find signs of life have been inconclusive. Of 34 unmanned American, Soviet and Russian missions to Mars since 1960, two-thirds ended in failure. In 1976, twin U.S. Viking landers searched for life but sent back inconclusive results.

Beagle 2 - named for the ship that carried naturalist Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery in the 1830s - has ambitious scientific aims: It will collect soil and rock samples, dig into Mars to search for organic materials and check the atmosphere for traces of methane produced by living organisms.

"We are dealing with the magnetic question of 'is there life on a second planet in the solar system?'" said Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2's lead scientist. "We're talking about the possibility of not being alone in the universe."

The mission also will map the planet and use powerful radar to probe below the surface for evidence of water.

Mars Explorer is not the only mission heading to the red planet. Two American Mars rover craft are due to arrive in January, and Japan's trouble-plagued Nozomi orbiter, launched in 1998, continues on its way despite technical problems.

Mars Explorer, which cost about $345 million, is an attempt to demonstrate that Europe can have an effective - and relatively inexpensive - space exploration program.

"I think it's important that Europe has its own way of going and exploring the planets," said David Southwood, the space agency's science director. "It's part of Europe's destiny that it should reach out and start exploring the solar system."

Mars Express:

Thanksgiving: A time for healthful eating?

American Chemical Society Press Release

November 11, 2003 - Thanksgiving: the start of holiday feasting and the source of January guilt. Could there be something redeeming about those delicious calorie-loaded items piled on the table? Yes. The traditional Thanksgiving menu is actually replete with healthful foods.

Here is a sampling of recent research findings about the benefits of some favorite Thanksgiving dishes. These highlights were gathered from recent research publications and conferences of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Stuffing - Turkey's traditional Thanksgiving partner is rich in antioxidants, studies show. Bread crust - an ingredient in most stuffing - is more healthful than the rest of the bread and crust-rich stuffing is packed with antioxidants. Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., formerly with the German Research Center of Food Chemistry reported this finding in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cranberries - This Thanksgiving staple is known to be packed with antioxidants, but new studies suggest that cranberries also can aid recovery from stroke. The red berries, famous in Thanksgiving sauces, may protect brain cells from death after a stroke, according to findings presented at the September national meeting of the American Chemical Society by Catherine Neto, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Corn - Reminiscent of the first Thanksgiving, the meal just wouldn't be the same without corn, and studies show that canned corn may be healthier for you than corn on the cob. Researchers at Cornell University say that heat processing of sweet corn significantly raises the level of naturally occurring compounds that help fight disease, including cancer and heart disease. The study was reported by Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Coffee - For many people, an autumn feast would not be complete without a steaming cup of joe. A newly identified antioxidant found in coffee is particularly potent at preventing colon cancer, according to a recent study. The research, led by Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., of the University of Mnster in Germany, was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry this month.

Hot Cocoa - Colder weather just begs for a warm mug of hot cocoa. Scientists have found that hot cocoa tops both red wine and tea in antioxidants, chemicals that have been shown to fight cancer, heart disease and aging. Chang Yong Lee, Ph.D., from Cornell University examined the benefits of the popular beverage in a study published online this month in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Recipe for Cranberry Chutney

(courtesy of the Belmont Conference Center in Maryland)
2c dried cranberries
1c red wine
1c orange juice
1/2c red wine vinegar
1c sugar
1tsp garlic
1Tbl fresh ginger
1/4c diced onion
1/2 stick cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch red flake pepper
to taste salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to simmer until thickened (approx. 45 min-1hr).

Cigarette a Day Keeps the Doctor Away??

University of Houston Press Release

HOUSTON November 11, 2003 – Cigarettes might just hold the key to treating some serious neurological problems.

Scientists at the University of Houston have unlocked one of the first doors, discovering that nicotine repairs damaged brain function.

Karim Alkadhi, associate professor of pharmacology, and his team of researchers at the UH College of Pharmacy recently have established that nicotine has a beneficial effect and, in many cases, even repairs memory impairment caused by stress on the brain.

Stress has long been shown to trigger various biological responses in the body, with scientific research increasingly supporting the pivotal role it can play in both aggravating and causing certain disorders, many of which are damaging if not deadly. According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90 percent of doctor visits can be attributed to stress-related maladies, making stress among America's top health problems.

Alkadhi will present the findings of his research team regarding the effect nicotine has on stress-induced memory impairment, as well as how nicotine may improve some of the learning and memory problems associated with hypothyroidism, such as cloudy thinking and inability to concentrate, at the Society for Neuroscience 33rd Annual Meeting in New Orleans Tuesday.

This research eventually may help scientists develop new approaches and therapeutic agents that run the gamut from boosting memory to treating hypothyroidism. Even greater are the implications for such devastating diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's that could be helped once safe approaches are designed to mimic the beneficial effect of nicotine on stress.

Next on the agenda for the UH team is to decipher how stress and hypothyroidism produce mental deficits and what role nicotine plays in correcting them.

Who Killed Chaucer?

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

London November 7, 2003 (Discovery) — Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century author of The Canterbury Tales, may have been murdered, according to a new book authored by former "Monty Python" member Terry Jones and backed by a team of English literature scholars.

According to Jones and his team, both Chaucer and his writings, including The Canterbury Tales, could have become "politically inconvenient" during the turbulent overthrow of King Richard II by Henry IV in 1399.

Jones' new book, Who Murdered Chaucer?, is itself a bit of a mystery. A representative for the publisher, Methuen, refused to send a review copy to Discovery News. Three authors of the book did not respond to queries. Terry Jones' representative at Methuen also did not respond. (Note: A review copy of the book was received by Discovery News a week after this story was originally published.)

Based on recent lectures given by Jones at a number of American and U.K. universities, however, Discovery News was able to piece together the speculation over Chaucer's death.

Jones and his colleagues allege that in 1400, Chaucer basically disappears. They say there is no official confirmation of his death, no chronicle entry, no notice of a funeral or burial, no will, and no remaining manuscripts.

Given the author's status as a public figure and senior member of Richard II's court, Chaucer did receive a tomb at Westminster Abbey. Jones and his team claim that the rather unimposing tomb was not in keeping with a person of Chaucer's status. It was replaced in the 16th century.

Evidence for a motive might be present in The Canterbury Tales. In the book, Chaucer mocks the English church establishment. He presents corrupt church officials, such as a friar who is banished to hell. Other characters, including the pardoner, summoner and prioress, are presented in a less than favorable light.

Chaucer also had close ties to Richard II, whose own death in 1400 was suspicious. In his play Richard II, Shakespeare claimed the king was murdered. Others suggest Richard II starved himself to death while imprisoned during the overthrow.

Alan Fletcher, a lecturer in medieval studies at University College Dublin, and one of Jones' co-authors, told the Times of London, "Chaucer was under a very dark cloud indeed. The regime was against him. It is quite possible that he was just quietly shut up, as it was more convenient to have him out of the way than around."

While Fletcher did not name a possible murderer, Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appears to be their prime suspect. In 1397, Arundel petitioned Henry IV and Parliament to make the penalty for heresy death by burning, along with confiscation of the accused's belongings.

Fletcher said Chaucer "vanishes without a trace" after possible residence at the Sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, a place that provided immunity from prosecution.

In his book, The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, Derek Pearsall agrees that controversial commentary on issues could have put Chaucer's life in danger. Pearsall, however, disagrees with the theories presented in Jones' book. He told a BBC Radio 4 interviewer that the arguments occupied some place between "the deeply implausible and the wholly preposterous."

Before the October release in England of Who Murdered Chaucer? Pearsall added, "Terry Jones has got a habit of hanging onto ideas and pressing on with them, and so the book is coming out."

Fletcher admitted that the new book "is deliberately provocative," but believes it will be successful if it makes people rethink what could have happened to Chaucer at that turbulent moment in history over 600 years ago.

World's Oldest Person Dies in Japan Aged 114

TOKYO November 13, 2003 (Reuters) - The oldest person in the world, Mitoyo Kawate, died in Japan Thursday at the age of 114, two weeks after receiving the designation.

Kawate died of pneumonia in hospital in the southwestern city of Hiroshima, a Japanese health ministry official said.

It was not immediately clear who was now the world's oldest person.

The ministry official said that Japan's oldest woman was now 113-year-old Ura Koyama, who lives in the southwestern city of Fukuoka.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, the oldest American, Charlotte Benkner of North Lima, Ohio, celebrates her 114th birthday on Nov. 16.

Kawate became the oldest person after the death on Oct. 31 of fellow Japanese Kamato Hongo at the age of 116 years and 45 days.

According to the web site of the Guinness Book of World Records,, Kawate, whose birthday was May 15, 1889, was born less than a month after Adolf Hitler and in the year the Eiffel Tower was completed.

It records the oldest man whose birth can be fully authenticated as Joan Riudavets Moll, a 113-year-old man in Menorca, Spain.

The oldest woman in Albania, Hava Rexha, died this month at the age of 123. Although the process of registering her with the Guinness Book of Records had been started, her documents had not been authenticated before she died.

Granny Gorilla Knows Best

By Stephen Leahy
New Scientist

November 13, 2003 - A captive female gorilla has been spotted teaching her daughter how to tend to her newborn. Gorilla mothers are often seen teaching their young to walk and climb, but primatologists believe this is the first report of a mother instructing her daughter on baby care.

The daughter, an 11-year-old western lowland gorilla called Ione, had neglected her first baby, which her keepers raised.

So for several days after the birth of her second baby at San Diego Wild Animal Park, the keepers and primatologist Masayuki Nakamichi of Osaka University in Japan kept a close eye on her.

Initially, Ione simply left her baby on the ground in front of her 21-year-old mother, Alberta, who picked him up and handed him back. When Ione made no move to take the baby, Alberta moved closer pushing the newborn into his mother's face until she took him.

Variations on this sequence occurred several times in the first two days. By the third and fourth day, Ione was holding the baby. Sometimes, Alberta would hold the baby's arm, and Ione would hand him over, but when the baby nestled into its grandmother, Ione quickly took him back.

With time, Alberta became less involved. Nakamichi argues that Alberta's actions were attempts to teach Ione appropriate maternal behavior.

"These behaviors are subtle. It takes an acute observer to spot them," says James Moore of the University of California in San Diego. Sadly Ione died when the baby was 10 months old, but another female gorilla successfully fostered the baby.

New Scientist -

San Diego Zoo -

Theater Director Mooning Hearing Delayed
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil November 12, 2003 (AP) - Avant-garde theater director Gerald Thomas is going to have wait a little longer to learn the price of a moon.

On Tuesday, prosecutors asked a Rio judge to postpone a hearing on whether or not Thomas would face indecent exposure charges for mooning the audience following an opera performance in August.

Following a performance of Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" at Rio de Janeiro's municipal theater, Thomas shocked audience members and much of the cast by taking down his pants and displaying his buttocks in response to jeers at the curtain call.

The over-top-production featured sashaying fashion models and an actor playing Sigmund Freud who threw around a white powder meant to be cocaine.

Thomas, who is Jewish, claims he mooned the audience in response to anti-Semitic catcalls from the crowd. Thomas apologized for his actions on a nationally televised talk show, but prosecutors insist he be charged.

The hearing was postponed until Feb. 17 because a key witness failed to appear, a press officer for the court explained. The 49-year-old director who grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and London has collaborated with the late Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and the American composer Philip Glass.

If convicted, Thomas faces between three months and a year in prison or a fine.
Plain of Jars - Laos Stonehenge

By Richard C. Paddock
Los Angeles Times

THONG HAI HIN Laos November 13, 2003 (LA Times) - The first time Sousath Phetrasy saw the huge stone jars scattered in a grassy field, he was entranced.

Carefully avoiding old unexploded bombs in the ground, the Laotian businessman walked among hundreds of the ancient, lichen-covered containers, each one large enough to hold a person. The biggest weighed more than 6 tons.

From that moment in 1990, the jars became his obsession. He quit his state job and moved to northern Laos to be near them.

Over the next seven years, he spent his spare time clearing unexploded bombs, grenades and mortar shells -- leftovers from the United States' 1960s-era "secret war" in Laos -- from three jar fields. His only tools were an old metal detector and a long knife.

"I wanted to open the mysteries of the jars, the power of the jars, and let people feel that they have come to a holy place," said Sousath, now 43 and the owner of a tourist hotel. "This is the brother of Stonehenge and Easter Island."

Perhaps 2,000 years old, the relics on the plateau known as the Plain of Jars are one of the oldest -- and unexplained -- archeological wonders of Southeast Asia.

They have survived looters, the elements and American bombs, but for decades were largely forgotten in the chaos and conflict that swept Laos.

Archeologists say there are thousands of jars in this part of northern Laos. The believe that the jars were used to hold bodies for months or years while the remains decomposed.

The bones were later removed, cleaned and buried or, in some cases, cremated. Known as secondary burial, the practice is typical of the Bronze and Iron ages and still occurs in the region.

But experts know little about the people who made them.

Laos' Communist government reluctantly agreed to Sousath's proposal to open the jar sites to foreigners -- then made him head of the local tourism agency. He built his small hotel in the nearby town of Phonsavan and began giving tours of the fields he helped clear.

Most of the jars are on tranquil, grassy knolls above villages and rice fields. Typically, the knolls have sweeping views of the countryside. Cows sometimes wander among the jars, grazing on the grass.

Today, a few thousand intrepid travelers from around the world make the trek each year to see the jars in this remote province where craters from American bombs still scar the countryside and farmers use old bomb casings to make pigsties and storage sheds.

But even Sousath has misgivings about opening the sites to tourists, who sometimes clamber onto the jars or pick away at the worn, sedimentary stone.

"The jars are holy, but people climb on them," he complained. "People want to damage them. We need to educate them and tell them how to behave."

Richard Engelhardt, a UNESCO archeologist based in Bangkok, Thailand, who is heading a United Nations project to map the location of the jars, said the Plain of Jars is "probably the most important Iron Age site in Southeast Asia."

So far, the group has documented more than 300 jar fields scattered across the plain -- 10 times the number previously known.

Rhyme Disagree With FCC

WASHINGTON November 11, 2003 (AP) - Musicians worried that new media ownership rules will make it harder to get airtime are taking the fight from the Capitol to their own turf, embarking on a grass-roots music tour to lobby for legislation to undo the changes.

The "Tell Us the Truth Tour" with Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Lester Chambers and others is a twist on a long tradition of protest music in the United States.

Bragg acknowledged that media consolidation is an unusually complex topic to take on through song. The British folk-rock artist said he wasn't sure whether he would - or could - work "Federal Communications Commission" into any of his lyrics but said he has other ways to get the point across. He said several songs are about free speech, for example.

"Entertainment's the most important thing. These gigs will be entertaining, I promise you," Bragg said. "The most we can do is offer the audience a different perspective and make people understand that music doesn't just come out of the radio."

While the tour is meant to inspire grass-roots activism, some well-known Washington players also are involved.

The tour, which also addresses trade issues, is sponsored in part by the AFL-CIO and Common Cause. Both are pressing Congress to undo the FCC rules, which eliminated decades-old ownership restrictions on radio and television stations and newspapers.

Several major media companies pushed for the change, arguing the old rules predated the growth of cable, satellite broadcasting and the Internet and harmed their ability to compete.

Several AFL-CIO affiliates, such as the Communication Workers of America and the Screen Actors Guild, are affected by the rules, said Joe Uehlein, the AFL-CIO's director of strategic communications. As the media industry consolidates, jobs are lost, he said.

Uehlein refused to say how much the union was paying as a tour sponsor.

"We view it as a way to communicate our message through nontraditional means," he said. "Music has always been central to our movement."

The tour started Friday in Madison, Wis., as part of a national conference on media reform and ends Nov. 24 in Washington after stops in Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., Miami and other cities.

It's unclear what the public's appetite is for music with a message. Though the United States has a long history of protest music, entertainers who have blended politics with performances have had mixed receptions over the years.

Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" was written as a protest song, Bragg noted, and wound up becoming a classic. Guthrie composed it as an alternative to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" to make the point that the country belonged to the poor as well as the rich.

Popular music was entwined with Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and '70s. A range of musicians including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Billy Joel and Bette Midler came together to record "We Are the World" in 1985 and raised millions of dollars for hunger relief in Africa.

On the other hand, Bragg said his songs about the Iran-Contra scandal and Nicaragua in the 1980s got little attention.

More recently, the Dixie Chicks were thrown off several country music stations, including chain-owned outlets, for criticizing President Bush because of the war in Iraq. Last April, dozens of fans booed and walked out of a Pearl Jam concert in Denver after lead singer Eddie Vedder slammed the war and Bush, impaling a mask of Bush on a microphone stand.

Rachel Einwohner, a Purdue University sociology professor and expert on protests, said the music itself is just one factor in how it's received.

"We Are the World," for example, was about an uncontroversial topic and drew frequent airplay and other support by heavyweights in the music industry, she said.

"It's the music plus who's doing the singing and what kind of backing do they have, and what broader environment are they in, and what cause are they fighting for," Einwohner said.

Tell Us the Truth Tour:

National Association of Broadcasters:
2.6 Billion More Humans by 2050!

Rockefeller University Press Release

November 13, 2003 - It took from the beginning of time until 1950 to put the first 2.5 billion people on the planet. Yet in the next half-century, an increase that exceeds the total population of the world in 1950 will occur.

So writes Joel E. Cohen, Ph.D., Dr.P.H., professor and head of the Laboratory of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University, in a Viewpoint article in the November 14 issue of the journal Science.

In "Human Population: The Next Half-Century," Cohen examines the history of human population and how it might change by the year 2050. By then, the earth's present population of 6.3 billion is estimated to grow by 2.6 billion.

"There are some things we can reasonably know and other things we cannot know," Cohen says about population projections. "By examining population size and distribution, it is possible to get a feeling for possible challenges to our future well-being. It is possible to get a sense of the larger picture."

What can be reasonably predicted? The world's population will be growing at a slower rate than it is today, especially in the richer, developed countries, but it will be larger by 2 to 4 billion people. It will also be more urban, especially in the underdeveloped countries. And it will be more elderly. However, exactly how international migration and family structures will change demographers cannot say.

"I also do not know whether we will inflict a doomsday on ourselves by warfare, disease or catastrophe. Our future depends on choices -- on the choices we have made in the past and those we will make in the future," adds Cohen. "We cannot continue the exceptional growth of this last half century without experiencing consequences."

The demographic projections that Cohen cites assume that fertility rates will continue to decline and that more effective preventions and treatments against HIV and AIDS will be implemented and major catastrophes such as biological warfare, severe climate change, or thermonuclear holocaust will not be inflicted on the human population and the planet. These assumptions underlie the United Nations Population Division's urbanization forecasts and its online database, World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision.

In the Science article, Cohen reports such statistical information as the following:

* history of human population: It took from the beginning of time until about 1927 to put the first 2 billion people on the planet; less than 50 years to add the next 2 billion people (by 1974); and just 25 years to add the next 2 billion (by 1999). In the most recent 40 years, the population doubled.

* birth rates: The global total fertility rate fell from five children per woman per lifetime in 1950 to 2.7 children in 2000, a result of worldwide efforts to make contraception and reproductive health services available, as well as other cultural changes. Encouraging as this is, if fertility remains at present levels instead of continuing to decline, the population would grow to 12.8 billion by 2050 instead of the projected 8.9 billion.

* urbanization: In 1800, roughly 2 percent of people lived in cities; in 1900, 12 percent; in 2000, more than 47 percent. In 1900, not one metropolitan region had 10 million people or more. By 1950, one region did -- New York. In 2000, 19 urban regions had 10 million people or more. Of those 19, only four (Tokyo, Osaka, New York, and Los Angeles) were in industrialized countries.

* poor, underdeveloped regions: Despite higher death rates, the population of poor countries grows six times faster than that of rich countries.

* population density: The world's average population density is expected to rise from 45 people per square kilometer in the year 2000 to 66 people per square kilometer by 2050. Assuming 10 percent of land is arable, population densities per unit of arable land will be roughly 10 times higher, posing unprecedented problems of land use and preservation for the developing world.

* aging population: The 20th century will probably be the last when younger people outnumbered older ones. By 2050, there will be 2.5 people aged 60 years or older for every child 4 years old or younger, a shift that has serious implications for health care spending for the young and old.

Although it is not possible to predict how global demographics will affect families or international migration, Cohen points out that three factors set the stage for major changes in families: fertility falling to very low levels; increasing longevity; and changing mores of marriage, cohabitation and divorce.

In a population with one child per family, no children have siblings, Cohen explains. In the next generation, the children of those children have no cousins, aunts, or uncles.

If people are between ages 20 and 30 on the average when they have children and live to 80 years of age, they will have decades of life after their children have reached adulthood, and their children will have decades of life with elderly parents, Cohen also points out.

Cohen's article kicks off a four-week long series titled "The State of the Planet," which examines key issues of our planet's well-being. Cohen was asked to initiate the series because "population is people and people matter."

Genre News: Angel 6th Season? Looney Tunes, Star Trek Enterprise, Emma Caulfield, Micky Dolenz, Cold Squad & More!

Angel Bites
By FLAtRich

Hollywood November 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - Kristin over at E Online reports the following Angel news (in chat format with Kristin fans):

Q: Angel season six?! Yes or no. Circle one. I love you.
Kristin: Yes. Already picked up. And I love you, too.

Q: Is Tom Lenk going to appear in Angel? Yay!
Kristin: Yes! Thank you, I almost forgot. Tom Lenk comes back for Angel's 11th episode, and we find out that Giles has been training him.

There is another tidbit about Spike and Harmony, but we don't do spoilers here. Read the rest from Kristin at

I don't believe that first bit about Angel being picked up for a sixth season, BTW. Too early for the WB (unless this is a special deal with Joss maybe) and there are no other WB announcements about the future of any other WB shows - other than canning Tarzan.

Some of the dark brooders at the Buffy/Angel Discussion Forum agree, others are hoping it is true. (Hey! So am I, believe me!)

As one fan put it "I NEED ANGEL!-IT MUST BE TRUE!"

A few weeks ago we all read that Angel was picked up for a full season five over the initial WB season five commitment for 13 episodes. Maybe Kristin would like to withdraw that season six answer?

[In fairness to the first lady of TV gossip, there was a hint that the WB would be favorable to a sixth season way back in May when they confirmed season five. Ed.]

Darla fans should also read the online interview with Julie Benz on the Sarah Michelle Gellar Fan Page at

Angel Official Site -,7353,||139,00.html

Angel Fan Poll -

Toons Make Big Comeback!
By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES November 12, 2003 (Reuters) - For Warner Bros. movie studio, everything that has a beginning has an end.

Fortunately, some things that have an end also find a new beginning -- like the revival of one of the great cartoon franchises in history.

Goodbye to the Matrix's Neo. Hello Bugs Bunny.

This week the studio owned by Time Warner Inc. has been prepping "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" for a weekend debut that is part of a campaign to revitalize classic cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

That comes just as Warner rolled out "The Matrix Revolutions," the last chapter in the Matrix trilogy, simultaneously in 96 countries to over $200 million at box offices in the widest release ever for any movie.

While the "Looney Tunes" movie is not preceded by a $1.2 billion global box office franchise like the "Matrix" movies, it may have an even greater impact on the studio's long-term health, Warner executives and Wall Street analysts said.

But to realize their new destiny, Looney Tunes had to be picked up, dusted off and re-introduced to youngsters.

"The Looney Tunes still stack up great for young teenagers ... but it has become more challenging for us (reaching) pre-schoolers and right above that, " said Kevin Tsujihara, executive vice president of business development and strategy.

Since 1930, Looney Tunes have been beloved for their sophisticated jokes and slapstick humor. They have won Oscars and made stars of animator Chuck Jones and voice artist Mel Blanc. The library includes some 1,100 classic cartoons.

Analysts were wary of valuing the library because doing so requires a look at Warners' books. Still, conservative estimates ranged from $800 million to under $1 billion. Much of that value cannot be unlocked, however, if Warner Bros. is not continually re-introducing the characters.


"It's important that they refresh the library, because if you don't use it, it's all soon forgotten," said Hal Vogel, New York-based fund manager who runs Vogel Capital Management.

Warner Bros. did this with 1996's "Space Jam," featuring basketball star Michael Jordan. Critics panned the movie, yet it scored $225 million in global ticket sales and spurred record sales of Looney Tunes merchandise.

"For Looney Tunes, 1996 was the biggest year we ever had," said Dan Romanelli, president of worldwide consumer products.

Warner Bros. employed the same strategy with cartoon dog Scooby-Doo and his ghost hunting human friends. Last summer's "Scooby-Doo" movie earned $267 million at global box offices, and Romanelli said merchandise sales exceeded forecasts. He declined to provide specific sales figures.

There is TV advertising to be exploited, too. In August, Warner Bros. premiered the new "Duck Dodgers" show with Daffy, Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian. It gets 1.6 million viewers on the Cartoon Network and is the cable TV outlet's No. 3 rated show among kids 2 years-old to 11 years-old.

To keep the ball rolling, Warner plans new Looney Tune short films. The first already debuted in Wal-Mart stores, among other places, and the second will screen ahead of new movie "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" this March.

At box offices, the $80 million "Back in Action" faces competition against "Elf" and Disney's "Brother Bear," but there was little concern about debut weekend tallies.

"The Looney Tunes franchise won't be hurt by one movie," said Dave Davis, senior vice president of entertainment for investment bankers Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin.

NBC Goes After Nielsen

LOS ANGELES November 12, 2003 ( - On Monday (Nov. 10), in the midst of a surprisingly tight sweeps race for the coveted demographic of adults 18-49, NBC researchers targeted the true culprit. No, the fault lies not in "Coupling" or "The Lyon's Den" (though NBC President Jeff Zucker admitted last week that many of the network's falls offerings "sucked"), but in Nielsen Media Research.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (whose parent company, VNU, just happens to also own Nielsen), NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel charged that by changing its statistical sample, the ratings provider has created invalid year-to-year comparisons. Wurztel suggests that it is this inaccuracy that has created the impression of a large drop in young adult viewers, rather than an actual dip in viewership.

This season, Nielsen has added more Hispanic males aged 18-34 to the sample of 5,100 TV homes in order to make Nielsen homes more representative of the U.S. population at large. NBC says, though, that those young Hispanic viewers are the ones who aren't watching as much television and that young viewers in other demographics are still glued to the tube.

Nielsen begs to differ.

"The data doesn't seem to indicate that this [change] accounts for a huge percent of the falloff," Jack Loftus, a spokesman for Nielsen, tells the HR. Loftus notes that while there has been a decline in viewership among young Hispanic males, the data shows a general drop as well.

The networks have long expressed some level of discomfort with Nielsen's statistical methodology and its stranglehold on ratings information, but as all of the major networks not named "CBS" experience these dramatically lower numbers, it seems likely that this season's anti-Nielsen complaints will be louder than ever.

NBC Does Apocalypse

Hollywood November 12, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - NBC is partnering with writer David Seltzer (The Omen) and producer Gavin Polone to develop a six-to-eight-hour limited series based on the apocalypse as foretold in the Book of Revelation, Variety reported.

NBC hopes to roll out the series right after its broadcast of the Athens Olympics in late August, airing an hour a week as an event designed to create momentum for the fall season, the trade paper reported.

Set just before the start of Armageddon, the series will follow two central characters, a physicist and a nun, who are racing against the clock to see if the apocalypse can be averted. It's possible the limited series could include an Antichrist character, sources told the trade paper.

The series is as yet untitled.

Virtual Enterprise
By FLAtRich

Hollywood November 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - I paid a recent visit to the once again revamped Star Trek Federation HQ at and was delighted to see that the site producers have added a virtual QuickTime tour of Enterprise.

This is the Star Trek: Enterprise ship I'm talking about, not one of the many others from the TOS or STTNG eras, and it's not as fulfilling as the STTNG Interactive software that I bought many years ago to get a virtual tour of Picard's ship (narrated by Jonathan Frakes), but it does allow you to get a glimpse at all those displays and Phlox's sickbay and that old-fashioned transporter they're all afraid to use.

If you have the latest QuickTime installed you probably already know that once you view QuickTime on the web it's in your browser cache and you can save the movie to your hard disk and view it later at your leisure.

Same is true of QuickTime VR and once you get the ST: E VR into your offline player you can also stretch the frame size to get a bigger look (the picture does deteriorate somewhat with with enlargement.)

Oddly enough, the Star Trek Newsletter folks haven't played up this feature of the "new" site.

Maybe the franchise has forgotten what made Star Trek online cool or maybe they're just afraid of the transporter too?

In any case, it's a nice tour that any Enterprise fan will want to take.

Do it here -

Scott's Bakula!

[Star Trek Online provided this fan notice. Find out more at Ed.]

November 11, 2003 (Star Trek Online) - Scott Bakula ("Captain Archer") makes another triumphant return to STARTREK.COM on Wednesday, November 19 to talk about the latest episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.

(The time of the chat is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time, but that may be a bit flexible given his shooting schedule. We advise that you check back on the morning of the chat for a confirmed time.)

Airing on that day will be "Similitude," an episode that Scott has already singled out as a one of Enterprise's best:

"'Similitude' is a very interesting script by a new writer, Manny Coto, and it involves an explosion on the ship that gravely injures Trip, and an effort to clone Trip in order to replace the part of his brain that's been damaged. I don't want to give too much more away about it, because it's really interesting and deals with a lot of topical issues dealing with cloning, but I will say again it's one of our best scripts in three years. And a great episode for Connor [Trinneer]." — Chat transcript from Oct. 1, 2003

Scott's participation in these special event chats continues to break new ground for us here at STARTREK.COM. Never before have we had the opportunity to experience this level of synergy between the star of the show and the publicity that goes into promoting an episode. We would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Bakula for taking the time to participate in these chats. If you've been to one of the previous three, you know how much fun they can be.

We've covered many subjects with Scott over the past two months, so keep those questions coming. Remember, we are looking for submitted questions that are the most original and thought provoking.

You can e-mail your questions ahead of time about the latest episodes and the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise to:

Sulu Returns to WWII Camp
Associated Press Writer

ROHWER, Arkansas November 12, 2003 (AP) - A cypress root harvested from an Arkansas swamp 60 years ago is one of the few mementoes Star Trek actor George Takei has from his childhood at a World War II internment camp.

The gnarled knee reminds him of a part of his past he had revisited only in his mind — until this week.

As he traveled Sunday through this remote stretch of southeast Arkansas farmland, where he and more than 8,500 other Japanese-Americans lived during the war, Takei spoke of finding resilience in beauty.

"What (the root) symbolizes for me is that my parents were able to survive by finding and creating things that were beautiful," said Takei, who keeps the memento on his desk in his Los Angeles home.

Takei, who portrayed Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series and in six Star Trek movies, was four when he, his parents and two younger siblings were ordered from their Los Angeles home and taken by railroad under armed guard to Arkansas after Pearl Harbor.

Six decades later, Takei drove alongside the same railroad tracks to visit the former Rohwer Relocation Center.

"My mother said the scariest part about that trip was the uncertainty," Takei said, glancing out of a car window at the abandoned rail tracks that once led to the camp. "I remember my father telling us we were going on a long vacation to a place called Arkansas."

The Takeis spent a year at the Arkansas camp. They were later sent to a higher security camp at Tule Lake, Calif.

Takei, 64, returned to Rohwer in part to bring awareness to an effort to preserve the history of the Arkansas camps by the Little Rock-based Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Japanese-American National Museum. Takei is chairman of the museum board.

More than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were sent from the West Coast and Hawaii to 10 internment camps. Eight camps were in the West; two Arkansas sites were the only ones in the South.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the actor drew on his history and celebrity to fight discrimination against Arab-Americans by helping organize a candlelight vigil at the museum and a public radio forum.

"There were chilling echoes of World War II," he said.

Takei Autobiography in Presidential Library

LITTLE ROCK Arkansas November 12, 2003 (AP) - The autobiography of "Star Trek" actor George Takei will be among the books on display starting this month in a preview exhibit for the Bill Clinton Presidential Library.

"To the Stars," written by Takei in 1994, details the actor's life from his childhood days in Japanese-American internment camps in Arkansas and California during World War II to his rise to stardom portraying Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" TV series and in six "Star Trek" movies.

Takei, who spent a year at an internment camp in Rohwer, sent a copy of his book to Clinton with a special inscription taken from the "Star Trek" series.

He wrote: "Dear President Clinton, with whom I share an Arkansas boyhood. Live long and prosper."

The book exhibit will run from Nov. 23 through Jan. 3 in downtown Little Rock's Cox Building. Along with Takei's book, the exhibit will feature books Clinton used at Oxford and Yale Law School, the volumes on his recommended reading list, gifts he received as president from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and his collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia.

George Takei Official site -

Around the Networks - Emma Returns

November 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - More news about The Lyon's Den, reported canceled last week. Futon Critic is naming Nicolas Coster (Santa Barbara) as a new cast member of the show, which kind of puts the earlier report to shame if true. Maybe there's life in the Lyon yet?

Emma Caulfield (Anya on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) will return to comedy in an 2004 ABC Family Channel TV movie called I Want To Marry Ryan Banks, a romantic farce about making a reality show.

Jason Priestley stars and Emma plays the sought after contestant everybody wants. [Me too! Ed.]

Producer Robert Halmi, Jr. has wrapped production on two classic remakes for Hallmark. The first is Frankenstein, a four-part mini starring Luke Goss as the monster and Alec Newman as Victor Frankenstein.

Newman was Paul Atreides in Sci Fi Channel's Children of Dune. The second is King Solomon's Mines starring Patrick Swayze as Allan Quatermain. Both will turn up in 2004 on the Hallmark Channel.

Al Franken Considers Running for Senator

MINNEAPOLIS November 12, 2003 (AP) - Comedian Al Franken, a Minnesota native, says he's considering moving back to the state to run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008.

"It's a long way away, five years away," Franken told the Star Tribune this week. "It might be crazy. I might not be the best candidate. Part of this is seeing what happens next year and what direction things are going."

His possible bid for the Senate was first reported by Newsweek. When asked to respond to the story, Coleman said: "I have no comment. I don't do comedy."

Franken, a friend of the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, said he's being encouraged by his friends to run. Driving him as well has been his distaste for the Bush presidency, he said.

"I felt like after 9-11 this president had a chance. We were united in a way that I had never seen, and he had a chance to take this country forward in a spirit of mutual purpose and mutual sacrifice," the liberal humorist said. "Instead, he just hijacked it and used it to his own political ends."

Franken, 52, is the author of the best-selling "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

Al Franken -

WB Does Dark Shadows

Hollywood November 11, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - The WB has ordered a pilot for a new incarnation of the classic ABC vampire soap opera, Variety reported.

Dan Curtis, the original series' producer, will team up with John Wells (The West Wing, ER) to executive produce the new Shadows, the trade paper reported.

Warner Brothers TV and John Wells Productions will produce the pilot, aimed at a 2004-'05 prime-time drama slot.

Mark Verheiden (the Timecop TV pilot), who now serves as co-executive producer of The WB's Smallville, is set to write the Dark Shadows script, the trade paper reported.

Dark Shadows was previously resurrected as an NBC miniseries in the winter of 1991, with Ben Cross playing vampire Barnabas Collins, a role originated by Jonathan Frid in the 1966-'71 soap opera.

Art Carney
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES November 12, 2003 (AP) - When actors win Oscars, it's customary for them to celebrate with champagne or harder stuff. When Art Carney was named best actor of 1974 for "Harry and Tonto," he consumed not a drop. As a recovering alcoholic, Carney explained that he wanted to savor the evening.

There had been many mornings-after when he drew a blank on the night before.

Carney, who died Sunday at 85, had a boozing history that began at 18 when he was touring with Horace Heidt's band and was introduced to gin and grapefruit juice for breakfast.

Thereafter, alcohol provided the willpower to get on stage in vaudeville and on Broadway and to match buffoonery with Jackie Gleason on television's "The Honeymooners."

"The first thing I did when I checked into a hotel was call service to send up a bottle," he recalled. "Although I never saw my father and mother falling-down drunk, drinking was certainly a part of our family life," Carney told The Associated Press in 1975. "Out of six sons, four of us have drinking problems."

The crackup came during one of his greatest triumphs: costarring with Walter Matthau on Broadway in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple."

His 25-year first marriage was shattering and he was "heavy on the booze and the pills," Carney recalled.

He dropped out of the play and committed himself to a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut. He was released after four months.

"I guess I wasn't cured, because in a month I was back in the hospital," he said.

Offstage, Carney was modest; the Oscar for "Harry and Tonto" came as a surprise to him.

"I didn't think it was an Oscar-winning role," he said, "and I was sure that (Jack) Nicholson or one of the other actors would win."

Nicholson was up for "Chinatown." The other contenders were Albert Finney for "Murder on the Orient Express," Dustin Hoffman for "Lenny" and Al Pacino for "The Godfather Part II."

Basically a character actor, Carney wasn't able to convert the award into a steady film career. He had some good movies — "The Late Show," "House Calls," "Going in Style" — but also some turkeys: "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood," "Take This Job and Shove It" and "Firestarter."

Although his film career dwindled, Carney's fellow actors, as well as fans from his days on "The Honeymooners," never forgot his brilliance.

"He was an original," said Hal Kanter, veteran comedy writer, director and producer. "He was one of those rare actors who can make you laugh one moment and grab your heart the next."

Micky Dolenz Monkees with Aida

NEW YORK November 12, 2003 (AP) - From "The Monkees" to Broadway's "Aida." Micky Dolenz, who played drums in the 1960s television pop group, joins the long-running Disney musical Jan. 6 as Zoser, the villainous father of the show's young hero.

The 58-year-old Dolenz has played the role in the musical's national tour.

"Aida" undergoes a major cast change next Tuesday when Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child takes over the title role from Toni Braxton. Williams will star in the musical through Jan. 25. Will Chase plays Egyptian captain Radames and Lisa Brescia is Amneris, an Egyptian princess and Aida's rival.

"Aida," which has a score by Elton John and Tim Rice, opened at the Palace Theatre in March 2000.

Aida -

Micky -

CBS Gets Dead Serious Cold Case

LOS ANGELES November 12, 2003 ( - The CBS series "Cold Case," the top-rated freshman drama so far this season, follows a female Philadelphia detective who investigates crimes committed long ago and butts heads with her mostly male counterparts.

Change CBS to CTV and "Case" to "Squad," and you pretty much have the Canadian series "Cold Squad," which is also about a female detective who looks into old crimes and faces chauvinism on the job. The lead characters even have similar names -- Lily (played by Kathryn Morris) on "Cold Case" and Ali (Julie Stewart) on "Cold Squad" -- and tousled blonde hairstyles.

The similarities between the two shows may soon become a matter for the courts. Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Julia Keatley and Matt MacLeod, the creators of "Cold Squad," have retained a Los Angeles attorney specializing in intellectual-property cases to look into the origins of the CBS show.

When "Cold Case" was introduced to TV critics in July, a Canadian reporter asked about the similarities between it and "Cold Squad," which debuted in 1998. (CTV, coincidentally, also airs "Cold Case.") "Case" creator Meredith Stiehm, a former writer for "ER" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," said she'd heard of the show but never seen it.

"I didn't even know there was a show," executive producer Jonathan Littman said at the time. "We don't get a lot of Canadian TV in L.A., so I haven't seen it."

Carole Handler, who helped Marvel Enterprises win back motion picture rights for its Spider-Man character, is representing the "Cold Squad" creators. She tells the Globe and Mail that Keatley and MacLeod "are very concerned about many striking similarities and have retained counsel to investigate the situation and if necessary, to take appropriate action."

CBS hasn't commented on the matter

Senate Moves to Make Taping Films a Felony
By Brooks Boliek

WASHINGTON November 13, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - A bipartisan U.S. Senate duo plans to introduce legislation Thursday that would make it a felony to use a camcorder to record a motion picture in a theater and make it easier to prosecute people who illegally distribute copyrighted material before its legitimate release.

The Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is the latest attempt by lawmakers to address some of the problems created by copyright piracy.

"Copyright piracy is a serious threat not only to the entertainment industry but also to a U.S. economy struggling to get back on its feet," Cornyn said Wednesday.

The Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act joins a separate piece of legislation sponsored by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., that includes language making camcording a federal offense.

According to a synopsis of the legislation, the measure would:

* Create a federal law protecting artists against the recording and/or transmission of a motion picture release or other audiovisual work in a motion picture facility.

* Make it easier to prosecute the illegal distribution of prerelease materials before the copyright holder has a chance to get the product to market.

* Allow copyright owners to pursue appropriate civil remedies by establishing that the illegal distribution of prerelease materials, by definition, cause serious economic harm.

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