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Virtual Reality, Stolen Brains,
Buffy Good, TV News Bad!

Get Yer Name in Space & More!
Monkey News!
Flying Monkeys!

WASHINGTON May 11, 2003 (AP) - Airline passengers who rely on cats, monkeys or other animals for emotional support may be able to bring the animals into a plane's seating compartment under revised federal guidelines.

Previously, cabin permission generally was given only for animals that helped people with physical disabilities, usually a blind person who needed a guide dog.

The airlines industry and advocates for the disabled asked the government to clarify and expand the definition of a "service animal," since more people now use other animals like cats or monkeys.

Transportation Department officials say these animals are used for a wider variety of functions, such as helping to pull wheelchairs or alerting a person with epilepsy that a seizure is imminent.

Other animals now can be taken aboard for emotional support. However, passengers who take advantage of this provision may be required to show proof from a doctor or psychologist that the animal is required to help with a mental health condition.

Each situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis, the department said in guidelines released Friday.

The revised guidelines also clarified that animals that pose a public risk would not be allowed in cabins, such as snakes, ferrets, rodents or spiders.

Transportation Department release:

[I couldn't believe the next one! One of the oldest and dearest stars in Hollywood is still around! Maybe Cheeta and Bob Hope ought to party together on May 29th - Hope's 100th. Ed.]

Cheeta Lives!

By John Roach
National Geographic News

Palm Springs May 9, 2003 (National Geographic) - Many Hollywood stars retire in the oasis of Palm Springs, California where they while away their golden years splashing paint on canvases, taking leisurely strolls, playing the piano, and flipping through the pages of magazines.

Such is the life of 71-year-old Cheeta, the chimpanzee of Tarzan fame who celebrated his birthday a month ago.

"He's the world's oldest chimp and in excellent condition," said Dan Westfall, who cares for Cheeta and several other retired showbiz primates at the Cheeta Primate Foundation in Palm Springs. Cheeta's "world's oldest" title is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Chimpanzees in the wild tend to live for 40 to 45 years and to the mid 50s in captivity, according to chimpanzee researchers.

Activists for the proper care and treatment of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates applaud Cheeta's age record, but caution against celebrating the lifestyle of chimpanzees that were stars in the entertainment industry.

"Would you go to a movie if you knew the child actors had been kidnapped and been forced through abuse by their kidnappers to perform silly, demeaning acts?" asks Roger Fouts, co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Activists say that retired entertainment chimpanzees engage in human behaviors such as watching television and reading magazines because they were deprived of a natural lifestyle and were instead trained to behave like humans, often through physical abuse.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that they are pretty dysfunctional," said Gloria Grow, co-founder of the Fauna Foundation which cares for neglected and abused animals in Quebec, Canada.

For example, Grow said that several of the chimpanzees in her foundation's care, including those that were in the entertainment industry, do not know how to have intercourse or how to look after their young.

"It is common scientific knowledge that taking mothers from babies has very serious consequences for the psychological well-being of both the mother and the infant, yet this is what happens to every trained chimpanzee," said Fouts.

The Good Life?

Abe Karajerjian, a biological anthropologist who works with Westfall in the caretaking of the animals at the Cheeta Primate Foundation, says Cheeta and his companions are provided with an environment and social structure that is more suitable to their species rather than perpetuating their human-like lifestyles and behaviors.

"We just love them and love to do things for them," he said. "They made tons of people happy, they had to endure a lot to make people happy, and we want to give back to them, provide them with friends."

Westfall, a comedian and actor, adopted Cheeta about 10 years ago from his uncle Tony Gentry, an animal trainer who worked in Hollywood and discovered Cheeta while on an animal talent scouting trip to Africa in the 1930s.

The 4 foot (1.2 meter) tall, 142 pound (53 kilogram) chimpanzee starred in 12 Tarzan movies and had his last role 36 years ago in the 1967 musical film Doctor Doolittle.

Cheeta now spends his days socializing with other apes and human caregivers. At times he seems fascinated by looking at other animals on television and in the pages of magazines like National Geographic, said Karajerjian

On a few occasions the media has spotted Cheeta taking a ride in the car with Westfall, who said that Cheeta "likes to go through the drive-thru and get a hamburger and a Coke." Cheeta's staple diet consists of fresh fruit, vegetables, and monkey chow, which is a nonhuman-primate version of dog food.

In his earlier years Cheeta had a penchant for beer and cigars, reportedly drinking several cold ones a day. Westfall and Karajerjian said booze and smoke have not been a part of the old chimp's life since he came into their care ten years ago.

"Where he lives now nobody smokes and drinks," said Karajerjian. "I hate smoking and drinking and so why would I offer it to apes?"

At the sanctuary the apes are provided with a variety of activities to stimulate their intellect and curiosity. One of the activities is painting, which Karajerjian says allows chimpanzees to mimic their innate behavior of inventing and using tools.

Westfall says that Cheeta has developed a particular talent as an abstract artist and has trademarked Cheeta's creations as "Ape-stract." Cheeta uses a paintbrush and bright colors for his creations which are full of sweeps, swirls, and straight lines.

"They are very pretty, actually," said Westfall, who sells his companion's work for $125 a piece. The proceeds go to support the Cheeta Primate Foundation, which Westfall started to raise money for unwanted showbiz animals.

Entertainment Abuse

Cheeta is a rarity among chimpanzee actors in that he was used for films into his 30s. "Most of the chimpanzees used in the entertainment industry are used when they are quite young," said Rick Bogle of the Primate Freedom Project in Santa Barbara, California. The organization works for the protection of nonhuman primates.

Chimpanzees rarely act beyond the age of ten because they become less manageable and less willing to follow directions, said Bogle. When the chimpanzees are retired, many of them are sold into biomedical research.

Gentry, Cheeta's previous owner, feared a research laboratory was Cheeta's destination so he had asked in his will that Cheeta be put to rest. Westfall talked his uncle out of having Cheeta put to rest by promising to take good care of the chimp.

Ex-entertainment chimpanzees are unfit for zoos, said Fouts, because they do not behave like regular chimpanzees. "And often times they are not socialized to other chimpanzees so they would be difficult to integrate into a social population," he said.

Westfall said primate researcher Jane Goodall inspired him to start the foundation for unwanted showbiz primates. The other chimpanzees, orangutans, and monkeys in his care have starred in television commercials, nightclubs, and theaters, but none reached the star status of Cheeta.

"There are also some from labs that we'd love to get sometime to save their lives and give them a good, healthy home to live in," he said.

All of the animals in Westfall's care interact on a daily basis and with each other and their human caregivers. Westfall's house is not open to the public, but tour buses and children often stop in front where there is a statue of Cheeta.

Living Longer

Terry Wolf, wildlife director at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida, which cares for about 35 chimpanzees, said that captive chimpanzees that were picked up from the entertainment industry and research facilities are living longer because humans are taking better care of them.

"The quality of health care and diet in the past was traditionally not all that great," he said. Now humans have a better understanding of chimpanzee dietary, physical, and social needs, including the need for interaction to prevent the onset of deadly bouts of depression.

Little Mama, a chimpanzee who starred in a traveling ice skating show before coming to Lion Country Safari in 1967, is thought to be 65 years old and like Cheeta is in good health.

She is social and gets along well with her mates, who she lives with on a series of islands in the drive-through zoo, said Wolf.

"Old age is something to be celebrated," said Virginia Landau, director of the Jane Goodall Institute's ChimpanZoo in Tucson, Arizona, which coordinates the study of chimpanzees in zoos and other captive settings.

Donations or a request for a piece of Cheeta's Ape-stract art can be sent to Westfall:

Dan Westfall
Cheeta Primate Foundation
PO Box 8162
Palm Springs, CA 92263

Chimps also get a break at The Fauna Foundation -

Infinite Number of Monkeys - Phooey!

Associated Press Writer

LONDON May 9, 2003 (AP) - Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters, the theory goes, and they will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.

Give six monkeys one computer for a month, and they will make a mess.

Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word.

"They pressed a lot of S's," researcher Mike Phillips said Friday. "Obviously, English isn't their first language."

In a project intended more as performance art than scientific experiment, faculty and students in the university's media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England, home to six Sulawesi crested macaques.

Then they waited.

At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.

"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.

Eventually, monkeys Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in.

The notion that monkeys typing at random will eventually produce literature is often attributed to Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century scientist who supported Charles Darwin's theories of evolution.

Mathematicians have also used it to illustrate concepts of chance.

The Plymouth experiment was funded by England's Arts Council and part of the Vivaria Project, which plans to install computers in zoos across Europe to study differences between animal and artificial life.

Phillips said the results showed that monkeys "are not random generators. They're more complex than that.

"They were quite interested in the screen, and they saw that when they typed a letter, something happened. There was a level of intention there."

The monkeys' output:

Virtual Reality Without Goggles!
University of Pennsylvania Press Release

PHILADELPHIA May 13, 2003 -- The University of Pennsylvania has installed a virtual reality system that allows a participant full-body interaction with a virtual environment without the hassle of bulky, dizzying 3-D glasses. The system will be demonstrated for journalists and others Thursday, May 15.

Key to the installation, dubbed LiveActor, is the pairing of an optical motion capture system to monitor the body's movements with a stereo projection system to immerse users in a virtual environment. The combination lets users interact with characters embedded within virtual worlds.

"Traditional virtual reality experiences offer limited simulations and interactions through tracking of a few sensors mounted on the body," said Norman I. Badler, professor of computer and information science and director of Penn's Center for Human Modeling and Simulation. "LiveActor permits whole-body tracking and doesn't require clunky 3-D goggles, resulting in a more realistic experience."

LiveActor users wear a special suit that positions 30 sensors on different parts of the body.

As the system tracks the movement of these sensors as an actor moves around a stage roughly 10 feet by 20 feet in size, a virtual character -- such as a dancing, computer-generated Ben Franklin, Penn's founder -- can recreate the user's movements with great precision and without a noticeable time lag. The system can also project images onto the array of screens surrounding the LiveActor stage, allowing users to interact with a bevy of virtual environments.

LiveActor's creators envision an array of applications and plan to make the system available to companies and researchers. Undergraduates have already used LiveActor to create a startlingly realistic but completely imaginary 3-D chapel.
The array could be used to generate footage of virtual characters in movies, sidestepping arduous frame-by-frame drawing. LiveActor could also help those with post-traumatic stress disorder face their fears in a comfortable, controlled environment.

"The system is much more than the sum of its parts," Badler said. "Motion capture has traditionally been used for animation, game development and human performance analysis, but with LiveActor users can delve deeper into virtual worlds. The system affords a richer set of interactions with both characters and objects in the virtual environment."

While stereo projection systems have in the past been limited to relatively static observation and navigation -- such as architectural walk-throughs, games and medical visualizations -- LiveActor can be used to simulate nearly any environment or circumstance, chart user reactions and train users to behave in new ways. Unlike actual humans, virtual characters can be scripted to behave consistently in a certain way.

LiveActor was made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation with matching funding by Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as equipment grants from Ascension Technology Corporation and EON Reality.

Check out some free VR for yer PC at

Fed Subpoenas Tape of Environmental Conference
FRESNO CA May 13, 2003 (AP) — A federal grand jury has subpoenaed a videotape of a California State University conference attended by environmentalists who employ extremist tactics. Organizers of the conference criticized the university for going along with the subpoena.

Federal authorities would not give details of the investigation Friday, and Janette Redd Williams, Fresno State's attorney, would say only that it involved "complicated issues we need time to research."

The February conference, "Revolutionary Environmentalism: A Dialogue Between Activists and Academics," included animal rights groups and others that have employed militant tactics. One panelist, Rodney Coronado, spent four years in prison for a 1992 firebombing of animal research laboratories at Michigan State University.

Organizers defended the conference, calling it an examination of the groups' tactics. But farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley criticized the gathering, saying it was a platform for eco-terrorists.

Fresno State officials said they supplied a videotape of one conference session to the grand jury.

Conference participants called the subpoena a threat to academic freedom and their privacy.
Brains Stolen in the UK!
London May 13, 2003 (Reuters) - British pathologists removed the brains from tens of thousands of human corpses over 30 years without permission from the victims' relatives, the government acknowledged on Monday.

In a sinister reminder of scandals in the late 1990s, when hospitals were found to have secretly kept the hearts of dead children for research, the government said the illicit removal of brains had been "widespread in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s".

It said the true scale of the scandal would never be known because records from the 1970s were sketchy and many of the brains had been used for research or destroyed.

But the government's Inspector of Anatomy, Jeremy Metters, told a news conference that of 30 000 brains in storage in 2000, when a major count of stored organs was carried out, between 50 percent and 70 percent had probably been taken without permission.

He made 34 recommendations to ensure the scandalous practice was not repeated and said the removal of all organs without consent should be made a criminal offence.

The scandal was brought to light by Elaine Isaacs, a widow from Manchester whose mentally ill husband Cyril committed suicide in 1987.

Medics took his brain for research without asking permission from his wife, who found out about this three years ago while sifting through letters written by doctors at the time of her husband's death.

Elaine Isaacs, seething with anger at the way her husband's corpse was used, welcomed Metters's recommendations, but told the news conference - during which she broke down - that more should be done.

Under British legislation, the organs of dead people may be kept and used for research only if their relatives give explicit consent.

Metters found that, in many cases, hospitals had not bothered to ask the relatives.

The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the report, but said it should not be used to undermine organ donation.

"The practice of taking organs without consent began at a time when medicine was far more paternalistic and doctors thought it was better that bereaved families did not have to make difficult decisions about organ donation," said the BMA's head of science and ethics, Vivienne Nathanson.

"It is important to realize that the health service desperately needs organs for research."

The case has invited comparisons with the Bristol and Alder Hey scandals of 1999, when doctors in the south-west of England and Liverpool were found to have stripped thousands of children's corpses of organs and other parts without parental consent.
Klingon Interpreter Needed
Portland, Oregon May 12, 2003 (AP) - Position Available: Interpreter, must be fluent in Klingon.

The language created for the Star Trek television series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County.

"We have to provide information in all the languages our clients speak," said Jerry Jelusich, a procurement specialist for the county's department of human services, which serves about 60 000 mental health clients.

Although created for works of fiction, Klingon was designed to have a consistent grammar, syntax and vocabulary.

And now Multnomah County research has found that many people - and not just fans - consider it a complete language.

"There are some cases where we've had mental health patients where this was all they would speak," said the county's purchasing administrator, Franna Hathaway.

Officials said that obligates them to respond with a Klingon-English interpreter, putting the language of starship Enterprise officer Worf and other Klingon characters on a par with common languages such as Russian and Vietnamese, and less common tongues including Dari and Tongan.
Buffy Evolves To Pop Icon
By Charlie McCollum
Mercury News

Hollywood May 11, 2003 (Mercury News) - Even at its peak of popularity, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" rarely drew more than 6 million viewers a week.

Last season, its audience dropped to an average of just 4.6 million, No. 124 in viewership among all TV shows, and this season, it's down to around 4 million. The only time it was nominated for an Emmy, it lost.

Yet, as "Buffy" moves toward its final episode May 20, the show's place as one of the best and most innovative series in recent television history is assured. So too is its niche in contemporary American pop culture.

"Buffy was designed to be a pop culture icon," said Joss Whedon, the show's creator, shortly after filming the finale. "She became that, and so she exists beyond her ratings. It's true we've never found an enormous audience. At the same time, we've retained our cult status in that our viewership has never been as large as the awareness of us."

Whedon obviously has a vested interest in "Buffy's" place in history, but he's also a astute student of television and of pop culture.

He's also right.

As a TV series, "Buffy" exists on a different plane than most in terms of the intensity of the interest in all things "Buffy" and the devotion -- worship, really -- of its core audience.

There have been 120 books written about the Slayer and her cohorts, called the Scooby Gang, who have saved the world from vampires, demons and any number of really angry gods. There are more than 1,300 Internet sites devoted to the show, with users fiercely discussing various bits of dialogue and plot. In fact, "Buffy" is arguably the first show to be as much a part of the Internet as a part of television.

DVD collections of the show's first three seasons are steady sellers, and the DVD of the fourth season is at No. 10 on Amazon's bestseller list -- a month before its release date. In Europe and Asia, "Buffy" is among the most-watched U.S.-produced shows. It is the topic of college courses and academic papers.

And for much of its 6 1/2 seasons, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has been one of the best things on U.S. television, a series whose finest episodes rank with anything done on, say, "The Sopranos." Sure, it was nominally about a young blond who went around staking and slaying things that go bump in the night. But it was also delightfully camp, wickedly witty, loaded with knowing culture references and surprisingly insightful in matters of love, alienation, friendship and death.

As TV critic Joyce Millman recently wrote in the New York Times, "Buffy" has been "the coolest television coming-of-age horror-fantasy-love story ever told."

The first incarnation of "Buffy" was as a 1992 film written by Whedon and starring Kristy Swanson as teen slayer Buffy Anne Summers. But by the time it reached the multiplex, Whedon's vision had been pretty much been turned into hash. When approached by the then-floundering WB network to create a new show for the spring of 1997, Whedon decided to revisit Buffy -- and do it right this time.

But even Whedon admitted that "when I started the show, I didn't know its full potential. I just sort of had the basic notion of making it funny and evolving and scary and really hitting on things people could relate to . . .

Empowers girls

"The basic idea -- which I think we've been very true to -- of the empowerment of girls and the toughness of this life -- was always there, but it grew beyond anything I imagined."

For most of the first few seasons, it was the way that "Buffy" dealt with alienation and teen angst that was the hallmark of the show. All the demon bashing and vampire slaying became metaphors for the emotions we all go through growing up and moving on into adulthood.

"It has the randomness of common life that we were out to portray: everyday trouble blown up into grand story," said Whedon.

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) was the ultimate outsider as a slayer who moved to 1630 Revello Drive in Sunnydale after burning down the gym at her old high school in Los Angeles. (It was infested with vampires.) Even her divorced mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) didn't quite understand her place in the universe, telling Buffy once that "I know you didn't chose this. I know it chose you. I've tried to march in the Slayer pride parade but . . ."

Her father figure was another outsider: Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) who was the "watcher" assigned to train her as a slayer. Her best friends were the losers of Sunnydale High.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) was a shy, withdrawn teenager who later become a powerful (and gay) witch.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brandon) was a geeky guy who was stuck on Buffy.

Over the years, Xander -- the one member of the Scooby Gang who never acquired magical powers -- would become Buffy's tether to humanity. Even Buffy's high school nemesis -- popular girl Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) -- proved to be an outsider in her own way.

Over the show's run, this core group expanded to include a rich array of other characters.

There was Angel (David Boreanaz), a sometimes reformed 245-year-old vampire who has remained Buffy's great love, and Anya (Emma Caulfield) was a 1,100-year-old vengeance demon who fears rabbits and doesn't understand why humans can't always tell the truth.

Angry, punky vampire Spike (James Marsters) has been sometimes an ally, sometimes Buffy's lover and sometimes a foe. Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg) turned up in Sunnydale as Buffy's younger sister although she's really the creation of a group of monks. Faith (Eliza Dushku), a rogue slayer, has been around regularly to play the dark to Buffy's light.

Buffy the outsider

But throughout the show's run, it is Buffy who has been most apart from the world she lives in and saves. In one particularly poignant moment in the series' second season, Buffy decides to run for homecoming queen. She explains to Giles:

"I thought, homecoming queen; I could open a yearbook someday and say, `I was there. I went to high school and had friends and for just one minute, I got to live in the world.' And there'd be proof, proof that I was chosen to be something other than this."

At times -- and this was the series' most serious flaw -- all this alienation and emotional distance could turn into dark introspection. That was most notable in the show's sixth season, after Buffy had been brought back from the dead the second time by the Scoobies and was none too happy about it.

"I think I was in heaven," she says at one point. "And now I'm not. I was torn out of there, pulled out, by my friends. Everything here is hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch, this is hell."

But usually, just when "Buffy" would step to the brink of being too dark or too mawkish, it would be yanked back by its cool wit.

In Tuesday's penultimate episode, for example, Buffy and Faith have a moving scene about the loneliness of being a slayer. But just when the moment threatens to become maudlin, Faith says to Buffy, "Thank God we're hot chicks with superpowers."

"Takes the edge off," replies Buffy with a small smile.

This week's installment sets up the May 20 finale. Angel, who got his own series three years ago, returns to help in the final showdown between the First -- a really nasty evil entity who has been around since Season 1 -- and Buffy, the Scoobies, Faith and a group of slayer wannabes. Given the body count in the battle so far, it promises to get pretty ugly.

There is a lot of speculation -- spoilers -- on the Internet about what happens in the showdown, about whether Buffy finally gets her wish for a normal life, about who lives and who dies.

Whedon promises a finale that will, hopefully, satisfy devoted fans but he suggests that no matter what the outcome, "Buffy" has already made its mark.

"The thing we were trying to do is tell epic, timeless stories on a small emotional scale. That sort of thing, done right, certainly can live on. Will it? I don't know," said Whedon.

"What I do know is that the character, and the concept, has affected the way people think about heroines and heroes and who can front a show and what boys will watch. That's more important a legacy to me."

Buffy Official site -

UK Police Shoot Down Guns
By John Steele

London May 13, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - Rank and file police officers remain strongly opposed to the routine arming of the force, despite rising firearms crime, according to a survey.

A poll of its members by the Police Federation showed a similar vote against routine arming to that seen in a survey eight years ago.

Though nearly half of officers felt their lives had been placed in serious danger at least once in the past two years, the federation report also showed that 78 per cent did not want to carry guns on everyday duties.

The figure against routine arming in 1995 was 79 per cent.

The survey also showed that 47 per cent of "front-line officers" in England and Wales supported the mandatory wearing of body armour and eight out of 10 said more officers should be trained to use firearms.

Only 4.6 per cent of officers said they wanted to be armed both off and on duty.

The federation carried out the research after Home Office figures showed gun crime had risen by 35 per cent last year in England and Wales, including a rise of 46 per cent in the use of handguns.
TV News May Turn People Off
Cardiff University Press Release

May 13, 2003 - Television news may be contributing to current political apathy, according to research at Cardiff University.

An in-depth study of more than 5600 TV news reports in both Britain and the USA between September 2001 and February 2002 reveals that the news media may be encouraging a disengaged citizenry by representing the public as generally passive and apolitical.

"This study was prompted by growing concern about the poor and declining voter turnout in both Britain and the United States," explains Professor Justin Lewis of the University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

"Although we have recently seen people taking part in huge protests - whether for the countryside or against the war - this engagement doesn’t seem to connect to an interest in representative politics."

The report asks what model of citizenship and public opinion the news media provides. Crucially, do the news media encourage or discourage citizens to engage with politics and public life?

A team of researchers analyzed news reports for any reference to public opinion, whether through polls, ‘vox pops’, demonstrations, or simply off-the-cuff remarks made about what people think about the world. Some of the findings, suggests Professor Lewis, are surprising.

Many assume, for example, that the main form of public representation in the media is the opinion poll. In fact, less than two per cent of references to public opinion on British television involve polls or surveys of any kind.

The most common references to public opinion (44 per cent) are inferences - claims made (generally by reporters) without any supporting evidence. And public opinion in Europe is almost completely ignored, especially in British media.

"Polls, for all their flaws, are the most systematic form of evidence we have about what people think about the world - yet we found that they’re used surprisingly rarely in television news," said Professor Lewis. "While television often refers to public opinion, these results suggest that we rarely hear any evidence for the claims being made."

Similarly striking is the extent to which citizens are represented as non-ideological. In the sample, 95 per cent of references in Britain (90 per cent in the US) expressed no clear political leaning at all - even though the most common subjects of references to public opinion such as health, crime and terrorism, are all matters of political debate. Overall, only around five per cent of references to public opinion on British news involve citizens making suggestions about what should be done in the world.

The report argues that this risks conveying an impression of a citizenry either unable or unwilling to put forward a political view. Instead, the most common type of citizen representation is a member of the public talking about their experiences, impressions or fears. According to Lewis, "On television, citizens may raise problems, but it’s left to politicians or experts to offer solutions."

The research team acknowledge that many in the news media and politics are concerned about public apathy in politics and that there is now a willingness among the media to broadcast citizens playing a more active role in political debate. "This might involve some radical departures from time-honored conventions, but it might also be a prerequisite for engaging a population increasingly disenchanted with political parties," Professor Lewis concludes.

The report, Images of citizenship on television news: breaking the cycle of decline in political participation, was written by Professor Justin Lewis, Dr Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Sanna Inthorn. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Total Lunar Eclipse May 15th
LOS ANGELES May 11, 2003 (AP) - If the weather cooperates, a total lunar eclipse will be seen across North America late Thursday — the first visible in the United States in three years — and just before dawn Friday in western Europe and western and southern Africa.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sunlight that otherwise reflects off the moon's surface. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to view with the naked eye.

In North America, the moon will remain totally eclipsed for 53 minutes, and should turn substantially darker and reddish in color.

The total eclipse will start at 8:13 PDT in Los Angeles, 11:13 p.m. EDT in New York.

A second lunar eclipse, on Nov. 8, will be visible from North and South America.

Eclipses once helped prove the Earth is round, because its shadow on the moon is curved.

Naval Observatory:

Griffith Observatory:
Make a Deep Impact - Get Your Name on a Comet!
NASA Press Release

May 8, 2003 - People worldwide may celebrate July 4, 2005, as the day their names reach a comet. NASA is launching a campaign to send hundreds of thousands of names to comet Tempel 1.

The names will be carried on board NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft, the first deep-space mission designed to really reach out and touch a comet.

Mission scientists are confident an impact on a comet's nucleus will answer basic questions about the nature and composition of these celestial wanderers.

"This is an opportunity to become part of an extraordinary space mission," said Dr. Don Yeomans, an astronomer at JPL and a member of Deep Impact's science team. "When the craft is launched in December 2004, yours and the names of your loved-ones can hitch along for the ride and be part of what may be the best space fireworks show in history."

Deep Impact's larger flyby spacecraft will carry a smaller impactor spacecraft to Tempel 1 for release into the comet's path for a planned collision. The flyby spacecraft will take pictures as the 370-kilogram (816 pound) copper-tipped impactor plunges into Tempel 1 at about 37,000 kilometers (22,990 miles) per hour. The impactor is expected to make a spectacular, football field-sized crater, seven to 15 stories deep, in the speeding comet. Carried aboard the impactor will be a standard mini-CD containing the names of comet, space and other enthusiasts from around the world.

"This campaign will allow people from around the world to become directly involved with Deep Impact and through that get them thinking about the scientific reasons for the mission," said University of Maryland astronomy professor Dr. Michael A'Hearn, Deep Impact's principal investigator. "We particularly hope to capture the interest of young students, as they will become the explorers of the next generation."

People may submit their names for this historic one-way mission by visiting NASA's Deep Impact Web site, now through February 2004, at

[Note: Be sure to turn of any pop-up blocker you might be running if you want to view your "Deep Impact Certificate". Ed.]

The collision between the impactor and Tempel 1 is not forceful enough to make an appreciable change in the comet's orbital path around the Sun. The comet poses no threat to Earth.

Deep Impact was selected in 1999 as a NASA Discovery mission. The goal of the Discovery Program is to launch many smaller missions with fast development times, each for a fraction of the cost of NASA's larger missions. The main objective is to enhance our understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies, such as comets and asteroids.

The University of Maryland in College Park is the home of Deep Impact's principal investigator, Michael A'Hearn, who oversees scientific investigations. Project manager, John McNamee, from JPL, manages and operates the Deep Impact mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colo., manages spacecraft development.

More information about the Deep Impact mission is available on the Internet at  or

For information about NASA and other space flight missions on the Internet, visit

Genre News: Angel Is Renewed! Jimi Hendrix, Jolene Blalock, Wonder Woman, Dawn of the Dead & More!
Angel Renewed for 5th Season - Maybe More!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood May 12, 2003 (eXoNews) - Great news for Angel fans! David Boreanaz and company will not only return for a full fifth season, but they also get a super-strength lead-in for season five and a possible shot at season six.

According to an article by Josef Adalian in Sunday's Variety, Angel has definitely been renewed by The WB. Variety reports that the "Frog has ordered another full season of the Joss Whedon-creative skein and will air the show Wednesdays at 9 p.m., with relocated hit Smallville as its lead-in. Frog has an option for a sixth season."

Jeffrey Bell and Tim Minear will continue to produce the series. Minear, who was once on the Chris Carter Fox team for X-Files, also partnered with Joss Whedon for Firefly last season and wrote and directed this year's Angel season finale.

Minear is also said to be slated to produce a summer show called Wonder Falls, airing in August.

The Buffy spin-off series ended season four with Angel marching off to rejoin Buffy in her final bid to save the world during the final episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which concluded production this year.

Back in bad LA, Angel co-star Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) was left in a coma, Angel's son was fostered out to presumably non-vampire substitute parents (like Scully's baby, Tim?) and the other members of the Angel Investigations team were in danger of being seduced by the evil lawyers at Wolfram & Hart.

Variety also said that Charisma Carpenter "is not expected to return as a series regular." This may contradict what Miss Carpenter said in a recent chat on E! Online, but that was before the actress gave birth to her real-life baby, not to be confused with her Angel baby Jasmine (Gina Torres) who turned out to be the fourth season ultimate Big Bad.

Angel co-stars Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, J. August Richards and Andy Hallett will presumably return.

Buffy and Joss Whedon fans have reason to rejoice over the news too.

Variety confirms that James Marsters (Spike) "has signed on [to Angel] to reprise his Buffy role as punker vamp Spike.

Other Buffy regulars may also make guest appearances next season, while Whedon has vowed to write several scripts and direct episodes of the show."

The Variety article went on to say that Angel did well in a final ratings surge - as noted previously, the show has fared particularly well with young male adult watchers this year.

Variety reported that the delay in Angel's renewal continued because "WB execs wanted to see how their drama development turned out, and, more importantly, needed to hammer out a new license fee deal with 20th. While Angel isn't a particularly expensive skein to produce, it doesn't do very well in repeats, making it tougher for the Frog to turn a profit on the show."

WB Entertainment chief Jordan Levin said: "Until we knew at what price we could close a deal for the series, as well as what the rest of our schedule cost, we couldn't make the call."

Levin said that Angel talks went well with "a cordial, non-emotional negotiation" and that it was "a deal that's acceptable for both of us, and also ultimately respects the fans of the collective Buffy and Angel mythologies."

Angel also goes into syndicated repeats next season and the Angel first season DVD box set was released a couple of months ago.

The official WB fall lineup announcement will be out by the time most of you read this. Other WB genre favs Smallville and Charmed were renewed previously.

Buffy's final episodes air for the next two weeks with David Boreanaz guesting as Angel on UPN, Tuesdays at 8 PM. Smallville airs a two-part season finale starting this week, following Buffy.

[I can only add: I told you so! See previous eXoNews stories. Also, "skein" is a Variety word for show, I guess. :o)> Ed.]

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

Hendrix's Doodles Up for Auction

LONDON May 12, 2003 (Reuters) - Swirling rainbow images penned by 1960s guitar legend Jimi Hendrix are set to go under the hammer in London later this week, auctioneers said Monday.

The psychedelic designs, drawn at the height of the "flower power" movement, were given by Hendrix to two members of his management team, Bob and Kathy Levine.

"According to Bob, Jimi carried two sketch pads with him for several years, and on occasions when he was alone happily doodled and drew, painstakingly coloring them in suitably psychedelic felt pen," auctioneer Cooper Owen said in a statement.

"Some of the drawings appear to have begun as small doodles but develop into intricate, highly involved designs," it added.

"Some recurring motifs include petals, leaves, blazing suns and hooded figures."

Cooper Owen estimated that the images would fetch between $8,000 and $13,000 pounds when auctioned Thursday.

Also under the hammer is one of Hendrix's trademark bandanas; an address book "including telephone numbers of girlfriends"; and assorted drug-taking paraphernalia.

Hendrix, famed for such tunes as "Purple Haze" and his cover version of "All Along the Watchtower," died in 1970 following a drug overdose, aged 27.

Official Jimi Hendrix website -

T'Pol Gets Married

LOS ANGELES May 10, 2003 (AP) - As Vulcan science officer T'Pol on UPN's "Enterprise" actress Jolene Blalock battles weekly with violent alien races, death rays and exotic outer-space dangers.

Her latest real-life adventure was a lot more fun.

Blalock flew with longtime boyfriend Mike Rapino to Negril, Jamaica, for a romantic getaway. Unbeknownst to Rapino, Blalock also secretly invited both of their families for what she hoped would be a surprise wedding.

"We spent five beautiful days down there," Blalock told Craig Kilborn on Friday on CBS's "The Late Late Show." "On the Monday night, we were sitting down to dinner and I got down on, actually, not one knee, but both knees, and asked my boyfriend to marry me."

Rapino said yes.

Blalock added: "At 6:15 p.m. tomorrow evening?"

Fortunately for Blalock and the couple's families, Rapino's answer was still yes. The couple was married in Negril last week.

Official UPN Enterprise site -

WB Hires Writer for Wonder Woman

Screenwriter Philip Levens has been hired to pen a new version of the feature adaptation of DC Comics' "Wonder Woman" for producer Joel Silver, Leonard Goldberg and Warner Bros. Pictures.

As yet no start date has been set for the production, and it is uncertain whether it will be Silver's next pic. Silver, whose WB/Village Roadshow pic "The Matrix: Reloaded" will be released Stateside on Thursday, is currently shooting "Gothika" under his Dark Castle banner.

That pic, helmed by Mathieu Kassovitz, stars Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz.

"Wonder Woman" is being overseen at the studio by senior VP of production Courtney Valenti and veep of production Dan Lin and at Silver Pictures by Susan Levin.

Levens, repped by WMA, has worked for the past two seasons as a writer and co-producer on the WB network's take on the Superman story, "Smallville."

His adaptation of the psychological thriller "Found in the Street," based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, is in pre-production at John Malkovich's production shingle Mr. Mudd.

Levens also penned "Guardians of Time," a TV pilot for Joel Silver and the WB that's being developed for the fall 2004 season.

Official DC Comics site -

Museum Gets Mulder's Office

Hollywood May 9, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Fox Mulder's X-Files office set has been transported to the Hollywood Entertainment Museum in Los Angeles, where it is on permanent loan from Fox Television. The set, familiar to fans of Fox's long-running SF series, has been reconstructed with all of its original set dressing.

Since opening in 1996, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum has been the home for the original sets of the command deck from Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as the bar from Cheers.

The museum is located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.

Hollywood Entertainment Museum site -

Official X-Files site -

Get some X-Files music at

Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley Remake Dead
By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood May 09, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley are in final negotiations to star in Universal Pictures/Strike Entertainment's horror feature "Dawn of the Dead" for director Zack Snyder.

The project, a reinvention of the 1978 horror film of the same name, goes into production next month.

Written by James Gunn, "Dead" is about a mysterious plague that causes the newly dead to rise from their graves and begin to eat the living.

During the chaos, a core group of remaining humans takes refuge in a shopping mall. These include a young nurse (Polley), the police-uniformed Kenneth (Rhames), a mall employee who works at Best Buy, a gangbanger and his pregnant Russian girlfriend.

Strike's Marc Abraham and Eric Newman will produce "Dead" with the film's rights holder Richard P. Rubenstein.

Tom Bliss is executive producing. Rhames, repped by ICM, next stars in the Barry Levinson-directed comedy "Envy" and the indie feature "Sin."

Polley, repped by WMA, is best known for her work in such films as "The Sweat Hereafter," "Go," "Guinevere" and "The Weight of Water."

Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!