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New UFO Reports!
Whale Hunts! Blackout Backlash!
Stardust Storms, Darmstadtium,
Risky Old Sperm & More!
New UFO Reports!
Latest UFO Reports!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood August 19, 2003 (eXoNews) - With all the news about the Big Black-Out, we were surprised nobody was blaming it on the alien threat. Surprised because August started out with a great crop of UFO sightings! That's right, saucer fans! NUFORC reports for the beginning of August were impressive enough to inspire still another Latest UFO Reports summary from eXoNews for your lazy eye pleasure. (You could look them up yourself, yuh know.)

Here's the best of what we found after a brief flyby of NUFORC, (which is our favorite UFO site mainly because they came up with such a good acronym!) Photos included here are mostly oldies from the collection of the Alternate Realities Center - Unfortunately, nobody who reports to NUFORC ever seems to include a picture, so we went looking for some new "classic" UFO snaps for illustrative purposes.

The guy with the video camera in the first report is an exception, but NUFORC said they had the video some time ago and still haven't reported on its authenticity, so let's assume, like most UFO reports, it's still an unexplained phenomenon.

BTW, I feel I should include the NUFORC disclaimer here. We all know that there are extraterrestrial craft floating about, but let's not get anybody abducted, OK?

"The National UFO Reporting Center makes no claims as to the validity of the information in any of these reports. Obvious hoaxes have been omitted, however most reports have been posted exactly as received in the author's own words."

National UFO Reporting Center 8/2/2003 Bristol, TN
Videotaped disc shaped craft in broad daylight

At 19:45 hours EST, my son and myself were standing in our driveway talking. For some reason, and about at the same moment we both saw an object in the sky to our NNW. At first, I thought it to be a balloon and called my wife to bring the binoculars. This object, through the binoculars, was flattened, perfectly disc shaped and was wobbling and rolling side to side and up and down. It did grow a little closer to us and it reflected sunlight as it turned. Positively metallic, smooth and disc shaped.
We watched it for a while and I ran in and got the camcorder and digital camera. I have about 5 minutes of absolutely fantastic footage on the tape, but the digital camera failed miserably.

The object slowly moved NNW until it was out of sight. I am ex military (13 years) and proficient in aircraft identification and this one was not in the books!! All I can say is I got proof…

(NUFORC Note: We have spoken with the witness by telephone, and he sounds adamant as to having captured a UFO on video. We have looked at still images taken from the video, and they indicate a round, dark object against a daylight sky.

The witness reports having forwarded a copy of the video to NUFORC, which should arrive soon. We will view it, and report here. PD)

National UFO Reporting Center 8/4/2003 Littleton, CO
White disc flying over south Denver metro area

Seeing UFOs from my office window happens frequently. About an hour ago, I was on the phone with a client, and looking at the western sky. From above a bank of clouds comes a bright white, flattened oval -- not an airliner, but a disk shape -- flying in a path that would bring it directly overhead. The object was about 1/8th of an inch wide at arm's length. My best guess is that it was flying at altitude of about 10,000 to 15,000 feet, with a speed of perhaps 200 to 300 MPH -- similar to a jet. It was elongated to the left and right sides with no fuselage. I watched it for a few seconds to try and determine what it was, and decided to ask my client if I could call her back in a few minutes. Outside a few seconds later, I never caught sight of it again. It was partly cloudy with much blue sky overhead, so I was surprised (and disappointed) when I couldn't find it.

National UFO Reporting Center 8/3/2003 Manville, NJ
Brighter and dimmer

On August 3rd, 2003 my father looked out the window and noticed a bright light that was close to earth that would get bright then dimmer then totally disappear then it would get bright dimmer and disappear and it continued that process for a while, we then called his friend and he came over with his girl friend and it disappeared for a little bit maybe 2-3 minutes then it would reappear as we watched it do its same process (get bright dim and disappear.)

All out of no where something hit it to it and ricocheted off it in two different pieces my father's friends left and me and my father watched it until 12:17 am when the sightings seemed to stop.

National UFO Reporting Center 8/3/2003 London (UK/England)
A shiny silver ball

Sunbathing in Crystal Park, London, UK. Enjoying the hot weather and watching the occasional plane fly overhead. I then noticed a large silver ball floating directly above me higher than most of the aircraft, although I could see clearly that it was a large shiny silver ball. It seemed to shake every now and then, but hovered at the same altitude for about 10 minutes. A large jumbo jet started flying towards it, and the ball started moving up.

The plane passed and I watched as the ball continued upwards. The sky was clear and blue except for a few wispy clouds.

As the ball passed through one of the clouds the cloud lit up for a split second, as if there was a lightening storm within in, although it was clearly not a storm cloud. The ball became faint as it disappeared until it looked like a small star in the bright blue sky. Then it vanished out of sight.

National UFO Reporting Center 8/3/2003 Oceanside, CA
Tight formation of metallic egg shaped crafts

Driving North on Interstate 5 a bright light or reflection was noticed on the West side of the highway passing through the city of Oceanside. The exact location was about 1/4 mi. S. of CA 78 and 1 mile S. of Camp Pendleton. The light slowly cruised over the freeway at which time I noticed it was composed of 4 roughly faceted egg shaped objects in a very tight diamond formation. Immediately, I suspected a helicopter of some sort, since they often cruise the highway to observe traffic or Marine helicopters out and about. The configuration did not register as a helicopter or any other conventional aircraft. What was observed were the 4 egg shaped objects bobbing up and down with respect to each. The altitude was low, less than 1000 feet.

This estimate was due to the fact of the clarity of the surfaces reflecting the sun and the object's sharp outline against the clear sky. They appeared to be strongly metallic colored ranging from gray to black to strong sun reflection. Each one was alternating in these colors and reflections on different parts, which also supported my estimation this was not a single craft. I followed them as they crossed my field of view high in my windshield until lost from sight as they flew overhead. I didn't hear any typical aircraft sound. There were many cars around me as I stuck my hand out of the window and pointed up. Someone else must have seen it too.

After a short time I decided to look into my rear view mirrors and I was then able to see them once again in the same tight formation on the West side of the freeway directly over the city of Oceanside. I am hoping others who had seen this will report it since it was so easily viewed.

Perhaps there is a logical explanation since it was so close to a major Marine base.

(NUFORC Note: Witness describes self as having considerable technical background. We have attempted to return his telephoned report, but we have not been successful in establishing contact with him at the numbers he left in his message. PD)

National UFO Reporting Center -

Australia Recruits Anti-Terrorist Robots

SYDNEY August 17, 2003 (AFP) - A robot that carries a gun and disarms bombs is one of Australia's latest recruits in the fight against terrorism, officials said. New South Wales state Police Minister John Watkins said the elite bomb squad had acquired three new radio-controlled devices which can remove, disable or detonate bombs.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the Bali bombings of October last year, which claimed 88 Australian lives, new measures to respond to counter-terrorism were put in place.

Three robots were ordered, including a machine known as Teodor which can carry a 12-gauge shotgun and can blast or freeze explosive devices.

"The robot is at the cutting edge of law enforcement equipment," Watkins said.

"It gives the NSW police force the most advanced machine of its type in Australia."

German-made Teodor has four cameras, can be fitted with drills, grinders, cutting shears and a window breaker. It features a cryogenics pack enabling the robot to freeze explosive devices. It can climb stairs, cross rough terrain and operate in extreme temperatures.

"It has an amazing array of on-board weaponry, which can be used to prod or probe objects, or blow them apart if required," Watkins said.

The robot has already been bought by the royal household guard in Saudi Arabia, the Indonesian police, the air force in Argentina and anti-terror units in Uzbekistan.

Whale News

Iceland Ignores Whale Hunt Protests

By Gleb Bryanski

OLAFSVIK, Iceland August 19, 2003 (Reuters) - Icelandic whalers were out hunting again on Tuesday, one day after their first catch in 14 years drew protests from environmentalist groups and prompted the United States to threaten sanctions.

Two vessels with whale hunting permits were still out at sea after a third, the Njordur, returned with the first minke whale caught in Icelandic waters since 1989, said Johan Sigurjonsson, a director at the Icelandic Marine Research Institute.

The 16-yard-long vessel, off-limits to journalists, was due to resume the hunt later on Tuesday after bringing its catch ashore at the west coast village of Olafsvik. A Reuters witness said the deck looked empty apart from half a dozen big knives and machinery covered with bloodstains, used to cut up the whale.

The first catch was a 5.6-yard-long male, Sigurjonsson said, calling it "rather small." Adult minke whales grow to 10 yards.

Iceland plans initially to catch 38 minke whales as part of what it says is scientific research on the impact of a growing whale population on fish stocks vital for the livelihood of Icelandic fishermen. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was "extremely disappointed" and could consider sanctions against imports from the north Atlantic island.

Jill Sanders of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in Reykjavik to monitor the whale hunt, said the exercise was pointless from a scientific point of view.

"There's absolutely no need to go out and kill whales in the ocean," she told Reuters. About 10 dead minke whales were washed ashore in Iceland every year. "They (scientists) can cut their stomachs if they want to find out what they have been eating."

The British-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said Iceland's "so-called scientific hunt" was the first step toward the culling of whales in the name of fisheries management and a front for resuming commercial activities. Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986 because 13 of the world's great whale species are considered endangered.

A vast majority of Iceland's 290,000 people support whaling, opinion polls show, and Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson called the hunt legitimate.

"The whale a consumer of vast quantities of fish stocks. But we don't really know what is the extent of that because we have not been able to do the sufficient research," he told a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska.

White Whale Unharmed in Oz

BRISBANE, Australia August 19, 2003 (AFP) - A rare white whale feared seriously injured after colliding with a boat off the Australian coast appeared to have survived the ordeal with only minor scarring, wildlife officers confirmed.

The 14-metre (46 foot) male humpback was spotted in waters off Queensland state by a fisherman Tuesday and its apparent good health was confirmed by an aerial patrol by wildlife rangers, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service regional service director Clive Cook said Tuesday.

"At first glance he appears to be all right," Cook said.

The whale, dubbed Moby by locals, is believed to be the only albino humpback in the world.

He was first spotted in 1991.

Catamaran skipper David Snell said he was sailing off the Queensland coast Saturday when the white giant breached then unsuccessfully attempted to dive under his boat, tearing off a rudder. Experts initially feared the rudder had lodged in the animal's back causing serious injury but Cook said this now appeared unlikely.

"I suspect the rudder has fallen off and he's got a bit of scarring but it's probably not fatal," Cook said.

The whale, also known as Mingaloo, meaning "White Fella" in Aboriginal, is among an estimated 5,000 humpbacks that migrate north from Antarctica along the Australian coast every year to reach their breeding grounds.

A huge whale watching tourism industry has emerged in recent years, prompting Queensland state to last month declare the white humpback a "special interest whale" to prevent it being disturbed.

Under the new law, anyone who drives a boat or jet-ski closer than 500 meters (1,650 feet) or flies an aircraft closer than 600 meters (1,980 feet) faces fines of more than 12,000 dollars (7,800 US).

Environmentalists Fear Blackout Backlash

By David Crary
Associated Press

TORONTO August 19, 2003 (AP) — Environmentalists in the United States and Canada fear last week's blackout will provide potent ammunition for the politicians and business groups seeking massive investments in new power plants and transmission lines.

A better legacy of Thursday's outage, which affected about 50 million people in the northwestern United States and parts of Canada, would be a bold push for renewable energy and effective conservation measures, activists say.

They hope that the post-blackout scene in Ontario will be replicated elsewhere: a pro-business conservative government preaching conservation to industry and householders alike, to the point of suggesting clothes-washing in cold water.

"Building more plants and transmission lines: For consumers and people uneducated about the issues, it's an argument that will seem to make sense," said Steve Clemmer, energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass. "Those are the obvious responses, but it's more complicated than that."

The immediate push — if the blackout indeed is blamed on problems with the distribution grid — is likely to be for improved transmission lines. Many environmentalists agree that transmission systems need improvement but say existing lines can be upgraded to improve capacity and efficiency.

"Nobody wants a new transmission line in their backyard," Clemmer said.

Long term, environmentalists fear the blackout will provide impetus for a component of the Bush administration energy policy envisioning widespread construction of new power plants.

"There's a better way," said Debbie Boger, a Sierra Club energy expert in Washington. "The best way to prevent energy bottlenecks and grid overload is to increase the efficiency of our buildings, homes, factories, and appliances — in addition to our transmission lines."

Among the specific proposals being touted are tighter efficiency standards for lighting fixtures and major appliances, including air conditioners. Environmentalists also are calling for speedier development of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.

"They're cleaner, and if they go off line, there won't be a ripple effect," said Clemmer, whose organization has proposed that 20 percent of U.S. electricity be supplied by renewable energy by 2020.

However, Gavin Donohue, executive director of the Independent Power Producers of New York, said environmentalists should accept the fact that expanded transmission and generating facilities also are needed.

"This blackout covered 9,300 square miles (23,810 square kilometers) and affected 50 million people," Donohue said. "Renewable energy and conservation are an important part of the solution, but it's laughable to say they could have made up the difference of what occurred here."

Jack Gibbons, chairman of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, said any new power plants constructed in the province should be fueled by natural gas or other relatively clean energy.

"The people of North America are going to demand a more reliable supply and also cleaner air," he said. "Wind power, natural gas, water power: People in those businesses will seize the opportunity. The coal-burning power industry will try to do that also, but ultimately they will fail, because their competitors have the better option."

Air pollution is likely to be a pivotal issue as policy-makers and lobbyists debate post-blackout alternatives.

The U.S. government and several Northeastern states have taken legal action against some coal-burning power companies in the Midwest, accusing them of violating pollution-control laws and thus causing acid rain and health problems in downwind regions. Three Northeastern states also are trying force coal-fired power plants in Ontario to reduce pollution emissions.

If large numbers of new power plants are built, one result could be a substantial increase in emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The United States has rejected an international protocol requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Canada, by contrast, has signed the Kyoto Protocol and is proposing an array of efficiency measures for consumers and industry.

Tom Adams of the Toronto-based watchdog group Energy Probe said the blackout will likely provide ammunition to both sides in the debate over power and conservation.

"Those within the power industry who have been saying for a long time that we haven't been making appropriate investments in our grid systems — they have an audience now," Adams said. "But the pro-conservation forces have received also substantial vindication: You hear the political leadership in Ontario crying from rooftops, begging people to be careful with their electricity consumption."

Compulsive Shoppers Not Nuts - Yet!
American Psychiatric Association Press Release

Arlington VA August 18, 2003 - There have been a number of erroneous reports in the media indicating that the American Psychiatric Association is planning to add "compulsive shopping disorder" to the list of approved mental disorders. We would like to correct this misinformation.

At this time, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has no plans to add compulsive shopping to the list of mental disorders in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), due for publication in 2010. APA is not altering the current edition, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), to include compulsive shopping as a disorder.

The DSM is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals and provides clear, objective descriptions of mental illnesses, based upon scientific research. It has evolved into a carefully constructed, numerical index of mental illnesses grouped by categories and sub-categories

Darrel A. Regier, M.D., M.P.H., Director, American Psychiatric Association's Division of Research who coordinates development of the DSM states, "at this time there are no plans or processes set up to add compulsive shopping to the list of mental disorders in the next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."
Stardust Storms Heading for Our Solar System

European Space Agency Science News Release

August 18, 2003 (ESA) - Until ten years ago, most astronomers did not believe stardust could enter our Solar System. Then ESA's Ulysses spaceprobe discovered minute stardust particles leaking through the Sun's magnetic shield, into the realm of Earth and the other planets.

Now the same spaceprobe has shown that a flood of dusty particles is heading our way.

Since its launch in 1990, Ulysses has constantly monitored how much stardust enters the Solar System from the interstellar space around it. Using an on-board instrument called DUST, scientists have discovered that stardust can actually approach the Earth and other planets, but its flow is governed by the Sun's magnetic field, which behaves as a powerful gate-keeper bouncing most of it back. However, during solar maximum - a phase of intense activity inside the Sun that marks the end of each 11-year solar cycle - the magnetic field becomes disordered as its polarity reverses.

As a result, the Sun's shielding power weakens and more stardust can sneak in.

What is surprising in this new Ulysses discovery is that the amount of stardust has continued to increase even after the solar activity calmed down and the magnetic field resumed its ordered shape in 2001.

Scientists believe that this is due to the way in which the polarity changed during solar maximum. Instead of reversing completely, flipping north to south, the Sun's magnetic poles have only rotated at halfway and are now more or less lying sideways along the Sun's equator. This weaker configuration of the magnetic shield is letting in two to three times more stardust than at the end of the 1990s. Moreover, this influx could increase by as much as ten times until the end of the current solar cycle in 2012.

The stardust itself is very fine - just one-hundredth of the width of a human hair. It is unlikely to have much effect on the planets but it is bound to collide with asteroids, chipping off larger dust particles, again increasing the amount of dust in the inner Solar System. On the one hand, this means that the solar panels of spacecraft may be struck more frequently by dust, eventually causing a gradual loss of power, and that space observatories looking in the plane of the planets may have to cope with the haze of more sunlight diffused by the dust.

On the other hand, this astronomical occurrence could offer a powerful new way to look at the icy comets in the Kuiper Belt region of the outer Solar System. Stardust colliding with them will chip off fragments that can be studied collectively with ESA's forthcoming infrared space telescope, Herschel. This might provide vital insight into a poorly understood region of the Solar System, where the debris from the formation of the planets has accumulated.

Back down on Earth, everyone may notice an increase in the number of sporadic meteors that fall from the sky every night. These meteors, however, will be rather faint.

Astronomers still do not know whether the current stardust influx, apart from being favored by the particular configuration of the Sun's magnetic field, is also enhanced by the thickness of the interstellar clouds into which the Solar System is moving. Currently located at the edge of what astronomers call the local interstellar cloud, our Sun is about to join our closest stellar neighbor Alpha Centauri in its cloud, which is less hot but denser.

ESA's Ulysses data make it finally possible to study how stardust is distributed along the path of the Solar System through the local galactic environment. However, as it takes over 70 thousand years to traverse a typical galactic cloud, no abrupt changes are expected in the short term.

European Space Agency -

1,200 Human Bones Buried Beneath Ben Franklin's House?

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

London August 15, 2003 (Discovery) — Renovation of Benjamin Franklin's London home has revealed everything from a basement pit containing over 1,200 human bones, to the windows where Franklin would sit naked facing the street, according to the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, the London nonprofit that is readying the house for public tours.

The organization is in the second phase of renovation work and recently completed interior restoration of the basement, first and second floors.

Benjamin Franklin House, on 36 Craven Street, is the only original Franklin home in existence. He lived in the house between 1757 and 1775.

Discovery of the basement bones startled workers, who called in police to investigate. Human skeletal remains ranged from the bones of a young infant to those of an elderly man. After analysis, the Westminster coroner declared "it most likely that these are anatomical specimens... ."

As it turns out, Franklin rented the home from a London widower. Her daughter, Polly, married a surgeon, William Hewson, who opened an anatomy school in the home.

"The unconventional disposal probably was necessary because specimens were often obtained from grave robbers," explained Marcia Balisciano, director of the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House.

The bones themselves provide clues for anatomy work, instead of foul play. Some skulls were trepanned, meaning they had holes drilled in them, which at the time was thought to be a cure for madness. Limb bones had saw marks, suggesting amputation.

Workers also found mercury and turtle bones in the basement. Balisciano said Hewson would inject the turtles with mercury for his studies on the human lymphatic system.

Hewson died in 1774 at the age of 34 from septicemia contracted during a dissection.

Bone sawing was not the only unusual activity in the house. Balisciano said Franklin used to march up and down the stairs for exercise and then sit nude, "taking an air bath," in front of the open first-floor windows.

While cleaning a fireplace in one of Franklin's rooms, workers found evidence of Franklin's experiments. He had installed an iron frame and sliding metal plate in the brick, opening to allow for vent control and greater fuel efficiency.

Renovation also has revealed an unusual color of green never before identified, used in the paint on the house stairs.

Approximately $1.4 million must be raised before the house can open to the public. The target date is January 2005, the 299th anniversary of Franklin's birthday.

John Alviti, senior curator of collections for The Franklin Institute in Pennsylvania, said the London group has their work cut out for them. "Remember, Franklin is thought of as a traitor in England," Alviti explained. "It is a credit to the British that they can look beyond his political ties to recognize his greatness as a scientist, inventor and philosopher."

Both Balisciano and Alviti believe Franklin would be pleased by the renewed interest in his life and work.

"Franklin said, 'I was born 100 years too soon; something is going to be made of this," said Balisciano. "We're trying to uphold his wish."

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry Press Release

At the 42nd General Assembly in Ottawa, Canada, the IUPAC Council officially approved the name for element of atomic number 110, to be known as darmstadtium, with symbol Ds.

In 2001, a joint IUPAC-IUPAP Working Party (JWP) confirmed the discovery of element number 110 and this by the collaboration of Hofmann et al. from the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung mbH (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany (Pure Appl. Chem. 73, 959-967 (2001)). The most relevant experiment resulted from the fusion-evaporation using a 62Ni beam on an isotopically enriched 208Pb target, which produced four chains of alpha-emitting nuclides following the presumed formation of 269110 + n. (S. Hofmann et al., Z. Phys. A350, 277-280 (1995)).

bombardment of lead with nickel ions 20882Pb + 6228Ni ----> 269110 (0.17 ms) + 10n

In a soon-to-be-published second report, the JWP has re-endorsed the confirmed synthesis of element 110 by the team at GSI led by Sigurd Hofmann.

In accordance with IUPAC procedures, the discoverers at the GSI were invited to propose a name and symbol for element 110 to the IUPAC Inorganic Chemistry Division. Hofmann's team proposed the name darmstadtium, with the symbol Ds. This name continues the long-established tradition of naming an element after the place of its discovery.

[Well, at least they didn't name it schwerionenforschungium. Ed.]
Lice and Human Clothing 70,000 Years Old

By Maggie Fox
Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON August 18, 2003 (Reuters) - Adam and Eve may have put on fig leaves while still in the Garden of Eden but a study that looked at the most intimate of pests -- body lice -- suggests that humans started wearing clothes 70,000 years ago, scientists said on Monday.

The genetic study of the lice strongly suggests they -- and clothing -- arose soon after modern Homo sapiens began moving out of Africa and into the cooler regions of Europe.

Lice provide a unique insight into the development of clothing, according to the researchers, working in Germany. Only humans carry this particular species of louse, which lays its eggs in clothing and spreads typhus, among other diseases.

"It seems fairly obvious that the body louse arose when humans made frequent use of clothing," molecular anthropologist Mark Stoneking said in a telephone interview.

Stoneking and colleagues Ralf Kittler and Manfred Kayser, all of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, report their findings in this week's issue of the journal Current Biology.

Experts are eager to know when people first started to wear clothes. But while stones, tools and other evidence of human behavior survive for millennia, clothing does not.


Stoneking, an American, thought of a way to figure it out when his son came home from school with a teacher's note.

"It was one of those notices where they let parents know some kid in the classroom has come down with head lice," Stoneking said.

"One of the points it made was that you only get head lice from other humans ... you can't get them from your dog, your cat, etc. And lice cannot survive more than 24 hours away from the human body," he added.

"It occurred to me then that if that is really true, that the spread of human lice around the world would have been driven by humans."

Three species of louse infect humans -- head lice, known to generations as "cooties," body lice and pubic lice or "crabs." Experts agree body lice are a subspecies of head lice and that body lice probably evolved when people started to wear clothing.

Stoneking's team used a molecular clock to find out when body lice evolved.

They looked at the DNA found in the mitochondria of cells. This DNA is inherited virtually intact from the mother, with any changes happening through mutation alone.

The rate of mutation can be calculated, with a certain number of changes expected with each generation. By comparing the mitochondrial DNA of body lice to that of a cousin -- chimpanzee lice -- the researchers were able to date it back to around 70,000 years ago.

This, Stoneking said, fits in with growing evidence that modern humans evolved in Africa and migrated out around 100,000 years ago. A comparison of body lice from around the world shows their genetic diversity mirrors that of humans, as well, also supporting the idea that they evolved in Africa first.

As with people, lice found in different parts of Africa are more different from one another genetically than an African louse versus a European louse, for example.

Stoneking is now starting to look at pubic lice, or crabs. He at first believed they might shed light on when humans lost their heavy body hair.

"But I found out that entomologists and taxonomists pretty much are united in agreeing that human pubic lice are more related to gorilla lice than to head lice. I don't want to speculate on what our ancestors were up to to get gorilla lice in the pubic area," Stoneking said.

Atomic Bear!
MOSCOW August 19, 2003 (AFP) - A female bear and her cub caused a major security breach after they walked into a top-secret nuclear research site in southern Russia.

The bears were chased away from the compound at Sarov -- where the first Russian nuclear bomb was built -- and made it back safely to a nearby forest, according to officials quoted by the Itar-Tass agency.

The centre had previously been "visited" by a number of animals, including elk.

Russian environmentalists have frequently decried what they see as poor security at Russian nuclear sites.
Risky Old Sperm

Johns Hopkins Medical Institution Press Release

August 19, 2003 - There's a lot said about a woman's ticking biological clock, but male biology doesn't age as gracefully as men might like to think.

By analyzing sperm from men of various ages, scientists from the McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins have discovered that older men's sperm is more likely to contain disease-causing genetic mutations that also seem to increase a sperm's chances of fertilizing an egg.

The findings, which appear in the advance online section of the American Journal of Human Genetics, emerged during efforts to explain why a rare genetic disease is more common in children born to older fathers.

The disease, Apert syndrome, leads to webbed fingers and early fusion of the skull bones, which must be surgically corrected.

The researchers found that mutation rates in sperm increased as men aged, but not enough to fully account for the increased incidence of Apert syndrome in children born to older fathers, leading to the suspicion that the disease-causing mutations confer some benefit to the sperm, despite the mutations' effects on the resulting baby.

"Mutations causing this disease occur more frequently in the sperm of older men, but the mutation rate isn't quite as high as the incidence of Apert syndrome," says Ethylin Jabs, M.D., director of the Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders at Johns Hopkins. "For some reason, a sperm with one of these mutations is more likely to be used to make a baby than normal sperm."

While Apert syndrome itself affects only 1 in 160,000 births, the scientists believe a combination of increased mutation rate and "mutation advantage" might also be behind some of the 20 or so other genetic conditions linked to older fathers, including achrondroplasia dwarfism. These disorders begin to increase rapidly with the father's age at about the same time as maternal risks increase -- age 33 to 35. Most of the evidence for paternal age effects has come from determining how many children with these conditions are born to fathers of various ages.

For the current study, the Hopkins scientists studied sperm from 148 men of various ages and looked for two genetic changes that are responsible for 99 percent of Apert syndrome cases. They found that men over 60 were, on average, three times as likely as men under 30 to have sperm with at least one of these changes. The mutations didn't appear in the men's blood.

"Men over age 52 are six times more likely than a 27-year-old to have a child with Apert syndrome, so the mutation rate alone can't account for the condition's link to paternal age," says first author Rivka Glaser, a graduate student in the human genetics and molecular biology program at Johns Hopkins.

"Literally hundreds of millions of sperm are made in each batch, so in most cases there are still many normal sperm available," adds Jabs, also a professor of pediatrics. "Because the few mutated sperm are more likely to be used to make a baby than would be expected, the mutation must provide them some competitive advantage over their normal counterparts."

The two genetic mutations that cause most cases of Apert syndrome affect a protein called fibroblast growth-factor receptor-2 (FGFR2). The mutated versions of FGFR-2 don't bind to its usual targets with the same affinity, perhaps contributing to the sperm's likelihood of fertilizing an egg, the researchers suggest.

The scientists looked for the two FGFR2 mutations in sperm from two groups of men who did not have children with Apert syndrome. These controls -- 57 from a Johns Hopkins study and 76 from an ongoing study at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- were asked to provide sperm and blood samples and to complete a health survey. They also analyzed sperm from 15 fathers of children with Apert syndrome.

Genre News: Carnivale, Charisma Carpenter, Seabiscuit, Alfred Hitchcock, William Shatner & More!

Carnivale Ballyhoo Begins!
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK August 18, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Back in the Depression era, a carnival drew a crowd when a barker bellowed into a megaphone, "Hurry! Hurry! Step right up!"

HBO will resort to more sophisticated marketing tactics for "Carnivale," its new primetime series beginning Sept. 14 about a traveling troupe of circus performers.

A supernatural-infused costume drama set in the 1930s, "Carnivale" is a far cry from the raw slices of contemporary realism offered by "Sex and the City" and "The Wire."

That is why the cable network plans to tweak its traditional strategies to bring viewers into the "Carnivale" tent.

"Our marketing plan for 'Carnivale' is distinctive from any other of our series" marketing plans," HBO VP advertising Courteney Monroe said. "The reason is that it's a very different type of show."

But "Carnivale" also is a very important show for HBO. With the end in sight for such veteran series as "Sex" and "The Sopranos" the network is out to prove it can grab the brass ring once again with a new generation of hits that delight viewers and critics. HBO won't reveal how much is being spent to promote the show, but Monroe confirmed that it will be in the same range as the network's other primetime series launches.

"Carnivale," however, is different than its predecessors. For all of the innovative twists such HBO series as "Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" provide -- including a Mafia boss seeking psychotherapy or a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the funeral business -- they still can be sold as family dramas. Not as easy to categorize is "Carnivale," which weaves a multi-layered tapestry of stories that threads together science fiction, history and religion.

The series also is propelled by two seemingly disparate story lines that never intertwine throughout the first season, a narrative structure that could puzzle viewers, acknowledged Ronald Moore, one of the series" executive producers.

"This is not a traditional TV series by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "We're telling a complicated story in a very elliptical, unusual fashion. We're setting the bar pretty high for the audience."

Since explaining "Carnivale" is a daunting task, HBO will try to get as many viewers as possible to see sneak peeks of the program. A CD-ROM with a 2-1/2-minute trailer for "Carnivale" will be inserted into the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly for about 500,000 subscribers in major markets. The network hopes the magazine's core readership of young pop-culture junkies will be hooked by the series' visually arresting scenes, which mixes the vivid pageantry of carnival life with the stark landscapes of the Dust Bowl.

"What we wanted to do is create as many program sampling opportunities as possible to let the program speak for itself," Monroe said.

Original programming on cable has benefited from CD-ROM inserts before; FX tried a similar tactic to launch the second season of "The Shield" in December.

"It was a little pricey, but you get terrific value," said Chris Carlisle, executive VP marketing and promotion at FX. "HBO has always aimed at the cool-hunter crowd, and there's a lot to be said for that approach."

While TV spots touting a new HBO series are usually contained to the week before the premiere, the network quadrupled its off-channel buy for "Carnivale."

"All that narrative is difficult to explain in print," Monroe said. "For many of our series, we usually have a little more print and outdoor elements."

With the broadcast networks barring entry of commercials for HBO for competitive reasons, "Carnivale" spots will run in national syndication, cable and local avails on broadcast stations in New York and Los Angeles. The first of the four weeks of commercials planned kicked off during the first week of August with 30-second clips that teased "Carnivale." Another batch of promos that explain what "Carnivale" is about will hit the airwaves in the two weeks leading up to the premiere, followed by another week of spots after the premiere that will excerpt from the rave reviews HBO expects to get from critics.

"Carnivale" marketing also will have a significant online component, with tune-in banners and full-screen "takeover" ads planned for select Web sites that will lead to a personalized, interactive tarot-card reading experience similar to what is depicted in the series. "We will keep that going for almost the entire duration of the series, which we don't normally do," Monroe said. "Usually, we launch it for one or two weeks."

The print art for "Carnivale" will be driven by an image of the 17-member cast surrounding a carnival truck, with a tagline that portends the good versus evil clash at the heart of the series: "Into each generation is born a creature of light and a creature of darkness." [Not to mention a Slayer. Ed.]

HBO is hoping "Carnivale" will get a boost when it bows directly after the series finale of "Sex and the City" next month at 9:30 p.m.; though network marketing mavens expect the series to appeal more to the "Six Feet Under" fan base, they also think it will skew female and soak up "Sex's" massive audience. The following week, "Carnivale" will move to its regular 9 p.m. slot, followed by another new HBO series at 10 p.m., the politically themed series "K Street."

Like "Carnivale," "K Street" is a complex program difficult to reduce to a tagline. Produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, the series mixes improvisational actors with real-life political figures to riff on stories inspired by recent headlines. HBO will spend less marketing dollars on "K Street" than "Carnivale," concentrating its media buys to mostly political-flavored programming and magazines.

"Carnivale" could also be a tough sell because of its historical context, which HBO doesn't shy away from emphasizing in promotional images.

"Period pieces can be a nightmare," warned FX's Carlisle. "You narrow your audience if you emphasize that it's a long time ago. You need to make it relevant."

Moore isn't daunted by the marketing challenges for his series. "The HBO viewer has come to expect something different and demanding," he said. "We'll meet those expectations."

Carnivale Official site -

Charisma Wants Cordy Back

Hollywood August 18, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Charisma Carpenter, who won't be returning as a regular cast member on The WB's Angel, spoke for the first time about her abrupt departure in an interview with the Boston Herald and said she was as shocked as anyone. "I was not prepared," Carpenter told the newspaper. "I don't think you're ever prepared for that kind of situation."

Carpenter played the acid-tongued Cordelia Chase for three years on Buffy the Vampire Slayer before moving over to The WB's spinoff series.

"Seven years, that's a long time," she said. "I started that show. To not be finishing it is a pretty big deal for me. They went back to work on July 24. ... On that day I thought, 'Oh, today is officially my first day of unemployment.'"

Last spring, Carpenter returned to Angel just 10 days after giving birth to her son, Donovan, and spent two long days on the set, wrapping up the season, the newspaper reported.

She said she is absolutely willing to return to the series to provide closure to her character's story arc and bring Cordy out of the coma in which she remained during last season's finale.

"I think it would be incomplete if it wasn't addressed but I don't know what's being planned," she said.

"I haven't heard anything. As we speak today, there are no plans for me to come back."

Angel fans note: UPN's Jake 2.0 star Christopher Gorham will be up against WB's Angel this year, but Zap2it's Kate O'Hare sez Gorham has "Fond 'Buffy' Memories" in a recent article. Jake 2.0 also has inherited Angel's former executive producer and co-creator David Greenwalt. Read about it here:,1002,271|82874|1|,00.html

Official WB Angel site -,7353,||139,00.html

Seabiscuit's Saddle to Be Auctioned Off

RED LODGE, Montana August 18, 2003 (AP) - If you're ready to pony up some cash, you might be able to nab one of Seabiscuit's old saddles. Bob McTaggart and Jaqui Their-McTaggart have decided to sweeten their retirement by auctioning off the saddle that jockey Red Pollard rode to a win on the Thoroughbred race horse in the 1930s.

Bidding on a similar saddle sold at a recent auction of Seabiscuit memorabilia in Beverly Hills, Calif., went as high as $125,000. The price paid by the anonymous buyer, however, was never disclosed by the auction house. The McTaggarts hope their saddle can fetch $250,000.

Seabiscuit's enormous fame has been revived by Laura Hildenbrand's best-selling book in 2001 and a current hit movie starring Tobey Maguire.

The McTaggarts became heirs to the lightweight saddle through Bob's father, Archie McTaggart, one-time Butte mayor and a racing fan who died in 1975.

"He took Red under his wing before he was a well-known jockey," Bob said. "After Red and Seabiscuit won the big Santa Anita Handicap race, Red reached his goal and retired."

As a thank-you to his friend, mentor and spiritual father, Pollard sent Archie McTaggart the saddle and victory picture. On the picture, Red wrote, "Arch, I done it and I'm glad. Red Pollard." He also signed the saddle and dated it 1934.

Jaqui began researching the saddle, authenticating it and corresponding with people via the Internet to see what the saddle might be worth. The McTaggarts have contacted Sotheby's auction house.

[By the way, unless you were there back in the 1930s, you really don't know The Biscuit until you read the book Seabiscuit by Laura Hildenbrand. Available in supermarkets everywhere. Seriously, folks, it is an amazing read! Ed.]

Rob Lowe Joins Schwarzenegger Campaign

BURBANK August 18, 2003 (AP) - Actor Rob Lowe, who played a White House aid on television, has joined real-life politics by volunteering for Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign.

Lowe, a longtime Democrat, said he believes the action-star has injected new energy into California politics.

Schwarzenegger is, "motivating and energizing people in this state that haven't been interested in politics in many, many years," Lowe said in a taped interview with the syndicated TV entertainment newsmagazine show "Extra", slated to air Monday.

Despite their party differences, Lowe said he wanted to help the Republican candidate unseat Gov. Gray Davis in the Oct. 7 recall election because Schwarzenegger will "put the people above partisan politics."

Lowe, who will organize celebrity support for the campaign, described Schwarzenegger as a natural leader.

"I know that when I'm on a set, I want to know who the director is. I don't want to have to guess," Lowe said. "That's what Arnold will bring to this state. He's a leader."

The former "West Wing" star also described the campaign as: "a tremendous sacrifice for Arnold and for the family to give up their way of life — the privacy they value so much."

Lowe's participation in the campaign was announced Friday. He is one of several high profile advisers to join Schwarzenegger's team. Last week George P. Shultz, secretary of state during the Reagan administration, and billionaire Warren Buffet also announced they will assist the campaign.

The latest polling suggests Davis is likely to be recalled and puts Schwarzenegger second, behind Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, among the 135 replacement candidates. The nonpartisan Field Poll showed Bustamante had the support of 25 percent of likely voters, and Schwarzenegger 22 percent, with a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Thursday that former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz will co-chair an Economic Recovery Council for his gubernatorial campaign.

Dern Recalls Hitchcock-Spielberg Meeting

LOS ANGELES August 16, 2003 (AP) - Bruce Dern, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's final film "Family Plot," revealed a situation where the master of suspense displayed some nervousness of his own.

Dern said during filming of "Family Plot" in 1976, a young Steven Spielberg appeared on the Universal lot, hoping to meet Hitchcock.

Spielberg, who had made the blockbuster horror movie "Jaws" the year before, stood at the back of the soundstage and begged Dern to help him get a 10-minute audience with Hitchcock.

Dern went to the formidable Hitchcock, who asked, "Bruce, is that the boy who made the fish movie?"

Dern replied, "Yeah ... He just wants to kind of let you know what a fan he is."

Hitchcock started shaking and said he was too nervous to speak to him because he felt "like such a whore."

When Dern asked why, Hitchcock said, "I'm the voice of a 'Jaws' commercial."

Dern told the anecdote in Los Angeles recently while promoting "A Decade Under the Influence," an upcoming documentary about the 1970s generation of filmmakers.

Cumming Gay Detective Show Set for ABC

LOS ANGELES August 18, 2003 ( - Stan Zimmerman and Jim Berg have always worked steadily between features and television, but suddenly they're balancing high profile gigs between series, film and stage work. The busy duo has most recently been tapped to write the pilot of ABC's now-untitled gay detective dramedy.

Previously called "Mr. and Mr. Nash," the show focuses on a pair of interior decorators who solve crimes by night. The project, set to star Alan Cumming, is from Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and will be executive produced by Steve Martin and Joan Stein. It has been given a midseason order.

Zimmerman and Berg worked with C-W-M on "Roseanne" in the 1990s and helped write the 1999 ABC telefilm of "Annie," which co-starred Cumming.

"We loved the idea of a gay-themed 'Hart to Hart,' and we're huge fans of Alan's," Zimmerman tells the Hollywood Reporter. "We're also excited about ABC going back to those light, fun hour [series] that they were once known for."

The duo is also working to rewrite the upcoming remake of the 1967 camp classic "Valley of the Dolls" for director Betty Thomas, who worked with Zimmerman and Berg on the two "Brady Bunch" movies. If they weren't busy enough, Priscilla Presley has asked them to to write the book for "Burning Love," a Broadway musical about Priscilla's relationship with Elvis Presley.

Shatner Has (Another) New Idea for Star Trek
By Kirk Baird
Las Vegas Sun

Hollywood August 14, 2003 (SHNS) - In 1966 "Star Trek" captivated TV audiences by boldly going where no show had gone before, offering a smart sci-fi series with not-so-subtle social commentary of the times.

In the 37 years since its debut Gene Rodenberry's cult phenomenon has spawned a Saturday morning cartoon series, 10 films and four TV series.

"Star Trek" the series has become "Star Trek" the franchise.

But the one-time big moneymaker of Paramount studios is in jeopardy.

The film series is all but warped out, with "Star Trek: Nemesis," the most recent installment, managing a paltry $44 million at the box office the lowest take yet for a "Star Trek" film.

And the latest "Trek" TV show, "Enterprise," has watched its ratings sour like stale Romulan ale. Through June the show ranked 101st, averaging only 2.1 million viewers.

Already there are plans to retool the series for its third year, with the Enterprise crew spending most of next season charting unknown territory to do battle with dangerous new villains.

It's actually gotten so bad for the franchise that Paramount's parent company, Viacom, was sued by game maker Activision, who has a decadelong licensing agreement to turn "Star Trek" into software form.

"Through its actions and inactions, Viacom has let the once-proud 'Star Trek' franchise stagnate and decay," claimed Activision in a statement.

While the companies have since patched up their differences, it's clear to others involved with the series that the outlook for "Star Trek" is not good.

In fact, William Shatner calls the "Star Trek" outlook "somewhat dire."

When asked if he felt the film series was finished, Shatner replied, "I would say so, yes -- at least for the present.

"I think that Patrick (Stewart) doesn't want to do it anymore," he said. "The other cast of 'Star Trek' . . . they have run their race and have made many films -- good ones, I think -- so there's another phase, but we don't know what it is."

But all is not lost for devoted followers of the Federation.

The series still has its hardcore fan base, especially those at conventions. Trekkers are notoriously loyal to the series and to most anyone associated with the series, Shatner said.

"I find that the conventions are like a built-in audience and I treat them like stand-up comedy and work on new material," he said.
"It's great fun and you can't fail because they love you."

And while he wouldn't discuss specifics, Shatner said he has an idea for a new "Star Trek" series.

"In fact, I'm trying to interest the powers -- and that has many levels to it -- for me to conceive another 'Star Trek' manifestation," he said. "It would be a concept for a series."

The former Captain Kirk actually made his directorial film debut with 1989's "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," which, until the most recent "Trek" flick, was considered the series' critical and financial low point.

The 72-year-old Shatner placed much of the blame for the film's failings with his then-inability to negotiate with those in charge.

"I think in terms of a political experience for me, I had to play the game with the studio, the producers, with the suits, and I didn't quite know how to do all that," he said. "I didn't know when to stand on principle and when to be politic. That's a very difficult decision in any life, let alone when making a movie.

"I learned a great deal. I probably compromised myself out of a terrific movie."

Shatner, however, wants to correct some of his mistakes. He even approached Paramount about releasing a Special Edition of "Star Trek V" with improved effects, similar to what the studio did for director Robert Wise and his "Star Trek: The Motion Picture -- The Director's Edition."

"I had asked them for money to do some of the special effects over that were not good or extensive or well thought out -- with the ending in particular," he said. "But they said no."

In the meantime, Shatner is preparing to direct a film for the Sci Fi Channel that he has written. Shatner has already written and directed another film for the network, "Groom Lake."

[Try to miss Groom Lake, BTW, unless you are an Amy Acker fan (Fred on Angel) or really liked Plan 9 from Outer Space for its plotline. No offense, Bill. Ed.]

Official Star Trek -

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