Nuke Workers Vs. DOE!
Edge of the Universe, Klingon Ale,
Lewis and Clark, Chicken Rights,
Life After Buffy and More!
Nuke Workers Versus DOE!
Scant Compensation for Sick Nuke Workers 
Associated Press Writer 

OAK RIDGE TN January 29, 2003 (AP) - Jerry Tudor never survived the wait. 

He was one of the first people to apply for a federal program designed to atone for illnesses suffered by Cold War-era nuclear plant workers who were exposed to toxic chemicals. 

Tudor waited and waited for compensation as cancer ate away at his body. He died Jan. 4. 

"My husband wasn't advocating money for himself," said his widow, Ruby Tudor. "He said from the beginning that it would be a death benefit ... because the federal agencies were dragging their feet." 

Tudor's case highlights the frustration thousands of nuclear workers and their families are experiencing as compensation gets caught up in the slow wheels of the federal government. 

Nearly three years after the government launched the Department of Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program, two-thirds of almost 38,000 claims are unresolved. 

Announced in 2000 by the Clinton administration, the compensation program was intended to help ailing government and contract employees exposed to cancer-causing radiation or the lung-damaging metals silica and beryllium, often without their knowledge. 

Program director Pete Turcic at the Department of Labor said the program covering 600,000 workers at 317 sites in 37 states was daunting to set up, but is now making headway. 

The government so far has paid nearly $442 million in restitution and $5.8 million in medical bills on 6,100 claims. About half of the claims were filed by workers, the rest by families of those who are deceased. 

The government doesn't track how many workers have died while waiting for benefits. 

Each worker or surviving family gets $150,000 in cash. The total payout could reach $1.7 billion over 10 years, according to estimates. 

To date, 6,700 claims have been rejected, mostly because the worker's illness or work site was not covered under the program. A total of 13,950 cases are pending. 

The largest block — 10,292 claims, including Tudor's — were sent into a bureaucratic purgatory to decide how much radiation each cancer-stricken worker received and what part played in their illness. 

Only 14 of these "dose reconstructions" are complete. Turcic said the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is conducting the dose studies, should be picking up the pace and have all 10,000 completed within a year. 

Turcic stressed this is a "claimant friendly process" in which a sick worker "does not have to prove any exposure at all," only that he is ill and worked in an area where there was a "99 percent confidence level" that he was exposed.

But it was an ordeal for Tudor, according to his widow and Harry Williams, president of Coalition for a Healthy Environment, an Oak Ridge sick worker group. 

Tudor worked for 28 years in an electroplating unit at the weapons plant known as Y-12 in Oak Ridge, about 25 miles west of Knoxville. Built to help develop the atomic bomb in World War II, the plant today makes parts for every nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal. 

Tudor's work was classified and he held a top-security "Q" clearance. When officials handling his sick worker claim called to get his work history over the phone, he said he could only talk about it face-to-face. They consented, but it caused delays. 

Williams, 57, worked throughout the DOE complex for 20 years before going on disability in 1996 with a litany of illnesses — from heart disease to nerve damage.

He credited Tudor with bringing sick workers from the Oak Ridge weapons plant and Oak Ridge National Laboratory into the sick workers movement that began in 1999 at the K-25 plant. More than 8,000 of the 38,000 claims have come from Oak Ridge.

Compensation for Nuclear Workers
Statistics from the federal compensation program for
Department of Energy and contractor workers made
sick from beryllium, silica or radiation exposure in the
nation's nuclear weapons program.
Claims nationally through Jan. 9, 2003: 

Filed — 37,975 

Approved — 7,022 

Denied — 6,711 

Awaiting dose reconstruction — 10,292 

Compensation paid — $441.8 million 

Medical bills paid — $5.8 million 

Source: Associated Press - U.S. Department of Labor

Tudor, who suffered from chronic depression, heart disease and other illnesses, went on disability in 1995, then spent years looking for a doctor willing to help him link the illnesses to his workplace.

"Nobody would help him," Ruby Tudor said. "We hit a brick wall everywhere we turned." 

Two years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. "It was all over his body, in his bones and lymph nodes before they caught it," his widow said. 

Last year, Tudor expressed doubt about ever getting money from the government.

"I don't believe I will live to see the compensation," he said at a rally in May. 

He entered Methodist Medical Center on Dec. 10, his 37th wedding anniversary. He celebrated his 56th birthday Dec. 12.
Three weeks later, he died. 

"He was just an awfully young man to have all of that," Ruby Tudor said, but the sick worker movement "gave Jerry something to focus on besides himself. He spoke up every chance he got." 

Department of Labor: 

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: 

Department of Energy: 

The Edge of The Universe

January 22, 2003 - With their giant telescopes pointed toward the heavens, astronomers look back in time to when young galaxies were just beginning to coalesce and when the first generations of stars were forming -- stars without planets in a realm dominated by hydrogen and helium. One key question that has puzzled astronomers for decades is: When did the first stars and galaxies form after the Big Bang occurred? 

The answer -- very quickly! Astronomers Rennan Barkana (Tel Aviv University) and Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) have found the first direct evidence that galaxies as large as the Milky Way already had formed when the Universe was less than a billion years old. 

"In some ways, it's surprising that such large galaxies formed so quickly. Most galaxies in the early Universe were only one-hundredth that size," said Loeb. "But our model, combined with observations by other researchers, provides clear evidence that massive galaxies existed within a relatively short time after the Big Bang." 

Intriguingly, the large galaxies discovered by Barkana and Loeb are still around today.

Over billions of years, they continued to consume smaller galaxies, like a cosmic software corporation absorbing many smaller companies. These galactic cannibals have grown from the seeds that existed in a billion-year-old Universe to become monstrous giant elliptical galaxies, resting in the centers of galaxy clusters. 

To learn about the early Universe, astronomers study the most distant objects -- quasars whose light has traveled for billions of years to reach the Earth. Quasars (short for quasi-stellar objects) are the brightest known astronomical objects.

Their great luminosities are believed to be powered by supermassive black holes. A black hole acts as a quasar's central "engine," gulping down huge amounts of gas and blasting enormous quantities of radiation into space, creating a beacon visible for billions of light-years. 

Studies of nearby galaxies have shown that a black hole's mass tends to be correlated with the mass of its host galaxy. That is, big galaxies have big black holes while little galaxies have little black holes. Astronomers expected that the same would be true of the more distant black holes in the early Universe, but they had no evidence to prove it. Barkana and Loeb have provided that evidence. 

In studying the spectra of quasars -- the intensity of their light at different wavelengths, or colors -- astronomers had recorded a curious feature which did not attract their attention. Certain quasars showed a "double-horn" profile in their spectra. Barkana and Loeb created a computer model that explained the spectral feature as being the result of absorption by hydrogen gas. 

Intergalactic hydrogen falling into a quasar's host galaxy absorbs some of the quasar's light. This infall can be used to measure the host galaxy's mass. Barkana and Loeb found that the two quasars they examined, for which detailed spectra were available, lie in galaxies about as massive as the Milky Way.

"This is the first time that the mass of an early galaxy has been directly measured," said Barkana. 

According to the widely accepted hierarchical model of galaxy formation, the first structures to form in the early Universe were small protogalaxies containing the mass of only a few thousand Suns. Over billions of years, protogalaxies collided to form the larger galaxies we see today. This process takes time, so it is intriguing that relatively large, Milky-Way-sized galaxies could have formed in less than a billion years. 

"What we've found is the tip of the iceberg," said Loeb. "We studied the brightest quasars and found them to be in the most massive galaxies existing at that time. Many smaller galaxies also were around, containing only about one-hundredth the mass of the Milky Way. We don't see those baby galaxies because, even if they contain quasars, they would be fainter and more difficult to see." 

Loeb also points out that, while the masses of the bright quasars' host galaxies were similar to the Milky Way, there also is an important difference. "The Milky Way has a small black hole at its center, containing only about three million solar masses. These early galaxies, even though they've had less time to form, contain black holes of up to one billion solar masses." 

So far, Barkana and Loeb have applied their model to two high-redshift quasars for which high-resolution spectra were available. (Redshift is a measure of how fast an object is receding from us due to the expansion of the universe. Higher redshifts indicate greater recessional speeds and hence greater distances.) High-resolution spectral observations of additional quasars are needed to confirm their model. 

This research is being reported in the January 23, 2003 issue of the journal Nature. 

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists organized into six research divisions study the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.

Earth-like Planets Rare?
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Princeton January 28, 2003 (BBC) - Earth-like worlds circling stars in orbital zones suitable for life may be few and far between in the cosmos, according to new research.

In the first comprehensive study of extrasolar planetary systems, astronomers have shown that in most of them it would not be possible to keep an Earth-like world in orbit around a star so that it was neither too hot nor too cold for life. 

In general, other planetary systems fall into two types: those with Jupiter-like worlds circling close to their parent star, and those with more distant Jupiters in elliptical orbits. In both systems, maintaining an Earth-like world in a temperate orbit is difficult, although not in all cases impossible. 

"This work shows us just how unusual our own Solar System is when compared with the other planetary systems," Dr Kristen Menou of Princeton University, US, told BBC News Online. Eighty-five planetary systems were studied, all that were known when the research was carried out. 

Dr Menou said: "They fall into two categories: large planets circling very close to their sun - the so-called 'hot Jupiters', and systems with Jupiter-like planets in distant non-circular orbits." 

Dr Menou, along with Dr Serge Tabachnik, created computer dynamical models of the known exoplanetary systems to see if it was possible for Earth-like worlds to exist for long periods in the so-called habitable zone.

This zone is the region around a star in which a planet would be able to sustain liquid water, being neither too close to the star for it all to be vaporized, nor too distant that it all freezes. 

In our Solar System, the Earth is in the middle of the habitable zone. Astronomers believe such a position is essential for life to develop and thrive. 

But it seems difficult for worlds to stay in the habitable zone in the majority of the extrasolar planetary systems found so far. 

"We found that in the systems with the distant Jupiters, these worlds can disrupt the orbit of any Earth-like world in the habitable zone," says Dr Menou. 

"Any Earth-like world in the temperate zone would either crash on to its parent star or be slung out into interstellar space," he added. 

Over half of the planetary systems studied had distant Jupiters making them unlikely to contain habitable Earth-like worlds. 

"We have identified some systems where distant Jupiters would pull Earth-like worlds into elliptical orbits that keep them inside the habitable zone. Such worlds would have dramatic and extreme seasons. We don't know how that would affect the development of life." 

The new analysis of the systems containing hot Jupiters shows that Earth-like worlds could remain orbiting in the temperate zone, seemingly an encouraging finding. 

"The good news is that in about a quarter of the systems we studied, there could be habitable planets present." 

But even in these systems, Earth-like worlds may have been cast asunder. 

Current models of the evolution of planetary systems have hot-Jupiters reaching their tight orbits by migrating inwards from more distant ones. 

This means that as they slowly traveled sunwards, they would have scattered any smaller worlds that got in their way, suggesting that there could be no Earth-like worlds in hot Jupiter systems at all. 

"The way we are trying to get out of this pessimistic position," says Dr Menou, "is by seeing if Earth-like worlds could form in a planetary system after the inward migration of Jupiter worlds." 

The research is to be published in a forthcoming edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Klingon Ale!
By Neil Hodgson
Liverpool Echo

LIVERPOOL January 23, 2003 (LE) - Brewer Cains' latest tipple is out of this world. Head brewer Dave Nijs has boldly gone where no man has gone before and produced three exclusive ales . . . for aliens!

The Toxteth plant is brewing exclusive ale for the tour of cult sci-fi show Star Trek. Relaxing in the Space Dock Lounge you can take your pick from Klingon Export, Ferengi Eelwasser or Romulan Ale which, at 4.5%, is liable to give any life form a light head.

Cains has beamed down 38,000 limited edition bottles for the show, Star Trek - The Adventure, at London's Hyde Park until March 30. It focuses on the crew of the Starship Enterprise and all their unworldly adventures on the small and big screen.

Cains' co-owner Ajmail Dusanj said the heavenly deal was down to their 'Enterprising' head brewer Dave.

"It was all down to one of Dave's own contacts. All the bottles are uniquely numbered so they are all collectors' items."

And he said there's a chance that Cains could brew more for the exhibition's European tour and that could lead to more novelty contracts.

"If it makes the company money, we would definitely be interested!" he added.

More than 65,000 Trekkies have already visited the UK exhibition, likened to a Hollywood back-lot dropped in the middle of Hyde Park, since it opened on December 18.

The show is the biggest of its kind and even includes the Starship Enterprise's original bridge where Captain Kirk and his crew were buffeted by countless meteor showers and alien attacks throughout the first 1960s TV series.

Official Star Trek site - 

Latest Star Trek News at Trek Today - 

Dangerous Water News! 
Earth's Water Crisis
By Alex Kirby 
BBC News Environment Correspondent

New York January 27, 2003 (BBC) - The United Nations has hit on a novel way to depict the gravity of the world's growing water crisis. It is publishing a report on the quantity, quality and availability of global water supplies that relies on graphics rather than text to deliver its message. The report is supplemented by CD-ROMs and other audio-visual material. 

The authors believe this will prove a more effective way of alerting the world to what is happening. 

The report, Vital Water Graphics, is published by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), which worked with other UN agencies, international organizations and individual experts to produce it.

It illustrates problems such as the world's growing waste of water, the reduction in freshwater supplies, and the sharp fall in size of the Aral Sea, Lake Chad and the marshlands of Mesopotamia. 

Dr Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's executive director, said the "visually compelling" report would be an effective tool for years to come. 

UNEP says there is good information on water resources in Europe and North America, but "glaring gaps" in some of the data for Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia. The report identifies trends and offers forecasts, and will be updated periodically to include new material. 

One chart shows how the amount of freshwater wasted by different sectors is rising.

In 2000, agriculture and domestic use each wasted 800 cubic km of water, and industry 400 cubic km. By 2025, the report estimates, those figures will have risen to 1000, 1100 and 500 cubic km respectively. By then, an estimated 300 cubic km of water will be lost as well through evaporation from reservoirs, up 50% from 2000. 

Salif Diop heads the water unit in Unep's division of early warning and assessment. He said: "Water-related problems have been recognized as the most immediate and serious threats to humankind. Vital Water Graphics is a valuable complement to existing assessments of world water resources and to the tools available for raising public awareness of these critical issues - issues that will determine the very future of life on Earth." 

Halifa Drammeh of Unep's division of policy development and law told BBC News Online: "The report certainly has some added value. Some of the previous reports we've produced take a lot of reading. But a visual presentation like this, backed up by other materials, is going to take the message further down the line." 

The report says global water use has more than tripled since 1950, and one person in six has no regular access to safe drinking water. 

The number of children who die every day because of unsafe water is estimated at 41,000. But drinking water supplies for poor people would be doubled with just a 10% improvement in the efficiency of irrigation. 

There is some good news: the number of people with some form of improved water supply rose from 4.1 billion (79% of the world's population) to 4.9 billion (82%) in 2000. 

The report is being launched as a contribution to World Water Day 2003, which is 22 March. The Third World Water Forum is being held in Japan from 16 to 23 March as part of the UN's International Year of Freshwater.

World Water Day site -

Long-lost Records Confirm Rising Sea Level

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Press Release

Australia January 21, 2003 - The discovery of 160 year old records in the archives of the Royal Society, London, has given scientists further evidence that Australian sea levels are rising. Observations taken at Tasmania's Port Arthur convict settlement 160 years ago by an amateur meteorologist have been compared with data from a modern tide gauge.

"There is a rate of sea level rise of about 1mm a year, consistent with other Australian observations," says Dr David Pugh, from the UK's Southampton Oceanography Centre. This is an important result for the Southern Hemisphere, and especially for Australia, providing a benchmark against which Australian regional sea level can be measured in 10, 50 or 100 years time," says Dr Pugh.

Working with Dr Pugh on the three year project were the University of Tasmania's Dr John Hunter, Dr Richard Coleman and Mr Chris Watson. 

In 1837, a rudimentary tide gauge was made by the amateur meteorologist, Thomas Lempriere and probably installed in the nearby Port Arthur settlement. In 1841 Lempriere cut a benchmark, in the form of a broad arrow, on a vertical rock face on the Isle of the Dead, which was used as a cemetery for the Port Arthur complex. The discovery of two full years of carefully recorded measurements (1841 and 1842) of average sea level was the start of a scientific quest through early European history in Tasmania.

CSIRO oceanographer Dr Bruce Hamon, researching Lempriere's work in 1985, concluded that the surviving benchmark would not be of scientific value today.

"The position of course would be different if Lempriere's original observations ever came to light," Dr Hamon wrote.

In addition to discovering the 'lost' files, the project involved analysis of 19th century sea level data, and a suite of modern measurement and analysis techniques. Dr Hunter said that scientific and popular interest in possible rises of global sea level, with attendant increased risks of coastal flooding have emphasized the need for a long time series of sea level measurements.

"Unfortunately, few records exist from the nineteenth century, and even fewer have well documented benchmark information against which changes can be monitored. At Port Arthur we have a unique series of sea level measurements. 

Our research during this project has shown that the work of John Franklin, James Clark Ross and Thomas Lempriere generated a significant benchmark long before any effect of global warming was apparent. The scientific interest at the time was the question of vertical motion or uplifting of the continents rather than changes in volume of the oceans. Our observations are consistent with the lower end of estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and with records from Fremantle and Fort Denison," Dr Hunter said.

Measurements have been taken at Fremantle for 91 years and at Fort Denison, Sydney for 82 years.

The project was funded by the Southampton Oceanography Centre, CSIRO, the University of Canberra and the University of Tasmania. The results of the study have been published in the International Hydrological Review.

Chinese 4-Winged Dinosaur
China January 22, 2003 (AP) - Fossil hunters in China have discovered what may be one of the weirdest prehistoric species ever seen — a four-winged dinosaur that apparently glided from tree to tree. 

The 128-million-year-old animal — called Microraptor gui, in honor of Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei — was about 2 1/2 feet long and had two sets of feathered wings, with one set on its forelimbs and the other on its hind legs. 

Exactly where the creature fits into the evolution of birds and dinosaurs is not clear. But researchers speculated that it developed around the same time as or even later than the first two-wing, birdlike dinosaur, Archaeopteryx, which is believed to have flown by actually flapping its wings. 

Paleontologists were intrigued by the discovery. They have seen gliding dinosaurs before, but never one with feathers. And they have never seen a four-winged dinosaur before. 

"It would be a total oddity — the weirdest creature in the world of dinosaurs and birds," said Luis Chiappe, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County who did not participate in the dig. 

Scientists said the fossils — discovered in the Chinese province of Liaoning, northeast of Beijing, at a site that has yielded several important specimens in recent years — revive a debate between two theories of how dinosaurs might have evolved into birds. 

One theory holds that some of these apparent bird ancestors learned to flap their wings to power flight while they were gliding from tree to tree. The other theory suggests they learned to fly by increasing their running speed with their wings and taking off from the ground. 

The latest find tends to support the gliding-in-trees theory. 

"It's a phenomenal find," Chiappe said. "We don't have anything that resembles this in the whole dinosaur and bird spectrum." 

Details of the fossils appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. 

Paleontologist Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences described six fossils with leg feathers arranged in a pattern similar to wing feathers in modern birds. 

"They are long and some have asymmetrical vanes like flight feathers," Xu said. 

The feathered legs amount to rear wings, Xu said. He speculated they could have represented an intermediate stage of development before the emergence of true flight powered by flapping the wings. Or, the feathered legs could have been an evolutionary dead end, other researchers said. 

Scientists believe Microraptor gui probably did not fly by flapping its wings, because of the way the rear legs are set in the hip sockets and because the rear legs probably would have encountered turbulence from flapping front wings. That suggests instead that both sets of wings were used just for gliding, Chiappe said. 

Other scientists said the fossils add diversity to the story of flight, even if they do not immediately provide answers. 

Ken Dial, head of a biological flight laboratory at the University of Montana, said there is room for both gliding and flapping dinosaurs in evolutionary history. 

"Gliding represents a splendid example of convergent evolution," Dial said. "We should not be surprised to unearth gliding dinosaurs as we have numerous living-day examples of gliders in nearly all the vertebrate groups — reptiles, mammals, birds and even parachuting amphibians." 

Last week, Dial reported in the journal Science that the way young birds such as turkeys and quail use their wings suggests ancient birds eventually learned to fly by running and flapping. 

Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago paleontologist, said the best way to determine whether Microraptor gui was an intermediate stage in bird evolution or a dead end is to find other dinosaur fossils with feathered legs. 

Sereno called the Xu study a landmark paper but added: "Whether this represents an intermediate form that all birds passed through is a question that's going to be hotly debated." 

How Lewis and Clark Ended a Civilization!
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BLACKFEET RESERVATION, Montana January 23, 2003 (KRT) - As America nears the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Native American leaders are demanding a major reassessment of how we view our heroes and our history.

In the white consciousness, the daring trek rivals that of Christopher Columbus.

The two leaders and their 31-member "Corps of Discovery" opened up the American West, created a heroic, defining myth and started to sketch the ultimate shape, the manifest destiny of a fledgling nation.

But to Native Americans who had lived on those rivers, plains and mountains for 10,000 years it was the beginning of something not far short of holocaust.

Within months settlers were pouring into their native lands bringing smallpox, scarlet fever and liquor. Within years they were slaughtering the buffalo, the tribes' chief source of food, clothing and shelter. Within decades they had decimated whole Indian populations and pushed the survivors onto hardscrabble reservations where many have failed to prosper to this day.

Native Americans, who numbered more than 10 million when European settlers arrived, could count only 250,000 by 1900 - recovering since to about 2 million.

"Americans have never been taught proper history," says Ronald McNeil, great-great-great grandson of Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and president of Sitting Bull Community College in Fort Yates, S.D. "We need to use this opportunity to tell the story of how the land was taken from us, how our culture was taken, our language - why we're in the condition we are today."

"It's not revisionist history," says Russell Kipp, Harvard-trained historian of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana. "It's setting the record straight."

Their view resounds among the 54 tribes - from the Sioux in the Dakotas to the Blackfeet in Montana to the Chinook on the Pacific Coast - that came in contact with Lewis and Clark during their epic, 4,100-mile, 28-month journey from St. Louis to the Pacific and back in 1804-06.

Still, the tribes recognize that the 35 million visitors expected on the Lewis & Clark Historical Trail during the three years of the bicentennial commemoration could be a big boost to their tourism.

"We can't ignore that kind of economic benefit," says Ben Sherman, a Lakota Sioux and president of the Western American Indian Chamber of Commerce in Denver.

It left them in a dilemma: protest the events or profit from them?

They chose a little of each. Tribal leaders have won prominent places on the commissions planning bicentennial events and set up university seminars at which tribal scholars will voice their views. At the same time they're building replicas of the Indian villages that Lewis and Clark visited to snag tourist dollars and, just as importantly, tell their side of the story.

The Native American groups demanded that the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, the volunteer group coordinating events, change the bicentennial's official designation from "celebration" to "commemoration."

Says Sherman: "Jefferson ended up with a policy of Indian removal, displacement and extermination. How can we celebrate this?"

They won the point.

"For many tribes, the things the Lewis and Clark expedition led to are not anything they feel comfortable celebrating," says Karen Goering, the council's executive director. "Calling it a commemoration lets us bring in all points of view."

The council also put together a 30-member Circle of Tribal Advisers to promote Indian participation in the bicentennial - both out of conviction and a desire to avoid the kinds of protests that met 1992 ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage.

That the tribes are fighting for dollars and understanding can be seen in New Town, N.D. The Three Affiliated Tribes there - Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara - are building an $11-million cultural heritage center and a replica of the old Mandan village where Lewis and Clark spent the frigid first winter of their trip in 1804-05.

When it opens this summer, tourists can stay overnight in an earthen lodge, watch traditional games, basketweaving and animal-hide painting and sup on buffalo steaks, Indian corn and wild berry pudding.

And they can listen to folk lectures by Amy Mossett, a Mandan/Hidatsa storyteller who spent 15 years studying the oral history of Sacagawea, the 16-year-old Shoshone woman who served as interpreter for Lewis and Clark. Dressed as Sacagawea, Mossett will explain that the interpreter never was a Mandan slave, as she is portrayed in history books.

"No one was ever kidnapped and enslaved in the Hidatsa culture," Mossett will tell them. "We went to war and took captives, who sometimes were absorbed into tribes. But they were never bought and sold."

In Browning, Mont., leaders of the Blackfeet Tribe are telling their side of the story in a total-immersion elementary school, where students are taught about their heritage in the Blackfeet language.

They hear how the tribe, which originally inhabited a large area around Montana, was relocated against its will to this remote location on the Canadian border.

They learn of the 1870 Massacre on the Marias River, in which U.S. Army troops pursuing murderers mistakenly attacked an innocent Blackfeet village.

Children in Arthur Westwolf's history class hear two sharply divergent versions of their tribe's fatal run-in with the Lewis and Clark expedition 200 years ago.

From the white man's history books, Westwolf tells them Lewis and one of his men killed two Blackfeet boys in 1806 because they tried to steal the explorers' rifles.

Then he invites tribal elders to give their oral history version - a much more complicated tale of young boys stealing into an enemy camp in an ancient ritual that had little to do with thievery and much to do with courage, honor and coming-of-age.

"According to our oral history, those two boys were doing what they were supposed to," says Blackfeet spokeswoman Susan Weber. "They would go right into the camp of another tribe - to the heart of the enemy - to steal horses or rifles or even just touch one of the enemy, then get away.

"It was a way of gaining honor in battle," she says. "They had to gain honors to become esteemed warriors or even chief."

According to an account at the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, it was called "counting coup." After such acts of bravery, the young men, probably ages 12 or 13, would return to the tribe to dance, tell exaggerated stories of their accomplishment and add another eagle feather to one of the colorful "coup sticks" still on display at the museum.

Even after 200 years, tribal leaders are still angry over the way the journals of Lewis and Clark describe many of the Indians they met - as "vile miscreants," violence-prone, sexually promiscuous thieves.

Several Native American leaders will make this point in speeches at official bicentennial ceremonies Saturday at Monticello, the Virginia home of President Thomas Jefferson, who created the expedition.

Their view - that the journals prove how little Lewis and Clark understood the Indians - is backed up by the late historian Stephen Ambrose in his 1996 book," Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West" (Simon & Schuster, $17 paperback).

In his journal, Lewis says Mandan tribal members eagerly offered their wives - "tawny damsels," he calls them - to the white men for sexual relations.

"To the great good luck of the enlisted men," Ambrose wrote, "the Mandans attributed to the whites great powers and big medicine."

Says Sherman, the Lakota Sioux: "There's absolutely no reason to call it primitive. It's just a different standard. There were no rigid, puritanical restraints. They were much more enlightened about sex. There are societies in Europe - Scandinavia or Holland, that we don't call primitive - that are much more liberal than we are about sex."

Another major goal of the expedition, Ambrose wrote, was to stop the wars between the various tribes and get them to sign treaties of peace and friendship with each other and with Jefferson's government. The attempt was a failure.

Lewis lectured the tribes - addressing them as "children" - on how they had a powerful new "father" in Washington who could bless them with lucrative trade if they were friendly or punish them if they proved difficult, Ambrose wrote.

"It never occurred to Lewis that his actions might be patronizing, dictatorial, ridiculous and highly dangerous," he wrote.

The Indians understood the white men not much better. The Umatilla Tribe in Oregon told Clark they thought the expedition members were "supernatural and came down from the clouds."

And the well-known Western artist Charles Russell in 1908 depicted in a watercolor the story from Clark's journal in which a Mandan chief, meeting Clark's black slave, York, tried to rub off his color to see if he was white.

Still, efforts today by Native American leaders and the white leaders of the bicentennial to hammer out a working arrangement seem hopeful.

"We're not vindictive," says Kipp, the Blackfeet historian. "But we're looking for a renegotiation of reality. The tribes have been exploited, placed in difficult positions. Today we seek self-reliance, self-management. We're asking to correct wrongs."

14,000 Crows Seek Higher Education!
ANN ARBOR, MI January 28, 2003 (AP) - There are about 39,000 students at the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus. And about 14,000 crows. 

Experts aren't sure what has caused the noisy birds to congregate in such numbers. But two things they make in large quantities — droppings, and a racket — are causing them to wear out their welcome. 

Entomologist Dale Hodgson, head of the campus pest management division, has been the point man for seven years in the effort to disperse the birds. 

Hodgson has been trying to scatter the crows using "Bird Bangers" — fireworks that scream and trail flames after being launched. The goal is to scare them away, not hurt them. 

"They're a fascinating bird," Hodgson told The Detroit News for a Tuesday story. "Their adaptability is incredible. It's amazing how they've adapted to an urban environment." 

Hodgson most recently has focused on the area around the President's House, which is unoccupied during renovations. President Mary Sue Coleman has been on the job only since last July, but she already knows what to watch out for. 

"I am very, very careful to cover my head when I walk in that area of campus," Coleman says. "It beats me why they find the President's House so attractive."
Chicken Rights!
By Louise Chu
Associated Press

ATLANTA January 28, 2003 (AP) — In the debate over poultry processing in the United States, producers and animal rights activists can agree on one thing: Consumers don't want to know the gruesome details. 

As millions of Americans sit down for dinner each night, no one wants to think about the waste-filled sheds, crammed cages, and electric stun baths that were part of the chicken's life before it became a delicious drumstick, nugget, or wing. 

That's the conclusion the Farm Marketing Institute shared with poultry industry professionals at the recent International Poultry Exposition here. Animal-rights activists agree.

That's why People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is publicizing the most common form of chicken slaughter: a stun bath designed to knock the birds out before their throats are slit and they are dumped into scalding water.

PETA says many birds are conscious until the hot water kills them. Chicken industry officials say the method is safe, humane, and efficient, and consumers don't want to hear about it. 

"The message came out clear that the customer said, 'We trust you as the retailers to make sure that the food you're selling us has been produced under animal welfare guidelines,'" said Jill Hollingsworth, the marketing institute's vice president of animal safety programs, who's working with the industry to draft ethics guidelines. 

Animal rights activists say people might stop eating chickens if they knew about the gory process. "Chickens are probably the most abused animals on the face of the planet," said Bruce Friedrich, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

With worldwide vegetarianism an unlikely ideal, PETA has set its sights on reform. They've launched a national boycott of KFC, saying the fast-food chain should make sure its suppliers provide better living conditions for birds.

They also want the stun bath method of slaughter done away with, advocating lethal doses of gas instead. 

Industry officials say that would be too costly.

Speaking at an exposition workshop, Janice Swanson, a Kansas State University professor specializing in animal welfare, made a distinction between science and sentimentality. Swanson cited scientific research on the amount of cage space needed for a comfortable, productive chicken — about 72 square inches (183 square centimeters) — but acknowledged that research may not convince activists. "They already made the decision that cages are all bad, so any increase to the space in a cage is not going to please special advocacy groups," she said, adding that it will be up to individual producers to decide how they want to treat chickens.

Friedrich calls the research "laughable," saying that number forces chickens to be "literally living one on top of the other for their entire miserable lives." "Chickens should be glad to be chickens," he said. "They're intelligent, interesting animals who have as much rights as a dog or cat to breathe fresh air, form relationships, and do the things that animals want to do."


Cow Headlines!
Can Cloned Cows Cut Cheese Costs?

New Zealand January 27, 2003 (Nature) - Protein-rich milk from cloned, genetically modified cows could cut cheese-making costs. Dairy manufacturers would need less milk to make cheddar firm and ice cream creamy. 

Two years old and living in New Zealand, the clones produce about 13 percent more milk protein than normal cows. They carry extra copies of the genes for two types of the protein casein, key for cheese and yoghurt manufacture1. 

"The proteins are important. They allow milk to have a high protein content, but to remain watery," says study leader Gφtz Laible of New Zealand biotech company AgResearch.

His team must now find out whether the increase improves milk's calcium content or its ability to coagulate before they seek approval to sell the clones to dairy farmers.

Most scientists believe that milk from cloned cows is no different to normal milk. But they are less certain about the safety of milk from genetically modified cows. 

It depends on which gene has been added to the cow's DNA, says animal reproduction specialist Will Eyestone of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg. For instance, some cows are altered to produce pharmaceutical products.

A drug could pose a health risk if it seeps into the milk.

Laible's cows might be less worrisome - they don't produce foreign proteins, just more of natural ones. "You're upping the nutrient value," says Roberts. "This is unlikely to be a problem." But further testing will have to confirm the milk's safety, he adds.

"A lot of cloned milk is being poured down the drain," says Michael Roberts, an animal biotechnologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Food products from transgenic and cloned animals, and their progeny, are not legally available in many parts of the world. 

The US Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue its guidelines on the matter. Until then, companies producing cloned cows have volunteered not to sell their milk. 

Laible created the high-output cows by inserting casein genes into the DNA of a cell taken from the 60-day old fetus of a female dairy cow. The researchers then transferred the nucleus into unfertilized cow eggs. Of the 126 modified embryos, 11 cows survived until after weaning.

Earliest Evidence of Dairy Farming Found 

WASHINGTON January 27, 2003 (AP) - Dairy farming became widespread in Britain as early as the new stone age — around 4,000 B.C. — a team of researchers at England's University of Bristol reports. 

Mark Copley, an archaeological chemist, said evidence of milk fats was found on broken pieces of pottery at several ancient sites in southern England. Using new methods of analysis, scientists have learned to differentiate between ancient residue from milk fat and other fats and oils in recent years, Copley and his team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 

Their findings provide evidence of "the earliest farming communities in Britain, though obviously there were earlier ones in the Near East," Copley said. 

Animals were domesticated in the Near East about 8,000 B.C. Copley explained, and by the time farming practices reached England, dairying had become widely incorporated, using animals for both their meat and milk, Copley said. The team hopes to trace the spread of dairying from the Near East through Southeast Europe and the Balkans. 

While the chemical testing can detect milkfats, Copley said he didn't know exactly how the milk was being used. However, he added, "when you consider how soon milk goes off, it's most likely they were making butter, cheese or yogurt ... which actually keep a long time." 

By analyzing residue on pots and other artifacts from ancient communities, Copley said, archaeologists are "building up quite a big picture of how ancient economies actually worked."

Last Beatle Snaps
By Matt Born

Liverpool January 28, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - Pictures from the last official Beatles photo shoot will be exhibited publicly for the first time in Britain after lying in a bank vault for more than 30 years.

The 23 photographs were taken in the summer of 1968 by Tom Murray, a society photographer invited to the shoot by Don McCullin, the official photographer. The collection, entitled The Mad Day: Summer '68 was shot in July at the height of the "Summer of Love".

The band gathered in a London suburb. McCullin had asked Murray to join him because he needed a driver and some help carrying bags.

Murray said: "Don did not tell me who we were shooting. He said 'bring your camera, you might get some nice snaps'. Boy, was he right." The photographs show the band in a carefree mood. They were at their creative peak and recorded their best selling single Hey Jude the next day.

Murray has made limited edition prints for sale. The originals have been on show in New York and the exhibition moves to the Mathew Street Gallery, Liverpool, between April 24 and May 18.

Mathew Street Gallery - 
Genre News: Veritas, Miracles, Katherine Heigl, Peter O'Toole, Johnny Depp, and Life After Buffy!
Veritas and Miracles Debut on ABC
By FLAtRich

Hollywood January 28, 2003 (eXoNews) - ABC premiered two new shows of some interest to genre fans last night: Veritas: The Quest at 8 PM/7c and Miracles at 10 PM/9c. Both shows received extensive plugging during the Super Bowl as ABC sought to build up it's new "Super Monday".

The newbies were sandwiched around sagging ABC veteran The Practice, which was moved to Mondays this week in hope of resurrection, but the night didn't turn out to be very super for ABC.

The premiere of "Veritas: The Quest" on ABC got a 6.4/9 overnight rating. "The Practice" scored a 6.4/9 and the premiere of "Miracles" earned a 5.8/10. CBS and NBC won the first two slots with reality shows and CBS took out Miracles with CSI: Miami.

Veritas: The Quest is from Patrick Massett and John Zinman ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") who are the show's writers and executive producers. Like Lara, Veritas apes the Indiana Jones movies with a father and son team investigating the "mysteries of history and civilization".

In typical TV fashion, the full team includes a demographically correct group of supporting actors as part of a secret foundation equipped with super computers. There is also a MillenniuM-style evil group in competition, of course.

The cast includes Ryan Merriman as Nikko Zond, Alex Carter as Solomon Zond, Arnold Vosloo as Vincent Siminou, Eric Balfour as Calvin Banks, Cynthia Martells as Maggie, and Cobie Smulders as Juliet Droil. All performed well under the clichι restraints of TV plotting, and the special effects and locations were colorful.

Given its low ratings and the fall season failure of other ABC genre shows, Veritas probably won't last long.

Miracles has Skeet Ulrich in the lead as a former miraculous investigator for the Catholic church chasing down paranormal and divine occurrences. Ulrich bears an uncanny physical resemblance to actor Johnny Depp at times and his character, Paul Callan, reminds me of a film by Agnieszka Holland called The Third Miracle in which Ed Harris played a former priest in a similar profession.

Richard Hatem (The Mothman Prophecies) wrote the pilot and former Angel exec David Greenwalt is an executive producer with Hatem, Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber.

The pilot was interesting but too late with an apocalyptic mission "to find a solution to the coming 'darkness'... before it's too late", according to ABC.

Skeet is likeable in the lead and guest actor Jacob Smith turned in a nice performance as Tommy Ferguson, a dying boy who can heal the sick. Sybil Temchen also stood out as Kate Armstrong, a blind woman healed by Tommy.

Miracles is up against CSI: Miami, so ditto to its longevity.

Veritas Official site - 

Miracles Official site - 

WB Goes For Trash
By Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood January 27, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Chris Thompson's comedy "Trash" has finally hit gold. The project, which has been in development at the WB Network for two years, is moving forward with a pilot order from the network, with Regency Television and Sony Pictures Television producing.

Veteran actress Lisa Blount, Richard Burgi (Fox's "24"), Mike Erwin (the WB's "Everwood") and Pippi (MTV's "Undressed") have been cast in the pilot written and executive produced by Thompson, with Michael Lehmann ("Heathers") on board to direct.

Described as a Coen brothers-style take on the "Romeo and Juliet" tale, "Trash" centers on the relationship between a smart, rakish trailer-park young man, Mac (Erwin), and the wealthy, beautiful Luna (Pippi). Mac's mother (Blount) and Luna's father (Burgi) are ill-fated former lovers who share a dark secret.

Also co-starring in the pilot are Todd Lowe ("The Princess Diaries") and Samaire Armstrong ("Not Another Teen Movie").

Roswell's Heigl Headlines Evil 

Hollywood January 27, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Katherine Heigl (Roswell) and Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg) will star in TBS Superstation's Evil Never Dies, a modern-day version of the Frankenstein story, Variety reported. Uli Edel will direct the telefilm, which is set to premiere this summer as part of TBS' original movie lineup, the trade paper reported.

Gibson will star as a police officer whose wife is brutally murdered. After being transferred to patrol duty at a college, Gibson's character discovers that the now-executed murderer is part of a professor's strange experiment that results in his being brought back to life, with his murderous tendency intact, the trade paper reported. Heigl plays the professor's assistant.

Max Enscoe and Annie de Young wrote the script, and the Wolper Organization is producing, with Warner Brothers Television. The movie is being shot in Melbourne, Australia, the trade paper reported.

Roswell is currently in repeats weeknights at 6 PM on the Sci Fi Channel.

Ultimate Roswell site -

O'Toole Too Young for Oscar
By Timothy M. Gray 

HOLLYWOOD January 29, 2003 (Variety) - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences wants to give Peter O'Toole an honorary Oscar, but he's not sure he wants to be saluted. 

After the Academy last week announced that it would salute the 70-year-old actor, he sent a handwritten open letter to AMPAS stating he was "enchanted" by the gesture, but said that since he is "still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright, would the Academy please defer the honor until I am 80?" 

Academy president Frank Pierson on Tuesday told Daily Variety, "We will have the Oscar for him and if he cares to pick it up, that would be great." The hope is that he will change his mind.

O'Toole, famed for his eccentricity as well as his talent, has been nominated for seven actor Oscars but has never won. 

Saying that the mood at the Academy is "bemused and sorry," Pierson added, "it would be great if he decides to change his mind and join us." 

Pierson this week sent a letter to the actor saying, "The board unanimously and enthusiastically voted you the honorary award because you've earned and deserved it. ... As to being 'in the game,' nobody ever thought you were out of it. The award is for achievement and contribution to the art of the motion picture, not for retirement." 

Pireson pointed out Tuesday that Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, for example, won competitive Oscars after receiving honorary awards. 

Pierson contested another aspect of O'Toole's letter: The actor wrote that "the board of the Academy had informal talks with my agent, during which conversations the subject of the Academy having it in mind to award me an honorary Oscar was presented." 

The Academy president emphasized to Daily Variety that there were no informal talks, "we don't negotiate and it's not contingent upon anyone appearing." 

AMPAS execs and Oscarcast producer Gil Cates will discuss what to do in the event O'Toole does not show up. This is uncharted territory: In the past, winning actors such as Marlon Brando and George C. Scott have refused the Oscar, but no honorary winner has ever declined the prize. 

In the cases of Brando and Scott, the name plates on the statuettes were unmarked, since no one knew the winners until the envelope was opened; thus, there were no official Oscars ever designated for those two. The O'Toole situation is different as his name will be inscribed on the statuette. 

Academy executive director Bruce Davis said there will be a physical statuette at the March 23 ceremony, and if O'Toole decides not to attend, it will go into the Academy's vault. As Pierson's letter told O'Toole, the statuette "will be at the Academy for you to pick up when you're 80 or whenever you're ready." 

O'Toole was nominated in the lead actor category for "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "Becket" (1964), "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "The Ruling Class" (1972), "The Stunt Man" (1980) and "My Favorite Year" (1982). 

Other previous honorary recipients include D.W. Griffith, Bob Hope, Gene Kelly, Jean Renoir, Alex North, Federico Fellini, Chuck Jones and Sidney Poitier.

50-Year-Old Sues 'American Idol' over Age Limits

LOS ANGELES January 22, 2003 ( - A man who says he was barred from auditioning for "American Idol" because of his age is suing the show's producers for discrimination.

Drew Cummings, 50, a lecturer at Miami-Dade Community College in Florida, claims the show's rules, which state contestants must be between 16 and 24 years old, violate federal laws prohibiting age discrimination. Cummings says he showed up at an open audition in Miami in November, but was denied a chance to sing for judges because of his age.

"I find it hard to believe that age plays a part in determining the next 'American Idol,' " Cummings says in a news release quoted by CNN.

The show, which began its second season on FOX Tuesday (Jan. 21), disqualified a semi-finalist last year after learning he had lied about his age. Delano Cagnolati claimed to be 23 years old, but a background check revealed he was actually 29. He was replaced by Ejay Day, who made it to the final 10.

The show's rules say producers can disqualify contestants for any reason.

Cummings backs his claim by citing statistics that show a majority of record sales and concert revenues are driven by artists over the age of 40. He also says he's happy to be a "poster child" for the baby boom generation as it gets older and faces the possibility of ageism.

FOX and producer Fremantle Media couldn't be reached for comment.

Depp in King's Window
By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood January 27, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Johnny Depp has come aboard to star in "Secret Window, Secret Garden," based on a Stephen King novella that David Koepp scripted and will direct for producer Gavin Polone and his studio-based Pariah.

The projct aims to go into production in July. The project reunites him with the studio, for which he stars in the upcoming Robert Rodriguez feature "Once Upon a Time in America." "Window" is about a writer (Depp) going through a painful divorce who is stalked by a psychotic stranger claiming that the writer stole his story but changed the ending.

Columbia co-president of production Matt Tolmach is overseeing the project. Koepp came aboard to write and direct the project last year. Depp, repped by UTA, recently wrapped shooting Miramax Films' "Neverland" for director Marc Forster and the Walt Disney Co.'s "The Pirates of the Caribbean." 

Dire Predictions and Analysis Dept.: Life After Buffy
By FLAtRich

Hollywood January 28, 2003 (eXoNews) - The future looks bleak. Not just Sunnydale's future, but the future of TV land in general. It's only January, but the web word on the tube is that this will be Buffy's last season on UPN. From the look of current ratings, it might be the stake for Angel at WB as well.

What will life be like after all our Joss Whedon heroes fade? We lost the crew of Serenity when Fox fumbled Firefly, and that had to hurt the future.

Now we have to face reality: Buffy and Angel and their wonderful casts of cohorts and baddies can't live forever in the land where the quick buck is king.

A few pilot announcements and reports from the NATPE syndication convention in New Orleans hint at a desolate chapter approaching for The Vast Wasteland.

Hollywood Reporter listed some pilots that have been picked for development.

WB has Chasing Alice, "a fantasy twist on the cop show genre" and Shadow Walkers, an action show that "revolves around married archaeologists and their teenage kids who track down wayward characters from myth and folklore."

The first one is not a take on Chasing Amy. It's somehow "based on characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland." (But it's a cop show! Wow, that's innovative guys!)

The second one is produced by Mel Gibson's company, but it sounds like a show I stumbled across on a PBS station once. (I forget the name - sorry - but it was like Dinotopia without the dinos.) Or maybe Veritas: The Quest? (See top story.)

Fox is working on a series about "a recent college graduate who discovers that she's able to save lives by changing the course of events." How vague is that? HR said: "Network insiders describe it as a mix of the films Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day."

Uh-huh. The groundhog could not be reached for comment and Bill Murray doesn't watch much TV.

Fox is also developing another series "about a twenty something woman who helps people using her power to communicate with animals."

Eddie Murphy could not be reached for comment but Flipper said "Pah!"

Sci-Fi Wire reports that UPN has ordered two genre shows: Weapon X (written by Silvio Horta, who wrote The Chronicle) and Newton (from Matrix producer Joel Silver.)

I liked The Chronicle after a few episodes. I guess nobody else did. Sci Fi cancelled it after one season.

Talk about beating a dead horse! Knight Ridder news reports that Fox is also working hard to revive none other than Mr. Ed!

The pilot is being written by Jack Handey, creator of the SNL Toonces, the Driving Cat skit.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and Wilber and Ed could not be reached for comment. Allan 'Rocky' Lane, the original voice of Mr. Ed died in 1973, but Alan Young (Wilber) is still very much alive.

Mr. Young played Filby in the original film version of The Time Machine (1960) and also did a guest bit in the more recent Time Machine remake (2002).

Mediaweek reports on NATPE indicate that most of what you will be seeing in syndication next year will be nothing new:

Living it Up! With Ali & Jack, Dr. Phil, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Sharon Osbourne Show, Starting Over, John Walsh, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Wayne Brady, Ex-Treme Dating, and Road Rules have all been sold to your local stations.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a talk show, BTW. I guess Ellen gave up on sitcoms after her most recent one fizzled. Maybe she should try stand-up?

God only knows what Sharon Osbourne can do on her own.

You'll also definitely get Angel reruns, Divorce Court reruns, Texas Justice reruns, Buffy reruns, The Practice reruns, and Cops reruns next year.

No one is saying what new syndicated dramas, sci-fi, or fantasy shows might be coming, but Mediaweek confirmed one genre spin-off that didn't make the grade: "Stargate: Atlantis" from MGM was in development, but didn't get picked up.

Oh, boy! Sony Pictures Television renewed its syndicated game show "Pyramid," hosted by Donny Osmond, and Donny is also up to host his own talk show next season.

Can't wait not to watch that!

Pat Sajak will also anchor a talk show called "Pat Sajak Weekend" at 9 PM ET on Sundays "starting at an unspecified date in the spring." How promising! 

Sunday at 9 PM is the old X-Files timeslot and was Angel's for a while. I usually turn off the TV for an hour now between Charmed on the WB and Dead Zone on USA, but Pat Sajak will be even more fun to ignore completely! Sajak is the host of that aging game show that you still sit through night after night. Pat started life as a TV weatherman and utterly failed in his last attempt as a talk show host for CBS.

Because he was boring!

But you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (Bob Dylan said that, before he stopped being a socially conscious folk singer.)

I hate even discussing reality programming, really! I freely admit that the only show of this kind that I have watched in the last year was one recent episode of Star Search. That was because Enterprise was a rerun that night and Arsenio Hall is the host of Star Search.

I was a devoted fan of The Arsenio Hall Show, but I promise I'll never watch Star Search again - I promise, I promise, I promise!

But you! You should be ashamed of yourselves, America! According to Mediaweek, the season premiere of American Idol II "drew 26.5 million viewers and produced the highest-rated night of entertainment programming in the Fox network's history." The show garnered "a whopping 11.8 percent of adults younger than 50, the demographic most prized by advertisers, according to preliminary figures Thursday from Nielsen Media Research."

And you wondered why Fox dropped Firefly with its measly audience of two or three million viewers?

TV land revolves around the mighty dollar, and you just helped Fox prove that inane reality programming brings in millions more potential car buyers than anything good.

Bucky Fuller once said TV was just chewing gum for the mind. Reality shows are more like heroin for the couch potato.

If you need a fix before next fall's bad TV, NBC is promising these thrilling summer reality shows: "The Next Action Star," "Love Shack," "Around the World in 80 Dates" and a street-racing show "The Fast and the Furious" somehow based on last year's movie.

Face it! Television programmers will continue to inject flaccid and passive American TV audiences in the butt with reality shows until they finally overdose and just say no. Or die from boredom.

It's all happened before, and it will all happen again. We survived quiz shows, primetime soap operas, news magazines and sitcoms. We can probably survive reality shows too.

We'd survive it better if we had Buffy and Angel there to protect us, but maybe we can take some comfort at the movies. Unlike the know-it-alls at the TV networks, the motion picture business is primed to give us what we want. Here's a list of some films due in 2003:

Daredevil (Feb. 14), X2 (the second X-Men movie - May 5), The Matrix: Reloaded (May 15), Freddy vs. Jason (June 13), The Hulk (June 20), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (July 2), Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (July 27), The Matrix: Revolution (Nov. 7), Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat (Nov. 21 with Mike Myers as the cat), Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Dec. 17).

Maybe we shouldn't even watch TV after Buffy goes away? Maybe we should all go to the movies every night or rent a DVD!

Hell, maybe we should all just read a book.

Check out Katie O'Hare's recent Willow article on Zap2It for more Buffy news - 

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