Visit eXoNews for more recent news!

Asteroid 2003 QQ47!
PCB Brownfields, Nefertiti,
Electric Jellyfish! Europa's Domes?
Fall Movie Previews
& More!
Asteroid 2003 QQ47 & More!
EARTH September 3, 2003 (eXoNews) - Despite dire headlines to the contrary a couple of days ago, Asteroid 2003 QQ47 will probably not hit our planet on March 21, 2014.

While this may be disappointing news to some, most Earthlings agree that this ultimate reality show with its equivalent impact of 20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs is better missed.

The original warning of impending doom was issued by the UK's Near Earth Object Information Centre, who have since declared Asteroid 2003 QQ47 less of a threat (see below.)

Reuters wire service reported that Dr. Alan Fitzsimmons, an advisor to the NEO Centre said that Asteroid 2003 QQ47 "will be observable from Earth for the next two months and astronomers will continue to track it over this period."

Here are the most recent reports from NEO watchers.

Asteroid 2003 QQ47 No Risk
NEO Information Centre Press Release

September 3, 2003 - The new data have enabled astronomers to refine the orbit of asteroid 2003 QQ47, and so rule out 13 of the 31 potential impacts originally listed on the JPL Current Impact Risk table. Among those ‘virtual orbits’ to be ruled out was the one for 21 March 2014, which gave the asteroid its Torino 1 rating.

The 18 remaining potential impacts are all rated at zero on the Torino scale and are therefore classed as ‘events with no likely consequences’. Once again, the only remaining Torino 1 rated asteroid on the JPL Current Impact Risk table is asteroid 1997 XR2, with 2 potential impacts in June 2101. However, as with 2003 QQ47, the probability of 1997 XR2 impacting Earth is highly unlikely. Estimates suggest this smaller asteroid would impart just one thousandth of the energy that 2003 QQ47 was capable of delivering.

Given how swiftly 2003 QQ47 has been downgraded from a Torino 1, some may question whether the NEO Information Centre should have posted the information about 2003 QQ47 on the website in the first place.

However we hope by keeping the public and media informed of this kind of issue, as it is unfolding rather than after the fact, we can promote understanding of the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk assessment.

Kevin Yates, project manager for the NEO Information Centre said, “Openly sharing this sort of information, in a none sensationalist way, should help to dispel the popular myth that governments and astronomers would keep the discovery of a dangerous asteroid secret. I hope the coverage of this story will give the general public more of a feel for how the assessment of risk evolves over time as more observations are made.”

The NEO Information Centre would like to thank the media for what, on the whole, has been responsible coverage of this story. Almost all of the press and broadcast coverage has included reference to our original statements that the probability of impact was very low at just 1 in 909 000, and that the Torino rating was likely to drop following further observations.


NASA Current NEO Impact Risks -

Close Encounters of a Different Kind
European Space Agency Press Release

September 3, 2003 - The latest discovery of a large asteroid moving through our Solar System puts a spotlight on the studies of these and other wandering celestial objects by the European Space Agency.

Some astronomers have predicted that this newly discovered object could hit the Earth on 21 March, 2014, but now data indicate that the chances of it doing so are really very small - less than one in 909,000.

However, scientists continue to monitor these objects which could give clues to the origins of our Solar System. ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) satellite showed that there might be as many as two million asteroids larger than one kilometer in the region of space known as the 'asteroid belt'.

Gravitational nudges from the planets can push them out of position, causing them to fall towards the Sun, which means that they may cross Earth’s orbit and potentially collide with our world.

The planets of the Solar System were born in a violent storm of asteroid-like objects that began 4.6 thousand million years ago and lasted for roughly 500 million years.

The planets failed to consume all of the asteroids and the planetary leftovers are still orbiting the Sun today. Most of them are confined to the ‘main belt’ of asteroids, in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Ironically, this process, which is thought to have initially assisted in life’s origin by seeding the Earth with precious organic compounds, now threatens it.

There are several impact craters visible on the Earth's surface, one of them is the Haughton crater in Canada, formed 23 million years ago, but many terrestrial craters are now covered by water or forests, or have been eroded away over thousands of years.

There is now compelling evidence that the death of the dinosaurs was accelerated by the impact of an asteroid that struck the Earth in the Yucatán peninsula, off the coast of Mexico.

The Earth is in danger not only from asteroid strikes but also from their icy equivalents, comets.

They could wreak havoc if they were to collide with our world.

These objects usually live far away beyond even Pluto but can be jolted from their usual orbits by passing stars or gigantic gas clouds.

Comets are considered to be the primitive building blocks of the Solar System, and ESA's Rosetta comet-chasing mission could help us to understand if life on Earth began with the help of 'comet seeding'.

The chances of a comet hitting the Earth are also very small, but the possibility does exist, as shown when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter in 1994.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, as well as Earth-based telescopes around the world, obtained spectacular imagery of this first-ever observed collision between two objects in our Solar System.

Hundreds of small comets are spotted every year, but most are drawn towards the Sun by its large gravitational attraction.

They are called 'sungrazer' comets and they burn up completely in the Sun's hot atmosphere.

The ESA/NASA sun-watching spacecraft SOHO has become the most prolific discoverer of comets in the history of astronomy.

With its LASCO coronagraph instrument, originally designed for seeing outbursts from the Sun, SOHO can monitor a large volume of surrounding space, and it is now a vital tool for ESA in the study of comets.

EPA Allows Sale of PCB Brownfields!
By Devlin Barrett
Associated Press

WASHINGTON September 3, 2003 (AP) — The U.S. government is encouraging the sale of sites contaminated with PCB, a chemical which is believed might cause cancer, reversing a 25-year-old policy barring any such sales before the land is cleaned.

The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency pits local leaders pushing for more development of run-down city industrial sections against some environmentalists who fear the change will hide environmental problems instead of fix them.

The EPA said last month it planned to end the ban on the sale of real estate contaminated with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which the EPA classifies as a probable carcinogen. The rule went into effect in 1978.

The decision is designed to spur the sale of contaminated industrial sites that have lain dormant for years. The push to develop so-called brownfields, including PCB sites, has gained momentum recently, as mayors and other local officials have sought to locate new business in aging city and town centers.

EPA said the move is a reinterpretation of existing law to allow PCB sites to change hands before cleanup while still enforcing PCBs regulations. Previously, the owner of a PCB site had to clean it before any sale.

Under terms of the reinterpretation, PCBs still are banned, and the land must be cleaned before it can be developed for industrial or other usage.

"This policy will stimulate the cleanup and redevelopment of the sites," said EPA spokeswoman Lisa Harrison. "It will enhance redevelopment of contaminated sites, which is the goal of the president's brownfields program."

The decision is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is pushing for more development of brownfields.

Matt Ward, an attorney with the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals, said the group "wholeheartedly supports" the EPA decision, arguing the 1978 law was never designed to "chill efforts to clean up these sites by good-faith parties."

Environmentalists, including those who have pressed the EPA over other PCB cleanup matters, found fault with the altered regulations.

"We think this is a terrible decision by the Bush administration," said Sarah Meyland, executive director of the New York–based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "This new regulation will undercut our ability to know where polluted soils are sent."

Meyland compared the action to "sweeping PCBs under the rug rather than actually cleaning them away. You're hiding the problem rather than fixing the problem."
Connery Joins Panama Expedition


London September 1, 2003 (The Herald UK) - Sir Sean Connery will bring to life his film role as the archaeologist father of Indiana Jones when he joins an expedition to Central America later this year. The former James Bond, who played Professor Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is backing an excavation in Panama on the site of a doomed seventeenth- century attempt to set up a Scots colony.

The expedition is heading for the long-lost graveyard site of the famous Darien venture, which ended in the loss of 2000 lives and left Scotland nearly bankrupt.

Connery was so interested in the dig that he is helping the organizers to raise cash and hopes to meet up with the team if his filming schedule allows. Now he has taken up the role of expedition patron.

The trip to Caledonia Bay has been organized by the Scientific Exploration Society (SES) and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

About 40 volunteers will head to Panama in December, where part of their expedition will survey the ruined towns of Fort St Andrews and New Edinburgh. During the month, they will also search for shipwrecks from the colony, excavate a rubbish tip on the site and create a museum of their finds for local Kuna Indians.

Connery, who is expected to make a return as the father of Indiana Jones in the fourth film, said he was fascinated by the story of the Darien venture.

He said: "When I was at school, no-one ever told me about the Scots colony in Darien. It is extraordinary that so many very brave and courageous Scots had the enthusiasm to seek a better future by going all the way to Panama to start a colony in the face of considerable adversity."

The actor may even join the expedition for Burns Night in Panama.

Colonel John Blashford Snell, chairman of the SES and expedition leader, said Sir Sean's contacts in the area had already helped in organizing the expedition.

He said: "Sir Sean is a great personal friend of the president of Panama and after we wrote to him he phoned us straight back and has subsequently been a tremendous supporter."

Scots colonists landed in Caledonia Bay in 1698 as part of the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies. Led by William Paterson, they described the bay as an "earthly paradise" and dreamt of establishing a colony independent of England.

But after three years the climate, mosquitoes, English government obstruction and Spanish attacks forced them to abandon the bay. More than 2000 men, women and children perished in the disease-ridden colony and the financial losses forced Scotland into economic union with England.

Nefertiti Mummy Ain't No Lady

By Opheera McDoom

CAIRO August 30, 2003 (Reuters) - The mummy a British Egyptologist says could be the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, renowned for her beauty, is much more likely to be a man, Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass says.

Nefertiti, wife and co-ruler with the pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother of legendary boy King Tutankhamun, has long been considered one of the most powerful women of ancient Egypt.

Joann Fletcher, a mummification specialist from the University of York in England, said in June there was a "strong possibility" her team had unearthed Nefertiti from a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The Discovery Channel publicized the find in a television program aired this month.

But Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Hawass, expressed doubts about the find and said there were questions over the gender of the mummy.

"I'm sure that this mummy is not a female," Hawass told Reuters at his office in the Egyptian capital.

A report submitted to Egypt's SCA from the University of York expedition leader Don Brothwell said of the mummy: "There has been some confusion as to the sex of this individual."

However, the report concluded that the mummy was a female because of a lack of evidence of male genitalia.

Hawass said a double-piercing in the mummy's ear was common to both sexes, but in a different period to the Amarna era in which Nefertiti lived. He said it was even more common in men.

"All the queens used to wear earrings in their wigs, not in their ears," Hawass said, who has worked in the field for 35 years. He added that the male mummy found alongside the mummy said to be Nefertiti's also had pierced ears.

A sculpted bust of Nefertiti, whose name means "the beautiful woman has come", is exhibited in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Her husband Akhenaten, who ruled from 1379-1362 BC, is believed to have all but killed off the idea of pharaoh as god-king in trying to impose a form of monotheism.

"Nefertiti gave birth six times, so her hips should be very broad, but this mummy's hips are very narrow," said Hawass, who inspected the mummy on Friday.

Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo Salima Ikram said x-rays of the mummy taken by the University of York's expedition would clarify whether it had given birth.

"The evidence does not at all support the finding of Nefertiti," Ikram said in a telephone interview. "It would be very obvious from any x-rays of the mummy whether it had given birth...there would be specific markings."

Hawass said Nefertiti was widely believed to be at least 35 years old when she died, but Brothwell's expedition report concluded an age range of 18-30 for the mummy.

Reuters obtained a copy of Brothwell's report from the SCA.

Peta Drops Suit Against KFC
NEW YORK September 2, 2003 (Reuters) - An animal rights group has dropped its lawsuit against fried chicken chain KFC Corp., saying the chain and KFC's parent company Yum Brands Inc. will change the information it gives about bird treatment, the New York Times said on Tuesday.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said Yum Brands has stopped giving what PETA called false information about the welfare of the chickens served by the fast food restaurants, the newspaper said, citing an agreement given to the Times and filed with the California Superior Court.

The company disseminates its information on its Web sites and through public information officers, the paper said. Spokespeople from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Yum Brands had not been available to comment.

Telephone operators will say: "KFC disagrees with PETA's claims. KFC believes that animals should be treated humanely. For this reason, KFC has established animal welfare guidelines for vendors who supply KFC restaurants with chicken," according to the paper.

This is a change from the company's earlier practice of directly rejecting claims in the lawsuit that "the birds raised and killed for the defendants' operations suffer great pain and injuries in massive numbers," said the Times.

A PETA spokesman told the New York Times that it would continue its boycott of KFC, however, saying that the treatment of chickens has not changed. Company officials did not return Times calls seeking comment.
Electric Jellyfish!

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution Press Release

MONTEREY CA September 2, 2003 - Using a new lighted jellyfish lure and a unique camera system, researchers from HARBOR BRANCH are working to reveal for the first time life in the deep sea unaltered by the cacophony of sound and light that have been an integral part of most past research there. From Sept 2-5 a team will be using the lure for the first time in the dark depths of California's Monterey Bay.

"We are hoping to do some honest to goodness unobtrusive observation, which really hasn't happened in the ocean," says Dr. Edith Widder, head of HARBOR BRANCH's Biophotonics Center and project leader, "Ultimately the goal is to see animals or behaviors nobody has ever seen before."

The deep sea makes up about 78% of the planet's inhabitable volume, but little is known about most of its inhabitants, more than half of which are capable of making their own light, or bioluminescence.

This scientific deficiency stems from not only a lack of exploration and study of the oceans, but also from less than ideal traditional research methods. Deep-towed nets can shred animals like jellyfish or damage captured animals to the point that their natural behaviors cannot be observed in the lab.

Manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) can deliver humans to the depths in person or virtually to observe some animals in their natural environment. However, they typically do not allow researchers to see animals' natural behaviors because the lights, motors and electric fields such vehicles bring with them are more than enough to either scare animals away before they're ever seen or frighten them into unnatural behavior.

To get around such problems, Dr. Widder dreamed of and then, in partnership with the institution's Engineering Division, created an innovative camera system to record life in the abyss unobtrusively. Called "Eye in the Sea," the system is designed to operate on the seafloor automatically and, most importantly, unnoticed by animals. The system can detect animals nearby when they give off bioluminescent light, trigger a video camera to record the light being produced, then turn on a red light out of the animals' normal vision range to take illuminated footage. The system can also be programmed to film surrounding areas at scheduled intervals, for instance when the team places the system on the bottom along with bait to attract animals. In the past camera systems used on the seafloor have relied on bright and, for those creatures accustomed to the darkness of the depths, frightening lights.

The Eye in the Sea has been tested alone during brief deployments, and has already captured unusual interactions, such as a primitive hagfish annoying a shark (photo available). Widder now plans to take the deep-sea observation work one step further by deploying the camera system along with a simple electronic device designed to mimic the various bioluminescent light patterns given off by jellyfish known as Atolla. Various Atolla species are common in the deep sea and look something like a tie-dye splotch when their round bodies are viewed from above. The artificial jellyfish lure is a round disc about six inches across with a ring of blue LED lights around its outer edge that can be programmed to light up in patterns similar to those created by the jellyfish.

Widder hopes the lure will allow her to test various hypotheses about how and why animals such as jellyfish use their bioluminescent light. For instance, when threatened, the jellyfish sometimes respond by creating a circular wave of light around their outer edge that progresses like the lights on a movie marquis. Scientists call this a "burglar alarm" response and theorize that jellyfish use it to attract large animals in to eat whatever animal is attacking the jellyfish. To test that theory and others, the team will deploy the Eye in the Sea next to a box of bait along with the artificial jellyfish, which will be programmed to produce various displays, to see how animals in the area respond. The jellyfish lure could also attract large predators to the area, which would be captured on film.

The team will be deploying the equipment at a depth of about 700 meters (2300 feet) in the Monterey Canyon using the Ventana ROV, owned and operated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute ( ), where Widder is also an adjunct researcher. They will head to the site aboard MBARI's Point Lobos research vessel on Sept. 2 for the first deployment, and on subsequent days bring the equipment to the surface to download video then redeploy for more recording on the seafloor.

On future expeditions, Widder hopes to leave the systems deployed on the seabed at various sites for long time periods to get a more complete view of life in the deep.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution -

Intelligent Fish!

Edinburgh August 31, 2003 (BBC) - Fish are socially intelligent creatures who do not deserve their reputation as the dim-wits of the animal kingdom, according to a group of leading scientists.

Scientists say fish do not deserve their "dim-witted" reputation. Rather than simply being instinct-driven, the group says fish are cunning, manipulative and even cultured.

The three experts from the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Leeds said there had been huge changes in science's understanding of the psychological and mental abilities of fish in the last few years.

Writing in the journal Fish and Fisheries, biologists Calum Brown, Keven Laland and Jens Krause said fish were now seen as highly intelligent creatures.

They said: "Gone (or at least obsolete) is the image of fish as drudging and dim-witted pea-brains, driven largely by 'instinct',' with what little behavioral flexibility they possess being severely hampered by an infamous 'three-second memory'.

Behavior patterns

"Now, fish are regarded as steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of manipulation, punishment and reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and co-operating to inspect predators and catch food."

Recent research had shown that fish recognized individual "shoal mates", social prestige and even tracked relationships.

Scientists had also observed them using tools, building complex nests and exhibiting long-term memories.

The scientists added: "Although it may seem extraordinary to those comfortably used to pre-judging animal intelligence on the basis of brain volume, in some cognitive domains, fishes can even be favorably compared to non-human primates."

They said fish were the most ancient of the major vertebrate groups, giving them "ample time" to evolve complex, adaptable and diverse behavior patterns that rivaled those of other vertebrates.

"These developments warrant a re-appraisal of the behavioral flexibility of fishes, and highlight the need for a deeper understanding of the learning processes that underpin the newly recognized behavioral and social sophistication of this taxon," said the scientists.

Europa's Domes?

University of Colorado at Boulder Press Release

September 2, 2003 - A new University of Colorado at Boulder study of Jupiter's moon Europa may help explain the origin of the giant ice domes peppering its surface and the implications for discovering evidence of past or present life forms there.

Assistant Professor Robert Pappalardo and doctoral student Amy Barr previously believed the mysterious domes may be formed by blobs of ice from the interior of the frozen shell that were being pushed upward by thermal upwelling from warmer ice underneath. Europa is believed to harbor an ocean beneath its icy surface.

But the scientists now think the dome creation also requires small amounts of impurities, such as sodium chloride or sulfuric acid. Basically the equivalent of table salt or battery acid, these compounds melt ice at low temperatures, allowing warmer, more pristine blobs of ice to force the icy surface up in places, creating the domes.

"We have been trying for some time to understand how these ice blobs can push up through the frozen shell of Europa, which is likely about 13 miles thick," said Pappalardo of the astrophysical and planetary sciences department. "Our models now show that a combination of upwelling warm ice in the frozen shell's interior, combined with small amounts of impurities such as sodium chloride or sulfuric acid, would provide enough of a force to form these domes."

A paper on the subject co-authored by Pappalardo and Barr was presented at the annual Division of Planetary Sciences Meeting in Monterey, Calif. DPS is an arm of the American Astronomical Society.

Europa appears to have strong tidal action as it elliptically orbits Jupiter – strong enough "to squeeze the moon" and heat its interior, said Pappalardo.

"Warm ice blobs rise upward through the ice shell toward the colder surface, melting out saltier regions in their path. The less dense blobs can continue rising all the way to the surface to create the observed domes."

The domes are huge – some more than four miles in diameter and 300 feet high – and are found in clusters on Europa's surface, said Barr, who did much of the modeling.

"We are excited about our research, because we think it now is possible that any present or past life or even just the chemistry of the ocean may be lifted to the surface, forming these domes. It essentially would be like an elevator ride for microbes."

Barr likened the upwelling of warmer ice from the inner ice shell to its surface to a pot of boiling spaghetti sauce.

"The burner under the pan sends the hottest sauce to the top, creating the bubbles at the surface," she said. "The trouble is Europa's icy skin is as cold and as hard as a rock."

The idea that either small amounts of salt or sulfuric acid might help to create Europa's domes was Pappalardo's, who knew about similar domes on Earth that form in clumps in arid regions. On Earth, it is salt that is buoyant enough to move up through cracks and fissures in rock formations to form dome clusters at the surface.

"In addition, infrared and color images taken of Europa by NASA's Galileo spacecraft seem to indicate some of the ice on the surface of these domes is contaminated. Impurities seen at the surface are clues to the internal composition of the Jovian moon, telling of a salty ice shell," he said.

"The surface of Europa is constantly being blasted by radiation from Jupiter, which likely precludes any life on the moon's surface," said Barr. "But a spacecraft might be able to detect signs of microbes just under the surface."

Both Pappalardo and Barr also are affiliated with CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The project was funded by NASA's Exobiology Program and Graduate Student Research Program.

Pappalardo recently served on a National Research Council panel that reaffirmed a spacecraft should be launched in the coming decade with the goal of orbiting Europa. He currently is part of a NASA team developing goals for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission.

The scientific objectives of the mission probably will include confirming the presence of an ocean at Europa, remotely measuring the composition of the surface and scouting out potential landing sites for a follow-on lander mission.

University of Colorado at Boulder -

Genre News: Fall Movies 2003, Firefly, Joan of Arcadia, Buffy on Angel, The Dreamers, Whoopi Goldberg & More!

Fall Movie Preview
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 2, 2003 (eXoNews) - The Fall TV season is approaching and threatening to bore you to death! Maybe it's time to break open the piggy bank and head for the shelter of your local movie theater?

In case you were wondering - or even if you weren't - here's a short list of promising feature films due soon. We haven't seen any of them, but they sure sound better than what the boob tube has to offer!

[Descriptions swiped from Nielsen, who presumably swiped them from the producers. Possible spoilers! Ed.]

ANYTHING ELSE (DREAMWORKS SKG) [R] Comedy. Director - Woody Allen. "The story of an aging struggling artist (Woody Allen) who takes a younger artist (Jason Biggs) under his wing, which includes helping him sort out his messy romantic life. Feature players also include Christina Ricci, Danny Devito, Stockard Channing, and Jimmy Fallon."

Anything Else Official site -

CABIN FEVER (LIONS GATE FILMS) [R] Horror. Director - Eli Roth. "As a last hurrah after college, friends Jeff, Karen, Paul, Marcy and Bert embark on a vacation deep into the mountains...Karen's skin starts to bubble and burn as something grows inside her, tunneling beneath her flesh. The group is so repulsed, shocked and sickened watching their friend deteriorate before their eyes that they lock her in a shed to avoid infection. They soon realize that anyone of them could have the infection." With Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Rider Strong and Joey Kern.

Cabin Fever Official site -

CASA DE LOS BABYS (IFC FILMS) [NR] Drama. Director - John Sayles. "A drama about six American women who travel to South America to adopt babies from a local orphanage. As part of the adoption process, the women must establish residency in the country by living with the natives. The film explores the lives and culture of the women as well as the local people that surround them. Featured among the ensemble are Mary Steenburgen, Marcia Gay Harden, Daryl Hannah, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Susan Lynch and Rita Moreno."

IFC Films -

CIVIL BRAND (LIONS GATE FILMS) [R] Drama. Director - Neema Barnette. "About female prisoners who befriend a young law student who works as a part-time prison guard. The prisoners go on to take over the prison in a botched attempt to organize a protest over their slave labor." With LisaRaye, Mos Def, N'Bushe Wright and Monica Calhoun.

Civil Brand Official site -

JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (MGM/UA) [R] Horror. Director - Victor Salva. "The sequel to the 2001 film centers on a group of basketball players, coaches and cheerleaders who find themselves attacked by a winged, people-eating monster on their way home from the state championship." With Jonathan Breck, Ray Wise, Nicki Lynn Aycox and Marieh Delfino.

Jeepers 2 Official site -

LOST IN TRANSLATION (FOCUS FEATURES) [R] Drama. Director - Sofia Coppola. "Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen star as two Americans in Tokyo who go on a soul-searching journey together. Featured players include Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris."

Lost In Translation Official site -

MATCHSTICK MEN (WARNER BROS.) [PG-13] Action. Director - Ridley Scott. "Story of a phobic con man (Nicolas Cage) whose teenage daughter (Alison Lohman) unexpectedly reenters his life just when he and his protégé (Sam Rockwell) are about to pull off a big score."

Matchstick Men Official site -

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (SONY PICTURES) [R] Action. Director - Robert Rodriguez. "Antonio Banderas stars in the third of a trilogy which started with EL MARIACHI and DESPERADO. The story centers on a drug lord who's planning to assassinate the Mexican president and assume power and the men who try to stop him. Featured players include Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp and Cheech Marin."

Onec Upon a Time Official site -

OUT OF TIME (MGM/UA) [PG-13] Suspense. Director - Carl Franklin. "Matt Lee Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is chief of police in small Banyan Key, Florida. He's respected by his peers and loved by his community.

"But when Banyan Key is shocked by a double homicide, everything Matt Lee thought he knew starts to unravel, and he finds himself in a race against time to solve the murders before he himself falls under suspicion."

With Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain.

Out of Time Official site -

SCHOOL OF ROCK (PARAMOUNT) [NR] Comedy. Director - Richard Linklater. "Jack Black stars as a hell-raising struggling guitarist. Desperate for work, he becomes a substitute teacher in a private school and soon turns the young students into high-voltage rock and rollers." Featuring Joan Cusack as the school's principal, Sarah Silverman and Mike White.

School of Rock Official site -

THE STATION AGENT (MIRAMAX) [NR] Drama. Director - Tom McCarthy. "When his only friend dies, a young dwarf, Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage), moves to an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, to live the life of a hermit. His attempt at solitude is soon interrupted, however, by interactions with his neighbors, like a struggling artist (Patricia Clarkson) coping with the recent death of her young son and a talkative Cuban hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale)."

Station Agent Official site -

THE RUNDOWN (UNIVERSAL) [PG-13] Action. Director - Peter Berg. "When Travis (Seann William Scott), a young man from a powerful family, goes off in search of a gold-mine in the Amazon, his father sends a mercenary named Beck (The Rock) to retrieve him. Despite their hostility, and their love for the same woman, the two must eventually join forces to fight the evil head (Christopher Walken) of a gold-mining corporation who is after the same treasure."

The Rundown Official site -

UNDERWORLD (SONY PICTURES) [R] Action. Director - Len Wiseman. "Described as Romeo and Juliet among vampire and werewolf clans, this action/horror story stars Kate Beckinsale as a vampire warrior who falls in love with a werewolf (Scott Speedman)."

Underworld Official site -

Firefly the Movie!
By Zorianna Kit and Chris Gardner

Hollywood September 4, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - The short-lived TV series "Firefly" is moving to the big screen. After taking his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" feature film and turning it into a successful TV series, Joss Whedon is about to do the reverse with another one of his creations. Whedon has teamed with Universal Pictures to turn "Firefly," a TV cult favorite, into a feature film.

In addition to having adapted it for the big screen, Whedon will also make his feature directorial debut with the project. Plans are to see "Firefly" go into production in first-quarter 2004.

Universal recently acquired the rights to "Firefly" from 20th Century Fox Television, where Whedon's Mutant Enemy Inc. production company has a television deal.

The action-adventure series was set 500 years in the future and centered on a crew aboard a spaceship. The feature version will incorporate the mythology from the show but will take on a more epic feel. Whedon hopes to enlist the entire cast to come back for the feature, depending on their previous commitments, with new characters added as well.

Whedon is producing the film through his Mutant Enemy Inc. along with studio-based producer Barry Mendell. Mendell, a former agent at UTA, used to represent Whedon. Mutant Enemy president Christopher Buchanan is executive producing. Universal production president Mary Parent is shepherding the project.

"Ever since the show went off the air, our fan base has grown even more," Buchanan said. "We've had tremendous outpouring from the U.S. and Canada as well as the U.K., which just finished a run of 'Firefly' over there. Every comic book and sci-fi convention has had a 'Firefly' presence since the show first aired."

For the series, which ran this past season, Whedon produced 15 hours of television, including a two-hour episode. Three shows never aired on Fox but will likely be featured on the series' DVD release, due out in December. Buchanan said fans created such a demand that DVD presales on sold out within 24 hours.

Whedon, repped by CAA, continues to be executive producer of "Angel," which he created. His feature film screenplay credits include "Titan A.E.," "Alien: Resurrection" and "Toy Story."

Firefly Fan website -

2003 TV Fall Season Picks - Joan of Arcadia
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 2, 2003 (eXoNews) - All this month eXoNews will try to predict some genre show winners in the fall race. We begin with Friday nights, historically the best and worst night for genre shows. X-Files started out on Fridays, but so did Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, Firefly and John Doe. Joan of Arcadia gives Friday a shot this year.

Joan sounds interesting. Girl meets God - which is certainly less of a yawn than the Girl meets Boy formula that has been repeating on TV over and over again for decades. CBS airs Joan of Arcadia beginning Friday September 26 at 8 PM, helmed by writer-producer Barbara Hall (Judging Amy).

I was hoping for a new teen genre show to stem Buffy withdrawal. Yes, we thankfully have Joss Whedon's Angel crew returning with a vengence, but Angel isn't teen and America needs girl power.

Well, no slayer here. Joan isn't Buffy. A quick read of the plot synopsis suggests Joan of Arc meets The Donna Reed Show meets The Dead Zone.

The plot, according to Sony Television promotion, centers around Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn), a sixteen year old girl from Arcadia who meets a boy who claims to be God. Joan's father is Will Girardi, the Arcadia town sheriff (of course - only the kids of upstanding folk see God), played by Joe Mantegna. Mom is Mary Steenburgen.

Joan also has two brothers, nerdy fifteen year old Luke (Michael Welch) and nineteen year old Kevin (Jason Ritter), a wheel-chair bound paraplegic.

In the opening show, Joan meets the boy who claims to be God and also encounters Arcadia's local serial killer (the Dead Zone spin), but despite the painfully CBS demographically balanced look of it all, the cast could save the day.

Amber Tamblyn is the daughter of Russ Tamblyn (Riff in West Side Story and Dr. Lawrence Jacoby in David Lynch's Twin Peaks.) Amber was in The Ring, a very scary movie, and she was quite good as the first victim we met in that film but should not be confused with Daveigh Chase, who played The Ring's ghost child. A little surfing will tell you that Amber was also on General Hospital for six years and guested on one episode of Buffy (6x6).

Michael Welch has racked up an impressive number of TV genre credits on Stargate, Birds of Prey, The Invisible Man, X-Files and producer Hall's Judging Amy and Chicago Hope among others.

Jason Ritter is the son of John Ritter who is the son of Tex Ritter. Not a bad thing. The Ritter's certainly have sawdust in the blood. Jason Ritter recently starred in Freddy Vs. Jason - but not as THE Jason.

Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen need no introduction. I suppose Mr. Mantegna's presence here means that he has given up his TV movie run at reviving Robert Parker's Spenser. (He was pretty good as the Boston detective, but he never found his Hawk and I suppose no one will ever replace the late Robert Urich as Spenser.)

Mary Steenburgen has won Oscar, Golden Globe, Saturn, Genie and Screen Actors Guild awards for past screen and TV work. Joan is her first TV series since the short-lived Ink with husband Ted Danson, but let's face it, Steenburgen brings class to anything she does.

Joan of Arcadia will lead into the CBS hit JAG, which moves to Fridays at 9 PM this season. With no other genre shows to challenge her on rival networks, I'm reserving Fridays at 8 PM for Joan.

Let's see what God has to say.

Sony's Joan of Arcadia site -

Buffy Will Guest on Angel

NEW YORK September 1, 2003 (AP) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still in the lives of Angel and Spike after all.

According to TV Guide, Sarah Michelle Gellar is in talks to guest on "Angel" two episodes next year.

Gellar's appearance will be during a "sweeps" period — either February or May, the magazine said.

James Marsters' character from "Buffy," Spike, will be joining "Angel" as a regular.

The president of the WB network told the magazine that bringing some of the characters from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" over to "Angel" — either to visit or to stay — helped in deciding not to cancel the show.

"Angel" has its season premiere Oct. 1.

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

Paper Apologizes for Spears-Madonna Photo

ATLANTA September 1, 2003 (AP) - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution apologized to readers Monday for using a picture of Britney Spears kissing Madonna on the front page.

The picture, not much bigger than a postage stamp, was near the top of Friday's front page. It showed Spears and Madonna in an open-mouth kiss they shared at the MTV Video Music Awards the night before. A larger version of the picture was in the Living section.

The sloppy kiss picture elicited a deluge of complaints to the newspaper.

In Monday's editions, managing editor Hank Klibanoff apologized, saying the picture should have been inside but not on the front page.

Klibanoff compared the Spears picture to graphic images from the war in Iraq.

"We ran images we otherwise might not have run. But that was war, and war was news.
The photo we ran Friday was neither, and I wish I had limited its display to the inside of the Living section," Klibanoff wrote in a response to letters on the opinions page.

[Disgusting wenches! You won't see such things on this web site! Ed.]

Official Madonna -

Keen Eddie Canceled

LOS ANGELES August 26, 2003 ( - "Keen Eddie's" time in London is officially up.

FOX has opted not to bring back the British-set cop show for a second summer run that was to have started Thursday (Aug. 28). The decision is of little surprise, as the series didn't do all that well the first time around and has been off the air for about a month.

"Keen Eddie" originally occupied the 9 p.m. Tuesday spot now held by "The O.C." Both shows premiered to around 7.5 million viewers, but while "The O.C." built on its audience in subsequent airings, "Eddie" dropped hard and fast. Its seven episodes averaged only about 4.9 million viewers.

The cancellation also means the final handful of episodes -- FOX ordered 13 -- likely won't see the light of day.

FOX will fill the Thursday hole with "Stupid Behavior Caught on Tape" and "Anything for Love," at least for this week. The network's fall lineup for the night, "Tru Calling" and "The O.C." (moving from Tuesdays), is set to debut Oct. 30.

Pierce Brosnan Wins Rights to Domain Name

GENEVA September 1, 2003 (AP) - James Bond star Pierce Brosnan has won control of the Internet name in a ruling by a United Nations panel.

Arbitrators from the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered the transfer of the domain name to the Irish actor, who had complained that it was being used illegally.

The ruling said the registered owner of the name — Alberta Hot Rods, of Alberta, Canada — had no rights or interests in the name and was using it in bad faith.

Brosnan's lawyers told the panel that the domain linked to another Web site,, which they said contained biographies of some actors but no information about Brosnan. They noted that the site carries numerous advertising messages, and that the owner appeared to be using Brosnan's name to earn money.

The owner of the site did not file a defense.

Anyone can register a domain name for a few dollars, which has led so-called "cybersquatters" to file for famous names to make a fast buck from those who want the names. Some names are worth millions of dollars.

Brosnan's lawyers noted that Alberta Hot Rods is linked to Jeff Burgar, whom they described as a "notorious cybersquatter." In its ruling, the U.N. panel said that Burgar or linked companies have previously been ordered to hand over domain names to other celebrities.

Actors Kevin Spacey and Pamela Anderson, "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton as well as singing star Celine Dion all have won their domain names from Burgar or companies linked to him.

The U.N. arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to get it back without having to fight a costly legal battle or paying large sums of money.

Fox Censors Bertolucci's Dreamers
By Shasta Darlington

VENICE, Italy September 1, 2003 (Reuters) - Bernardo Bertolucci, who shocked the world with his erotic "Last Tango in Paris" 30 years ago, is at it again in his new film, which will have to be edited before its U.S. release, the Italian director said Monday.

"The Dreamers," a film about sexual awakening in France in 1968, has scenes of explicit sex and flirts with incest.

"The film risks coming out amputated, mutilated in the United States," Bertolucci told reporters in Venice, where "The Dreamers" staged its world premier as part of the 60th annual film festival here.

"We must however hand over the film according to our contract, so there is a strong likelihood it will come out in a different way than it will be seen in rest of world," he said, explaining that Fox Searchlight has demanded cuts so that it can garner an "R" rating as promised in the contract.

The film depicts a ménage a trois among a young American exchange student and a French brother and sister, who shut themselves in their family's home while their parents are away.

Some of the more taboo scenes include the siblings caressing and kissing each other, the three frolicking in a bathtub together and the girl's loss of virginity on the kitchen floor while her brother fries eggs.

But 2003 is a far cry from 1972 when "Tango" burst on to the scene, and despite its risque sexual scenes, a long-hyped scandal has not materialized in the lagoon city.

"I heard that the film has been received with some controversy. Perhaps less so than I expected or wanted," Bertolucci chuckled.

Ironically, its world debut has been in Italy, which banned "Last Tango in Paris" for years even as the United States embraced the sexually explosive and violent movie. Now America is proving the most conservative audience, Bertolucci said.

"The Dreamers" stars American Michael Pitt, who has appeared in offbeat movies like "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" about a drag queen rocker, and French newcomers Eva Green and Louis Garrel.

It marks a return to erotica for Bertolucci, who more recently has directed movies such as the Oscar-winning epic "The Last Emperor" set in China and the acclaimed "Stealing Beauty" about a more subtle sexual awakening in the Tuscan countryside.

In a reflection of Bertolucci's own youth, the movie is set against the 1968 student riots in Paris and is steeped in film references.

Fox Searchlight Dreamers Official site -

Shatner Does Paintball

NEW MILFORD PA September 1, 2003 (AP) - Actor William Shatner, seeking to raise money for an annual horse show for disabled children, headlined a paintball tournament that included at least 2,000 registered participants.

Shatner, 72, who starred as Captain Kirk in the "Star Trek" films, said the proceeds of Sunday's tournament will go toward his Hollywood Charity Horse Show, an annual event that showcases accomplished riders.

"Well, why not paintball?" Shatner said. "This is fun, so people will come, and it's for charity."

A similar fund-raising tournament in Illinois last year raised several thousand dollars. The entrance fee for this year's event was $100.

J.J. Brookshire, the organizer of the event and a longtime friend of Shatner's, said the actor was introduced to paintball before last year's tournament.

"He played a few times before the actual event," Brookshire said. "But once he started, we had to make him stop playing."

Official Shatner -

Whoopi Smokes!
By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES September 2, 2003 (Reuters) - In her new NBC sitcom, Whoopi Goldberg smokes like a chimney and pokes fun at terror alerts, how President Bush mispronounces "nuclear" (NUKE-lee-er) and at black people acting white, not to mention white people acting black.

So far, NBC hasn't blinked. In fact, says the Oscar-winning actress, executives at the General Electric Co.-owned network think she could even be "a little riskier."

"They're fearless about what it is we're trying to do. We haven't heard from anyone saying, 'No you can't do this," she said.

That also goes for some of the more unsavory aspects of the character she plays on "Whoopi" -- Mavis Raye, a tart-tongued, menopausal former singer turned hotelier in New York City who smokes and drinks on the job.

The series pilot opens with a cigarette joke.

A hotel guest admonishes Goldberg that "second-hand smoke kills," to which she retorts, "So do I, baby, walk on!"

Goldberg's on-screen puffing already has drawn the ire of anti-tobacco activists. But she is unrepentant about her character's nicotine habit, an extension a real-life vice.

"I think people are smart enough to be able to say to their kids, 'Now you see this is not the greatest behavior Whoopi could be having right now,"' she told Reuters in an interview.

"This is a show about real people. And real people do have these flaws. Is (Mavis) going to have them forever? Maybe not, but she's damn well going to start out with them. ... I mean, she's not shooting dope. She's not killing anybody."


"Whoopi," which debuts on Sept. 9, marks Goldberg's first stab at her own prime-time series since the short-lived 1990 CBS sitcom "Bagdad Cafe," in which she played the proprietor of a diner-motel in the California desert. She also was a regular for five years on "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

An Oscar winner for her turn as a spiritual medium in the 1990 film "Ghost," Goldberg, 47, said her return to the small screen comes at an ideal time.

"I'm a little bit older now, and I like the idea of being in a steady gig," she said. "There's not a lot of offers coming my way, either. You get into that awkward stage of late 40s, and things slow down."

Cigarettes notwithstanding, her new show draws much of its humor from subjects that may strike some viewers as just this side of taboo for prime-time network TV.

The comedy features an interracial couple consisting of Mavis' buttoned-down, decidedly un-hip brother, Courtney (Wren Brown) and his white girlfriend, Rita (Elizabeth Regen), who dresses and acts "like a sister."

"She's introduced me to rap, hip-hop and just a whole world I've never known," Courtney exclaims on the series pilot, to which Mavis dead-pans: "So, she's teaching you to be black."

Goldberg says the Rita character merely reflects one of many cultural mixes that have grown so common in society.

"Lots of parents in the suburbs are raising black children and don't know it," she said.


The show also co-stars British-born Iranian comic Omid Djalili as Goldberg's sidekick Nasim, a hotel handyman from Iran who immediately takes offense whenever anyone mistakes him for an Arab.

Nasim: "I'm not Arab. I'm Persian! It's so obvious. You can't tell the difference?"

Mavis: "Hell, no, I can't tell the difference. You people all look alike to me."

Later, Mavis confides to Nasim that "your people do scare me .... I mean I see three of four of you guys on an airplane, and I'm off." Nasim replies he feels "exactly the same way about the Portuguese."

Goldberg says such exchanges, aside from hopefully winning laughs, are intended to deconstruct some of the fears that pervade post-9/11 America.

"Omid's character is a guy who has his own fears about being here and about what's going on," she said. "Everybody has their finger pointing, and that's really what we wanted to say, that we've all got fears of something."

Indeed, in episode two, it is Nasim's paranoia about an unattended briefcase in the hotel lobby during an "orange alert" that leads police to blow it up. The briefcase turns out to have been a present from Rita to Courtney.

But Goldberg insists she's not making light of terror alerts. "These are the things that are happening in our lives," she said. "It's part of the world that I live in. It's the world that I can comment on."

As for making fun of Bush at a time when other performers' criticism of the president has caused their patriotism to be called into question, Goldberg is likewise unapologetic.

"We're all patriots. We all want the world to be a better place," she said. "I don't have any problems with it and will continue to have as much fun with our president as every comic has since comedy began."

"Whoopi" debuts Tuesday, September 9th on NBC.

Click here for last week's Genre News!

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