The Planet Quaoar?
Sexual Jealousy, Endangered Primates,
Mickey Mouse vs. The Supreme Court!
Asteroid Wars! Kill Ugly Television?
Is Quaoar a Planet?
NASA NEWS RELEASE October 7, 2002 - NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the largest object in the solar system seen since the discovery of Pluto 72 years ago.

Approximately half the size of Pluto, the icy world 2002 LM60, dubbed "Quaoar" (pronounced kwa-whar) by its discoverers, is the farthest object in the solar system ever to be resolved by a telescope. It was initially detected by a ground-based telescope as simply a dot of light, until astronomers aimed Hubble's powerful telescope at it.

[According to a BBC report, "astronomers named the new object Quaoar, after the creation myth of the Tongva people who inhabited the Los Angeles area before the arrival of the Spanish and other European settlers. To the indigenous peoples, Quaoar was the great force of nature that summoned all other things into being." Ed.] 

Quaoar is about 4 billion miles away from Earth, well over a billion miles farther away than Pluto. Unlike Pluto, its orbit around the Sun is circular, even more so than most of the planetary-class bodies in the solar system. 

Although smaller than Pluto, Quaoar is greater in volume than all the asteroids combined (though probably only one-third the mass of the asteroid belt, because it's icy rather than rocky). Quaoar's composition is theorized to be largely ices mixed with rock, not unlike the makeup of a comet, though 100 million times greater in volume. 

This finding yields important new insights into the origin and dynamics of the planets, and the mysterious population of bodies dwelling in the solar system's final frontier: the elusive, icy Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. 

Michael Brown and Chadwick Trujillo of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. are reporting the findings today at the 34th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Birmingham, Ala. 

Earlier this year, Trujillo and Brown used the Palomar Oschin Schmidt telescope to discover Quaoar as an 18.5-magnitude object creeping across the summer constellation Ophiuchus (it's less than 1/100,000 the brightness of the faintest star seen by the human eye). Brown had to do follow-up observations using Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys on July 5 and August 1, 2002, to measure the object's true angular size of 40 milliarcseconds, corresponding to a diameter of about 800 miles (1300 kilometers). Only Hubble has the sharpness needed to actually resolve the disk of the distant world, leading to the first-ever direct measurement of the true size of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). 

Like Pluto, Quaoar dwells in the Kuiper Belt, an icy debris field of comet-like bodies extending 7 billion miles beyond Neptune's orbit. Over the past decade more than 500 icy bodies have been found in the Kuiper Belt. With a few exceptions all have been significantly smaller than Pluto.

Previous record holders are a KBO called Varuna, and an object called 2002 AW197, each approximately 540 miles across (900 kilometers). Unlike dimensions derived from Hubble's direct observations, these diameters are deduced from measuring the objects' temperatures and calculating a size based on assumptions about the KBOs' reflectivity, so the uncertainty in true size is much greater. 

This latest large KBO is too new to have been officially named by the International Astronomical Union. Trujillo and Brown have proposed naming it after a creation god of the Native American Tongva tribe, the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles basin. According to legend, Quaoar "came down from heaven; and, after reducing chaos to order, laid out the world on the back of seven giants. He then created the lower animals, and then mankind." 

Quaoar's "icy dwarf" cousin, Pluto, was discovered in 1930 in the course of a 15-year search for trans-Neptunian planets. It wasn't realized until much later that Pluto actually was the largest of the known Kuiper Belt objects. The Kuiper Belt wasn't theorized until 1950, after comet orbits provided telltale evidence of a vast nesting ground for comets just beyond Neptune. The first recognized Kuiper Belt objects were not discovered until the early 1990s. This new object is by far the "biggest fish" astronomers have snagged in KBO surveys. Brown predicts, within a few years, even larger KBOs will be found, and Hubble will be invaluable for follow-up observations to pin down sizes.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov 

Bush Confirms Anti Abortion Stance
By Mary Leonard
Globe Staff


WASHINGTON October 6, 2002 (Boston Globe) - President Bush demonstrated again last week that his opposition to abortion was more than a campaign promise.

His actions have delighted abortion foes and dismayed reproductive rights advocates, who say Bush's decisions are politically motivated by the midterm elections. 

Both sides in the debate know that control of the Senate is critical, since the majority party will determine whether legislation to ban late term abortions will come to the floor, and whether the president's judicial nominations will move swiftly, or at all, through the confirmation process. Bush is likely to pick a Supreme Court nominee in the next two years and thus have a chance to create an antiabortion majority. 

"There is no question in my mind that it is Bush's intention to use the court to roll back Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose," said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. "If the Senate remains pro-choice, they are going to have a tougher time doing it." 

The abortion rights group will spend more than $3 million on advertising in nine states with hotly contested Senate races, Michelman said. It is also watching for the administration's response to a petition, filed by antiabortion groups with the Food and Drug Administration, to ban the sale of RU-486, the abortion-inducing drug that the agency approved in 2000. 

Last week, the president shifted $34 million out of the UN Population Fund, which he says coerces abortions in China, and into a USAID program that will distribute it, country by country, for the health of children and mothers. 

Kenneth Conner, president of the Family Research Council, said it was "bold and decisive" to deny the family-planning funds, even as the administration was pressing the United Nations for a resolution to act against Iraq. 

"I think the president has taken some significant steps that affirm his desire to help refashion the culture of life in which every child is welcomed in life and protected in law," said Conner, whose group advocates a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. 

The administration made the UN move days after it had set a policy allowing states to provide health insurance to "unborn children," designating a fetus as eligible for government benefits. Abortion rights groups say this is aimed at undermining the Roe v. Wade decision, which found that women have a qualified right to terminate pregnancies. Administration officials say their goal is to advance prenatal health care. 

Last month, the White House strongly endorsed a bill passed in the House that permits hospitals and insurance companies to refuse to perform or to pay for abortions without losing their Medicare eligibility or other federal funding. 

Opponents said the bill, which has not been considered by the Senate, would deny many women access to abortions. 

"I think Bush really believes abortion should not be available to women," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "But more importantly, whenever he needs something to appease or energize the right wing of his constituency, Bush throws them a bone, and it is usually reproductive rights." 

A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said: "The president believes that we ought to be a culture that welcomes and respects life at all stages, and that is why he makes the decisions that are right for America." 

McClellan said that Bush has no abortion litmus test for federal judges and that he regrets what McClellan called "ugly partisan politics" in the Senate, which he said have denied confirmation of two of his nominees, US District Court Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owens. 

On his first day in office, Bush reinstated a global "gag" rule that prohibits USAID from allocating family-planning funds to international agencies or programs that provide abortion counseling or services. 

Since then, the Bush administration has taken the following steps on abortion issues: 

It has lobbied for a bill, passed by the House in July, that would criminalize abortions performed in the last trimester, called "partial-birth abortions" by their opponents. Senators backing the prohibition are trying to attach it to the legislation setting up the Office of Homeland Security. 

It has weighed in with a legal argument on the partial birth issue. In February, the Justice Department asked a federal appeals court in Cincinnati to uphold an Ohio law that bans the procedure but that provides a limited health exception for the mother. (In 2000, the Supreme Court invalidated state partial-birth laws because they made no provision for the condition of the pregnant woman.) 

It held a ceremony in August for Bush to sign the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which requires that a fetus that survives an abortion procedure must be considered a person under the law. 

It has endorsed the Child Custody Protection Act, which has been approved in the House. The bill, if cleared by the Senate, would make it illegal for anyone other than a parent to accompany a minor into another state for an abortion. 

It has worked with the National Right to Life Committee on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would make it a crime to kill or injure an "unborn child" in the womb while committing a crime against a pregnant woman. The House passed the measure last year; it has not been taken up in the Senate. 

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the president has been "very consistent" in carrying out his group's agenda, which includes promoting adoption and expanding education on sexual abstinence. And, Johnson said, Bush has "pushed hard" for a total ban on human cloning, which Johnson called the "most important prolife issue."

Sexual Jealousy Debunked
BOSTON October 8, 2002 (Northeastern University Press Release) – When it comes to jealousy, men and women may be from the same planet after all.

New research from psychology professor David DeSteno from Northeastern University debunks the myth of a gender-determined reaction to sexual and emotional infidelity. Contrary to previous studies, he found that both men and women react most dramatically to a partner's sexual rather than emotional philandering. And while a partner's unfaithful emotional bonds with someone outside the relationship are unduly stressful, both men and women exhibit the strongest adverse reactions to sexual rather than emotional connections.

Jealous reactions were once thought to be determined by evolutionary instincts. Men were said to react more strongly to being cuckolded while women found partners who strayed emotionally to be more of a threat to resources benefiting themselves and their children. Before DeSteno’s research, most jealousy studies on this issue involved “forced choice,” scenarios that prompted participants to choose one more distressing event over another. DeSteno and his colleagues believed that this method of assessment created biased results. Differences in gender only emerge, they found, when participants are forced to consider the infidelity events in opposition to one another. In short, it’s how participants are asked the questions, not an innate psychological mechanism shaped by evolution.

Participants were asked to rate, using a variety of scales, how they’d feel finding out that their partner had been either emotionally bonded with someone else or had been sexually unfaithful. Forced choice caused a distinct gender split, DeSteno found, but on every other measure, men and women’s reactions were congruent and the divergence melted away: both genders were more disturbed by sexual, rather than emotional, infidelity.

In a second study meant to uncover the reason for this paradoxical result, DeSteno had participants complete the forced-choice measure under conditions known to favor the functioning of automatic, or ingrained, mental processes. Here, the gender difference usually found on the forced-choice disappeared; men and women both reported more distress to sexual infidelity as was the case on all the other measures.

“The theory that male and female jealousy is differentially aroused by specific kinds of infidelity threats has long been advocated by sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists,” DeSteno said. “In direct contradiction to the evolutionary view, both men and women appear to experience more distress in response to sexual encounters outside the relationship than to emotional infidelities. And while we’re not out to debunk every tenet held fast by evolutionary psychologists, this calls into question a large body of research that’s been done looking at jealousy.”

“Our findings challenge the empirical basis for the evolutionary theory of jealousy by demonstrating that evidence of a sex difference in distress to sexual and emotional infidelity represents, in all likelihood, a methodological artifact,” he said. “It’s not simply a matter of the brain being shaped by evolutionary pressures.”

The study is slated for publication in the November issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. For a hard copy of the research report, call 617-373-5455.
Jeb Bush Implied Lesbian Remarks Criticized
TALLAHASSEE, October 4, 2002 (AP) - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) told a delegation of Panhandle lawmakers during a meeting that he had "some juicy details" about the sexual orientation of the caregivers of a missing Miami girl.

Bush implied during the Wednesday meeting that the two women, who had just been charged with fraud stemming from the investigation into Rilya Wilson's disappearance, were lesbians.

"As [Graham] was being arrested, she told her co-workers, 'Tell my wife I've been arrested.' The wife is the grandmother, and the aunt is the husband," Bush said, using his fingers to indicate quotation marks to emphasize the word "grandmother."

"Bet you don't get that in Pensacola," Bush told his guests.

Geralyn and Pamela Graham, who say they are sisters, were charged Wednesday with stealing more than $14,000 in public assistance. They were not charged in the disappearance of Rilya, who went missing 15 months before the state Department of Children & Families realized in April she was gone. 

Joshua Fisher, Pamela Graham's attorney, called the governor's comments "outrageous" and "disgusting."

"He's making jokes when there is still a missing baby here, or doesn't he care?" Fisher said today. He said the women are sisters and not a lesbian couple. He said he is trying to obtain paperwork that will prove that. Edward Shohat, Geralyn Graham's lawyer, did not return a call seeking comment.

Bush made his remarks to three Republican Panhandle legislators, two GOP state House candidates and aides during a meeting in the governor's office. He apparently did not realize a reporter with Gannett Regional Newspapers of Florida accompanied the group. His comments were first reported in today's editions of the Pensacola News-Journal.

Bush spokeswoman Elizabeth Hirst said today that the governor "relayed details and factual information regarding the arrests of Rilya's caretakers. He intended no offense and continues to focus on the safe return of young Rilya."

Nadine Smith, head of Equality Florida, the state's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, called the comments "childish" and "locker-room homophobia."

About nine or 10 people were attending the meeting with the governor on issues affecting the Panhandle delegation and the constitutional amendments on the ballot. Bush made the comments after he read an e-mail from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement handed him by an aide.

"It was a nonevent," said Dave Murzin, the GOP nominee in state House District 2. "It wasn't any big deal to us. Really, all of us were there for more important stuff."

Democrats assailed Bush.

"I think Floridians would be concerned that Jeb Bush has a different message behind closed doors than what he does in public," said Tony Welch, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride. "I think that's a cause for concern if that's his defense."
No Charges in Secret Taping Case
By JODI WILGOREN

Iowa October 8, 2002 (NY Times) - State and federal prosecutors said yesterday that they would not file criminal charges in the taping scandal that has disrupted the Senate campaign in Iowa.

John Sarcone, the lead prosecutor in Polk County, said no laws were violated when a supporter of Senator Tom Harkin, the Democratic incumbent, secretly taped a Sept. 3 strategy session held by the Republican candidate, Representative Greg Ganske, at a Des Moines hotel. Mr. Harkin's longtime campaign manager, Jeff Link, and the low-level aide who engineered the taping, resigned over the incident.

"What it boils down to is, Do you have an expectation of privacy?" Mr. Sarcone said. "There were 750 people invited; there's 22 present; you're in a political campaign and you're a public figure making comments. From our perspective, that's the end of the inquiry."

Charles Larson Jr., chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said that while the secret taping did not "reach the bar" for criminal charges, "this is a type of behavior that Iowans do not respect or condone."

A poll by a television station last week found that Senator Harkin's lead had narrowed to 9 percentage points, from 12 points a month earlier. In the survey, 56 percent said the taping would not influence their votes, 17 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Mr. Harkin, 13 percent said it helped him win their support, and 14 percent said they were unsure whether it would influence their votes.
One Third of All Primates Are Endangered!
Washington DC October 7, 2002 (Conservation International News Release) - New evidence of the peril facing the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, with one in every three now endangered with extinction, is revealed in a new report - The World's Top 25 Most Endangered Primates-2002 released today by Conservation International (CI) and the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Primate species and sub-species classified as "critically endangered" and "endangered" jumped nearly 63 percent from 120 to 195 since the initial report was issued in January 2000.

The report was finalized during a recent gathering of the International Primatological Society, at its 19th Congress in Beijing, China. Asia now accounts for almost 45 percent of the world's most endangered primates, with 11 listed in the top 25, including six that are new additions. Africa (8), the Neotropics (3) and Madagascar (3) are home to the other primates represented on the list. These include the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia, the mountain gorilla of Africa, and northern muriqui of Brazil.

"The latest information made available at the International Primatological Society Congress in Beijing highlighted the fact that Asia has now become the world leader in endangered primates," said Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier.

"Of particular concern is the situation in Vietnam and China. Indeed, with several primates now numbering only in the dozens or low hundreds of individuals, Vietnam is at risk of undergoing a major primate extinction spasm within the next few years if rapid action is not taken. Fully 20 percent of the top 25 primates are located in Vietnam, with another 16 percent from China and 12 percent from Indonesia."

Twenty-three of the 25 primates are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots: 25 regions identified by Conservation International which cover a mere 1.4 percent of Earth's land surface but harbor more than 60 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity.

According to the report, 48 (87 percent) of the 55 critically endangered primates and 124 (89 percent) of the 140 endangered primates are found only in the biodiversity hotspots, for a total of 172 (88 percent) of the current 195. Six of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the world's most endangered primates: Indo-Burma, Madagascar, Sundaland, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, and the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka.

"It's important to point out that the Top 25 list is just the tip of the iceberg and a call for more conservation action," said Bill Konstant of Conservation International and co-author of the report. "Essentially, for each primate on it, any one of several other equally threatened species might have been chosen instead. Changing conditions in any of the represented countries can lead to the rapid decline of any of the 195 species threatened with extinction."

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, timber extraction and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates according to the report. However, hunting has been an insidious and major threat, especially in Africa and Asia. Once done mainly for subsistence purposes, it has now taken on a major commercial dimension. Live capture for the pet trade and export for biomedical research have become lesser concerns in recent decades, but still pose a threat to some species.

As flagship species, primates are important to the health of their surrounding ecosystems. Through the dispersal of fruit seeds and other foods they consume, primates help support a wide range of plant and animal life that make up the earth's forests. Nonhuman primates are our closest living relatives, and their loss is directly linked to the global extinction crisis.

"These 25 are facing a very serious risk of extinction due to the ongoing and rapid loss of their forests and, especially in Asia and Africa, their widespread and devastating exploitation for food and body parts, bizarre decoration, and charms or potions," commented Anthony Rylands of the Species Program at Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. "The key factor is that all of the species listed as 'critically endangered' and 'endangered' are declining dramatically and require urgent measures for their protection."

Although still highly endangered, a number of species have been removed from the list issued in 2000. The golden lion tamarin and the black lion tamarin, for example, have benefited from commendable efforts for their protection by the Brazilian Government. Comprehensive conservation and management programs are in place for each - that for the black lion tamarin run by the NGO IPÊ-Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas in collaboration with the Wildlife Preservation Trust, Philadelphia, and that for the golden lion tamarin by the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) in collaboration with the National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution.

Dead Zones Support Life
By Peter N. Spotts
Christian Science Monitor 

Acapulco October 3, 2002 (CSM) - Some 200 miles west of Acapulco, Mexico, Volcano 7 rises 8,600 feet from the ocean floor. A range of odd organisms grows along the seamount's flanks, but the volcano is not exactly a hotbed of biological activity.

As marine biologist Lisa Levin tells it, however, that picture shifts dramatically roughly 200 feet short of the summit. There, a narrow zone bustles with shrimp, crabs, starfish, worms, and rattail fish. Just as abruptly, the scene changes to one of submarine desolation – a peak as seemingly barren of life as a Rocky Mountain summit above the timber line.

The abrupt shift remained a mystery until Dr. Levin and colleagues discovered that the peak juts into a layer of water severely depleted of dissolved oxygen. And despite its appearance, the peak was home to thriving colonies of tiny worms and bacteria.

The discovery 14 years ago that this low-oxygen region was anything but dead has underscored how little researchers understand these naturally occurring zones, according to Levin, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

First noted off the coast of Africa in 1925, oxygen-depleted zones affect more than 400,000 square miles of ocean floor on time scales spanning thousands of years. These zones "are very large features, but they're very poorly known," says Levin.

Recent calculations based on modeling studies and direct measurements of dissolved oxygen in seawater suggest that the seas may be losing oxygen as a byproduct of global warming.

Some models hold that if the climate continues to warm, as many scientists expect, low-oxygen zones may become more widespread, affecting fisheries.

In several areas, fisheries already are being devastated by so-called "dead zones" that appear in shallower coastal waters. One of the most noted lies in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana and Texas. This summer, the zone covered 8,500 square miles. Studies have traced its origins to nutrients that escape from farms and homes in the drainage basins that feed the Mississippi River and its tributaries. High nutrient levels trigger large algae blooms along the Gulf Coast. When the algae die, they decompose, depleting the water's oxygen content near the bottom. Shrimp, crabs, and other commercially valuable bottom dwellers die before they can escape.

Meanwhile, heavy rains upriver can increase the flow of more-buoyant fresh water into the Gulf. The fresher water acts like a cap, preventing more oxygen-rich water near the surface from mixing with the deeper, oxygen-deprived water.

Recent tropical storms in the Gulf have forced ocean layers to mix, shrinking the dead zone, according to Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

In the deep ocean, low-oxygen zones can form along coastal areas where upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich seawater provides fodder for algae that later die and decay. The process, Levin explains, can lead to long-term oxygen-deprived zones at depths of 600 to 4,000 feet. Here, they can cut across seamounts, such as Volcano 7, or continental margins, such as those along the west coasts of North and South America.

Although the zones are long-lived, they can change in location and depth, with "huge economic significance" for local economies, she adds.

Levin and colleagues at Scripps have calculated that during El Niño conditions, the oxygen-deprived zone affecting the continental margin off Peru shrinks by as much as 61 percent. More oxygen in the water along the margin during these periods has led to the growth of scallop and hake fisheries during El Niño years, she says.

"We know that in shallow water, an increase in temperature leads to an increased rate" of oxygen loss, "but oceans are more complex," she says, noting that not everyone agrees that warmer temperatures mean less oxygen.

Global Warming Cuts Nutrients
WASHINGTON October 7, 2002 (Reuters) - Global warming could increase rice, soybean and wheat production in some areas, but the greater plant growth could also hurt the nutritional value of the crops, Ohio researchers said on Monday. 

The nutritional quality declines because while the plants produce more seeds with higher levels of carbon dioxide, the seeds themselves contain less nitrogen, said Peter Curtis, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. 

Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas linked to automobile exhaust and other fossil fuels. Some scientists expect the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to significantly rise over the next few decades. 

A gradual increase in the earth's temperature is feared to have many harmful effects, including melting glaciers, raising sea levels and destroying some wildlife habitats. 

"If you're looking for a positive spin on rising carbon dioxide levels, it's that agricultural production in some areas is bound to increase," Curtis said. "Crops have higher yields when more carbon dioxide is available, even if growing conditions aren't perfect." 

But while there may be more food, it may not be as nutritious, Curtis said. 

"The quality of the food produced by the plant decreases, so you've got to eat more of it to get the same benefits," Curtis said. "Under the rising carbon dioxide scenario, livestock -- and humans -- would have to increase their intake of plants to compensate for the loss." 

Curtis and other researchers pulled together data from 159 similar studies from the past two decades to determine the effects of climate change on plant reproduction. They analyzed the ways plants respond to carbon dioxide through flowers, fruits, fruit weight, number of seeds, and the plant's capacity to reproduce. 

Individual crops varied in their response to higher carbon dioxide levels. 

Rice was the most responsive with its seed production increasing an average of 42 percent. Soybeans showed a 20 percent increase in seed, followed by wheat with 15 percent, and corn with 5 percent, Curtis said. 

Even though seed size increased, the amount of nitrogen in the seeds didn't. Nitrogen levels fell by an average of 14 percent across all plants except cultivated legumes, such as peas and soybeans, the research showed. 

For example, the total number of seeds in wheat and barley plants increased by 15 percent, but the amount of nitrogen in the seeds declined by 20 percent. 

"That's bad news," Curtis said. "Nitrogen is important for building protein in humans and animals. If anything, plant biologists want to boost the levels of nitrogen in crops."
Bush Foiling Environmental Law
By Seth Borenstein
Inquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON October 7, 2002 (Philadelphia Inquirer) - Bit by bit, the Bush administration is carving out exceptions to a law widely regarded as the nation's legal cornerstone of environmental protection.

The law is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. It requires the government to study systematically all environmental impacts that a federal project would have, to weigh alternatives, and to take public comments into account before going forward.

NEPA's requirement for "environmental-impact statements" has resulted in the delay, cancellation or alteration of many federal projects over the years - from roads and dams to airports - in the name of protecting nature from unnecessary despoilment.

The act is "the Magna Carta of all the environmental laws," said Patrick Parenteau, a University of Vermont law professor. It is the model for more than 100 nations.

In the name of improving efficiency, the Bush administration wants to change the way NEPA works. Environmental groups say the proposed changes amount to a devastating attack on the law.

In the last three months alone, the Bush administration has taken these actions:

Proposed a "Healthy Forests Initiative," exempting loggers from the NEPA process in certain fire-prone federal forests.

Argued in federal court that NEPA does not apply to military projects outside U.S. territorial waters but within 200 miles of America's shoreline. A federal judge ruled last month against the Bush administration's argument that environmental-impact statements were not required for Navy sonar tests that environmental groups say harm sea life.

Issued an executive order in September to begin a faster environmental-impact statement process for a set of unidentified transportation projects that the administration deems high priority.

In addition, Congress is considering bills - filed by both Republicans and Democrats - that would streamline the environmental-impact statement process for specific projects, such as the expansion of runways at Chicago's O'Hare airport and an electrical generating plant in Arizona. Another bill would give environmental agencies and organizations only 30 days to comment on the environmental impacts of transportation projects.

Finally, some environmentalists fear that the White House Council on Environmental Quality may be moving toward even more sweeping changes in the law. The council has nearly completed a study by a special NEPA task force that is aimed at improving the environmental-impact statement process, which could include drafting new regulations.

"It's a concerted attack on NEPA," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.), who cowrote the law in 1969.

James Connaughton, who oversees the act as chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, denies the charge. He said the administration was trying to make an important and effective environmental law better.

"Nothing's been chipped away; the NEPA statute is still there," Connaughton said. "There are very few proposed changes to the NEPA process in the agencies, and to the extent they're looking at it, they're just trying to improve them... . It's a critically important tool, actually."

The biggest controversy stems from the forest plan's proposed NEPA exemptions. The idea is that, to reduce fire hazards, timber companies would be permitted to cut trees in areas that are prone to wildfires and are near homes. Instead of filing individual NEPA statements for each forest, the government would issue only one massive forest-thinning plan.

Current and former federal attorneys who deal in these issues say the idea of exempting some forests from the NEPA process is troubling.

"It excludes rational criticism and debate on whether this is the place and time to be doing this activity," said Robert Cunningham, assistant director of lands and realty management for the U.S. Forest Service.

Connaughton said the President supported plans before Congress that would exempt up to 120 million acres of forest from NEPA because it was an urgent need.

Speeding the process is not necessarily good, said Bill Cohen, a Washington lawyer who teaches federal officials about the NEPA process. He was a senior NEPA lawyer in the Department of Justice under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

"There's just a lot of good in the process, and in the name of streamlining you can shortchange the process and the public input," Cohen said. "So many of these issues really need the involvement of the public. People care. Yes, it takes time. So what? It should take time."

Business interests see the issue differently.

The NEPA process takes so much time and involves so many sideshows and lawsuits that it paralyzes important projects, said Bill Kovacs, vice president for environmental affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"They're speeding it up. They're bringing finality to the process," Kovacs said. "People just thought NEPA was out of control."

For most environmental groups, the issue often comes down to a matter of trust, and they do not trust the Bush administration.

"They're talking about improving the NEPA process, but their acts have all been to circumvent it," said Sharon Buccino, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Connaughton said that was not true. He challenged environmental groups to name specific degradations of NEPA. He said those groups were using NEPA and the environment as political wedge issues to undermine a popular President.
Mickey Mouse Versus The Supreme Court
By GARY GENTILE
AP Business Writer 

LOS ANGELES October 7, 2002 (AP) - Mickey Mouse's days at Disney could be numbered and paying royalties for warbling George Gershwin tunes could become a thing of the past if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with an Internet publisher in a landmark copyright case this week. 

The high court will hear the case Wednesday that could plunge the earliest images of Disney's mascot and other closely held creative property into the public domain as early as next year. 

If upheld, the precedent-setting challenge could cost movie studios and heirs of authors and composers millions of dollars in revenue as previously protected material becomes available free of charge. 

At issue is a 1998 law that extended copyright protection an additional 20 years for cultural works, thereby protecting movies, plays, books and music for a total of 70 years after the author's death or for 95 years from publication for works created by or for corporations. 

The law was almost immediately challenged by Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig on behalf of Eric Eldred, who had been posting work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and others on his Web site. 

The plaintiffs lost their case at trial and then on appeal but stunned many observers by persuading the Supreme Court to hear the case. 

"Nobody has ever attacked the extension of copyright before," said Lionel Sobel, editor of the Entertainment Law Review. He said the Internet has pumped up the demand for images that are now protected. 

"Now we have thousands of people who want to create a Web site and would like to have ready access to a whole library of materials," Sobel said. 

The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was sponsored by late Rep. Sonny Bono and quickly became known as the "Mickey Mouse Extension Act" because of aggressive lobbying by Disney, whose earliest representations of its squeaky-voiced mascot were set to pass into the public domain in 2003. 

The impact of the law extends far beyond corporations. Small music publishers, orchestras and even church choirs that can't afford to pay high royalties to perform some pieces said they suffer by having to wait an additional 20 years for copyrights to expire. 

Compositions such as Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which would have passed into the public domain in 1998, now are protected until 2018 at least. Books by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald also were due to become public property. 

Lessig claims Congress acted unconstitutionally by extending copyright protection 11 times over the past 40 years. The plaintiffs contend the Constitution grants Congress the right to grant copyright protection for a limited time and that the Founding Fathers intended for copyrights to expire so works could enter the public domain and spark new creative efforts to update them. 

The plaintiffs also claim that by extending copyright protection retroactively, Congress has in effect made copyright perpetual largely in response to corporate pressure. 

The government and groups representing movie studios and record labels argue that the Constitution gives Congress, not the courts, the job of balancing the needs of copyright holders and the public, especially in the face of new technology. 

Backers of the extension also argue that the Internet and digital reproduction of movies and music threaten the economic viability of creating those works, thus requiring greater protection. 

"This is essentially a dispute about policy dressed up as a Constitutional question," The Walt Disney Co. said in a statement. "Eldred is simply trying to second-guess what Congress has already decided, and we believe the Supreme Court should reject their attempt." 

Disney has come under special criticism because the company reaped a fortune making films from such public domain fairy tale characters as "Snow White" and "Cinderella," but is fighting to prevent others from doing the same with characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Legal experts said it would be unlikely that Disney and other companies would suffer immediate harm if copyrights expire on their movies and characters. 

Mickey Mouse, for instance, is not only a character but a corporate trademark, which never expire as long as they are in use. 

Only the copyright on the Mickey portrayed in Disney's earliest films, such as 1928's "Steamboat Willie," would expire in the next few years. The more rounded, modern mouse familiar today is a later creation and would remain protected for several more years. 

Plaintiffs' documents: http://eon.law.harvard.edu/openlaw/eldredvashcroft/legaldocs.html 

Motion Picture Association of America: http://mpaa.org 

Whale News!
Navy Sonar Tests Linked to Whale Deaths

By KENNETH R. WEISS
TIMES STAFF WRITER

Las Palmas October 1, 2002 (LA Times) - The 15 beaked whales that beached themselves last week on the Canary Islands off northwest Africa during a multinational naval exercise suffered ear and brain trauma that may have been caused by high-intensity sonar, according to a preliminary analysis.

Dr. Michel Andre, a veterinarian leading the investigation, noted Monday that "necropsies showed the presence of unspecific lesions, including in the brain and the hearing system, consistent with acoustic impact."

If a final analysis confirms these findings, it would be the second time that scientists have direct evidence linking mass stranding of whales to bursts of powerful active sonar used by U.S. and other warships.

An exhaustive study of a similar stranding of whales in the Bahamas 2 1/2 years ago showed that intense bursts of midfrequency sonar tore apart delicate tissues of whales' inner ears and brains, leading to hemorrhaging, disorientation and death.

In the Canary Island strandings last Tuesday and Wednesday, nine whales washed ashore dead, two were spotted dead and floating in nearby coastal waters, and six beached whales were pushed back to sea in the hope they would survive. The whales washed ashore on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

All were beaked whales, which look like very large dolphins. The three types of beaked whales that washed up ranged from 15 to 24 feet in length.

The mass stranding took place during maneuvers for "Neo-Tapon 2002," a multinational exercise hosted by the Spanish navy, which had invited 11 other NATO member countries to participate, according to the Spanish military.

The U.S. Navy sent the Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer Mahan to join the exercise, which included as many as 58 ships, six submarines and 30 aircraft.

The maneuvers were cut short at the request of the Canary Islands government after the dead whales were discovered.

"Spanish defense officials immediately initiated an investigation," said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Pauline Storum. "It would be inappropriate to speculate on the cause of the stranding."

A spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization declined to comment directly, saying it was a national issue for Spain and the Canary Islands, which are a part of the nation.

As for the Spanish military, so far it has reported no connection between the maneuvers and the dead whales. In addition, neither U.S., NATO nor Spanish military officials have detailed what kind of sonar systems were deployed during the exercise.

The nine whales that washed ashore dead underwent necropsies on the beach. Two of the whales were too badly decomposed for tissues to be preserved for analysis and a third suffered extensively from parasites, said Vidal Martin of the Society for the Study of Cetaceans in the Canary Archipelago.

The heads of six whales were removed and taken to the veterinary school at Gran Canaria's University of Las Palmas. Preserving the head is a prerequisite for laboratory analysis of the type of injuries that can be caused by sonar, authorities said.

The preliminary analysis showed hemorrhaging around the brain and thin-walled soft tissue in the head, Martin reported Monday. "At the moment, this veterinarian unit is studying the auditory system," he said. The stomachs of seven of the beaked whales contained fresh squid and crustaceans, suggesting that the animals had recently been feeding before they beached themselves.

Martin and other researchers have reported similar mass strandings immediately after naval exercises in 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1991. Another mass die-off was reported in Greece after a 1996 NATO exercise involving active midfrequency and low-frequency sonar. But researchers were unable to retrieve fresh tissues to determine the cause of the deaths.

Active sonar systems, unlike passive listening devices, emit loud bursts of sound that detect the presence of an enemy by the echo that bounces back.

Japanese Turn Out to Rescue Whale

TOKYO October 5, 2002 (Reuters) - For once, it had seemed, here was a whale story from Japan that would have a happy ending. But it was not to be. Residents of a town near one of Japan's last whaling centers turned out on Saturday to try to rescue a whale that became stranded on their local beach, 190 miles north of Tokyo. 

People of all ages gathered near the town of Iwanuma to try to comfort the 25-foot animal, believed to be a Bryde's whale, and push it back into deeper water. The scratched and bloodied animal weakened as the day wore on and a veterinarian gave it antibiotics and a heart stimulant. 

Finally, a fishing boat managed to drag it into deeper water. The rope snapped, but it looked liked all the effort had paid off as the huge animal gave a flip of its tail and swam off to the delight of those on shore. The joy proved to be short-lived, however, when the animal washed up dead on another beach nearby. 

Iwanuma is not far from Ayukawa, one of Japan's few remaining whaling communities, which is struggling to survive after an international ban on commercial whaling was imposed in 1986. Japan, which says that eating whale is an important part of its cultural heritage, began what it calls "scientific research" whaling in 1987. Much of the meat from these hunts ends up on store shelves and restaurant tables.

Moon Power for Earth
HOUSTON October 7, 2002 (University of Houston Press release) – The key to a prosperous world is clean, safe, low-cost electrical energy, according to University of Houston physicist David Criswell. And his idea for how to get it is literally out of this world.

For more than 20 years, Criswell has been formulating the plans and the justification for building bases on the moon to collect solar energy and beam it through space for use by electricity-hungry Earthlings. 

Criswell will talk about lunar solar power systems at the World Space Congress 2002 in Houston Oct. 10-19.

“Prosperity for everyone on Earth requires a sustainable source of electricity,” Criswell says. The World Energy Council, a global multi-energy organization that promotes the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all, agrees. The WEC’s primary message is that affordable modern energy services for everyone –including the two billion people who have no access to commercial energy – are a key to sustainable development and peace throughout the world. See http://www.worldenergy.org/wec-geis/publications/default/stat2002.asp  for details.

Criswell estimates that by the year 2050, a prosperous population of 10 billion would require about 20 terawatts of power, or about three to five times the amount of commercial power currently produced. 

The moon receives more than 13,000 terawatts of solar power, and harnessing just one percent could satisfy Earth’s power needs, he says. The challenge is to build a commercial system that can extract a tiny portion of the immense solar power available and deliver the energy to consumers on earth at a reasonable price.

“A priority for me is getting people to realize that the lunar power system may be the only option for sustainable global prosperity,” Criswell says. He contributed a chapter to a new book, Innovative Solutions for CO2 Stabilization, published in July, which addresses major aspects of sustainability and global commercial power. See http://uk.cambridge.org/engineering/catalogue/0521807255 .

Criswell’s lunar-based system to supply solar power to Earth is based on building large banks of solar cells on the moon to collect sunlight and send it back to receivers on Earth via a microwave beam. Solar cells are electronic devices that gather sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. The microwave energy collected on Earth is then converted to electricity that can be fed into the local electric grid. 

Such a system could easily supply the 20 terawatts or more of electricity required by 10 billion people, Criswell says. The system is environmentally friendly, safe to humans, and reliable since it is not affected by clouds or rain, either on the Earth or the moon, which essentially has no weather. 

The moon continuously receives sunlight, except once a year for about three hours during a full lunar eclipse, when stored energy could be used to maintain power on Earth, Criswell adds.

The system could be built on the moon from lunar materials and operated on the moon and Earth using existing technologies, he says, which would greatly reducing the cost of the operation. He estimates that a lunar solar power system could begin delivering commercial power about 10 years after program start-up.

Technology under development at UH increases the options for successfully building a lunar power base. UH researchers at the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials (TcSAM) are developing nanotechnology techniques that could transform the lunar soil into solar cells. 

“The raw materials needed to make solar cells are present in the moon’s regolith,” says Alex Freundlich, research professor of physics, who has examined lunar material to determine whether it contains the necessary ingredients for making solar cells. He, research scientist Charles Horton, Alex Ignatiev, director of TcSAM, and a team of NASA-JSC and industry scientists also have used “simulated” moon soil to determine how to go about manufacturing the solar cell devices on the moon.

“Our plan is to use an autonomous lunar rover to move across the moon’s surface, to melt the regolith into a very thin film of glass and then to deposit thin film solar cells on that lunar glass substrate. An array of such lunar solar cells could then be used as a giant solar energy converter generating electricity,” Freundlich says.
Criswell, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Rice University, began thinking about lunar-based power systems more than 20 years ago when he was an administrator at the Lunar Science Institute, now the Lunar and Planetary Institute. For about seven years at the institute, Criswell was responsible for reviewing nearly 3,400 NASA proposals for lunar science projects. 

“I really got to know the peer-review process and I learned about all aspects of lunar science,” he says.

For the past 10 years, Criswell has been director of UH’s Institute for Space Systems Operations, which receives funding from the state for space-related research projects conducted by faculty and students at UH and UH-Clear Lake in conjunction with NASA- Johnson Space Center.

Institute for Space Systems Operations - http://isso.uh.edu  
Astronomers Slice and Dice Galaxies
Douglas Pierce-Price, Joint Astronomy Centre Press Release

Hawaii October 4, 2002 - New views of star birth and the heart of a spiral galaxy have been seen by a state-of-the-art astronomical instrument on its first night. The new UKIRT Imaging Spectrometer (UIST) has a revolutionary ability to 'slice' any object in the sky into sections, producing a three dimensional view of the conditions throughout entire galaxies in a single observation. UIST has just been installed on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii.

Project scientist Suzanne Ramsay Howat from the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh said "UIST will give astronomers using UKIRT a unique way of viewing the Universe, keeping this telescope at the cutting-edge of science".

The instrument saw its 'First Light' on the night of 24th September, when it was trained on the Omega Nebula. This nebula, also called Messier 17, is a gas cloud where new stars are forming. Located 5000 light years from Earth, M17 is a near neighbor and can be studied in exquisite detail with an instrument such as UIST. The intense ultraviolet radiation from young, hot stars blasts the atoms in clouds of interstellar gas, making them glow brightly as seen in the bottom right of the UIST image.

One of the most exciting new features of UIST is its 'image slicer' or Integral Field Unit (IFU). The IFU 'slices' the light from an astronomical target into thin sections. Each slice is then spread out to make a spectrum, rather like the rainbows produced when light passes through a prism of glass. Astronomers can use these spectra to investigate the interactions between stars, cosmic dust and gas in complex objects like galaxies.

The image slicer was tested in UIST's first night on UKIRT. The galaxy NGC1068, 47 million light years from Earth, was chosen for the observations. This galaxy is known to have an active nucleus, or centre, which is a perfect target for the image slicer. The IFU creates an infrared 'data cube' from the galaxy's nucleus in a single observation. This can be sliced in one direction to show the appearance of the nucleus at a single infrared wavelength, or at right angles to produce spectra across the entire nucleus.

The UIST team have spent five weeks commissioning and installing the instrument on UKIRT. The telescope is situated atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is one of the best sites in the world for astronomy. This follows five years of construction at the ATC in Edinburgh, where the team overcame many technological challenges.

Dr Ramsay Howat explained "At infrared wavelengths, the ambient heat of the instrument itself creates unwanted background light. To avoid this, the entire 750kg instrument is cooled inside a cryostat to about -200C, just 70 degrees above absolute zero. The dinner plate sized wheels that allow different optical components to be selected have to be rotated to within 1/250 of a degree, and the optical pathways must stay precisely aligned even as the instrument shrinks in the extreme cold."

At the heart of UIST is an extremely sensitive infrared detector with a million pixels - 16 times more than the previous spectrometer 'CGS4'. UIST combines and improves upon the capabilities of the instruments previously on the telescope.

Dr Andy Adamson, Director of UKIRT, is extremely excited about the future with UIST. "Combining the power of UIST imaging and spectroscopy with the telescope's excellent image quality will revolutionise observations at UKIRT. We'll be able to image objects of interest and analyse them spectrally, all with the same instrument."
Asteroid Could Start Atomic War
By PAUL RECER
AP Science Writer 

WASHINGTON October 4, 2002 (AP) - At least 30 times a year, asteroids smash into the Earth's atmosphere and explode with the violence of a nuclear bomb. Now some officials are worried the natural explosions could trigger an atomic war. 

Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden told members of a House Science subcommittee that the United States has instruments that determine within one minute if an atmospheric explosion is natural or manmade. 

But none of the other nations with nuclear weapons have that detection technology, and Worden said there is concern that some of those countries could mistake a natural explosion for an attack and immediately launch an atomic retaliation. 

Worden, deputy director for operations of the U.S. Strategic Command, said there was the risk of such a mistaken atomic exchange last August when Pakistan and India, both with atomic bombs, were at full alert and poised for war. 

Not far away, a few weeks before, Worden said, U.S. satellites detected over the Mediterranean an atmospheric flash that indicated "an energy release comparable to the Hiroshima burst." Air Force instruments quickly determined it was caused by an asteroid 15 feet to 30 feet wide. 

"Had you been situated on a vessel directly underneath, the intensely bright flash would have been followed by a shock wave that would have rattled the entire ship, and possibly caused minor damage," Worden said in his testimony. 

Although the explosion received little or no notice, the general said it could have caused a major human conflict if it had occurred over India or Pakistan while those countries were on high alert. 

"The resulting panic in the nuclear-armed and hair-triggered opposing forces could have been the spark that ignited a nuclear horror we have avoided for over a half-century," he said. 

Worden said the Air Force's early warning satellites in 1996 detected an asteroid burst over Greenland that released energy equal to about 100,000 tons of explosives. He said similar events are thought to have occurred in 1908 over Siberia, in the 1940s over Central Asia and over the Amazon basin in the 1930s. 

"Had any of these struck over a populated area, thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands might have perished," he said. 

Worden said early warning satellites do a good job of detecting asteroid bursts in the atmosphere and that new equipment will be even better. He said the Air Force is working on an asteroid alert program that would quickly send information from the satellites to interested nations. 

He said the Air Force is studying the establishment of what he called a Natural Impact Warning Clearinghouse that would be part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command communications center in Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colo.

NASA is in the midst of a 10-year program to find and assess every asteroid six-tenths of a mile or more in size that could pass close to the Earth and might pose a danger to the planet. 

Such asteroids or comets are called "near earth objects" and if one struck the planet it could wipe out whole countries. An asteroid 1 mile across could snuff out civilizations, while one that is 3 miles across could cause human extinction, experts say. 

Edward Weiler, head of NASA's office of space science, told the House committee that his agency has detected 619 near earth objects and is finding about 100 new ones each year. None poses a danger to the Earth. 

Worden and others said that smaller asteroids also can be destructive. For instance, if an asteroid the size of a cruise ship smashed into the ocean it could cause huge waves, called tsunamis, capable of drowning coastal cities on two continents. Worden called for a system of instruments and telescopes on land and in space that could scan the sky to find asteroids down to the size of 300 feet.

He said telescopes and instruments weighing less than 150 pounds could easily be launched to establish an observing network. 

NASA Near Earth Objects site - http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo.html 

Beneath Earth's Core
Washington DC October 2, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists probing the secrets of the Earth's inner core say there is evidence of another, smaller, core hidden within it. If they are correct, it could reveal more about how the Earth itself formed. 

The inner core was first discovered in the 1930s, and scientists have been looking ever since for ways to measure it. It is solid, about 2,440 km across, and composed mainly of iron and nickel. 

A new way of measuring the composition of the core was found when the shock-waves from earthquakes on one side of the world were measured by sensors on the opposite surface. To get there, they would have had to pass through the centre, and it proved possible to measure subtle changes to the speed of the waves depending on what kind of rocks and minerals they encountered on their route. 

Bizarrely, a wave traveling from north to south moved faster than one going east to west. 

It is believed that this effect happens because the core has been formed in a crystalline manner - with its components lining up in the same direction, changing the speed at which the waves pass through depending on their initial direction. This phenomenon is called anisotropy. 

The latest research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that a wave precisely targeted through the inner core behaved differently depending on which part of the core it traveled through. There appeared to be a separate "inner inner" core - perhaps 600 km in diameter. 

Not only was the anisotropy effect much stronger - suggesting an even more crystalline composition - but the angle of most resistance, a guide to the alignment of these crystals, was different to that of the rest of the inner core. 

Researchers from Harvard University, US, used data from more than 300,000 seismic events between 1964 and 1994. They believe that this difference may be the result of changes in the environment of the core during its formation. As such, further studies may be able to shed some extra light on how, and at which point, the core was formed. The researchers said that, with more seismometers in place around the world, it might be possible to complete a more detailed survey of the core. 

Professor Guy Masters, from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, US, told BBC News Online that, if the findings were correct, the "core within a core" could be left over from an early stage of the planet's formation. He said: "This would change the way we think about the formation of the inner core. If it's right, we have to explain it somehow. Trying to understand how the Earth evolved is one of the fundamental problems we have in science. The core is just so strange that it seems to catch people's attention."

PNAS - http://www.pnas.org 
Genre News: Paul McCartney, Push & Firefly, Smallville, Dragnet and More!
Paul Will Release Tour DVD

Hollywood October 9, 2002 (eXoNews) - According to www.paulmccartney.com, Sir Paul will release a two-disc DVD of his latest tour that "candidly reveals the intimate backstage life on the road." McCartney will also release a 2-CD live set "of his most triumphant tour since The Beatles."

The Back In The USA DVD will come out November 26th 2002 in NTSC format (for USA/JAPAN and multi-region dvd players in UK and Europe.)

The DVD will run 3 hours and include footage of more than 30 classic songs filmed at shows all across America, plus sound checks with Paul and his new band. The DVD will also take Pauls fans "inside the dressing rooms, seeing scenes from the back seat of his personal limo and even aboard his chartered jet."

"This feels like a very special tour and because of that we wanted to film not only the great shows we’ve been enjoying but also reveal to people what we’re doing when we’re not doing the show. There are a lot of private moments on the DVD – it’ll be like a backstage pass to the intimate zones where most people never get," said Paul, who has just started "Back In The U.S.," the second leg of his 50-date American tour.

To order in advance from Paul's site (and get free postage and packing worldwide on all orders) - http://www.paulmccartneyshop.com 

To find out more about Sir Paul's activities - http://www.paulmccartney.com

Push and Firefly in TiVo Users' Top 5

LOS ANGELES October 6, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - Before ABC pulls the plug on "Push, Nevada," it may want to consider the latest statistics released by TiVo about the top five new series.

The ratings-impaired drama ranks fourth out of the top five freshman shows given a Season Pass by the digital video recorder users. Selecting a program on Season Pass allows TiVo viewers to record an entire season of episodes with one push of a button. The feature is especially useful when viewers want to catch shows with notoriously bad or highly competitive time slots.

"Push, Nevada" airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m., opposite ratings powerhouse "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS and NBC's "Will & Grace" and "Good Morning Miami." Against its time slot competition, the new ABC drama has been largely ignored by viewers.

CBS' new Monday night drama, "CSI: Miami," is the most popular entry for Season Pass programming, followed by "Firefly" and "John Doe" which air on FOX Friday night. "Without a Trace" is the fifth-ranked show. The CBS freshman drama airs opposite NBC's "ER" on Thursday night at 10 p.m. 

In addition to the new programs, TiVo's 500,000 subscribers are recording television's most popular shows and watching them at a more convenient time. The company says that roughly 80 percent of primetime programming is watched by TiVo users at a later time. 

Looking into the future, TiVo's CEO Mike Ramsay says, "Inevitable change will sweep across the television landscape in the next few years as viewers find the shows that interest them and watch them at the time most convenient for them."

CSM To Land in Smallville? 

Hollywood October 8, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - William B. Davis, most familiar to television viewers as the duplicitous Cigarette-Smoking Man on The X-Files, reportedly will guest-star on an upcoming episode of Smallville, according to a rumor on the Web site www.KryptonSite.com.

The Web site noted that Davis will play the corrupt mayor of Smallville and suggested that the actor might return on a recurring basis.

Davis has been busy since reprising his role as CSM in the X-Files series finale in May. He's working on the medical series Body & Soul and plays Father Michael in the SCI FI Pictures original movie Clive Barker Presents Saint Sinner, which premieres Oct. 26.

Smallville airs Tuesdays at 9PM on The WB.

Official Smallville site - http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/smallville/ledger/home.jsp 

K-19 Sinks in Russia

Moscow October 7, 2002 (Reuters) - Paramount Pictures film 'K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson has opened in Russia to a less than enthusiastic response. The movie tells the story of the Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine and a major malfunction it develops at the height of the cold war. 

"Only two things in the film are true: the bottle of champagne did not break when the submarine was launched and yes, there was an accident with the reactor," the craft's navigator, Valentin Shabanov, told Reuters.

X-Files' Spotnitz Quits CBS 
By Nellie Andreeva 

Hollywood October 4, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Frank Spotnitz is stepping down as an executive producer and showrunner of Michael Mann's gritty freshman cop drama for CBS "Robbery Homicide Division." According to sources familiar with the situation, Spotnitz had a good relationship with Mann but was not creatively satisfied working on the Forward Pass/Universal Network Television show.

Spotnitz will continue to run the series for the time being, and the exact date of his departure is yet to be determined.

"Michael is a great filmmaker and a true visionary, and I'm grateful that this show has given me an opportunity to work with him," Spotnitz said, declining further comment about his exit.

O'Neill Is Joe Friday on 'Dragnet'

LOS ANGELES October 7, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - The manhunt is over, "Dragnet" has found a new Joe Friday.

"Married With Children" actor Ed O'Neill will be playing the deadpan detective on Dick Wolf's series remake for ABC and Universal Television, according to industry sources.

He will replace Danny Huston, who left the show after filming the first episode, which wrapped Sept. 30. Production on the show will resume on Friday, Oct. 11.

"I'm delighted that Ed will be playing Joe Friday on 'Dragnet,'" Wolf said in a statement. "Ed and I have been trying to find something to do together for several years, and I believe this will be a great meld of actor and material." 

O'Neill will be reunited with "Dutch" costar Ethan Embry, who plays Friday's partner Detective Frank Smith. In addition to the John Hughes film, he has starred in such features as "The Bone Collector" and "Lucky Numbers." His last lead television role was in the cop drama "The Big Apple" on CBS.

"Dragnet" is scheduled to premiere in January 2003 on ABC.

Opinionated Babble Dept. - Kill Ugly Television?
By FLAtRich

Hollywood October 9, 2002 (eXoNews) - No, I'm not one of those people who "never watch TV" ranting about what Bucky Fuller once labeled as "chewing gum for the mind." Regulars here at eXoNews know that I'm quite the opposite - I'm a passionate fan of genre TV shows present and past.

I've lived with TV since we were both black and white infants and I still love settling down in front of my Sony with a bowl of corn chips to watch Buffy protect folks from the denizens of the hellmouth, or Captain Archer and his crew explore a new world, or Johnny Smith puzzle out a Dead Zone vision, or Mulder and Scully do it again on Sci Fi Channel.

Hell, I'm such a long-time fan that I can laugh out loud at the stupid TV questions on Beat The Geeks. I was a TV Geek before that kid was even born! Go on, TV Geek, tell me who played Colonel Edward McCauley in the TV series Men Into Space? (No clicking!)

But things have changed in TVLand, buckaroos. The thinking audience has left the living room. The Big Networks have malformed our TV young. They only care which Barbie or Ken gets voted off the island. They don't see that there are no winners. All is lost.

Forget what Bucky Fuller said. Today's audience can barely chew gum and watch TV at the same time. The short attention span of yesterday has been replaced by the no attention span of today. The vast wasteland has expanded off into the Twilight Zone.

No wonder Firefly hasn't flown and Push, Nevada has no pull!

Today I stumbled across the ultimate solution, folks. Well, maybe, maybe not, but here it comes: why even bother trying to woo the mass majority network audience with carefully scripted, beautifully acted, expensively produced, complex genre programs when there is an easier alternative?

Why not produce genre series directly for DVD and VHS? That's right! Bypass the little tube and its quiz show and sitcom Nielsen families, 18-49 demographic driven sponsors, witless network executives, Puritan network censors, and clueless TV Guide critics. Shoot the 13 episodes and put them right up there on the video store racks in a boxed set, man!

Zap! Broadcast/cable TV eliminated from the equation!

Can it be done? Why, sure, Video Ranger! Anyone who rents tapes or DVDs occasionally comes across a "direct to video" feature. Those movies never make it into theaters because they either suck too bad to get a theatrical distribution deal or because they were only a tax shelter in the first place (ala "Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers.)

Very few series are created directly for the DVD and VHS audience. There is kids stuff, sure, and the history of surfing and Anime and other specialty sets, but not quality genre drama. Shows like Trek and Buffy and Sopranos and Farscape only come out on DVD after they run on TV in the USA.

So why wait? I'll bet those box sets sell pretty well, don't they? Not just in the USA, either. I bet they sell in places where they've never even seen Farscape on TV.

"But what about sales?" Big Bad Executive Producer says. "You still have to get the audience!"

Is that really more difficult than getting people to find your show on USA Network or TNT or UPN or Sci Fi? Current ratings for almost all network genre TV shows seem to prove otherwise. Enterprise had lousy numbers for its season premiere. So did Buffy. Angel was lower than expected. Newcomers like Firefly and Push and Twilight Zone have failed to grab the overnights. Haunted is almost on the chopping block.

Only Smallville really pulled its own, but nothing genre is flying high on TV this season - not even Clark Kent. The genre numbers began dropping off last season, and they haven't made a comeback.

Funny, because people sure flocked to Spiderman. Folks are buying Lord of the Rings and renting science fiction and horror movie DVDs every day. It's not like they aren't out there.

You gotta wonder if it's TV that's turning them off.

You gotta wonder what would happen if, say, Warners tried a little experiment and released the next season of Angel, or even Smallville, direct to DVD without ever airing it on the WB? You gotta wonder if The Lone Gunmen would still be around if Fox had done that two years ago. Or Harsh Realm. Or Invisible Man. Or _________________ [fill in your own favorite cancelled show here, any era.]

The time has come for creative producers to take a chance at alternative routes into the genre living room. Broadcast is trashed. Basic cable is trashed. Pay cable - well, it's mostly those same old movies month after month, isn't it? - nearly trashed.

This year's Emmys made Fraser the "most honored program in TV history". With all due respect to those lovable old codgers still limping around the Fraser sets, doesn't that tell you something?

TV is a dead horse, man. Time for a new ride.

Agree? Disagree? Opinions to flatrich@exonews.com 

And for the TV Geek, the answer is here - Men Into Space (1956) - http://us.imdb.com/Details?0052493 


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