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Slavery USA!
Antarctica's Lost Dinosaurs!
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Slavery USA!

Slavery Today in the USA 
Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE February 24, 2004 (AP) - Modern-day slavery is alive and well in Florida, the head of a human rights center said Tuesday as it released a report on people forced to work as prostitutes, farmworkers and maids across the state. 

Human traffickers bring thousands of people into the United States each year and Florida is believed to be one of the top three destinations, along with New York and Texas, according to the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. 

Although there have been several prosecutions of human trafficking in Florida, no one knows how many people in Florida are under the control of traffickers, said Terry Coonan, the center's executive director. 

In south Florida, federal prosecutions have indicated hundreds of farmworkers were victims of human trafficking, and a forced prostitution ring identified as many as 40 young women and girls brought from Mexico. The center also cited a case of "domestic servitude" in southwest Florida. 

But the problem is not limited to those areas or those industries, according to Robin Thompson, director of the research project. 

"All you have to do is look where cheap labor is required and where there is a potential for labor exploitation, which pretty much can put you anywhere in our state," Thompson said.

The center organized a "working group" of advocates and law enforcement officials to study the issue. The project was funded by a federal grant under a 2000 law designed to increase protections for victims of human trafficking. 

The center's report emphasized that not all victims of human trafficking are illegal immigrants. Many enter the United States legally but because of their poverty or inability to speak English are exploited by traffickers. 

And some victims are Americans, Thompson said, pointing to the homeless, addicted and runaways as potential victims for traffickers. 

"The greater the awareness, the more likely these cases will be reported and prosecuted," Coonan told reporters. "This is almost an invisible crime because the victims are kept out of the public eye. We need to crack this code of silence."

Center for the Advancement of Human Rights:

The American Anti-Slavery Group -

California Slavery Remembered
By Deborah Kong
The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO February 15, 2004 (AP) - Californians like to think of their state as a freewheeling, tolerant place, one that entered the Union back in 1850 unbesmirched by the stain of slavery.

But Joe Moore says there's just one problem with that sunny vision of the past - it isn't true. Though it was admitted to the Union as a "free state," slavery still existed in 1850s California, and Moore is leading a project to shed light on its contradictory history.

His proof is in print: in an 1852 ad announcing the public auction of a black man valued at $300; newspaper accounts of fugitive slaves who were arrested; and, county records certifying slaves bought their freedom from their owners.

Moore and a team of researchers have uncovered these and other, often overlooked pieces of California's past after months of digging through the archives of museums, historical societies and libraries across the state.

"We believe this is one of America's lost stories," said Guy Washington, regional coordinator for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom project, who has worked closely with Moore.

Moore and researchers at California State University, Sacramento have been converting the documents into digital files, and plan to post them on the Internet at next week. When completed, the new online archive will provide insight into the challenges blacks faced in California of the 1800s.

"The story that's being told is the diversity and richness and the determination of a small community in the 19th century," said Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, a history professor at Sacramento State who is supervising student researchers and is married to Joe Moore.

After gold was discovered near Sutter's Fort in 1848, blacks joined a stampede of others migrating West, hoping to strike it rich.

For those early black pioneers, the state's policies appeared promising. California's first constitution, adopted in 1849, dictated that: "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State." A year later, under the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted to the Union as a free state.

But many found California a far cry from the land of opportunity they'd envisioned. Officials were unwilling to challenge slaveholders who brought slaves into the state. And other laws, such as one allowing people to bring slaves into the state if they stayed only temporarily, undermined the constitution, Shirley Moore said.

Thorny issues were often determined individually, through court cases such as that of Archy Lee, a slave brought to Sacramento from Mississippi in 1857. Lee's owner decided to send him back to the South, but Lee disappeared, according to an 1858 article in the Sacramento Daily Union.

Lee was captured and his cause adopted by abolitionists as a test case for the rights of blacks in the state. They raised money for Lee's legal defense, and eventually he was released.

His tale is among those included in the digital archive through letters, family documents, court records, songs and photographs. Researchers have identified about 800 documents, though not all will go online at first.

To collect the 19th century stories, researchers are using high-tech tools. Armed with laptops and flatbed scanners, they've traveled to some smaller institutions that have been reluctant to let old, fragile documents out of their sight.

Many of the first documents included in the archive will be newspaper articles.

One, from an 1852 edition of the San Francisco Herald, announces a "Negro For Sale ... I will sell at Public Auction a Negro Man," the ad placed by B.G. Lathrop says, adding that the price is $300. Lathrop tells abolitionists that he will accept $100 from them - "a great sacrifice in the value of the property" - to see whether they will pay or "play their old game, and try to steal him."

The articles also depict the struggles of slaves who tried to escape. One Sacramento Union report from 1861 tells of a black man arrested as a slave and brought to the city "in irons."

The Moores also want to tell the stories of individual families through documents provided by people such as Celeste Rountree.

Her ancestor, Alvin Coffey, earned $7,000 in the mines and used it to buy his wife and two daughters' freedom, as well as his own.

For Joe Moore, a retired photographer, the project is the result of a lifelong interest in blacks in the West, nurtured by weekend visits to the gold fields. "Once you start getting into it, you become hooked into wanting to find out more about the people and the events," Moore said.

California State Librarian Kevin Starr agreed, and the project received a $132,000 grant administered by the state library.

The CA Underground Railroad site -

Antarctica's Lost Dinosaurs!

Two Unknown Dinosaurs Found in Antarctica
National Science Foundation Press Release

ARLINGTON VA February 26, 2004 - Against incredible odds, researchers working in separate sites, thousands of miles apart in Antarctica have found what they believe are the fossilized remains of two species of dinosaurs previously unknown to science. 

One of the two finds, which were made less than a week apart, is an early carnivore that would have lived many millions of years after the other, a plant-eating beast, roamed the Earth.

One was found at the sea bottom, the other on a mountaintop. 

Journey to the bottom of the sea 

Working on James Ross Island off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, veteran dinosaur hunters Judd Case, James Martin and their research team believe they have found the fossilized bones of an entirely new species of carnivorous dinosaur related to the enormous meat-eating tyrannosaurs and the equally voracious, but smaller and swifter, velociraptors that terrified movie-goers in the film "Jurassic Park." 

Features of the animal's bones and teeth led the researchers to surmise the animal may represent a population of carnivores that survived in the Antarctic long after they had been succeeded by other predators elsewhere on the globe. 

"One of the surprising things is that animals with these more primitive characteristics generally haven't survived as long elsewhere as they have in Antarctica," said Case, dean of science and a professor of biology at Saint Mary's College of California who discovered the bones. "But, for whatever reason, they were still hanging out on the Antarctic continent." 

Case said the shape of the teeth and features of the feet are characteristic of a group of dinosaurs known as theropods, which includes the tyrannosaurs, as well as all other meat-eating dinosaurs. The theropods, or "beast- footed" dinosaurs, make up a large and diverse group of now- extinct animals with the common characteristic of walking on two legs like birds. Recent research has shown that birds are direct descendents of theropods. 

The remains include fragments of an upper jaw with teeth, isolated individual teeth and most of the bones from the animal's lower legs and feet. The creature likely inhabited the area millions of years ago when the climate and terrain were similar to conditions in today's Pacific Northwest and radically different than they are today.

Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, said the size and shape of the ends of the lower-leg and foot bones indicate that in life the animal was a running dinosaur roughly 1.8 to 2.4 meters (6 to 8 feet) tall. 

The excavations were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which coordinates almost all U.S. research on the southernmost continent and in the surrounding oceans. 

The field party included representatives of Argentina's Museo de La Plata, Minot State University, the University of Oklahoma, the South Dakota Geological Survey and graduate students from University of California, Riverside and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. 

According to Case, luck played a major role in the find. 

First, relatively few dinosaur fossils from the end of the Cretaceous Period, which lasted from 144 million to 65 million years ago, (the second half of the so-called "Age of Dinosaurs"), have been found in Antarctica. Second, the specimen was an exceedingly rare find and one of only six dinosaur fossils that have been discovered in the James Ross region of the Antarctic Peninsula, the landmass that juts north from the southernmost continent towards South America. Also, to have been preserved at all, the animal likely floated from the shore out to sea after it died roughly 70 million years ago and settled to the bottom of what was then a very shallow area of the Weddell Sea. 

The team concentrated its investigations on the Naze, a northerly projecting peninsula, where exposed materials represent a period at the end of the Mesozoic Era, a span of time between 248 million to 65 million years ago that includes the Cretaceous Period. At that time, the area was covered by the waters of the continental shelf, roughly 100 to 200 meters (300 to 650 feet) deep. 

If confirmed as Case and Martin expect, the new species is only the second Antarctic theropod from the late Cretaceous Period. 

Journey to the top of a mountain

At the same time, thousands of miles away, a research team led by William Hammer of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., was working in the Antarctic interior on a mountaintop roughly 3,900 meters (13,000 feet) high and near the Beardmore Glacier. They found embedded in solid rock what they believe to be the pelvis of a primitive sauropod, a four-legged, plant-eating dinosaur similar to better-known creatures such as brachiosaurus and diplodocus. Now known as Mt. Kirkpatrick, the area was once a soft riverbed before millions of years of tectonic activity elevated it skyward 

Also a veteran dino hunter known for his discovery of Cryolophosaurus ellioti in 1991, Hammer had returned to the site of that find to continue his work, which had been halted in part because the Cryolophosaurus excavation had dug far into a cliff face, creating a potentially dangerous overhang. Specialized workers were flown into the research camp at Beardmore Glacier to remove the overhang and make it safer to continue the excavations. 

As Hammer and his team waited, Peter Braddock, a mountain safety guide on Hammer's team, scoured the area, informally looking for fossils. 

"I jokingly said to him, 'Keep your eyes down, look for weird things in the rock'," Hammer said. "He had marked four or five things he thought were odd, including some fossilized roots. But I realized that one of these things was bone: part of a huge pelvis and illium and much, much bigger than the corresponding bones in Cryolophosaurus." 

Based on field analysis of the bones, Hammer and his fellow researchers believe the pelvis-roughly one meter (three feet) across-is from a primitive sauropod that represents one of the earliest forms of the emerging dinosaur lineage that eventually produced animals more than 30 meters (100 feet) long. 

Basing his estimates on the bones excavated at the site, Hammer suggests the new, and as-yet-unnamed creature was between 1.8 and 2.1 meters (six and seven feet) tall and up to nine meters (30 feet) long. 

Hammer said that the rocks in which the find was made helped to establish that the creature lived roughly 200 million years ago, millions of years before the creature Case and Martin discovered on the Antarctic Peninsula. Hammer said several lines of evidence point to the conclusion that his and the discovery by Case and Martin represent two new species yielded up by the rocks of the "Harsh Continent."

"This site is so far removed geographically from any site near its age, it's clearly a new dinosaur to Antarctica," Hammer said. "We have so few dinosaur specimens from the whole continent, compared to any other place, that almost anything we find down there is new to science," Hammer said.

Web cast of William Hammer describing finding Cryolophosaurus ellioti -

National Science Foundation -

Giant Dinosaur Bone Found in Spain

TERUEL Spain February 25, 2004 (AFP) - An enormous dinosaur bone has been found in Spain, the largest ever in Europe at a length of nearly two meters (six feet), from the Cretaceous period around 150 million years ago, the head of a local paleontology foundation said.

The humerus from the front leg of a sauropod, a herbivorous dinosaur, was found in Riodeva, near Teruel in northeastern Spain, Luis Alcala said, adding that it measured 1.78 meters (nearly six feet) in length. 

The animal would have weighed some 50 tons and been between 30 and 35 meters (100 to 115 feet) long.

Man-Made Super Flu?

New Scientist Press Release

February 28, 2004 - After the worldwide alarm triggered by last year's SARS outbreak, it might seem reckless to set about creating a potentially far more devastating virus in the lab. But that is what is being attempted by some researchers, who argue that the dangers of doing nothing are even greater.

We already know that the H5N1 bird flu virus ravaging poultry farms in Asia can be lethal on the rare occasions when it infects people. Now a team is tinkering with its genes to see if it can turn into a strain capable of spreading from human to human. If they manage this, they will have created a virus that could kill tens of millions if it got out of the lab. 

Many researchers say experiments like this are needed to answer crucial questions. Why can a few animal flu viruses infect humans? What makes the viruses deadly? And what changes, if any, would enable them to spread from person to person and cause pandemics that might prove far worse than that of 1918? Once we know this, they argue, we will be better prepared for whatever nature throws at us. 

Others disagree. It is not clear how much we can learn from such work, they argue. And they point out that it is already possible to create a vaccine by other means. The work is simply too dangerous, they say. "I'm getting bombarded from both sides," says Ronald Atlas, head of the Center for Deterrence of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. "Some say that this sort of research is dangerous because of the risk of the virus escaping or being using in bioterrorism, and others that it's good science."

Some researchers refuse to discuss their plans. But Jacqueline Katz at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, told New Scientist her team is already tweaking the genes of the H5N1 bird flu virus that killed several people in Hong Kong in 1997, and those of the human flu virus H3N2. She is testing the ability of the new viruses to spread by air and cause disease in ferrets, whose susceptibility to flu appears to be remarkably similar to ours. Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands plans to test altered viruses on rodents and macaque monkeys. Other groups are also considering similar experiments, he says.

If such work were to show that H5N1 could cause a human pandemic, everything that is happening in Asia would be even more alarming, Osterhaus argues. If, on the other hand, it failed to transform H5N1 into a highly contagious human virus, we could relax. "It becomes a veterinary health problem, not a public health problem. That would be an enormous relief." 

But Wendy Barclay of the University of Reading in the UK, who "thought long and hard" about trying to create a pandemic flu virus before abandoning the idea, disagrees. "If you get a negative, how can you be sure that you have tested every option?" she says. Health authorities would still have to take the precaution of creating H5N1 vaccines. 

Barclay concedes, however, that creating a virus that spreads in people might tell us how real the threat is. For instance, do you need one mutation for H5N1 to adapt to humans, or dozens? 

Osterhaus is more optimistic. "Within the next decade, the whole thing will be solved," he says. "We will know the rules." In other words, once experts understand what the genetic sequence of any flu virus means, they could predict which animals it can infect, how severe it will be, and how easily it will spread.

Yet any new viruses could only be tested in human cell cultures or in animals, not on people. None of these methods exactly reflects how flu behaves in humans. This has led some flu experts to argue that attempts to create a pandemic virus should be put on hold until there is agreement on the best way of testing it. And there is an even more fundamental objection to such experiments: the processes used to create the viruses may be too artificial. Researchers who want to see if H5N1 can be pandemic can take two approaches. One is to tinker with the genome of the bird flu virus to mimic mutations that might occur naturally. This can be done precisely using a technique called reverse genetics. The other approach is to mix bird flu genes with those of human flu viruses, either using reverse genetics or through random reassortment in cells infected with both types. 

Although reassortment sounds more natural, there's a problem. "Reassortments can be made very easily in the lab using cells or animals," says flu expert Graeme Laver, formerly at the Australian National University in Canberra. "But one of the big mysteries is that [human] viruses that appear by reassortment are extremely rare in nature. There is something else involved that we don't understand." 

Then there is the question of safety. The worst-case scenario is that researchers might end up engineering extremely dangerous viruses that would never have evolved naturally.

In 2001, for instance, Australian researchers created a mousepox virus far more virulent than any wild strains. This scenario is unlikely, but not impossible, says virologist Earl Brown of the University of Ottawa, Canada. "You could create something that is right out of whack, but I'd be surprised." 

For those reasons, several prominent flu researchers told New Scientist that the H5N1 experiments must be done at the highest level of containment: Biosafety Level 4, or BSL-4. But the CDC work is being done at BSL-3Ag, an intermediate level between BSL-3 and BSL-4. Workers wear half-suits with masks or hoods to prevent infection, for instance, rather than full-body suits as in BSL-4.

"US Department of Agriculture guidelines specify that work with highly pathogenic avian strains be done in BSL-3+ (also known as BSL-3Ag) laboratories," a CDC spokeswomen says. One of the reasons is that the H5N1 virus is regarded as a non-contagious, treatable disease in humans. But this is not necessarily true of all of the genetically engineered strains that might be created. And drug supplies would quickly run out if an escaped virus triggered a major epidemic. 

A recent report by the US National Academy of Sciences recommends a series of checks be put in place to control such research. It says a panel of leading scientists and security experts should be set up to regulate it. "Some public representation is another option," says Atlas, who helped draw up the report. At the moment, however, such experiments can be carried out without any special consultation. Methods like reverse genetics might also be used to create new variants of other diseases.

"You can make some pretty unusual things - new viruses that would never have existed in nature," says Barclay. "It's not just an issue for flu." 

New Scientist - 

Who Gets To Be Apple?
London February 26, 2004 (Reuters) - Apple Computer and the Beatles' record company Apple Corps went to court in Britain on Wednesday over who gets to use the fruity name now that the computer company has entered the music business on the Internet.

The two companies reached a deal in 1991 after a fight over the trademark, signing an agreement that set out who could use the name and logo, and when.

But the British record company says the American computer company broke the deal by using the Apple name to market its new iTunes Internet music service.

In a preliminary skirmish on Wednesday, Apple Computer asked the court to rule that the full legal battle should be dealt with by California courts, not courts in England.

The computer company's lawyer said that the 1991 agreement allows Apple Computer to use the name for data transmission services, even if the data included material such as music, which was within the record label's "field of use".

The hearing, which is scheduled to last three days, coincides with news from across the Atlantic that rap superstar Eminem is suing Apple Computer on the grounds it used one of his hit songs in a TV advertisement without his permission.
Quantum Dots & Fluorescent Nanodots

Quantum Dots
National Institute of Standards and Technology Press Release

February 26, 2004 - A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientist has demonstrated efficient production of single photons---the smallest pulses of light---at the highest temperatures reported for the photon source used. The advance is a step toward practical, ultrasecure quantum communications, as well as useful for certain types of metrology. The results are reported in the Feb. 23 issue of Applied Physics Letters. 

"Single photon turnstiles" are being hotly pursued for quantum communications and cryptography, which involve using streams of individual photons in different quantum states to transmit encoded information. Due to the peculiarities of quantum mechanics, such transmissions could not be intercepted without being altered, thus ensuring that eavesdropping would be detected. 

The photon source used in the NIST study was a "quantum dot," 10 to 20 nanometers wide, made of semiconductor materials.

Quantum dots have special electronic properties that, when excited, cause the emission of light at a single wavelength that depends on dot size.

An infrared laser tuned to a particular wavelength and intensity was used to excite the quantum dot, which produced photons one by one more than 91 percent of the time at temperatures close to absolute zero (5 K or about minus 459 degrees F) and continued to work at 53 percent efficiency at 120 K (minus 243 degrees F). Higher operating temperatures are preferable from a cost standpoint, because the need for cooling is reduced. 

The NIST quantum dots are made of indium gallium arsenide, can be fabricated easily, and can be integrated with microcavities, which increase photon capture efficiency. According to NIST electrical engineer Richard Mirin, this design offers advantages over other single photon sources, many of which exhibit blinking, stop working under prolonged exposure to light or are difficult to fabricate.

Fluorescent Nanodots
National Institute of Standards and Technology Press Release

February 26, 2004 - A nanoscale imaging technique that could improve the reliability of an important diagnostic test for breast cancer, and other biomedical tests, is described by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers in the Feb. 11 online issue of Nucleic Acids Research. 

The method involves attaching fluorescent particles just 15 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter to particular sections of DNA, followed by analysis of the intensity of the fluorescence signal and other properties. These particles, called quantum dots, have unique electronic and optical properties that make them easier to detect than conventional fluorescent tags used in biomedical research. The NIST team demonstrated that quantum dots give off signals that are 200 to 1,100 percent more intense than those from two types of conventional tags, and also are more stable when exposed to light. 

The new technique is a spin-off of an ongoing NIST effort to develop standards for a test that identifies breast cancer patients who would benefit from a particular drug therapy. The standards are expected to help reduce uncertainty in the so-called FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) test that detects a particular gene. Excess copies of this gene result in over-production of a protein and cause tumor cells to grow rapidly. Potentially, quantum dots could be used to tag these genes. 

The quantum dots used in the study are commercially available aggregates of semiconductor materials, which, even though they contain hundreds to thousands of atoms, behave like single atoms electronically. Quantum dots absorb light efficiently over a wide frequency range and re-emit it at a single wavelength (or color) that depends on particle size. 

The NIST research is supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.


More Naked News

Hong Kong February 28, 2004 (AFP) - Hong Kong viewers will get the naked truth on a new TV news show presented by nude newsreaders, press reports said Friday.

The Fire And Ice News bulletins will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday nights on one of the many new digital TV channels springing up in the territory, the South China Morning Post said.

The first show, to be aired this weekend, features newsreader Chan Long, a willowy 18-year-old girl who strips through the five-minute bulletin until she is completely naked.

"It's not easy, synchronizing news-reading and taking off all your clothes," Chan, a model who has just graduated from secondary school, told the newspaper.

Although Chan is the only presenter the show has so far, producer Jesse Au King-wai says he hopes to enlist more.

"It's equal opportunity for men and women," he told the Post. "I am planning for male readers on the show as well - there is a niche market for gay men."

The Real Reason Bush Lifted Libya Sanctions?

By Brad Foss
Associated Press

WASHINGTON February 27, 2004 (AP) — U.S. oil companies with holdings in Libya received White House permission Thursday to negotiate the resumption of once-lucrative deals stalled by bilateral sanctions imposed in 1986.

The Bush administration ended a long-standing ban on travel to Libya and invited American companies to begin planning their return after Moammar Gadhafi's government confirmed that it was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.

Energy experts said an infusion of American capital and expertise would likely slow the decline of Libya's oil production and could help restore output to its historical peak. Libya now produces less than half its 1970 high of 3.3 million barrels a day.

"I believe they could produce on the scale of the past," said Jim Placke, senior analyst at Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Washington and a petroleum officer with the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from 1969 to 1971.

Still, Placke said any increased output would mean more to the companies and their shareholders than to consumers.

"It's a tidy, significant oil exporter, but it's not going to change the character of the oil market," he said.

Consumers worldwide have been facing expensive gasoline and heating oil for more than a year due to the high price of crude, which stems from tight supplies, rising Asian demand and political instability in several oil-producing nations.

Oil futures settled Thursday at $35.51 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 17 cents.

The Treasury Department has allowed technical staff from Occidental Petroleum Corp., Amerada Hess Corp., Marathon Oil Co. and ConocoPhillips to travel to Libya on a limited basis in recent years, but only to discuss and inspect their former operations.

Oil company representatives said Thursday that executives would begin negotiating new agreements very soon, although the talks are likely to go on for months. Moreover, the companies will be required to obtain U.S. approval of any agreement if economic sanctions remain in place.

The United States has been moving toward improved relations with Libya since Gadhafi renounced the development of weapons of mass destruction and allowed weapons inspectors to verify that his country was abandoning nuclear, chemical and biological programs.

The White House said it would "continuously evaluate the range of bilateral sanctions that remain in place relating to Libya" as that government works toward totally dismantling its weapons of mass destruction programs and related missiles projects and adheres to its renunciation of terrorism.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a "general license" Thursday that authorizes U.S. travel companies to book Americans on flights to Libya, although flights from the United States are still prohibited. Americans traveling there also would be able to bring back certain Libyan-made products for their own use of up to $400 per person per trip.

"What this means in practical terms is that American citizens, for the first time in 23 years, will be able to travel to Libya, including for tourism, academic research and family visits," the White House said.

The Bush administration also said it was committed to increasing contacts between Libyan and American societies and exploring cooperation in humanitarian projects.

In Tripoli's old Medina, a labyrinth of streets and markets where vendors sell everything from Marlboro cigarettes to Kellogg's cornflakes amid the blare of rap music, merchants rejoiced that American tourists and dollars might soon return.

"Anything that will improve the situation here is welcome," said Abdul Tahar, a 20-year-old student selling carpets and prayer rugs.

Luggage salesman Haj Mustapha Balagha, 60, said it's about time the countries began working together again, even though "Americans need Libya more than Libya needs America. Because the Americans want to put their hands on our oil."

That is also what Libya's state-run National Oil Co. wants. It plans to offer foreign companies the right to bid this summer on five newly designated areas for exploration.

The oil companies are eager to get back.

"Libya is a kind of place that geologists salivate over," said Lawrence P. Meriage, a spokesman for Occidental Petroleum, which began producing oil in Libya in 1966.

Occidental, in partnership with Libya, reached a peak output of 800,000 barrels per day in 1970. In 1985, its last full year operating in Libya, Occidental's share of production was only 47,000 barrels per day.

While Libya's production has continuously slumped since then, Occidental believes it can reverse the trend.

"We're very good at taking mature producing properties and applying new technologies and new reservoir management techniques to arrest the decline in production," Meriage said.

Amerada Hess of New York and the Houston-based companies Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips (then Conoco Inc.) operated jointly as the Oasis Group and pumped about 850,000 barrels of crude a day until sanctions took effect.

Marathon Oil said Thursday that "a return to normalized relations will not only benefit Marathon and its partners, but will also protect U.S. business interests in Libya."

The Bush administration has decided to send a U.S. diplomat to Tripoli after a quarter-century of icy distance. More will be added, U.S. officials said. There are now 10 to 15 U.S. and British experts in the country to oversee the dismantling of Libya's nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. effort to ease some sanctions with Libya is meant partly to reward Gadhafi. It also is aimed at encouraging other countries with serious weapons programs to give them up and reap the benefits of trade with the United States.

The lifting of the travel ban came after the Jamahiriya news agency disavowed assertions by the Libyan prime minister that Libya had not acknowledged it blew Flight 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, including 181 Americans.

Harvard Will Grow Stem Cells

CAMBRIDGE MASS February 29, 2004 (AP) - Harvard University will launch a multimillion-dollar center to grow and study human embryonic stem cells, according to a published report.

The center, to be announced April 23 at a scientific conference, could be the largest privately funded American stem cell research project to date, the Boston Sunday Globe reported. President Bush, citing ethical considerations, has limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to existing lines of cells. 

Harvard has not decided on an amount that needs to be raised for the center, said Provost Steven E. Hyman. Scientists involved, however, told the newspaper that the fund-raising goal is about $100 million. 

"Harvard has the resources, Harvard has the breadth and, frankly, Harvard has the responsibility to take up the slack that the government is leaving," said Dr. George Q. Daley, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital who is involved in planning the center. 

The center, tentatively called the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, will bring together researchers from the university and all of its affiliated hospitals, according to the newspaper. 

Stem cells are found in human embryos, umbilical cords and placentas, and help create the human body. Scientists hope to someday direct stem cells to grow in laboratories into replacement organs and tissues to treat a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson's and diabetes. 

But to harvest stem cells, researchers must destroy days-old embryos — a procedure condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, abortion foes and others. 

"Every success will change the argument," said Dr. Leonard Zon, a researcher at Children's Hospital and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. "The American people will not stand for scientists not being able to work on their diseases." 

Other American research centers also have been financing the research privately. Stanford University announced in 2002 a $12 million donation to study cancer by creating human embryonic stem cell lines. The University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at San Francisco also have programs. 

In California, activists are pushing a $3 billion ballot initiative to finance the work. And the governor of New Jersey said last week that the state would give $6.5 million to create and study new cell lines to Rutgers University.

Robin Hood?

By Lizette Alvarez

NOTTINGHAM, England February 17, 2004 (New York Times) - Not since Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the Soviet Union has there been such a fuss over a man in tights. 

For centuries, Robin Hood, the dashing, chivalrous hero to the oppressed, has been the property of Nottinghamshire in the midlands - land of Sherwood Forest, Nottingham Castle and one nefarious sheriff. 

But now, in a brazen grab for bragging rights, Yorkshire, an adjacent county, is laying claim to the 800-year-old legend and demanding, by way of a parliamentary motion, immediate redress. 

In a country where legions of historical figures and legends can make or break a city's fortunes - consider Lady Godiva of Coventry, William Shakespeare of Stratford, the Beatles of Liverpool - Yorkshire's claim is a bold attempt at forging a "brand" that appeals to visitors. 

David Hinchliffe, a Labor member of Parliament from Wakefield, in South Yorkshire, wants Nottinghamshire to take down signs along the motorway, proclaiming the county "Robin Hood Country." 

"We believe very strongly that Robin Hood was a Yorkshireman, and we are aggrieved to read that we are now entering Robin Hood country," he said. "It's very, very serious business. The way things are going, the signs are going to get torn down by angry Yorkshiremen." 

In fact, Yorkshire locals contend, Robin Hood, a man no one is sure existed, may have been born smack in the middle of the site of the current Wakefield bus depot. They also point to a bloke called Robert Hode of Wakefield who lived in the 1300's and the fact that Sherwood Forest extended well into Yorkshire in medieval times as further proof of their claims. 

The leaders of Nottingham are aghast, if slightly smug, knowing, as they do, that legends and their associations die hard. After all, has anyone ever heard of the Sheriff of Sheffield? 

"I don't know why Yorkshire is being so sensitive," said John Hartshorne, the deputy mayor of Nottingham who also doubles as this year's official Sheriff of Nottingham. "They have their icons - Yorkshire pudding, for example. Yorkshire is a very beautiful place, and they could do a lot with that without poaching on our icons." 

In truth, most Robin Hood experts seem to agree that the master archer, a man committed to spreading the wealth, was probably an amalgam of several men who lived during different periods. The legend derives from early ballads and tales, one of the most notable being a ballad, "A Gest of Robyn Hode," which was composed by 1400 and lays the framework for the legend.

"There is nothing defining as to who he was, where he was and when he was," John Heeley, chief executive of the tourism office, Experience Nottingham, said. "He probably did exist. But nobody knows. It isn't really the most important thing, though. He's most importantly a legend." 

That said, the Yorkshire incursion has served as a wake-up call to Nottingham. For all these years, the county has failed to exploit its most famous resident as fully as it might. It turns out the man-in-tights image, courtesy of Errol Flynn, is one the people of Nottingham were squeamish to embrace, civic leaders said. It seemed so dated, so 13th century, so embarrassing. 

But it is never too late. 

"I mean, you have Baker Street in London and Sherlock Holmes," said Bob White, who used to be director of the public relations and tourism office for the Nottingham City Council and is now chairman of the World Wide Robin Hood Society. "I mean he never even lived there." 

"We've got something real," he added. "My goodness." 

Or as Heeley said, "The value of having a destination-specific legend is just priceless." 

Right now, visitors to Nottinghamshire can traipse over to lovely Sherwood Forest, where the Major Oak sits, the very tree where Robin Hood and his Merry Men hid out, the legend goes. The forest holds a yearly Robin Hood festival in the summer.

There is also Nottingham Castle, but all agree it is disappointing, more an Italian palazzo than an English fortress. The real castle burned down ages ago, and it is now essentially a tower surrounded by a pink sandstone mansion that houses an art museum that has nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend.

Out front, there is a statue of Robin Hood, wielding a bow and a plaque.

"It is safe to say that as a visitor attraction, it is underwhelming," Heeley said. 

Visitors can also stop nearby at a small, kitschy attraction called The Tales of Robin Hood. 

White said he was stunned to discover how many companies capitalize on the Robin Hood name to lure business. Wal-Mart, for one, has run an ad campaign featuring a smiley face with a Robin Hood cap "shooting down" prices. 

The debate over how best to capitalize on the legend centers, in part, on how far to "Disneyfy" it, with most people here agreeing that they prefer historical to garish. 

There are discussions over what to do with the non-castle, with one local councilman proposing it be knocked down and rebuilt. People here are discussing possible tie-ins with movies and Robin-Hood-inspired weekend breaks. Plans are in motion but not yet revealed. 

"Yorkshire is saying to us, in a way, look, you're not doing a lot with it, you know," White said, referring to the Robin Hood legend. 

One thing is clear, though, Heeley said, "there are no immediate plans to take down road signs."

Genre News: Kingdom Hospital, Angel Rally, Tru, Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer, John Randolph & More!

Kingdom Hospital
By FLAtRich

February 28, 2004 (eXoNews) - I'm going out on a limb here because the latest Stephen King TV project will have aired by the time many of you read this, but I predict a big opening and wimpy finish for Kingdom Hospital.
I'm naturally suspicious of the hype and I decided to pre-judge, so sue me. If I'm wrong, I'll apologize to Mr. King next week. (I'm still mad at him for not finishing The Plant!)

Kingdom Hospital is not a King original. It is "based" on a Danish mini-series, "Riget" (1994) and "Riget II" (1997), helmed by cult writer-film director Lars von Trier.

TV Guide called "Riget" a "Danish hybrid of ER and Twin Peaks." The SF Chronicle said the same, adding "otherworldly, darkly entertaining soap opera." The SF Examiner also invoked Twin Peaks and said "echoes of Dennis Potter's 'The Singing Detective' and Paddy Chayevsky's 'The Hospital'."

Richard Scheib in The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review called Riget II "a relative disappointment over its predecessor", accusing the authors of "making the saga up as they go along." The Examiner said, "The earlier installment balanced its metaphysics with its comedy rather elegantly. Here, von Trier and his co-scriptwriter, Niels Vrsel, succumb to the 'Rosemary's Baby' syndrome, with shots of black masses and devils slinking through corridors."

All of these reviewers liked both of the von Trier series, mind you; they just failed to define what kind of horror they were reviewing without citing David Lynch. I would expect the same labeling of the Stephen King version, unless it's a total dog.

Inevitable comparison to Twin Peaks is like saying "Hitchcockesque", my least favorite word in movie reviews. Please don't read reviews that compare Kingdom Hospital to TP! Stephen King writes gud, but when it comes to TV he ain't no David Lynch. [He ain't no Michael Piller either, so let's not be talkin' Dead Zone, the series. Ed.]

It should be noted that King's network of choice is ABC, who summarily cancelled Twin Peaks before David Lynch and Mark Frost could script a concluding episode.

Many have tried to equal Lynch with TP-like weird shows since, but all have failed (unless you count Joss Whedon, but Whedon is clearly in a league of his own.)

Given King's success with B-level TV outings, I suspect that the American version of Riget will garner big ratings and deservedly soon be forgotten by most - like "Rose Red" (2002) - to be recalled later by cult purists as a retread of the Lars von Trier original.

ABC tells us that King has infused his own near-death accident experience into the von Trier haunted hospital setting and characters, but the plot info on ABC and Sony Kingdom Hospital sites seems pretty close to "Riget."

Big modern hospital built over the spooky remnants of bad evil thingies, ala King's own book Pet Sematary (1985) and Steven Spielberg's film Poltergeist (1982).

Jack Coleman is King's stand-in as Peter Rickman, the critically injured accident victim. Suki Kaiser plays Rickman's wife, "comforted" by Kingdom's leading surgeon Dr. Hook (Andrew McCarthy).

King has given new names to most of von Trier's characters and cast plenty of actors we love in Kingdom Hospital, including Bruce Davison as Dr. "Steg" Stegman, Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Jesse James, and Diane Ladd as Sally Druse.

Newer faces include Del Pentecost (as Bobby Druse), Jamie Harrold (Elmer Traff), Janet Wright (Liz Hinton), Benjamin Ratner and Ty Olsson (as Ollie and Danny), Brandon Bauer and Jennifer Cunningham (as Abel and Christa), Julian Richings (Otto), and resident ghosties Jodelle Ferland (as Mary Jensen) and Kett Turton (as Paul).

Big cast, eh? Smells like detergent, but Twin Peaks was a soap opera of sorts too. (Oops, there goes that TP comparison!)
While I'm hoping for some humor mixed into the suds and ghouls, I think it's safe to say that Kingdom Hospital won't replace Angel (which is aired in the same time slot over on The WB - see below) in anybody's horror-comedy list.

Will Mr. King win this year's David Lynch award? We shall see :o)>

Kingdom Hospital begins Wednesday March 3, 2004 on ABC at 9/8c.

Official Kingdom Hospital -

Angel Fans - Tape Kingdom, Watch Angel, Rally!
By FLAtRich

February 28, 2004 (eXoNews) - As a sidebar to the Kingdom Hospital hype above, Angel fans should watch Angel Episode 516 and tape Kingdom Hospital on March 3rd because "Shells" will be the last new episode of Angel for a while.

The WB will be showing selected repeats of Smallville in the regular Angel 9PM slot for a month or so before Angel returns. You can watch Kingdom Hospital all you want while our Champion is away, but stay loyal on March 3rd!

The site Save Angel Rally has declared Friday, March 12 to be "International Rally to Save Angel Day." The Los Angeles Save Angel Rally will be held at the WB studios at 4000 Warner Blvd. Burbank, CA 91522 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Check the site for info on how to hold a rally in your own town or country.

By the way, Angel has climbed to the #1 spot in the never-ending eXoNews Top 5: Best TV Shows of All Time poll, knocking out Star Trek: The Original Series for the first time in the poll's three-year history. If you like Kingdom Hospital or Buffy better, you'd better vote. Totally mad Angel fans are still at it.

Save Angel Rally -

Do more to help save Angel at the Save Angel Campaign site -

And also at Saving Angel -

Vote to keep Angel via the latest E! poll at

TV_Vote: Best TV Shows of All Time - http://flatdisk/tvvote

If you really care which Smallville episodes repeat when we should be watching Angel, you can vote on that too at,11116,158370,00.html

Casting News: Tru Calling, Mr. Ed and More!

Hollywood February 28, 2004 (eXoNews) - Futon Critic reports that Tru Calling guest star Jason Priestley will begin his arc on the March 25th episode. If you like Tru, be sure to show up because her numbers are pretty low and you'll have to help to get her back for another season.

BtVS ( reports that Tru star Eliza Dushku may show up for Angel's final moments and that former Willow Alyson Hannigan is scheduled to take a leave of absence from her London theater work around the time Angel will be shooting the finale.

Pretty speculative, but who knows?

Kat Dennings ("Raising Dad") has been cast in "Sudbury", Sandra Bullock's TV version of the witch film "Practical Magic". Sandra is producing, not acting in that project. 

ABC is remaking the TV classic "Little House on the Prairie" as a mini-series and has added to the cast of Desperate Housewives, which previously announced the return of Teri Hatcher to the small screen.

Sci Fi is working on a mini-series based on Michael McDowell's Blackwater novels.

Sherilyn Fenn is in the cast of the Fox remake of "Mr. Ed" - yes, the one with the talking horse (what will they rerun next?!) - as Wilber's wife (played in the original by Connie Hines) and Ed will be voiced by Sherman Hemsley (yes, the former George Jefferson.)
David Alan Basche will take on the role of Ed's owner Wilber, originated by Alan Young.

The Futon Critic -

Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer Teamed for X-Men Comics 
By Gregg Kilday 

LOS ANGELES February 27, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Filmmakers Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer are in final negotiations to write X-Men comics for Marvel Comics. 

Whedon, best known for creating "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," will author "Astonishing X-Men." The first issue is slated to hit stores in May, with John Cassaday handling artist duties.

"There are three reasons why I'm doing this," Whedon said. "One, I get to write the X-Men, a comic I grew up reading. It's probably the biggest influence on my work there is. Two, I want to personalize things and figure who these characters are to me now. And three, (the character) Kitty Pryde. She was not a small influence on Buffy. I get to use her, and that sealed the deal." 

Singer, who directed the two "X-Men" movies, is teaming up with "X2: X-Men United" scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to write for an existing title, "Ultimate X-Men." Singer's role will be more as an overseer, though he will write some issues, and the title of the book will include the words "Bryan Singer Presents." 

The two titles are not interconnected and offer slightly different views on the X-Men characters. "Astonishing" portrays the popular mutant characters as more adult superheroes, while "Ultimate" presents them as teenagers. Both runs are expected to last 12 issues. 

"We approached them, we chased them and said, 'You want to do this, trust us,"' Marvel Studios chairman and CEO Avi Arad said. 

Arad said the company had started an initiative to attract Hollywood talent interested in the company's superhero universe after Marvel saw publishing success with filmmakers Kevin Smith and J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote for such comics as "Daredevil" and "Amazing Spider-Man." 

Whedon created the "Buffy" spinoff "Angel" as well as the Fox series "Firefly," which he is turning into a feature for Universal Pictures. He also has worked on "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" and "Titan A.E." and was nominated for a best original screenplay Oscar for his work on "Toy Story." Singer also directed "Apt Pupil" and "The Usual Suspects."

Lawmakers Write to West Wing's Lyman 
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON February 27, 2004 (AP) - People, it's just a television show. 

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. John McHugh are picking a fight with the fictional "West Wing" over a scene aired Wednesday night in which an aide discussed closing a real-life New York military base. 

Clinton, D-N.Y., and McHugh, R-N.Y., fired off a letter Thursday to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman, the TV character played by Bradley Whitford. 

"Dear Josh," begins the letter from Clinton and McHugh, who are real, to Lyman, who is not. On Wednesday's episode of the NBC drama, a general meeting with Lyman suggested Fort Drum in northern New York, site of deep-snow combat training, may be shuttered. 

"We want to make sure that such a recommendation doesn't make it into another West Wing scene," the tongue-in-cheek letter says. "It is important that all White House advisors have the most current information to respond to such flawed proposals." 

The surreal missive shows just how seriously some lawmakers take the actual threat of base closings. Clinton and McHugh are trying to protect Fort Drum and other military facilities in New York during an upcoming round of closures. 

"We are willing to meet with you directly to address any other concerns that you may have," the pair wrote, before thanking another fictional person on the show for "trying to save Social Security" in a previous episode. 

"Josh Lyman is quaking in his boots," said "West Wing" producer Laurence O'Donnell, who wrote Wednesday's episode. 

O'Donnell said that in his earlier job as an aide to the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Fort Drum was always in danger. In his show, at least, it will be saved.

NBC's West Wing Official site -

Warner's Official West Wing site -

Raiders of the Lost Backyard 

Hollywood February 26, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Scott Rudin has purchased the life rights of the trio of filmmakers who constructed the ultimate tribute movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, Variety reported. Rudin obtained the rights from Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, who as adolescents in Mississippi launched a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders in Zala's backyard while on summer vacation in 1982. They finished seven years later at a cost of $5,000 to $8,000, the trade paper reported.

Strompolos, who starred as Indiana Jones, came up with idea when he was 10 and told his friend Zala, who was 11, about it as they rode the bus to school. Zala eventually storyboarded the 649 scenes in the film; Lamb, who was a fan of horror movies and Rick Baker special effects, shot on a VHS camcorder, the trade paper reported.

After the film was completed, it remained largely unknown until it was discovered two years ago by filmmaker Eli Roth, who submitted it for a showing at the fourth annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon Festival organized by Harry Knowles in Austin, Texas, in December 2002, the trade paper reported. That led to a letter of endorsement from director Steven Spielberg, the trio's story being pitched in Hollywood and a "Raiders of the Lost Backyard" story in the current issue of Vanity Fair.

Sir Paul Does Glastonbury

LONDON February 27, 2004 (Reuters) - Paul McCartney is to rock Britain's Glastonbury music festival for the first time this summer, his spokesman said Friday. 

The former Beatle, 61, will take top billing at Britain's biggest open-air music event June 26, the middle day of the three-day spectacular.

It will be his first time at the festival, which was headlined last year by R.E.M., Radiohead and Moby. 

His performance will cap a 13-date European tour taking in cities such as Lisbon, Prague and Oslo and featuring favorites from the Beatles, Wings and McCartney's solo career. 

"Touring really has been a lot of fun for us and the audiences have been great. So why stop now? I'm looking forward to playing to and visiting some new places," McCartney said. 

McCartney became a father again in October when his second wife Heather Mills gave birth to Beatrice Milly. He has three adult children from his marriage to first wife Linda, who died of breast cancer in 1998.

Official Paul -

Authors Harrison and Aldiss Inducted 
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America News Release

February 27, 2004 - Inductees in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame were announced this week. Each year since 1996, four individuals have been honored for their continued excellence and long-time contribution to the science fiction and fantasy field.

The 2004 inductees are Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. Posthumous inductees are E. E. "Doc" Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Hall of Fame Chairman, Robin Wayne Bailey, announced that both Aldiss and Harrison will be attending the ceremony, which will take place during the Campbell Conference in Lawrence, Kansas on July 9.

2004 is the final year for inductions in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. After this year’s ceremony, it will be renamed the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and incorporated into the Experience Science Fiction museum which is opening in Seattle in June. 

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 by the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (at the University of Kansas) and the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. 

The 2004 Campbell Conference will be held July 9-11. The conference provides a setting for the presentation of two other honors: the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year; and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year.

{Brian Aldiss wrote the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long, which was the basis of Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001). Harry Harrison wrote the novel Make Room! Make Room!, which was the origin of the sci-fi classic film Soylent Green (1973). Ed.]


Official Harry Harrison site -

Official Brian Aldiss site -

John Randolph Dies at 88 

LOS ANGELES February 27, 2004 (AP) - John Randolph, a prolific, Tony-winning character actor who played Roseanne's father in "Roseanne" and Tom Hanks' grandfather in "You've Got Mail," has died. He was 88. 

Randolph died Tuesday at his home in Hollywood, his family said. 

Though his film career was hobbled in the 1950s because of the blacklist, he chalked up dozens of roles in later decades. 

He played a police chief in 1973's "Serpico," appeared in the 1974 TV movie "The Missiles of October" and was Roseanne's father in several episodes of "Roseanne." His grandfather role in the 1998 "You've Got Mail" was one of his last. 

In 1987, Randolph won a Tony Award for his role as a grandfather in Neil Simon's play "Broadway Bound." 

He was in the original New York stage productions of "The Sound of Music," "Paint Your Wagon" and "The Visit," and appeared in local plays until four years ago. 

He was often stopped on the street by people who asked if they knew him, said his daughter-in-law, Kate Randolph. "He'd say, 'Yes, I've been in your living room many times,'" she said. 

Born in New York City, Randolph described himself as an "old radical" and became politically active in the 1930s. He rallied for convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and later marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

He refused to answer questions when called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 and was blacklisted from Hollywood for years, during which time he performed in plays in and around New York. 

He is survived by two children, a granddaughter and a brother.

[He also played a frighteningly accurate Attorney General John Mitchell in the 1979 John Dean penned Watergate mini-series "Blind Ambition". Mr. Randolph was equally at home in scores of serious roles and comedies. He played Clark Wilhelm Griswold, Sr. in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), the guy who is transformed into Rock Hudson in John Frankenheimer's classic thriller "Seconds" (1966), and Junior Harrison in multiple episodes of "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-1978). Ed.]

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