Stonehenge Explained!
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Stonehenge Explained!
Female Anatomy Inspired Stonehenge
By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

Vancouver February 28, 2003 (Discovery) — The design of Stonehenge, the 4,800-year-old monument in southwestern England, was based on female sexual anatomy, according to a paper in the current Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The theory could explain why the ancients constructed Stonehenge and similar monuments throughout the United Kingdom. 

Anthony Perks, a professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, and a doctor at the university's Women's Hospital, first thought of Stonehenge's connection to women after noticing how some of the stones were smooth, while others were left rough. 

"It must have taken enormous effort to smooth the stones," Perks, co-author of the journal paper, told Discovery News. 

Thinking how estrogen causes a woman's skin to be smoother than a man's, the observation led Perks to further analyze the monument in anatomical terms.

He noticed how the inner stone trilithons were arranged in a more elliptical, or egg-shaped, pattern than a true circle. Comparing the layout with the shape of female sexual organs showed surprising parallels.

Perks believes the labia majora could be represented by the outer stone circle and possibly the outer mound, with the inner circle serving as the labia minora, the altar stone as the clitoris and the empty geometric center outlined by bluestones representing the birth canal. 

In support of the theory, the body of a sacrificial child was found buried at the center of the circles at nearby Woodhenge, suggesting both monuments followed similar layouts. Perks even speculates a child's body might lie buried at the center of Stonehenge.

Unlike other mounds in the U.K., very few burials are located around Stonehenge.

"I believe it was meant to be a place of life, not death," said Perks, who thinks Stonehenge overall represents an Earth Mother goddess. 

He explained that both western Neolithic cultures and the early Celts believed in such a goddess. Hundreds of figurines representing the idea of an Earth Mother, he said, have been found in Europe. They were created at a time when mortality at birth was high, suggesting Stonehenge could have been used for fertility ceremonies, which may have linked human birth to the birth of plants and animals upon which the people depended.

John David North, professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, outlines another theory in his book "Stonehenge: A New Interpretation of Prehistoric Man and the Cosmos." North believes the stones in the monument have precise alignments to stars in the cosmos and that Stonehenge served as an astronomical observatory and a celestial map.

While Perks acknowledges the celestial link, he views it in a different light.

"At Stonehenge you see an arc of sky together with Earth on that open Salisbury Plain," Perks said. "It is as though Father Sun is meeting Earth Mother in an equal way at a place looking towards the future."

Stonehenge Points to Ancient Continent-wide Socio-cultural Network
By Ann Talbot

Stonehenge February 24, 2003 (WSWS) - Archaeologists have discovered that a body excavated near Stonehenge last year is a man who originated in Switzerland, Austria or southern Germany. The 4,000-year-old burial is contemporary with one of the early phases of building at Stonehenge, suggesting that the man may have been connected with the monument.

Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology, the company that carried out the excavation, commented, “He would have been a very important person in the Stonehenge area and it is fascinating to think that someone from abroad—probably modern-day Switzerland—could have played an important part in the construction of the site.”

The grave, which dates to 2,300 BC, is lavishly furnished for the period. It contains 100 objects including three copper knives, 16 flint arrow heads, wristguards, five pots and two gold hair ornaments—making it the richest Early Bronze Age (2,400-1,500 BC) find ever in Britain.

The man was between 35 and 45 when he died. He was strongly built, but had an injury to his kneecap that would have left him unable to bend his left leg. A bone infection would have meant that he was in constant pain.

Tests on the oxygen isotopes in his teeth enamel show that he must have grown up in the Alpine region of Switzerland, Austria or Germany. Almost all the oxygen contained in tooth enamel comes from drinking water, which leaves a record of where the individual was living at the time when a tooth was formed. The oxygen isotope ratios in the man’s teeth indicate that he came from somewhere much colder than Britain would have been at the time and has a pattern that is consistent with him having originated in the Alps.

Interestingly, a younger man buried nearby, who shares a skeletal abnormality with the older man suggesting that the two may be related, had a different oxygen isotope ratio in his teeth.

He seems to have grown up in southern England or Ireland, while a wisdom tooth seems to have been formed while he was in Northeast Scotland.

Archaeologists have suggested that the older man migrated to the British Isles where he settled and raised a family. The younger man, who may be his son, was aged about 25 and had the same gold hair ornaments or earrings made from sheet gold as the older man.

Only a handful of these objects have ever been found. To find two such graves together marks these individuals out as something quite exceptional within Early Bronze Age society.

The pots found in the burial are of a type known as bell beakers, which are found over a wide area of Europe and even in North Africa. They are associated with the first evidence for metal working in Europe.

These early metal users had not yet learned to alloy copper with tin to make bronze. But they had a wider range of technology at their disposal than the existing inhabitants of the area, who could not work metal.

The presence of copper presupposes enough geological knowledge to identify copper ores, the ability to organize mining and the metallurgical knowledge to extract the metal, the skill to construct heat resistant crucibles for melting the copper, the ability to make moulds for casting and the ability to sharpen and temper the finished casting.

In the older man’s grave was a distinctive stone object which, it is thought, was used as an anvil or hammer stone for working copper, suggesting that he possessed the new metal working skills.

His arrowheads are still made of flint, but are of a sophisticated type with barbs and a tang that fitted into the arrow shaft. A piece of deer antler that is suitable for working flint arrowheads like this probably means that he could make these too. His bow may have been of a relatively complex design, made from more than one material rather than the simple wooden type that is known from earlier periods. Other sites where similar objects have been found suggest that these early metal workers had domesticated horses, wheeled transport and kept particularly large cattle. They almost certainly had boats, since the copper used in the man’s knives came from Spain.

Bell beakers

The source of bell beakers and their associated artifacts has long been a matter of controversy. In the nineteenth century when they were first systematically studied, they were thought to be evidence of a migration or invasion of new people. But by the later twentieth century this explanation was increasingly being rejected. It was then suggested that instead of the beakers being evidence of a movement of people, they were the result of a change in fashion that was connected with the emergence of a social elite who wanted to distinguish themselves by the display of luxury goods.

The discovery that the Stonehenge burial is of man who originated in the Alps tends to confirm the earlier theory that this style of pottery and the associated artifacts were brought to the British Isles at least by immigrants, although it may not be the same people who used bell beakers everywhere they are found.

What these people were is another matter. It has been suggested that they were a warrior elite, that they were merchants, metal prospectors, or itinerant smiths. The warrior theory is supported by their possible possession of horses and by the suggestion that their beakers contained an alcoholic drink. Certainly one beaker from Scotland contains a residue of honey, indicating that it may have contained mead.

But the evidence does not allow us to assume an alcohol-fuelled rampage of Swiss horsemen across Europe. The man’s copper knives were not really suited to any kind of rampaging and the beakers may have contained nothing more stimulating than milk.

As for the arrows they could suggest hunting, or a smith with a well-developed sense of self-preservation.

What is clear about the man is that his wealth was based on labor, probably his own, since he was buried with the equipment to work both flint and metal and to light a fire. He had been sent into the next world with a toolkit, not simply objects of display, and definitely not with servants or slaves to do the work for him.

Nonetheless the first appearance of bell beakers represents a major social change in the European farming communities that had already existed for at least 2,000 years. It is a change that is evident in the forms of burial that were practiced. Bell beaker burials are individual burials, often but not always placed under a round earthen mound. Prior to this, the form of burial in northwestern Europe had been in collective tombs, sometimes under long mounds. Early farming communities seem not to have distinguished individuals or rank in death. This probably reflects a primitive form of egalitarian society. The change that is evident in the beaker burials may indicate a move to greater social distinctions.

However, the extent of that change may not be so great as to suggest the emergence of classes in which wealth was inherited or some people had the right to appropriate the labor of others. Not only are the beaker burials those of men with craft skills, but the wealthiest ones, as in this case, are all those of older men, so that wealth does not appear to have been inherited. The objects found in the graves represent status gained over a lifetime and if the man found near Stonehenge is anything to go by it was a life of some pretty hard knocks, not a leisured existence.

What the beaker burials show most clearly is a social division based on sex. It seems that only men received the rich burials. This may still be misleading, since the apparent poverty of women’s graves may indicate that women’s wealth took a different form such as mats and textiles that were perishable. Notably missing from the Early Bronze Age archaeological record is any trace of large or more permanent dwellings that might have housed a wealthy elite. The surplus labor of the community seems to have gone into building ritual sites that are as yet little understood but show considerable knowledge of astronomy.

Stone circles

Stone circles and henges predate the appearance of bell beakers and do not occur everywhere that bell beakers are found, being confined to north-western Europe, but there is good evidence that the people who used beakers were involved in some of the later phases of their construction. The earliest phase of Stonehenge dates to about 3,000 BC, but Phase II when the 20-tonne Sarsen stones were erected into the trilithons that still survive and the four-ton blue stones brought 240 miles (380 kilometers) from Preseli in Wales, is contemporary with the recently discovered beaker burial.

The media have been quick to dub the man the "King of Stonehenge". This is an attention grabbing title, but somewhat misleading if taken seriously. It is often suggested that a monument such as Stonehenge could not have been built without the emergence of some form of central state-like political authority.
Only in this way, it is argued, could the large numbers of laborers involved be organized and the extensive territory controlled that would have been necessary to erect such a monument.

This may be too rigid a view. Relatively egalitarian societies are capable of mobilizing an extensive labor force by gathering neighbors in a collective effort for special projects. It has been estimated that no more than 70 able bodied men would have been necessary for the work involved in Phase II of Stonehenge. If the users of the beakers possessed teams of draft animals, the work would have been made considerably easier than if men had to haul the stones.

Nor need their ability to get stones from Wales mean that some overall political authority existed, any more than their ability to get copper from Spain did. These were people with an extensive network of social contacts.

The importance of the discovery that a man from the Alpine region was connected with the construction of Stonehenge is that what has always been thought of as a uniquely British monument has for the first time been set in a European context.

It shows that Stonehenge was part of a much wider interconnected socio-cultural network that reached from modern-day Budapest through the Western Mediterranean to North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, France, Holland, Denmark and the British Isles.

This discovery is all the more significant in the light of government plans for Stonehenge.

It has recently been announced that the road that runs past it is to be widened, threatening not only Stonehenge but the many other archaeological sites, known and as yet unknown, in this extremely rich historic landscape.

After considerable protests it was agreed that the length of road closest to Stonehenge will be buried in a tunnel, but even this plan threatens to damage a unique archaeological environment.

Stonehenge is not an isolated monument, but existed within a complex social context of which the archaeological record is the only surviving evidence. It is a record that is still only partially understood. These burials were found some three miles away from the stones quite unexpectedly during excavations of what had been anticipated would be a Roman site that was being investigated in advance of a housing estate being built. What remains is unknown and the damage caused by a road can only be guessed at.

The Labour government’s decision to give the go-ahead to the road scheme was undoubtedly influenced by its desire to set up a potentially profitable visitor centre at Stonehenge. In 1996, under the previous Conservative government, it was proposed that the site should be handed over to Madame Tussaud's. This plan provoked numerous protests complaining that Stonehenge would be turned into a Disney-style theme park and was dropped. But part of the government’s road widening plan is a similar privately financed visitor centre that aims to make a private profit out of a monument that is part of the common cultural heritage of mankind.

Check out Megalithic Walks for some great photos of circles and standing stones- 

Where Druids Walked

Stonehenge February 28, 2003 (Western Daily Press UK) - Hundreds of acres of archaeologically rich farmland next to two of the country's greatest prehistoric monuments have been given special protection, it was revealed yesterday. Five farmers have signed an agreement saving land next to Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles from potential damage by intensive farming.

Abutting the joint Stonehenge/Avebury World Heritage Site, the land contains a wealth of archaeological treasures ranging from burial mounds to ancient field systems.

Now, they will be grassed over to become wildlife rich buffer zones to protect the archaeology just beneath the surface.

Three farmers at Stonehenge and two at Avebury have signed countryside stewardship agreements specially tailored for the prehistoric sites.

The initiative was launched by Environment Minister Michael Meacher in October with the aim of transforming arable farmland in sensitive spots into grassland.

Farmers were encouraged to enter a 10-year agreement under the scheme, with payments from £20 to £555 per hectare (almost 2.5 acres).
Like other country stewardship schemes, there will also be widespread conservation benefits, particularly for wild flowers, rare birds and insects.

By the end of this year, important sites including Normanton Down Barrows, the North Kite Enclosure and Durrington Down Barrows near Stonehenge and Cuckoo Field near Woodhenge will be grassed over.

The West Kennet Long Barrow at Avebury will also be shielded by the creation of grass margins around its edges.

The first farmer to sign up was Rachel Hosier, 37, of 1,030-acre Boreland Farm less than a mile south of Stonehenge.

Some 60 hectares (148 acres) of farmland will revert to grassland while Rachel will also manage three two-hectare plots to provide nesting areas for threatened stone curlew. A further eight hectares will be left fallow for breeding lapwings.

Rachel, who runs the mixed farm with her father, said: "Obviously we are very much aware of the archaeology here. Our land contains a mother barrow where druids perform ceremonies, an ancient lake cemetery and the North Kite enclosure. We have also always believed in farming with the needs of wildlife in mind and have been working with the RSPCA to look after stone curlews and other birds."

Peacenik News!
Lawyer Arrested for Wearing Peace T-Shirt

Guilderland NY March 5, 2003 (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall. According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany. 

"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs. 

When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing "in that he knowingly entered or remained unlawfully upon premises," the complaint read. 

Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall "was like a private house and that I was acting poorly. 

"I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance," Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview. 

Downs is the director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints of misconduct against judges and can admonish, censure or remove judges found to have engaged in misconduct. 

Calls to the Guilderland police and district attorney, Anthony Cardona and to officials at the mall were not returned for comment. 

Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. 

He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.

Get a Give Peace a Chance T-Shirt of your own -

Anti-War Activists Plan Second Rally
By Melanie Lefkowitz 

NYC March 4, 2003 (Newsday) - Take two. The group that organized last month's controversial anti-war rally has scheduled another event for this month and plans to petition the city for a parade permit this morning, activists said yesterday.

This time, United for Peace and Justice will seek permission to hold a parade down Fifth Avenue on March 22, hoping that request will fare better than their last -- a denied application to march past the United Nations on Feb. 15. 

The city's denial of the parade permit for last month's demonstration against a possible war in Iraq infuriated civil liberties advocates, who accused the NYPD of secretly instituting a policy prohibiting protest marches.

Anti-war Protester Arrested at UK B-52 Base

LONDON March 4, 2003 (AP) - Police said Tuesday they arrested a protester on suspicion of breaking into a British air force base being used by U.S. giant bombers ahead of a possible war with Iraq. 

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon gave permission for 14 B-52 bombers to use the Royal Air Force's Fairford base in western England as part of Britain's contribution to possible military action in the Gulf region. 

Police said they arrested a 61-year-old woman on suspicion of aggravated trespass Monday and held her overnight. They were due to question her later Tuesday.

[Check out our free peace stuff at . Give peace a chance! There. I said it. Arrest me! Ed.]

Boxer Targets Bush Environmental Record
By Mark Sherman
Associated Press

WASHINGTON March 04, 2003 (AP) — Sen. Barbara Boxer would rather have a president with whom she agrees on environmental issues. Instead, the California Democrat has a campaign issue she believes is ready-made for home-state politics. 

Once a week, Boxer stands before reporters and cameras and blasts away at Republican moves on clean air, water, and cleanups of toxic sites. Sometimes she awards a "toxic trophy" to a governmental agency for bad work on the environment. On one occasion, her staff unfurled a 32-foot scroll that Boxer said listed 235 anti-environmental actions taken by the Bush administration. 

Officially, Boxer is the Senate Democrats' leader on environmental issues, charged with designing a legislative strategy to stop some of President Bush's proposals and advance Democratic alternatives.

But as Boxer acknowledged in a recent interview, the news conferences and props have a role to play in her bid for a third Senate term next year. 

The environment "is going to be a huge issue in my race," she said. "It's going to be even bigger now because the environment is under such assault." 

Helped by an array of environmental interest groups, Boxer can point to numerous California and national issues on which she differs with the White House and that polls consistently show are important to her state's voters. The list includes administration proposals to harvest more trees in California forests, its refusal to buy out leases to drill off the central California coast, and its opposition to the state's requirement that automakers produce low-emission cars or improve fuel efficiency. 

She also wrote legislation to have industry pay for cleaning up Superfund toxic waste sites by re-imposing a fee that expired in 1995 and a bill to give wilderness protection to 2 million acres of California land. 

Not even Boxer's opponents suggest the senator is experiencing an election-related conversion. "It's a sincerely held conviction of environmental extremism," said Michael Hardiman, a private-property-rights advocate who formerly worked for Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. 

Dan Allen, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Boxer will be vulnerable in the 2004 election "because she persists in partisan political attacks rather than in getting things done." 

Prospective Republican challengers who are trying out possible campaign themes are unlikely to dwell on the environment, choosing instead to highlight defense issues and her vote against giving Bush authority to use military force against Iraq. 

"She's way too liberal," said Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., who is considering a Senate campaign. "The fact of the matter is that Barbara spent her entire career voting against appropriate levels of defense, against appropriate levels of intelligence-gathering apparatus. And as a consequence, pairing up with any number of colleagues, we find ourselves in a position where we have inadequate early warning or early detection of threats in the nature of Sept. 11." 

Boxer, 62, is routinely called one of the Senate's most liberal members, a label she does not reject or embrace. However described, her views have been sufficiently popular to win two Senate elections, five races for the House of Representatives, and two terms as a Marin County supervisor. 

She doubled her margin of victory in her 1998 re-election and expects that 2004 will be a good year for Democrats in California, where Republicans last year lost every statewide race. Bush ran more than 1.2 million votes behind Al Gore in 2000. 

Boxer is among Democrats who blame the party's poor national showing last year on the failure to draw sharp contrasts with Republicans. She said her environmental stands are in the mainstream of California politics. 

"I don't think fighting for clean air is extremist," she said. "If you neglect your environment, you're going to lose one of the biggest engines of growth, tourism." 

Boxer also will try to deflect criticism over Iraq by noting she voted for a Democratic alternative to the Iraq resolution that would have required endorsement by the United Nations before taking action. She also backed use of military force in the Balkans and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Black Cats May Be Lucky After All!
Washington March 4, 2003 (Reuters) - Black cats, once considered unlucky, may have provided a lucky break to disease researchers, according to a report published on Monday.

Different genetic mutations give black coats to different species of cats. Some of the mutations are in genes that, in humans, are linked with diseases such as Aids, a team from the National Cancer Institute and the University of Maryland found.

Dr Stephen O'Brien, Eduardo Eizirik and colleagues were wondering what made cats black - not out of idle curiosity, but because such genes often confer protection against disease. Otherwise, animals with unusual coloring would go extinct.

"In understanding how wild species like cats evolve genetic resistance to disease, we might discover new natural genetic resistance that might help in human disease," O'Brien said in a telephone interview.

Black cats might be better able to hunt at night, he noted, "but there is another fascinating aspect which I noticed because I work with the Cancer Institute."

His team found that a gene called MC1R makes jaguars black when mutated. Humans also have an MC1R gene that, when mutated, gives some people red hair. It is in a family of genes called 7-transmembrane receptors. A receptor acts as a doorway into cells and is often used by bacteria and viruses to infect cells.

"HIV enters cells through a 7-transmembrane receptor called CCR5," O'Brien said. "So perhaps the selective pressure that allowed these mutations to survive in cats may not be to camouflage. Perhaps the mutations cause resistance of the cats to bugs."

The team's next step is to look for whatever possible advantages the mutations may offer. Making the cats black may just be a side effect, O'Brien said. He said that almost all the mammal species that ever lived have become extinct. "The ones we have now are the survivors," he added.

The research started because the team wondered why there are black jaguars, leopards and house cats, but no black tigers or lions, O'Brien said. A domestic cat has about 10 genes for coat colors and coat appearance, resulting in the 40-odd breeds of cat.

The black mutation is very common, so O'Brien and his team wondered whether it dated back to the earliest ancestor of all cats or arose separately among the species.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, they said they found that the black domestic cat, the jaguar and the small South American jaguarundi each derive their coloring from a different type of mutation. This casts a new light on animals that at one point were even tortured by people who saw them as agents of the devil.

"We have had black cats and they have been mythical all along," O'Brien said, "but now they have been demystified."
Earthjustice Sues to Expose Timber Collusion
Seattle March 4, 2003 (Earthjustice) - Earthjustice filed a lawsuit today seeking to pry records from the federal government regarding its secret negotiations with the timber industry aimed at weakening northwest forest protections. The lawsuit was filed because the federal government illegally withheld records in violation of the Freedom of Information Act after a request was filed last fall for records of these negotiations. 

The records sought in this lawsuit pertain to government negotiations with the timber industry on ways to weaken the Northwest Forest Plan, the plan forged by President Clinton in an attempt to settle the northwest timber wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bush administration officials have been engaged in intensive, closed-door negotiations with the timber industry over how to gut the Northwest Forest Plan. Out of these negotiations have emerged settlements of several industry lawsuits as well as more comprehensive proposals to eliminate some of the lan’s most fundamental environmental safeguards. 

The timber industry and government officials have already announced deals to settle industry lawsuits aimed at stripping federal protections from the northern spotted owl and marble murrelet, two old-growth-dependent species found in the Northwest, and the "survey and manage" provisions for protecting old-growth dependent species. The secret negotiations have also produced proposals to weaken salmon protections, known as the Aquatic Conservation Strategy. 

"The Bush administration has honed the art of hiding behind court settlements as a way of turning back the clock on environmental protections, " said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice. "In the guise of settling lawsuits, federal officials have retired to the back room to work out deals that sacrifice our old-growth forests, salmon, and clean water for the sake of increasing clearcutting our public lands." 

The aquatic conservation strategy requires that logging, grazing, and mining avoid damage to streams that support salmon and other aquatic life. Without these safeguards, logging and other activities routinely result in soil erosion, sedimentation, and scouring of salmon spawning streams. The Bush administration wants to make the salmon protections optional. 

The survey and manage rules protect old-growth forests and the species that depend on them by requiring surveys to locate species in harm’s way and protections where they are found. As with the salmon protections, the Bush administration wants to make the old-growth species protections optional. 

The northern spotted owl litigation brought logging of old-growth forests to a halt because the federal government was not protecting the owls and other species that live in the ancient forests. The Northwest Forest Plan requires that the needs of species be met before the remaining old growth can be logged. The environmental community is fighting the rollback of the northwest forest protections. 

"The Bush administration is using industry lawsuits to sabotage old-growth forest and salmon protections," said Dave Werntz of Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. "By elevating timber production over environmental protection, the administration is promising to re-ignite the old timber wars." 

"This is an affront to the clear wishes of people living in the Pacific Northwest who want old-growth forests and healthy salmon streams," said Pete Nelson of Biodiversity Northwest. 

"Today’s action is aimed at exposing the behind-the-scenes machinations of the federal government and the timber industry it is supposed to regulate," said Doug Heiken of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. "We intend to bring the real story out into the open for all to see, and hopefully bring an end to this subversion of our democracy." 

"We do not object to the timber industry or anyone else using the courts to enforce the law. That is a civil right that everyone should enjoy, but we do object to closed-door legal settlements that exclude the judge as well as other parties to the case," said Doug Heiken. "These types of legal settlements raise serious concerns about by-passing normal democratic processes."

Earthjustice - 
Chandra Finds Cocoon Inside The Black Widow Pulsar!

March 2, 2003 - NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the mysterious "Black Widow" pulsar reveals the first direct evidence of an elongated cocoon of high-energy particles. (A pulsar is a rotating neutron star producing powerful beams of radiation that sweep like a searchlight.) This discovery shows this billion-year-old rejuvenated pulsar is an extremely efficient generator of a high-speed flow of matter and antimatter particles.

Known officially as pulsar B1957+20, the Black Widow received its nickname because it is emitting intense high- energy radiation that is destroying its companion through evaporation. B1957+20, which completes one rotation every 1.6-thousandths of a second, belongs to a class of extremely rapidly rotating neutron stars called millisecond pulsars. 

The motion of B1957+20 through the galaxy, almost a million kilometers per hour, creates a bow shock wave visible to optical telescopes. The Chandra observation shows what cannot be seen in visible light: a second shock wave. This secondary shock wave is created from pressure that sweeps the wind back from the pulsar to form the cocoon of high- energy particles, visible for the first time in the Chandra data. 

"This is the first detection of a double-shock structure around a pulsar," said Benjamin Stappers, of the Dutch Organization for Research in Astronomy (ASTRON), lead author on a paper describing the research that will appear in the Feb. 28, 2003, issue of Science magazine. "It should enable astronomers to test theories of the dynamics of pulsar winds and their interaction with their environment," he said. 

Scientists believe millisecond pulsars are very old neutron stars that have been spun up by accumulating material from their companions. The steady push of the infalling matter spins it much the same way as pushing on a merry-go-round makes it rotate faster.

The result is an object about 1.5 times as massive as the Sun, 10 miles in diameter, rotating hundreds of times per second. The advanced age, very rapid rotation rate and relatively low magnetic field of millisecond pulsars put them in a totally separate class from young pulsars observed in the remnants of supernova explosions. 

"This star has had an incredible journey. It was born in a supernova explosion as a young and energetic pulsar, but after a few million years grew old and slow and faded from view," said Bryan Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., a coauthor of the paper. "Over the next few hundred million years, this dead pulsar had material dumped on it by its companion, and the pulsar's magnetic field has been dramatically reduced. 

"This pulsar has been through hell, yet somehow it's still able to generate high-energy particles just like its younger brethren," continued Gaensler. The key is the rapid rotation of B1957+20.

The Chandra result confirms the theory that even a relatively weakly magnetized neutron star can generate intense electromagnetic forces and accelerate particles to high energies to create a pulsar wind, if it is rotating rapidly enough. 

Chandra's Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer observed B1957+20 for more than 40,000 seconds on June 21, 2001. Other members of the research team include Victoria Kaspi (McGill University, Montreal), Michiel van der Klis (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Walter Lewin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge). 

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program. TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft.

The Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass., for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Big Mac News!

Riyadh March 4, 2003 (Sapa-AFP) - The American fast food giant McDonald's has introduced a new sandwich for Arab customers in the markets of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, the franchise-owner in the kingdom announced on Tuesday.

A McArabia consists of Arab bread, two pieces of grilled chicken in addition to lettuce, onions, tomatoes and other ingredients, the Riyadh International Catering Corporation (RICC) said.

Prince Mishaal bin Khaled, chairperson of RICC, which has the McDonald's concession in central and eastern Saudi Arabia, said the new sandwich came after years of research and tests.

Bread for the sandwich is currently imported from Britain but RICC is negotiating with a Saudi company to find a replacement, Prince Mishaal said.

RICC is also searching for a local supplier for the chicken which is currently imported from Malaysia, he said.

There are more than 300 fast food restaurants in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, with 75 of them belonging to McDonald's. The chain is currently facing tough competition from international rivals such as Burger King and Pizza Hut as well as local firms like Herfy and Tazaj.

TV Watchdogs Ban Misleading McDonald's Ad
By Matt Born

London March 4, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - McDonald's has been criticized by an advertising watchdog after it found that the succulent burgers in the fast-food chain's commercials bore little relation to the real thing.

The Independent Television Commission yesterday banned adverts for McDonald's Steak Premiere sandwich after upholding viewers' complaints that the burger shown in the commercial was thicker and better filled.

In the advert, the Steak Premiere was described as "steak in ciabatta with chargrilled peppers, onions and a black pepper mayo". It showed a bun containing a substantial amount of dressing, peppers and onions.

But four viewers said the burgers they had bought were "flat, not as well filled with peppers and onions, and that the consistency of the dressing was thinner." One viewer also said the steak was smaller.

McDonald's told the regulator that it issued "detailed guidelines" on the preparation of burgers to ensure quality was consistent.

It said that when making the commercial it had followed the same guidelines, ingredients and equipment so that the burger shown "represented what would be supplied to customers". But the ITC sent an investigator to McDonald's restaurants to carry out "anonymous test purchases", and found a "disparity between the quantity of toppings against the television advertisements".

"Presentation, quantity and proportion of ingredients varied considerably, though the ITC did not find that size of the steaks differed significantly from the advertisement," it said.

McDonald's subsequently admitted that in the advert some of the toppings had been moved to the edge of the burger bun so they were more visible to viewers.

The regulator said this gave a "misleading impression of the amount of toppings supplied with the product" and ordered the fast-food chain not to repeat the advert.

Rap Gets Bad Rap!
Emory University Health Sciences Center Press Release

ATLANTA February 28, 2003 - Risky behavior and a heightened incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among African-American female adolescents may be linked to high exposure to rap music videos, according to a study in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health. 

Although there has been considerable concern about the themes and images expressed in rap music videos, there has been limited research on the impact of rap music videos on adolescents’ behavior, the article says. ‘Gangsta rap’ in particular, the researchers say, "is explicit about sex and violence, but rarely shows the potential long term adverse impact of these risky behaviors."

Gina M.Wingood, ScD, MPH, of the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, and her colleagues from Emory University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, assessed the risky behaviors of teens who regularly watched rap videos. After a twelve-month follow-up period, they calculated the adolescents’ involvement in such behaviors such as: hitting teachers, fighting, being arrested, using alcohol or drugs, and having multiple sex partners. The adolescents were also asked to report condom use and were tested for three STDs (chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea).

The study was conducted on 522 unmarried African-American female adolescents (aged 14-18 years) who lived in non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. They were recruited from school health classes and county health department clinics. The adolescents had to have been sexually active in the previous six months. 

The researchers found that adolescents with high exposure to rap music (i.e. 14 hours or more per week) were 3 times more likely to hit a teacher and more than 2.5 times as likely to have been arrested, compared with their peers who had less exposure to rap music. Adolescents who frequently watched rap videos were also twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners and more than 1.5 times as likely to acquire an STD, use drugs, and use alcohol during the 12-month study. 

Dr. Wingood offers several hypotheses as to why African-American female adolescents are particularly prone to emulate the behavior seen on ‘gangsta’ rap music videos.

"At this stage in their socio-psychological development, adolescents want to be autonomous and independent from parental controls, an act that can be viewed as somewhat defiant. They may also be modeling what they see as the norm. They pattern themselves after their peers and the women they consider to be role models on the videos," Dr. Wingood says. "On the other hand, it may be an attempt to defy the white mainstream popular culture. Since rap music is more ethnocentric, it is more closely associated with their social factors." 

Researchers determined the level of exposure to rap music videos based on the number of hours that rap music videos were viewed on an average day multiplied by the number of days in the week that the rap videos were viewed.

They also assessed the adolescents’ music viewing characteristics by determining the primary type of rap music video and with whom and where the videos were watched. 

Future studies on rap videos should be conducted among different adolescent populations, the researchers suggest.

And since potentially important mediating factors such as adolescents’ degree of autonomy and independence, parental education, and influence of peer social networks were not assessed, it is difficult to determine whether the relationship between exposure to rap music videos and adolescents’ health status is causal. 

"Additional research should examine whether differences in the amount and type of rap music videos viewed are associated with varying degrees of involvement in adverse health risk behaviors by adolescents," Dr. Wingood says.

[They used to say the same thing about rock and roll, kids. The beat goes on. Ed.]

Warning on Genetic ID Cards
London March 4, 2003 (BBC) - The complete genetic makeup of individuals could soon be scanned and recorded on a smart card, says a leading scientist. But pressure groups say that the "genetic identity cards" could lead to discrimination without much benefit to the citizen. 

Sir Paul Nurse, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, predicts that the process of unraveling a human genome could be completed far more swiftly in future. 

In a speech to the Royal Society's People's Science Summit, he said he could foresee a time - perhaps within 20 years - when the entire genetic code of every newborn baby would be recorded. 

This, he said, might eventually help predict vulnerability to common diseases - and help individuals avoid illness by taking preventive measures. But Sir Paul said that the advances risked leading to "genetic apartheid" as insurers and employers ruled out people with genetic "defects". 

Sir Paul, awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001, said: "In 1985, it took three years to decode a single gene - now we can sequence the entire human genome in just a few years. 

"The American scientist Craig Venter is already offering the very rich to buy a map of their genomes at a staggering $710,000 (£450,000), but even he anticipates selling them for much less in years to come." 

He said some genetic tests - for less common conditions such as Huntington's disease and cystic fibrosis - could predict future disease with some accuracy. 

But he insisted more common diseases such as cancer and heart disease were likely to be the result of a combination of many different genes alongside lifestyle factors such as poor diet or smoking. 

He said: "We need to be extremely careful how this technology is used to shape our society - this issue is too important to be left to scientists and policy makers alone." 

Dr Helen Wallace, from the pressure group Genewatch, said that the public was being "misled" by promises that a map of their genome could offer certainty about their future health. 

"Although gene tests can be very useful, there is no way you could use them to predict common disease. What we could end up with is a massive DNA database by the back door."
Lips Attract!
By Becky Barrow

Louisville March 4, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - Forget hour-glass figures or bulging muscles. They may play their part in opposite-sex attraction but a 15-year study has identified a new measure of desire - lips.

Prof Michael Cunningham, from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has found that couples are attracted by the size of each other's lips.

"Larger lips are better-looking than smaller lips up to a certain point," he said. "It is possible to go a little too far and then be unattractive. But generally speaking, big is better than small."

Men and women have different tastes about the size of lips that they prefer in their partners, Prof Cunningham told Radio 4's program, The Kiss, to be broadcast next Tuesday.

"When women are looking at men, they are simultaneously looking for sensuality and ruggedness," he said.

"And that is, the man should look virile, which means that he shouldn't look too sensual. He shouldn't look too feminine in his lips. At the same time, there should be some hint of generosity and warmth. So medium-sized lips are probably better on men, than either too small or too large."

The program's presenter, Dr Gillian Rice, suggests that the singer Mick Jagger should "move over", making way for men with "delectable lips" such as the actors Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt.

In general, a small nose, big eyes and voluptuous lips are sexually attractive in men and women, although it is possible to take any of these descriptions too far.

Men are looking for lips that have "fullness, redness and warmth". Pursed lips, a specialty of Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link, should act as a warning signal to a man who is looking for a girlfriend. "If a woman is holding her lips very tightly clenched, that is not a good sign that she is really interested in getting to know you better," he said.

Since the mid-1980s, Prof Cunningham has devoted much of his working life to the science of attractiveness. Much of his work involves carrying out minute adjustments to the size of parts of the face to find out how changes to the fullness of the lips or the width of the nose alters people's attraction towards another person.

"Lips can certainly enhance the attractiveness of an attractive face," he said. "But they can't always salvage a face that is unattractive."

Lips rank high on the list of factors that make up somebody's beauty, or ugliness, although the eyes, cheekbones, the nose and the smile are even more important. The program also points out that a person who licks their lips before kissing is putting up to three million bacteria on to the surface of their lips. Saliva, it explains, contains "a veritable broth of bacteria".

Prof Stephen Challacombe, an oral medicine consultant at Guy's Hospital in London, said: "Saliva is one of the most useful body fluids. I suppose there would be those who say that it does not have the drama of blood or the emotion of tears, but it is actually hugely useful."

Harry Belafonte Says US Leaders "Possessed of Evil"
HELSINKI March 4, 2003 (Reuters) - Singer Harry Belafonte, long outspoken on civil rights and political issues in the United States, has lashed out at the Bush administration saying it is "possessed of evil" for preparing war against Iraq.

The 76-year-old U.S. singer told Finnish television on Tuesday that global leaders who ignored demonstrations against a war in Iraq did so at their own peril. 

Asked if he thought leaders of his own country were misguided, Belafonte, said: "Absolutely. I not only think that they are misguided, but I think they know exactly what they are doing and I think that they are men who are possessed of evil." 

Belafonte, who popularized calypso music in the 1950s with hits like "Banana Boat (Day-O)" and "Jamaica Farewell," hit the headlines in October for likening Secretary of State Colin Powell to a plantation slave for selling out on Iraq. 

"I don't think that (U.S. President) George a man of honor," added Belafonte, a black man of Jamaican descent like Powell. 

"I think he has a very selfish, arrogant point of view. I think he is interested in power, I think he believes his truth is the only truth, and that he will do what he wants to do despite the people," he said during a break on his Finnish tour.
Genre News: Willard Returns, Angel as Superman, Beach Boys, Tom Selleck, Madonna and More!
Willard the Ratman!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood March 4, 2003 (eXoNews) - Willard is back! Directed and scripted for New Line Cinema by Glen Morgan and produced by his longtime partner James Wong, Willard is a remake of the 1971 horror movie based on a much scarier novel (scared the hell out of me, anyway) entitled Ratman's Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert.

Crispin Glover and Laura Elena Harring play the lead humans in the new Willard and over 500 rodents have featured roles, along with technologically improved robots and CGI rats.

Crispin Glover is forever immortalized as Michael Fox's dad George Douglas McFly in the Back To The Future film series. Crispin has also done a lot of excellent character parts in favorite cult films like Nurse Betty (2000), What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), and the incredibly underrated John Boorman comedy, Where the Heart Is (1990). Glover also played a convincing Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991).

Laura Elena Harring is best known as Rita/Camilla from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001), for which she won the 2002 ALMA Award as Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and Lynch won Best Director at Cannes and scores of other statues and nominations.

Remembering the original book, Crispin is indeed perfect for the role of the socially outcast Willard Stiles.

Director Morgan says on the Willard website that he signed Glover to the part because when Morgan was casting "an agent told an executive at New Line 'Oh, my God, if Crispin Glover plays Willard I want to see that movie 75 times and I still won't be satisfied.'"

Working with over 500 live rats was unnerving for some of the actors, but they got over it. Glover says that he considered his rodent co-stars "acting partners, they really were."

Glen Morgan and James Wong worked together on The X-Files and MillenniuM as writers and Executive Producers. They also co-created and wrote the 1995 Fox TV series Space: Above and Beyond, the lesser know but excellent NBC series The Others (2000), and the film Final Destination in 2000.

Morgan wanted to evoke Alfred Hitchcock for the new Willard, and Director of Photography Rob McLachlan, who worked with Morgan and Wong on MillenniuM, planned the film in that spirit.

"How we used the cameras was very much influenced by Hitchcock," McLachlan says on the film website. "Slow camera moves, slow dollies into closed doors, and camera moves that aren't always perfectly smooth and steady but that sometimes stop and start abruptly during the same shot."

The Willard script also pays homage to the Morgan and Wong years with Chris Carter. The film is reportedly full of inside jokes and innuendoes to keep fans busy, including a cat named Scully.

Music is by maestro Shirley Walker, who also did the score for Morgan and Wong's Fox series Space: Above and Beyond, The Others, and the popular animated series Batman Beyond.

Ultimate trivia notes: Ratman's Notebooks author Stephen Gilbert was a pseudonym for Gilbert Ralston, a TV writer (Land of The Giants and Wild, Wild West) who started his TV career in the 1950s on The Naked City and The Untouchables.

Ralson wrote the screenplay for the original Willard feature and the less satisfying 1972 sequel, Ben.

Morgan and Wong created the X-Files characters Byers, Frohike and Langley, also known as The Lone Gunmen, although Morgan and Wong left the Chris Carter fold before the short-lived Lone Gunmen series appeared on Fox in 2001.

They based The Lone Gunmen on a trio they observed at a California UFO convention.

MillenniuM fans will remember Morgan and Wong among the prime movers behind the rather complex season two of MillenniuM. In defining the two warring factions of the Millennium Group ("Owls" and "Roosters") James Wong said that one of the factions predicted the end of the world in 2060.

Recent news seems to confirm that Sir Isaac Newton agreed with that date

Wong also wrote the season two MillenniuM finale, "The Time is Now", where Frank Black's wife killed herself and the world was left in the midst of a biological weapons holocaust to the strains of Patti Smith's song "Horses". Morgan and Wong did not return to MillenniuM, but writers Chip Johannessen and Michael Duggan managed to bring Frank and the MillenniuM universe back to life in the third season opening.

Willard creeps into a theater near you on March 14th. Bring cheese.

Official Willard site - 

Crispin Glover will do a Sci Fi Channel chat on March 10 at 9 pm ET, 6 pm PT -

Unofficial Morgan and Wong site - 

fLAtDiSk's MillenniuM fan site -

Angel Ain't Superman!

March 3, 2003 (eXoNews) - David Boreanaz shot down the recent UK rumor that he had signed a three-picture deal with Warners to play Superman. He denied it in an E! Online Watch With Kristin chat with Charisma Carpenter on March 3, 2003.

"I'll just kill the rumor now--it hasn't happened,"  Boreanaz said. "I did go in and read for the part, but I can't do it because of my schedule with Angel." 

Regarding actual feature projects, he added:

"It's up in the air. There's a lot of talk, and a lot of things out there. I know I'll be filling the hiatus with a project. If it fits, well, great. But I try not to worry about such things."

Boreanaz also said he doesn't pay any attention to ratings, so he doesn't know if Angel will match Buffy's seven years, and when asked if there will be a "rekindled" romance with Buffy, Boreanaz said he didn't know.

Some other answers from DB:

poupa asks: Will the whole fang gang appear in BTVS finale? is there any chance for B/A reunion?

David_Boreanaz replies: I don't know. I honestly don't know. I'm just as clueless as you guys are. I just know that it's going to be big.

Jade asks: If you could end Angel in one way how would it be?

David_Boreanaz replies: If the show were ending, I'd have him join the circus. Why not?

Charisma Carpenter answered Angel and Buffy questions too:

Samantha asks: Are you going to come back to the final Buffy episode like the others?

Charisma_Carpent replies: I have not been asked; probably not.

Ophelia asks: How would the two of you feel about cast members from "Buffy" possibly moving to "Angel" after "Buffy" ends this season? Anybody you'd particularly like to get?

Charisma_Carpent replies: It would be fun to work with my old castmates again. I don't know how much work we'd get done if Alyson came over with Alexis being on the show! (chuckles) They're really in love. I've always loved working with Nicholas Brendon, and Tony Head is welcome any day.

Jason_Bower asks: Rumor has it that Angel might not return. Say it isn't so. This season rocks!

Charisma_Carpent replies: Thank you. Those decisions, unfortunately, are not my in hands. I've heard those rumors as well and I hope they're not true.

Sarah asks: Did you object at all to the Cordy/Connor relationship? It really, really creeps me out.

Charisma_Carpent replies: You're not alone, sister!

davidh1960 asks: Charisma, if Joss did a Buffy movie, do you think any angel cast would be in it?

Charisma_Carpent replies: We've been asked before to be in a movie and be in an animated series. It just hasn't happened yet. And if it doesn't happen soon, we'll all be old people in diapers!

Angel returns with Eliza Dushku guesting as Faith this Wednesday at 9 PM / 7C on the WB.

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

Charisma has her own Official site at 

Buffy fans note: Entertainment Tonight has published the full Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy exit interview online at,6115,422783%7E3%7E0%7Esarahmichellegellarwhy,00.html

NBC Nervous About Sheen's Anti-War Stance 

LOS ANGELES March 3, 2003 (AP) - Actor Martin Sheen said NBC executives fear his opposition to a U.S.-led war against Iraq will hurt his popular television show "The West Wing." 

Sheen, who plays fictional U.S. President Josiah Bartlet on the NBC series, told the Los Angeles Times for a story Sunday that the show's staff has been "100 percent supportive" but top network executives have "let it be known they're very uncomfortable with where I'm at" on the war.

The 62-year-old actor helped lead a "Virtual March on Washington" last week that flooded the White House with thousands of anti-war e-mails and has spoken out against the potential war in public. 

But NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks told The Associated Press on Sunday that she knows of "no concern among top management at NBC regarding Mr. Sheen's stand against the war or fear that it could impact the show."

Virtual Peace March site - 

fLAtDiSk's Peace Clipart site - 

Edward James Olmos in Galactica 
By Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood March 03, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos is in final negotiations and Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell is set to star in Sci Fi Channel's four-hour miniseries/backdoor pilot "Battlestar Galactica."

In "Battlestar Galactica," an updated version of the 1970s sci-fi series, Olmos will portray Commander Adama, the role played by Lorne Greene in the original show. McDonnell will play the president of the futuristic society. 

Beach Boys on Broadway 
By Robert Hofler 

NEW YORK March 2, 2003 (Variety) - The Beach Boys are catching a wave to Broadway.

Theater producer Dodger Theatricals, the company behind Tony-winners "42nd Street" and "Urinetown," has acquired stage rights to the famed combo's songs, and is looking to develop the catalog into a musical.

Workshops will begin later this year; Don Scardino will direct and John Carrafa will choreograph. 

Broadway is already rocking to the music of Abba in "Mamma Mia!" and Billy Joel in "Movin' Out," while the Mamas and Papas musical "Dream a Little Dream" (formerly "California Dreamin"') will open April 14 at the Village Theater. 

In other Gotham theater news, Ed Harris, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Robbins and Chris Cooper will take turns playing blacklisted Hollywood scribe Dalton Trumbo ("Roman Holiday," "Spartacus"). 

"Trumbo," written by the scribe's son, Christopher Trumbo,will be performed Mondays at the Westside Theater beginning March 31. A different actor will portray Trumbo at each performance. At present, the lineup includes Harris (March 31), Dreyfuss (April 7), Robbins (April 14) and Cooper (April 21). 

Director is Peter Askin ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Sexaholix").

Official Brian Wilson site -

Capitol Records' Beach Boys site - 

Wind In The Willows 

Hollywood February 28, 2003 (Cinescape) - Variety reports that BLADE II director Guillermo del Toro will co-write and may direct a live action and CGI animation version of the children's classic THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. 

The film will be made under the auspices of the Walt Disney Co. Del Toro is currently working on the much-anticipated HELLBOY. The story also notes that he is co-writing an adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft classic AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS with WILLOWS writing partner Matthew Robbins.

[So far, the original novel by Kenneth Grahame has always been best. Disney released a short version of Wind in The Willows in 1949,  later released on DVD as half of the feature "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." Terry Jones of Monty Python remade The Wind in the Willows in 1996, losing the Disney tone and featuring some of his Python buddies voicing the characters . Ed.]

Tom Selleck Seeks Laughs on NBC 
By Michael Schneider and Josef Adalian

HOLLYWOOD February 27, 2003 (Variety) - Former "Magnum, P.I." star Tom Selleck will take another stab at prime-time television, starring in the NBC baseball comedy pilot "Touch 'Em All McCall."

NBC on Wednesday gave a pilot order to "McCall," which will feature Selleck as a one-time baseball player who returns to his hometown and winds up coaching a farm team.

The NBC Studios comedy comes from executive producers Jay Tarses, Norman Steinberg and Michael Brandman.

Beyond "Magnum," Selleck most recently starred in the short-lived CBS comedy "The Closer," and he appeared as Monica's boyfriend in several episodes of NBC's "Friends."

Elsewhere on the pilot casting beat, Eddie Cibrian of NBC's "Third Watch" will play the lead role in "The Street Lawyer," the Touchstone TV pilot based on John Grisham's novel for ABC.

Also, David Sutcliffe ("Grapevine") and Teri Polo ("Meet the Parents") have landed the lead roles in ABC's untitled comedy from scribes Chris Henchy and Marco Pennette.

And Marisol Nichols ("Resurrection Blvd.") has joined the cast of NBC's drama pilot "Homeland Security."

Madonna Will Write Five Children's Books

LONDON March 3, 2003 (Reuters) - She's done music, film and an explicit sex book. Now Madonna is branching out into children's books, signing a publishing deal with Penguin to write five titles. 

The raunchy pop star's first book, "The English Roses," will be published in September, based on the adventures of a red fox and a little prince, Penguin said on Monday. 

The children's books are a stark contrast to the pop queen's previous publishing effort, "Sex," which featured X-rated nude poses of the star and became a bestseller in the early 1990s. 

However, the 44-year-old mother of two has attempted to tone down her risqué image since her marriage to 34-year-old film maker Guy Ritchie, the father of her son Rocco. 

After establishing a hugely successful pop career, Madonna has also turned her hand to films but with less success. Her latest film "Swept Away" bombed at the U.S. box office. 

Penguin did not reveal how much it was paying Madonna to write the books, which will be pitched at children of six and over. Each book will feature illustrations by a well-known artist, said the publisher, part of media group Pearson. 

Penguin said the five children's books would be published by independent imprint Callaway Editions and distributed by Penguin in the United States. Elsewhere, the books will be published by Pearson's children's imprint Puffin, whose best-selling authors include Roald Dahl and Raymond Briggs.

Madonna's Official site - 

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