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Supernova Survivor!
Global Warming Vs. Terrorism!
Deadly Salmon? Mystery Meson!
2003 Strangest Stories & More!
First Supernova Survivor Found!
European Space Agency Press Release

January 8, 2004 - A joint European/University of Hawaii team of astronomers has for the first time observed a stellar ‘survivor’ to emerge from a double star system involving an exploded supernova.

Supernovae are some of the most significant sources of chemical elements in the Universe, and they are at the heart of our understanding of the evolution of galaxies.

Supernovae are some of the most violent events in the Universe. For many years astronomers have thought that they occur in either solitary massive stars (Type II supernovae) or in a binary system where the companion star plays an important role (Type I supernovae). However no one has been able to observe any such companion star. It has even been speculated that the companion stars might not survive the actual explosion.

The second brightest supernova discovered in modern times, SN 1993J, was found in the beautiful spiral galaxy M81 on 28 March 1993. A red supergiant was identified as the mother star in 1993 from archival images of this galaxy taken before the explosion.

This was only the second time astronomers have actually seen the progenitor of a supernova explosion (the first was SN 1987A, the supernova that exploded in 1987 in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud).

Initially rather ordinary, SN 1993J began to puzzle astronomers as its ejecta seemed too rich in the chemical element helium and instead of fading normally it showed a bizarre sharp increase in brightness. The astronomers realized that a normal red supergiant alone could not have given rise to such a weird supernova. It was suggested that the red supergiant orbited a companion star that had shredded its outer layers just before the explosion.

Ten years after this cataclysmic event, a European/University of Hawaii team of astronomers has now peered deep into the glowing remnants of SN 1993J using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the giant Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They have discovered a massive star exactly at the position of the supernova that is the long sought companion to the supernova progenitor.

This is the first supernova companion star ever to be detected and it represents a triumph for the theoretical models. In addition, this observation allows a detailed investigation of the stellar physics leading to supernova explosions. It is now clear that during the last 250 years before the explosion 10 solar masses of gas were torn violently from the red supergiant by its partner. By observing the companion closely in the coming years it may even be possible to detect a neutron star or black hole emerge from the remnants of the explosion ‘in real time’.

Given the paucity of observations of supernova progenitor systems this result, published in Nature on 8 January 2004, is likely to 'be crucial to understanding how very massive stars explode and why we see such peculiar supernovae' according to first author Justyn R. Maund from the University of Cambridge, UK.

The team is composed of Stephen J. Smartt and Justyn R. Maund (University of Cambridge, UK), Rolf. P. Kudritzki (University of Hawaii, USA), Philipp Podsiadlowski (University of Oxford, UK) and Gerry F. Gilmore (University of Cambridge, UK).

Stephen Smartt, also from the University of Cambridge, says, “Supernova explosions are at the heart of our understanding of the evolution of galaxies and the formation of chemical elements in the Universe. It is essential that we know what type of stars produce them.”

For the last ten years astronomers have believed that they could understand the very peculiar behavior of 1993J by invoking the existence of a binary companion star and now this picture has proved correct.

According to Rolf Kudritzki, from the University of Hawaii, “The combination of the outstanding spatial resolution of Hubble and the huge light gathering power of the Keck 10- meter telescope in Hawaii has made this fantastic discovery possible.”

Supernovae occur when a star of more than about eight times the mass of the Sun reaches the end of its nuclear fuel reserves and can no longer produce enough energy to keep the star from collapsing under its own immense weight. The core of the star collapses, and the outer layers are ejected in a fast-moving shock wave.

This huge energy release causes the visible supernova we see. While astronomers are convinced that observations will match this theoretical model, they are in the embarrassing position that they have confidently identified only two stars that later exploded as supernovae – the precursors of supernovae 1987A and 1993J.

There have been more than 2000 supernovae discovered in galaxies beyond the Milky Way and there appear to be about eight distinct sub-classes. However identifying which stars produce which flavors has proved incredibly difficult.

This team has now embarked on a parallel project with the Hubble Space Telescope to image a large number of galaxies and then wait patiently for a supernova to explode.

Supernovae appear in spiral galaxies like M81 on average once every 100 years or so. The team, led by Stephen Smartt, hope to increase the numbers of supernova progenitors known from 2 to 20 over the next five years.

Animations of the discovery and general Hubble Space Telescope background footage are available from

ESA site -

Global Warming Versus Terrorism!

London January 9, 2004 (BBC) - Climate change is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism, the UK Government's chief scientific adviser has said. Sir David King said the US had failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And without immediate action flooding, drought, hunger and debilitating diseases such as malaria would hit millions of people around the world.

US President George Bush says more research is needed before he introduces punitive carbon taxes on industry.

But Sir David criticized the Bush administration for relying too exclusively on market-based incentives and voluntary actions.

He told Science, the "house magazine" of the US scientific establishment: "As the world's only remaining superpower, the United States is accustomed to leading internationally coordinated action."

"But at present the US Government is failing to take up the challenge of global warming."

Flood risk

In Britain, the number of people at high risk of flooding was expected to more than double to nearly 3.5 million by 2080, Sir David said. And damage to properties could run to tens of billions of pounds every year.

Britain was trying to show leadership by cutting energy consumption and increasing the use of renewable sources, Sir David added. But the UK was responsible for only about 2% of the world's emissions while the US, with just 4% of the world's population, produced more than 20%.

The UK was asking the world's developed economies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% of 1990 levels by about 2050, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), Sir David said.

Severe problem

But despite declaring support for the UNFCC's objectives, the US had failed to ratify the Kyoto accord for emission reductions and "refused to countenance any remedial action now or in the future".

Sir David added: "We can only overcome this challenge by facing it together, shoulder to shoulder. We in the rest of the world are now looking to the USA to play its leading part."

Sir David said climate change was the most severe problem faced by the world.

"The United States is already in the forefront of the science and technology of global change, and the next step is surely to tackle emissions control too," he said. "If we do not begin now, more substantial, more disruptive, and more expensive change will be needed later on."

Population growth

Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen steeply since the industrial revolution. Concentrations have increased mainly because of the use of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities, spurred on by economic and population growth.

Greenhouse gases stop energy escaping from the Earth's surface and atmosphere.

If levels rise too high, excessive warming can distort natural patterns of climate, researchers say.

Prehistoric Cave for Sale
Perigueux France January 5, 2004 (AFP) - Looking to buy in southwest France? A retired farmer in the Dordogne region is selling his prehistoric cave adorned with drawings for just one million euros ($1.3m).

"I'm 76 years old and I can't show people around anymore. I can't go up and down the steps," Ernest Paluzzano, who has shown his "Grotte du Sorcier" to thousands of tourists over the years, told AFP on Monday.

In 1969, Paluzzano, a farmer of Italian descent, bought the site in the town of Saint-Cirq, which owes its name - "the sorcerer's cave" - to a drawing of a human figure detailing the face, back and limbs.

The cave, discovered in 1952 by a dentist and amateur archaeologist, is home to drawings dating back to the Magdalenian period, or between 22 000 and 15 000 years BC, according to French experts.

Paluzzano told AFP he had received a barrage of telephone calls from interested buyers since he posted a "for sale" sign near the entrance to his cave a few days ago.
Deadly Salmon?

By Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON January 9, 2004 (Reuters) — Farmed salmon contains far more toxic chemicals than wild salmon — high enough to suggest that fish-eaters limit how much they eat, U.S. researchers said Thursday.

The culprit is "salmon chow" — the feed given to the captive fish, the researchers report in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Many health experts urge people to eat fish such as salmon because it contains healthy fats, especially the omega-3 fatty acids that can lower the risk of heart disease and perhaps have other health benefits, too.

But the researchers, as well as environmental groups, said the findings in Science indicate that people should choose their fish carefully. They should also demand that salmon be clearly labeled to indicate whether it is farmed or wild so they can make informed choices about which fish to eat.

The team at Indiana University, University at Albany, Cornell University, and elsewhere analyzed toxic contaminants in 700 farmed and wild salmon taken from markets in 16 cities in Europe and North America.

"We think it's important for people who eat salmon to know that farmed salmon have higher levels of toxins than wild salmon from the open ocean," environmental affairs professor Ronald Hites of Albany, who led the study, said in a statement.

They looked for 13 different chemicals known to build up in the flesh of fish, including polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene, dieldrin, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, heptachlor epoxide, cis-nonachlor, trans-nonachlor, gamma-chlordane, alpha-chlordane, Mirex, endrin, and DDT.

Some are pesticides, others are industrial by-products, and many are known or suspected cancer-causing agents.

Eat once a month or less

Farmed salmon taken from markets in Frankfurt, Edinburgh, Paris, London, Oslo, Boston, San Francisco, and Toronto had the highest levels, and the researchers said consumers should eat no more than one-half to one meal of salmon per month. A meal was eight ounces of uncooked meat.

Farmed salmon from supermarkets in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Vancouver had toxins high enough to suggest that people eat no more than two salmon meals a month, based on Environmental Protection Agency standards.

In contrast, it would be safe to eat up to eight meals a month of wild salmon, they said. Other groups note that walnuts, flaxseeds, and other non-fish sources are rich in omega-3s.

Many chemicals can build up in the body, staying for years or even a lifetime. But the body also processes some out, so experts can figure out a safe or acceptable level of intake.

The study fits in with other research on chemicals in salmon. Two studies published in the journal Chemosphere last year found elevated levels of PCBs, certain pesticides, and flame retardants in farmed salmon.

And last year the Environmental Working Group said it found elevated PCB levels in farmed salmon filets taken from 10 U.S. grocery stores.

"This unquestionably large, new study strongly confirms earlier research, and it leaves little room for the farmed fish industry to argue away the problems of polluted farmed seafood," the Environmental Working Group's Jane Houlihan said.

But Charles Santerre, a food and nutrition expert at Indiana's Purdue University, said the study in fact showed that farmed salmon is safe.

"The study demonstrates that farmed salmon is very low in contaminants and meets or exceeds standards established by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization," Santerre said in a statement.

AIDS Virus Could Combat Cancer?
Chandigarh India January 7, 2004 (IANS) - The AIDS virus can help in combating cancer, brain disorders and Alzheimer's disease, an expert said Wednesday.

"Scientists in our laboratory have conducted experiments to inject certain genes with non-fatal AIDS viruses which would stop the growth of cancerous cells," said Inder M. Verma, senior molecular biologist at the Salk Institute in the US said, in a paper at the 91st Indian Science Congress here.

He said the experiments had been successfully conducted on rodents and soon clinical trails would begin on human beings.

Verma, who migrated to the US in the early 1970s from Punjab, is working on the use of some AIDS viruses to treat cancer, brain disorder and Alzheimer's.

"Out of the total nine genes of the AIDS virus, some of them do not carry germs. These could be used to fight the cells of other diseases in the human body. We have already conducted successful experiments on rats to treat cancer cells and myopia. We are hopeful that it would open new areas in bio-technology."
Hillary Apologizes for Gandhi Remark

By V. Thacker

NYC January 8, 2004 (IANS) - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, known in the Indian community as an India lover and a top favorite with many, made what she described later as a "lame attempt at a joke" at an event in St. Louis that elicited much heartache from the community.

It was a fundraiser for Nancy Farmer, Missouri's state treasurer, who is a Senate candidate. Senator Clinton introduced a quote from Mahatma Gandhi by saying "who ran a gas station down in St. Louis for a couple of years".

The quote "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win" was to emphasize Farmer's underdog status against a Republican Senator, Kit Bond.

Since then she has made a public apology, which has been aired on television several times. On what appeared on CNN, she said: "It was a lame attempt at a joke. It was a dumb thing to say and I am sincerely sorry. I have only the highest regard for Mahatma Gandhi and have been a long-time admirer of his life and work. I consider him one of the great leaders of the 20th century."

Senator Clinton visited India in 1996. She was the first US first lady to do so in over 30 years since Jacqueline Kennedy visited India. Since then she has almost never missed an opportunity to mention some aspect or the other of the trip that left her deeply moved.

On that trip, she traveled from New Delhi to Ahmedabad to visit Mahatma Gandhi's ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati river, founded in 1917, two year's after his return to India from South Africa.

Respectful of Indian custom, Clinton took off her shoes before going inside the rooms in which Gandhi lived and worked.

Mystery Meson May Hold Clues to Universe

University of Melbourne Press Release

Melbourne  January 9, 2004 - University of Melbourne physicists have helped discover a new state of matter that may shed light on the fabric of the universe.

The University team of 14 is part of a group of 300 physicists from 13 countries known as the 'Belle collaboration'.
They have discovered a sub-atomic particle that they are having difficulty explaining and difficulty fitting with any current theory that attempts to describe matter. Their research will be published in Physical Review Letters (in press).

"It could mean some of the standard and accepted theories on matter will need to be modified to incorporate some new physics," says University of Melbourne doctoral student in physics and Belle team member, Mr. Craig Everton.

The sub-atomic particle they believe could be a meson. A meson by itself is a relatively obscure particle, but one which is made up of quarks, the basic building blocks of not just life, but everything that exists in this universe – as we know it.

This 'mystery meson' weighs about the same as a single atom of helium (a heavy-weight by sub-atomic particle standards) and exists for only about one billionth of a trillionth of a second before it decays to other longer-lived, more familiar particles.

"This may seem extremely short-lived by any human standard, but it is nearly an eternity for a sub-atomic particle this heavy," says Everton.

The team discovered their meson, technically known as X(3872), using a giant electron collider, or the High Energy Accelerator Research organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan.

This particular electron collider is three kilometers in circumference and acts as a meson factory, churning out what are known a 'B mesons' that are studied by physicists worldwide.

"We are in the business of studying quarks, as it is thought they hold the key to understanding many of the principle elements of how all matter in the universe (including life) is constructed," says Everton.

"Mesons have little direct bearing on life itself. They exist because they can," he says.

"But to study quarks we need to understand mesons, and X(3872) has got the international physics community both baffled and excited.

"Particle physics is now beginning to merge together the disciplines of cosmology and astrophysics and give new perspectives on stuff such as the evolution and construction of the universe and the nature of dark matter."

A normal meson particle is comprised of a quark and an antiquark that are held together by the 'color' force, or 'strong' force because it is the most powerful force in nature.

The large variety of meson particles that have been found to date reflect the many different ways that these combinations can be accomplished. The mass and the decay properties of X(3872), however, do not match theoretical expectations for any conceivable quark-antiquark arrangement.

Theoretical physicists around the world are considering a number of potential explanations. These include modifications to the theory of the color force, or the possibility that the X(3872) is the first example to be seen of a new type of meson, one that is made from four quarks. That is, two quarks and two antiquarks.

"This new sub-atomic particle will mean either the accepted 'Standard Model' for the explanation of matter needs to be modified to incorporate new physics, or it could be the first ever discovery of long sought after 4-quark particle. This would be a relief for many as it would confirm the Standard Model," says Everton.

The Belle discovery was recently confirmed by researchers with the CDF (Collider Detector at Fermilab) experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, home of the Tevatron, the world's largest electron collider.

Dead Man Comes Back to Life
Santa Fe January 3, 2004 (Reuters) - A New Mexico funeral home owner received the surprise of his career when a man pronounced dead at a hospital came back to life just before he was to be embalmed.

Russell Muffley, the owner of Muffley Funeral Home in Clovis, New Mexico, said he noticed Felipe Padilla breathing when the man pronounced dead at a hospital was being transferred to his facility on Wednesday. Padilla, 94, was rushed back to the same hospital, but did not recover. He was declared dead for a second time.

"When we were getting ready to move him from the stretcher to the embalming table, we noticed signs of life," Muffley said.

Padilla was breathing on his own but not speaking when paramedics took him from the funeral home back to Plains Regional Medical Centre. He died a few hours later and was taken back to the funeral home, where arrangements had already been made.

Padilla will be buried next week.

"I have been doing this for 39 years and this has never happened before," Muffley said.
Strangest Stories of 2003?
Earth January 2, 2004 (AFP) - Every year, thousands of news stories get overlooked, lost beneath the welter of major international events.

They are, for the most part, simple matters with a human dimension, not involving world leaders, war or other political upheaval; stories which illustrate the extraordinary in the everyday, the amusing, absurd, outlandish and the downright bizarre occurrences which can befall any of us.

Here, then, is a selection of some of those "offbeat" stories which offer an insight into human nature, but which may have been overshadowed by more weightier news items in 2003:

Beja, Portugal

A school caretaker set a teenager's leg on fire in an attempt to help the youth recover from an injury he suffered in a fall.

The 14-year-old said the janitor applied alcohol to his injured leg and then set it on fire with a lighter. "He told me 'This is what we used to do in the war'.

"I told him I wasn't in a war," said Antonio Pereira, who was treated for first and second degree burns.


A state visit to Norway by Kyrgyzstan president Askar Akajev ended in diplomatic disarray when none of his hosts wanted to accept his gift, a pair of extremely rare and expensive Taigan puppy dogs, of which there are only about 100 left.

The president was told at Trondheim airport in the north of the country that he could not bring them into Norway, which has strict quarantine rules.

To make matters worse, it quickly transpired that neither Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik nor King Harald wanted to accept the 13-week-old pups.

Lagos, Nigeria

A traditional healer was shot dead by a customer who was testing the potency of an anti-bullet charm the herbalist had prepared for him.

Ashi Terfa died when patient Umaa Akor fired a gun at his head recently in Benue state, police spokesperson Bode Fakeye said.

"Akor wanted a charm against bullets and asked Terfa to prepare it for him," he said. "The herbalist tied the charm around his neck and insisted that Akor fire a gun at him. The experiment proved fatal for the herbalist and his skull was shattered. He died immediately."

Fakeye said the suspect had appeared in court on a charge of culpable homicide, but had been released on bail.

"The motive to kill could not be established against the suspect as the herbalist asked him to shoot," said Fakeye.

Mosgiel, New Zealand

Organizers of a Christmas grotto banned children from sitting on Santa's knee because they feared being held responsible if anything untoward happened.

Instead, the children had to sit next to him, on specially decorated "elf chairs", as they discussed their Christmas wish list.

Graham Glass, who dressed up as Father Christmas for the event, was clearly insulted.

"It's bloody ridiculous - I can't believe we have become so politically correct," he said.


A Finnish judge who often rules in drink-driving cases landed on the other side of the bench when she was charged with being drunk in charge of a court.

The judge, a woman in her late 50s, was trying a criminal case when lawyers said they believed she was inebriated and an alcohol test showed her blood-alcohol level was more than three times over Finland's legal limit for driving.


A woman locked her rich industrialist husband naked in the bathroom for three years, claiming he was mentally disturbed.

His crime? Taking three showers a day. Orhan Babutcu, 41, was found naked with a bowl on the floor for his food.

"Her goal was to make me sick so that I die and she inherits my fortune," he said, adding that his wife had been living it up with other men while he was locked in the bathroom.


A Swiss-based underwear maker has developed a high-tech bra which it claims will help women quit smoking, thanks to perfumed capsules which give cigarettes an unpleasant taste and soothe withdrawal symptoms.

Triumph International said the capsules contain lavender scent, which has sedative properties, as well as normally sweet-smelling jasmine that alters the taste of cigarettes.

The company said the bra was also treated with liquid titanium to break down cigarette smoke.

Triumph also launched the Frequent Flyer bra in response to tighter airport security measures.

It is metal-free and does not set off metal detector alarms.

Eskisehir, Turkey

A disgruntled father has complained to the European Court of Human Rights after a doctor allegedly botched his 11-year-old son's circumcision.

Seyfettin Aydinoglu said the four doctors who carried out the operation were drunk at the time and chopped off part of his penis instead of removing only the foreskin. The hospital denied the accusation, saying the boy's penis was deformed years ago when he fell into a well.

Kuala Lumpur

A Malaysian man who sought treatment for swelling in his eye got a shock when doctors found a six-centimeter length of chopstick embedded just beneath his brain.

The chopstick, which ran from under his right eye through his nose and to the back of his left eye, was believed to have been lodged there five years ago during an attack by unknown assailants.


A Roman Catholic charity in Italy has set up a helpline for a neglected group of sufferers - the clients of prostitutes.

The aptly-named Don Giovanni Sandona, head of the charity Caritas, cited torment endured by thousands of people who pay for sex and said: "It's no longer possible to face the problem of prostitution without analyzing and helping the clients of prostitutes."

Lanciani, Italy

An Italian couple were given suspended jail sentences for indecent exposure after being caught making love in their parked car. Nothing unusual in that, except that the game couple were aged 86 and 74 and that they were denounced by a group of prudish teenaged schoolgirls.

Ahsinchu, Taiwan

An 82-year-old woman is threatening to sue her 90-year-old husband after he was found having an extramarital affair with a woman aged 80.

The two were discovered in flagrante delicto when police and the wife searched a hostel and the errant husband told them he was in love with the younger woman and did not regret what he had done.

Santiago, Chile

After living together for 57 years, Isolina Ojeda, 107, and her 86-year-old lover Oscar Martinez finally decided to make it official by getting married.

After the ceremony, the blushing bride, slightly hard of hearing, said: "We had to get married, as God intended. It's a sin to live the way we were living."

Genre News: Charisma Carpenter, Monk, Zacherley, Michelle Trachtenberg, Nip/Tuck, Jason Behr & Sarah Michelle Gellar!
Charisma Speaks
By FLAtRich

Hollywood January 10, 2004 (eXoNews) - has posted an exclusive audio message from former Angel co-star Charisma Carpenter thanking fans for their support and, presumably, recent efforts to get her to come back to Angel.

Carpenter was dropped from the cast at the end of last season and makes a final (?) appearance as Cordelia Chase on Angel's 100th episode, to air later this month on The WB. is promising a full interview with Charisma in a future posting. Maybe we'll finally get the real story on what happened to separate her character, originated on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from the rest of Angel Investigations.

The decision to drop Cordy was a big surprise to Angel fans. There was no hint that Carpenter was even thinking about leaving when she appeared with David Boreanaz on an online chat toward the end of last season.

E! Online recently mentioned that there was a chill in the air between the actress and the show producers during the 100th Show Party.

Nothing much from Joss Whedon on the subject either, which leads us to speculate that it may be a money matter. Carpenter had worked as Cordelia on Buffy and moved with Boreanaz to Angel. Back in the beginning, she was actually first considered to play the Slayer, according to a TV interview with Sarah Michelle Gellar.

SMG was up for Cordy until a last minute callback reversed their roles. Carpenter is a now a cult TV star on almost the same level as Gellar and Boreanaz, and she may just have felt she was underpaid or underappreciated.

Angel fans still like her best and want her to return, according to the most recent results of our entirely unscientific and yet endlessly ongoing Angel Fan Poll. Carpenter scores a clear majority in the Favorite Angel Actress spot with 56% of the fan vote. Cordelia also beats out both Buffy and Willow in the "Who Should Return to Angel in Season 5?" poll category.

Sarah Michelle Gellar Fan Page (with Charisma's audio clip)  -

Unofficial Charisma -

Angel Fan Poll -

Monk Returns
By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES January 9, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Tony Shalhoub is an actor's actor, the kind who thrives on working with other really good actors.

This is made abundantly clear in the new batch of "Monk" mysteries set to debut Jan. 16 on cable's USA Network.

John Turturro guest stars in the second of seven new episodes, "Mr. Monk and the Three Pies," as the phobia-addled, obsessive brother of Shalhoub's obsessive-genius detective Adrian Monk.

Shalhoub and Turturro did an off-Broadway production of "Waiting for Godot" together in 1998, and it shows. (For "Monk" maniacs, the episode also has the bonus of being packed with insights into Adrian Monk's dark back story.)

"He's a revelation," Shalhoub says of Turturro's work. "The man never ceases ... to amaze."

Neither does Shalhoub. With every tick and every flinch, Shalhoub shows why he took home last year's Golden Globe and Emmy comedy actor trophies and why he and "Monk" are Globe contenders again this year.

This time around, Shalhoub says he's more than happy to have Bitty Schram, who plays his street-wise and savvy assistant Sharona Fleming, in the Globe nominees circle as well.

"She's like Judy Holliday with a real edge," Shalhoub says. He also has nothing but the highest praise for the other two key players in "Monk's" core ensemble, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford.

As "Monk" heads into the second half of its sophomore year, executive producer David Hoberman says he continues to marvel at how well the show has come together after years of pushing to get it off the ground. Hoberman credits the work of the cast, creator/executive producer Andy Breckman and his writing staff.

"Andy has really found his stride and has become an important voice in television for this kind of offbeat comedy," Hoberman says.

For an actor whose roots are in theater and film, Shalhoub admits that he wishes that his "Monk" schedule afforded him more time for outside projects. But for now, he's happily challenged by the role of the sad-eyed, ex-cop gumshoe who can solve any convoluted murder scheme in the world -- even one committed by a man in a coma -- except for the car-bomb killing of his own wife.

Indeed, longtime Shalhoub friend Jane Kaczmarek says the dark comedy of "Monk" is a perfect platform for his skills.

"Tony is like a character in a Chekhov play," she says. "When he's acting, he's so full of melancholy, so full of hilarity. You don't know whether he's going to start crying or start laughing."

In addition to finding happiness with "Monk," Shalhoub is in the midst of fulfilling a professional dream by making his feature directorial debut with the indie comedy "Made-Up."

The movie, in which he co-stars with his wife, Brooke Adams, and friends like Gary Sinise, is done in a mock documentary style and "deals with beauty in our culture," Shalhoub says.

After making the festival rounds during the past year, "Made-Up" is settling into an engagement at Hollywood's ArcLight Cinemas starting Jan. 23 and New York's Angelika Film Center Feb. 6.

"Directing truly does legitimize our control-freakish tendencies," Shalhoub says. "It brought out the most Monk-ish aspects of my character."

Meet Mr. Monk Fridays at 10 PM / 9 c on USA.

Monk Official site -

Zacherley Unveils
Chiller Theatre Press Release

Zacherley, The Cool Ghoul, was taken by surprise at 11 a.m. January 10th, as Chanting Monks Press head Joseph M. Monks unveiled a comic book, aptly titled "Zacherley's Midnite Terrors."

No words were heard from Zacherley upon first glance of the tribute. Instead, his familiar laugh was heard throughout the room as he recalled an interview in 2003 when Dan Roebuck asked him if he thought a comic book about Zach would be cool.

Lights filled the room as camera shutters clicked - fans striving to document the first moments of Zach's reaction. Within minutes, Zach took a seat, as die-hard fans formed a line trailing through the room, all wanting to be among the first to get their hands on the book.

The book was an effort led by Monks and "Zachographer" John Skerchock, who worked for the most of 2003 on the content. Artists and writers lined up, all wanting to be a part of making Zach history.

The book sports a cover by Basil Gogos, and a flip cover by Ken Meyer Jr., and features other greats such as Frank Dietz, Ron Chamberlain, and Neil D. Vokes.

[For those not in the know, Zach was the original TV horror host way back in the day. Chiller Theatre throws regular fan cons for genre fans on the East Coast. Their Spring Expo is April 23-25, 2004. Ed.]

For more information or to buy the comic, visit Zach's site at:

Chiller Theatre site -

Michelle Trachtenberg Skates
By Chris Gardner

Hollywood January 9, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Michelle Trachtenberg is prepping to put on a pair of ice skates after scoring the lead role in "Ice Princess" for the Walt Disney Co.

Shooting is scheduled to start in late March or early April with Andrew Waller at the helm.

In addition to her role in the Disney comedy, Trachtenberg is in early negotiations for a four-episode arc on HBO's "Six Feet Under."

"Ice Princess," described as "Flashdance" meets "Bring It On," follows a brainy ugly duckling (Trachtenberg) who realizes her dream of becoming a champion figure skater with the help of physics, a disgraced coach, three snooty ice princesses, a chorus of stage parents and the hunky boy who drives the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine.

[Michelle Trachtenberg played Buffy's little sister Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ed.]

Russ Tamblyn Guests

Hollywood January 9, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Joan of Arcadia star Amber Tamblyn's real-life father, Russ Tamblyn, will guest star on the CBS fantasy series—playing "God the father," the Zap2it Web site reported.

Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story) will appear in "Night Without Stars," an episode set for February sweeps, an anonymous CBS source told the Web site.

The story has God telling Joan that she should work with kids, so she signs up for a program that babysits children of abuse victims, the site reported.

Her friend Adam (Christopher Marquette), who has harbored a crush on Joan, ends up smitten with another volunteer and asks her to a White Stripes concert on a night when Joan is set to babysit.

A peeved Joan then encounters God in the guise of an aging hippie dog walker (Russ Tamblyn), the site reported.

Russ Tamblyn earned an Oscar nomination for 1957's Peyton Place and is perhaps best known for his dancing roles in musicals.

More recently, he played Dr. Lawrence Jacoby on Twin Peaks.

Joan of Arcadia Official site -

Nip/Tuck Due

Hollywood January 10, 2004 (eXoNews) - According to, FX will bring back Golden Globe Nominees Julian McMahon and Joely Richardson for a second season of the rather bizarre and entirely delightful black comedy Nip/Tuck on Tuesday, June 22 at 10 PM / 9c.

FX has ordered 16 new episodes for the second season, over 13 ordered last year.

Nip/Tuck was "basic cable's most-watched new series of 2003" and also garnered a Globe nomination for best series.

Julian McMahon was also nominated for this year's Best Actor and Joely Richardson for Best Actress in the recent International Press Academy Satellite Awards Nominations.

Nip/Tuck Official site -

The Handler Trimmed

LOS ANGELES January 9, 2004 ( - CBS has trimmed its full-season order for the Joe Pantoliano drama "The Handler" down to only 15 episodes. While it will remain on CBS' schedule for the foreseeable future, it's hardly a vote of confidence for the freshman series.

When it premiered this fall, "The Handler" seemed a safe bet for success. With a comfy 10 p.m. Friday time slot following the established hit "JAG," the undercover drama received an extra momentum boost when Pantoliano picked up and Emmy for his stint on "The Sopranos."

The show's premiere drew a solid 12.6 million viewers and its early performance contributed to NBC decision to axe "Boomtown."

However, when NBC moved "Third Watch" to Friday nights, the John Wells series instantly began to eat into the audience for "The Handler."

For the season, the show is now only averaging 8.4 million viewers per week, prompting CBS to dramatically reduce its back-nine order.

While CBS will air the show's remaining episodes, it will likely vanish for February sweeps and may not remain around for very long afterwards.

CBS is optimistic about the futuristic legal drama "Century City" from "Quiz Show" scribe Paul Attanasio.

The Handler Official site -

Max and Buffy Grudge

Hollywood January 8, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Former Roswell star Jason Behr (Max) will star opposite former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar in a remake of Takashi Shimizu's Japanese horror movie The Grudge for Senator Films, Variety reported.

Takashi will direct the remake, produced by Nathan Kahane, Doug Davison and Roy Lee. Spider-Man director Sam Raimi executive produces via his Ghost House Pictures, the trade paper reported.

The Grudge is set to film this month in Tokyo; Columbia Pictures will distribute domestically.

Stephen Susco adapted the screenplay, which combines elements from the original and its three sequels, the trade paper reported.

The original Grudge deals with a murderous curse stemming from a grudge held by someone who died enraged. Behr plays a college student at an international university in Tokyo, the boyfriend of Gellar's character.

[Buffy fans will remember that Jason Behr once worked with Gellar as Ford, Buffy's former 5th Grade boyfriend, in the Buffy second season episode "Lie to Me". Ed.]

De Niro & Scorsese Joint Memoir

NEW YORK January 9, 2004 (Reuters) - "Goodfellas" cohorts Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese will share insights into their 30-year friendship and collaboration on eight major films in a joint memoir to be published next year, Harmony Books announced on Friday.

The director Scorsese, 61, and actor De Niro, 60, both grew up in New York and first joined forces for the 1973 film "Mean Streets," about young hoodlums making their way in New York's Little Italy.

That launched a friendship that has spanned 30 years and sparked a string of movies that includes "Taxi Driver" (1976), "Raging Bull" (1980), "Goodfellas" (1990) and "Cape Fear" (1991).

"We came from the same New York neighborhood but hung out on different streets," Scorsese said in a statement, adding that their friendship grew with each collaboration.

"We can finish each other's sentences and understand things that are not said," he said. "It's like a professional marriage, and the offspring are the movies."

De Niro's work with Scorsese brought the actor an Oscar for his work in "Raging Bull."

He was also nominated for best actor Academy Awards for his roles in "Taxi Driver" and "Cape Fear."

The untitled book is scheduled to be published in 2005, said Harmony Books publisher Shaye Areheart. The book has already been sold to publishers in England, the Netherlands, Israel and Germany.

Harmony Books is a division of The Crown Publishing Group and Random House Inc., which is owned by media group Bertelsmann.

Depp The Libertine

LOS ANGELES January 9, 2004 ( - If audiences liked Johnny Depp as a drunken trickster in "Pirates of the Caribbean, they will no doubt adore his more dissolute role in "The Libertine."

Depp will take on the role of infamous rake Lord Rochester in the John Malkovich-produced adaptation of the play by Stephen Jeffrey, according to UK website Empire Online.

Set in the 17th century, "Libertine" centers on Rochester who leads a life full of drinking and debauchery interspersed with critically acclaimed works of poetry. Samantha Morton will portray Elizabeth Barrie, Rochester's love, protege and eventual enemy. Malkovich will play King Charles II.

The real-life Rochester only won recognition for his poetry posthumously. He died at the tender age of 33 from the effects of alcohol and syphilis.

Laurence Dunmore will direct the project, which will begin shooting in London in February.

Depp will next star in "Secret Window" opposite Maria Bello in April and in another biopic, "J.M. Barrie's Neverland," the following winter.

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