British UFO Cover-up!
The Oldest Skull in America,
Gas Giants, Whale Deaths, Roswell,

The Smothers Brothers & More!
British UFO Cover-up!
London December 3, 2002 (BBC) Details of one of Britain's most famous UFO scares was among information repeatedly suppressed by government defense chiefs, according to a Westminster watchdog.

Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had broken open government rules three times in recent months over cases including the Rendlesham Forest UFO scare. 

Details of the alleged sighting at an RAF base more than 20 years ago were released last week after the Ombudsman ruled the MoD were wrongly suppressing them. 

The so-called 'Rendlesham File' details the sighting of a "glowing" triangular object by US Air Force police in Rendlesham Forest, near RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk. 

The documents had only previously been made available to about 20 people who used the American Freedom of Information Act to gain access to them. 

In the early hours of 27 December 1980, a number of US Air Force men witnessed the object hover in the darkness, transmitting blue pulsating lights and sending nearby farm animals into a "frenzy". 

In a report titled "Unexplained Lights", USAF Lt Col Charles I Halt, Deputy Base Commander at RAF Bentwaters, adjacent to Woodbridge, told how he witnessed an object emitting a "red sun-like light" moving through the trees. 

Sceptics say the witnesses were fooled by the beam from a lighthouse on the nearby coast. 

While the actual documents had not been released, the details were widely known, the Ombudsman said in her report. 

"Given their age and the fact that these documents contained no information not already in the public domain, the Ombudsman saw no reason why they could not be disclosed," the report said. 

Complaints about the MoD's refusal to list countries prioritized for arms sales or reveal details of an armed services survey were also upheld. 

Former defense minister Peter Kilfoyle said the examples outlined in the report on the Ombudsman's work between May and October were symptomatic of a "culture of secrecy" in the MoD.

"It is one of those departments that have always opposed freedom of information and are not very attuned to what is required in a modern, open and accountable government," he said. 

"Other departments and Whitehall as a whole have a problem with openness but the MoD is one of the more incorrigible cases of government by secrecy," he said.

The Ombudsman also partially upheld complaints against the Cabinet Office, DVLA, Driving Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions, the report revealed. 

Restrictions on the MoD's "Rendlesham File" were dropped as part of an opening-up of the inner workings of Whitehall. 

Ministers are attempting to lift the official veil of secrecy by repealing or amending a raft of legislation banning access to information. 

Government departments will now be required to release information on the internal workings of Whitehall, including minutes of meetings of top civil servants. 

Ministers say they will repeal or amend up to 100 items of legislation which are currently prohibited from disclosure.

UFO Casebook site - 

[Were you "Taken" by our Rendlesham UFO? Truth is - we made it ourselves! Ed.]

Court Blocks California Offshore Drilling
By Michael Kahn 

SAN FRANCISCO December 03, 2002 (Reuters) — A U.S. appeals court Monday upheld a block on new oil and natural gas exploration off the California coast, ruling that future exploration cannot go forward without a state environmental review. 

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does not cover existing offshore production in state and federal tracts. But it is a blow to the Bush administration, which had sought to open up 36 offshore leases to exploration. 

Environmental groups, which had joined California in lawsuits to stop any renewed exploration, hailed the decision involving tracts that could hold an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil off the state's central coast. The move to extend the 36 leases was widely seen by environmental groups as a prelude to renewed oil prospecting in California, which has been halted since 1989. 

"After losing twice in federal court, it is time for the Bush administration to stop fighting for more oil drilling and to start protecting California's coast," said Drew Caputo, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Interior, which is named in the lawsuit, said lawyers were still reviewing whether to appeal the decision to the full court. The spokesman emphasized the case was about the government's right to extend the leases and not about allowing drilling. 

California sued to block the new exploration soon after President Clinton's Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt extended the offshore leases in 1999 as they were set to expire while ordering a review of their impact on the environment. These tracts were exempt from the Clinton administration's 1998 ban on new oil drilling because the leases were so old. 

The state, however, argued against the department, saying California had been illegally denied the right to review the leases for environmental issues before any action at the federal level. 

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken agreed and in June 2001 halted exploration and drilling in the 36 offshore tracts, pending environmental review and approval by the California Coastal Commission. 

While the state's suit did not explicitly seek cancellation of the leases, Davis has expressed reservations about offshore oil drilling, and environmental groups have loudly condemned any move which could threaten the state's famous coastline. 

Environmentalists have also argued that the Interior Department should scrap the leases, which cost oil companies more than $1 billion when they were granted 25 to 30 years ago. 

Companies holding the leases include Aera Energy; the combined California exploration and production operations of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Shell Oil Co., a unit of Royal Dutch/Shell Group; ConocoPhillips; Nuevo Energy; and Samedan Oil Corp., a subsidiary of Noble Affiliates.
Redford Says Oil Equals Homeland Insecurity
LOS ANGELES December 2, 2002 (Reuters) - Actor Robert Redford, in an op-ed opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times, accused the Bush administration on Monday of "lack of leadership" for failing to wean the United States from dependence on fossil fuels. The actor, a longtime solar power advocate, warned that the nation's wasteful use of gas and oil created political problems abroad and air pollution at home. 

"Prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels would guarantee homeland insecurity," the actor wrote.
"If you are worried about getting oil from an unstable Persian Gulf, consider the alternatives: Indonesia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan." 

He touted San Francisco's $100-million bond initiative, passed last year by voters to pay for solar panels, wind power and energy efficiency for public buildings as the template for a pollution-free United States. 

"American rooftops can be the Persian Gulf of solar energy," Redford wrote. "...wind and solar power generate less than 2 percent of U.S. power. We can do better." 

The 65-year-old actor also demanded that the U.S. auto industry use existing technology to increase fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon. 

"Phasing in that standard by 2012 would save 15 times more oil than Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is likely to produce over 50 years," Redford said. 

Innovation in energy policy, he concluded, "would keep energy dollars in the American economy, reduce air pollution and create jobs at home."
The Oldest Skull in America
By Steve Connor
Science Editor

London December 3, 2002 (Independent UK) - Scientists in Britain have identified the oldest skeleton ever found on the American continent in a discovery that raises fresh questions about the accepted theory of how the first people arrived in the New World.

The skeleton's perfectly preserved skull belonged to a 26-year-old woman who died during the last ice age on the edge of a giant prehistoric lake which once formed around an area now occupied by the sprawling suburbs of Mexico City.

Scientists from Liverpool's John Moores University and Oxford's Research Laboratory of Archaeology have dated the skull to about 13,000 years old, making it 2,000 years older than the previous record for the continent's oldest human remains.

However, the most intriguing aspect of the skull is that it is long and narrow and typically Caucasian in appearance, like the heads of white, western Europeans today.

Modern-day native Americans, however, have short, wide skulls that are typical of their Mongoloid ancestors who are known to have crossed into America from Asia on an ice-age land bridge that had formed across the Bering Strait.

The extreme age of Peñon woman suggests two scenarios. Either there was a much earlier migration of Caucasian-like people with long, narrow skulls across the Bering Strait and that these people were later replaced by a subsequent migration of Mongoloid people.

Alternatively, and more controversially, a group of Stone Age people from Europe made the perilous sea journey across the Atlantic Ocean many thousands of years before Columbus or the Vikings.

Silvia Gonzalez, a Mexican-born archaeologist working at John Moores University and the leader of the research team, accepted yesterday that her discovery lends weight to the highly contentious idea that the first Americans may have actually been Europeans.

"At the moment it points to that as being likely. They were definitely not Mongoloid in appearance. They were from somewhere else. As to whether they were European, at this point in time we cannot say 'no'," Dr Gonzalez said.

The skull and the almost-complete skeleton of Peñon woman was actually unearthed in 1959 and was thought to be no older than about 5,000 years.

It formed part of a collection of 27 early humans in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City that had not been accurately dated using the most modern techniques.

"The museum knew that the remains were of significant historical value but they hadn't been scientifically dated," Dr Gonzalez said. "I decided to analyze small bone samples from five skeletons using the latest carbon dating techniques. I think everyone was amazed at how old they were," she said.

Robert Hedges, the director of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, who also dated the age of the Turin shroud, carried out the radiocarbon analysis, which is accurate to within 50 years.

"We are absolutely, 100 per cent sure that this is the date," Dr Gonzalez said. The study has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication next year in the journal Human Evolution.

At 13,000 years old, Peñon woman would have lived at a time when there was a vast, shallow lake in the Basin of Mexico, a naturally enclosed high plain around today's Mexico City, which would have been cooler and much wetter than it is today.

Huge mammals would have roamed the region's grasslands, such as the world's largest mammoths with 12-foot tusks, bear-sized giant sloth, armadillos as big as a car and fearsome carnivores such as the saber-toothed tiger and great black bear.

The bones of Peñon woman, named after the "little heel" of land that would have jutted into the ancient lake, were well developed and healthy, showing no signs of malnutrition.

Dr Gonzalez found that the two oldest skulls analyzed were both dolichocephalic, meaning that they were long and narrow-headed. The younger ones were short and broad – brachycephalic – which are typical of today's native Americans and their Mongoloid ancestors from Asia.

The findings have a resonance with the skull and skeleton of Kennewick man, who was unearthed in 1996 in the Columbia River at the town of Kennewick in Washington state. The skull, estimated to be 8,400 years old, is also long and narrow and typically Caucasian.

James Chatters, one of the first anthropologists to study Kennewick man before it had been properly dated, even thought that the man may have been a European trapper who had met a sudden death sometime in the early 19th century.

Kennewick man became the most controversial figure in American anthropology when native tribes living in the region claimed that, as an ancestor, his remains should be returned to them under a 1990 law that gave special protection to the graves and remains of indigenous Americans.

The debate intensified after some anthropologists suggested that Kennewick man was Caucasian in origin and could not therefore be a direct ancestor of the native Americans living in the Kennewick area today.

Dr Gonzalez said that the identification of Peñon woman as the oldest known inhabitant of the American continent throws fresh light on the controversy over who actually owns the ancient remains of long-dead Americans.

"My research could have implications for the ancient burial rights of North American Indians because it's quite possible that dolichocephalic man existed in North America well before the native Indians," she said. But even more controversial is the suggestion that Peñon woman could be a descendant of Stone Age Europeans who had crossed the ice-fringed Atlantic some 15,000 or 20,000 years ago.

This theory first surfaced when archaeologists found flint blades and spear points in America that bore a remarkable similarity to those fashioned by the Solutrean people of south-western France who lived about 20,000 years ago, when the ice age was at its most extreme.

The Solutreans were the technologists of their day, inventing such things as the eyed needle and the heat treatment of flint to make it easier to flake into tools. They also built boats and fished.

Bruce Bradley, an American archaeologist and an expert in flint technology, believes that the Solutrean method of fashioning flints into two-sided blades matches perfectly the Stone Age flint blades found at some sites in American. One of these is the 11,500-year-old flint spear point found in 1933 at Clovis, New Mexico.

Dr Bradley said that the flint blades that came into America with the early Asian migrants were totally different in concept and mode of manufacture. Both the Clovis point and the Solutrean flints shared features that could only mean a shared origin, according to Dr Bradley.

Studies of the DNA of native Americans clearly indicated a link with modern-day Asians, supporting the idea of a mass migration across the Bering land bridge. But one DNA study also pointed to at least some shared features with Europeans that could only have derived from a relatively recent common ancestor who lived perhaps 15,000 ago – the time of the Solutreans.

Not every specialist, however, is convinced of the apparently mounting evidence of an early European migration. "I personally haven't found it very convincing," Professor Chris Stringer, the head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said.

"For a start, there are lots of examples in archaeology where various artifacts from different parts of the world can end up looking similar even though they have different origins," he said.

"Most humans in the world at that time were long headed and it doesn't surprise me that Peñon woman at 13,000 years old is also long headed."

Nevertheless, the remarkable age of the young Palaeolithic woman who died by an ancient lake in Mexico some 13,000 years ago has once again stirred the controversy over the most extraordinary migration in human history.

Professor Salter's Rainmaking Machine
By Jill Stark

Edinburgh December 3, 2002 (Daily Record UK) - A rainmaking machine could help end drought and famine and even help Middle East peace, according to its inventor. Engineering professor Stephen Salter has been given a £105,000 Government grant to develop the wind-driven cloud-maker, which looks like a giant egg-beater. And yesterday the Edinburgh University scientist spoke of his hopes for the device.

Rain could bring barren deserts to life and help to grow crops in countries which have been badly hit by droughts in the past.

Prof Salter added: "It could definitely reduce tensions in the Middle East. The problem is Israel is taking a lot of water from the Palestinian territories and there's a great issue over letting go control of that. If there was more water, then life wouldn't be quite as miserable. The areas we've been thinking about are the Sahara, and the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Politics could be changed a lot if there was more water because there are a lot of troubles stemming from lack of water."

The device would stand more than 130ft high and cost more than £200,000 to make.

Prof Salter believes it could spray 10 to 30 million cubic meters of water a year. It uses wind power to drive a turbine that sucks water out of the sea, turns it into water vapor, sprays it into the atmosphere and creates clouds. The machines would be placed on catamarans off the coast of desert land in areas where rain was needed.

Prof Salter believes the process could even help to solve the problem of rising sea levels caused by global warming. He said he had had some opposition from meteorologists, who believed he should not be interfering with the weather.

But he added: "It's great fun when things work and your critics are proved wrong. I have had several ideas where the establishment says it doesn't work and it does - it's really quite satisfying."
Roomba The Robot
By Sue Lowe

December 4, 2002 (SMH) - It could be the world's first useful and affordable household robot. It's called Roomba, it looks like an oversized CD player and it automatically cleans floors.

While Sony's $3000 robotic dog was attracting attention last year, a small US firm, iRobot, was busy creating a device that could free millions from drudgery. And it costs just $355.

This is not iRobot's first attempt to crack the market for cheap household robots; last year it offered My Real Baby - an ill-fated doll that responded to a child's behavior with human-like emotions. With Roomba it could be different. Roomba cannot "see" the dirt but instead aims for maximum coverage. It starts with concentric circles until it first hits an obstacle, then switches to parallel lines.

iRobot says it will back off from stairs, and a "virtual wall" accessory stops it leaving the room it has been told to clean. 

Roomba uses brushes and rubber sweepers to flick debris into a small sucker and is said to work on wooden floors, tiles and short-pile carpets, but takes about five times as long as a well-practiced human.

The robot turns itself off if a child or pet gets in the way.

Roomba was launched in September and is still in short supply due to high demand.

There is no word on when Roomba will be available outside America.

Janene Baxter, a sociologist at the University of Queensland, says the telling factor will be whether the robot is appealing enough as a cutting-edge gadget to cause a gender shift in responsibility for floor cleaning.

In previously published research, Professor Baxter concludes that women average 25 hours of domestic duties a week compared to 10 hours for men. "Men don't appear to like gadgets such as irons and washing machines.

"It would be interesting to see if this could change that," she said yesterday.

Louise Shaw, owner of the Wife without Strings household management firm, was unthreatened by the possibility of a mass market in automated vacuum cleaners. 

"Vacuuming is just a small preparatory task in cleaning a floor properly. You may also need to mop it. Can it do that?" she said. "And how does it cope with that precious Ming vase?
The Secret of Gas Giants

November 29, 2002 - An accepted assumption in astrophysics holds that it takes more than 1 million years for gas giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn to form from the cosmic debris circling a young star. But new research suggests such planets form in a dramatically shorter period, as little as a few hundred years. 

The forming planets have to be able to survive the effects of nearby stars burning brightly, heating and dispersing the gases that accumulate around the giant planets.

If the process takes too long, the gases will be dissipated by the radiation from those stars, said University of Washington astrophysicist Thomas R. Quinn. 

"If a gas giant planet can't form quickly, it probably won't form at all," he said. 

The standard model of planet formation holds that the spinning disk of matter, called a protoplanetary disk, that surrounds a young star gradually congeals into masses that form the cores of planets. That process was thought to take a million years or so, and then the giants gradually accumulate their large gaseous envelopes over perhaps another 1 million to 10 million years. 

But the new research, culled from a much-refined mathematical model, suggests that the protoplanetary disk begins to fragment after just a few spins around its star. As the disk fragments, clusters of matter begin to form quickly and immediately start to draw in the gases that form vapor shrouds around gas giants. 

"If these planets can't form quickly, then they should be a relatively rare phenomenon, whereas if they form according to this mechanism they should be a relatively common phenomenon," said Quinn, a UW research assistant astronomy professor.

The existence of gas giant planets, it turns out, seems to be fairly common. Since the mid-1990s, researchers have discovered more than 100 planets, generally from the mass of Jupiter to 10 times that size, orbiting stars outside the solar system. Those planets were deduced by their gravitational effect on their parent stars, and their discovery lends credence to the new research, Quinn said. 

Lucio Mayer, a former UW post-doctoral researcher who recently joined the University of Zurich, is lead author of a paper detailing the work, published in the Nov. 29 edition of Science. Besides Quinn, co-authors are James Wadsley of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and Joachim Stadel at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Their work is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Astrobiology Institute. 

Since the early 1950s, some scientists have entertained the notion that gas giant planets were formed quickly. However, the model, using a specialized fluid dynamics simulation, had never been refined enough to show what it does now. The Mayer-Quinn team spent the better part of two years refining calculations and plugging them into the model to show what would happen to a protoplanetary disk over a longer time. 

"The main criticism people had of this model was that it wasn't quite ready yet," Quinn said. "Nobody was making any predictions out of it, but here we are making predictions out of it." 

The new model explains why two other giant planets in our system, Uranus and Neptune, don't have gas envelopes like Jupiter and Saturn, Quinn said. At the time those planets were being formed, the solar system was part of a star cluster. The outer planets of Uranus and Neptune were too close to a nearby star -- one that has since migrated away -- and therefore lost whatever gas envelopes they might have accumulated. 

Neither the new model nor the standard model accounts for why most of the gas giant planets found outside the solar system are much nearer their suns than are Jupiter and Saturn, Quinn said. The most common belief currently is that the planets formed farther away from their stars and then migrated inward to the positions where they have been discovered. 

The new model also doesn't account for the formation of terrestrial planets, like Earth and Mars, near our sun. But Quinn suspects that perhaps the smaller terrestrial planets were formed over longer periods by processes described by the standard planet-formation model, while the new model explains how the larger gas giants came to be. 

"That's my bet at the moment," he said.

The Mysteries of Venus

November 30, 2002 - What kind of mysteries and scientific intrigue await the European Space Agency's Venus Express once it has left Earth for its nearest planetary neighbor in 2005? A closer inspection promises to reveal a planet that is hugely different from our own despite a few similarities. 

Astronomers often call Venus the Earth's twin because both are about the same size and have the same mass. In other ways, however, Venus seems to be an altogether different class of planet. Scientists are keen to take a closer look at this cloudy, mysterious planet. 

After a 150-day cruise from Earth, Venus Express will maneuver into an orbit that loops over the poles of the planet once every 10 -16 hours. What will we see? 

The first of many curiosities is the nature of the Venusian magnetic field. It is so weak that particles ejected from the Sun, known as the solar wind, do not go around the planet, as they do at Earth.

Instead they continuously strike Venus's upper atmosphere. Scientists want to know more about how this process takes place. 

The atmosphere itself contains plenty of puzzles. Hakan Svedhem, project scientist for Venus Express, says, "The atmosphere of Venus is unique in the Solar System, so understanding it is very important." What we know about our own atmosphere does not much help us understand Venus. How can 'Earth's twin' possess such a different atmosphere? The thick atmosphere creates a greenhouse effect, making Venus hotter than a kitchen oven. This greenhouse effect is definitely worth studying. Another mystery concerns the movement of the atmosphere. About 60 kilometers above the surface, winds race through the cloud cover at almost 400 kilometers per hour. They make the atmosphere rotate, but we do not know how this so-called super-rotation occurs. 

The planet's peculiar backward rotation is also a riddle. Venus rotates in the opposite direction to Earth and most of the other planets in the Solar System. It also spins incredibly slowly, taking around 250 Earth days to spin once, as compared to 1 day for Earth. Recent computer models suggest that Venus used to rotate on its axis the same way as Earth did but its heavy atmosphere dragged it to a standstill before causing the present, slow backward rotation. 

When we think of the planet's surface, there are many more mysteries. Are there still active volcanoes? Is the entire planet's surface a single solid crust or does it consist of continental plates that float on a partially molten interior, similar to Earth? We know the planet itself is 4 thousand million years old but the entire surface of Venus appears to be 500 million years old! Was the planet resurfaced? If so, how did that happen? 

Perhaps the most exciting phenomenon of all is in the atmosphere, just above the super-rotation layer. Here, at about 80 kilometers altitude, something is absorbing ultraviolet wavelengths of light. There is no obvious explanation of these mysterious absorption patches. However, some scientists believe that they could be acid-eating microbes using ultraviolet light in some alien photosynthesis process. 

There is a large range of mysteries for Venus Express to investigate. As Svedham says, "This mission will enhance our entire picture of Venus. We will understand it as a planet much more."

Whale Deaths Puzzle Scientists
Associated Press Writer 

SEATTLE December 2, 2002 (AP) - Over a period of about eight weeks, three cargo ships pulled into Northwest ports apparently unaware of the dead fin whale draped over their so-called bulbous bow, a fuel-conserving device projecting from just below the waterline into the ship's path. 

Fin whales, the world's second-largest creatures and a protected species, have been struck and killed by ships before, but these cases are different. 

"To have three come in so close together is something we've not seen before," said Brent Norberg, marine-mammal coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Ships' crews "are as surprised as anyone when they pull in and the animal is there," Norberg said. 

The vessels weigh in at tens of thousands of tons. 

"That's a massive object moving through the water," Norberg said, and striking a whale would be "kind of like hitting a noodle with your car." 

The first dead fin whale arrived at the Port of Seattle Aug. 9 on the bow of the container ship Tokyo Express. Another whale came into Portland Sept. 2 on the auto-transport vessel Ruby Ray. A third reached a Cherry Point refinery Oct. 2 on the bow of an oil tanker. 

Why three whales have perished in such rapid succession is anyone's guess, though scientists speculate the whales may have changed feeding patterns — moving into traffic lanes in search of prey. It appears "the food they're grazing on happens to be on a freeway," Norberg said. 

And there may well be more such cases. 

"We don't have any feel at all for what the frequency is of animals that get struck at sea and dislodged (from the ship) at sea," he said.

Ship-whale collisions and other encounters — net entanglements and propeller hits — have been an increasing factor in whale deaths off the nation's coast for some years now, raising concerns among whale biologists. Ships are getting bigger and faster while populations of the whales are increasing. 

In the recent cases, tests indicate two of the three fin whales were alive when they were struck. Damage to the Portland carcass suggests it was already dead. 

The carcasses, which ranged from 35 to 60 feet long, apparently were tucked up against the vessels by the bulbous bows. The odd-shaped projection on cargo ships' noses have greatly increased fuel efficiency through "wave-making resistance reduction technology" developed in the early 1960s. 

A bulbous bow could prevent an animal struck by the ship from simply rolling off to the side. 

There is no research on whether bulbous-bow technology could be a factor in whale deaths, Norberg said. The percentage of bulbous-bow ships involved in collisions with whales is not known. 

The remains of the two whales that likely were alive when struck were quite fresh when they reached port, Norberg said, suggesting the strikes occurred as the vessels neared their journey's end. 

That reduces the chance a whale strike would be noticed, he said. When ships near port — after a five-day straight-shot voyage from Asia, for example — they are busy taking on pilots to navigate inland waters, slowing down to enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca and making other routine changes in operational strategy. 

Also, "crew size is going down as vessel speed and size are going up," noted activist Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates. "And even if somebody did see a whale, it's not like a big ship can turn on a dime." 

Unlike toothed whales, baleen whales do not echo-locate — a method of detecting objects and food by creating a series of clicks and interpreting the reflected sound. Even so, scientists believe they have very sensitive hearing. And today's bigger, faster ships generate "significant amounts of noise," said whale expert John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research in Olympia. 

Still, with few natural enemies, whales may not consider an approaching vessel a threat. 

"These animals evolved over millions of years," Calambokidis said. "The arrival of huge ships that travel 20 or more knots is a very recent development — recent as in the last 100 years. It's nothing they're equipped or have evolved to recognize as a threat." 

National Marine Fisheries Service: 

American Cetacean Society: 

Center for Coastal Studies - 

Pot News!
Marijuana Does Not Lead to Hard Drugs

WASHINGTON December 2, 2002 (Reuters) - Countering a basic principle of American anti-drug policies, an independent U.S. study concluded on Monday that marijuana use does not lead teenagers to experiment with hard drugs like heroin or cocaine. 

The study by the private, nonprofit RAND Drug Policy Research Center rebutted the theory that marijuana acts as a so-called gateway drug to more harmful narcotics, a key argument against legalizing pot in the United States. 

The researchers did not advocate easing restrictions in marijuana, but questioned the focus on this substance in drug control efforts. 

Using data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse between 1982 and 1994, the study concluded teenagers who took hard drugs were predisposed to do so whether they tried marijuana first or not. 

"Kids get their first opportunity to use marijuana years before they get their first exposure to hard drugs," said Andrew Morral, lead author of the RAND study. 

"Marijuana is not a gateway drug. It's just the first thing kids often come across." 

Morral said 50 percent of U.S. teenagers had access to marijuana by the age of 16, while the majority had no exposure to cocaine, heroin or hallucinogens until they were 20. 

The study, published in the British journal Addiction, does not advocate legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, which has been linked to side-effects including short-term memory loss. 

But given limited resources, Morral said the U.S. government should reconsider the prominence of marijuana in its much-publicized "war on drugs." 

"To a certain extent we are diverting resources away from hard drug problems," he said. "Spending money on marijuana control may not be having downstream consequences on the use of hard drugs." 

Researchers say predisposition to drug use has been linked to genetic factors and one's environment, including family dynamics and the availability of drugs in the neighborhood.

Marijuana's Distant Relative The Next Prozac

University of California Press Release

Irvine CA December 2, 2002 - Man-made chemicals that are distant relatives of marijuana may eventually become new drugs to combat anxiety and depression, according to a UC Irvine College of Medicine study. The study is the first to show how anxiety is controlled by the body's anandamide system, a network of natural compounds known for their roles in governing pain, mood and other psychological functions.

While marijuana relieves anxiety by working on the same system, laboratory rats given the new drugs don't seem to suffer the side effects produced by THC, marijuana's active ingredient. The study appears on Nature Medicine's Web site and will be published in the January 2003 issue. 

After designing and testing a number of different chemicals, pharmacology professor Daniele Piomelli and his team found two, called URB532 and URB597, which relieved anxiety and worked in ways far gentler than THC. 

"THC reduces anxiety by binding directly to receptors in the brain and resulting in its familiar 'high' sensation," Piomelli said. "This reaction is too strong, creating marijuana's side effects." 

URB532 and URB597, on the other hand, inhibit the activity of an enzyme that breaks apart natural anandamide, leaving more of the neurotransmitter to help reduce anxiety and depression.

This is similar to the way Prozac works on serotonin, another natural anti-depressant neurotransmitter. With this gentler biochemical approach, URB532 and URB597 were able to keep brain anandamide levels high for many hours after a single dose without producing visible side effects. 

"While the study's results are promising, the road from laboratory discovery to available medication is years long, often winding, and definitely expensive," Piomelli said. "In fact, most drugs never make it beyond the discovery stage, for a number of scientific and commercial reasons. But nearly all drugs on the market today saw their start at the laboratory discovery phase."

Weird and Wonderful Words

Oxford December 3, 2002 (The Scotsman) - If you call someone with receding hair a "pilgarlic", the chances are they won’t know you are being rude. And rather than referring to a tall, ungainly girl as a beanpole, why not try "gammerstang"; she will probably shrug, grin awkwardly and have no idea what you are talking about. 

Pilgarlic (a bald person) and gammerstang (a tall and awkward woman) are among a new dictionary containing 400 "weird and wonderful" words to improve your word power. 

According to the publishers, Oxford University Press, the book contains "interesting alternatives to everyday words". Also included are gricer (a train-spotter) and pollinctor (someone who prepares bodies for cremation and embalming). 

An angletwitch sounds like it might be rude, but is actually a worm used as bait in fishing, while onolatry is the worship of donkeys. 

Still on the donkey theme, a zedonk is the offspring of a male zebra and a female donkey, while the art of bee-keeping was also known as meliturgy in the 17th century. 

Erin McKean, the book’s author, said most of the words came from the full Oxford English Dictionary. 

"You can find weird words everywhere if you keep your eyes open," she said. 

"Quite a few came from random reading on the internet, and equally random reading of periodicals."

Check the book out at the Oxford website - 
Genre News: Firefly, Roswell, Deep Space Nine, Nemesis, Will Smith, Taken, Lara Croft and The Smothers Brothers! 
Firefly Fans Taken Note

Hollywood December 5, 2002 (eXoNews) - Fox wants you all to know that just because they put Joss Whedon's new space western show on hiatus last week, that doesn't mean they aren't going to be showing new episodes of Firefly for the next two weeks in its regular time slot at 8 PM Friday.

Go figure.

So anyway, tape Taken (you won't miss anything - it isn't that good) and watch new episodes of Firefly this Friday, December 6th  at 8pm/7c and next week on December 13th, same time, same station, on FOX!

See what the critics have to say:

Firefly Official Site:

And you can continue to show your support for Firefly at these fine sites :o)>

Firefly: Immediate Assistance -

Vote for Firefly at -

Firefly Fan Site -

Roswell Returns!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood December 4, 2002 (eXoNews) - Finally! Sci Fi Channel has started promotion for the return of Roswell. For those who didn't watch it on the WB or UPN, Roswell is a romantic science fiction tale of star-crossed teenaged lovers set in Roswell, New Mexico.

Some of the kids are literally from the stars and others are just plain folks trying to cope with interspecies love.

Roswell will show up on Sci Fi January 13, 2003. The series will be run at 6PM/5c weekdays.

Based on the Roswell High series of books written by Melinda Metz, Roswell works a lot better than you might think.

Executive Producers Jason Katims and Jonathan Frakes experimented a lot to create a show with plenty of heart, humor and suspense.

JASON BEHR (Max Evans), SHIRI APPLEBY (Liz Parker), KATHERINE HEIGL (Isabel Evans), MAJANDRA DELFINO (Maria De Luca), BRENDAN FEHR (Michael Guerin) and EMILIE DE RAVIN (Tess Harding) play the teens, with excellent support from COLIN HANKS, NICK WECHSLER, WILLIAM SADLER, and JOHN DOE.


Roswell is no Boston Public. Max and Liz and their crew battle alien hunters, hostile aliens and big bads in the FBI. They also have to contend with their own emotions, of course, which is what sets Roswell apart from anything else that you may have seen on the small tube.

Sci Fi bought up the series when they purchased X-Files rerun rights from Fox last year. Roswell fans have anxiously awaited news of the series return to the US tube.

Check out the nice site for Roswell at 

And stop by the Ultimate Roswell Fan Site - 

Fans Want Deep Space Nine!

Hollywood December 4, 2002 (eXoNews) - Last week Star Trek Executive Producer Rick Berman told us that bringing DS9's Captain Sisko to the big screen for the future 11th Star Trek feature film was less likely than Jeri Ryan.

This week Sci Fi Channel's web site got hip and ran a poll asking who visitors wanted to see up there and guess what, Rick? At this writing, with over 6390 votes cast, Sisko, Kira and Dax are leading with 42% of the vote!

OK, maybe including Star Wars and Harry Potter characters among the choices was a little bit silly, (10% and 8% of the vote respectively - proving once and for all that Johnny can't read poll questions 2 gud) but DS9 still won soundly over Voyager (25%) and Enterprise (15%).

If you agree and really want to see DS9's cast up on the silver screen at least once, maybe it's time to drop by the DS9 Movie Petition website and cast your vote. They're at over 14,000 signatures and counting.

Berman would need better box office than that to make DS9 the Movie a hit, but who knows? Your vote could make the difference! As Berman said last week, "anything is possible with Star Trek."

DS9 Movie Petition Site - 

Star Trek: Nemesis opens December 13th at a theater near you.

The Official Star Trek site - 

The Most Excellent LCARS Star Trek fan site - 

All Good Things!
Paramount Pictures News Release

New York December 4, 2002 - In celebration of the upcoming "Star Trek Nemesis" opening on December 13th, Loews Cineplex Theaters in New York City and Los Angeles will be hosting a STAR TREK ANTHOLOGY featuring all nine previous Star Trek movies!

Beginning Wednesday, December 4th through Thursday, December 12th, visit the Loews 34th Street Theater in New York City or the Universal Cineplex in Los Angeles to take part in this exclusive event.

There will be one airing nightly, beginning with "Star Trek The Motion Picture" on Wednesday, December 4th, and leading up to "Star Trek: Insurrection" on Thursday, December 12th. 

The exclusive screenings of the first nine Star Trek movies will run nightly beginning at 10 pm. Tickets for each show are five dollars.

The nightly schedule is as follows:

December 4 - "Star Trek The Motion Picture"
December 5 - "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan"
December 6 - "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock"
December 7 - "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"
December 8 - "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier"
December 9 - "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"
December 10 - "Star Trek: Generations"
December 11 - "Star Trek: First Contact"
December 12 - "Star Trek: Insurrection"

"Star Trek Nemesis" opens in theatres everywhere December 13.

Use the URL's below for direct access to tickets and showtimes.

In The Los Angeles Area: 

In The New York City Area: 

To find out more visit 

To find out more about previous Star Trek films and the upcoming "Star Trek Nemesis", visit 

Star-Studded Line-Up of Nemesis Chats at

Hollywood December 4, 2002 (Paramount) - With mere days left before "Star Trek Nemesis" beams into movie theaters nationwide, here's your chance to chat live with the stars and creators of Star Trek's tenth bold journey onto the silver screen!

This week it's LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) on Thursday, 12/5 at 3:00 p.m., then on Friday, 12/6 it's Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher) at 3:00 p.m. followed by director Stuart Baird at 3:30 p.m.

Next week it's screenwriter John Logan on Monday, 12/9 at 3:00 p.m., Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) on Tuesday, 12/10 at 3:00 p.m. and then Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) on Wednesday, 12/11 at 3:00 p.m.

(All times listed are Pacific Standard Time and are subject to change).

For more information or to submit a question go to

Marina Wants Troi Closure

Hollywood December 3, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Marina Sirtis, who reprises the role of Deanna Troi in the upcoming Star Trek Nemesis movie, told SCI FI Wire that she hopes the latest Next Generation film is Troi's last.

"Is she out? You know, without getting too deep on your asses here, I will have to say on a certain level I hope so," Sirtis said in an interview while promoting the movie. "Because it's very hard to move on when you're doing this over and over."

Sirtis said that her Trek association has been both blessing and burden.

"As much as one thinks that, OK, well, I have these big breaks in between [Trek films], as long as in the back of your mind there's the thought that there's possibly going to be another movie, you never really let go," she said. "And I do feel that until one can physically say, 'OK, it's over. Really over. And now I can move on with the rest of my life,' it does kind of hold you back. And it is a safety net. I mean, it is. To think that every few years you're going to get that nice fat check that's going to support you for the next few years, and that's probably gone now. So I probably need to get another job."

Sirtis added that her close tie to Troi makes it difficult for casting directors to see her in any other way.

"She's in the 24th century, but she's very old-fashioned on a certain level," Sirtis said. "She's not like a funky streetwise kind of girl that they want. She's not a Debra Messing or a Maura Tierney or whatever, who's kind of more street. So it's an image that I'm going to have to try and change, possibly do something, not wear makeup, I don't know. Whatever it's going to take."

Official Marina Sirtis site - 

Official Star Trek nemesis site -

Will Smith Does Asimov's I, Robot!
By Michael Fleming 

NEW YORK December 3, 2002 (Variety) - Fox has wired Will Smith to star in sci-fier "I, Robot," an adaptation of the 1940s Isaac Asimov short-story collection that set the groundwork for robot films ranging from "The Terminator" to "A.I." 

Shooting is to begin in April. Alex Proyas, whose last large-canvas projects were "Dark City" and "The Crow," will direct the film. 

The original "I, Robot" contained nine short stories that Asimov wrote for various magazines throughout the 1940s, brought together thematically by the author's three laws of robotics. Those laws hold that a robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm; a robot must obey orders given to it by a human, except where it would conflict with the first law; and a robot must protect itself, as long as that protection doesn't violate either the first or second law. 

The movie is a futuristic thriller in which a detective investigates a crime that might have been perpetrated by a robot, even though that seems an impossibility given those three prevailing rules. 

"The big idea here is that if the robots have found a way to violate the laws, there is nothing to stop them from taking over, because the human race is so dependent on robots and automation," said 20th Century Fox film president Hutch Parker. 

Smith has flourished in sci-fi with the "Men in Black" films and his Fox foray in the genre, "Independence Day," one of the studio's biggest ever films. 

"Putting him in a film with a visualist like Proyas and one of the most indelible preawareness titles in science fiction makes this well worth the five or so years we've invested in the project," Parker added. 

The project originated as "Hardwired," a futuristic script by Jeff Vintar that was amalgamated with elements of "I, Robot" when Fox bought rights to Asimov's landmark book. Subsequent drafts of the script have been done by Hillary Seitz ("Insomnia") and Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind" scribe Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the last draft and is expected to be a prevailing presence on the picture.

Will Smith Online - 

Julie Is Taken Too (and Nick's Piñata)
By FLAtRich

Hollywood December 3, 2002 (eXoNews) - Just for the record, Julie Benz has more experience with aliens than any other Taken cast member. Who sez? Well, any Roswell fan can tell you that.

Julie played Kathleen Topolski, the FBI bad guy who turned good and helped the kids out at the end of season one.

You may not recognize her without fangs in Taken but just to prove what a Buffy nerd I am, I must add that Julie was also the very first vampire killed on Buffy - long before she returned as Angel's evil love Darla. Check out the first episode, fans, and the title sequence for season uno.

BTW, the Official Nick Brendon web site tells us that the DVD of Piñata, (aka Demon Island) starring the guy also known as Xander and his actress wife Tressa diFiglia, will hit the stores on January 28, 2003.

In case you thought Nicholas should have married his vengeance demon, there are pictures of Tressa and Nick being happy at

Jolie Returns As Lara Croft 

Hollywood December 2, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Angelina Jolie — who reprises the title role in the upcoming sequel film Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life: Tomb Raider 2 — told Entertainment Tonight that the new film is "sharper and darker and sexier." Tomb Raider is shooting in London and will travel from Wales to Greece, China and Africa and to the top of a live volcano, ET reported.

Jolie added that she will again do many of her own stunts, including riding a horse sidesaddle, repelling face-forward down a cliff wall, riding motorcycles and Jet Skiing. "I'd never ridden a Jet Ski, and I had a lot of practice, [but the producers] always make it more complicated," she told ET. "So it was stand-up Jet Skis, which took me a few days of constantly falling and getting frustrated. We started [shooting] in Greece, which was great, except I hate water, and I hate bikinis. So we started this film with my worst possible day as an actress—which is me Jet Skiing in a bikini in the water in Greece."

Jolie stars with Gerard Butler as Lara's new love interest, Djimon Hounsou and the returning Noah Taylor, ET reported. Directed by Jan de Bont (Speed), Tomb Raider 2 is slated for a summer 2003 release.

Official Tomb Raider site - 

Taken: Nothing Beyond The Sky?
By FLAtRich

[Please note: all that flutters doesn't flop. This review only covers the first episode of Taken. Thanks. Ed.]

Hollywood December 3, 2002 (eXoNews) - Unnecessary, frankly obvious. What more can be said about UFO movies? 1947 was fifty-five years ago and there is still no proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe, so Steven Spielberg Presents Taken is really just another chronicle of modern mythology.

And, from what we got in episode one of Sci Fi Channel's Taken miniseries, we been there and done that. Oh, Sci Fi and Mr. Spielberg have the special effects down. Those starry Spielberg skies and preternatural glows! Nobody does those better than Spielberg. Some of the CGI stuff didn't work for me - the WWII bombers looked fake and one shot where a curious Captain Owen Crawford (Joel Gretsch) stands in front of a downed saucer - but I'm a picky kind of guy. Sci Fi shows like Farscape have spoiled me.

Taken's creator and writer is not Mr. Spielberg, but rather Leslie Bohem, who also wrote Dante's Peak and Nightmare On Elm Street 5. I don't remember which Elm Street that was, but I did like Dante's Peak.

Beyond The Sky was directed by Tobe Hooper, a slasher/horror film pro (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) with some UFO myth experience. Mr. Hooper directed Lifeforce in the 80s, one of my personal cult feature favorites. Lifeforce featured ghostly vampire aliens, which was kind of old hat for hardcore sci fi fans at the time, but it has a great climax. Maybe episode ten of Taken will end well too.

On the small screen, Mr. Hooper directed for the failed UFO - X-Files rip-off Dark Skies on NBC, which I mostly didn't like, and a big favorite of mine called Nowhere Man on UPN. He also did one episode of the failed NBC Morgan and Wong series The Others, which I still miss.

Unfortunately, the science fiction film I always associate with Mr. Hooper was his unnecessary remake of the William Cameron Menzies' classic 50s paranoia sci fi B-movie, Invaders From Mars. The original was spooky when I was a kid. Hooper's remake just plain sucked.

So that gets my prejudices out in the open. I love Spielberg, I'm OK with Leslie Bohem, and I have mixed feelings about Hooper's science fiction efforts.

The problem with Beyond The Sky is that it isn't. Nothing in this episode was new or beyond what has already been done in previous renditions of the great UFO mythology. In fact, Mr. Bohem seems to be quite a fan of science fiction because his screenplay contains fingerprints from a lot of other authors and directors.

Homage is all very well and good, but Beyond The Sky stirred up far too many memories of images and threads from The X-Files, The Visitor, Martian Chronicles, The Invaders, Starman, and even First Wave - not to mention every saucer film made between 1950 and 1960, Roswell (the series), and DS9's Little Green Men episode and other Star Trek stories of first contact.

From Scully's nosebleeds to Bradbury's wish-shifting ancients to SG1's rubbery aliens to Enterprise's wall-walking Suliban, we've seen this all before. Maybe some of Steven Spielberg's kids are too young to remember, but the rest of us aren't.

I watched Beyond The Sky at 9 PM, after a new episode of Boston Public on Fox. OK, I started watching Boston Public when Jeri Ryan joined the cast. I admit it. I like the ex-Borg.

Stay with me. There's a point.

The BP episode wound up a previous week's crisis where principal Steven Harper (Chi McBride) got in a fight with a racist parent and the parent tripped and died. Harper looked guilty of at least manslaughter last week, but David Kelley and company saved him from The Big House.

In this same BP episode, Kelley explored teenage danger freaks, the Catholic priest child molestation issue, the relationship between an older woman and a younger man, the responsibility a teacher has to get involved with his students, and the effects a teacher can have on adult futures.

They did all that in an hour with a lot of good actors and fast dialog and a few dashes of humor. Sure, we knew the characters from previous episodes of Boston Public, but Kelley did it all in an hour and the episode had social substance.

In two hours, Beyond The Sky gave us nothing we hadn't seen elsewhere. Good actors but slow dialog, and they played it absolutely straight-faced. Not one laugh.

Taken will have moved on to other episodes by the time most of you read this. I hope the rest fly higher than the first.

Leslie Bohem and the Taken Schedule

Hollywood December 3, 2002 (eXoNews) - Just for the record, Taken creator and executive producer Leslie Bohem also wrote Dante's Peak and Nightmare On Elm Street 5.

And yes, Larry, he is the same Leslie Bohem who played bass for Sparks in the 80s!

And for the TV Geek, his grandfather Endre Bohem was the executive producer of the TV series Rawhide, which starred Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates.

So you're worried about missing Jag this Tuesday because of Taken? (Just kidding!) Well, Sci Fi Channel has the Taken plan for you.

The Spielberg Presents epic miniseries will be telecast twice a night at 9 PM and 1 AM, and each previous night's episode will be repeated at 7 PM.

What could be nicer? How about a rebroadcast of Episodes 1-5 on December 14, starting at 11 AM with Episode 5 at 7 PM, and Episodes 6-10 on December 15, again starting at 11 AM with Episode 10 at 7 PM.

If you actually read those archaic paper things, you can get data about the Thomas Cook novel based on Leslie Bohem's screenplay at 

Taken Star Believes in Aliens

HOLLYWOOD December 2, 2002 (AP) - For the star of "Steven Spielberg Presents Taken," the sci-fi romp is kind of close to home. 

That's because Dakota Fanning believes in aliens. She says when her mom was about eight, she reported seeing a space ship while driving with Dakota's grandmother. 

In "Taken," Dakota plays a little girl with alien powers. The 10-part mini-series starts tonight on the Sci-Fi Channel. 

Dakota says her mom recalls stopping the car after seeing lights in the form of a triangle hovering above a telephone line. No sound was heard from the lights and Dakota says it probably wasn't an airplane because it was too close to the ground. She also says when her grandmother got out of the car, the lights flew away. 

Dakota also played the little girl in "I Am Sam," which starred Sean Penn playing the character of a retarded father.

Check out the rest at the main Taken site -

Smothers Brothers Remembered on Bravo 

AP Television Writer

NEW YORK December 2, 2002 (AP) - How does a happy-go-lucky comedy show come to embrace the 1960s anti-war movement, give its network fits with satire goring every sacred cow in sight, then pass into legend by getting thrown off the air - all in roughly two years?

Just ask the Smothers Brothers, whose wrangle with CBS and the rest of the Establishment unfolds in "Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour'." Airing on Bravo Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST, it's the saga of a long-defunct show that endures as a time capsule. 

To examine the brief run of the "Comedy Hour" is to peek into the national psyche of the late 1960s, when Americans were counting their dead in Vietnam while clashing, even killing, at home. 

The Smothers show "was a sort of microcosm of what was happening in the streets," says "Smothered" producer-writer Maureen Muldaur, who loved watching it as a youngster. 

Of course, no one was looking for a street brawl when the "Comedy Hour" premiered in February 1967 - least of all, its stars. A pair of clean-cut, thirtyish lads, Tom and Dick Smothers landed the show on the strength of their comedy-music act whose premise everyone could laugh about: sibling rivalry. 

Dick was the calm, mature brother (with a standup bass to prove it) whose designated role was to gently scold the childish Tom (who played guitar) when he got too silly or disruptive. Tom's petulant, audience-pleasing comeback: "Mom always liked you best!" 

All in all, these brothers were about as avant-garde as Cain and Abel (though with lots more laughs). Then, soon after the "Comedy Hour" had premiered, Tom Smothers decided laughs weren't enough. 

Newly radicalized by that turbulent era, he gave the show's brash young writers (including Rob Reiner, Mason Williams and Steve Martin) his blessing to take on issues more pressing than which brother Mom liked best. More and more, their comedy was fueled by civil rights, gun control and the peace movement. 

While retaining certain mainstream elements (veteran stars like George Burns, Jack Benny and Bette Davis were among its guests), the "Comedy Hour" distinguished itself as TV's crash pad for the radic-lib illuminati, including Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez and blacklisted folk singer Pete Seeger. 

Nearly a decade before "Saturday Night Live" declared itself not ready for prime time, the Smothers Brothers held 16th place in the 1966-67 prime-time ranking - and did it scheduled against "Bonanza," TV's top-rated series. 

Clearly, they were ready for prime time. But was prime time ready for their growing zealotry? 

In interviews with the brothers as well as members of their creative team and guests, "Smothered" traces the arc of the show - its soaring popularity and comic daring, then the censorship squabbles that would bring it down. 

The fight began early. In only the ninth episode, CBS blue-penciled an entire sketch - ironically, a sketch satirizing network censors. Week after week, Tom Smothers grew more obsessed with resisting what he saw as an assault on his freedom of speech. 

He wasn't the only one who felt assaulted. At the White House on Sunday nights, President Johnson tuned in, unamused, as the show skewered him and his policies. Sometimes he watched with his friend, Frank Stanton, the head of CBS - or so says former CBS exec Mike Dann, who, through his boss, took the brunt of Johnson's disapproval. 

Along with Dann, former West Coast VP Perry Lafferty appears in "Smothered" to explain CBS' side of things. With the wistful manner of a father whose son just wouldn't listen, Lafferty recalls telling Tom "the harder you push, the harder (CBS is) gonna push back - and they're bigger than you are." 

The inevitable showdown took place in April 1969. CBS had demanded that a tape of that Sunday's episode be hand-delivered from Los Angeles for review at New York headquarters by the preceding Wednesday. 

The brothers dragged their feet at this latest imposition. The tape, somehow, didn't get there until Friday. It was too late, as a front-page headline of The New York Times proclaimed: "CBS to Drop Smothers Hour; Cites Failure to Get Previews." The brothers would successfully sue CBS for breach of contract, but their show had been, well, smothered. 

Nearly 34 years have passed since then, but fans still remember the show with gratitude for rising to the occasion. 

"It was an era of social unrest, and there we were with our series," Tom Smothers says. 

He is speaking by phone from Las Vegas, where he and Dick, now 65 and 63 respectively, are performing. 

As Smothers chats, he makes it clear his political views haven't softened through the decades. But politics is absent from the brothers' just-for-fun live act, the same way it was before their stormy TV run. 

The "Comedy Hour" was different, shaped by the '60s as much as by the brothers. 

"We were at the scene of the accident," Tom sums up.

Smothered premieres on Bravo Wednesday, December 4 at 8/7c and 11/10c. Encore presentations Thursday, December 5 at 5/4c & Saturday, December 14 at 2/12c.

Smothered Web Site - 

Smothers Brothers Official Site - 

Mothers Brothers 2003 Tour Info - 

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