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VX Nerve Agent!
Scalia Tape, X-Ray Vision
Feral Hogs! Smog! Speak Chimp?
Earth Impact and You!
VX Nerve Agent - NJ and Delaware Just Say No!

By Randall Chase
Associated Press

DOVER Delaware April 09, 2004 (AP) — Wastewater from the destruction of a Cold War–era nerve agent should not be treated in New Jersey, nor should its chemical byproducts be dumped into the Delaware River, the governors of New Jersey and Delaware said Thursday.

The Army plans to destroy VX nerve agent at the Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana, then ship the waste to DuPont's Secure Environmental Treatment facility in Deepwater, New Jersey, for final treatment and disposal.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey said it's "in the best interests of the citizens and natural resources of the states of Delaware and New Jersey" that the entire process happen in Indiana. The comments were contained in a letter to acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee.

Jeff Lindblad, a spokesman for the Army Chemical Materials Agency, said military officials would review the letter and respond to the issues raised by state officials.

The Army plans to neutralize the VX at Newport by mixing it with hot water and sodium hydroxide. The resulting chemical would be hydrolysate, which the Army and DuPont have compared to liquid drain cleaner.

The Army originally planned to ship the treated waste to Dayton, Ohio, for final disposal, but dropped that plan in the face of legal opposition.

A single drop of liquid VX can cause paralysis and death within minutes. The VX was scheduled to be destroyed by April 2007, but Congress accelerated the process after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Earlier Thursday, DuPont announced it would not accept an Army contract for the project until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention completes a formal review. That review was requested last month by the congressional delegations of Delaware and New Jersey.

Army Chemical Materials Agency - http://www.cma.army.mil/vx.html

Scalia Tape Grab Violates Free Speech

By HOLBROOK MOHR
Associated Press Writer 

JACKSON Mississippi April 9, 2004 (AP) - A deputy federal marshal violated the law and "the fundamental tenets of press freedom" when she ordered two reporters to erase recordings of a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a journalists' advocacy group said Thursday

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said in a letter that the marshal violated the Privacy Protection Act, which says government officers may not seize materials in the possession of people who plan to distribute them through public communication. 

"It is clear that the statute's purpose is to provide maximum protection for the news media against seizures of work product," the group wrote in a letter signed by Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish, Legal Defense Director Gregg Leslie and Kirsten Murphy, a legal fellow. 

Justice Department employees should receive approval from the attorney general before ordering a journalist to turn over work materials, the letter said.

Because the marshal failed to do so, her actions should lead to a reprimand or other disciplinary action, according to the letter. 

"We also urge that all such officials be reminded of the important interests at stake when dealing with the news media," the letter said. 

The letter was addressed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Marshals Service Director Benigno G. Reyna and Nehemiah Flowers, the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Mississippi. 

During a speech Scalia gave on the Constitution in Hattiesburg on Wednesday, a woman who identified herself as Deputy Marshal Melanie Rube demanded that a reporter for The Associated Press erase a tape recording of the justice's comments. 

The reporter initially resisted, but later showed the deputy how to erase the digital recording after the officer took the device from her. The marshal also made a Hattiesburg American reporter erase her tape. 

"We're very upset over the forced erasure of our reporter's tape and believe that crossed the line," AP Mississippi Chief of Bureau Frank Fisher said Thursday. "We hope that this will never happen again." 

Fisher added that the erasure "doesn't show a lot of respect for the First Amendment." 

Scalia gave two speeches Wednesday in Hattiesburg, one at Presbyterian Christian High School and the other at William Carey College. He did not warn the audience at the high school that recording devices would be forbidden, but issued a warning before the college speech. 

At a reception following Scalia's speech at William Carey, the justice told television reporters from Hattiesburg station WDAM-TV to leave. A member of his entourage also told newspaper photographers they could not take pictures, but a college official reversed the order after non-media guests started snapping photos. 

William Carey spokeswoman Jeanna Graves later apologized to the media. 

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said it is up to Scalia and his staff to set guidelines for coverage of his events. 

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and Marshals Service did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Thursday.

Most Americans Oppose Gay Marriage
LOS ANGELES April 11, 2004 (AP) - Most Americans oppose gay marriage and many believe homosexuality is "against God's will," but otherwise consider themselves tolerant of gays, according to a Los Angeles Times poll. 

By a margin of 55 to 41 percent, those polled agreed with the statement that "if gays are allowed to marry, the institution of marriage will be degraded." 

About half favored a U.S. constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, while 42 percent opposed it, according to the poll published Saturday on the newspaper's Web site. 

The telephone poll of 1,616 adults around the country was conducted from March 27-30. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

Other recent surveys have found at least half of Americans oppose gay marriage, but fewer support amending the Constitution to ban it. 

A CBS-New York Times poll last month found only 38 percent saying gay marriage is an "important enough issue to be worth changing the Constitution for," and an ABC-Washington Post poll found 54 percent saying the matter should be left to the states. 

Only about a quarter of those polled for the Los Angeles Times felt homosexuals should be allowed to legally marry and 38 percent believed they should be allowed to form civil unions. About a third said that neither type of union should be permitted. 

While about six in 10 people felt homosexual relationships are "against God's will," a similar percentage felt that legal recognition of same-sex marriages was inevitable. 

Sixty percent of those polled described themselves as sympathetic to the gay community. About the same percentage said they would be willing to vote for an openly gay political candidate.
X-Ray Vision - How Superman Sees Lightning

Florida Institute of Technology Press Release

April 8, 2004 - Florida Tech physicist Joseph Dwyer would be the first to admit that he's more Clark Kent than Superman. But the National Science Foundation CAREER award-winner is leading a group of scientists who are studying lightning using X-Ray detectors.

In so doing, they've learned how lightning might look to the Man of Steel. More importantly, they've learned that lightning is much more complex than once thought.

Dwyer and researchers from Florida Tech's Department of Physics and Space Sciences and the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing are the first to use X-ray detectors and rocket-triggered lightning to study nature's light show.

They discovered that lightning flickers in X-rays just as it does in visible light, but 10,000 times faster. Their research is published in this month's issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

"This is remarkable when you consider that a couple years ago, no one knew that X-rays were even emitted during lightning strikes," said Dwyer. "Now we're actually looking at lightning with X-rays, which allows us to see it in a brand new way."

In the study, X-rays were produced in bright bursts about one-millionth of a second apart.

As a reference, one could imagine that, viewed in X-rays, a lightning strike would look like a series of flashes descending from the cloud much like the flashbulbs popping around the stadium during a Super Bowl kickoff.

Further surprising to the scientists are the X-rays' energies.

"When we measured the energies of the X-rays, we found that they extended up to about twice the energy typically found in a chest X-ray," said Dwyer.

Scientists will continue to study the source of the X-rays, and what the effects are in both the atmosphere and to anyone on the ground near a strike.

"We are learning that many of our old ideas about lightning were wrong, and that's what makes this work so exciting," Dwyer said.

Al Qaeda Bomb Threat to Avoid Vacation
DUESSELDORF, Germany April 8, 2004 (Reuters) - A Croatian woman was convicted Thursday of disturbing the peace for phoning a bomb threat to Duesseldorf airport to get out of a vacation with her boyfriend. 

The woman was given a suspended sentence after admitting in court that she called authorities and, in a hoax, made an al Qaeda bomb threat because her parents disapproved of her boyfriend. 

"I didn't know how I would be able to tell my parents about a holiday with him and I couldn't really say to him 'Listen, my parents wouldn't approve'," the woman, 28, identified only as Marina B., told the Duesseldorf state court Wednesday. 

"Then I had the idea that if the trip could somehow be blocked by someone else, for example a bomb threat, then that would solve all the problems," she added. Her flight departed anyway, several hours late. 

The threat prompted authorities to shut down Germany's third busiest airport on a busy Sunday in September, stranding 64,000 people for hours, while police searched in vain for a bomb. 

Police initially arrested her boyfriend, after tracing the threatening phone calls to his cell phone, when the couple returned from Spain. He denied making the calls. 

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year jail sentence for the woman. But the court opted to give her a two-year suspended sentence. Separately, she faces a damage claim of 1.5 million euros ($1.9 million) from the airport and airlines.
Feral Hogs!

Texas A&M University Press Release

OVERTON – A Texas Cooperative Extension survey of 491 East Texas landowners indicates that feral hog populations dramatically increased during the last ten10 years. 

Prior to the survey, it was known that feral hog numbers were rapidly rising in East Texas starting in the mid-1980s.

But the survey indicated the rate of increase since the mid-1990s was nearly double of that of a few years earlier.

This rapid increase came as a surprise, said Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist, and conductor of the survey. 

Another surprise was the number of negative comments from landowners about feral hogs. The animals are hunted for sport in East Texas, but when those surveyed were invited to add comments, not one was positive. 

"I expected a few to say that they liked the supplemental income they received from leasing hunting rights, but not one had this or anything else good to say about feral hogs," Higginbotham said. 

One landowner wrote, "I fear allowing my grandchildren to go beyond the yard as they might be attacked by wild hogs." Another noted that his neighbor "has had colts and horses cut up because of feral hogs." 

Other comments ranged from a plaintive "please help" to an adamant "exterminate the things" to a constructive comment of "the state needs a program to get rid of these hogs." 

But though Extension's Wildlife Services division provides wild-animal control, its wildlife biologists have long backlogs, Higginbotham noted. And even if they weren't backlogged, no one is ever likely to eradicate feral hogs. A conservative estimate puts their numbers statewide at 1.5 million. 

"We don't really know how many there are. In West Texas, aerial surveys and the like can be conducted to give a fair idea, but in East Texas they have too much escape cover," he said. 

Higginbotham surveyed landowners from 40 East Texas counties. The survey questionnaire was originally designed by Higginbotham's colleague, Dr. Clark Adams, professor with the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. Adams' survey of landowners west of Interstate-35 also indicated a general trend of increasing hog numbers. 

"The reports leveled off some for the last five years, but it's still clear the dramatic rise of first-time sightings continued," Higginbotham said. 

Why the steady climb and then an increase? Did the feral hog population suddenly reach some sort of critical mass and then explode? Or was it just a matter of an increased awareness of feral hogs? 

Higginbotham frankly admits this is not known for sure, but from earlier attempts at a hog census, he expects it's just as it seems: Increased awareness by landowners may play a role, but the numbers are definitely rising. 

"Usually how landowners become aware they have feral hogs is when they start noticing damage, and that becomes more obvious as numbers increase," Higginbotham said. 

Feral hogs damage and dirty ponds and streams by wallowing, rooting up roads and hay fields, undermining fences and stealing livestock feed put out for livestock. Because they are aggressive and will eat some of the same foods, they will compete with white-tailed deer and other wildlife species.

When asked to evaluate the damage feral hogs have done since arriving, most of the landowners put the cost in the thousands of dollars. The average damage reported by all respondents was $4,184. 

Most of the landowners surveyed had tried some means of reducing the numbers. More than 40 percent reported they relied on shooting; the second popular method was trapping at 37 percent; with using trailing dogs coming in a distant third at 10 percent. The average spent by the respondents trying to manage and control feral hogs was $1,036. 

"Many landowners hate the thought of feral hogs on their properties because of crop and ranch facility damage, livestock depredation, disease transmission and competition for food with livestock and wildlife," Higginbotham said. 

On the flip-side, however, many hunters see feral hogs as an extremely popular game species. Another Extension survey done in 1993 reported hog hunters paid in a range of $25-$1000 for a hog hunt with the average price paid being $169. 

"This represents a real opportunity for those landowners already locked in a battle to reduce hog populations," Higginbotham said. 

Higginbotham also noted because feral hogs are elusive, usually nocturnal and prefer dense cover, shooting rarely has much effect upon the population. 

"The first recommendation is to use live-traps, and then bring in trailing and catch dogs. We know that Texas has more feral hogs than any other state. With 1.5 million in the state, we will never eradicate them. The best we can hope for is to keep their numbers under control," he said.

Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications - http://agnews.tamu.edu

Poirot to X-Box?

LONDON April 5, 2004 (AP) - Enthusiasts of mystery fiction will have the chance to play detective when some of Agatha Christie's classic books are brought to interactive life in computer games. 

Christie's grandson, Matthew Prichard, said Sunday that he has granted permission for his grandmother's work to be adapted for CD-ROM computer games. 

A series of five different computer games based on novels penned by the world-famous author will be developed by Chorion, an intellectual property group which already looks after Christie's works, over the next six years. 

"My grandmother was always very keen on using new ways to reach people who wanted to enjoy her work," Prichard said. "Adapting her stories into PC games allows us to introduce classic mysteries to whole new audiences and keep them relevant into the decades to come." 

Chorion has more than 79 different novels and short stories by the prolific writer to choose from for the games. More than 2 billion of Christie's books have been sold in over 45 different languages - she is outsold by only the Bible and Shakespeare. 

Born in 1890 in England, Christie was educated at home and began her writing career while she was a nurse during World War I. 

Her debut novel in 1920, "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," introduced her most famous detective, the eccentric Belgian Hercule Poirot. 

Christie ended her career in the same year she died - 1976 - with her final novel, "Sleeping Murder," featuring her other major lead character, Miss Jane Marple. 

Chorion has already undertaken a rebranding and relaunch of Christie's books, giving them new covers, to make them more accessible to modern readers.

Smog!

By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON April 9, 2004 (AP) — When the Environmental Protection Agency decides next week which counties violate its more protective federal smog standard, more than 500 counties could be on the list, mostly in the eastern third of the country and Southern California.

"This is a major event in clean air. This kind of event happens only every decade or so," EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said Thursday. "We list this under the banner of clean air, but it really is about longer lives and about better health and also economic prosperity."

States and counties were told by EPA in December they were being considered possible "nonattainment" areas. The agency in 1997 adopted a new standard for ground-level ozone, a precursor to smog, that requires state and local governments to cut pollutants from power plants or other sources according to deadlines varying three to 20 years.

More than 110 million people live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone, one of the leading causes of severe respiratory illnesses. Those areas also could include dozens of sites with the National Park Service, including several of its most popular national parks.

Leavitt told reporters summoned to his office Thursday that the agency will produce next week a final list of counties — up to 506 — that do not meet the more stringent air quality standards for ozone.

State and local officials will have three years to submit plans on how they intend to clean the dirty air and come into compliance.

Counties on the list also will be put into one of six categories, ranging from "marginal" to "extreme" noncompliance that require action such as vehicle inspections and maintenance programs, said Leavitt and other senior EPA officials.

The tougher smog requirement and a new standard for soot, or fine particles, was issued by the Clinton administration out of concern that vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illnesses were not adequately protected by the old standards.

The new standard is based on an eight-hour, rather than one-hour, measurement of smog averaged over three days. It also requires fewer parts per billion of ozone in the air, from 120 parts per billion down to 85.

Its implementation was delayed by failed court challenges by the trucking and other industries.
EPA officials had cited studies showing that longer-term exposures to moderate levels of ozone may cause irreversible changes in the lungs.

Leavitt said EPA was focusing on several major initiatives to clean the air, including a program to reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur releases from power plants and a requirement for cleaner diesel fuel and less polluting large truck engines.

In deciding which counties are violating the new standards, Leavitt minimized the significance of recent private meetings he had with members of Congress, such as Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Leavitt said the meetings let lawmakers air concerns, but his decisions would be based on the law's requirements.

Barton has been trying to remove Ellis County, part of his congressional district, from the list of smog-violation areas but has denied being influenced by campaign contributions from cement makers there that would benefit. His office had no immediate comment Thursday.

Pipeline Shooter Fined $17 Million
ANCHORAGE, Alaska April 9, 2004 (Reuters) — A man convicted of shooting at the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in October of 2001 and causing 285,000 gallons of crude to coat a forested area has been ordered to pay more than $17 million in restitution for the act, state officials said Wednesday.

It is highly unlikely that Daniel Lewis, now in jail in Fairbanks after receiving a 16-year sentence last June, will be able to come up with such compensation, officials acknowledged. Lewis, who shot the 800-mile oil line near its midpoint, has little employment history and only sparse sources of income, they said.

But at a restitution hearing in state Superior Court Tuesday, Judge Jane Kauvar determined that Lewis would be able to pay something for the damage he caused once he leaves jail, said Assistant Alaska Attorney General Kevin Burke, who prosecuted the case.

"What the judge found was he should be able to pay, while he's on probation, to pay $1,000 (a year)," Burke said.

The restitution is supposed to go to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the consortium that operates the pipeline and its marine terminal, Burke said. Alyeska spent at least $17 million cleaning up the spill, he said. The shooting forced the pipeline to shut down for two days, as Alyeska worked to plug the hole through which the oil was spewing. It also forced a near-shutdown of North Slope oil production.

Lewis was convicted in December 2002 of shooting the pipeline and causing the spill, the second-largest ever from a rupture or hole in the trans-Alaska pipeline. A jury found him guilty of criminal mischief, assault, and drunk driving, all felonies, and the misdemeanor counts of oil pollution and misconduct involving a weapon. Lewis is from Livengood, a small community north of Fairbanks and near the pipeline's midpoint. He has a long history of alcohol-fueled crimes.

Burke said the order demanding financial compensation was important, despite Lewis's limited resources.

"He did cause around $17 million, at least, in loss to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.," Burke said.

And the order also sends a message to others who might contemplate such acts of vandalism, he said.
Speak Chimp?

Zoological Society of London News Release

April 10, 2004 - The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is calling for volunteers to take part in a major new study into human and chimpanzee behaviors. Chimps are our closest living relatives, and as such share a variety of similarities, not only in genetic make-up but also in expression and behavior.

Animal behavior experts at ZSL are asking volunteers to 'talk chimp' in everyday life and see how primate patter can resolve workplace conflicts, express emotions and strengthen human bonds.
The results of this major study will be published later in the year to see just how 'talking chimp' can help in everyday life. 

To take part in the study, download our survey, then use the chimp behaviors in your everyday life, complete the survey and return it to be analyzed and included in our report to be published later in the year.

All completed surveys returned by 31st May 2004 will be entered into a free prize draw to win a family ticket to visit Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.

This research coincides with the opening of our new chimp facility at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, we are investigating these similarities to enable us to communicate even better with our chimps and to also see what we can learn when it comes to communicating with our human colleagues.

Download the survey (PDF format) - http://www.zsl.org/filelibrary/pdf/leaflet.pdf

Zoological Society of London - http://www.zsl.org

Trip to Mars - Cheap!

Russia April 9, 2004 (BBC) - A group of Russian space experts says it is planning a privately financed manned mission to Mars. One of the team, Georgy Uspensky of the Central Research Institute for Machine-Building, said it would happen within 10 years and cost $3-5bn. 

Aerospace Systems, a commercial company seeking to fund the project using private capital, suggested it could involve a reality TV show. But Russia's official space agency has dismissed the project as nonsense. 

The plan is for six cosmonauts to take a three-year round trip, including several months exploring Mars. The spaceship would be equipped with its own garden, to supply them with fresh fruit and vegetables. The experts said the craft would use parts already tried and tested at the International Space Station. 

It would be put together in orbit, centered on two inflatable modules with living space for a crew. Mr. Uspensky said the plan - of which the estimated were given as a fraction of those of US plans for a manned mission to Mars - had "good business potential". 

A real-time TV serial could be made from the lives of the crew, made up of both men and women, which could provide a return on investments in the project, the experts said. 

But a spokesman for Russia's Federal Space Agency said the project was unworkable. 

"I don't believe it is possible to carry out a manned expedition to Mars for this amount of money and in this timeframe," Sergey Gorbunov said. 

Earlier this week the US authorities issued a license for the first time to a company hoping to make a manned sub-orbital space flight in a privately owned rocket. The license clears the way for an attempt on the X-prize - for the first privately funded, non-governmental body that can launch a three-person craft into space twice in two weeks.

Russian Space Agency - http://www.rosaviakosmos.ru/english/eindex.htm

Earth Impact and You!

University of Arizona Press Release

April 9, 2004 - Next time an asteroid or comet is on a collision course with Earth you can go to a web site to find out if you have time to finish lunch or need to jump in the car and DRIVE!

University of Arizona scientists have launched an easy-to-use, web-based program that tells you how the collision will affect your spot on the globe by calculating several environmental consequences of its impact. 

The program is online at http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects 

You type in your distance from the predicted impact site, the size and type of projectile (e.g. ice, rock, or iron) and other information. Then the Earth Impact Effects Program calculates impact energies and crater size.

It next summarizes thermal radiation, seismic shaking, ejecta deposition (where all that flying stuff will land), and air-blast effects in language that non-scientists understand. 

For those who want to know how all these calculations are made, the web page will include "a description of our algorithm, with citations to the scientific sources used," said Robert Marcus, a UA undergraduate in the UA/NASA Space Grant Program.

He discussed the project recently at the 35th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference meeting in Houston, Texas.

Marcus developed the web site in collaboration with planetary sciences Regents' Professor H. Jay Melosh and research associate Gareth Collins of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Melosh is a leading expert on impact cratering and one of the first scientists reporters call when rumors of big, Earth-smashing objects begin to circulate. Reporters and scientists both want to know the same thing: how much damage a particular collision would wrack on communities near the impact site.

The web site is valuable for scientists because they don't have to spend time digging up the equations and data needed to calculate the effects, Melosh said. Similarly, it makes the information available to reporters and other non-scientists who don't know how to make the calculations.

"It seemed to us that this is something we could automate, if we could find some very capable person to help us construct the website," Melosh said.

That person turned out to be Marcus, who is majoring in computer engineering and physics. He applied to work on the project as a paid intern through the UA/NASA Space Grant Program. Marcus built the web-based program around four environmental effects. In order of their occurrence, they are:

1) Thermal radiation. An expanding fireball of searing vapor occurs at impact. The program calculates how this fireball will expand, when maximum radiation will occur, and how much of the fireball will be seen above the horizon. 

The researchers based their radiation calculations on information found in "The Effect of Nuclear Weapons." This 1977 book, by the U.S. Defense Department and U.S. Department of Energy, details "considerable research into what different degrees of thermal radiation from blasts will do," Melosh noted.

"We determine at a given distance what type of damage the radiation causes," Marcus said. "We have descriptions like when grass will ignite, when plywood or newspaper will ignite, when humans will suffer 2nd or 3rd degree burns."

2) Seismic shaking. The impact generates seismic waves that travel far from the impact site. The program uses California earthquake data and computes a Richter scale magnitude for the impact. Accompanying text describes shaking intensity at the specified distance from the impact site using a modified Mercalli scale This is a set of 12 descriptions ranging from "general destruction" to "only mildly felt." 

Now suppose the dinosaurs had this program 65 million years ago. They could have used it to determine the environmental consequences of the 15-kilometer-diameter asteroid that smashed into Earth, forming the Chicxulub Crater.

The program would have told them to expect seismic shaking of magnitude 10.2 on the Richter scale. They also would have found (supposing that the continents were lined up as they are now) that the ground would be shaking so violently 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away in Houston that dinosaurs living there would have trouble walking, or even standing up.

If the Chicxulub Crater-impact occurred today, glass in Houston would break. Masonry and plaster would crack. Trees and bushes would shake, ponds would form waves and become turbid with mud, sand and gravel banks would cave in, and bells in Houston schools and churches would ring from ground shaking.

3) Ejecta deposition. The team used a complicated ballistics travel-time equation to calculate when and where debris blown out of the impact crater would rain back down on Earth. Then they used data gathered from experimental explosions and measurements of craters on the moon to calculate how deep the ejecta blanket would be at and beyond the impact-crater rim. 

They also determined how big the ejecta particles would be at different distances from impact, based on observations that Melosh and UA's Christian J. Schaller published earlier when they analyzed ejecta on Venus.

OK, back to the dinosaurs. Houston would have been covered by an 80.8-centimeter- (32-inch-) thick blanket of debris, with particles averaging 2.8 mm (about 1/8th inch) in size. They would have arrived 8 minutes and 15 seconds after impact (meaning they got there at more than 4,000 mph). 

4) Air blast. Impacts also produce a shock wave in the atmosphere that, by definition, moves faster than the speed of sound. The shock wave creates intense air pressure and severe winds, but decays to the speed of sound while it's still close to the fireball, Melosh noted. "We translate that decreasing pressure in terms of decibels -- from ear-and-lung-rupturing sound, to being as loud as heavy traffic, to being only as loud as a whisper."

The program calculates maximum pressures and wind velocities based on test results from pre-1960s nuclear blasts. Researchers at those blasts erected brick structures at the Nevada Test Site to study blast wave effects on buildings.

The UA team used that information to describe damage in terms of buildings and bridges collapsing, cars bowled over by wind, or forests being blown down. 

Dinosaurs living in Houston would have heard the Chicxulub impact as loud as heavy traffic and basked in 30 mph winds.

Genre News: Returning TV Shows 2004-5, X-Files: The Movie II, 5 Days, Sky Captain, Joe Strummer & More!

What's Coming Back Next Fall and What Ain't?
By FLAtRich

April 10, 2004 (eXoNews) - USA Today is running their annual "Save Our Shows" Poll, asking visitors to decide what should happen to 12 TV shows that are on the verge of cancellation. 

Angel isn't on the list. Wonderfalls isn't on the list. Kingdom Hospital (I don't like it, but some of you do) isn't on the list.

The Handler, Boston Public, Game Over (thank God!), and The Practice aren't on the list.

That's because all of the above are already presumed dead. [There is a rumor that Wonderfalls has been picked up by a Canadian network - not that we would spread a rumor. Ed]

Your choices in the "Save Our Shows" Poll - those who are still too close to call, according to USA Today - are I'm With Her (ABC), It's All Relative (ABC), Happy Family (NBC), Whoopi (NBC), The District (CBS), The Guardian (CBS), Arrested Development (Fox), Tru Calling (Fox), Rock Me Baby (UPN), Star Trek: Enterprise (UPN), The Help (WB) and Steve Harvey's Big Time (WB).

I don't watch sitcoms much, so I've never even seen of some of these shows (I like Whoopi, but when is it on again?) There are others that I don't care a damn about, but if there is any genre justice in TVLand, you should all go vote for Tru Calling and Fox will see the results and sign our favorite future-seeing rewind gal up for another season.

Tru's new co-star - Jason Priestley as Jack Harper - may be The Angel of Death! That alone takes Tru Calling to a new, almost Chris Carter plateau of twistiness. (I am reminded of the Season Three MillenniuM episode where Jordan nearly drowned because The AOD showed up with a watch and only Frank Black could see him. They don't make 'em like that anymore - certainly not on Fox, at least.) It would be a crime not to let Tru Calling continue to evolve.

The only other show we worry about in the USA Today list is Star Trek: Enterprise. I won't go so far as to say I really care if it comes back now that Spike has started re-running DS9 weekdays, but the Federation should always live long and prosper.

Maybe Mr. Berman will hire back some of the writers and co-producers who made the franchise what it used to be - if he can coax them away from Dead Zone and Touching Evil. Maybe he'll get a new theme song?

So check out the USA Today "Save Our Shows" Poll. Voting continues through April 19th. The poll is at http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/save-our-shows.htm

As of this writing, Whoopi, The District and Star Trek: Enterprise were leading in the Keep category.

As for the shows that are definitely coming back, another article on the USA Today site names these: 24, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules, According to Jim, Alias, All of Us, American Dreams, Bernie Mac Show, Charmed (Yea!), Cold Case, Crossing Jordan (Yea!), CSI, CSI: Miami, ER, Eve, Everwood, Everybody Loves Raymond, George Lopez, Gilmore Girls, Girlfriends, Grounded for Life, Half & Half, Hope & Faith, JAG, Jamie Kennedy Experiment, Joan of Arcadia (Yea!), Judging Amy, King of Queens, King of the Hill, Las Vegas (Yea!), Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Less than Perfect, Life with Bonnie, Malcolm in the Middle, My Wife & Kids, Navy NCIS (Yea!), NYPD Blue, One on One, One Tree Hill, Reba, Scrubs, Smallville (Yea!), Still Standing, That '70s Show, The O.C., The Simpsons, The West Wing, Third Watch, Two and a Half Men, What I Like About You, Will & Grace, and Yes, Dear.

[I'm surprised That 70's Show is still on the air, aren't you? Talk about instant reruns! Ed]

With only a half a dozen personal favs returning, it looks like a vast wasteland for 2004-2005, but I suppose there's always a chance of something new on the boob tube to compete with all those boring old shows... Marnie Noxon's "Point Pleasant", maybe?

Those who ain't coming back (and we don't even get a vote on these) according to USA Today, are: 10-8, A Minute with Stan Hooper, All About the Andersons, Angel, Becker, Boomtown, Boston Public, Century City, Coupling, Cracking Up, Ed, Frasier, Friends, Game Over, Good Morning, Miami, Hack, Jake 2.0, Karen Sisco, Kingdom Hospital, L.A. Dragnet, Like Family, Luis, Lyon's Den, Married to the Kellys, Miss Match, Oliver Beene, Run of the House, Skin, Tarzan, The Big House, The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H., The D.A., The Handler, The Mullets, The Parkers, The Practice, The Stones, Threat Matrix, Tracy Morgan Show, Wanda at Large, and Wonderfalls.

We'll miss some, can't even remember others. Wanda deserved better. Who the hell is Stan Hooper?

Angel shouldn't be on this last list, of course, and you can still register WB as the Big Bad at various Save Angel campaign sites and our own eXoNews Angel Fan Poll.

Save Angel - http://www.savingangel.org

Angel Fan Poll - http://flatdisk.net/angel

Angel's Bell Rings on Alias

LOS ANGELES April 8, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - Jeffrey Bell, a writer and executive producer on "Angel," is jumping to another cult-favorite series when The WB show ends in May.

He will become a writer and co-executive producer of "Alias" next season as part of a deal with Touchstone TV, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The contract moves him to an executive producer spot for 2005-06.

Bell's move to "Alias" completes something of a Triple Crown of work on shows with complex back stories and deeply loyal fan bases. Prior to working on "Angel," Bell spent four seasons on "The X-Files" as a writer and executive story editor.

Since moving to "Angel" in 2001, Bell has written about a dozen episodes of the show, most recently this season's "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco."

ABC hasn't made any official announcements about "Alias'" place on its schedule next season, but it appears to be a virtual lock. Star Jennifer Garner has also said in recent interviews that the show will return.

Duchovny Says Carter is Readying Second X-Files Movie

Hollywood April 8, 2004 (AP) - David Duchovny expects that Mulder and Scully will ride again one day. Duchovny said a second big-screen installment of "The X-Files" remains in the works. Though he doesn't know the plot, Duchovny said "X-Files" creator Chris Carter has signed off on the story premise.

"I'm dying to hear it," the 43-year-old actor told The Associated Press in an interview for his new movie "Connie and Carla," starring Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette, which opens April 16. 

"So now it's just a matter of making sure everybody can get together at the same time and do it."

Duchovny starred as alien-hunting FBI agent Mulder for seven full seasons of "The X-Files," worked part-time for an eighth season and returned for the series finale at the end of season nine.

He and co-star Gillian Anderson, who played Mulder's skeptical partner, Scully, also starred in the 1998 movie version of "The X-Files."

"I'm at the point where I finally miss it," Duchovny said. "I wanted the grind to end, but I never wanted the show just to end. And I'd always had this fantasy and hope that it would be a movie franchise. Hopefully, this second movie will give it a foundation as such."

Mods in the Key of X - http://flatdisk.net/keyofx

Richard Clarke Goes Hollywood
By Gregg Kilday 

LOS ANGELES April 9, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Sony Pictures has optioned film rights to counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke's controversial best seller "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror." 

"Enemies" - which was published last month by the Free Press, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster - has been at the center of the current national debate about America's readiness to respond to terrorist threats before Sept. 11. Clarke, who worked in the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, appeared before the 9/11 Commission the week the book was published.

During that hearing, he testified that the Bush White House didn't consider terrorism "an urgent issue" in the months before the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington. 

His political memoir, currently in second place on Amazon.com's sales ranking, offers Clarke's assessment of the anti-terrorist efforts of the past four White Houses, all of which he worked in. 

The project will be produced at Sony by John Calley, the veteran entertainment executive who stepped down as the studio's chairman and CEO in the fall.

Randy Quaid in Five Days 

Hollywood April 8, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Randy Quaid, who plays a homicide detective in SCI FI Channel's upcoming miniseries Five Days to Midnight, told SCI FI Wire that his character finds it hard to believe a message supposedly sent from the future.

Timothy Hutton plays a professor who receives a case file for his own impending murder and gives it to Quaid's character to investigate.

"He's disbelieving at first," Quaid said in an interview. "He thinks it's a hoax. But then gradually things start to happen that make him realize that it's not a hoax."

Quaid added that the miniseries focuses on mystery rather than action.

"It's got action in it, but it's not primarily action," he said. "It's more a psychological, quirky, eerie kind of feel to it. And it's got a nice surprise twist ending."

Five Days to Midnight premieres at 9 p.m. ET/PT June 7 and will air for five consecutive nights.

Five Days to Midnight - http://www.scifi.com/fivedays

Princess of Mars Lost?

Hollywood April 6, 2004 (Variety) - Robert Rodriguez's resignation from the DGA has jeopardized Paramount's development of its tentpole pic "A Princess of Mars." 

The problem: As a DGA signatory, Par is required to employ only guild directors. 

Rodriguez's recent move to leave the DGA was triggered by his desire to co-direct "Sin City" for Dimension Films with Frank Miller, who created, wrote and illustrated the three-book graphic novel series on which the "Sin City" pic is based. 

"We are in discussions with Mr. Rodriguez and are trying to come up with a solution," said Rob Friedman, vice chair and chief operating officer of Paramount's motion picture group.

Insiders close to Rodriguez insist that -- at least for now -- he is unwilling to rejoin the Directors Guild just to direct "Princess of Mars." 

DGA rules dictate that there be only one director assigned to direct a motion picture at any given time, although the guild occasionally grants a waiver, such as with the Coen brothers. 

The DGA issued the following statement: "When it comes to creative judgment, vision, leadership and decisionmaking ... co-directing generally does not work. Having said that, there are exceptional circumstances where two individuals have demonstrated an ability to reflect a singular vision through previous directing experience, which the DGA has always supported through the granting of waivers to bona fide co-directing teams." 

Rodriguez, who is in production in Austin, Texas, on "Sin City," was not available for comment Thursday.

When Rodriguez resigned last month, he portrayed his departure as reflecting his unorthodox plans for "Sin City" -- such as having Quentin Tarantino helm part of the film, possibly using a "special guest director" title that would not be available under DGA guidelines. 

Rodriguez also quit the DGA a decade ago so he could take part in the Tarantino-orchestrated film "Four Rooms." He told Daily Variety last month that the co-directing credit for Miller would more accurately reflect how the film will be made. 

"I didn't want Frank (Miller) to be treated as just a writer, because he is the only one who has actually been to 'Sin City,' " Rodriguez said. "I am making such a literal interpretation of his book that I'd have felt weird taking directing credit without him." 

Par-based Alphaville Prods., partnered with Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios, plans to begin shooting early next year. Pic is based on the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs' 11-volume "John Carter of Mars" series. Producers will be Alphaville toppers Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks with Rodriguez and producing partner Elizabeth Avellan, as well as online movie industry pundit Harry Knowles. 

Mark Protosevich is scripting; cast has not yet been set. Budget is said to top $100 million due to extensive CGI. Goal is to match the scale and scope of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Lifetime Pulls Plug on Coven
By John Dempsey

NEW YORK April 6, 2004 (Variety) - Lifetime has scrapped all series plans for its two most highly touted 60-minute pilots: Sony Pictures TV's "Class Actions" and Lions Gate TV's "The Coven." 

Demise of the two series proposals has bolstered the chances that Lifetime will give a fifth-season go-ahead to "The Division," the network's Sunday night police series from Viacom Prods. that is wrapping up production on its fourth season. 

Lifetime was taking a hard look at "Division" because its ratings have fallen off in the first quarter by 30% among 18-49 for nine original episodes, and by 24% in total viewers. But "Division" still averages a 2 rating, which is well above Lifetime's primetime average and one key gauge of success for a series. 

Upping the chances that "Division" will get a fifth season is that creator-exec producer Deborah Joy LeVine will be free to concentrate on the show; she had shifted over to writer and co-exec producer of "Class Actions," which would've claimed her attention if it had gone to series. 

The "Class Actions" pilot, directed in Vancouver by co-exec producer Charles Haid, featured Diane Venora as a high-powered Gotham lawyer who moves to a small town to teach at the local university. Tangi Miller played a law student. 

"The Coven" pilot, shot in Toronto by exec producers Charlie Craig and Gale Anne Hurd, dealt with a group of modern-day witches. Lions Gate and Hurd's Valhalla TV were touting it as "The Witches of Eastwick" meets "The Stepford Wives." 

Lifetime commissions more scripted original series for adults than any other cable network. 

In addition to "The Division," Lifetime earlier greenlit a fifth season of Sony Pictures TV's "Strong Medicine," which also experienced a falloff in total viewers and adult women.

Lifetime also has given a go-ahead to second seasons of "1 800 Missing" and "Wild Card," its two Saturday primetime hourlong melodramas, which premiered last summer. Each will get an 18-episode run.

Lifetime - http://www.lifetimetv.com

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 

Hollywood April 8, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Kerry Conran, the novice director who is helming the live-action/computer-animated SF movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, told SCI FI Wire that its production was like making a movie in reverse.

"I think it's minimally an evolutionary way to make a movie," Conran said in an interview. "I hope it opens up the door a little bit for [filmmakers]."

Conran created the movie's story and backgrounds in a computer, then went out and shot real actors (Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie) against blue screens. The actors were then digitally composited into the film's environments, which were enhanced in post-production.

Sky Captain is set in a mythical 1930s-era New York and deals with a spunky reporter (Paltrow) who researches the mysterious disappearance of prominent scientists when a squadron of giant flying robots invades. The movie owes its look and feel in part to old-time film serials.

Using computer-generated environments greatly reduces the cost of making movies, Conran said. "It's hard to say whether or not Hollywood would embrace this wholesale, but I think it's a very viable thing for the independent market," said Conran, who began the project as a less expensive alternative to traditional filmmaking.

"I do think, given how expensive films have gotten, to some extent, they're going to have to [embrace it]. They have to start thinking of something to do a little differently. I don't think they can keep edging up these budgets the way they are.

"I'm [not so much] concerned about how much these films cost, [but] that they can't afford to be terribly risky with them, and so what you get are films that ... may be very entertaining, but they're very safe. And they're very much generic in their own way."

Sky Captain opens June 25th.

Official Sky Captain - http://www.skycaptain.com

NYC Premiere Set for Strummer Documentary

NEW YORK April 9, 2004 (Billboard) - The Joe Strummer documentary "Let's Rock Again!" will receive its world premiere next month at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.

Produced by Strummer and longtime friend Dick Rude, the one-hour film was shot over the 18 months leading up to the late-Clash frontman's untimely December 2002 death. 

"It has been my blessing to share with the world an intimate portrait of such a passionate and humble man," Rude said in a statement "Joe was a true hero. His music changed people's lives. His love affected me profoundly. I am proud of the story he has allowed me to tell, but I would trade it all in a heartbeat to have him back."

"Let's Rock Again!" opens with a montage of Clash-era footage of Strummer before ultimately settling into his stint fronting the Mescaleros. The film includes everything from performance footage to interviews with the subject, and spotlights public reaction to Strummer ranging from fanatical in Japan to indifferent in the United States. 

The documentary, which does not yet have a distributor, will screen twice at the Tribeca Film Festival: May 7 at 9:45 p.m. and the next day at 11:30 p.m. 

Rude wrote and starred in 1987's "Straight to Hell," which featured a cast that included Strummer and Courtney Love. The film also featured appearances by Grace Jones, Elvis Costello, his then-wife Cait O'Riordan and her Pogues bandmates Shane MacGowan and Spider Stacy. 

Rude has also appeared in the films "Roadside Prophets," "Sid and Nancy" (to which Strummer contributed music) and "Repo Man." 

In related news, Strummer's family and friends are launching the Strummerville charitable foundation for the promotion of new music. "The aim of Strummerville is to provide aid to groups and organizations to fund the purchase of musical instruments, studio and rehearsal time; to enable the production of music by creative young people who would otherwise be prevented from doing so simply because they lack the necessary funds," according to Strummer's official Web site - http://www.strummersite.com

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