ANWR Oil Drilling,
Disrobe To Disarm, MEMS,
Molecular Motors, Cloning Cheetah,
Anger, Early Humans & More!
Bush Slips ANWR Oil Drilling Into Budget
By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON February 04, 2003 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's proposed budget, released Monday, calls for Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and begin leasing tracts in the refuge to oil companies in 2005. 

In his budget submitted to Congress, Bush said leasing ANWR land would raise $2.4 billion in leasing fees in 2005, and half that amount would go toward increased funding for the Energy Department's renewable energy technology research programs over a seven-year period.

The administration said it wants to lease between 400,000 acres (161,874 hectares) and 600,000 acres (242,811 hectares) in the refuge's coastal plain in 2005.

The refuge sprawls across 19 million acres (7.7 million hectares), but only the area's 1.5-million-acre (607,000-hectare) coastal plain would be accessible to energy companies.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said on Monday the administration would still support a compromise that Republican lawmakers offered last year to limit drilling activities in ANWR to just 2,000 acres (809 hectares) at any one time in the 1.5 million acres that would be opened to exploration.

Assuming that oil companies may collectively take at least one week to explore 2,000 acres, and drilling activities would only occur in the winter months in order not to disturb wildlife, it could take between eight and 12 years to fully explore the 400,000 to 600,000 ANWR acres the administration wants to offer in just the first round of leasing.

Last year the Senate, which was Democrat-led at the time, soundly defeated efforts to open the refuge when drilling supporters fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate on the controversial proposal and allow a final vote on the measure.

This year senate Republicans who support ANWR drilling will likely seize on the administration's estimate of how much money would be brought in from leasing fees.

Backers of drilling in the refuge want to add enabling language to the 2004 budget bill, which cannot be filibustered and would need only 50 votes to pass. Vice President Dick Cheney would be expected to break any tie vote in the 100-member Senate in favor of ANWR drilling.

The Senate's parliamentarian would have to decide whether Senate rules allow an ANWR drilling provision to be added to the budget bill. Drilling proponents claim such language is appropriate for budget legislation because it would raise money for the government.

The administration's plan to open the refuge to drilling suffered a setback on Friday as six Republican senators said they opposed using the must-pass 2004 budget bill to give oil companies access to ANWR. They argue that drilling in the refuge should be fully debated on the Senate floor and not injected into the budget process.

The Interior Department estimates the refuge could hold between 5.7 billion and 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If ANWR were opened, it would take about eight years before the area reached full oil production.
Were Budget Cuts to Blame?
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor

February 4, 2003 (BBC) - As NASA looks for the cause of the Columbia disaster, experts are asking if budget cuts in space shuttle funding in recent years contributed to the accident. Over the past decade, NASA's total budget has declined in real-spending dollars. The budget for the space shuttle has fallen by 40% in real terms since 1990. 

Last year, an expert safety panel said that trouble was looming if NASA's budget was not increased. NASA officials point out that while they recognized more money was needed, no space shuttle mission had been compromised on safety. 

The decline in the space shuttle's budget mirrors the long-term decline in space funding. 

In the 1960s - the time of the Cold War race to the Moon - NASA got 5% of the federal budget. Today, that is down to less than 1%. Next year's budget calls for NASA's funding to rise 3.1% to $15.5bn in 2004, including a 23.9% boost for the shuttle itself to $3.97 billion. 

The Columbia disaster puts these plans in doubt as NASA seeks to determine the cause of the orbiter's loss. Questions are already being asked about funding for the space shuttle program, which was cut by 1.9% in the 2003 budget.

US Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens has said he would look into any additional funding needs NASA might have in light of the tragedy. 

"Clearly the funding for NASA has been very, very tight," says Rep Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "Hopefully, we will not find that under-funding was the cause of this accident." 

Support for increased funding could well grow as Congress weighs information coming in from the probes into last weekend's loss of the space shuttle. Such an increase could reverse what some analysts have called a period of budgetary benign neglect by previous administrations, made more difficult by the space agency's inability to control mushrooming costs on the International Space Station. 

NASA is requesting $1.7bn for the space station for the next year. 

The message that NASA needs to reform its budget looks likely to be heeded by Sean O'Keefe, NASA's new administrator, a projects and funding specialist. Late last year, the White House sent Congress an amendment to the 2003 budget asking for more money to extend the time needed to produce shuttle replacements, and provide the upgrades needed to keep the current shuttle fleet operating as safely as possible. 

NASA's 2004 budget request summarizes the situation succinctly: "Past management of shuttle investments suffered from unclear planning and cost overruns.""
Chinese Deny Discovery of America
BEIJING, China January 28, 2003 (AP) - Forgive Gavin Menzies for feeling a little defensive.

His book, "1421: The Year China Discovered America," may be selling briskly in the United States, but his extraordinary theory that Chinese explorers reached the New World decades before Christopher Columbus is proving a tougher sell to academics -- even here in China.

"Nonsense," declares China's Zheng He Association, which celebrates the exploits of Zheng He, the very explorer Menzies says directed ships around the globe a century before Ferdinand Magellan.

But Menzies isn't fazed. "I don't see how any fair-minded person who reads the evidence can come to any other conclusion other than the Chinese did get to America before Europeans," he said in a telephone interview from New York, where he was promoting his book.

If only it were that simple.

China in the early 15th century was a great seafaring nation. No dispute there. Huge Chinese ships bearing silk, porcelain and other treasures made epic expeditions at the emperor's behest.

Commanded by the admiral Zheng He, the ships traveled from China down to Indonesia, west to India, and as far as East Africa. But this is where Menzies departs from established history. He says he has found proof that the Chinese ships sailed on -- around the Cape of Good Hope and all the way to the Americas, with some ships even crossing the Pacific back to China.

Menzies, a former submarine commander in Britain's Royal Navy, insists not only that Chinese beat Columbus but that European explorers who reached the Americas did so with maps copied from the Chinese.

"All of the great European explorers set sail with maps showing their destinations," Menzies said.

His book, published in the United States this month, entered The New York Times' nonfiction best-seller list two weeks later at No. 8. Menzies says he has received support for his work but concedes that some experts have expressed strong reservations. His critics argue that China's huge wooden ships couldn't have survived the rough Atlantic voyage. Some also say Chinese and European cartography at the time was so different that the maps couldn't have been reconciled.

Others call his book "rubbish from beginning to end," Menzies acknowledges. That includes some in China, even though the book hasn't been published here.

"It's crazy talk," said Wang Xiaofu, a history professor at Peking University. "We absolutely do not accept this theory."

Many Chinese authors have presented similar theories over the years. Some even argue that Chinese settled the Americas 3,000 years ago, Wang said. But most tales mix fact and legend.

"In ancient times, there were a lot of fairy stories," he said.

Still, legends of Chinese supremacy underpin the country's fierce nationalism. Sinophiles like to point out that Chinese invented everything from fireworks to spaghetti and made significant contributions to modern mathematics, agriculture and astronomy.

"China discovered America first? I already knew that," said a Beijing store clerk who gave only her family name, Han. "China has been a country of advanced culture since ancient times."

Others aren't so sure. "I read about this theory in a newspaper, but I don't believe it," said Li Xuehui, a 30-year-old office worker. In ancient times, she said, "they didn't have the concept that the world was round."

At Peking University, archaeologist Lin Meicun says that in 20 years of studying ancient Chinese migration, he has found no convincing signs of China's early settlement of the Americas. Such talk, he said, "is not science. It's science fiction."

Menzies, who lives in London, had sailed the routes of Columbus, Magellan and other European explorers when he was a naval officer. He writes that his knowledge of maps and using the stars for navigation led to his theory, and that his research took him to 120 countries and every major port of the late Middle Ages. He is hardly the first to challenge the story of discovering America.

There is evidence of Viking settlements in North America 500 years before Columbus. And humans are believed to have walked from Asia across the Bering Strait when it was covered with ice to become American Indians. Columbus' achievement was not so much to discover America as to open it to European conquest and competition to settle the New World.

And China, by the middle of the 15th century, had isolated itself. Its treasure-bearing ships were summoned back, and the emperor forbade overseas travel. China had halted all exploration, leaving the world to Europe.
Disrobe to Disarm!
By Andrew Hornery with Alexa Moses

Sydney February 5 2003 (SMH) - They take their nudity seriously up Byron Bay way, which is probably why this weekend's Reclaim the Bush event - also known as Disrobe to Disarm - is shaping up to be such a roaring success.

Singer Grace Knight, a Byron shire local and nationally recognized pop and jazz star, has been mustering support over the past week from women who are frustrated with what seems an inevitable war against Iraq. 

Knight and her Byron sisterhood plan to take their clothes off and pose naked this Saturday in the lush hills around the hamlet of Federal to form giant letters spelling "No War", inspired by women in the United States and Europe who have undertaken similar stunts recently.

"It's the only way we will be noticed and heard," explained Knight from her Byron Shire home yesterday. 

"I've been busy writing material for a new album and everything I have been writing has ended up being about war ... I just kept getting so upset about it that I couldn't write any more."

Through chain emails and word of mouth, the women of Byron Shire have been notified about Reclaim the Bush.

"I really want this thing to snowball so that our Prime Minister will finally get to hear what some of the women in this country think," Knight said. "There are no men allowed. I, like a lot of the other women, are not too keen showing off out tits and fannies in public, and the presence of men there would make it even more difficult."

The exact location is also being kept secret. Women are being to told to meet at 8.30am at a marshalling point in Federal before being taken to the location where, once they've disrobed, a small light plane carrying photographers will fly over taking shots to be distributed to the media.

"If this is the only way we can get attention and get our message across, then so be it," Knight said.

You can read Knight's anti-war lyrics at Margo Kingston's Webdiary - 
Carrickminders Face Eviction
Carrickmines Castle, Ireland February 2, 2003 ( - Protesters who have spent the past five months occupying the ruins of Carrickmines Castle in Co Dublin could face eviction if a High Court rules they are trespassing.

Legal proceedings began last week to try to evict the group from the archaeological site of the castle to make way for the construction of the M50 motorway. If Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council obtains a trespass order at the High Court tomorrow, any protesters on the site could face arrest for contempt of court.

The protesters – who call themselves the Carrickminders – last week marked their 150th day living in an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of the ruins. Mr. Justice Gilligan will hear the case against Vincent Salafia, Gordon Lucas and others who have been occupying the site.

The group has vowed to block all attempts to interfere with the archaeological remains and have been supported by conservationists, historians and local politicians.

Last week about 30 protesters stopped archaeologists' attempts to remove part of a fosse (stone-lined ditch), which the council intends to preserve nearby. The removal of the fosse would allow for work on the South Eastern Motorway to go ahead on the site. Carrickmines consists of two large enclosures filled with objects of archaeological interest.

Although the remains of the castle itself have not been uncovered, the site's key features include the castle gateway, a guard tower and the 12th century fosse. Excavations have been taking place at the site for the past two years, during which time archaeologists have uncovered tens of thousands of artifacts including coins, pottery and the remains of settlements around the castle.

Opponents have argued that adjustments announced by the Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan will do little to preserve the site.

The roundabout feeding on to the motorway at Carrickmines is to be tilted to preserve certain archaeological features, with two medieval structures to be retained adjacent to the road. The Green Party has called for a compromise over the route of the motorway, claiming that minor changes would safeguard the setting of the castle complex.

With work on the motorway already under way on either side of the Carrickmines site, council officials say any delays caused by the protesters would cost €50,000 - €100,000 euros a week.
MEMS Arrive!
University of California Press Release

February 3, 2003 - Though many people have never heard of them, the emerging realm of micro-scale devices -- called microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS -- could completely change the medical, automotive and aerospace industries, except for one thing. No battery yet exists that will provide long-lasting power and still fit inside devices smaller than the width of a human hair. 

Bruce Dunn, a materials science professor from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, believes a radical new design for a lightweight, rechargeable battery -- a design based on three-dimensional geometry -- will provide power to a host of devices so small that traditional batteries simply cannot be used. "Our team of engineers and chemists are establishing the enabling science for a new battery that represents a real paradigm shift," Dunn said. 

Much larger consumer electronic devices such as laptop computers and cell phones currently use traditional, two-dimensional batteries, each with positive and negative electrodes stacked upon one another like sheets of paper. In order to give the battery more power, more layers of electrodes are added, making the battery bigger and heavier.

While this may work for laptops, says Dunn, when one attempts to shrink these types of batteries down to the size required to power a MEMS device, it lacks the energy to do the job. 

The UCLA-led team proposes changing from two-dimensional sheets of electrodes to rods arranged in a three-dimensional array in which hundreds of rods are stacked next to each other like tubes on a flat-bed truck.

Each rod is only a thousandth of a centimeter in size. This design keeps the battery compact and the distance the ions have to travel short, which is important. "A more efficient path for the movement of ions means less power loss and a longer-lasting battery," Dunn said. 

The group is currently designing a battery roughly five millimeters in size, which presents significant design challenges. "We're going to use fairly well-known lithium battery materials," Dunn said. "The hard part is fabricating it into a structure. That's where the real engineering emphasis will be." 

UCLA professor C.J. Kim, from the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is an expert in micromachining techniques. He and his students are creating silicon chips to be used as molds. The electrode materials are placed in the molds, left to harden, and finally the silicon mold is etched away, leaving behind the three-dimensional battery electrode structure. 

Batteries this small are necessary to run MEMS devices used in the medical, automotive and aerospace industries. For example, doctors could use implantable devices that deliver drugs or protect transplanted cells. Other devices could be used to automate blood, tissue and cellular analysis at much lower costs than conventional techniques. 

Though the research team is focused on finding a way to provide power to MEMS devices, there could be far-reaching implications for other more common electronic products. The need for a lightweight battery that will not sacrifice energy for small size is only going to grow as cell phones and video cameras shrink in size. Already, up to 35 percent of a laptop's total weight comes from its battery, and electronic product manufacturers are busily searching for more lightweight power alternatives. 

Dunn believes it will be a while before 3-D battery designs make it into the consumer market. "The portable power market is so vast that if we are very successful, I am sure our concepts and designs will be used to try to make 3-D power supplies. But probably not for at least another five years." 

The group, which is in the first year of a five-year collaborative effort funded by a $4 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, includes researchers from the University of Florida, the University of Utah and other UCLA faculty members, including chemistry professors Fred Wudl and Sarah Tolbert, who are leading the effort toward 3-D processing of the electrode materials in the battery. 

Dunn says there are a number of unknowns associated with 3-D battery design. "The field is wide open," he said. "It's exciting. We have the opportunity to take electrochemical materials and designs in a new direction."

Bush Plan Seeks More Sierra Logging
By Bettina Boxall 

Washington February 4, 2003 (LA Times) - The Bush administration is drafting a proposal that would greatly increase logging in national forests in the Sierra Nevada and effectively jettison an elaborate set of environmental protections adopted in 2000 after years of study and analysis. 

Complaining that the rules, written by the Clinton administration, are too restrictive and complicated, the U.S. Forest Service is considering replacing them with a much looser set of guidelines that could permit a level of timber cutting not seen in the Sierra for more than a decade. 

As currently outlined, the revisions would retain the largest and oldest trees in federal forests, but would permit the harvesting of trees as large as 30 inches in diameter across most of the range.

They would also allow loggers to create thousands of acres of openings in forests, as large as 2 acres apiece, throughout the Sierra. 

The recommendations have not been publicly released, and regional forest service officials declined to discuss them in detail, saying they remain under review and may change over the next six weeks.

"It's a draft of a draft," said Matt Mathes, spokesman for the Forest Service in California.

Molecular Motors!
Purdue University News Release

WEST LAFAYETTE IN February 4, 2003 – The Purdue University research team that recently created a tiny motor out of synthetic biological molecules has found further evidence that RNA molecules can perform physical work, a discovery that could advance nanotechnology and possibly solve fundamental mysteries about life itself.

Purdue's Peixuan Guo has discovered how viral RNA molecules bind an energy-bearing organic molecule known as ATP. While linking these two substances might seem to create no more than a longer string of letters, the upshot is that now one of life's most mysterious and ancient storehouses of information can be moved by one of its most important fuels. The discovery could shed light on the fundamental role RNA plays in the creation of living things. 

"RNA could be even more of a key player than we realize," said Guo, professor of veterinary pathobiology in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. "The fact that it can be made to bind ATP in the phi29 virus could imply that these two molecules were among the first to partner in Earth's dance of life."

On a more practical level, the discovery could have immediate technical applications – such as driving a Lilliputian motor of the sort Guo's team has recently constructed. 

"I think RNA can be made to do mechanical work," he said. "ATP binding could power a motor made of six strands of RNA, and we are now exploring the myriad possible applications of such a tiny mechanism."

DNA, RNA and ATP are substances long known to be central to life's processes, but knowledge about their many functions in living things is still emerging. Several years ago, scientists were stunned by the discovery that some forms of RNA – well-known as the "messenger molecule" that carries instructions between DNA strands in a cell's nucleus – could serve as a catalyst for important chemical reactions in the body. The discovery of these RNA catalysts, called ribozymes, convinced many scientists that RNA probably existed on earth before DNA or complex proteins, the two other ingredient molecules necessary to create life. 

"There are thousands of kinds of RNA in your body," Guo said. "Most varieties have an unknown function. When ribozymes were discovered, it taught us that RNA was probably responsible for the creation of other complex biological molecules. RNA might be more significant to life on earth than we imagined a few years ago."

The research appears in the February Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Read the rest of this article (it gets very technical) here - 
Ancient Mexican Diversity
By Alberto Cabezas

Mexico City, January 29, 2003 (EFE via COMTEX) - Recent archaeological excavations in Greater Mexico City suggest the Aztecs, far from being a homogeneous people, were an aggregate of diverse groups who conquered their enemies without wiping out their languages and traditions. 

"The problem is that we call everything pre-Columbian that shows up in Mexico City Aztec. But that term should not be employed," said Maria Flores Hernandez, archaeologist in charge of the most recent excavations in Tacubaya, west of the capital. 

The Aztecs, also known as Tenochas and Mexicas, originated in the legendary Aztlan, whose precise location remains a mystery. They emigrated to the Valley of Mexico, where they founded their city in 1325. 

Over time, the warlike people populated the valley and conquered and assimilated the other residents, but did not totally wipe out their culture and symbols of identity. 

In mid-January, Flores identified the remains of a Tepaneca grave in an western area of Mexico City where a utility company was digging underground. Since that work began, four graves and concentrations of ceramics have been dug up, all dating back to the late 15th and early 16th centuries. 

"The Tepanecas were a remarkable group in Mexico's history, because they controlled the region, the Mexican basin, until the Mexicas-Tenochas, allied with Texcoco and Tlacopan, defeated them," Flores said. 

At the time, the Tepanecas lived in a broad arc of settlements divided among the Azcapotzalco, Tlacopan, Tacubaya, Mixcoac and Coyoacan neighborhoods. 

"Beginning with that victory, the Mexicans are the ones to go down in history, extending their empire into Chiapas in the south and Jalisco in the north," Flores said. 

The archaeologist also recounted how Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and his allies from Tlaxcala and Texcoco defeated the Mexicas, who from the beginning of their expansion in 1430 became the most firmly entrenched power in Meso-America. 

"I don't like the term Aztec. It's obvious they were all related. That's the Meso-American phenomenon. In many cases, the rites, the language were the same, but each people defined and recognized itself differently," Flores explained. 

The Mexican capital, built during the colonial period on the remains of pre-Columbian buildings the Spanish conquerors had destroyed, continues to yield archaeological treasures every time public works are undertaken. On Donceles Street, near the Templo Mayor (Great Temple), another archaeological team has found remains that reinforce the hypothesis that the Mexicas' ceremonial center was more complex than was believed, lacking large open spaces. Though new remains are always cropping up, Flores complains that funding for her work is constantly shrinking. 

"Everyone knows that most of the country is an archeological zone," Flores continued, wondering why the past was not taken more into account in the city's modern development. 

Among the problems created by rampant population growth, one that stands out is the lack of protection afforded resources like water, which pre-Columbian people controlled through dikes and canals. Flores also highlighted the paucity of green spaces within the city, which politicians divvyed up among their friends with no respect for laws and regulations. 

All of these ills derive from "a terrible power struggle" and cause the memory and wealth of the past to be lost, she continued. 

After 23 years working in different areas around the capital, Flores has concluded that the city's only hope for survival is to halt its demographic explosion by creating more job opportunities in the countryside. 

"Perhaps we should protect the environment more and as a result make it possible to reclaim our past," she said.
India Wants Iranian Cheetahs for Cloning
BANGALORE, India January 31, 2003 (Reuters) - A leading Indian research institute has asked Iran to loan it a pair of cheetahs or offer some cells to clone an animal that has been extinct in India for about half a century, its chief said on Friday. 

The Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology based in Hyderabad made the proposal to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during a visit to the southern city earlier this week. 

"I have proposed cloning where it is not possible to multiply them by regular or assisted breeding," Lalji Singh, the director of the institute, told Reuters. 

The cheetah is a leopard-like member of the cat family and is the fastest animal on land, capable of reaching 60 mph in short spurts. 

It disappeared from India following large-scale hunting during British rule that ended in 1947 but is still found in parts of Iran. 

In cloning, the nucleus is removed from a female's egg cell and replaced with the nucleus from a cell of the animal to be cloned. Singh said the institute was setting up a large laboratory to revive endangered species such as the cheetah under the 110 million rupee ($2.3 million) project. 

He said an Indian leopard could serve as a surrogate mother for a cloned cheetah, adding that although the Iranian cheetahs were small in number they were identical to the species that disappeared from India.
Earliest Star Chart Found
By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery News

Alb-Danube, Germany January 29, 2003 (Discovery) — A 32,000-year-old ivory table has revealed what might be the oldest image of a star chart, according to new research to be published by the European Society for Astronomy in Culture.

Found in 1979 in a cave in the Alb-Danube region of Germany, the small rectangular mammoth ivory plate shows an anthropoid figure, and a row of 86 mysterious notches is carved on its sides and on its back. "On the front side it shows a man-like being with his leg apart and arms raised in an adorant position. The left leg is much shorter than the right one, while the figure has an unusually narrow waist. Between the legs is an appendix which looks like a trapezoid with the wide side below," researcher Michael Rappenglück, formerly of the University of Munich and renowned for locating star charts in prehistoric art, told Discovery News. 

Radiocarbon dating, made possible by bone ash deposits found next to the tablet, suggested it is between 32,500 and 38,000 years old, making it one of the oldest depictions of a man ever found. 

The artist belonged to the upper Paleolithic Aurignacian people. Getting their name from a rock-shelter at Aurignac in the Pyrenees, this population is best known for supplanting the Neanderthals and producing the earliest cave paintings in Western Europe. 

Their spectacular art and artifacts include the stunning cave paintings in France's Grotte Chauvet, often credited as evidence of fully modern behavior. 

Interpretation of the anthropoid figure ranged from a praying man, a dancer, a divine being, and a mixed creature half cat and half-man. 

Instead, Rappenglück believes the artist centered the bas-relief on an anthropoid constellation in the sky, which we today know as Orion. 

"The straddle-legged posture with the right foot a little more highly raised reminds of the lower part of Orion. The slim body illustrates the middle part of the constellation, while the narrow waist designates the position of Orion’s belt. The perpendicularly upraised arms with the hands and the head between denote the upper part of Orion," Rappenglück said. 

Astronomical confirmation of the archaeological dating came from a computer reconstruction which wound back the sky and found evidence that Orion appeared completely above the natural horizon of the cave between 32,000 and 33,500 years ago. 

The appendix between the legs would show a phallic star creature, in line with ancient ideas that Orion may be responsible for the celestial insemination of Earth and for cosmic fertility. 

This interpretation would also explain the meaning of the 86 notches. According to Rappenglück, they would represent a pregnancy calendar. Eighty six would indicate the number of days that Betelguese, one of Orion’s most famous stars, is visible, but also the number of days that must be subtracted from a year to match the average length of a pregnancy. 

"Rappenglück's hypothesis, based on serious speculation and in agreement with his ample knowledge of the art and symbolism of those periods, might be probable and even possible. 

"Unfortunately, we never can be 100 percent sure," Juan Antonio Belmonte, project coordinator of the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, said.
Anger May Save Lives
By Becky Ham
Staff Writer

January 31, 2003 Health Behavior News Service - Men who outwardly express anger at least some of the time may be doing their health a favor: A new study suggests that occasional anger expression is associated with decreased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. 

Men with moderate levels of anger expression had nearly half the risk of nonfatal heart attacks and a significant reduction in the risk of stroke compared to men with low levels of anger expression.

In the case of stroke, the researchers found that the risk decreased in proportion to increasing levels of anger expression. 

The findings indicate "a more complex pattern of associations between anger and cardiovascular disease than previously described," according to Patricia Eng, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.

"Moderate anger expression seems to be protective against cardiovascular disease over a limited follow-up period," Eng says.

Previous research suggests that chronic anger is related to the development of coronary disease, but few studies examine how different styles of expressing anger might impact the disease, according to the researchers. 

The 23,522 study participants, men aged 50 to 85, completed surveys that asked them to rate how often they behaved in certain ways when they were angry, choosing from options like "I argue with others," and "I do things like slam doors." Eng and colleagues also documented 328 cases of cardiovascular disease among the men in the two years following the survey. 

Among healthy men with no prior history of cardiovascular disease, the protective effects of anger expression were unrelated to how often the men reported feeling angry. Among men who already had heart disease, however, an increased frequency of angry feelings was significantly associated with an increased risk of another bout of heart disease.

The study participants had low levels of anger expression compared to other groups who had taken the survey previously, possibly due to their age and relatively high socioeconomic status, say the researchers. 

Individuals with high socioeconomic status are more likely to lead healthier lifestyles and to be in positions of power where they can express anger freely, which may modify any "potentially toxic effects of anger or hostility," Eng says.

The study is published in the January/February issue of Psychosomatic Medicine and supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Early Human News!
Early Africa to Asia Route Mapped
By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

Oxford February 3, 2003 (Discovery) — Early humans approximately 100,000 years ago traveled from Africa to Asia via a southern route that likely passed along the coasts of what are now Pakistan and India, according to researchers at Oxford University.

The finding helps to explain how humans began to settle in Asia, and why certain isolated populations throughout Southern Asia share a common history and possess similar genes. 

Researchers were able to map the migration route after identifying a genetic marker in samples of inaccessible populations from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The samples were provided by the Natural History Museum of London. 

A paper detailing the study is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. 

Andaman Islanders, who live as hunter-gatherers, largely remain isolated from the developed world. Since the earliest days of Victorian anthropology they have fascinated scholars by their distinctive appearance. They possess very dark skin, tight curly hair and are short in stature compared to other groups in the region. 

Because of their ancient way of life, remote location and distinctive physical appearance, scientists have speculated that the Andaman people represent the original inhabitants of the area, possibly those who left Africa between 53,000-93,000 years ago. 

Phillip Endicott, a researcher in the Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Center of Molecular Evolution at Oxford University's Department of Zoology, and his colleagues discovered that the Andaman people possess a certain kind of DNA found in their cellular mitochondria. This haplogroup, or lineage, appears to be a subgroup, called M2, of a genetic marker linking many Asian people: M. 

The presence of M2 could explain why some people in southern Asia share similar characteristics. 

"There are many similarities between groups of hunter-gatherers within India and Southeast Asia," Endicott told Discovery News. "Our paper shows that there is on average a 23 percent occurrence of M2 within these groups in India." 

Travel, intermingling with other cultures and recent population changes could explain why M2 is not present in all Asians. The closeness of the M and M2 groups, however, does provide a genetic link. 

"The findings suggest that the similarities between these now isolated populations of Asia are not coincidental and that these peoples really do share a common history," commented Chris Stringer, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London. 

Stringer added, "The presence of M2 in significant proportions amongst the more European-looking caste populations of India indicates that many of these early settlers were absorbed into later population expansions." 

Endicott and his team, through the "Indian Rim Project" funded by the National Environment Research Council, hope to further determine how early humans evolved and migrated from Africa to Asia.

Fossil Stirs Early Human Debate

Johannesburg January 31, 2003 (BBC) The fossil of an early human-like creature (hominid) from southern Africa is raising fresh questions about our origins. Remains from the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg suggest our ancestors were less chimp-like than we thought.

The revelation follows the discovery of missing bones from a 3.5 million-year-old skeleton found in 1998. Fragments of pelvis, upper leg, ribs and backbone have recently been dug out of the rock, allowing scientists to piece together its gait. 

The anatomy of the hominid, a member of the genus Australopithecus, raises some interesting questions. 

Its bone structure shows it did not walk like modern chimps, using the knuckles of its hands. It probably walked on two legs when it was on the ground but spent much of the time climbing trees, says Dr Ron Clarke, of the University of the Witwatersrand, who discovered the fossil. 

Dr Clarke goes further. He argues that the fact the hominid was not a knuckle-walker suggests chimps and humans are not as closely related as we thought. It pushes the last common ancestor of chimps and humans much further back in history, he says. Dr Clarke sets out his position in the South African Journal of Science, which publishes the latest data. 

"My conclusion from the limb proportions and the morphology of the foot and of the hand is that this Sterkfontein individual was a climber in the trees (using its powerful thumb in a vice-like grip) and bipedal on the ground," he says. "It would appear, therefore, that the strong opposable thumb evolved in the human ancestral stock for grasping branches. Then, in the mainly terrestrial subsequent descendants in the form of Homo, it was to prove useful for tool-making and manipulation. The suggestion in reconstructions and in the scientific literature that human ancestors were transformed into an upright position from a knuckle-walking ancestor is not supported by this new and important addition to the fossil record." 

Other experts in human evolution are more circumspect. Professor Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum says the idea that humans and chimps derive from a knuckle-walking common ancestor is "not a majority view". The peculiar gait of chimps and gorillas could have developed after the three lines diverged, he says. 

Dr Robin Crompton, of the University of Liverpool, agrees. He says there is "very strong" genetic evidence that we are closely related to chimps (and bonobos). 

"It is likely that the common ancestor of the African apes, including ourselves, was arboreal," he told BBC News Online. "In my view, knuckle-walking and vertical climbing - up and down tree trunks - are a specialization of chimps and gorillas after humans split off from them." 

Sterkfontein is probably the richest site on Earth for the fossils of early hominids, and the ancient cave system is now part of a World Heritage Site. Some 600 hominid fossils from the Sterkfontein Caves have now been collected and classified. 

The early humans they represent are thought to have fallen to their deaths in the caves when the limestone complex first broke the surface.

Genre News: The Dead Zone, William Gibson, Darkness Falls, Anthony Eisley, Star Trek, Thunderbirds & More!
Dead Zone Producer Makes an Offer You Can't Refuse
By FLAtRich

Hollywood February 4, 2003 (eXoNews) - Dead Zone Executive Producer Michael Piller fed unknown screenwriters' hopes yesterday in a live chat on the Dead Zone site.

If you write a full Dead Zone script, Piller says he will get it to a legit literary agent to read.

There was a time, back when Michael Piller was producing for the Star Trek franchise, that unknown writers were encouraged to submit their Trek scripts and stories to Paramount.

That opportunity passed when Paramount found itself embroiled in litigation over "legal claims." (Who thought of what time warp first, etc?)

According to the fine print on their web site, the studio still accepts unsolicited material, but only from authors who go through literary agents and lawyers.

Piller got his own start as a network censor and worked his way up from Next Generation fan to the writer of STTNG scripts like "The Best of Both Worlds" and eventually creator and Executive Producer of DS9 and co-creator of Voyager.

He left the Star Trek fold after penning the critically underrated Star Trek: Insurrection movie and formed his own company with his son Sean. The two adapted Stephen King's 1979 bestseller The Dead Zone into a runaway hit series for USA Network.

The show stars Anthony Michael Hall as seer Johnny Smith, supported by Nicole deBoer (DS9), John L. Adams, Chris Bruno, David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H), Kristen Dalton (Beverly Hills, 90210) and recurring guest star Sean Patrick Flanery.

The Pillers are currently co-producing and writing for Dead Zone's second season.

Responding to a question in the Dead Zone chat, Piller offered a new window of opportunity to struggling writers.
Just so there's no misunderstanding, he did not offer to read unsolicited scripts, and he is not accepting unsolicited ideas or stories for his show.

Here's what he did say:

<MichaelPiller> "If you know my background on ST you know I was dedicated to opening the door to new writers. Unfortunately, because of a few legal claims it became impossible for the studio to continue that program of submissions."

<MichaelPiller> "I wish I could read speculative DZ scripts. However, the liabilities and risks are just too great. However, I remain dedicated to helping new writers get access to this town."

<MichaelPiller> "So, let me make the following offer here for the first time: If you are willing to write a full Dead Zone script, and you let us know that it is done and ready to be seen, I will arrange that it be read by a legitimate literary agent in Los Angeles."

<MichaelPiller> "If they like it, you can form your own relationship with that agent, who can introduce you to us as they would introduce us to any writer they genuinely like."

<MichaelPiller> "I want to make it clear that no one on the show will be reading this material, and that this offer is restricted only to full teleplays -- not for stories or ideas."

<MichaelPiller> "Check the writer's guide on the web site, then copy and read all the scripts we've posted in order to give yourself the best chance to impress an agent with your work."

<MichaelPiller> "Information on how to notify us that your scripts are completed will be posted on the official web site soon. Please DO NOT send any scripts to the network or the show."

Dead Zone Author King is also known for assisting young talent, but only his style guides the Dead Zone series writers and producers. When asked if King has offered notes, Piller had this to say: 

<MichaelPiller> "I have had no communication with Mr. King. I hope he likes what we've done if he has watched it, because we certainly feel like he's in the room with us when we are discussing our approach to stories. You will often hear me say to a writer, 'There's not enough Stephen King in this episode yet.' And by the way, I used to say the same thing about Gene Roddenberry."

Read the full chat transcript here: 

The Official Dead Zone site -

Simon and Shuster still accepts Star Trek novels from new authors! Check out the guidelines here:

Gibson Chat on February 6th
from a Sci Fi Channel Press Release

February 4, 2003 - Join best-selling author William Gibson for an hour-long Q&A about his work and half-dozen books, including the new Pattern Recognition. Gibson helped define a generation when he coined the term "cyberpunk" in his Hugo Award-winning first novel, Neuromancer.

Gibson's recent works include Idoru, Virtual Light, and All Tomorrow's Parties (1999).

He also wrote the story for the film Johnny Mnemonic and colaborated with Tom Maddox on two very famous X-Files episodes: Kill Switch and First Person Shooter.

The chat takes place Thursday, Feb. 6, at 9PM ET, 6PM PT

Darkness Falls Again 

Hollywood February 4, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Darkness Falls producer John Hegeman, who is pleased with the supernatural horror film's box office, told SCI FI Wire that the filmmakers are mulling a sequel.

"I think everyone ... would love to see Darkness Falls turn into a franchise property," Hegeman said in an interview. "And that's one of the reasons why we tried to really lay out a strong mythology and create a very identifiable core character."

Darkness Falls opened in the top slot at the box office on Jan. 24 and saw its box-office revenues slip only 38 percent in its second weekend of release.

"I think we want to see how the picture plays out the second week" before committing to a sequel, Hegeman said. "See if the picture is expanding its audience, and really try to get an idea of what the audience is going to be looking for. But certainly it's in the plans and in our thoughts, and it's one of the reasons why we tried to make a very identifiable mythology to the main character."

Hegeman added that the main cast members, including Chaney Kley and Emma Caulfield, have expressed interest in returning for a second installment.

Official Darkness Falls website -

Hawaiian Eye Star Anthony Eisley Dies

LOS ANGELES February 3, 2003 ( - Anthony Eisley, who starred opposite Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens on the popular 1960's detective series "Hawaiian Eye" died last Wednesday (Jan. 29)in Los Angeles of unspecified causes, according to The Associated Press. He was 78.

The actor began his television career as Fred Eisley in the 1950s with roles on "Operation Secret," "Perry Mason" and "The Real McCoys" before changing his name at the request of Warner Bros. and getting a regular gig on "Hawaiian Eye." 

He later became a popular guest of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," as well as appearing on many popular shows of the '60s and '70s, including: "Barnaby Jones," "Dragnet," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Emergency!," "Ironside," "Mannix" and "The Wild Wild West." 

Trek Film Future Unsure 

Hollywood February 4, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Star Trek Nemesis executive producer Rick Berman told SCI FI Wire that several factors likely contributed to the film's lackluster box-office performance, and he added that the future of the film franchise remains uncertain.

"There's no way of telling what happened," Berman said in an interview. "I'm convinced that we made a very good movie, and I'm also convinced that the movie was promoted properly."

Berman added, "I thought the trailers and the television spots were all excellent. It's easy to blame that sort of thing, but I don't think we can in this situation. I think that the competition of other films may have played some part in it, but I can't be certain of that, either. It's very, very hard to tell."

Berman sounded disappointed. "Obviously, you want a film to do well," he said. "You work for a long time, and you work for a long time, and if it doesn't do well, it's not fun."

Berman went on to say that he's not sure what the future will hold for the Trek film franchise.

"There's a theory that there was too much time [between Insurrection and Nemesis]," he said. "There's another theory that there wasn't too much time. I, along with the people at Paramount, need a few months of perspective and thinking about it to then decide what's the best thing to do next. I don't think this is like falling off a horse, and you want to jump right back on it. But we'll see."

[The big mistake was cutting Wil Wheaton's scene, Rick. Everybody knows that! Ed.]

Official Star Trek site - 

By Chris Gardner

Hollywood February 4, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Furst Films, which produced the Sundance standout "The Cooler" -- directed by Wayne Kramer and acquired by Lions Gate Films -- has picked up the comedy spec "Sluts," with helmer Rob Schmidt on board to direct.

"Sluts," penned by first-time scribe Pamela Buchignani, centers on a fast-living high school rock 'n' roll groupie who gets thrown into Catholic school. While there, she must find out how to maintain her hard-core lifestyle or risk rediscovering her innocence.

Furst Films' Sean and Bryan Furst will produce. Lynette Ramirez is also attached to produce through her Vida Films. Shauna Thalen, who brought the project to Furst, will serve as a co-producer.

Sheen for Dean in '04

LOS ANGELES February 2, 2003 ( - It's not just that Martin Sheen plays a former New England Democrat governor who is married to a physician and is now president of the United States on NBC's "The West Wing" that has him backing Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont who is married to a doctor and hoping to be the Democrats choice to run against President Bush in 2004.

Following Dean's visit to "The West Wing" set last week, a spokesperson for Sheen told the AP the the actor feels that Dean is "the best possible hope for the Democrats, because he's not afraid to lose."

Kingsley Joins Thunderbirds
By Stuart Kemp

LONDON February 3, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Ben Kingsley has signed to star in the live-action film version of the 1960s cult U.K. television puppet series "Thunderbirds" for Working Title Films and Universal Pictures. [The Thunderbirds feature will be directed by Star Trek's Number One, Jonathan Frakes. Ed.] 

Kingsley will star as the Hood, the movie's evil international master criminal, Working Title Films said Friday.

The movie follows the Tracy family and their top-secret International Rescue organization.

They travel around the world carrying out covert missions with the Thunderbirds, a set of five vehicles ranging from a rocket to a space station. 

Working Title also revealed the first details of the movie's plot, which will see Kingsley's character invade Tracy Island, the secret base and home of International Rescue and the Thunderbirds, in the hope of using them for his own evil needs.

The Tracy family will be headed by Bill Paxton, who will play Jeff Tracy, the father of the family of five sons, Virgil, John, Gordon, Scott and Alan.

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