Attack of The Baby Clones!
Deep Throat, Harpy Eagles,
Moon Power,
Inca Mummy Scandal,
Spidey Takes Off & More!
Genre News: Baby Clones, Saturn Awards, M*A*S*H, Hitchhiker's Guide, Sub-Mariner, Fahrenheit 451, Sir Paul McCartney Chat and more!

The Attack of The Baby Clones!

By FLAtRich

Hollywood May 1, 2002 (eXoNews) - Well, they finally wrote out Scully's baby. Agent Scully gives the kid away! I don't know about you, but I just don't care.

I was getting really tired of that Scully kid. For two seasons, X-Files tried to cover for the absent Mulder by playing the baby card and it never really worked for me. I think there are lots of X-philes out there who agree but are probably just too paranoid to admit it. I blame that kid for the decline in X-Files' ratings, not Doggett and Reyes!

It's not just William either - he was kind of cute twirling his crib toys with those little alien super powers of his - there are all those other babies who have populated TV for the last few seasons.

Enterprise was only a few episodes old before Trip got pregnant! Where are the old values! Can you imagine Scotty with child?

Even TV's most urban plotlines have fallen prey to the baby buggy! Angel had no excuse getting Darla pregnant! As a topper our vamp anti-hero loses his kid in a demon dimension! I mean, what more proof do we need that TV good guys just aren't ready for fatherhood? Then the kid comes back fully grown! Talking about ducking responsibility! What about the formative years? The first bike? (Or would that be first bite?)

What's next? A Fox "reality show" featuring a different live birth each week? (Hey! You saw it here first!)

Didn't I read somewhere recently that there are more single people than married people in the US? Didn't Hitchcock once complain (greatly paraphrased) that the most repellant scenes in cinema involved bodily functions and people getting out of cars? (He had his reasons!)

And if it's not the babies, we get the clones! This has gone way beyond the old evil twin thing. I mean, Bizarro Superman and the alternate DS9 universe were classic, but now everybody has to have a clone!

Mulder's cloned sister was confusing enough, but now we have to accept that Spender had Mulder's exact DNA? Come on! We suspected that the CSM was Mulder's real father, but does that exact DNA match mean Mulder is a clone? (Or that his real mother was Cassandra Spender? Think about it!)

The ship on Andromeda has not one, but two different alternate embodiments (clones, I suppose, but they are both played by the lovely Lexa Doig, so who cares?) The alien kids on Roswell had a full set of punk clones living in NYC. (Max also got Tess pregnant, come to think of it, and is still looking for his kid.)

And Moya, the ship on Farscape, somehow got pregnant and had a baby ship! (Not to mention all those cloned Crichtons and alternate Scorpies on Farscape.)

What ever happened to the simple good guys versus baddies? Where did all the loners go? We used to have heroes and heroines who were solid and had their own apartments that we rarely saw and were basically the same person week after week. They had sexual aspirations, of course, but they weren't out prowling for a lifetime mate and a basement playroom. They just wanted a good old roll in the hay once in a while in between hiding their secret identities and saving the world.

Now even sidekick characters waste whole episodes worrying about wedding plans or how they'll support a family.

Hollywood needs to hire some new writers - single writers! The current crop is definitely obsessed with car payments, hair, clothes, marriage, relatives, and, well, babies. Maybe the scribes are just too young or just too old or just too married, but they definitely need to get out of the house and out of suburbia!

And I told you not to mention alternate Crichtons! Sci Fi Channel finally lets us see the Season Three Farscape finale this week and guess what the cliffhanger leaves us with?

Nah, I won't spoil it. I don't have to. Even if you didn't see it, I'm sure you can guess. :o)>

For links to all the official sites, try eXoNews Vital Linx.

Cinescape Hosts 28th Annual Saturn Awards 

Hollywood May 1, 2002 (eXoNews) - Cinescape Magazine online has put up a sub-site for the 2002 Saturn Awards along with online polls where visitors can vote for some of their own favorites. 

As we reported in eXoNews a couple of weeks ago, the Saturn Nominations include categories for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Fantasy Film, Best Horror Film, Best Action Thriller, TV Series, as well as Best Actor, Actress, Director and Effects and others in both TV and Films.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films presents the Saturns yearly and was founded in 1972 by Dr. Donald A. Reed of the Count Dracula Society. The Academy licensed the next three Saturn Awards shows (the 28th, 29th, and 30th) to Mania Entertainment, publisher of Cinescape Magazine.

The Saturns are voted on by members of The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, which is a non-profit organization. Anyone with an interest in genre can join. Membership rates are pretty reasonable and can be found on the Cinescape Saturn Awards site.

The awards show will take place on June 10, 2002 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles. Previous Saturn Awards shows have been telecast and hosted by the likes of William Shatner. Cinescape doesn't identify a network on their site, but promises that winners of the first Cinescape Faces of the Future Awards will be announced live at the awards show.

Cinescape also invites readers to "come on down to our red carpet pre-show that day and be one of five lucky fans to be chosen to attend the actual awards show."

Special awards will be presented to industry leaders Sherry Lansing, Stan Lee, Samuel Z. Arkoff and others. 

Check out the Cinescape Saturn site at 

Fox To Air M*A*S*H Special


Hollywood April 30, 2002 (Knight-Ridder) - One of the most coveted reunion shows of them all is a new entry in an already nostalgia-laden May sweeps lineup -- but not on the network you'd expect. 

A two-hour "M*A*S*H: 30th Reunion Special" headed by Alan Alda will air May 17 on Fox rather than CBS, which carried the Emmy-winning comedy series throughout its 11-season run from 1972-83. Why? CBS says it's because 20th Century Fox Television, which produced "M*A*S*H," decided to play hardball.

"We had planned to do a 'M*A*S*H' reunion special with the cast, but 20th refused to license us any clips," CBS senior vice president of communications Chris Ender said Friday. " 'M*A*S*H' is an important part of CBS' history. It's a shame to see it on another network. It's like denying us part of our heritage."

Fox vice president of corporate communications Scott Grogin said Friday that "M*A*S*H" "has been a Fox property since the days of the Academy Award-winning feature film. And we are proud to have a special celebrating it here on the Fox network."

"M*A*S*H" repeats currently air on weeknights on the FX cable network, which also is owned by Fox. Nabbing the reunion special is an example of the "vertical integration" that increasingly is pitting conglomerates against each other with no regard to a television program's previous ties.

Reunion movies such as NBC's "Return to Mayberry" and ABC's "Mary and Rhoda" routinely wind up on networks other than those that first telecast the series. But clip-driven cast reunions almost always are presented by the original home network. That's the case with the 10 other such reunion shows scheduled in the coming month.

Fox said that Alda, who previously had declined all reunion invitations, will be joined by major castmates Mike Farrell, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, David Ogden Stiers and Allan Arbus.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Released on DVD 

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune 

Hollywood April 30, 2002 (Star Tribune) - Add "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to that select group of sci-fi TV classics - "The Lathe of Heaven," "Star Trek," "The Twilight Zone" - now available on DVD. The 1981 BBC series, shown here on PBS, is adapted from Douglas Adams' original radio program and later books.

The droll, low-budget show follows the misadventures of the hapless Arthur Dent, an earthling displaced after our planet was destroyed to make way for a cosmic thoroughfare. Animated excerpts from the titular book - a bigger seller than "53 More Things to Do in Zero Gravity," the omnipresent narrator wryly notes - comment regularly on his predicaments.

The two-disc set (Warner/BBC, $34.98) is a stellar interstellar affair, brimming with extras.

The first disc contains all six half-hour episodes. Optional subtitled production notes combine triviality and hilarity in equal measure, citing walk-on actors' daily salaries one moment and making fun of star Simon Jones' hairpiece the next. The second disc offers several behind-the-scenes featurettes; a 50-minute tribute to Adams, who died after a heart attack last year at 49; deleted scenes and outtakes; a photo gallery, and more. There even are a few hidden features for those who root around the menus. 

Move Over Spidey, Here Comes Sub-Mariner!

By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood April 26, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - It's a Marvel-ous world out there. As Marvel Studios prepares for its release of Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man" next week while simultaneously being in production on "The Hulk" at Universal Pictures, the production company is quickly moving forward on another comic property, "The Sub-Mariner," also at Universal.

In a seven-figure deal, screenwriter David Self has been hired to adapt and executive produce "Sub-Mariner," which Marvel Studios president Avi Arad is producing with Kevin Misher's studio-based Misher Films. Universal picked up the feature film rights to the property nearly a year ago.

"Sub-Mariner" follows the adventures of Prince Namor, a half-man/half-amphibian creature from Atlantis. A troubled rebel with a short temper, he has helped the human race and fought against it when humankind polluted his underwater kingdom with waste.

Darabont Warms Up Fahrenheit 451

Hollywood April 29, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Writer/director Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) told SCI FI Wire that he will direct Fahrenheit 451, a movie based on Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name, as his next project for Castle Rock. Mel Gibson will still be involved, but only as a producer, not a star, Darabont said in an interview.

"Icon [Gibson's company] and Castle Rock are kind of getting together on this, and Mel's been really sweet about letting me come and overtake the project," Darabont said. "He's just been really supportive. So, Mel, if you're out there, bless your heart. He's a sweet man."

Darabont said that he was also adapting Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, but said that 451 is his main focus now. "Actually, I should be home right now writing," he joked. "Hopefully, I'll have that done this year."

[As we all know - I hope - this will be a second version of Fahrenheit 451. The original was directed by François Truffaut in 1966 and starred Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. It will be a hard act to follow. Ed.]

Beckinsale Bites for 'Underworld'

By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood April 30, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Kate Beckinsale will star in Lakeshore Entertainment's action film "Underworld" for first-time feature film director Len Wiseman. Screen Gems will distribute the project, which begins production in early September in Eastern Europe.

"Underworld" is described as a modern-day "Romeo and Juliet" story set in the world of vampires and werewolves, in which one lover is a vampire and the other a werewolf. The project, set against the ravages of an ancient and bloodthirsty war between vampires and werewolves, will see Beckinsale play the lead role of vampire Selene, an elegant warrior with the strength of 10 men.

Although her main goal is to kill werewolves, she ends up falling in love with one. [Buffy, anyone? Ed.]

'Attack of the Clones' to Screen Digitally in Just 19 Theaters

HOLLYWOOD April 30, 2002 ( - Regardless of George Lucas's strong support of projecting movies digitally, only 19 theaters will screen his "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" utilizing digital projectors when the film opens May 16. 

Wired magazine reported that those theaters will include: Harkins Arrowhead Cinemas 18 (Peoria, AZ); AMC Media Center 6 (Burbank, Calif.); Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 Megaplex (Irvine, Calif.); El Capitan Theatre (Los Angeles, Calif.); Loews Century Plaza (Los Angeles, Calif.); AMC Mission Valley 20 (San Diego, Calif.); AMC 1000 Van Ness (San Francisco, Calif.); AMC Pleasure Island 24 (Lake Buena Vista, FL); AMC South Barrington 30 (South Barrington, IL); AMC Studio 30 (Olathe, KS); General Cinema Framingham 16 (Framingham, MA); Show Case Cinemas Randolph (Randolph, MA); Edgewater Multiplex Cinemas (Edgewater, NJ); AMC Empire 25 Theatres (New York); Clearview Ziegfeld Theatre (New York); Loews Cineplex E-Walk (New York); Cinemark at Valley View (Valley View, OH); Showcase Cinemas Springdale (Springdale, OH); Cinemark at Legacy (Plano, TX). 

However, Lucas has put theater owners on notice that no movie house will be permitted to show Episode III unless it has installed digital projectors.

Chat Online With Sir Paul McCartney

Hollywood May 1, 2002 (eXoNews) - According to, Paul McCartney will chat with fans on MSN on Thursday May 9, 2002 at 8 PM (EST). The McCartney web site previously announced the chat would take place on April 25th and the MSN web site has not posted the new date, but Zap2it says fans can ask Paulie questions on May 9th.

The legendary former Beatle and Wings frontman is currently touring the world to promote his latest CD "Driving Rain". The "Driving Rain" concert tour is completely sold out.

The Daily Record reported last week that the Queen of England will lead Britain in a huge sing-along version of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" as part of her Golden Jubilee on June 3, 2002. The Queen will cue musicians in 21 locations around the UK to perform The Beatles classic as part of a BBC celebration.

Later in the day, Sir Paul will round off a concert at Buckingham Palace in London with the same chart-topping tune.

The song was commissioned 35 years ago by the BBC and was performed as part of the world's first global broadcast in 1967.

MSN Chat web site: 

The Official McCartney Web Site:  

John Dean to Reveal Deep Throat - Again!

SAN FRANCISCO May 1, 2002 (AP) - Thirty years after the 1972 Watergate break-in, former White House counsel John Dean intends to publish an electronic book revealing who he believes is "Deep Throat," the anonymous informant who helped unseat President Nixon.

San Francisco-based online magazine Salon will offer the e-book June 17, managing editor Scott Rosenberg said Tuesday. Dean previously has written political commentary and book reviews for

"Obviously, he has strong personal interest in the subject," Rosenberg said. "After a lot of careful research that he details in the book, he's pretty certain he knows who it was."

It won't be the first time Dean has postulated on the identity of Deep Throat.

In 1975, Dean said in a speech in Natchitoches, La., that it was Earl J. Silbert, one of the original Watergate prosecutors. Silbert laughed at the idea.

In a 1982 book, "Lost Honor," Dean said Deep Throat had to be Alexander M. Haig, who was the No. 2 aide to Henry Kissinger at the National Security Council and later Nixon's chief of staff. Haig denied it.

Testimony from Dean against Nixon also helped uncover the Republican president's efforts to obstruct justice to hide his involvement in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters and subsequent cover-up.

Rosenberg said Dean opted to publish his findings electronically because he wanted to turn the story around quickly. He would not discuss the book's contents or the nature of the research.

Calls and an e-mail to Dean seeking comment were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Bush Trying to Restrict Foreign Student Studies 

Associated Press 

WASHINGTON May 1, 2002 (AP) - In a little-noticed anti-terror initiative, the Bush administration is trying to get universities and colleges to stop some foreign students from studying sensitive subjects. Educators fear they're being dragged into academic censorship.

"We have a responsibility to work with the government, and we're ready to do so, but we're afraid of being turned into course police," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 public and private colleges.

The issue arose in October when Bush directed the government to prohibit certain international students from receiving "education and training in sensitive areas" involving the "development and use of weapons of mass destruction."

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with federal agencies to "identify sensitive courses of study." A White House Fact Sheet issued with the presidential directive ordering the studies said: "A goal of the program is to prohibit the education and training of foreign nationals who would use their training to harm the United States and its allies."

Academic leaders say they are being largely shut out of what has become an internal government debate.

"They've got law enforcement agencies and national security and intelligence agencies who want to be more restrictive, and they have research and science and technology officials who are trying to explain how academic research works," said George Leventhal, policy analyst with the Association of American Universities. The group represents 63 universities heavily involved in scientific research.

Academicians say the solution is to bar prospective students from entering the country if any basis for suspicion exists.

"You can't keep things you're teaching in an open classroom secret," said Jon Fuller, senior fellow at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents all of the country's 1,000 private colleges and universities.

Other nations are beginning to train more of their homegrown scientists, but the United States remains a major destination for academics seeking advanced scientific or engineering degrees. A National Science Foundation report says the percentage of foreign-born scientists and engineers is growing at all degree levels in America, with the highest ratio, 45 percent, in engineering.

The White House says the government wants to work with the academic community.

"The details regarding the response to the president's directive are still being worked out," Kathryn Harrington, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Science and Technology, said Tuesday.

"Recommendations that will come out of the interagency working group will include the academic and science community being consulted on the finer points of any final response," she said.

Academic groups see more questions than answers.

"Once a student is granted a visa and tries to change from organic chemistry to biochemistry, what are we supposed to do? Move them out?" said Richard Harpel, director of federal relations for the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges.

"The more subtle but less obvious dilemma is of a student who may room with a person who is an American student ... in a sensitive area," said Harpel, whose organization represents 213 public universities in every state in the country.

An electronic tracking system to be in place by the end of the year is supposed to enable instant communication between the government and academic officials so the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are notified of any change in a student's visa status. Changing college majors, leaving school, taking a job or getting married all involve changes in visa status.

"The best thing we can do is to get the database up and running," said Hartle. "And the government needs to make sure INS has the resources to take action when something suspicious happens."

Leventhal says research universities want to work with the government to keep dangerous individuals out of the country.

"It may sound simple to have some absolute rule that no foreign citizen may have access to certain fields of science, but in fact America has benefited enormously from talent that comes here from other countries to study in the United States," said Leventhal. "There's a long tradition of groundbreaking discoveries made in the U.S. by researchers born in other countries."

In 1999, the United States produced 26,000 graduates with science and engineering doctoral degrees. Europe produced 54,000; Asia 21,000.

Court Halts Navy's Illegal Bombing at Farallon de Medinilla

Washington, DC April 30, 2002 (Earthjustice) - Today, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, District Judge for the District of Columbia, issued an injunction immediately halting all military activities at Farallon de Medinilla that would harm or kill migratory birds.

The Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice, had sued the Navy for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act at FDM, and Judge Sullivan on March 13, 2002 declared that the Navy’s use of FDM violates the law. The Navy had nevertheless continued to use the island for live-fire exercises using bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and other munitions, while acknowledging that it was thereby killing migratory birds. Today’s ruling enforces the law and stops the Navy’s violations.

FDM, about 45 nautical miles from Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is about 0.3 miles wide and 1.7 miles long, or about 206 acres. It is home to more than a dozen species of migratory birds protected by the MBTA, including the great frigatebird, masked booby, brown booby, red-footed booby, sooty tern, brown noddy, black noddy, fairy tern, cattle egret, red-tailed tropicbird, white-tailed tropicbird, Pacific golden plover, whimbrel, bristle-thighed curlew, and ruddy turnstone. Most of these species also nest at FDM. FDM is one of only two small breeding colonies of the great frigatebird in the Mariana island chain, and is also the largest known nesting site for masked boobies in the Mariana and Caroline islands.

The military has been using FDM for live-fire training, during which bombers drop 500-, 750-, and 2000-pound bombs, precision-guided munitions, and mines; naval ships fire deck-mounted guns, using high explosive, point-detonating rounds; and aircraft fire machine guns, cannons, and missiles at FDM. The resulting destruction of nesting migratory birds has been well established.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the nation’s oldest conservation laws. Enacted in 1918, it implements international treaties between the U.S. and Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Canada designed to “save from indiscriminate slaughter and insure the preservation of such migratory birds as are either useful to man or harmless.” The MBTA makes it “unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner," to, among other prohibited actions, "pursue, hunt, take, capture, [or] kill" any migratory bird included in the terms of the treaties without a permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service turned down the Navy’s 1996 application for a permit to bomb FDM. The Navy did not appeal or reapply, but continued to bomb the island.

Notwithstanding the MBTA’s protections, over 25% of all U.S. bird species are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act or as Species of Management Concern. During the past 30 years, about one-fifth of the bird species native to the U.S. have declined at rates equal to or exceeding 2.5 percent per year. A trend of this magnitude represents a cumulative decline of more than 50 percent over a span of 30 years. 

Anticipating the court’s ruling, the Department of Defense recently submitted to Congress a sweeping proposal to exempt military activities from the MBTA, along with many other environmental laws. DoD has over 25 million acres of land under its jurisdiction. Since these habitats encompass most of the migratory bird species in the U.S. during some period of the year, the proposed legislation, if enacted, would leave many of the hundreds of migratory bird species vulnerable to wholesale slaughter.

Although the Navy argued to the court that uninterrupted use at FDM is vital, the court noted the testimony of military officers that other facilities exist.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented, “The Navy is not above the law. This case stands as an important reaffirmation of the separation of powers that is a cornerstone of our democracy.”

Earthjustice web site - 

Harpy Eagle Gets Boost in Panama 

By Robin Emmott

PANAMA CITY April 30, 2002 (Reuters) — With talons three times more powerful than a Rottweiler's jaws and fierce enough to crush a human arm in a single movement, the harpy eagle is still too weak to survive deforestation, making it one of Latin America's most threatened birds of prey. 

Fearful the harpy eagle soon will become extinct, the U.S-based World Center for Birds of Prey has set up a leading center in Panama to breed them in captivity and later release them in greater numbers into the wild. 

Near extinction in Mexico and Central America and with dwindling numbers in South America, the harpy eagle is the largest and most powerful bird of prey. 

The size of a small child, with a wingspan of about 7 feet, the graceful predator once numbered in the thousands from southern Mexico down to northern Argentina. Today, fewer than 50 survive in Mexico and Central America and only a few hundred remain across Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, French Guiana, and northern Argentina, environmentalists say. 

The World Center for Birds of Prey set up Panama's Peregrine Fund on the edge of Panama City late in 2000 with the financial backing of the U.S Agency for International Development. In January, the center saw the birth of a pair of harpy eagle chicks, the first to be born in captivity in Panama, and a second pair was born this month. The fund hopes to breed up to 10 eagles a year over the next 15 years, gradually releasing them throughout Central America. 

"These incredible birds need our help at this critical stage if they are to survive," said Leonardo Salas, Panama's fund director. 


Known as the great white shark of the bird world, the eagle has suffered heavily as tropical forests have been cut down to make way for economic development. In the past 30 years, about 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon had been deforested — an area the size of France — according to environmental lobby group Greenpeace. A single harpy bird needs a preying ground about 12 square miles to survive in the wild. 

Poaching also has been a menace to the raptors and has decimated local populations of the bird. 

The Panama fund follows a failed breeding project in the United States. From 1996 to 2000, several attempts were made in Idaho to breed the huge raptors in laboratories, using a controlled, artificial tropical climate. "But only a few eggs hatched, and the birds that were born were too weak to survive in the wild," Salas said. 

In Panama, he and his team of scientists say the move from Idaho to a genuine tropical climate has helped to breed the eagles successfully. Panama is particularly eager to prevent the extinction of the raptor, as the harpy eagle is the national bird and appears on the country's national crest. The remote lakes and tropical forest areas on either side of the Panama Canal are one area where the birds can thrive, the Peregrine Fund says. 

The fund, which spends about $30,000 a year to breed and keep the birds, also has 11 eagles donated from zoos in Venezuela, Ecuador, and the United States. It aims to release these adult birds into the wild in the future. 


The Panama center will release the birds back into their natural habitat once they are strong enough to fend for themselves. "We plan to allow the eagles to leave captivity as they learn to hunt. Initially they will be unable to catch prey and will always come back to us for food," Salas said. "Gradually they will both hunt and, on days when there is no prey, come back to us," he said. "Eventually there will come a time when they do not need to return." 

The harpy eagles prey on sloths, monkeys, macaws, and large reptiles such as iguanas. 

Salas said the best way to ensure the young birds survive in the wild is to breed them and then teach them to hunt in pairs, later releasing the male and female together. Harpy eagles mate for life but typically produce only one surviving chick — a factor that has contributed to the decline of the species. 

"In the wild, the birds often disperse. We want to teach them to stick together from now on," Salas said. 

Another fundamental aspect of the scheme is to teach people about the dangers deforestation brings to wildlife. In Panama, the fund has set up educational projects to teach children about the threatened raptor. "Making people aware of the dangers of poaching and logging tropical forests is just as important as saving the harpy eagle from extinction," Salas said.

Hubble's New Pix of the Universe

Greenbelt, MD April 30, 2002 (NASA) - Jubilant astronomers today unveiled humankind's most spectacular views of the universe as captured by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). They also reported that Hubble is operating superbly since the March servicing mission and are looking forward to more pictures from the newly revived NICMOS camera. 

"The ACS is opening a wide new window onto the universe. These are among the best images of the distant universe humans have ever seen," says Johns Hopkins University astronomer Holland Ford, the lead scientist in the ACS' seven-year development. "The ACS will let us obtain the deepest image of the universe for the foreseeable future", added astronomer Garth Illingworth, the deputy leader for the ACS. 

The camera's tenfold increase in efficiency will open up much anticipated new "discovery space" for Hubble. "ACS will allow us to push back the frontier of the early universe. We will be able to enter the 'twilight zone' period when galaxies were just beginning to form out of the blackness following the cooling of the universe from the big bang," says Ford. 

"The first astronomical images from the new Advanced Camera for Surveys are remarkable, breathtaking," said Dr. David Leckrone, Hubble Space Telescope Senior Project Scientist at NASA¹s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. "They're everything we expected and more. The only problem is doing them full justice as we try to show them to the public on 'old-fashioned' television, or in newspapers or magazines." 

Electronic image files, animation and additional information are available on the Internet at: 

Future Space Shuttle May Eliminate Pilots

AP Aerospace Writer 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. May 1, 2002 (AP) - The replacement for NASA's space shuttles may take off like a plane, be propelled by booster rockets that fly back to Earth and, in one of the more radical moves, eliminate pilots.

The reusable space plane, equipped with crew escape and automatic landing systems, would be far safer than the shuttle, officials said Tuesday in unveiling 15 design concepts. It also would be much cheaper to operate, they promised.

The goal is to have it flying by 2012, right around the time the space shuttles should be retiring.

"It's a little bit smaller vehicle so it may not be quite as impressive and loud and energetic maybe as when the shuttle takes off," said Dennis Smith, manager of NASA's $4.8 billion Space Launch Initiative program. "But it has some pretty neat attributes to it."

For instance, the booster rockets could peel away, turn around and fly back to the launch site. The shuttle's two boosters parachute into the ocean and are retrieved by ships.

NASA would use its new spaceship to transport astronauts and equipment to the international space station - separately on slightly different types of craft. The commercial industry would use the same system to launch satellites, with military involvement likely as well.

Among NASA's main objectives: to lower the cost of delivering payloads to orbit from $10,000 a pound on the shuttle to $1,000 a pound or less, and reduce the risk of a deadly catastrophe from the current 1-in-almost 500 to 1-in-10,000.

The space shuttle lacks a viable crew escape system for launch, something that is crucial if NASA hopes to achieve its desired safety margin, Smith said.

"It's very aggressive, there's no question about it," he said.

Smith said ejection seats are being considered along with flyaway crew modules. Kennedy Space Center likely would serve as the launch site, although that is not a requirement. Both vertical and horizontal liftoffs are being considered.

The spaceship might be able to double as a space station lifeboat. Pilots may not be needed to take up space station crews, Smith noted.

Over the past year, NASA whittled down the list of ideas from thousands to 15 represented by three industry teams: Boeing of Seal Beach, Calif.; Lockheed Martin Corp. of Denver; and a combined Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and Northrop Grumman of El Segundo, Calif.

The concepts rely on two-stage rocketships, with engines propelled by kerosene, hydrogen or a combination.

NASA plans to settle on two concepts next year. Full-scale development of one of the ships would begin in 2006, with the first flight hopefully in 2012. In case of delays, NASA plans to keep the shuttles flying until 2020.

"We went to the moon in nine years and we developed the shuttle in eight years," Smith said. "Here we are 10 years away and really it comes down to a commitment to get behind the new system." 

Space Launch Initiative News - 

Moon Power!

Houston April 29, 2002 (AIP) - If a physicist in Houston has his way you'll be able to say good-bye to pollution-causing energy production from fossil fuels. In the April/May issue of The Industrial Physicist Dr. David Criswell suggests that the Earth could be getting all of the electricity it needs using solar cells -- on the moon. 

In the article Criswell proposes a Lunar Solar Power (LSP) System, using arrays of solar cells on the lunar surface to beam energy back to Earth. Criswell estimates that the 10 billion people living on Earth in 2050 will require 20 Terrawatts (TW) of power.

The Moon receives 13,000 TW of power from the sun. Criswell suggests that harnessing just 1% of the solar power and directing it toward Earth could replace fossil fuel power plants on Earth. 

"The lunar operations are primarily industrial engineering," says Criswell. He and Dr, Robert Waldron first described LSP in 1984 at a NASA symposium on Lunar Bases and Space Activities in the 21st Century. "Adequate knowledge of the moon and practical technologies have been available since the late 1970's to collect this power and beam it to Earth. The system can be built on the moon from lunar materials and operated on the moon and on Earth using existing technologies," reducing the expenses associated with transporting materials to the moon. He adds that LSP would be even cheaper if parts of the production machinery are designed to be made of lunar materials. 

The LSP system consists of 20-40 lunar power bases, situated on the eastern and western edges of the moon, as seen from Earth. Each power base has a series of solar cells to collect energy from the sun, which is sent over buried electric wires to microwave generators that convert the solar electricity to microwaves. The generators then send the energy to screens that reflect the microwave beams toward Earth, where they are received by arrays of special antennas strategically placed about the globe.

"Each antenna converts the microwave power to electricity that is fed into the local power grid," says Criswell. 

"LSP is probably the only option for powering a prosperous world within the 21st century," says Criswell. "However, it does require a return to the moon." The system depends on some human occupation of the moon to build and run the lunar bases, but Criswell also sees this as an opportunity. "Once we are back and operating at large scale then going down the various learning curves will make traveling to the moon and working there 'routine.'"

Egyptian News:
New Egyptian King Discovered

By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery News

Luxor, Egypt April 26, 2002 (Discovery) — A new Egyptian king has been discovered, according to Italian archaeologists digging at Luxor. 

Known to be a high-ranking priest in the theocratic state of Amon at Thebes, Harwa was also a king ruling southern Egypt during the obscure period of the so-called Black Pharaohs, the Nubian kings of the 25th Dynasty. 

A fat, bald man with a large face, almond-shaped eyes and thin lips, as portrayed in a statue, Harwa was born in the 8th century B.C. into a family of Theban priests. He must have been at the beginning of his career when Piankhy, the black Sudanese (or Kushite) king, conquered Egypt and founded the 25th Dynasty of the Pharaohs. During the Nubian rule, Harwa rose to the highest ranks, researchers said. 

"He was a king, the real governor of southern Egypt on the behalf of the Nubian pharaohs. The latest excavation of his tomb has shown plenty of evidence," Francesco Tiradritti, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation since 1995, told Discovery News. 

According to Tiradritti, the vastness of the tomb, as well as an incredible number of limestone ushabtis (statuettes) found only in tombs of Pharaohs such as Tutankhamon, Sety I and Amenophi III, supported the theory that Harwa also was a king. 

"One of the most important findings is a limestone funerary statuette holding the crook and the flail, the royal emblems. As far as it is known, it is the only example of non-royal ushabty displaying such a feature," said Tiradritti. 

Harwa can't be considered a pharaoh, as the statuette would have needed to include the ureo, the royal cobra. 

"Harwa was one of the 'kings without ureo' mentioned in the ancient text in which Piankhy recalls his victories," said Tiradritti. 

According to the archaeologist, only a king would have been allowed to build his tomb beneath the hard limestone plateau of Assassif, on the western bank of the Nile, right in front of the imposing tomb of Queen-Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Indeed, Harwa's elaborate tomb later become the center of the whole Assassif necropolis. 

The tomb is huge: 4500 square meters, and four levels deep up to 25 meters. So far, the archaeologists have found 240 ushabtis, and uncovered walls decorated with inscriptions and reliefs. In one room, Harwa is shown in the company of Maat, Goddess of truth and justice, Hu, God of authority, and Sia, God of the mind — the three privileges of the Egyptian king. 

"I do not know if Harwa was a real king, but I am sure about the great importance of the discovery. The ushabty with regalia is indeed a special thing. I do not know ushabtis of non-royal person with these insigna," Egyptologist Jean Luc Bovot of the Louvre museum told Discovery News.

Royal Pair Found Near Colossi of Memnon

Egypt April 25, 2002 (ESIS) - An Egyptian-German team of archaeologists has unearthed two colossi, King Amenhotep III and an unidentified queen, at Kom Al-Hitan, on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor.

The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni said that Kom Al-Hitan is the site of a temple built by Amenhotep III, father of Akhenaten.

Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) said that the team, who has been working on the site since 1998, found the statues during excavations at a temple at a location near the Colossi of Memnon. 

Several statues had been discovered on the site a few years ago, but the team has succeeded in removing them from their centuries-old resting place, Dr Hawass said, adding that the biggest surprises were the most recent finds. 

The right half of the red granite statue of Amenhotep III was found at the second pylon of the king's funeral temple. Directly behind the king lay the head of a queen with the traditional pharaonic wig and the forehead adorned with the sacred snake.

The lower part of the queen's statue on a rectangular pedestal was also found. Dr Hawass said that this lower portion had been finely carved. 

The site of the temple of Amenhotep III is commonly known as Kom Al Hitan, which is listed among the one hundred monuments that are in danger. Work is under way in the temple courtyard to identify the remaining masses of carved stones.

Government Sues to Halt Kennedy Map Sale

Associated Press Writer 

NEW YORK April 23, 2002 (AP) — It is an intriguing document: A map of Cuba with former President Kennedy's handwritten notes apparently scrawled during the hectic early days of the Cuban missile crisis. 

The map — along with civil rights documents — is at the center of a legal tussle between a Web-based memorabilia collector and the federal government, which claims the documents were improperly removed by Kennedy's personal secretary. 

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Ward on Monday temporarily blocked the sale of the map until a hearing scheduled for next week. The collector had been seeking $750,000. 

Gary J. Zimet, operator of the memorabilia site, has advertised being the exclusive seller of a map and its original envelope identified as, "Cuban Missile Crisis Map With JFK's Handwritten Annotations Indicating Locations of Russian Missile Sites October 16, 1962.'' 

A message left for Zimet was not returned Monday. 

In its arguments, the government said Evelyn Lincoln — the personal secretary who worked for the White House on Kennedy's papers until July 1964 — also compiled annotated and handwritten notes for the President Kennedy Library Corp. until at least 1972. 

The map and civil rights documents were donated to the United States in February 1965 for deposit in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the government said. 

"It appears that Evelyn Lincoln improperly removed the map from the custody and control of the United States'' and later gave, sold or bequeathed it to Robert L. White, a private collector of Kennedy memorabilia, the lawsuit states. It did not suggest that Lincoln, who died in 1995, had done anything criminally wrong. 

"Whatever path the map may have traveled, it nevertheless falls squarely within the deed of gift and rightfully belongs to the United States,'' the government wrote. 

In February, Moments In Time Inc. began advertising the map, prepared by the CIA, as having been given to White by Lincoln. The document features rows of Xs indicating presumed missile sites. 

Zimet posted on his Web site a copy of a letter signed by White that reads: "This was saved, in its original envelope, by the personal secretary to the president and my close friend Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln. I acquired it from her in 1995.'' 

The lawsuit also demands the return of nine documents, six with notes by Kennedy, all related to the 1962 enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. He was the first black student admitted into the school, sparking rioting in which two people were killed.

A Dinosaur Family Tree


Bristol April 30, 2002 (The Scotsman) - A paleontologist yesterday launched the first comprehensive family tree of dinosaurs. 

The "supertree" of 277 dinosaur species, which was compiled by Bristol University, is the most detailed evolutionary map ever produced. 

A computer at the university spent more than a month processing all the potential links between different species, which came to more than the total atoms in the universe. The dinosaur tree distils more than 1,000 species that have been claimed since the first skeletons were dug up in the 19th century. It also amalgamates more than 150 smaller evolutionary trees of individual groups of dinosaurs that have been produced by scientists over the past 22 years. 

The supertree traces dinosaur evolution from the earliest species 230 million years ago, such as the small, two-legged plant eaters pisanosaurus and saturnalia, and eoraptor, one of the earliest meat eaters. The diagram provides continuous links over 165 million years to the last species, 65 million years ago, such as bird dinosaurs like rahonavis, itself a close relative of the velociraptor. 

Mike Benton, professor of vertebrate paleontology at the university, who was part of the research team, said dinosaurs had been chosen for the groundbreaking family tree because the level of public interest they attracted. He said the supertree, which is reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, had not been attempted before because of the large amount of computing power required. However, he admitted the tree had yet to be finally completed, and some of its branches still needed some untangling. 

Prof Benton, who is an expert on the origin of dinosaurs, said the supertree may have to be regularly updated because of the accelerating number of new species being found. He said up to 30 new species were being reported each year - half of which are confirmed as novel - compared to just one in the 1960s. 

Prof Benton said: "There is a huge interest in dinosaurs, which has helped to fuel an increase in exploration, especially in remote areas of China and Australia. Research was in the doldrums from the 1920s to the 1970s, but there is now a growing focus on areas that Victorian explorers did not reach, such as in China and Mongolia. There has been a lot of debate and dispute about new species, but we have put everything into the melting pot to produce this tree.

"It is the most detailed and comprehensive single evolutionary tree produced for dinosaurs, and will provide an essential underpinning for future studies."

Hemingway Goes Digital

New York May 1, 2002 (BBC) - Ernest Hemingway is to become one of the first major authors to have his whole literary catalogue put on the internet. 

The 23 novels will be available for people to read on their computers for less than the price of most paperbacks, his publisher has said. Hemingway is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest writers, with classic works including For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. 

Books by some authors, including Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Jane Austen, have already been published on the internet - but readers are yet to be convinced by the move from the page to the screen. 

The Hemingway novels will be available to download for $9.99 (£6.85) from August. 

"This is an important first step in creating a complete, scholarly electronic library for Hemingway, as well as bringing our classic backlist into the new era of digital publishing," said Susan Moldow, executive at publisher Simon and Schuster. 

Simon and Schuster has been the exclusive United States publisher of Hemingway's books for 75 years. A number of works by classic authors are available to find on the internet - some for free. Current authors, including horror writer Stephen King, have also tried writing just for the internet. 

But King stopped writing The Plant after just six chapters, saying most internet users had the "attention span of grasshoppers". 

Publishing giants Random House and AOL Time Warner have shut down their e-book divisions and many in the industry are predicting the death of the new medium. The most successful works on the internet are textbooks, research works and self-help volumes. 

"The industry is pretty stagnant," according to Jupiter Media Metrix analyst David Card. 

"The best advantage of this market is not for consumer fiction books, better for journals and trade books, travel guides and textbooks," he said.

Inca Mummy Find Unearths Scandal

Associated Press Writer

TUPAC AMARU, Peru April 28, 2002 (AP) - People here speak in hushed tones about the Incan mummies that have made their dusty shantytown famous. But it's not the shriveled corpses they fear. 

The few who are willing to talk with reporters spin a tale of blackmail and of the paranoid destruction of archaeological remains by desperately poor squatters who fear eviction from their homes. 

Tupac Amaru, on Lima's outskirts, came to world attention on April 17 when Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock announced the excavation of more than 900 Incan funeral bundles from beneath the shantytown's unpaved streets. He made the announcement at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society, which financed the last phase of the dig. Cock has hailed the find as of one of the most significant in the history of Inca archaeology. 

"We have so much that we will be kept busy for years sorting it out. With this we will rewrite the history of Inca culture," he said. 

Each mummy bundle enshrouds from two to seven bodies, Cock said. Some have been so well preserved that their fingernails, hair and even eyeballs are still intact. Thousands of artifacts were packed away with them, including feather headdresses, painted ceramics and woven bags. But back home in Peru, one fact shocked the local media and drew criticism from other archaeologists. The Tupac Amaru squatters financed more than 70 percent of the excavation out of their own pockets -- the equivalent of about $103,000. 

"That is blackmail, and it was done to very, very poor people," charged Federico Kauffmann-Doig, an eminent Peruvian archaeologist. 

He accused the cash-strapped National Institute of Culture, which oversees Peru's archaeological heritage, of strong-arming the shantytown into funding the excavation. 

"The institute made a deal with the inhabitants: if you don't want to be evicted, then we're asking you to give money for the excavations. That is outrageous." 

Some Tupac Amaru residents backed up the claim, saying Cock gave them two choices: pay or be moved to the Ventanilla district on the far side of Lima. Cock, the National Institute of Culture and the town's leaders deny such a deal was made. 

"There was no blackmail of the settlement, nor legal incorrectness nor lack of ethics," Cock said. 

Cock said the shantytown sought him out as a private contractor to carry out an "archaeological rescue." He confirmed receiving the money from the leaders of the shantytown, and said it was part of a standard procedure that has been used in other shantytowns before. Kauffmann-Doig said he had never heard of a similar case. 

Daniel Chumbimune, president of the community's governing council, confirmed that the residents mustered the cash, but said they did so only because they hoped the site would be declared available for settlement after it was excavated. He denied anyone was forced to pay. Barbara Moffet, a National Geographic spokeswoman, said the events in question occurred before her organization was aware of the site. "We trust Guillermo Cock and his explanation of the situation," she said. 

Prosecutors have opened an investigation and have begun questioning Cock, Chumbimune and other residents. 

Like dozens of other squatter towns that ring Lima, Tupac Amaru was settled in the late 1980s by families fleeing guerrilla violence in the Andes mountains. The settlement, in the grey-brown folds of desert hillsides, is home to about 1,200 families that have no drinkable water or drains and only got electricity last year. Many residents scrape by doing odd jobs, hawking goods on the street or working as household servants. Some helped out with the excavation. But the pits are now filled in and many shy away from talking about the spectacular discovery made below their homes -- a discovery they funded. 

Some played down the mummy find, saying only a few or even that none were found. Others refused to talk. But one 29-year-old woman, her hands trembling, approached a reporter and asked to arrange a meeting outside of Tupac Amaru to tell the "true story" of the mummy discovery. 

The next night, sitting in a parked car, she said the squatters financed the excavation out of fear of eviction and tried to cover up other remains to head off further excavation. 

A 40-year-old plumber said the town council made announcements over loudspeakers urging the residents "to deny everything" when reporters came to ask about the mummies after the announcement in Washington. Both the man and the woman asked not be identified for fear of reprisals. 

They also said that the community has always known it was living above valuable remains and that it had burned some of them in years past to avoid being evicted.

1200 Get Naked in Brazil for US Artist

SAO PAULO, Brazil April 28, 2002 (Reuters) - Braving a chilly morning and scores of giggling onlookers, more than 1,000 people stripped naked in Sao Paulo to pose for a series of mass nude photographs by New York-based artist Spencer Tunick. 

Tunick's volunteer models -- men and women of all sizes and colors -- posed Saturday for at least six different shots in three locations around Sao Paulo's central Ibirapuera park. 

The "art event" or "installation" as Tunick referred to it, was the last in a series by the 36-year-old New Yorker called "Nude Adrift" in which he has photographed hundreds of ordinary people posing nude in 30 cities on seven continents. 

His last project was called "Naked States" and involved similar photographs in all 50 U.S. states. 

"This is the end of a journey. I was just in Antarctica photographing nudes and now I'm in Sao Paulo," Tunick told reporters after the shoot. 

"I was expecting 600 to 800 people. To get 1,200 is a big surprise," he said, adding that most of his shoots in Europe gathered only about 400 people. 

Many in the crowd of mostly young adults could not wait to peel off their clothes. 

"For the first time ever, you see everyone the same, so you're not embarrassed," said Augusto Pimenta, 29, who said the experience had been "cool." 

The photographs of anonymous naked bodies, sometimes limp on the ground and other times standing, have reminded some of Holocaust pictures. Tunick says his artwork is about creating a piece of public sculpture that reaffirms the body and uses it to create an abstract photograph of the urban landscape. 

The event was hosted by the 25th Sao Paulo Biennial art show and was Tunick's second photo shoot in South America after photographing 450 Argentines in the nude in Buenos Aires earlier this month.

Canine Castaway Will Get Celebrity Welcome
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu May 1, 2002 (Honolulu Advertiser) - It will be "Lights! Camera! Hokget!" tomorrow morning at Pier 24 in Honolulu when the abandoned ship's dog formerly known as Forgea meets the media. But the pooch's Hollywood debut is months away.

Hawaiian Humane Society officials say all national television networks, except CNN so far, have indicated they will be in Honolulu tomorrow for the return of Hokget, a 2-year-old mixed terrier who was the skipper's pet on the ill-fated fuel supply tanker Insiko 1907.

Jay Leno even wants Hokget to fly to Los Angeles for the "Tonight Show," said Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society. But the Coast Guard said yesterday the dog will be available for photos for "no longer than one hour" before Hokget is whisked into the 120-day quarantine required by Hawai'i's rabies prevention program.

Hokget was unintentionally left behind when Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Star rescued the captain and eight crew members from the disabled ship April 2, about 220 miles south of Hawai'i. Her plight prompted the Hawaiian and United States humane societies to launch a $50,000 rescue mission.

She was given up for dead when the first search failed, but the Coast Guard later spotted the ship with Hokget on board April 20.

The Coast Guard, which went after the ship to prevent it from running aground in nature preservation areas at Johnston Island, is having the ship towed to Honolulu to off-load 60,000 gallons of fuel and other petroleum products, and to attempt to recover the remains of a crew member killed in the engine room fire that crippled the ship March 13.

The Coast Guard is considering towing the empty ship back out to sea to be sunk in deep water.
Spidey Takes Off!

Spider-Man Comes to Life

By Alfred Hermida 
BBC News Technology Staff 

Hollywood April 30, 2002 (BBC) - Turning Spider-Man from a comic book character to a big screen superhero was a challenge for Hollywood special effects guru John Dykstra. 

For Spider-Man the movie, he had to create a virtual character that could climb walls or leap across the rooftops of Manhattan, but still appear real to audiences. 

"You have to have the natural things that occur with a human being, such as balance, posture and breathing," he told the BBC programme Go Digital. "But if you see someone where it isn't happening, you know right away that there's something wrong - they're not real." 

Spider-Man is one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the year, with fans keen to see how successful it has been in bringing the American fantasy hero to life. It stars Tobey Maguire as the geeky science student Peter Parker, who is transformed into a one-man war against crime by the bite of a genetically engineered spider. 

For the superhuman scenes in the movie, John Dykstra created a computer-generated character by filming the actor and using his movements as a reference point. 

"We used a virtual character for environments where it was too risky or impractical to take our actor to," said Mr Dykstra. 

But creating a life-like web-spinning superhero was not easy or cheap. Reports suggest that a third of the $80m budget for Spider-Man went on special effects. Mr Dykstra was concerned to make sure that the virtual Spider-Man appeared as real as Mr Maguire's character. 

"The mask was an advantage as we didn't have to recreate some of the components of the face, but at the same time it covers up one of the most expressive aspects of the human form," he said. "So all of the things that would be expressed emotionally by the hundred or so muscles of the face have to be expressed via body posture - and it was a huge task." 

Mr Dykstra is one of Hollywood's leading lights in the area of visual effects, with films like Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Stuart Little to his credit. But he does not believe that virtual characters he creates can totally replace human actors.

"The computer-generated character is another tool," he said. "For the kind of things that I work in, an actor is the way to go." 

Spider-Man, directed by cult favourite Sam Raimi, is due to hit American cinema screens on 3 May, and in the UK on 14 June. It is expected to be a huge hit for Columbia Pictures. Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have already signed up for a sequel.

Spider-Man Advance Premiere in Malaysia 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia April 30, 2002 (AP) - Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the beloved wall-crawler, Malaysian fans besieged movie theaters Tuesday for the opening of "Spider-Man," three days ahead of its United States release.

"This is the biggest movie of the year," said William Lai, a 32-year-old accounts executive who said he'd been reading Spider-Man comic books since kindergarten. "Some of us have been waiting for it all our lives."

Cinemas across Malaysia planned to show the film adaptation of the Marvel comic around midnight Tuesday, to the delight of fans who often have to wait weeks for U.S. movies to open in the Southeast Asian country.

Directed by Sam Raimi, "Spider-Man" stars Tobey Maguire as nerdy Peter Parker and his superhero alter ego, Kirsten Dunst as the woman he adores, and Willem Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin.

Thanks to its ardent comic book fan base, Malaysia is one of the first countries to see the film, which is expected to be one of the summer's highest-grossing blockbusters in the United States, local promoters said.

Fans began lining up for tickets when cineplexes opened Tuesday. A spokesman for GSC multiplex in Kuala Lumpur's Subang Jaya suburb said more than 1,300 tickets for the late-night screening had been sold, with fewer than 100 left several hours before showtime.

A spokesman for Buena Vista, the movie's distributor in Malaysia, was not immediately available for details on nationwide ticket sales.

Thousands of Malaysians also are expected to flock to a Spider-Man convention in Kuala Lumpur this weekend featuring comic book auctions and superhero look-alike contests. Organizers say the event will help Malaysians "share their fascination and appreciation" for the web-slinger.

Promoters have said they expect the movie to be huge in Malaysia. "X-Men" was one of the country's top-grossing films of 2000.

Comic books peaked in popularity in Malaysia during the 1980s, with issues of "The Uncanny X-Men" and "The Amazing Spider-man" ranking as perennial top-sellers. However, readership has dwindled since the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis caused comic book prices to triple. 

Spidey the Movie - 

Spidey the Sweepstakes - 

Spidey the Comic - 

Spidey the Screensaver -

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