Boycott The Emmys?
Asteroid Hits Earth in 2019!
Thalassodromeus, UK Crop Circles, 
Dwarf Galaxies, Giant Squid & More!
Genre News: Boycott The Emmys? Angel, Indiana Jones, Firefly, Dead Zone, Nemesis & More!

Emmys Blow Off Genre Shows - As Usual
By FLAtRich

Hollywood July 25, 2002 (eXoNews) - Yeah, well. What do you expect? Buffy and Farscape just don't sell soap the way boring sitcoms or fake reality contests or violent cops beating up suspects do. I was gonna write a diatribe here about how unfair the Emmys are and how we should all just boycott them this year, but then I downloaded the rules and a couple of other documents from the Academy site and I decided that the majority of people in the television business don't give a damn about anything but making money anyway, so why should I care? I'm not even in the television business. I only watch.

Not only that, if you look at the nominations with an open mind, some of the people nominated really do deserve it. West Wing is good and the supporting actors on that show can talk almost as fast as Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Don't care about the Comedy nominations. I didn't watch any new sitcom episodes except Malcolm this year, and I only watched that because it was the lead-in to X-Files. (Got very boring after a while. How long does it take a modern parent to lose it and divorce the kids?) And I did like Doris Roberts when she was a sidekick on Remington Steele, so good luck to her.

My favorite comedy show in 2002 was Batman on TVLand. Adam West and Bert Ward oughta get Emmy Lifetime Achievement Awards. I watched that show every night at dinnertime from Episode 1 through about 180 and it was still a riot! It holds up somehow, honest. Yvonne Craig was pretty hot as Batgirl too!

So I guess you have to bow to the majority of Academy members in the end. How the hell a clone show like Alias picks up 11 nominations beats the hell out of me, but that's show business. Alias wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for X-Files, but in its last season, Chris Carter's nine years were completely forgotten. CC warned us about clones - but go figure! Only X-Files composer Mark Snow managed to get a nomination this year (and he deserved it - he's the best!) 

So forget that Angel has been so cool that you've never missed an episode for the last three seasons and that Farscape is the best sci-fi show on TV and that Gellar and Hannigan and all the rest of the Buffy cast should get two Emmys apiece for sticking with us for six years of great fun and entertainment. Forget that NONE of the actors on ANY of the genre shows that have pumped so much vitality and youth into TV in the last ten years were nominated. Forget that NONE of the writers of genre shows, directors of genre shows, or art directors of genre shows made it onto the ballots.

Forget that you have to PAY EXTRA to see the 18 HBO shows and 5 Showtime shows that hogged multiple nominations in most of the "big" categories. Folks in the TV business can afford Premium Cable. They're serious. They're "in the business". They're the ones who are missing what's really best about TV. They'd rather watch more cops and suits and doctors and simpleton animated comedies than get taken away to something new and different. Let them eat cake.

I promise you: no one will be watching Alias or West Wing every night at dinnertime forty years from now.

So 20 nominations did go to new blood. And those 20 count, even if they aren't telling Nick Brendon that he's doing a great job on Buffy or Michael Rosenbaum that he's amazing as Lex Luthor or Charisma Carpenter that we really appreciate that she's a real actress now or Tim Hutton that his production of Nero Wolfe borders on genius or the Henson Company that Farscape is light years beyond anything the so-called major networks have come up with in the last twenty years or are likely to come up with in the next twenty.

Those 20 genre nominations count because the people who made it for their shows are REALLY good! You might not know their names, but they were up against the money machine that calls itself the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and they won recognition anyway!

So let's hear it for the people behind the scenes. Here's who they are:

Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)
Futurama "Roswell That Ends Well" - Matt Groening, Executive Producer, David X. Cohen, Executive Producer, and company.

Outstanding Costumes For A Series
Farscape "Into The Lion's Den (Part 1): Lambs To The Slaughter" - Terry Ryan, Costume Designer; Lyn Askew, Costume Supervisor

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Series
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Hell's Bells" - Sean Flanigan, Dept. Head Hair; Lisa Marie Rosenberg, Hairstylist; Francine Shermaine, Hairstylist; Thomas Real, Hairstylist; Linda Arnold, Hairstylist

Enterprise "Two Days And Two Nights" - Michael Moore, Designer; Gloria Pasqua Casny, Hairstylist; Roma Goddard, Hairstylist; Laura Connolly, Hairstylist; Cheri Ruff, Hairstylist

Outstanding Main Title Design
Wolf Lake - George Montgomery, Main Title Designer; Thomas Cobb, Main Title Designer; Blake Danforth, Main Title Designer; John Narun, Main Title Designer

Outstanding Makeup For A Series (Non-Prosthetic)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Hell's Bells" - Todd A. McIntosh, Makeup Department Head; Jay Wejebe, Makeup Artist; Carol Schwartz, Makeup Artist; Bridgette Myre-Ellis, Makeup Artist

Outstanding Makeup For A Series (Prosthetic)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Hell's Bells" - Todd A. McIntosh, Makeup Supervisor; Jay Wejebe, Makeup Artist; Carol Schwartz, Makeup Artist; Bridgette Myre-Ellis, Makeup Artist; Joel Harlow, Prosthetics; John Vulich, Prosthetics

Enterprise "Broken Bow (Pilot)" - Michael Westmore, Makeup Artist; Art Anthony, Makeup Artist; Belinda Bryant, Makeup Artist; David DeLeon, Makeup Artist; Suzanne Diaz-Westmore, Makeup Artist; Earl Ellis, Makeup Artist; Jeff Lewis, Makeup Artist; Bradley M. Look, Makeup Artist; Joe Podnar, Makeup Artist; Karen J. Westerfield, Makeup Artist; June Westmore, Makeup Artist; Natalie Wood, Makeup Artist

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Dramatic Underscore)
The X-Files "The Truth" - Music by Mark Snow

Xena: Warrior Princess "A Friend In Need II" - Music by Joseph LoDuca

Outstanding Music Direction
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Once More With Feeling" - Christophe Beck, Music Director; Jesse Tobias, Music Director

Outstanding Main Title Theme Music
Justice League (Animation) Theme by Lolita Ritmanis
Wolf Lake - Music by David Schwartz

Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series
Enterprise "Broken Bow (Pilot)" - Bill Wistrom, Supervising Sound Editor; James Wolvington, Sound Editor; Ashley Harvey, Sound Editor; Masanobu Tomita, Sound Editor; Dale Chaloukian, Sound Editor; Shaun Varney, Sound Editor; Stephen M. Rowe, Music Editor; Hilda Hodges, Foley Artist; Catherine Rose, Foley Artist

Smallville "Pilot" - Michael E. Lawshé, Supervising Sound Editor; Timothy A. Cleveland, Sound Editor; Paul J. Diller, Sound Editor; Adam Johnston, Sound Editor; Otis Van Osten, Sound Editor; Andrew Somers, Sound Editor; Karyn Foster, Sound Editor; Jessica Dickson, Sound Editor; Karen Spangenberg, Sound Editor; Chris McGeary, Music Editor; Casey Crabtree, Foley Artist; Mike Crabtree, Foley Artist

Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Series
Enterprise "Breaking The Ice" - David Stipes, Visual Effects Supervisor and team.

Enterprise "Broken Bow (Pilot)" - Dan Curry, Visual Effects Producer and team.

Smallville "Pilot" - Elan Soltes, Visual Effects Supervisor and team.

Stargate SG-1 "Enemies" - James Tichenor, Visual Effects Producer and team.

Stargate SG-1 "Revelations" - James Tichenor, Visual Effects Producer and team.

Got ironically repetitious in that last one, so I didn't list everybody. This was the only category where all the nominees were from genre shows.

Finally, I must add that Allison Janney is a great actress. Martin Sheen is a great actor. Dulé Hill and Mary-Louise Parker and the other nominated supporting actors on West Wing are great too. West Wing fell apart for me after 9/11, though. It was still good, but just didn't seem relevant any more. (I kept switching out to Greg the Bunny.)

And that's the thing about Enterprise and Buffy and Angel and Andromeda and Roswell and X-Files and Farscape and The Chronicle and The Lone Gunmen and all those other shows that have remained unsung by the Emmys once more with feeling - they don't have to be relevant to work. They only have to capture us for an hour a week and entertain the hell out of us!

Hey! That was sort of a diatribe after all! See the entire list of nominations - 

And be sure to vote for the real viewers' favorites in the Zap2it Shadow Poll, where people who actually watch TV made the nominations and get to pick the winners -

Angel Goes to Vegas 

Hollywood July 23, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - David Simkins, who replaces departing show runner David Greenwalt on The WB's vampire series Angel, told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming season will feature an episode filmed on location in Las Vegas. "It's an episode that takes place entirely in Vegas," Simkins said in an interview. "The logistics are challenging, but it's something we're working out. Even though the episode is set in Vegas, obviously, we'll shoot three days there, hitting locations and casino work, and then we'll bring everything back here [to Los Angeles] and finish up."

Simkins revealed that the episode will feature the return of the demon karaoke host Lorne, played by Andy Hallett, who left Angel Investigations at the end of last year for a gig at a Vegas nightclub. "Lorne is in Vegas. And he's got his own show. And it's a bit Tom Jones meets Liberace meets Lorne. And the trouble starts there," Simkins said. Rather than trying to recreate Sin City on a soundstage, Simkins explained that the producers felt that the episode required the authenticity of a location shoot.

"What we needed to do in Vegas is [capture] the scope [and] the feeling of it—the world of it. It's a show about destinies and futures and losing those futures and losing destinies." Angel returns to the WB in the fall in a new timeslot, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Ford Says One Junior Is Enough 
News Editor 

Hollywood July 23, 2002 (Cinescape) - Harrison Ford cut down a rumor connected to INDIANA JONES 4 for almost as long as the Internet has been buzzing about the project.

In a short interview with the CHICAGO SUN TIMES’ Cindy Pearlman, Ford responded to the rumor that the next film will portray Indy as a family man of sorts.

When asked about the possibility of the boy of his famous fedora wearing character popping up in the fourth film, Ford said, “Hey, there's only one son in these movies and I'll always be Sean Connery's little boy!"

No Aliens In Firefly 

Hollywood July 23, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Joss Whedon, whose new SF series Firefly debuts on Fox this fall, told SCI FI Wire that the show is set in outer space, but humans will be the only life forms featured. That means no aliens. "I believe we are the only sentient beings in the universe," he said in an interview on the set. "And I believe that in 500 years from now, we will still be the only sentient beings around."

After reinventing the horror genre with his first show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon now seeks to challenge the conventions of the traditional spaceship-based series. "I wanted to stay away from the easy science-fiction fixes—the android, the clone, the alien—all the stuff that, for all I know, may be lurking around the corner, but I'm not expecting to see anytime soon," he said.

Instead, Firefly will focus primarily on the human condition, with all its myriad problems, a goal that Whedon believes is best achieved without the inclusion of alien species. "That's a great metaphor to play with, but it's not really what I'm interested in. I'm really interested in 'You are there.' In 'You are part of this.' And I think aliens, no matter what, take you out of that. I also need to spend some time away from latex."

The Dead Zone Renewed for Season Two 
Cinescape News Editor 

Hollywood July 23, 2002 (Cinescape & Sci Fi Wire) - This one comes as a boost for both author Stephen King and producer Michael Piller (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) fans: the TV series version of the psychic story THE DEAD ZONE has been renewed for season two. 

The USA Network is expected to ask for 26 more episodes of the show, which stars Anthony Michael Hall and Nicole DeBoer (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) as a man who can foresee people’s futures, and his ex-fiancé.

[Sci Fi Wire adds this Dead Zone News - Ed.]

"The Dead Zone's July 21 episode was the highest-rated basic cable show in prime time for the week, with a 3.3 household rating and an average of 4.8 million viewers, USA Network announced.

"In its six weeks in the Sunday 10 p.m. timeslot, The Dead Zone has averaged a 3.5 household rating and an average audience of 4.8 million viewers per night."

Dead Zone airs Sundays at 10 PM on USA. The show is also rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel on Fridays just before SG1 and Farscape. 

Signs Approach - With Feeling 

Hollywood July 19, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - M. Night Shyamalan, writer and director of the upcoming SF thriller film Signs, told SCI FI Wire that he wanted to infuse his new movie with more emotion—something he had shied away from in his previous two movies, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. “Emotion is something that I … struggle with, because I’m an emotional guy. … I’m definitely more emotional than the average Joe, you know?” Shyamalan said in an interview while promoting the new film.

Shyamalan added, “It’s a very delicate balance, the emotional thing, and one that I had gone a little crazy with in my [first] movie, Wide Awake. … It was emotional all the time. And I had, like, a violent reaction from the critics and the audience. I didn’t realize that they would, like, say, compare me to bad movies. … And so, I really pulled back on that on Sixth Sense. And I said, ‘I’m not going to let myself get emotional until the car scene.’ … And then I was like, ‘Wow, that was really successful! You know what? Unbreakable, I’m not going to have emotion at all! You know, that’ll even be better!’ And I felt like … somehow I didn’t show a part of myself.”

In Signs, Mel Gibson plays a farmer, father and former priest who has a crisis of faith as the result of a family tragedy and who finds his beliefs challenged by the sudden appearance of crop circles and other strange phenomena. At the heart of the movie is Gibson’s relationship with his brother, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and two small children, played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin.

“Signs is a little bit of coming back home to emotion,” Shyamalan said. “This is as emotional as big movies get. … I felt more courage to go right to the line and stop. Find where that line is and have courage, rather than being so scared of it.” Signs opens August 2nd - probably everywhere.

Paramount Loves Nemesis

[Here's the latest hype from the boys in the Paramount press room. That's OK, though. This is the kind of hype we like to see :o)>Ed]

Hollywood July 24, 2002 (Paramount Nemesis Newsletter) - The official teaser poster has begun to appear in local theatres across the country. Haven't caught it yet? Click here (   ) to check it out yourself! 

The website's first online game is now up and running. Can you ESCAPE THE REMAN MINES? Select the planet Remus on the site and take your chances. 

A second 360 degree iPIX has been added to the Romulus portion of the site. Explore the corridors of Romulan power outside the grand senate chamber. Look for more iPIX over the next few months. 

New wallpapers, MP3 player skins, stills, games and the ULTIMATE NEMESIS Sweepstakes are all coming soon! Be sure to visit the official site for all the latest news on STAR TREK: NEMESIS! 

A Generation's Final Journey Begins STAR TREK: NEMESIS In Theatres December 13 

Explore the worlds of Nemesis at 

Asteroid Hits Earth in 2019!

By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Liverpool July 24, 2002 (BBC) - An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become the most threatening object yet detected in space. A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with Earth and could strike the planet on 1 February 2019 - although the uncertainties are large. 

Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be given a positive value.

From its brightness, astronomers estimate it is about two kilometers wide, large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth. 

Although astronomers say the object definitely merits attention, they expect more observations to show it is not on an Earth-intersecting trajectory. It was first seen on the night of 5 July, picked up by the Linear Observatory's automated sky survey program in New Mexico, US. Since then astronomers worldwide have been paying close attention to it, amassing almost 200 observations in a few weeks. 

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, told BBC News Online that "this asteroid has now become the most threatening object in the short history of asteroid detection". 

NT7 circles the Sun every 837 days and travels in a tilted orbit from about the distance of Mars to just within the Earth's orbit. Detailed calculations of NT7's orbit suggest many occasions when its projected path through space intersects the Earth's orbit. 

Researchers estimate that on 1 February, 2019, its impact velocity on the Earth would be 28 km a second - enough to wipe out a continent and cause global climate changes. 

However, Dr Peiser was keen to point out that future observations could change the situation. He said: "This unique event should not diminish the fact that additional observations in coming weeks will almost certainly - we hope - eliminate the current threat." 

According to astronomers, NT7 will be easily observable for the next 18 months or so, meaning there is no risk of losing the object. Observations made over that period - and the fact that NT7 is bright enough that it is bound to show up in old photographs - mean that scientists will soon have a very precise orbit for the object. 

Dr Donald Yeomans, of the US space agency's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, told BBC News Online: "The orbit of this object is rather highly inclined to the Earth's orbit so it has been missed because until recently observers were not looking for such objects in that region of space." 

Regarding the possibility of an impact, Dr Yeomans said the uncertainties were large. 

"The error in our knowledge of where NT7 will be on 1 February, 2019, is large, several tens of millions of kilometers," he said. Dr Yeomans said the world would have to get used to finding more objects like NT7 that, on discovery, look threatening, but then become harmless. 

"This is because the problem of Near-Earth Objects is now being properly addressed," he said.

Indian Prisoners Fight Tribal Trust Seizures
By Silja J.A. Talvi
Indian Country Today

SEATTLE July 24, 2002 (ICT) - Indian prisoners incarcerated by the Washington State Department of Corrections have unlawfully and unconstitutionally had a portion of their tribal trust fund distributions seized by the state, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a member of the Colville Reservation in north central Washington.

The Native American Project of Columbia Legal Services (CLS) in Seattle and the Legal Office of the Colville Confederated Tribes has taken on the case of Dennis Stensgar, an Indian prisoner currently incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington.

In the case, Stensgar v. Lehman, the plaintiffs have requested relief and restitution for Indian prisoners who have had up to 20 percent of their incoming trust fund disbursements seized by the Department of Corrections (DOC) since 1997. The Native American Project of CLS filed suit in late March on behalf of Stensgar and other similarly situated Indian prisoners.

According to the recently revised state code, the DOC has the right, without exception, to seize and route incoming inmate funds toward court-ordered financial obligations.

Despite a U.S. District Court ruling in May 2001, Corpuz v. Lehman, in favor of returning seized trust funds to an imprisoned member of the Yakama Nation, the DOC and the Washington State Attorney General’s office have not been willing to return funds seized between 1997-2001 to other Indian prisoners.

The case does appear to have had a chilling effect on present-day deductions from Indian prisoners’ disbursement checks, however. According to Douglas W. Carr, Assistant Attorney General of Washington, the DOC has not taken any money out of per capita tribal disbursement checks since July 2001.

"It’s our position that the legal basis for the [plaintiffs’] complaint is less than solid," said Carr. "Frankly, Native American inmates were being treated the same as all other inmates. We really don’t see where they’ve been damaged because they’ve had legitimate debts paid ... and we certainly think that the concept of inmates being required to pay their fines is a legitimate and appropriate policy."

But Shelby Settles, staff attorney with the Native American Project of CLS, says that any deducted tribal trust monies should be returned to Indian prisoners, because the very act of seizing such monies was unlawful to begin with.

"This money represents the last remaining lands that belong to [these individuals] and their tribes, and it was received from the use of resources on tribal trust lands. The money is part of the political relationship that exists between the U.S. federal government and the tribes," said Settles.

Federal statute 25 U.S.C. Section 410 was originally written in 1906 to protect disbursements from the leases or sales of Indian trust lands from being seized toward debts or liabilities.

While the Attorney General’s office acknowledges the existence of this statute, its answer to the complaint denies that any portion of Stensgar’s monies have been taken in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The state Attorney General filed his response with the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma on June 18,

"We frankly don’t think that [Indian prisoners] have been damaged, but the plaintiffs obviously think differently," added Carr. The Attorney General’s office has asked the court to dismiss the complaint and, furthermore, is considering the possibility of asking the Department of the Interior to approve deductions from Indian prisoners’ tribal disbursement checks.

"It’s certainly a possibility that [we] may ask the Secretary of the Interior to approve these deductions in the future," stated Carr.

Out of a state prison population of 15,600 inmates, roughly four percent, or 625 inmates, are of Indian descent. Statewide, only 1.6 percent of the population is Indian, according to the latest census figures.

Settles said that while her office is working to obtain class-action certification for this case, as many as 100 prisoners could eventually be involved in the lawsuit. In addition to asking for a full reimbursement of deducted monies, the plaintiffs are requesting that the court declare that this money is protected pursuant to federal law. Furthermore, the plaintiffs have requested injunctive relief from the court to prevent the DOC from making any further deductions from protected Indian trust fund disbursements.

Currently, tribes distributing protected trust disbursements include the Spokane, Yakama, Kalispel and Colville Confederated Tribes, including per capita payments resulting from the Grand Coulee Dam Settlement Act of 1994. The Act compensates the tribes for lands and resources taken by the construction and operation of the dam, and specifically exempts distributions to tribal members from any form of garnishment, seizure or local taxation.

"It’s important that people understand that these prisoners will still be paying their court-ordered money, but they won’t be paying it out of this protected money. The debt remains and they still have those obligations," explained Settles.

"This isn’t welfare in any sense," she added. "These monies are a part of treaty rights ... and they’re central to the tribes’ existence.
Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla Wins First Round 

Tasman Sea Australia July 22, 2002 (Greenpeace) - The plutonium transport ships are large, fast and bristling with guns and security personnel. But they balked at the prospect of passing a tiny flotilla of sailboats armed only with cameras, because it posed one unbearable risk: exposing a deadly and foolhardy mission to the full glare of public scrutiny. 

Their fears may have been justified, for today the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla intercepted the plutonium transport and sent a powerful anti-nuclear message around the world. 

"We may only be 10 boats but we carry the wishes and demands of millions of people, who want an end to the monstrous nuclear industry worldwide," said flotilla protester Henk Haazen.

For almost a week the small yachts of the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla sailed across the Pacific to demonstrate the huge public opposition to the dangerous nuclear shipment. On Sunday, July 21 the flotilla of ten boats moved into position in the Tasman Sea, halfway between Australia and New Zealand.

The two nuclear freighters, carrying a load of highly dangerous nuclear MOX (mixed oxides of plutonium and uranium) from Japan to the UK, seemed reluctant to face the full glare of publicity. They drastically reduced their speed for the first time since leaving Japan, temporarily halting their passage through the Tasman Sea -- an apparent attempt to avoid the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla. 

Greenpeace and the flotilla expected the two armed UK nuclear freighters to try to sneak through the flotilla protest line during the dead of night. And that's exactly what happened. 

When darkness fell the nuclear freighters sped up and at midnight, local time, they attempted to pass through the flotilla's protest line between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. 

But the nuclear transport vessels were detected as they passed between the protest vessels SV Tiama and Fio-oko. The protesters launched an inflatable to shadow the ship, and at dawn they caught up with the nuclear transports. Two swimmers, Australian parliamentarian Ian Cohen and Stuart Lennox of Tasmania, were dropped into the water. They held up a banner that read "Nuclear Free Pacific" as the two nuclear ships steamed past.

"I wanted to make sure that there was no doubt in these shippers minds that they are not welcome in this region," said Cohen, who says he came there to represent Australians who express a strong anti-nuclear sentiment.

The flotilla boats also radioed their message of protest to the ships.

Opposition is reaching a crescendo in nations along the shipment's route. On July 17, the government of Vanuatu roundly condemned the shipment, and the next day the Fijian prime minister used a regional summit to express his outrage and opposition "to those who are so willing to put the Pacific and our peoples at risk." Then the 78 nations at the African-Caribbean-Pacific summit condemned and isolated Japan and the UK for their shameful nuclear waste MOX shipment in the summit's final declaration. 

The shipment of MOX is being returned to the UK because its producers, the government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), falsified critical safety data on the MOX and the Japanese refused to use it.

Thalassodromeus Flew Over Dinosaurs

By Will Dunham 

WASHINGTON July 21, 2002 (Reuters) - Many people might be familiar with pterosaurs, the extinct flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs, through science-fiction films. 

One waged a losing fight against the famed giant gorilla in "King Kong," another carried off a cave woman in "One Million Years B.C.," and two more terrorized Japan in "Rodan." But the real pterosaurs made their mark quite nicely many eons ago without the help of filmmakers with active imaginations. 

Pterosaurs (pronounced TER-oh-sawrs) were the first vertebrates to conquer flight. They thrived for 160 million years before perishing along with their cousins the dinosaurs when a big extraterrestrial rock slammed into Earth 65 million years ago. 

"People find pterosaurs interesting because they represent, with dinosaurs, the symbol of a past, vanished world," Italian pterosaur expert Fabio Dalla Vecchia told Reuters. 

The spotlight was cast anew on those long-ago winged creatures when Brazilian scientists Alexander Kellner and Diogenes de Almeida Campos last Thursday announced the discovery of one of the strangest ones of them all. 

The head of their pterosaur, Thalassodromeus, was topped with a huge bony crest. Similarities between its beak and that of a modern-day type of bird offered good clues about how this flying reptile caught its dinner. 

"There is, unfortunately, very little that we know about pterosaurs," Kellner said in an interview, noting their lightly built and fragile bones only rarely left behind fossils. Sites in Brazil, Germany, England and Kansas have yielded many of the known specimens. 

"Normally, those specimens tend to be very crushed and fragmentary," Kellner said. 

The earliest pterosaurs appeared at about the same time as the first dinosaurs, about 225 million years ago. Those pterosaurs in the Triassic period were modest in size next to those that lived later in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. 

Scientists are debating whether pterosaurs and dinosaurs, both of which arose from earlier forms of reptiles, are closely or more distantly related. 


Thalassodromeus, which lived 110 million years ago and had a wingspan of nearly 15 feet, was among the larger pterosaurs, but far from the largest. The wingspan of the smallest pterosaurs was about 8 inches. But Pteranodon had a wingspan of 33 feet. The behemoth Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of 36 feet. 

Pterosaurs were the Orville and Wilbur Wright of prehistoric animals -- in other words, the first to fly. While insects already had gone airborne, no vertebrate -- an animal with a backbone such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals -- developed the ability to fly before pterosaurs. 

"They were the first vertebrate experiment in flight," pterosaur expert Christopher Bennett of the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut said in an interview. "They have all sorts of weird adaptations. And if they were alive today, you would think that they're really neat animals." 

"Active flight is the most complex way to move, and the most advanced style of life. Man has always been attracted by flight, but his body design is not suited for it," added Dalla Vecchia. "The study of pterosaurs sheds light on the way evolution proceeded to obtain a flying animal from a non-flying animal -- the pterosaur ancestor. At least this is what we hope to understand with our study of the earliest pterosaurs." 


Birds, which first appeared about 150 million years ago, and bats, flying mammals that arose about 55 million years ago, are the other members of the vertebrate flight club. The wing structure of the three differs in interesting ways. 

"Unlike birds, the pterosaur wing was made by a membrane stretched by an enormously elongated finger of the hand," Dalla Vecchia said. "Unlike bats, the membrane was stretched by a digit only, and had structural fibers inside to keep the wing shape." 

Earlier pterosaurs possessed long tails -- some like Dimorphodon with a diamond-shaped flap of skin on the end -- that may have helped them stabilize during flight, while some later ones had no tails and likely were more skilled aviators. 

Many pterosaurs lived near the sea and probably fed on fish, scientists say. 

Based on the similarities to modern skimmer birds, Kellner theorized that Thalassodromeus glided low over the water in an inland lagoon near the sea, with its lower jaw skimming the surface, poised to nab any fish or crustaceans. 

There is some evidence in the fossil record, including a recent find in China, that the bodies of pterosaurs were covered with something akin to fur -- very small, flexible filaments like hairs, Bennett said. 

"They probably were furry, although of course the fur would not be the same fur that we have in mammals because it would be a separate (evolutionary) development," Bennett added.

Dusty Mounds Hold Clues to Afghan Past

KHARWAR, Afghanistan July 22, 2002 (Reuters) --Beneath a series of towering dusty mounds outside a remote village lie clues to an ancient civilization that flourished long before Islam embraced Afghanistan.

For the explorer, the reward of a five-hour drive down a bone-shaking road from the capital Kabul is a glimpse of the remnants of a sophisticated city that boasted a water system, places of worship, houses and shops. But that ancient heritage is in danger of being lost forever -- a victim of the ravaging combination of destructive natural elements and the plundering greed of treasure seekers.

The city, called Kafir Koot (Fort of the Infidel) is thought to have flourished between the third and fifth centuries AD.

Buddhism was still the predominant faith in Afghanistan by virtue of its strategic location on the ancient silk route -- an international highway of cultures and religions that reached from Europe to China. Those Buddhist roots have struggled to survive in modern Afghanistan, where a combination of decades of occupation and conflict and a return to a more fundamental interpretation of Islam have diluted the appreciation of pre-Islamic history.

The destruction of Afghanistan's past reached its zenith last year when the Taliban ordered that two towering statues of Buddha at Bamiyan be blown up on the grounds they were graven images. Despite protests from around the world -- including other Muslim countries -- the Taliban also ordered remaining pre-Islamic relics in the oft-looted Kabul museum to be destroyed.

Many people date the downfall of the Taliban from that cultural outrage rather than the events of September 11, which resulted in the U.S.-led air bombardment and, eventually, its fall from power at the hands of the Northern Alliance. But what the Taliban could not see they could not destroy, and Afghan scientists and archaeologists hope that Kafir Koot may yet yield a treasure trove of historical artifacts.

"The discovery of this town is very important for us and I think for everybody," Information and Cultural Minister Raheen Makhdoom told Reuters. He said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had agreed to take immediate steps to try to protect the site from further desecration and looting, and to study it for clues to the past.

Makhdoom will travel to Japan soon to meet with UNESCO representatives to discuss the project.

Located in Logar province, about two and a half hours' drive from the provincial capital Pul-i-Alam, Kafir Koot lies on the outskirts of the modern village of Kharwar. A tiny part of a massive wall that surrounded the ancient town is still visible and there are signs the area was enclosed beneath the gaze of a mighty fortress.

The ruins of the ancient city are dotted with holes, which, from a distance, look like caves or fortifications for modern soldiers. But a closer look reveals that they are tunnels dug by treasure seekers hunting for coins, pottery, statues and gems.

Much still remains. Broken pieces of colorful pots are strewn around some holes, while the foundations of shops and houses can also be seen.

In some cases, the remains of ancient walls are still visible, as are colorful frescoes and paintings defying time to give a glimpse of ancient life. But nature has also taken its toll and sand, wind and rain have encased statues in a concrete-like mixture so that all that can be seen now are the muscular thighs or bulging toes of what would have been magnificent statues.

The upper parts of the statues have been hacked off by looters to sell abroad.

The looting was not without its risks. Locals say there have been deadly fights between rival relic hunters, and villagers are also wary of poisonous snakes they say inhabit the ruins. Looting started after the Soviet occupation of 1979, but reached its peak after the downfall of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in December last year.

"You see these high forts," says local Wakil, pointing to dozens of freshly built houses near Kharwar. "They each cost 10 lak (around $18,000). Without the money from digging, people can not afford to build such houses."

With the help of local people, dealers would load heads taken from dozens of statues on to trucks to take to neighboring Pakistan, where they were smuggled to Europe and Japan, he said. More fragile objects, such as pots and frescoes would be wrapped in cotton.

The scavenging has slowed since the government stationed four Afghan soldiers to keep guard over the site, but the soldiers complain they have not been paid regularly and during a visit at the weekend there were signs of recent digging.

"The city is called the 'Treasure of Kharwar'. Every body wants something, although we think most objects have been taken," said Hashmatullah, a villager. "But there still could be treasures remaining."

Anthrax Found at Scott's Antarctic Camp

McMurdo Sound Antarctica July 24, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists have found spores of the deadly anthrax bacteria in the Antarctic hut used by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. The Antarctic Heritage Trust said anthrax tests had proved positive on samples taken from Scott's hut at Cape Evans in McMurdo Sound.

Scott used the base as a permanent winter station prior to his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. It was abandoned in 1913 but is now being restored by the trust. There is no evidence that Scott or his men suffered from the disease or that the spores pose any threat to visitors, the trust said. But the hut - visited earlier this year by Britain's Princess Royal - has been closed as a precaution. 

Manchurian ponies and Himalayan mules, or their food, used in Scott's bid to be the first man to reach the South Pole are thought to be the source of the spores as anthrax was endemic in Asia at the time. 

Scott and his team reached the South Pole, but found that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it. 

The anthrax was found in the stables at the Cape Evans hut, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) from New Zealand's Scott Base and the neighboring United States McMurdo Station. The population at McMurdo balloons to more than 1,000 during the summer months, but it is said they will face no health risks.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust's executive director Nigel Watson said: "Thousands of people have passed through the historic huts since they were rediscovered in the late 1940s without any cases of confirmed anthrax." 

The hut has been put off limits to the few researchers currently working at the bases. 

Britain's Princess Anne entered the hut, some 1,500 km (938 miles) from the South Pole, in February to help launch a campaign to restore the structures left by early Antarctic explorers. 

Waikato University scientists visiting the hut earlier this year found the anthrax spores and brought back some of them under quarantine. Douglas Lush of the New Zealand Ministry of Health said it was no surprise that spores could have survived for 90 years in the frigid conditions. 

"Spores can last for many years in the soil and don't pose a threat to humans unless they are inhaled in large quantities or come in contact with open wounds," he said. 

Five people in the United States died from the disease last year after contracting it from tainted letters sent after the 11 September attacks.

Canine Refused Ballot Bid

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. July 17, 2002 (AP) - It's back to the doghouse for one aspiring House candidate. 

State election officials refused to qualify Percy, a 5-year-old border collie mix, as a rival to Secretary of State Katherine Harris in her bid for Congress. Percy barked loudly when veteran elections official Ed Kast told the dog's owner, Wayne Genthner, his dog didn't meet the state's elections requirements. 

"He's a canine and therefore not a qualified elector," Kast said. 

Genthner, a Republican, then decided he'd run himself as a write-in candidate. The 42-year-old charter boat captain said he was frustrated with highly financed, sterile campaigns that avoid meaningful debate. 

"People are almost disdainful of the political system as it is now," Genthner said. "Percy exists to me as a binding none-of-the above ballot selection." 

Percy and his volunteer campaign staff had been handing out flyers with slogans such as, "Never made a mess in the House! Never will!" and "PERCY! Putting the LICK back into Republican." 

Harris, who drew worldwide attention in her role as Florida's chief elections officer during the 2000 presidential recount, is a heavy favorite to win the race.

Crop Circles Return to Windmill Hill

Wiltshire UK July 20, 2002 (Circlemakers) - With the wheat now maturing this season's jaw dropper has arrived. This awesome formation (pictured right) was discovered on July 18th at Windmill Hill in Wiltshire which has been host to many spectacular crop circles in the past. We estimate that there are approximately 1500 segments in this formation. It must rate as one of the most geometrically complex formations to have ever appeared. There are some people standing in the middle of the formation to give you a sense of scale. 

Here's what veteran crop circle researcher Colin Andrews had to say about the formation: "...The gem of the season, if not ever. I find myself saying every year now, they just cant get better than this, well I just said it again. It is startlingly beautiful... It still gives me bumps on my arms and helps my mind grow in ways hard to explain." 

Peter Gersten - who describes himself as a UFO lawyer - was also blown away by the formation: "This new crop circle has to be the most extraordinary planetary pictograph I have ever seen... it is a work of cosmic art".

More crop circle news at Circlemakers -

More amazing aerial views of crop circles! - http://www./temporarytemples/library/ccav98.html

M. Night Shyamalan's new movie Signs, starring Mel Gibson and various digital crop circles, is due from Touchstone in August. Official Touchstone Pictures Signs Site (very cool!) -

Chocolate Mysteries!

Ancient Mayans May Have Had Cocoa 

Associated Press Writer 

Belize July 20, 2002 (AP) - It wasn't as sweet as modern hot chocolate, but the Mayans were drinking cocoa 2,100 years before Columbus landed in the New World, or about 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers say. An analysis of 2,600-year-old pottery confirmed that ancient Mayans made cocoa drinks as early as 600 B.C. in an area of Central America that some anthropologists have nicknamed "the cradle of chocolate."

In a report Thursday in the journal Nature, Hershey Foods Corp. biochemist Jeff Hurst details tests of earthenware teapots excavated at a Mayan archaeological site at Colha in Belize. 

The vessels may have been used to pour a cocoa mixture from one vessel to another to generate a froth that later Spanish explorers noted was the Mayans' favorite part of their cocoa drink. Researchers believe it was probably a bitter brew. 

"I'd conjecture it would not be to our liking," Hurst said. "It was probably roasted and ground-up cocoa mixed with some kind of water and spices--definitely not what we're used to today." 

Hurst and his research team used a mass spectrometer and liquid-gas chromatography equipment to detect traces of cocoa. 

The results push back the confirmed date of cocoa residue in the Mayan region from A.D. 400, as determined in previous Hershey lab work on burial pots from Guatemala, said anthropologist Rosemary Joyce of the University of California at Berkeley. 


Man Dies in Vat of Chocolate 

HATFIELD PA July 24, 2002 (AP) - A candy factory worker died after being submerged in a 1,200-gallon vat of liquefied chocolate, police said. 

Yoni Cordon, 19, of Philadelphia, was discovered in the vat by co-workers at the Kargher Corporation on Tuesday, authorities said. Police said they believe Cordon had been working on a platform near the opening of the vat, which is used for mixing and melting chocolate. 

Nobody saw Cordon fall and it was unknown how long he was submerged before he was found, Hatfield Township police detective Patrick M. Hanrahan said. 

Hanrahan said foul play was not suspected and the death was being investigated as an accident.

Pi Mysteries!

By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Berkeley July 23, 2002 (BBC) - Mathematicians have achieved a major step towards answering the question of whether numbers like pi and other mathematical constants are truly random and for the first time linked number theory with chaos theory. It is not just a mathematical curiosity they say. Proving that pi never repeats itself would be a major advance in our theory of numbers.

It may also allow the construction of unbreakable codes based on long sequences of random numbers. 

The value of pi is known to 500 billion places. No cyclic patterns have been found and if mathematicians are correct none will ever be found no matter how many digits are calculated. 

Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, has been known for thousands of years to be mystifying. Some ancient Greeks built a religion around it. Pi is a ubiquitous number whose first few digits are the well-known 3.14159. Pi will go on forever.

All numbers of the same number of digits inside pi occur with the same frequency: 234 appears as often as 876, and 23,568 as often as 98,427. Mathematicians call such a number that behaves this way "normal". Other normal numbers are the square root of 2 and the natural logarithm of 2. 

According to David Bailey, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US, the normality of certain maths constants is a result of some reasonable conjectures in the field of chaotic dynamics. 

Chaotic dynamics states that sequences of numbers of a particular kind dance between two other numbers - a conjecture called "Hypothesis A". The fact is that not a single instance of a number like pi has ever been proved normal. Mathematicians, it seems, are pretty fed up that they cannot do this. 

This is where Hypothesis A comes in and a strange discovery made six years ago. 

That discovery was made by David Bailey and Canadian mathematicians Peter Borewin and Simon Plouffe. They wrote a computer program that calculates an arbitrary digit of pi without calculating any of the preceding digits - something that was thought impossible. The connection between BBP and Hypothesis A is that the BBP program produces just the kind of behavior that the hypothesis predicts. 

Bailey says: "At the very least we have shown that the digits of pi appear to be random: because they are described by chaos theory." 

Practical spin-offs of this seemingly arcane research include random number generators and cryptography.

NASA Mysteries!

Dwarf Galaxies Spew Oxygen

Huntsville AL July 23, 2002 (NASA Press Release) - Astronomers have discovered that a nearby dwarf galaxy is spewing oxygen and other “heavy” elements into intergalactic space. This observation from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory supports the idea that dwarf galaxies may be responsible for most of the heavy elements between the galaxies.

Despite comprising only a very small fraction of the mass of the universe, so-called heavy elements — everything other than hydrogen and helium — are essential for the formation of planets and can greatly influence astronomical phenomena, including the rate at which galaxies form.

A team led by Crystal Martin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, observed the dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 using Chandra. As reported in an article to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, they found that huge quantities of oxygen and other heavy elements are escaping from the galaxy in bubbles of multimillion-degree gases that are thousands of light years in diameter.

“Dwarf galaxies are much smaller than ordinary galaxies like our Milky Way and much more common,” said Martin. “Because of their small mass, they have relatively low gravity and matter can escape more easily from dwarfs than from normal galaxies. This makes them very important in understanding how the universe was seeded with various elements.” 

Scientists have speculated that heavy elements escaping from dwarf galaxies in the early universe could play a dominant role in enriching the intergalactic gas from which other galaxies form. Enriched gas cools more quickly, so the rate and manner of formation of new galaxies in the early universe would have been strongly affected by this process.

“With Chandra it was possible to test these ideas,” said Henry Kobulnicky of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a member of the research team. “We could trace the distribution of oxygen and other elements in the galaxy and determine how much of this matter is escaping from the galaxy.”

NGC 1569 is a good case study because it is only about 7 million light years from Earth, and for the last 10 million to 20 million years it has been undergoing a burst of star formation and supernova explosions, perhaps triggered by a collision with a massive gas cloud. The supernovae eject oxygen and other heavy elements at high velocity into the gas in the galaxy, heating it to millions of degrees. Hot gas boils off the gaseous disk of the galaxy and expands outward at speeds of hundreds of thousands of miles per hour.

The team found large hot bubbles extending above and below a disk of gas along the equator of the galaxy. The measured concentration of oxygen, neon, magnesium, and silicon showed that the elements from thousands of supernovas are evaporating out of the galaxy, carrying much of the surrounding gas with them. The astronomers estimate the bubbles are carrying away an amount of oxygen equivalent to that found in about 3 million suns.

In addition to Martin and Kobulnicky, Timothy Heckman of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, was part of the team that observed NGC 1569 for 27.4 hours using the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) on April 11, 2001. ACIS was built for NASA by Penn State, University Park, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, Washington. TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge.

Images and additional information about this result are available at  AND

NASA Does Lightning with Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle

Huntsville AL July 23, 2002 (NASA Press Release) - To better understand both the causes of an electrical storm's fury and its effects on our home planet, NASA and university research scientists will use a tool no atmospheric scientist has ever used to study lightning — an uninhabited aerial vehicle. 

The research is part of the Altus Cumulus Electrification Study (ACES), a collaboration among NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.; the University of Alabama at Huntsville; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Penn State University, University Park; and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., San Diego. 

Based at the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, researchers in August will chase down thunderstorms using an uninhabited aerial vehicle, or "UAV" – allowing them to achieve dual goals of gathering weather data safely and testing new aircraft technology. This is expected to mark the first time a UAV is used to conduct lightning research.

"What we learn has the potential to help forecasters improve weather prediction, especially for storms that may produce severe weather," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Richard Blakeslee, a NASA atmospheric scientist at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center in Huntsville. "Also, by learning more about these individual storms, we hope to better understand weather on a global scale.

"Using the aerial vehicle, we will make electric, magnetic and optical measurements of the thunderstorms, gauging elements such as lightning activity and the electrical environment in and around the storms," explained Blakeslee. "At the same time, ground-based radar and satellite observations will provide detailed information on the cloud properties and storm severity." 

This ground- and satellite-based data will include details on lightning flash rate, amount of precipitation and speed of updraft — providing a comprehensive view of the storm from the ground, as well as from the sky.

By learning more about individual storms, scientists hope to better understand the global water and energy cycle as well as climate variability. The study also will provide federal, state and local governments with new disaster-management information for use during severe storms, floods and wildfires.

In the process, researchers will learn more about UAV aircraft and how they can be used for future research missions. "The UAV is an exciting new technology," said Blakeslee. "By getting this close to storms, we're demonstrating the promise of using uninhabited aerial vehicles for meteorological applications." 

"The mission will utilize the Altus UAV — built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems – chosen for its slow flight speed of 70 to 100 knots (80 to 115 mph), long endurance, and high-altitude flight (up to 55,000 feet)," said ACES project manager Tony Kim of Marshall Space Flight Center. 

"The Altus boasts a wing span of 55 feet." These qualities give the Altus aircraft the ability to fly near thunderstorms for long periods of time, allowing investigations to be conducted over the entire life cycle of storms.

The Altus overcomes the limitations of conventional aircraft that, because of their greater speed, provide only brief snapshots of storm activity sandwiched between long periods of no observations.

As part of NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle-based, science demonstration program, these flights also will demonstrate this aircraft's ability to carry Earth-viewing scientific payloads into environments where pilots would be exposed to potentially life-threatening hazards. 

"In the summer, Florida is the best location in the United States to study thunderstorms because the large number of storms that occur there should provide frequent opportunities to observe them," said Blakeslee.

The mission is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort designed to help us better understand and protect our home planet, while inspiring the next generation of explorers.

The Global Hydrology and Climate Center is one of seven science research centers at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC). The NSSTC is a partnership with the Marshall Center, Alabama universities, industry and federal agencies. It enables scientists, engineers and educators to share research and facilities, focusing on space science, Earth sciences, materials science, biotechnology, propulsion, information technology and optics.

QuickTime animation of NASA lightning study (350K) - 

London Monolith Gets New Home

By Jay Merrick
Architecture Correspondent

London (July 22, 2002 (Independent UK) - The London Stone, an ancient chunk of masonry referred to by Shakespeare and William Blake that may provide evidence about the capital's origins, is finally to be given a proper showcase, having languished for decades in grubby anonymity.

The stone sits in a glass display case behind a crude iron grill set into the wall of the Singapore-based Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation building on Cannon Street. But the site is to be redeveloped by the Merchant Property Group, whose new eight-storey development should get the go-ahead from the Corporation of London tomorrow.

The new building will be a vast improvement on the lumpen 1960s office block designed by Biscoe & Stanton in which the stone has been embedded since the demolition of St Swithin's Church, its home from 1742. The relic will now be encased in one of the new building's pillars.

But even its new home hardly does justice to one of London's most potent symbols, referred to by Shakespeare in Henry VI, part II, and Sir Christopher Wren and commemorated in the name of London's first mayor in the 12th century, Henry Fitz-Ailwin de Londonestone.

The stone is thought originally to have been a monolith, or menhir, at the centre of the city. Some authorities claim that it pre-dates the Roman conquest, while others claim it was a Roman milestone, such as existed in the Roman Forum. Blake believed it was used for druidic sacrifices. Many sources believe that for centuries the London Stone was from where proclamations were made.

Some historians, for example Adrian Gilbert, believe the forgotten lump of Lincolnshire limestone is a sign that the city began as a settlement called Trinovantum, founded by Brutus and Trojan refugees two generations after the fall of Troy, and that the "Trinovantes" encountered by Julius Caesar in 54BC were their descendants.

If that were true – and Wren suggested that it was too big to be of Roman origin – the London Stone would be an important artifact. But Mr Gilbert faces a huge challenge to prove his theory because the earliest reference to the stone is in a gospel book written by Ethelstone in the 10th century.

Archbishop of Canterbury Vs. Walt Disney

The Scotsman

UK July 24, 2002 (The Scotsman) - The new Archbishop of Canterbury found himself embroiled in a row with the Disney Corporation yesterday, only hours after being installed as the leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans. 

With strong views on a range of subjects, including gay rights, women priests and the bombing of Afghanistan, Dr Rowan Williams, 52, was always going to be a controversial choice. As Archbishop of Wales, he was also the first clergyman from outside the Church of England to fill the post. 

But it was a handful of comments critical of Disney, which were published in a book two years ago and recycled yesterday, that attracted much of the attention. 

In the book, Lost Icons, Dr Williams singled out the US corporation as an example of how companies had turned children into consumers. 

He wrote: "The perception of the child as consumer is clearly more dominant than it was a few decades ago. The child is the (usually vicarious) purchaser of any number of graded and variegated packages - that is, of goods designed to stimulate consumer desires. 

"A relatively innocuous example is the familiar ‘tie-in’, the association of comics, sweets, toys and so on with a new film or television serial; the Disney empire has developed this to an unprecedented pitch of professionalism." Dr Williams, who also used the book to criticize the premature sexualisation of children by a consumer society, confessed he was "interested" to see comments he had made two years previously brought back into the public domain. 

But he said: "I do have a very special concern about children, especially being a parent of young children myself. I have given high priority to working with schools and especially primary schools." 

Disney, which has already found itself under fire from religious groups in the US for a variety of perceived sins, ranging from the cut of Pocohontas’s dress in the cartoon film to an insurance deal for gay partners, was stung by the criticism. 

One company insider said: There are many examples where Disney doesn’t take the money and run because we think that’s incompatible with what we stand for, whereas another company perhaps would. I guess that if you are a pressure group of two people and you say you are going to boycott Disney, it becomes a headline immediately. At least he got his headline on the first day anyway." 

A Disney spokesman said the company did not accept the archbishop’s criticism. He said: "Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the opening of the first Disneyland theme park decades ago, Walt Disney’s vision was to provide quality entertainment and experiences for parents and children to enjoy together. 

"We are proud that, over seven decades, Disney has earned the trust and admiration of millions. Community decency and optimism are the centerpiece of what the Walt Disney Company strives to achieve in all that we create." 

The debate is just one of many heated issues in which Dr Williams has passed comment, and his determination not to shy away from sensitive issues may lead the Church into further rows. He has spoken out in favor of gay rights, women priests and on the role of the government in various issues. 

But senior clergymen said the archbishop was seen as an intellectual whose liberal opinions, mixed with conservative theological views, would help to unify the Church.

San Francisco to Ponder Marijuana Cultivation

SAN FRANCISCO July 24, 2002 (Reuters) - San Francisco officials want their city to go to pot - literally. The leaders of this liberal West Coast bastion are proposing that the city get into the marijuana growing business -- and use the program as agricultural job training for the unemployed. 

Under a measure approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Monday, voters will be asked in November whether the city should look into ways to begin growing medical marijuana for sick people -- in direct defiance of federal laws banning the drug. 

"If the federal government insists on standing in our way locally, we must take matters into our own hands and protect the lives of our community members and protect their right to access life-saving medicine," said city Supervisor Mark Leno, who sponsored the measure approved by city leaders Monday. 

Under Leno's proposal, voters will be offered a November ballot measure which would direct the municipal government to study how to grow and supply pot for patients who qualify to use it under California's landmark medicinal marijuana law of 1996. 

That law -- which led to "medical marijuana clubs" being established across the state -- has been repeatedly challenged in court by federal officials, who say flatly that marijuana remains illegal. 

Many of California's marijuana clubs have shut down voluntarily, while others have been closed by federal raids. Leno said getting the city government involved could help to take the pressure off local suppliers. 

"I think the federal government and the Bush Administration has bigger fish to fry right now than continuing to bust local clubs," Leno said. 

He said San Francisco has plenty of places where it could grow marijuana, and could even use the program as agricultural job training for the unemployed. 

"We have a lot of land. That's not going to be a problem," Leno told the San Francisco Chronicle. But federal officials cautioned that San Francisco would be picking a serious legal fight if it sought to turn its vacant lots into pot farms. 

"Cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act -- federal law," Richard Meyer, spokesman for the DEA's regional office in San Francisco, told the newspaper. 

"Unless Congress changes the law and makes marijuana a legal substance, then we have to do our job and enforce the law, whether or not it's popular," Meyer said.

Giant Squid Not New Species

SYDNEY, Australia July 23, 2002 (AP) - A giant squid found washed up on an Australian beach was not a new species as first thought but a damaged specimen, a scientist said Tuesday. 

The 550-pound creature was found dead Saturday on a beach in Hobart in Tasmania state. It had lost its two tentacles but would have been about 50 feet long. 

Experts at the Tasmanian Museum were studying long, thin flaps of muscle attached to each of its eight arms — like keels — that they believed were unique to the squid. 

But Steve O'Shea, a squid specialist with New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said all giant squid had the keels, which were used to help it swim. 

"It definitely isn't a new species," said O'Shea, who had studied photos of the squid sent by Australian scientists. "The specimen has obviously been damaged ... and the membranes have come away from the arms." 

Giant squid live on the edge of continental shelves, about 1,600 feet below the ocean's surface. 

O'Shea said the squid found in Tasmania was a pregnant female that had washed up on the beach after mating. It had probably dropped its fertilized eggs in the water nearby. 

Tasmanian Museum zoologist David Pemberton said the dead squid would be used for display.

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