|Buffy Is Staked! |
Winds of Titan, Kolomoki Mounds,
Real Minority Report, Robot Bugs,
Coppola Meets Kerouac & More!
|Buffy Staked by the PTC! |
The PTC rating system is simple:
Green Light - Family-friendly show promoting responsible themes and traditional values. (They love 7th Heaven's treatment of sexual issues, particularly this advice from Eric to Simon: “Men say ‘no’ to sex when they have the opportunity, and it’s not the right thing to do.” Nasty!)
Yellow Light - The show contains adult-oriented themes and dialogue that may be inappropriate for youngsters. ("Foul language, including “damn”, “hell”, and “screw” are common." Foul!)
Red Light - Show may include gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, or obscene language, and is unsuitable for children. (Angel is bad. "Conflicts are resolved often with violence." Interesting sentence structure.)
Other genre favs the PTC rated "Red": X-Files, NYPD Blue, Futurama, Dark Angel, CSI, Boston Public and Angel. Not to mention Spin City and that horrible Drew Carey person!
"Yellow" shows include West Wing, The Simpsons, The Agency, Smallville, Roswell, JAG, Enterprise, and Alias.
The PTC website boasts "700,000 Members and growing", but when we looked at the poll results for "Best Network Family Show" on their site this morning, only 63 votes were recorded. Smallville is winning, which is OK with me. I like Smallville. But what does this tell us about the PTC's rating system?
BTW, versus those 63 votes - Buffy averages about 3.5 million satisfied viewers per episode. CSI and NYPD Blue triple that (at least.)
We've seen censorship by intimidation before in this country. Time to take a stake to the PTC. Really! - Ed.
By Julie Keller
Los Angeles August 22, 2002 (E!) - Down-home country doctors, good. Promiscuous scantily-clad vampire slayers, bad.
So decrees the Parents Television Council. The conservative TV watchdog group has deemed UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer an immoral, violent lust-a-thon, declaring it the "worst" show in its annual round-up of network TV's "best" and "worst" primetime shows.
The group reserved its highest praise for Doc, a little-watched PAX TV drama starring "Achy Breaky" singer Billy Ray Cyrus as a country doctor living in the big city. The show was cited for its "uplifting and inspirational themes."
In other words, it's no Buffy.
According to the council, that Sarah Michelle Gellar-fronted drama about a demon-fighting super-chick "became more graphic in their depictions of violence and sex from last year."
CBS's hit CSI: Crime Scene Investigation also got the smackdown for graphic depictions of not-so-saccharine themes like incest and sadomasochism. (UPN's WWE Smackdown! was, by the way, smacked down itself.)
Yet more disses went to WB sitcom Off Centre for discussing three-way sex and gay porn, and to NBC's Will & Grace and Friends for filling the airways with the lewd and amoral promotion of promiscuous lifestyles, masturbation and oral sex.
Face it: There was no way that unmarried Rachel's pregnancy by three-time divorcé Ross was going to slip under the Council's radar.
But not to worry. The networks aren't packing all TV viewers off to hell in hand baskets. The group actually applauded the nets for an overall increase in family friendly programming, and welcomed the messages found in six new shows from last season, including The Bernie Mac Show, Reba and Smallville.
"Not only did many new shows make our Top 10 'best,' the networks saw fit to renew much of this programming for the fall season," Parents Television Council president L. Brent Bozell said in a statement. "It appears that the networks are finally starting to listen to the collective voice of parents who want to sit down with their children and enjoy high quality, family-friendly programming in primetime."
Though the WB dominated the "best" list with four picks, one notable omission from the network was its highly-regarded drama, Gilmore Girls. PTC reps said they left it off the list due to concern over mom Lorelai's, ahem, questionable relationships.
Parents Television Council Website - http://www.parentstv.org
Buff - http://www.buffy.com
See the Hip Genre Network Show Schedule for Fall 2002 and scroll down for more genre news.
|Earth Summit Argues Fast Food |
By Charles Clover
Johannesburg August 27, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - United Nations plans to involve multinational companies including McDonald's and Monsanto in projects to save the world's poorest countries from environmental degradation provoked a bitter row at the Earth Summit yesterday.
Charities rounded on the initiative, which has the support of Britain and America, saying they were "outraged" by a proposed partnership between the fast-food chain and UNICEF, the UN children's fund.
The plan is intended by the summit's UN organizers to be complementary to new multilateral agreements on sanitation, health, fish stocks and energy which America and its allies are reluctant to sign. Britain and America are supporting setting up international partnerships between business, rich governments and poor countries.
The partnerships also represent a fallback position for the summit in case the political stages collapse - like at last year's summit on racism in Durban - so that at least it can be said to have achieved something. There is a formal process for registering a partnership and so far 192 have been registered at the summit.
But some partnerships are more controversial than others. The Government's "naive adulation of big business" was criticized by Sir Jonathon Porritt, its chief green adviser, at the weekend.
John Hilary of Save the Children yesterday criticized the UN's prized model partnership on vaccination of children. He said: "There are potential conflicts of interest which are not being addressed.
"Companies have a tendency to push newer forms of vaccine and reducing the supply of ones for crucial diseases, such as polio, TB and measles. The priority gets skewed in favor of the big companies concerned."
Mr Hilary said charities were "outraged" by UNICEF's partnership with McDonald's. The UN body has decided to hold a McDonald's World Day for Children later this year. He added: "Given the record this company has on nutrition - in selling junk food - we think it is completely irresponsible."
Green groups say a partnership for feeding the poor proposed by Croplife International, a global federation representing the plant science industry, could be a showcase for such biotechnology companies such as Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta.
Britain has already been working on several relatively uncontroversial schemes, including one to help South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria provide clean water to shanty towns and remote, poor areas.
The partnership includes four Government departments, two water charities, a major engineering company, the union Unison, and some of the big British water companies.
Officials say the Government and the companies would provide funds for developing expertise at local authority level, as well as long-term financial planning. Companies theoretically stand to benefit from contacts at the end of this phase - though South Africa is insistent that contracts are not assured.
This kind of partnership has the full support of charities such as Tear Fund and Water Aid. Partnerships are being encouraged on all the summit's areas for action identified by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, which are water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.
Lord Holme, the Liberal Democrat vice-chairman of the Business Council for Sustainable Development, conceded that there was "mistrust" between campaigning charities and companies.
"With all candor, that goes both ways," he said. "There are some that think that even if we put on white sheets and green halos we would still be the enemy. We need confidence building measures."
Live webcast of the Summit - http://www.un.org/events/wssd
UNICEF - http://www.unicef.org
Official Summit site - http://www.johannesburgsummit.org
|Police Detain Greenpeace at Nuclear Plant |
MELKBOSSTRAND, South Africa August 24, 200 (Reuters) - South African police detained up to a dozen Greenpeace environmental activists on Saturday for scaling a nuclear power plant in a protest two days before the Johannesburg Earth Summit.
The demonstrators climbed a building at the French-designed Koeberg nuclear power plant on the coast near Cape Town, the only one in Africa, and strung up two yellow and black banners proclaiming "Nukes out of Africa."
Police detained three of the anti-nuclear activists on the 50-feet-high concrete building, which pumps water from the sea to cool the twin-domed reactor alongside, leaving another three dangling by wires from the installation.
They also seized two inflatable boats, each containing three people, that brought the protesters ashore, Greenpeace said.
Provincial police commissioner Lennit Max expressed shock at the way the tightly guarded plant was penetrated: "We have to take firm action now, this situation is intolerable," he said.
State-owned power utility Eskom denied its security measures failed. It said in a statement: "Security personnel were on hand to ensure that further access to the power station itself was prohibited. They were instructed to use minimum force."
Greenpeace wants to put pressure on about 100 world leaders at the 10-day summit opening on Monday to agree ways to protect the planet while cutting poverty.
"This is Africa's one and only nuclear facility, it should be its last," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace.
"At a time when world leaders are meeting in Johannesburg to discuss how to solve the impending environmental crisis, and to meet the need for electricity of the two billion people who don't have any, we want to make the point that their needs cannot be met through nuclear power," he said.
During its construction in the 1970s, the plant was attacked by the African National Congress (ANC) as part of a protest against white minority rule. The ANC came to power in 1994.
|Japan To Blow Up Quake Zone |
|BY HANS GREIMEL |
Tokyo August 24, 2002 (The Scotsman) - Scientists plan to trigger chain explosions across a faultline in western Japan to map a largely uncharted earthquake zone linked to the 1995 Kobe quake that killed thousands of people, a researcher said yesterday.
Packed with up to 1,100lbs of dynamite, the ten underground blast sites will be detonated one after another next week along a 145-mile frontier bisecting Japan’s main island from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan.
"This is a very dangerous area," said project leader Takaya Iwasaki, of the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute. "Our experiment will provide basic information that is vitally important in helping save lives."
Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, sitting atop four tectonic plates, slabs of crust that move across the earth’s surface.
Next week’s test, set for Thursday and Friday, will focus on the Philippine Sea plate, a slab jutting northward from the Pacific Ocean and curling under western Japan. A major earthquake strikes that region every 100-200 years.
The last one killed 1,300 people in 1946, but movement of the Philippine plate also helped trigger the 1995 quake the killed more than 5,000 people in Kobe, Mr Iwasaki said.
By measuring the vibrations of the explosions as they bounce off rock some 30 miles underground, researchers hope to map the Philippine plate’s thickness, contour and danger spots. Of particular interest is the threat of so-called inland earthquakes, the kind that battered Kobe.
All told, 1,200 seismographs - including 800 borrowed from the United States - are being used in the project. Vibrations in the Sea of Japan will also be measured. When researchers set off the explosions, anyone standing within half a mile of the blasts will feel the ground tremble, but will not be in danger - the explosions will not be strong enough to trigger a real quake, Mr Iwasaki said.
|Mystery Winds of Titan |
NASA-AMES NEWS RELEASE August 25, 2002 - Researchers from NASA and other institutions have developed an atmospheric model lending insights to decades-old mysteries surrounding Saturn's moon Titan that could shed light on the chemical processes that may have jump-started life on Earth.
These mysteries have especially intrigued astrobiologists, who view Titan as a model for the young Earth before life began. Other than Earth, Titan is the only other moon or planet in our solar system with a thick, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere. Its thick organic haze also appears very similar to smog on Earth.
"Titan is an interesting world. Its organic haze may be an example of the prebiotic organic chemistry that led to life on Earth," said Dr. Christopher McKay, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, and co-author of a research paper published in the journal Nature titled "A Wind Origin For Titan's Haze."
On Titan, methane and nitrogen molecules are thought to be converted into complex organic materials such as hydrocarbons and possibly amino acids, which are the building blocks of life on Earth. "We think similar processes once happened here, and life may have started that way," said McKay.
Titan has long puzzled scientists because of several unexplained features in its thick, hazy atmosphere, composed largely of solid organic materials. Voyager images taken in 1980, for example, show that the haze is much brighter at Titan's summer hemisphere than at its winter hemisphere. Earth-based observations also show that this difference in brightness changes with Titan's seasons. Each season on Titan lasts for four Earth years. Titan's haze also is much thicker near the polar caps than anywhere else. But perhaps most puzzling, a layer of the haze is detached from the rest of Titan's atmosphere, appearing like a ghostly shell floating in space.
The research outlined in the paper provides the first 'coupled' model, linking Titan's organic haze with atmospheric winds and with the sunlight that heats the haze.
According to the group's model, sunlight heats the haze that drives the wind, which, in turn, carries the haze. The smallest haze particles also can be carried from one pole to the other within one Titan season.
And according to the model, the detached haze arises because very small particles of haze formed high in Titan's atmosphere are blown to the pole before they can fall, becoming detached.
"We found that the main features of Titan's organic haze arise from a strong feedback loop between the haze, the sunlight and the wind," said McKay. "This is a critical new factor in understanding Titan."
The model is precursor research for a NASA/European Space Agency probe expected to enter Titan's atmosphere in January 2005. The Huygens probe, part of NASA's Cassini mission, will take measurements and samples of Titan's haze.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini-Huygens mission.
The lead author of the paper is Dr. Pascal Rannou of the University of Paris and the University of Versailles-St. Quentin. The other co-author is Dr. Frederic Hourdin of the University of Paris. Portions of the research were funded by NASA's Planetary Atmospheres Program.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov
|Loose Terror-war Wiretaps Rejected |
By Brad Knickerbocker
Christian Science Monitor
Washington August 26, 2002 (CSM) - A major campaign in the war on terrorism involves lawmakers, lawyers, and jurists as combatants arrayed along a battle line marked by minute readings of law. Until now, their home front struggle has been mostly clandestine. But recently it's broken out onto open ground.
A normally secretive federal court dealing with intelligence matters has openly criticized the US Justice Department for overstepping its bounds in ferreting out terrorists. And in Congress, prominent Republicans as well as Democrats are butting heads with Attorney General John Ashcroft over lawmakers' oversight role in the effort to fight terrorism.
The essential issue is the degree to which the US Justice Department pursue terrorist suspects using court-approved searches and wiretaps. To investigate them as part of an intelligence operation is one thing; going after them as criminal suspects is quite another.
This may seem like arguing over legalistic angels on the head of an irrelevant pin. but there is an important difference involving the "probable cause" necessary to charge someone with a crime. It is generally more difficult to get court approval to use wiretaps in criminal prosecutions than it is in an intelligence probe.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (established in 1978 in the wake of abuses by the Nixon administration) typically settles such questions.
The Justice Department asserts that the USA Patriot Act, passed after Sept. 11, widened the powers to investigate terrorism, including wiretaps and sharing information between intelligence investigators and criminal prosecutors.
Not so, declared the intelligence surveillance court in a ruling made public last week.
Citing "the troubling number of inaccurate FBI affidavits in so many [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] applications," the court said, "In virtually every instance, the government's misstatements and omissions in FISA applications and violations of the Court's orders involved information sharing and unauthorized disseminations to criminal investigators and prosecutors."
Justice Department lawyers quickly appealed the ruling to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review – the next judicial step up made up of a three-member panel of semi retired senior federal judges appointed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
In its appeal seeking more law enforcement powers (including wiretaps and searches), the Justice Department asserts that in passing the USA Patriot Act, lawmakers agreed that "the country and its people can no longer afford a fragmented, blinkered, compartmentalized response to international terrorism and espionage."
Civil Liberties advocates were quick to applaud the court's ruling.
"When the government is investigating crime, it must be able to show a judge strong evidence of wrongdoing before it is allowed to search a home or record telephone conversations," says Gregory Nojeim, chief legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.
Some important lawmakers agree.
"What ... the court properly rejected, was the idea that absent probable cause that a crime has been committed, a law enforcement official could direct our nation's spies to conduct surveillance on someone they claim is a criminal suspect," Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote to Ashcroft.
Citing their power to oversee Justice Department conduct, Mr. Conyers and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin, chairman of the committee, sent Ashcroft a list of 50 questions about implementation of the USA Patriot Act. That was more than two months ago; Ashcroft has yet to reply fully.
Mr. Sensenbrenner said last week he will "start blowing a fuse" if answers are not provided soon, perhaps issuing the attorney general a subpoena.
Senators of both parties have expressed frustration as well, including Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont and Republican committee members Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Charles Grassley of Iowa. They have complained that unclassified information from the intelligence court was being withheld.
|Giant Footprints Found in Skye |
LONDON August 27, 2002 (Reuters) - The tiny Scottish island of Skye may be remote and out of the way for today's tourists, but 165 million years ago it seems to have been a pretty busy place.
Local people and scientists have found 15 sets of giant footprints left by huge meat-eating dinosaurs on a beach on the east of the island.
The prints -- each showing three vast toes formed into an arrow-head shape -- have been hailed as the biggest and best ever found in Scotland. Scientists at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow are still unsure exactly what kind of beasts left the tracks, but think it may have been something like a megalosaurus -- a meat-eating dinosaur measuring up to 10 meters long.
"These prints are particularly important because they are very large, they are the largest ones we've found," Dr Neil Clark of the museum told BBC radio on Tuesday. "They are also still in the rocks where they were made."
The first print was discovered by Cathie Booth, a local hotel owner. "I was just taking the dog out for a walk...and I came across a single footstep on the rock, and brought it home for my husband to have a look at it," she told BBC radio.
|Kolomoki Mounds Treasure Hunt |
By Elliott Minor
BLAKELY GA August 24, 2002 -- About 1,500 years ago, one of North America's largest Native American civilizations thrived amid the longleaf pines of southwestern Georgia. The people made human sacrifices, created exquisite pottery, crafted delicate animal figurines and built an imposing temple mound, where chiefs and priests presided.
The treasures were unearthed by archaeologists in the 1950s and the state built a museum into the side of a burial mound to display them.
Over the years, thousands of schoolchildren, tourists and scholars trekked to the site to learn about the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indians, who lived near Blakely from 250 to 950 A.D. But in the dark of night in March 1974, thieves broke into the museum of the Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park and took 129 artifacts.
A handful of items have been recovered from collectors and flea markets in Florida and Pennsylvania, but the whereabouts of the bulk of them remains a mystery.
Now park officials are turning to the Internet for help in recovering the remaining booty from Georgia's most infamous archaeological theft. They've launched a Web site with pictures of the purloined pottery asking art collectors, museums and others to help them gather the stolen merchandise. Eric Bentley, the park's manager, said the theft was particularly loathsome because it amounted to grave robbing. Many of the clay pots and fanciful figurines were made to honor chiefs and priests who had died.
"From a ceramic technology standpoint, they're absolutely stunning," said David Crass, Georgia's state archaeologist. "They would compare favorably with anything from the Southwest. Many incorporate animals shapes. These pots give you a glimpse into how they saw the world."
Crass said the primary purpose of the Web site is recovery, not prosecution.
"If someone has those pots in all innocence, and that happens a lot, then we would hope they would return them," he said.
Kolomoki's early inhabitants built a ceremonial plaza and seven mounds, including two burial mounds and a temple mound that was a religious center. Today, the temple mound rises 56 feet above the surrounding pine forest from a base the size of a football field. Archaeologists believe it had a temple platform at the top, where chiefs and priests lived, worshipped and governed.
"The folks who lived at Kolomoki were in some ways very different from us," Crass said. "But you would have heard kids laughing, dogs barking, moms yelling at their kids -- the same things we hear in any neighborhood. Those were real flesh-and-blood people with all the same kinds of desires and feelings that we have today."
Tom Pluckhahn, an Athens archaeologist who has made recent excavations at Kolomoki, described it as one of the largest and most densely populated towns north of Mexico between 350 and 550 A.D. He believes there were about 500 full-time residents, with up to 1,000 more pouring in for ceremonies.
"Some of the mound alignments may be tied to the solstices and equinoxes," he said. "There was a lot of emphasis on nature and trying to make sense of people's relationship to nature and death. It looks like Kolomoki was drawing people from a couple of hundred miles for ceremonies."
The 1,239-acre site has been a state park since 1938. Bentley said many of the ceremonial pots had been "killed" so that they could not be used for any practical purpose. The potters intentionally gave them holes when they made them, or poked holes in the bottoms later.
"They had a spiritual purpose," Bentley said. "They carried the spirituality of the one who had died."
Georgia's Department of Natural Resources had to close the museum temporarily following the theft, but now keeps it open five days a week.
"After the theft there were only empty cases," Bentley said. "Everything you see ... was either recovered or on loan. If we had the pottery back, we could redesign the museum to include the stolen artifacts. I would put all of them on display."
Billy Townsend, a retired historian at the state's Parks and Historic Sights Division, pushed for the venture into cyberspace, which the international art community has used for years to track down stolen items.
"We don't normally speak of the value of artifacts, but they were certainly very valuable," Townsend said. "They're irreplaceable, unique. They look like Picassos. They are immediately recognizable if you've seen them."
Kolomoki Mounds Park site - http://www.georgiaplanning.com/history/Kolomoki
Stolen Pottery page - http://www.georgiaplanning.com/history/kolomoki/pots1.htm
|Genre News: I Spy, Stargate SG-1, Eliza Dushku, Kevin Sorbo, Nero Wolfe, DJ Jazzy Jeff & More! |
Eddie Does I Spy!
Sony Pictures Press Release August 28, 2002 - Fists fly and the fighting gets down and dirty when undefeated middle-weight champion Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) finally meets his match, CIA super-agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson), in the hilarious adventure "I Spy," directed by Betty Thomas ("Dr. Dolittle," "The Brady Bunch"), story by Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Sellek Wibberley. Screenplay credit by Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Sellek Wibberley and Jay Scherick & David Ronn.
I Spy opens in theaters November 1, 2002.
[Note that Eddie is playing Robert Culp's role as Kelly and Owen Wilson is doing Cosby's Alexander Scott. Hey! Maybe now they'll bring out the original TV series on DVD! Ed.]
Official I Spy website - http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/ispy
Stargate Levitates for Sci Fi
By John Dempsey
NEW YORK August 27, 2002 (Variety) - The Sci Fi Channel's "Stargate SG-1" is averaging the best series ratings in the history of the network and stabilizing its Friday-night lineup of original series.
Sci Fi has scheduled original episodes of "Stargate" Fridays at 9 p.m. since June 7, following the network's purchase of the rights after the series had completed a five-year run on Showtime.
For the 10 episodes through Aug. 18, "Stargate" has averaged 1.32 million households, making it the seventh highest-rated scripted series in all of basic cable. The Richard Dean Anderson starrer does even better in adults 18-49, averaging 1.063 million, good for fifth place overall.
And last Friday the summer finale of "Stargate" harvested 1.588 million homes, or a 2.0 rating, the best household performance for a one-hour episode of a series in Sci Fi's history.
With repeats of USA Network's "The Dead Zone" Friday at 8 and the original series "Farscape" at 10, "Stargate" has become Sci Fi's tentpole for the night. "Farscape" is averaging only 958,000 households (a 1.2 rating) for the same 10 weeks, but its adults 18-49 number is a gaudy 913,000.
Shot in Vancouver, the f/x-dependent "Stargate" costs producer MGM a strapping $1.3 million an hour to make. The series goes into rerun on Sci Fi until January, when another 11 original episodes will be available for scheduling.
In addition to the weekly slot, Sci Fi has also bought rerun rights to the first five years of "Stargate," and the network will schedule those in a four-hour block every Monday night at 7 p.m., beginning Sept. 30.
A rerun of each "Stargate" also plays once a week in syndication on TV stations throughout the country six months after its Sci Fi exposure.
[BTW, Cinescape reports this week that a feature version of the Richard Dean Anderson 1980s action series MacGyver is underway at New Line Cinema. Anderson's involvement in the film has not been confirmed. Ed.]
Official Stargate: SG1 website - http://www.stargate-sg1.com
Faith Back On Buffy, Angel?
HOLLYWOOD August 26, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Eliza Dushku told SCI FI Wire that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fans should check out her Aug. 27 appearance on CBS' The Late Show With David Letterman for news about her reprising her role as Faith on upcoming episodes of both series.
"Joss and I have been talking, talking a lot," Dushku said in an interview. "I'm doing Letterman on Tuesday night, and Tuesday is the day of the decision-making. So I'll have an announcement to make that evening."
Dushku added, "I really love the character, and it's beyond me what Joss could write for her to do, because he's so creative. I can't even imagine. But I trust him so much that I'd be able to jump in [and do] whatever he can spin for me. The whole crossover thing is pretty cool.
"The shows have gone off in such different directions, but also stayed true, on Angel, to the original concept. It's fun to play on both shows. Angel is a little bit darker. It's on an hour later. It's a little bit more gritty. But they're both really excellent shows."
Whedon earlier told SCI FI Wire that he hoped to bring back Dushku as the slayer gone bad on both UPN's Buffy and The WB's Angel next season, depending on whether he and she could match schedules.
Buffy begins its seventh season on September 24th. Angel starts its fourth season on October 6th.
Buffy website - http://www.buffy.com
Angel website - http://www.cityofangel.com
Check out our Hip Genre Network Show Schedule for Fall 2002
Sorbo Leads Clipping Adam
By Chris Gardner
HOLLYWOOD August 27, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Kevin Sorbo, who toplines the syndicated sci-fi series "Andromeda," is set for a lead role in the indie feature "Clipping Adam." First-timer Michael Picchiottino is directing from his script.
The project is lensing in Carlsbad, Calif. The coming-of-age drama centers on a young boy, played by newcomer Evan Peters, coming to terms with the death of his mother and sister. Sorbo will play a free-thinking priest, Father Dan, who helps the boy cope. Andrew McCarthy and Louise Fletcher round out the cast.
The privately financed project is being produced by Mike Gabrawy and Julie Saherty. Sorbo is repped by ICM, Mosaic Media Group's Eric Gold and Caryn Weingarten and attorney David Feldman at Bloom, Hergott, Diemer & Cook.
In addition to "Andromeda," entering its third season in October, Sorbo recently appeared in a four-episode arc on ABC's "Dharma & Greg." Peters is repped by Innovative Artists and manager Craig Wargo. "Adam" marks his first acting role.
Official Andromeda website - http://www.andromedatv.com
A&E Cancels Nero Wolfe
By John Dempsey
NEW YORK August 26, 2002 (Variety) - High production costs and low ratings have spelled doom for A&E's "Nero Wolfe," starring Timothy Hutton. The cable channel has canceled the weekly hour-long period detective series after two seasons.
"Wolfe" averaged a subpar 1.134 million households for eight episodes this summer (May 27 through Aug. 18), and a disastrous 387,000 viewers aged 18-49.
Although shot in Toronto, "Nero Wolfe" cost $1.1 million an episode, as production designers had to build sets replicating 1930s New York interiors. A&E ponied up a pricey $700,000 per episode. What's more, although A&E pointed to favorable reviews by some TV critics, Emmy Awards voters failed to deliver even one nomination to "Wolfe" last month.
Word got out among "Wolfe" fans late last week that the show was not coming back. In response, A&E hung a notice on its Web site praising producers Jaffe-Braunstein and thanking viewers for their support but pointing to the realities of a tough business that could not sustain another season of "Nero Wolfe."
[This is truly sad. Nero Wolfe was a class act on the level of the UK's Jeremy Brett / Sherlock Holmes series from the 1980s. There are literally scores of Wolfe mysteries yet untapped from the books and short stories by the great American author Rex Stout. Maybe BBC ought to think about picking up Nero? British audiences seem to better appreciate mysteries that make you think and keep you guessing. Ed.]
Official Wolfe website - http://www.aande.com/tv/shows/nerowolfe
ABC Ropes Western Pilot
By Scott Collins
NEW YORK August 27, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC is going west. The network has picked up a midseason pilot plus three backup scripts for "Then Came Jones," a period Western drama from co-writers Chris Brancato and Bert Salke.
The script involves characters in a 19th century frontier town and the imperfect man who, in a series of strange plot twists, becomes their sheriff. The show may also make use of gadgetry from the period.
Partners Brancato and Salke co-wrote "Flashpoint," an ABC pilot that was not picked up. Brancato also created the drama "First Wave" for Sci Fi Channel and earlier in his career wrote for "The X-Files" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."
Urban Poets, Hip-Hop Artists to Tour
NEW ORLEANS August 27, 2002 (AP) - The "Underground Poets Railroad" spoken word tour starts next week, featuring urban poets and hip-hop artists.
Participants vary from city to city, but along the way there will be appearances by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and Public Enemy's Professor Griff.
Fans who miss the tour may be able to catch the movie. Producers say footage from the road trip will be combined with scenes from an earlier concert that was hosted by P. Diddy in New Orleans. That concert featured Bubba Sparxxx, Jermaine Dupri, Fabolous and others.
Proceeds from the spoken word/hip-hop tribute film will benefit families of the African American firefighters who died during the terror attacks. The tour kicks off in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with planned stops in Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York.
|The Prince of Stonehenge |
By Roger Highfield
Amesbury UK August 21, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - A prehistoric prince with gold ear-rings has been found near Stonehenge a few yards away from the richest early Bronze Age burial in Britain.
Earlier this year, archaeologists found an aristocratic warrior, also with gold ear-rings, on Salisbury Plain and speculated that he may have been an ancient king of Stonehenge. The body was laid to rest 4,300 years ago during the construction of the monument, along with stone arrow heads and slate wrist guards that protected the arm from the recoil of the bow.
Archaeologists named him the Amesbury Archer. Now they have found another skeleton from the same period five yards away.
The remains are those of a man, aged 25 to 30, buried in the same posture, on his left side with his face to the north, and legs bent.
His grave was bare, containing only the sharpened tusk of a boar, but contained the basket shaped ear-rings. The man may have been the archer's son, the prince of Stonehenge, said Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, who led the dig by Wessex Archaeology.
DNA testing on their teeth will be carried out to find out if the two bodies are part of the same royal family.
Around 100 artifacts were found in the archer's grave -10 times as many as at graves from a similar period elsewhere in Britain. The grave is dated to about 2300BC - around the time at which Stonehenge's inner circle of bluestones was being hauled from the Preseli mountains in South Wales.
The king, who was 5ft 9ins tall, lacked a left kneecap, suggesting he had suffered a serious injury. He was aged 35 to 50 when he died, when he was placed in a timber chamber about three miles from Stonehenge.
A valuation committee must now put a figure on the finds after David Masters, the Wiltshire coroner, declared the discoveries treasure. The British Museum and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum have both expressed an interest in providing the archer's final resting place.
John and Sylvia Savidge, who own Red House Farm where the burial chambers were unearthed, may receive a cash reward once the treasure has been valued.
Wiltshire Heritage Museum - http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk
Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum - http://www.salisburymuseum.freeserve.co.uk
|Guilty Until Proven Innocent: A Real Minority Report? |
By Oliver Burkeman
Wilmington August 27, 2002 (Guardian UK) - In a sinister, authoritarian American city of the future, cutting-edge surveillance technology and over-zealous policing combine to create the ultimate weapon in the war on crime: the ability to track down individuals who will go on to become criminals - before they have even done anything wrong.
This may be the premise of Minority Report, the sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise, set in Washington DC in 2054 - but it also appears to be par for the course today, barely 100 miles away in Wilmington, the largest city in the otherwise unremarkable US state of Delaware.
Civil liberties campaigners have responded with anger to the news that, for the last three months, Wilmington police have been compiling a database of people whom they believe are likely to break the law in the future.
At least 200 people have had their photographs taken and stored, along with personal information, to aid police in finding potential suspects when crimes are subsequently committed, according to the Wilmington police department.
The individuals, mostly black men, were photographed by "jump-out squads" of police officers, who cruise high-crime neighborhoods in the city, often in unmarked cars, then jump out at street corners to round up and search people gathering there.
"So if they've stopped you three times on Eighth and Washington, and a crime occurs on Eighth and Washington, they've got your name and they know you were stopped three times," said Drewry Fennell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Delaware, who called the scheme a "terrible idea".
In Minority Report, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, Cruise plays John Anderton, a police chief who pursues future criminals using information provided by three semi-conscious psychics, called "pre-cogs" - until the pre-cogs visualize the murder that he himself is about to commit. Wilmington police, not known for their psychic powers, rely instead on targeting areas where drug-dealing is believed to be rife.
Opponents argue that the policy is unconstitutional, not least because the first amendment permits free assembly. "This is an intimidating practice that causes people to be unwilling to assemble," Ms Ferrell told the Guardian. Addressing police claims that people assembling on street corners was an indicator of illegal drug dealing, she said: "People are not there because there is drug use. There is drug use because there's people there."
But city authorities are giving the objectors short shrift, pointing to the so-called Terry laws, which allow police to stop and frisk people they think are acting suspiciously. Calling critics "asinine," Wilmington mayor James Baker ruled out suspending the policy.
"I don't care what anyone but a court of law thinks," he said. "Until a court of law says otherwise, if I say it's constitutional, it's constitutional... These are targeted, directed sweeps in high-crime areas where police have been turned loose to attack bad people." Invoking a principle frequently condemned by civil liberties advocates - that the practice need not worry those who had done nothing wrong - Mayor Baker added: "Good little kiddies in the wrong place at the wrong time are not getting their picture taken."
Chief of police Michael Szczerba, Wilmington's nearest equivalent to Tom Cruise, was even more succinct in an interview with the Wilmington Journal, encapsulating his attitude with the words: "Say cheese and tell the judge how you plead."
Any legal challenge to the database is likely to rest on whether police had reasonable suspicion to believe that each person photographed had already committed, or was committing, a criminal offence - a standard that would be hard to meet if, as critics allege, whole crowds are being frisked, sometimes including people who gather to witness proceedings after the squad has arrived.
"If you stop someone unlawfully, any evidence you obtain is inadmissible. But if you had reasonable suspicion, your stop-and-frisk information becomes admissible for later prosecutions," said Tom Reed, a professor at the Widener university school of law in Wilmington.
"If I make a drugs sale, but I'm actually working for the police, and I don't know who the purchaser was, and my fellow officers lay out a 200-photo spread of people who are not just felons but others, and I can identify the perpetrator - if the original stop met the Terry standard, then I think that the photo spread can be used."
Wilmington may not quite mirror the Washington of Minority Report: potential suspects in Delaware are not, after all, imprisoned for their uncommitted offences, and nobody has accused Mr Szczerba of murdering anyone in the future. But Prof Reed found a different cinematic analogy for the controversy. "Look, we know what they're doing," he said. "They're doing this for the obvious reason that Claude Rains said in Casablanca: 'Round up the usual suspects'."
News of the Wilmington scheme coincided with release of new figures on the prison population of the United States, showing a record 6.6 million in the country's correctional system.
At the end of last year, one in every 32 adults in the nation was in jail, or on probation or parole, the Justice Department reported.
The prison population grew by 1.1% to 1.3 million and the number of people on probation by 2.8% to 4 million.
Of those in jail, 46% were black and 36% white.
|Caffeine May Prevent Skin Cancer |
NEW BRUNSWICK NJ August 26, 2002 (Rutgers Press Release) – Treating the skin with caffeine has been shown to prevent skin cancer in laboratory studies conducted in the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
"It is not a sun-screening effect, but it's something more than that – it's a biological effect," said Allan Conney, William M. and Myrle W. Garbe Professor of Cancer and Leukemia Research at Rutgers' Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. "We may have found a safe and effective way of preventing skin cancer," he said of the discovery, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early online edition, available the week of Aug. 26.
It has been known for a long time that skin cancer is caused predominantly by sunlight. The authors, a group that included Conney and a team of other researchers in the laboratory, explained that sunscreen use has decreased the risk of skin cancers, but there is a need to identify additional approaches for skin-cancer prevention in individuals previously exposed to high-dose levels of sunlight.
The research team, all members of the school's department of chemical biology, studied a special strain of hairless mice that had been exposed to ultraviolet B light twice weekly for 20 weeks. This put the mice at risk for tumor formation and skin cancer. After stopping the exposures, the researchers applied caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), two components of green tea, topically to the skin. Both caffeine and EGCG significantly inhibited cancer formation in the mice.
Although the study showed that most of the positive effects were true for both of these substances, caffeine has the advantage over EGCG. EGCG is chemically less stable, so there could be a problem in applying it topically, Conney said A previous study conducted in the laboratory dealt with caffeine taken orally. The caffeine was provided in the drinking fluid for the mice and the researchers found it inhibited ultraviolet light-induced tumors and cancers in this case, as well.
Conney cites advantages to using the direct skin application over oral administration, pointing to the ability to provide more highly concentrated doses and larger overall dosages.
"Whether you can give enough orally to be effective in humans is not known," said Conney. "Whether people could ingest that amount without becoming hyperactive is also a real question mark."
The newly published study also reported the highly selective action of both caffeine and EGCG in killing cancer cells. Adjacent normal skin cells were not affected.
"The discovery of this selectivity was very exciting to us," said Conney. "Also, in our study it didn't matter if the tumors were benign or malignant; cells in both were killed while leaving the normal cells alone."
The study suggests further research is needed to determine whether or not the skin application of these agents would be effective in people. The researchers anticipate human clinical trials in the near future.
"For now," said Conney, "if you are a mouse, it would be terrific. In people we just don't know yet."
|Ancient Roman Soldiers Ate Pizza |
|By John Innes |
Scotland August 26, 2002 (The Scotsman) - Roman soldiers went to war on egg and pizza according to archaeological analysis of Roman army toilets in Scotland. Scientists also have discovered that the soldiers also appear to have gone to the lavatory in pairs.
Further analysis of the 2,000-year old remains of the legionnaires’ breakfasts may produce more clues to the diet and eating habits of the troops led by Gnaeus Agricola. They forced their way to the north of Scotland and victory over Caledonian tribesmen at the battle of Mons Graupius in 84 AD.
But archaeologists still puzzle over why the 15 latrines unearthed in a dig at Kintore, Aberdeenshire - 15 miles from the site of the battle - were dug in pairs. Theories range from a Roman liking for military symmetry to the suggestion that they simply enjoyed a good conversation.
Apart from the latrines, which revealed traces of defecated egg, the dig has revealed 120 individual bread ovens, the largest number ever found on one site in Britain.
The keyhole-shaped ovens lined with stone at one end are early versions of a pizza oven. Stone-lined pits were heated up, the ash raked out and a raw dough, probably mixed with any available vegetable, baked.
|Robot Bugs! |
San Diego August 26, 2002 (APS Press Release) - The cockroach is an insect despised for its ubiquitousness, among other reasons. Yet, it may hold a key to the next evolutionary step in the "life" of robots.
For years, serious futurists could only imagine that robots, such as the television model, would always be stiff, clumsy, and prone to breakdown.
This was before the advent of "Biomimetics," a research aimed at developing a new class of biologically inspired robots that exhibit much greater robustness in performance in unstructured environments than today's robots.
This new class of robots will be substantially more compliant and stable than current robots, and will take advantage of new developments in materials, fabrication technologies, sensors and actuators. Materials found in nature differ significantly from those found in human-made devices.
Nature appears to design for "bending without breaking" and employs tissues that are compliant and viscoelastic rather than stiff, homogeneous, and isotropic. In addition, local variations in biological materials, tailored to meet local variations in loading, are common. The nonlinear, compliant, and inhomogeneous materials found in even the simplest animals provide them with a sophistication and robustness that today's robots cannot match. And it is hard to find an animal as simple as the cockroach.
Actually, the deathhead cockroach possesses legs with compliant muscles and skeletal components that increase dynamic stability and disturbance rejection. As the ability to analyze and fabricate mechanisms with compliant and functionally-graded materials improves, the opportunity exists to develop robots whose structures draw inspiration from simple animals such as insects and crustaceans. One fertile area for biomimetic design is the leg of walking or hopping robots, where leg compliance is especially important.
One method for manufacturing such robots is Shape Deposition Manufacturing (SDM), a rapid prototyping technology. The first demand for SDM is to characterize biological structures and translate the characteristics into quantitative specifications for mobile robots. The second requirement is to model SDM material behavior to facilitate component design to meet these specifications.
To address these requirements experiments were conducted on a hind leg of Blaberus discoidalis and described its response to both step displacement inputs and sinusoidal displacement excitations. Next, a test was carried out on one of the materials used in SDM, a soft polyurethane polymer largely used as joint material in manufacture, and fit the results to standard viscoelastic (pliable yet sturdy) materials and models.
To produce legs with mechanical response similar to that of the real cockroach leg, enhanced characterization of additional SDM materials is required. Knowledge of SDM material behavior, along with information about the aspects of leg behavior important to locomotion, will enable the issuance of general design guidelines for designing biomimetic legs.
It is worth noting that these legs have been used to produce a remarkable successful robot from Stanford named SPRAWL. SPRAWL can negotiate rough terrain without a brain or any reflexes because the control is built into the smart or tuned legs described above.
The authors of "Material Modeling for Shape Deposition Manufacturing of Biomimetic Components," are Xiaorong Xu, Wendy Cheng, Mark R. Cutkosky and Motohide Hatanaka from Stanford University, and Daniel Dudek and Robert J. Full at the University of California at Berkley, Department of Integrative Biology, Berkeley, CA.
The American Physiological Society - http://www.the-aps.org
|Titanic's Unknown Child |
By Dan Rowe
Halifax August 26, 2002 (National Post) - A team of Canadian DNA archeologists may soon reveal the identity of the young Titanic passenger buried in a Halifax grave marked, "An Unknown Child."
Within a month, the researchers should know whether the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who touched the hearts of rescue workers was Alfred Edward Peacock, a seven-month-old English boy, or Gilbert Sigurd Emanuel Danbom, a five-month-old Swedish child.
Before this research, a number of people had claimed to know or even be related to the child buried beneath the famous Halifax gravestone, but it will be the efforts led by Ryan Parr of Genesis Genomics in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Alan Ruffman of Geomarine Associates in Halifax that settle the issue.
Initially, the researchers thought the boy was about a year older than they now believe him to be.
"There were a number of mismatches with what we felt was reasonable DNA from the unknown child and, secondly, the three teeth that had been recovered were very clearly from a child under one year old," Mr. Ruffman said yesterday.
The teeth were the key clue to pinning down the age. Mr. Ruffman said the age of the teeth was apparent from the absence of roots and signs of wear. That led them to narrow their search to the Peacock boy or the Danbom boy, both of whom were third-class passengers on the ship, like the first group of candidates.
Mr. Ruffman said they have left the door open to the possibility that the unknown child could also be a 13-month-old Finnish boy. But they are so convinced that the grave belongs to either Danbom or Peacock that they have yet to contact the Finnish child's remaining family.
The project has been in the works for nearly four years. In order to get a 170-gram bone sample, they had to exhume the body in May, 2001 -- 89 years after it was laid to rest. This drew heavy criticism from the relatives of Titanic survivors and the families of the wreck's victims who felt the exhumation was unnecessary.
Mr. Ruffman, however, said they faced no problems getting DNA samples from any of the families they contacted.
"The Peacock family ... were initially quite uneasy about strangers from [North] America prowling into their family tree."
Once the nature of the project was explained to them in a series of letters, they agreed to provide the eight drops of blood needed for Mr. Ruffman and Mr. Parr to potentially determine if the Halifax grave belongs to a long-lost relative.
|Ladies Prefer Dark Manes |
By PAUL RECER
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON August 22, 2002 (AP) - On the Serengeti plain, the lady lion prefers a swain with a black mane. That's the finding of a study analyzing how the dense collar of hair about the neck of male lions affects the love life of Africa's biggest cat.
Peyton M. West, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, said it's the mane color, not the length, that matters most to the female lions of Tanzania.
"We were completely surprised by this," said West, first author of the study appearing Friday in the journal Science. West said the female lions may instinctively be drawn to the black manes because males with darker manes seem superior in a number of ways.
"A dark mane is apparently a marker the female uses to evaluate the fitness of a male," she said. This suggests that lions' manes evolved over time through sexual selection.
Dark-maned male lions generally have a higher level of testosterone "which means they are more aggressive fighters," said West, and this can be key to raising cubs successfully.
An aggressive male is more able to chase away invading bachelors who try to take over the pride, said West. This is important because if there is a change in male leadership of a pride, the new dominant male routinely kills all the young cubs sired by the deposed male. Thus, by choosing to mate dark-maned, aggressive males, a female lion gives her young a better chance of surviving, the researcher said.
West said that records collected for decades by scientists observing lions in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park show that male lions with dark manes are more likely to recover from wounds. She said it is not clear why this is so. She noted that dark manes seem to intimidate other male lions, which means a lion with a black collar of hair has to fight less often and therefore has fewer injuries.
West and her co-author, Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota, investigated the effects of mane color by setting up life-sized models of lions near where the animals lived in the Serengeti. She said they found that female lions, when given a choice, would try to seduce the models that had the darker mane, ignoring those with blond hair. Male lions tended to attack more often the lion models with short manes or with light-colored manes, while avoiding the models with black manes.
West said that most prides have a surplus of female adults and that during mating season the lady lions will try to lure the males into fathering cubs. She said the researchers discovered that females gave most of their attention to the males with the dark manes.
|On The Road with Francis Ford Coppola |
By Hugh Davies
San Francisco August 27, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - Francis Ford Coppola is close to realizing his dream of following his Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now by filming On The Road, Jack Kerouac's epic 1957 novel of the Beat Generation.
Billy Crudup and Brad Pitt are being lined up to star in the film which will be directed by Joel Schumacher, noted for Flatliners with Julia Roberts, The Client, based on the John Grisham thriller, and Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas.
Coppola, who lives outside San Francisco, long the home of the Beats, has held the film rights to On The Road, thought by many to be unfilmable, for many years.
The American author Russell Banks told the Edinburgh Book Festival at the weekend that his screenplay had been approved by Coppola. "Pre-production is under way," said Banks. "Hopefully the book will now finally appear on the screen, although you can't predict anything these days."
The involvement of Banks, one of America's most literary novelists, will be a relief for Kerouac fans. They have had to endure some abysmal adaptations of his work, such as the 1960s version of The Subteranneans with George Peppard as the author and Roddy McDowell as Gregory Corso.
Banks was probably a perfect choice as he was raised in Newton, Massachusetts, close to Kerouac's birthplace of Lowell.
"I, like many of my generation, was enormously influenced by On The Road," said Banks. "I started my adult life making a road journey and I talked to Kerouac a couple of times. He was a formative influence."
The sprawling nature of the book, written on a long roll of paper with little punctuation or grammar, prompted Truman Capote to remark: "That's not writing, that's typing."
Eight years ago, Coppola's Zoetrope Productions had the idea of starring Ethan Hawke and Pitt in the film, but nothing came of it. Now a move is afoot to cast Crudup as Kerouac, who died of alcoholism in 1969 at the age of 47.
The author depicted himself in the book as Sal Paradise, a young novelist-to-be living with his aunt in Paterson, New Jersey. He makes a road trip to Denver to link up with Dean Moriarty, a fast-talking womanizer whom Paradise idolizes for his courtly style and zest for life.
Moriarty, based on Neal Cassady, is expected to be played by Pitt, who appeared with Crudup in Sleepers. Cassady died in 1968 after a drinking binge.
It is hoped that the film will be a greater hit than Easy Rider, seen by many as the ultimate "road" picture. Just who will play Carlo Marx, based on Allen Ginsberg, or Old Bull Lee, the William S Burroughs character, is uncertain, although Bob Dylan could be a candidate for either role.
The script is based on four treks by Kerouac, culminating in one last ride to Mexico for a riotous night with a roomful of prostitutes and a grandmother who sells marijuana from her back porch.
The only respected films about the Beats have been David Cronenberg's adaptation of The Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs and Pull My Daisy by photographer Robert Frank, based on an unfinished play by Kerouac.