Chuck Jones,
Cloned Pets
, Jiminy Glick,
Olympic Scandals of 388BC,
Elvis Quarters, Pluto
& More!
Chuck Jones Passes at 89

HOLLYWOOD, February 22, 2002 – Chuck Jones, legendary animation director and artist, best known for his work on the Warner Bros. classic Looney Tunes cartoon series, died today of congestive heart failure. Marian, his wife of 20 years, was by his side at their home in Corona del Mar.

In a career spanning over 60 years, Jones made more than 300 animated films, winning three Oscars as director and in 1996 an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Among the many awards and recognitions, one of those most valued was the honorary life membership from the Directors Guild of America.

During the Golden Age of animation Jones helped bring to life many of Warner Bros. most famous characters—Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. The list of characters he created himself includes Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin Martian, Pepe le Pew, Michigan J. Frog and many others. He also produced, directed and wrote the screenplays for "Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas," a television classic, as well as the feature-length film "The Phantom Tollbooth." In addition, Jones was a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide.

Jones often recalled a small child who, when told that Jones drew Bugs Bunny, replied: "He doesn’t draw Bugs Bunny. He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny." His point was that the child thought of the character as being alive and believable, which was, in Jones’ belief, the key to true character animation.

Born on September 21, 1912 in Spokane, Washington, Jones grew up in Hollywood where he observed the talents of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and worked occasionally as a child extra in Mac Sennett comedies. After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now California Institute of the Arts) Jones drew pencil portraits for a dollar a piece on Olvera Street.

Then, in 1932, he got his first job in the fledgling animation industry as a cel washer for former Disney animator, Ubbe Iwerks. It was at Iwerks Productions that he met Dorothy Webster, to whom he was married in 1932.

In 1936 Jones was hired by Friz Freleng as an animator for the Leon Schlesinger Studio (later sold to Warner Bros.). Jones admired and revered Freleng for the rest of his life, saying, "No one except Tex Avery had as perfect a sense of timing as did Friz Freleng." 

In 1937 his daughter, Linda, was born, and in 1938 he directed his first film, The Night Watchman. 

He worked with and for directors Tex Avery and Bob Clampett until the early forties when they left the studio, and for the remainder of his years at Warner Bros. he worked in parallel with Directors Freleng and Robert McKimson. He remained at Warner Bros. until the studio was closed in 1962.

During those years, sometimes referred to later as the Golden Years of Warner Bros. animation, arguably some of the most enduring cartoons ever made were produced; most of them still enjoying worldwide recognition daily.

When Warner Bros. closed, and after a very short stay at the Disney Studios, Jones moved to MGM Studios, where he created new episodes from the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. While there, in addition to The Phantom Tollbooth and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jones directed the Academy Award winning film, The Dot and the Line.

Jones established his own production company, Chuck Jones Enterprises, in 1962 and produced nine half-hour animation films for television including Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi and The White Seal.

After the death of his first wife, Jones met and married the love of his life, Marian Dern, who remained his best friend, lover and companion for the rest of his life.

In the late 70s Jones and his daughter, Linda, pioneered a continuing art business featuring limited edition images created by Jones depicting scenes from his most enduring cartoons. He continued to support his daughter’s business, generously making appearances, drawings and paintings, in addition to signing countless editions of images, which continue to delight collectors and fans worldwide.

One of his films, the Wagnerian mini epic, What’s Opera, Doc? was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "among the most culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films of our time."

In recent years, Jones’ work has been honored at film festivals and museums throughout the world, including a one-man retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His autobiography, Chuck Amuck, appeared in 1989, now in its fifth printing. Chuck Reducks, his follow-up to the first book, was published two years later.

Two years ago, Jones established the Chuck Jones Foundation, designed to recognize, support and inspire continued excellence in art and the art of classic character animation. Plans for the Foundation include scholarships, library resources, touring exhibits, a lecture series and access to film, notes and drawings.

Director Peter Bogdanovich once explained the enduring appeal of Jones’ work: "It remains, like all good fables and only the best art, both timeless and universal."

Jones is survived by his wife, Marian, daughter Linda Jones Clough, brother Richard Kent Jones, three grandchildren Todd Kausen, Craig Kausen, Valerie Ericsen, six great-grandchildren Alex, Brittany, Charley, Jessica, Jake, and Jamie; also by his step-daughter Rosalin Bellante, step-son Peter Dern, and three step-grandsons, Jason, Scott, and Kevin Bohrer.

A memorial event will be held at a later date, date to be announced. 

After hearing that Jones had died, a four-year-old child asked her mother, between sobs, "Does this mean the bunny won’t be in the barber chair any more?" The answer is, "No, the bunny will be in the barber chair forever." 

In lieu of flowers, contribution may be made in the name of Chuck Jones to the Motion Picture & Television Fund or to the Chuck Jones Foundation.

Motion Picture & Television Fund
22212 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 300
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(800) 876-8320

The Chuck Jones Foundation
P.O. Box 18704
Irvine, CA 92623-8704

More information on Chuck Jones is available at 

[We miss him already :o(> Ed.]

Smithsonian to Enshrine Enron Ethics Manual

By C. Bryson Hull

HOUSTON February 27, 2002 (Reuters) - Enron has turned into a museum quality scandal -- the Smithsonian Institution is collecting its memorabilia, including its code of ethics.

A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on Tuesday said curators have started to collect Enron memorabilia as part of an effort to record one of the nation's biggest business scandals.

"We have acquired one of the administrative booklets that talks about the code of ethics, with a letter from (former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) Kenneth Lay and we have collected a coffee mug," spokeswoman Melinda Machado said.

The political history division will use the artifacts as a way to look at "the contest between business, the business world and the public for government's favor," she said.

"I guess the Hope Diamond doesn't stand a chance," Enron spokesman Vance Meyer quipped, referring to the massive blue diamond that is one of the Smithsonian's best-known exhibits.

The Smithsonian's 16 museums hold more than 140 million artifacts, and it has one of the largest collections of Americana in the world.

Enron on Dec. 2 filed the largest Chapter 11 bankruptcy in history, after questions of phony accounting and ethical conflicts of interest by top officers surfaced. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department and several Congressional committees are investigating the collapse.

It is not the first time that Enron's ethics manual has garnered the attention of collectors, but the Smithsonian's interest is certainly the most serious and scholarly interest expressed thus far.

Last month, several ex-Enron employees showed the enterprising spirit for which they were famed and listed copies of the manual on the Internet auction site eBay. At one point, a bidder offered as much as $255.

An exhibit of Enron knick-knacks, held at a coffee stand near the company's Houston headquarters, dubbed the booklet "Res Ipsa Loquitur," Latin for "the thing that speaks for itself."

And what of that most ubiquitous of Enron symbols, the silver and neon Enron signs located in front of its headquarters? Jokingly referred to by former employees as "the crooked E," the tilted logo has appeared day after day in newspapers and television news programs.

"We might consider it, but we look at what does an object tell about the story. Would it be the sign that tells the story, or would there be other objects that could better do that?" Machado said.

Meyer said the company has not had any official requests to acquire its signs, which are headed for the dustbin of history after Enron changes its name in its planned restructuring.

"It is true that we've had some casual interest in the signs and a good number of tourists who stop for a family picture, but are we tossing and turning about eBayers with hacksaws? No," Meyer said.

Fingerprint Evidence Challenged in Federal Case

Associated Press 

PHILADELPHIA February 25, 2002 (AP) - Ninety-one years after fingerprint evidence was first introduced in a U.S. courtroom, its reputation as an infallible forensic tool is under attack in a court challenge that could change how criminal cases are tried.

On Monday, federal prosecutors will try to persuade U.S. District Judge Louis H. Pollak to reverse his recent decision barring experts from testifying about whether a fingerprint taken from a crime scene matches a defendant. If the judge doesn't change his mind, the decision could change the way forensic evidence is gathered and presented in court.

While prosecutors and some forensic experts say Pollak's ruling could have grave consequences, critics of fingerprint analysis say it's about time the process was reviewed.

"There are a lot of emperors out there testifying who have no clothes," said David L. Faigman of University of California's Hastings College of Law. "Where's the science behind it? Where's the data?"

The ruling, believed to be the first of its kind, involves a death penalty case in which three men are charged with operating a multimillion-dollar drug ring and are linked to four killings.

Lawyers for Carlos Llera-Plaza, Wilfredo Acosta and Victor Rodriguez asked the judge to bar fingerprint evidence. Under Pollak's ruling, experts can testify about and show illustrations of similarities or dissimilarities between "latent" fingerprints from a crime scene and "rolled" fingerprints on file, but they cannot testify that crime scene prints match a defendant's fingerprints.

Citing a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring judges to take a more active role in deciding what scientific evidence to admit, Pollak said that, unlike DNA evidence, fingerprint evidence has not been scientifically tested, its error rate has not been calculated, and there are no standards for what constitutes a match.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the case, citing the upcoming hearing, but said in court documents that Pollak's opinion, if left to stand, "would have grave consequences."

"It would deprive the government of vital evidence in this case, in which latent fingerprints directly link defendants to heinous murders," court documents stated. "If carried to its logical conclusion, the court's reasoning would virtually eliminate any expert opinion on the myriad subjects on which subjective expert opinion has always been welcomed in the federal courts."

Since the first conviction in the United States on fingerprint evidence in 1911, the fingerprint classification system used in much of the world has changed little.

A person's fingerprint is classified by its arches, loops and whorls, then compared to latent fingerprints by design type and by locating certain fixed points and counting the ridges between the points.

"The courts have recognized the validity and merit for fingerprint identification for 100 years," said Joseph P. Polski, chief operations officer of the International Association for Identification, an industry group. "If fingerprint identification was prohibited from being admitted in court, it would have far reaching effects in identifying bad guys."

Although DNA evidence has become a highly prized evidentiary tool, fingerprints can help track down criminals in ways DNA can't - in part because hundreds of millions of fingerprints are on file, Polski said.

If Pollak's decision stands, Faigman said it likely would lead to scientific testing and advances in fingerprint analysis technology that could erase the judge's concerns that fingerprints rely too much on subjective analysis and not enough on hard science.

Though Pollak's decision only applies to cases tried in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, legal experts say it has opened the door for other courts to address the issue. The 3rd Circuit hears appeals from federal courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.

"In very short order, fingerprinting will receive substantive research and will come through this challenge - maybe modified - and we could end up with a much better technology," Faigman said.

He believes the government is fighting Pollak's ruling not because fingerprints can't pass scientific muster but because of concerns that the case may lead to scrutiny of other forensic tools - including bite-mark and handwriting analysis, which Faigman called "voodoo."

"They're afraid they'll win the fingerprint battle but lose the forensic science war," he said.

Bush Pushes Alaska Drilling - Again!

By Patricia Wilson

WASHINGTON February 26, 2002 (Reuters) — Calling fuel cells and hybrid cars "the wave of the future" but not the only solution to dependence on foreign oil, President Bush Monday urged drilling in a pristine Alaskan wildlife refuge. 

With three gleaming U.S.-made, energy-saving experimental vehicles — none of which is available to consumers — parked behind him at the White House diplomatic entrance, Bush focused on his commitment to conservation rather than his controversial plan to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. 

Poking his head under hoods and peering into interiors, Bush closely inspected a Chevy Silverado GMC Sierra hybrid truck, which combines an electric motor and a conventional V-8 engine; a Ford Escape ATV hybrid electric vehicle, which combines an electric motor and a fuel-efficient gas engine; and a Chrysler Town and Country Natrium, a hybrid fuel-cell minivan that produces no tailpipe emissions.

Bush, who owns a ranch in Texas but not the stock that graze on it, struck a cowboy pose beside the pickup. Told he needed a hat to complete the picture, the president said, ''You need the cattle if you've got the hat.'' 

"More and more hybrid cars will be available in the marketplace next year, and this is good news," Bush said. "It is good news for our environment. It's good news for consumers who are not only worried about the environment but understand the ramifications of dependency on foreign sources of crude oil." 

Although Japanese-based auto companies Toyota and Honda already have hybrid models on the road, their vehicles were not on display. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer cautioned reporters against reading anything into their exclusion. 

"As far as the president is concerned, the consumers should have a choice of whichever vehicle they want to purchase," he said. "The president wants to generally promote the use of hybrid fuel vehicles as a way of promoting conservation." 

Bush said that while there was a lot of work to be done to make fuel cells economically viable, "We happen to believe fuel cells are the wave of the future, that fuel cells offer incredible opportunity." 


The White House insists Bush's commitment to conservation, including $3 billion in tax credits over 11 years for purchases of hybrid vehicles and a $150 million "freedom car" plan focusing on development of fuel-cell technologies that run on hydrogen, has been overshadowed by the controversy over drilling in the wildlife refuge. 

He pressed the Senate to pass an energy plan that embraced increased production as well as conservation, saying it would create jobs and help wean America from foreign oil. "It's important for Americans to remember that, as we debate an energy bill, as we have a discussion about an energy plan, that America imports more than ... 10 million barrels a day and the figure is rising," he said. "This is an important piece of legislation, and I urge quick action." 

The Republican president faces tough going in the Democratic-led Senate, where debate resumes this week on energy legislation that does not contain language to allow drilling in the wildlife refuge, believed to hold up to 16 billion barrels of crude. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives included drilling in the refuge in its energy bill last August. 


"Any sound, comprehensive energy policy must both increase production and reduce consumption," Bush said. "Technologies will enable us to preserve our environment as we explore." 

A final Senate vote is expected in mid-March. Congressional aides said Monday lawmakers likely would deal last with the most contentious issues: whether to allowing drilling in ANWR and boosting fuel economy requirements. Those two issues could doom the energy bill altogether, as both Democrats and Republicans have threatened to filibuster the legislation over them. There could be more than 100 amendments offered on the bill, the aides said. 

The Arctic refuge stretches over 19.6 million acres and is home to caribou, polar bears, and other wildlife. Democrats and environmental groups oppose drilling in the refuge, preferring an energy policy that stresses conservation and stricter fuel efficiency for vehicles. 

Bush believes taking oil from the refuge would help reduce America's dependence on crude oil imported from volatile Middle Eastern nations that he said "to put it bluntly, sometimes ... don't particularly like us." 

Republicans say Alaskan drilling will create thousands of jobs. Supporters say the refuge could produce 1 million barrels of oil a day at peak production. The United States uses 19.5 million barrels a day, of which 60 percent is imported.

Judge Threatens Norton with New Contempt Charge

By Robert Taylor
Staff Reporter
Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON February 22, 2002 (ICD) - Interior Secretary Gale Norton heard harsh criticism Feb. 20 from the federal judge conducting her contempt trial, as the offshoot of the trust fund scandal wrapped up testimony.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth focused his wrath on the failure of the Department of the Interior to ensure that Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust beneficiaries received their payments as scheduled. He attacked the department for providing "misleading information" to the court and failing to provide adequate IT security to trust data.

Norton and Deputy Interior Secretary J. Stephen Griles have publicly blamed delays in getting out the payments on Lamberth’s court investigator Alan Balaran. This tactic drew a strongly worded verbal thrashing and a warning of further sanctions from the judge.

In an exclusive editorial in the current edition of ICT (page A5), Interior Secretary Gale Norton extends an olive branch to tribal leaders. In the editorial "American Indian Trust Reform: The Challenge to Consensus" she explains her position and potential ways of correcting the shambles of the IIM fiasco.

Norton and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb already are facing five earlier counts of contempt from the trust scandal case.

"There is strong evidence that defendants, yet again, have attempted to perpetrate a fraud on this court," said official court documents filed by lawyers for Elouise Cobell, plaintiff in the trust fund suit. 

The latest criticisms stem from a Nov. 17, 2001 memorandum from Joe Walker, a former BIA superintendent involved with trust records, as detailed in official court records. Walker’s memorandum allegedly contained "thinly veiled" language suggesting Interior’s defense lawyers file a motion for summary judgement, thereby ending the trial. In turn, a GAO letter that contained evidence of acknowledgements of mismanagement would be suppressed.

Sandra Spooner of the Department of Justice reported to Lamberth that a total of $5 million in IIM disbursements had been made to bring the government into compliance with early court orders to get the money flowing again. She also admitted that $ 4.5 million in resource royalties were tied up de to the shutdown of the computer network at the Mineral Management Service (MMS).

The MMS network was part of the DOI ordered shutdown that effectively stopped trust payments. Lamberth had previously had ordered the network re-opened long enough to make all the IIM payments on time.

The network was shut down after a court-hired hacker easily broke into the trust accounts.

Reports on the devastating effects of the loss of the trust payments are coming in from all over Indian Country. Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians and one of the last witness in the Norton trial, testified that Indian ranchers who are dependent on the payments are having their credit ruined. He explained to the court that collateral needed for tribal and Department of Agriculture loans to keep operations going, the IIM payments, are still not reaching those in need.

Hall testified that he had not received any of his personal IIM payments since December. He also detailed an individual case of one elder who could not travel to her distant medical treatments without her IIM payments.

Landowners on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho are equally as distressed. Attorney Paul EchoHawk, who, has been representing the tribes interests at the trust fund hearings, said many elders use their IIM entitlements as house payments.

"They’re coming into the office asking us for help, and we’re trying to hold back the tide of creditors, but it’s getting more difficult," he said.

EchoHawk said the tribe had met with the Idaho congressional delegation. He said progress had been made on crime issues on the reservation, but that no headway was made on the payments.

"The tribes cannot rely on hollow promises and rumors while the members, and our elders in particular, continue to suffer," said EchoHawk.

Scientists Say Cloned Pets in Demand


TEXAS February 15, 2002 (AP) - A company that plans to clone household pets has been deluged with calls after Thursday's announcement that Texas scientists had cloned a cat, the company's chief executive officer said Friday.

A female domestic shorthair, called "cc" for "copycat," was born Dec. 22 and is now healthy and frisky, researchers at Texas A&M University in College Station said.

Headed up by Dr. Mark Westhusin of A&M's veterinary medicine school, the project funded by a company called Genetic Savings & Clone was the first reported success at efforts to clone a household pet.

"There's a huge interest in this," said Lou Hawthorne, CEO of the company. He said the expected demand for dog and cat cloning is "far more than we'll be able to handle for many years."

Hawthorne said most of the callers to his company since the cloning was announced by the journal Nature have asked about cats, but some have inquired about dogs, too.

Researchers say dogs are harder to clone than cats, but Hawthorne said, "we're going to do both of them."

Hawthorne's operation first launched the $3.7 million Missyplicity Project, an effort to clone a mixed-breed pet dog named Missy. He said it will take more than 18 months before the company can come up with a standard price for cloning cats.

The kitten born at Texas A&M looks different from its calico genetic donor because the pigmentation pattern of the animal's coat isn't controlled strictly by the lineup of genes.

"This is a reproduction," said A&M researcher Duane Kraemer "not a resurrection."

Pet-cloning proponents also say pet owners should realize a new clone won't come equipped with a ready-made bond to the owner or carry other memories. But Kraemer and Randall Prather, an animal cloner at the University of Missouri who wasn't involved in the Texas project, say cloning cats could pay off for more than pet owners.

It could help research that uses cats for learning about human diseases, they said. Kraemer noted that cats are used in neurological research, and that a colleague wanted cat clones to help in AIDS research. Moreover, the work could help in preserving endangered cat species, they said.

But Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president for the Humane Society of the United States, called the new advance "unfortunate news." Scientists should be moving away from using animals in research, and the biggest problem endangered cat species face is habitat destruction, he said.

As for people who'd like a new version of a deceased cat, Pacelle said many communities have too many cats for too few homes, and cat cloning "goes in the opposite direction of where we need to be."

People whose cats have died should "go through a grieving process, and then go to a shelter and embrace another companion in your household," he said.

The kitty clone was the team's only success after transferring 87 cloned embryos into eight female cats. Overall, the success rate was comparable to that seen in other cloned species, the researchers said. Other mammals cloned before include sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and mice. The researchers tried cloning with two types of cells from adult cats. The lone success came in one of the attempts using cumulus cells, which are found in the ovary, from "Rainbow," an adult member of the university's cat colony.

The researchers removed the nucleus from cat eggs and fused the eggs with cumulus cells. Three were grown into embryos and implanted in a female cat. Sixty-six days later, cc was delivered by Caesarean section.

Texas A&M University: 


Missyplicity Project: 

Exploring The Marvel Universe

By Katie Pennicott

Spain February 15, 2002 (PhysicsWeb) - Marvel comic book enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the social structure of the 'universe' inhabited by the comic's characters is similar to real human networks. Ricardo Alberich and colleagues at the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain have used statistical mechanics to analyze the links between super-heroes throughout the comic's 40-year history.

The mathematicians hope that their study will shed light on the principles that underpin real-life networks, such as collaborations in the scientific community.

'Collaborative networks' - such as the pattern of links between scientists who have worked together - are good candidates for study because they tend to be clear-cut: the links between people are well defined, the dates of the associations are clear, and the details are often logged. 

Alberich's team realized that the relationships between the characters in Marvel comics - there are dozens of titles in total - formed an artificial collaborative network. Characters from one comic frequently appear in another, and Alberich and colleagues viewed a 'collaboration' as each time two characters turn up together. They analyzed around 96 000 appearances by 6500 characters in 13 000 issues. The data were gathered by the Marvel Chronology Project. 

Most real collaborative networks are 'scale-free', that is the number of people with links to others falls as the number of links grows. Alberich's team found that the 'Marvel Universe' was also scale-free - most characters have appeared with an 'average' number of other characters, but fewer are associated with many. This relationship has a cut-off point: with 1625 appearances, Spider-Man is the most 'connected' character. 

"Every fan believes that the Marvel Universe is a real place", team member Francesc Rossello told PhysicsWeb. "Now we have shown that this perception has a mathematical basis". 

But the Marvel Universe lacks the 'clustering' effect found in real networks, in which two people are more likely to be connected if they are both linked to a third individual. Alberich and co-workers attribute this to the writers, who had to distribute super-heroes evenly among the comics. 

The investigation - which was funded by the Spanish government - concludes that although the Marvel Universe successfully mimics many aspects of human networks, it cannot disguise its artificial origins. Alberich and colleagues now plan to study the evolution of the Marvel Universe, in order to establish the factors that lead to differences between social networks and completely random networks. 

Alberich's team has submitted its study to the journal Social Networks.

Read or download the full study in PDF format here. (Requires Adobe Reader.)

Genre News: Firefly, Enterprise, Roswell, Free Comics, X-Files, Witchblade and Creation Crossover!

Trio Joins Whedon's 'Firefly'

LOS ANGELES February 26, 2002 ( - "Alias" baddie Gina Torres has joined the cast of Joss Whedon's pilot "Firefly" along with Ron Glass ("The Education of Max Bickford") and Summer Glau, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The trio helps round out a cast that already includes Nathan Fillion ("Two Guys and a Girl"), Adam Baldwin ("The X-Files") and Jewel Staite. The sci-fi pilot, to which FOX gave a 13-episode commitment based on Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" track record, is set several hundred years in the future and follows the crew of a transport ship as they move from job to not-always-legal job.

Whedon has described the pilot as a Western set in space.

Torres plays Anna Espinosa, the nemesis of lead character Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) on ABC's "Alias." She also starred in the syndicated series "Cleopatra 2525." Glass is best known for his role as Detective Harris on the 1970s comedy "Barney Miller."

Whedon is writing and directing "Firefly's" two-hour pilot, which is scheduled to begin production in March. 

For more info on Firefly -

Enterprise Gets Sexy 

Hollywood February 26, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Brannon Braga, co-creator of UPN's Enterprise, told Cinescape Online that he and partner Rick Berman aren't shying away from sex in the new Star Trek series. "Sensuality is sexual tension," Braga told the site. "And there's a lot of sexual tension between Trip and T'Pol and Archer and T'Pol. Trip got pregnant. There was a lot of sensuality in that one, and we have a show coming up where T'Pol gets nasty with a Vulcan. And that's a real sexy show."

Braga added, "Hopefully the sensuality runs through the show. You see our people in their underwear. You see Archer in the shower. There's an episode where the Ferengi take over the ship, and Trip spends the entire episode in his underwear, running around the ship like Bruce Willis [in Die Hard]. Sensuality can be humorous. It can be obvious, and it can be subtle. Rick and I have been allowed to bring our own sensibilities to the show in a more natural way, which we haven't been allowed to do in some of the other shows."

Enterprise airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on UPN.

'Roswell' Star Says Sets Are Gone

LOS ANGELES February 26, 2002 ( - While UPN officials maintain that the series has not been cancelled, one of the series stars, Majandra Delfino, wrote in her online diary on her personal website that the network ordered that the sets for the show be torn down last week.

The actress goes on to label this a "bahhhd sign for you 'Roswell' lovers." 

In the journal, the actress doesn't appear too broken up about the news. Instead, she says it will be nice to have a break from the show's 14-hour days, which go on for nine months of the year.

"So, I may be out of a job, oh well, onto the next," she writes. "I'm looking forward to taking it easy. The TV thing was fun and I did it to know what it was like to do a drama, but my curiosity has been fed, and now I'm gonna go back to what I know I like for sure. I think almost everybody else in the cast feels the same." 

"While to many, 'Roswell' was a joyful thing to tune in to once a week for an hour, those of us behind the scenes saw it as very much a job," she adds.

Another thing she says she won't be missing is her character's wardrobe and "face." 

"She was just so different from me it became a little frustrating after a while and one starts to feel robbed of their own personality and persona," she says. "Time for a little Majandra yo … This should weed out the people that thought I was cool from those that really just liked the character I was contractually obliged to portray."

Majandra Delfino's site -  and the aforementioned online diary entry .

Free Comic Book Day Approaches 

Official Press Release - On Saturday, May 4th – the day after the premiere of the Spider-Man movie! – the comic book industry will sponsor Free Comic Book Day at participating comic book shops. Publishers such as Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel, and many more are preparing giveaway editions of some of their best titles for this special day. It’s not only a chance for longtime readers and fans to score a cool free comic, it’s also a golden opportunity for readers to bring a friend, a brother or sister, even a parent or co-worker, and introduce them to the world of comics for FREE!

Comics are better than ever, and Free Comic Book Day is the industry’s way to get the message out that comics are one of America’s most enduring forms of original entertainment, offering titles for everyone! Do your part and introduce – or reintroduce – someone to comics on May 4th!

Free Comic Book Day site - 

Spotnitz Misty About X-Files 

Hollywood February 25, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of The X-Files, told SCI FI Wire that it's strange contemplating the long-running series' upcoming finale. "Hopefully we'll be doing a movie next year," Spotnitz said in an interview. "It's funny, because you don't remember any of the pain now [laughs]. Because there was a lot of pain. But all the good stuff comes, and it's just been a great once-in-a-lifetime thing. I'm just grateful and lucky to have been a part of it."

Spotnitz added, "It's a Chris Carter series, so I can afford to be immodest, because I really do think it's a landmark show. And I think it will hold up for quite a number of years, because it had huge ambition both in terms of production and in terms of storytelling, and really achieved a high level of quality. I think it tried to be very smart and very adult, and that's why it reached so many people. Especially for what is essentially a genre show. Shows like this don't usually reach top-10 audiences or win Emmys and things like that. And I think people responded to what was our best effort to deliver a really high-quality show week in and week out. It's been a great experience." The X-Files airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT and will complete its nine-year run in May.

The Official X-Files site - 

Witchblade Will Be Different 

Hollywood February 27, 2002 (Comics Continuum) - Ralph Hemecker, executive producer of TNT's Witchblade, told The Continuum that the second season will have a slightly different approach from the first. 

"Last year was pretty serialized," Hemecker told The Continuum. "We're going to go a bit more standalone this year. There will be plot threads that carry through the 13 episodes, though." 

Production of the second season of Witchblade has begun in Toronto, with new episodes targeted for June. The entire cast, led by Yancy Butler, is returning. 

Hemecker also revealed that the first episode of the second season - in keeping with the tradition of one-word titles - will be called "Emergence." 

Look for more from Hemecker, and the cast of Witchblade, in Comics Continuum #1, which is on sale May 1. You can order the magazine through your local comics retailer beginning today or pre-order directly through Blue Line Pro at 

Farscape, STTNG, Enterprise and Andromeda Crossover!

Hollywood February 27, 2002 (eXoNews) - No, not on TV - but it got your attention, right? :o)>

Creation Entertainment has announced a heavy sci-fi con for April in San Francisco. According to their email announcement:

"Fans in the Bay Area are invited to be with us April 6 and 7 at our usual haunt in San Francisco, The Masonic Center, for a jam-packed weekend of events and surprises.


Get more details at the Creation site: and dig that Grand Slam 2002 ST Convention lineup too. Yikes!

Short Is Slick As Jiminy Glick


Hollywood February 22, 2002 (Cox) - What is this strange creature as fat and round as the moon? This thing that walks upright sometimes, but sometimes crawls in circles in its chair like a dog bedding down?

Whose voice swoops from guttural rumble to a baby-babbly coo in the space of a single sentence? Who addresses the two-time Oscar-winning actor as "Tom Hank'' and thinks that actress/extraterrestrial Anne Heche is Ben Stiller's mother? 

It must be Glick, yes, "Primetime Glick,'' returning for a second season in its schmoozy, satiric, shamelessly showbizzy glory on Comedy Central. 

There is no real Jiminy Glick, of course. Glick is a fat suit housing the imp known in his downtime as Martin Short. As his tubby alter ego, Short gets to vent his considerable comic hostility at all the capital-E entertainment(!) journaleeches who've aimed a mike at him armed with insipid questions, TV-ready hair and blindingly toothy cluelessness. 

Short's creation is a ruthless portrait of a celebrity puffball-pitcher whose self-regard is as expansive as his gut. Glick treats his guests with a mix of adulation and indifference. He acts as though he's doing the stars a favor by booking them.

"I am thrilled to see you,'' he tells David Duchovny in an upcoming episode, adding, "and who am I talking to?''

Short also nails the cringe-worthy clichés of showbiz interviews, like the requisite touchy-feely question ("Do you have demons, Ben Stiller?''). 

Stiller, who loses it when Glick asks how his dad Jerry enjoys acting in "Queer as Folk,'' holds his own against Short's surreal improvisations in Saturday's episode.

Hanks, appearing in the first half, seems a little too eager to play along - but he manages to crack Short up by doing something unexpected to a pre-chewed gumdrop. 

Sure, a lot of this stuff is a little insidery. If you don't find infotainment either deplorable or addictive, you won't care much for "Glick.'' And yeah, some of the filler on the show is way lame.

Like Ying the cue-card boy, who writes the lines in Chinese. Or the clip of Glick posing as a rapper. Or an overlong skit in the next episode, where Short flies around singing in a spacesuit. But every clunk is balanced by a cackle. Or two.

The show's unevenness seems proof that Short and his team are willing to try out material that sometimes rolls over and plays dead. But when it does, the star has expert backup in Michael McKean as his pomaded, harp-playing band leader, and Jan Hooks as Glick's wife, who has happily boozed all short-term memory out of her brain. With a hubby like Glick, you can't really blame her.

Primetime Glick airs weekly on Comedy Central. Check your listings.

New York Mayor Ponders Selling Brooklyn Bridge

NEW YORK February 26, 2002 (Reuters) - Unbelievable perhaps, but New York City's new mayor wants to sell you the historic Brooklyn Bridge.

In fact, he wants to sell three other bridges in America's biggest city -- anything to raise cash in a city reeling from the economic effects of the Sept. 11 attacks coupled with the first U.S. recession in 10 years.

Michael Bloomberg, elected mayor last year just weeks after the destruction of the World Trade Center, inherited a nearly $5 billion hole in his $40 billion spending plan, which an official in his administration said could be partly filled through the sale of the four bridges.

"The proposals (to sell the bridges) are under consideration," Bloomberg spokesman Jordan Barowitz said on Monday, declining to elaborate.

Selling the bridges is likely to generate as much opposition from elected officials in Brooklyn and Queens as the mayor's budget proposal two weeks ago to charge tolls on the bridges, which are now free.

The Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge all span the East River and connect the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan.

The toll plan could raise up to $800 million a year by 2006.

While it was not immediately clear how much the city might get from the sale of the four bridges, an arm of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be the likely buyer, Bloomberg's spokesman said. An MTA spokesman said the agency had no comment on the Bloomberg plan to sell the bridges.

New York City's tax collections took a severe hit after the Sept. 11 attacks, which came at a time when the U.S. economy was already slowing after a record 10 years of economic growth.

The air attacks not only killed nearly 3,000 people, they also led to 110,000 job losses and forced thousands of businesses to shut down.

Exo-Cow News!

Cincinnati Charmed by Cow on the Run from Slaughterhouse 

Scripps Howard News Service 

CINCINNATI February 24, 2002 (Scripps Howard) - For days, it's been a mooooo-ving story in Cincinnati. No bull.

Since escaping from a local slaughterhouse by jumping a 6-foot fence at Ken Meyer Meats on Feb. 15, the 1,200-pound cow has become daily fodder for radio talk shows, TV newscasts and office chatter.

The cow has evaded police and officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while crossing highways and exploring parks.

"The problem is, this is a free-range cow that isn't going to come to any human," said Harold Dates, general manager for the Society. "And when you weigh 1,200 pounds, you can pretty much go anywhere you want to go."

At City Hall and from coast to coast, where CNN and other news outlets have chronicled the four-hooved fugitive's run for freedom, the cow's fame grows daily.

If and when the runaway 7-year-old cow is captured, Mayor Charlie Luken plans to give it the key to the city.

Everyone from former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott to Fifth Third Bank has offered to do whatever it takes to prevent the cow from ending up on a hamburger bun, the latter by offering the cow a starring role in its next "Holy Cow" home-equity loan ad campaign.

Similarly, Chick-Fil-A, a fast-food restaurant that features a cow in ads urging people to steer clear of red meat, is offering 100 free chicken sandwiches to whoever catches the cow.

Frustrated in their repeated attempts to lure the light-colored Charolais out of the thick underbrush of a park, officials devised a new strategy: using three other cows as bovine bait to draw the cow into a corralled area. Water and food also will be set out to make it look like there's a big cow party going on inside.

If the cow falls for the trap, officials will swing the gate on a happy ending to the saga. If not, they'll move on to Plan B: trying to bring her down with a tranquilizer dart, a far less attractive option that requires carefully hauling a 1,200-pound animal out of a hilly, brush-covered site.

Wandering Cow Captured in Ohio After Escape

CINCINNATI February 26, 2002 (Reuters) - A free-spirited cow who eluded capture after escaping a date with death in a slaughterhouse 11 days ago was captured on Tuesday in the back yard of a home.

Harold Dates, director of the Hamilton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the 1,200-pound white Charolais was tranquilized after being flushed out of a wooded park less than a mile from the slaughterhouse.

The cow had been roaming the park since her escape, and various efforts to capture her made TV network news [see earlier story below - Ed.]

Success came after society workers set up a corral with decoy cows in the park. The cow was lured into the corral and tranquilized a first time, but kept going until a second shot brought her down in the yard.

The cow has earned clemency from the execution that awaited her at the Ken Meyer Meats slaughterhouse, Dates said.

Marge Schott, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds' baseball team, has said the cow can have a new home on her farm.

Olympic Scandals in Ancient Greece

By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter

Greece February 21, 2002 (Chicago Tribune) - Almost instinctively we want to hang our heads in shame when the Olympics are stained by scandal. Allowing national rivalries to get in the way of fairly determining the best figure-skating duo seems to dishonor the tradition of the ancient Games.

Well, you can let go of those guilt feelings. The road to the original Olympics was marked by monuments to athletic skulduggery. Literally so -- according to the Greek author Pausanius, the Arthur Frommer of antiquity.

Gathering material for his book "Perieigeisis teis Ellados," or "Description of Greece," Pausanius visited the site of the Games, Olympia in western Greece, in the 2nd Century A.D. The entrance to the stadium, he found, was lined by statues of Zeus.

A pious display, but it turns out it had its roots in chicanery.

"These [statues] have been made from the monies of fines levied against athletes who have disgraced the games," Pausanius explained. "The first six were set up in the 98th Olympiad (388 B.C.) when Eupolos of Thessaly bought off with money his think of the Greeks as humanity's role models -- builders of shiny white temples, athletes who ran and jumped for pure love of the sport. In fact, when it came to crassness and greed, they could put Don King to shame.

They anticipated the evil genius of television's "Tough Man" contests by 2,700 years. In an Olympic competition called the pankration, punching, kicking, choking, finger-breaking and blows to the groin were standard tactics; only eye-gouging and biting were disallowed.

In one match, a competitor named Arrhachion was strangled and died, even as his opponent was giving up because Arrhachion simultaneously had broken the fellow's toe. Pausanius dryly reports that the judges "proclaimed Arrhachion the victor and crowned his corpse."

With rules like those, it is little wonder that some ancient Olympians looked for shortcuts to victory, a little something to put the odds in their favor. Alcibiades, a slippery Athenian politician, once entered seven teams of horses in the chariot race, an event in which the owner, not the driver, was generally considered the victor. That brainstorm allowed Alcibiades to return to his constituents and proudly brag of having won first, second and third place.

The fix is in

Yet primacy of place in the competition to fix the Olympics has to go to the Roman Emperor Nero. A devoted musician and sportsman, he interrupted his busy schedule of murdering rivals and relatives for a grand tour of Greece in 67 A.D. Though Greece was long past her days of greatness, her glory still shone like a beacon, especially to the Romans who, for all the power of their empire, still considered themselves cultural apprentices to the Greeks. Athletes continued to treasure the wreath of wild olive awarded to victors at Olympia, where the Games went on as they had for hundreds of years.

Nero paid Olympic officials to stage chariot races with a special set of rules: The chariots were to be drawn by a record-breaking team of 10 horses, which effectively kept the riffraff out of competition, and put the emperor in a position to win.

Even so, Nero's biographer Suetonius reports, the road to victory wasn't smooth: "[Nero] lost his balance and fell out of the chariot and had to be helped into it again. Nonetheless, even though he did not run the whole race and quit before the finish, the judges awarded him the crown of victory."

It is amazing what a million "sesterces" will buy -- a bribe, that, according to ancient chroniclers, the emperor Galba, Nero's successor, demanded back, either in the name of purer sport or because the imperial treasury was running low.

Even the Grecian custom of athletes competing nude had as much to do with fraud and deceit as to the Greeks' famed delight in the beauty of the human form. The ancient Olympics, being a religious celebration as well as a sporting contest, were closed to women. But a widow named Diagoras Callipateiras Pherenike was determined to see her son be a winner. So, dressed like a male trainer, she took him to Olympia to compete. In her excitement at his victory, she leapt in the air and, as underwear hadn't been invented, her secret was revealed. The Olympic committee passed a rule that henceforth everyone on the field, trainers and athletes, would have to be stark naked, according to Pausanius.

But the Games weren't just anti-feminist; they also could be an occasion for gay-bashing, notwithstanding the Greeks' supposedly broadminded attitudes in such matters. According to the Greek historian Dion Cassius, a Roman wrestler by the name of Aurelius Helix was the heavy favorite in the 250th Olympiad (221 A.D.). He had just won at the Capitoline Games in Rome. But Olympic officials didn't want to see him victorious at their Games because Aurelius Helix was a boyfriend of the openly gay Emperor Heliogabalus. So they simply canceled the wrestling competition for that year.

Muscling in on the action

Other monarchs, though, used a little muscle to see that their favorites got to compete. The Olympics were divided into two parts, a men's division and one for boys 18 and under. Once, the Spartans entered a certain Eualces in the latter division, even though his height, build and strength made it obvious to the judges that he long since had passed the divide into adulthood. But King Agesilaus of Sparta pressured them to keep him in the boys' division. For once, virtue triumphed: Eualces finished out of the money.

Which brings up something else we don't need to feel guilty about: Fielding NHL and NBA players as our Olympic hockey and basketball teams. Amateur athletics are a strictly modern invention. The ancient Olympians were in it for the money.

The name of the Athenian statesman Solon passed into history as a synonym for wise man. One of his laws provided that Athenians who won at the Olympics would be rewarded with the equivalent of $100,000. Even also-rans didn't make out too badly: Athenians who merely competed at Olympia were entitled to a daily free meal for the rest of their lives at city hall.

Of course, then, as now, there were kill-joy purists claiming sports are corrupted by big bucks. Among them was the Greek author Philostratos, who wrote a treatise called "On Gymnastics."

"Such a luxurious life style as I have just described," Philostratos sadly noted, "led to illegal practices among the athletes for the sake of money. I refer to selling and buying of victories."

Philostratos cited the example of a wrestler who paid his opponent the equivalent of $66,000 to take a dive. "The loser demanded his money," Philostratos noted, "but the winner said that he owed nothing since the other had, after all, tried to win."

Honesty is secondary

Mostly, though, the ancient Greeks didn't fret about honesty in athletics. Even their understanding of where the Olympics came from involved a sporting event where the fix was in. According to the poet Pindar, the hero Pelops fell in love with the daughter of King Oenomaus. The king said, fine, Pelops could have her, if he beat him in a chariot race. But if he lost, Oenomaus reserved the right to run his spear through Pelops -- just as he had done to 13 previous suitors.

So, Pelops bribed the king's servant to take the linchpins out of Oenomaus' chariot. The wheels fell off, Pelops won the race and the girl. To commemorate his victory, he established the Olympic Games.

The Greeks, you see, were more down to earth than are we, who worry about undue influence on ice-skating judges. Philosophers no less than athletes, they realized that men don't set their baser instincts aside when they strip for sport. To keep athletics in proper perspective, when they built a Temple of Zeus at Olympia, they chose to adorn it with a grand sculpture showing Pelops pulling off his tainted upset.

So we're right in line with tradition.

Ron Grossman is a former professor of ancient history at Lake Forest College.

Secretary Fleeces Boss Using Erasable Ink
NEW YORK February 26, 2002 (Reuters) - A secretary at a Wall Street brokerage firm pleaded guilty on Monday to embezzling $400,000 from her boss's personal checking account by using erasable ink.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Anamarie Giambrone, 34, pleaded guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court to second-degree grand larceny for cheating her boss, Eli Wachtel, an executive at the firm of Bear, Stearns & Company. Judge William Wetzel told Giambrone she would be given a term of two to five years in prison when she is sentenced next month. She could have faced up to 15 years in prison had she been convicted in a trial.

In the criminal complaint, prosecutors accused Giambrone of stealing about $400,000 by using erasable ink to fill out portions of Wachtel's checks and having him sign them.

"The defendant would then erase the payee and the amount of said checks and fill them out to herself or others without the victim's knowledge or permission," the complaint said.

According to investigators, Giambrone spent at least $142,000 of the $400,000 to buy her husband, Salvatore, 33, a pizza parlor in the New York borough of Queens. Giambrone's husband is also charged with second-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. Charges against him are still pending.
Horrific Computer Dump in China

By Brian Bergstein
Associated Press

SAN JOSE CA February 26, 2002 (AP) — What happened to that old computer after you sold it to a second-hand parts dealer? 

Environmental groups say there's a good chance it ended up in a dump in the developing world, where thousands of laborers burn, smash, and pick apart electronic waste to scavenge for the precious metals inside, unwittingly exposing themselves and their surroundings to innumerable toxic hazards. 

Now a report being released Monday documents one such "cyber-age nightmare" — a cluster of villages in southeastern China where computers still bearing the labels of their one-time owners in America are ripped apart and strewn along rivers and fields. 

The authors of the report, called "Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia," hope it puts more pressure on U.S. companies and lawmakers to increase domestic recycling efforts. 

Investigators who visited the waste sites in Guiyu, China, in December witnessed men, women, and children pulling wires from computers and burning them at night, fouling the air with carcinogenic smoke. 

Other laborers, making $1.50 a day and working with little or no protection, burned plastics and circuit boards or poured acid on electronic parts to extract silver and gold. Many pried open printer cartridges, whose hazards are uncertain, and smashed lead-laden cathode ray tubes from computer monitors, the report said. 

Consequently, the ground water is so polluted that drinking water has to be trucked in from a town 18 miles away, the report said. One river sample in the area had 190 times the pollution levels allowed under World Health Organization guidelines. "I've seen a lot of dirty operations in Third World countries, but what was shocking was seeing all this post-consumer waste," said one of the report's authors, Jim Puckett of the Seattle-based Basel Action Network. "This is all stuff from you and me." 

It is no secret that hazardous materials from the world's leading economies often end up as detritus in the world's desperate places. A 1989 treaty known as the Basel Convention restricts such transfers, but the United States has not ratified it. Computer waste in particular is becoming a difficult problem, with millions of devices becoming obsolete each year as the technology industry produces faster, better, less expensive equipment. 

Mindful of the dangers, California and Massachusetts have banned cathode ray tube monitors from landfills and incinerators. A few PC makers and large retailers have launched recycling programs, but they require consumers to pay around $30 and ship their old PCs themselves. With no organized system of electronics recycling as Japan and some European countries have, much of the nation's electronic waste ends up being passed along a difficult-to-track chain of resellers and parts brokers, said Ted Smith, head of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which also prepared the new report. 

The report says some in the industry estimate that as much as 50 to 80 percent of the United States' electronic waste that is collected in the name of recycling actually gets shipped out of the country. That often involves operations like the dump in Guiyu or similar ones in India and Pakistan, where labor is so cheap it is cost-effective to try to salvage every last screw or bit of silver. 

"Everybody knows this is going on but is just embarrassed and doesn't really know what to do about it," Smith said. "They would just prefer to ignore it." 

To make electronics manufacturers accountable for their obsolete products, several organizations believe the cost of recycling a computer should be added to the initial sales price — much like a bottle deposit — to fund clean and efficient recycling programs. A few states are considering such plans, including California, where two state senators last week introduced bills that would slap fees on electronics to pay for reducing electronic waste. 

Some reputable electronics recyclers and resellers are already taking steps to ensure that they don't transfer parts to someone who might in turn dump it overseas, said David Jones, a waste management official in the Environmental Protection Agency's Southwest regional office. "They know it's a matter of time before someone knocks on their door and says, 'Do you know where your stuff goes?'" Jones said. 

But real change will come only with public pressure for a real electronics recycling program, Jones said, which is why he believes the report on Guiyu is important. 

"It's good to me that people are trying to ground-truth this — and not just listen to the rumor mill at recycling conferences — and actually go and find whether the stories are true are not," he said. "I think this report will be good in having the effect of making people question stuff."

Elvis Quarters Just Right for the Jukebox

MEMPHIS, Tenn. February 24, 2002 (AP) - Elvis Presley Enterprises has licensed a company to replace George Washington on some of Tennessee's 2002 quarters with a color illustration of the King.

The coins, souvenirs honoring Presley on the 25th anniversary of his death, went into production this month through the International Collector's Society. The process fuses a color portrait of Elvis over Washington's face.

Pete Davidson, EPE' senior licensing manager, said the British colony of Gibraltar mints Elvis coins as part of its currency, but the refaced quarter is the only option in U.S. currency.

Secret Service Agent Tim Viertel said defacing U.S. currency is a misdemeanor crime but the Elvis quarters are in a gray area because they are not part of a deceptive scheme.

"I don't know of a U.S. attorney's office around who would prosecute it," Viertel said.

US to Weigh Computer Chip Implants


WASHINGTON February 27, 200 (AP) - The science of security may soon get under your skin.

A Florida technology company is preparing to seek government approval for a computer ID chip that would be implanted inside the body and could be used to store everything from secret codes to sensitive medical information.

Applied Digital Solutions' new "VeriChip" is another sign that Sept. 11 has catapulted the effort to secure America into a realm with uncharted possibilities - and also new fears for privacy.

"The problem is that you always have to think about what the device will be used for tomorrow," said Lee Tien, a senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group. It's what we call function creep. At first a device is used for applications we all agree are good but then it slowly is used for more than it was intended," he said.

The company also is developing another implant device that would work in conjunction with the VeriChip to allow satellite tracking of an individual's every movement. The tracker is already attracting interest across the globe for tasks like foiling kidnappings, the company says.

Applied Digital, based in Palm Beach, Fla., says it soon will begin the process of getting Food and Drug Administration approval for the VeriChip, and intends to limit its marketing to companies that ensure its human use is voluntary.

"The line in the sand that we draw is that the use of the VeriChip would always be voluntarily," said Keith Bolton, chief technology officer and a vice president at Applied Digital. "We would never provide it to a company that intended to coerce people to use it."

More than a decade ago, Applied bought a competing company, Destron Fearing, which had been making chips implanted in animals. Those chips were bought mainly by animal owners wanting to provide another way for pound workers to identify a lost pet.

Chips for humans aren't that much different. But company officials say they were hesitant to market the chips for people because of ethical questions - until the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"It's a sad time ... when people have to wonder whether it's safe in their own country," Bolton said. The makers of the chip also foresee it being used to help emergency workers, for instance, diagnose a lost Alzheimer's patient or access an unconscious patient's medical history.

Getting the implant would go something like this:

A person or company buys the chip from Applied Digital for about $200 and the company encodes it with the desired information. The person seeking the implant takes the tiny device - about the size of a grain of rice, to their doctor, who can insert it with a large needle device. The doctor monitors the device for several weeks to make sure it doesn't move and that no infection develops.

The device has no power supply, rather it contains a millimeter-long magnetic coil that is activated when a scanning device is run across the skin above it. A tiny transmitter on the chip sends out the data. Without a scanner, the chip cannot be read. Applied Digital plans to give away chip readers to hospitals and ambulance companies, in hopes they'll become standard equipment.

The chip has drawn attention from several religious groups. Theologian and author Terry Cook said he worries the identification chip could be the "mark of the beast," an identifying mark that all people will be forced to wear just before the end times, according to the Bible.

Applied Digital has consulted theologians and appeared on the religious television program the "700 Club" to assure viewers the chip didn't fit the biblical description of the mark because it is under the skin and hidden from view. Even with the privacy and religious concerns, some are eager to use the product.

Jeff Jacobs in Coral Springs, Fla., has contacted the company in hopes of becoming the first person to purchase the chip. Jacobs suffers from a number of serious allergies and wants to make sure medical personnel can diagnose him.

"They would know who to contact, they would know what medications I'm on, and it's quite a few," he said. "They would know what I'm allergic to, what kind of operations I've had and where there might be problems."

Applied Digital Solutions: 

Sealcams Reveal Underwater World

Antarctica February 25, 2002 (BBC) - Small video cameras attached to seals are giving researchers an insight into the underwater world of the Antarctic. 

The scientists equipped 15 Weddell seals over the course of three Antarctic summers with video cameras and data recorders to track both their movements and learn how they hunted their prey. 

"At this point, almost everything we are seeing is new and exciting," said Randall Davis of Texas A&M University, who is leading the project. "What we are now discovering is some of the strategies that these animals use to search, detect and capture their prey," he told the BBC programme Go Digital. 

The project is now providing a rare glimpse into the habits of two important Southern Ocean species: the Antarctic silverfish and the Antarctic toothfish.

The problem facing the researchers was how to watch a Weddell seal hunting once it disappears below the ice and plunges to great depths. 

For the solution, they came up with the use of sealcams. 

"Seals can out swim a submarine so the idea of using a submarine doesn't really work for these species," explained Dr Davis. "Instead, what we've done is turn the animal into a biological platform, so we let the animal collect the data on its own behaviour, environment and its prey." 

The self-contained camera and data recorder are about the size of a tennis ball. They are attached by straps to a piece of neoprene rubber that is glued to the head of the seal. The unit is removed after about a week. 

The sealcams have provided a valuable insight into a previously secret world. 

"We now have confirmed that during the summer these seals appear to dive while looking up and silhouetting fish against the daylight," said Dr Davis. "Once they detect a school of fish, they stop descending and will ascend through the school and capture a great many of these fish." 

Although the researchers' original plan was simply to learn more about seal hunting behaviour, the results have shed light on two unfamiliar species: the Antarctic's silverfish and toothfish. 

Researchers now believe, based on the sealcam data, that the silverfish migrate from deeper to shallower water using ambient light, even in the absence of a sunset during the Antarctic summer. 

The success of the sealcam technique, say the scientists, means it could be used to study other animals that are otherwise impossible to observe in their natural environment. In the future, Dr Davis and his team hope to use a similar technique to learn more about elephant seals, small whales and dolphins.

Pluto In The News!

Pluto Flyby Is Rare Opportunity

By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Pasadena February 26, 2002 (BBC) - Many scientists are keen to plan for a Pluto encounter as the planet and its large moon, Charon, represent one of the true frontiers in the Solar System that no spacecraft has ever visited. 

This is despite the fact that the money for a mission to Pluto is in jeopardy as NASA contemplates its future spending plans. 

If scientists do not make plans now and be ready to act swiftly if the money becomes available, they may miss a golden opportunity to study the planet at the end of the Solar System. They say if they do not get there soon, they may miss amazing sights that will not reoccur for almost 250 years. 

There are two reasons why scientists want to get there as soon as possible. The first has to do with its atmosphere. 

Since 1989, Pluto has been moving farther from the Sun and as it gets colder its atmosphere will freeze out, so researchers want to arrive while there is a chance to see it. 

The second reason is to map as much of Pluto and Charon as possible. The longer we wait, the more of Pluto and Charon will be shadowed for decades impeding the spacecraft's ability to take pictures in reflected sunlight. 

Celestial mechanics say that an opportunity to launch to Pluto by way of Jupiter, which gives it a gravity kick, occurs in January 2006. But given the uncertainty about the money that do not provide much time to get a probe designed and built. But if it does get off, scientists know what they want to do. 

From Earth, the spacecraft will head to Jupiter, arriving just over a year later. Passing the Jovian system at 80,500 km per hour (50,000 mph) it will move on a trajectory that will arrive at Pluto and Charon as early as 2015. 

The cameras on the spacecraft will start taking data on Pluto and Charon a year before it arrives and about three months from the closest approach - when Pluto and Charon are about 160,000 kilometers (100,000 miles) away - the spacecraft can make the first maps. 

The busiest part of the Pluto-Charon flyby lasts a full Earth day. On the way in, the spacecraft will make the best global maps of Pluto and Charon in green, blue, red, and a special wavelength that is sensitive to methane frost on the surface. 

The spacecraft will get as close as about 9,600 kilometers (6,000 miles) from Pluto and about 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) from Charon. During the half hour when the spacecraft is closest to Pluto or its moon, it will take close-up pictures in both visible and near-infrared wavelengths. The best pictures of Pluto will depict surface features as small as 60 meters (about 200 feet) across. 

But even when it has sailed past Pluto the spacecrafts scientific life is far from over. 

After passing Pluto it will retarget itself for an encounter with a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) - one of the many large chunks of rock and ice that have been found in the cold outer reaches of the solar system in the past decade. The team has not yet identified their target KBO, but scientists expect to find one or more the spacecraft can reach that are 50-100 kilometers (about 30-60 miles) across. With so much pioneering science that such a probe could do researchers know they can make a case for the Pluto probe. They just hope that the politicians are listening.

Despite their proximity, Pluto and Charon are covered with bright frosts of differing compositions. Water ice covers Charon, while Pluto's surface is predominantly nitrogen frost with traces of methane and carbon monoxide ices. 

The Pluto/Charon system has a highly elliptical orbit around the sun. In 1989, Pluto was as close to the Sun as it gets during its long year - less than 30 astronomical units (AU), or 30 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. That distance nearly doubles just half a Pluto year later, to 50 AU in 2123. As Pluto recedes from the Sun, much of its thin nitrogen atmosphere will condense as frost on the surface. This periodic reappearance of fresh frost takes place every Pluto year (248 Earth years) and is the reason that Pluto's is one of the most reflective surfaces in the solar system. 

A Faster Path to Pluto

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY February 22, 2002 - New Horizons mission planners have developed a new strategy that could trim nearly a year off their original schedule to send a spacecraft to the solar system's outermost planet. 

Now in preliminary development for NASA, New Horizons would be the first mission to explore Pluto and its moon, Charon, as well as the ancient Kuiper Belt of rocky, icy objects beyond the planets. If approved and funded later this year, New Horizons would launch in January 2006, swing around Jupiter for scientific studies and a gravity boost in 2007, and reach Pluto as early as 2015. 

"As we continued to study the mission, and optimized our launch window, we realized that we could get the spacecraft to Pluto sooner," says New Horizons Mission Director Robert W. Farquhar, of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which manages the mission and will build and operate the spacecraft. "In our best estimates we can cover the 3 billion miles from Earth to Pluto faster than we once thought, while keeping all the mission's goals intact." 

New Horizons project leaders say a faster trip benefits the mission in many ways. 

"This a great opportunity to improve our scientific return while reducing mission risks and costs," says New Horizons Principal Investigator S. Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "We'll get a better look at Pluto itself, since more of the surface will be sunlit and the atmosphere will be another year away from freezing onto the planet's surface. We'll have more fuel for the journey into the Kuiper Belt after exploring Pluto-Charon, and the shorter cruise time reduces some of the costs associated with flight operations." 

New Horizons will characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and study Pluto's complex atmosphere in detail. The spacecraft will then visit up to three Kuiper Belt objects beyond Pluto.

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