Global Warming Warning!
X-Files Sweepstakes, Flying Saucer,
Joan of Arc Found Innocent,
Woody Guthrie, Star Wars
& More!
Artic Warming Foretells Disaster!

Arctic Warming Imperils Polar Bears 

By Will Dunham 

WASHINGTON May 14, 2002 (Reuters) - A reduction caused by global warming in the massive sheets of Arctic sea ice that polar bears prowl for their prey could have devastating consequences for the world's largest land predator, a leading conservation group said on Tuesday. 

The World Wildlife Fund said in a report that polar bears are facing a series of threats, including large-scale habitat fragmentation, pollution and excessive hunting, but pointed to the climate change forecast to occur over the coming decades as the gravest of them all. 

"The main message we're trying to bring forth here is that within the lifetime of our children, unless we do something now and starting taking steps, there is a serious risk of losing polar bears," Stefan Norris, lead author of the report, said in a telephone interview from Oslo, Norway. 

The world's polar bear population currently numbers about 22,000 -- 60 percent in Canada and the rest in Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. Polar bears, the biggest of the planet's eight species of bears, are not listed as endangered, but could suffer localized extinction or worse as a result of warming temperatures at the top of the world. The report also said early manifestations of the problem have been seen in the Hudson Bay region of Canada, which could be a harbinger of things to come for the huge white bears. 

The scientific name of polar bears is Ursus maritimus, Latin for "bear of the sea" -- and for good reason. The huge white bears are great swimmers, spending hours at a time in the icy water. But polar bears spend much of their time roaming the miles and miles of ice that cover the Arctic seas most of the year, hunting for prey such as the ringed seal.

GLOBAL WARMING CITED 

The report said global warming, which many scientists blame on so-called greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fuels and other sources, could drastically shrink the thickness and extent of this polar ice, erasing much of the bear's habitat. Many scientists believe polar regions are particularly sensitive to global warming. 

The report said a warming trend has caused a 6 percent decline of Arctic sea ice since the 1970s. It added that computer models suggest there will be a 60 percent drop in summer sea ice in the next 50 years, which would increase the ice-free season from 60 to 150 days. 

Diminishing ice cover and longer ice-free periods reduce the amount of time that polar bears have to spend on the ice hunting, meaning they will have fewer fat resources to survive during the lengthening summer season, the report said. 

"The polar bear is the world's largest land-based carnivore. It is a symbol species of the Arctic," Norris said. "It is one of the few remaining large carnivore species found roughly in its original environment, and for some populations at close to its natural population numbers and densities." 

It appears climate change already is affecting the condition of polar bears in the Hudson Bay area, the report said, noting female bears are in poorer condition going into the period for giving birth and raising cubs, suggesting difficulties getting enough food while hunting on the sea ice. 

"When you lose your habitat, you have nothing," said Lara Hansen, WWF's senior climate scientist. 

Pollution also is worrisome, the report said. It noted high levels of heavy metals such as mercury have been found in polar bears, radioactivity in the Arctic marine ecosystem has increased, and there is a mounting threat from toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides in the big predator's range. 

Ian Stirling, a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and one of the foremost experts on polar bears, said the world's polar bear population is considered relatively stable, but the future is less certain. 

"The threat is there. It's real," said Stirling, who offered advice on the report but was not an author. He noted the danger was not immediate but rather in the long term.

Expert Warns World Warming Faster Than Expected 

By Eva Sohlman 

LONDON May 13, 2002 (Reuters) - Planet earth is warming up faster than previously expected, the head of a leading climate research institute said on Monday. 

Dying forests, expanding deserts and rising sea levels would wreak havoc to human and animal lives sooner than anticipated as global warming was accelerating, said Geoff Jenkins, head of the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. 

"It looks like it will be warmer by the end of the century than what we have predicted," he told Reuters in an interview. 

Jenkins said recent revisions showed much greater output of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide than earlier estimated. These gases are blamed for global warming. 

Warmer weather will generate more droughts, floods and rising sea levels which many fear will create millions of refugees from drowning island-nations and possible wars over increasingly scarce fresh water. Economies are also likely to take a blow as farming, fishing and business will be affected by the change in climate. 

A 2001 United Nations report on climate change forecast that global temperatures will rise two to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But recent data suggest temperatures could rise even higher as a worst case scenario shows four times as much emitted CO2 in the atmosphere from today's levels which Jenkins said is significantly higher than previously expected. 

Carbon dioxide is blamed for two thirds of all global warming and is largely produced when burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. 

NATURE'S DEFENSES WEAKENING 

Despite efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990's levels during 2008-12 under a global Kyoto pact, the amount in the atmosphere is set to rise as warmer temperatures will curb nature's capacity to absorb the gases, Jenkins said. 

Half of all CO2 emissions last in the atmosphere for about 100 years, while the rest is soaked up by seas, land and vegetation. But the opposite effect may kick in as warmer weather and less rainfall in some places will dry out and kill trees which emit CO2 as they decompose, Jenkins said. CO2-absorbing microbes in the soil are also set to boost emissions as higher temperatures will fuel their activities which produce the greenhouse gas. 

"Instead of helping, they will make global warming worse," Jenkins said. 

He echoed a warning from the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science, that present measures to cut greenhouse gases were not sufficient to avoid the worst effects of global warming. He said temperatures in the UK could rise by seven to eight degrees by 2080 compared with an expected four degree increase. 

"We would have to cut emissions by 60-70 percent by the end of the century to stabilize CO2 levels," Jenkins said. 

The European Union has said it will ratify the Kyoto treaty this summer and if Russia and Japan also do so the treaty can come into force without the world's largest producer of man-made CO2 emissions -- the United States. 

The U.S., which has the world's biggest economy, rejected the pact in 2001 over worries it would harm its industry. 

Hadley Center - http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre 

Scientists Find New Antarctic Ice Shelf Break 

MADISON, Wis. May 13, 2002 Reuters) - Another massive iceberg has broken off the Ross Ice Shelf, reducing the Antarctic formation to about the size it was in 1911 when explorer Robert Scott's team first mapped it, scientists said on Monday. 

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin said the breakage is part of the normal iceberg formation or "calving" that comes as thick layers of ice gradually slide down from the high Antarctic plateau, and is not related to climate changes or global warming. 

The latest iceberg is about 125 miles long, more than twice the length of one identified about a week ago, said the school's Space Science and Engineering Center. Charles Stearns, principal investigator for the Wisconsin center, said the ice that formed the latest iceberg may have been in motion for the past 30 years. 

The iceberg was picked up by polar-orbit satellite imagery which the center monitors. It was first spotted on May 10, the group said. 

Though calving has been occurring on the Ross formation since March of 2000 when an iceberg about the size of the latest one was set adrift, the new one is of such a size that it "may create new concerns" for shipping interests in the southern oceans, the announcement said. 

Last week an iceberg about 50 miles long broke off the Ross shelf. The British Antarctic Survey said that was not climate-related either. The calving at Ross ice shelf follows the collapse in March of the so-called Larsen B ice shelf in the Weddell Sea near Chile, also in Antarctica. That ice shelf was the size of a small European country. 

Chris Doake, a glaciologist with the British survey, told Reuters last week that the Larsen B break up was climate-related, unlike what's happening with the Ross shelf. Scientists, however, have not determined exactly why Antarctic temperatures have risen over the past half century.

US Climate Talks Chief Recommended By ExxonMobil

By Charles Clover
Environment Editor

London May 15, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - President Bush's chief negotiator on climate change was recommended to the White House by ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, according to a leaked memorandum seen by The Telegraph.

Dr Harlan Watson, who is on a tour of Britain, was named in a memo last June from Randy Randol, of ExxonMobil's Washington Office, to John Howard, a White House official. It was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

ExxonMobil urged Mr Bush to oust British-born Robert Watson as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has called for urgent action to tackle global warming. He was replaced last month by the Indian environmentalist R K Pachauri.

ExxonMobil made a number of other recommendations, including restructuring the US delegates to IPCC meetings "to assure none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities".

The last recommendation in the memo was to "explore the possibility" of persuading the speaker of the House of Representatives to make Dr Watson, then working for the energy sub-committee, "available to work with the team [the US team working with the IPCC]."

Dr Watson was appointed in September to an even more senior role, as senior negotiator on climate change. After a speaking engagement at the Foreign Office's Wilton Park in Steyning, Sussex, yesterday Dr Watson said: "No undue influence was used in my appointment.

"ExxonMobil haven't had any influence since I've been there. I've had no comment at all from them while in this position."

Ben Stewart, a Greenpeace spokesman, said: "Who can now doubt that US policy is being steered by the world's largest oil company?"

Report on US Bombing of Canadians Released
BY BOB WEBER
Canadian Press

EDMONTON (CP) - Despite a horrific mistake by Americans that killed four Canadian soldiers last month, troops from the two countries are co-operating to an unprecedented degree in Afghanistan, says the man heading the Canadian investigation into the accident.

"Canadian and American soldiers are truly working as one group, and in my 40 years in the military I have rarely seen such a complete integration of people," retired general Maurice Baril said Tuesday.

Baril made the comment at Edmonton Garrison, where most members of the Afghanistan battle group are based, after releasing a heavily censored interim report on the bombing.

The report confirmed that a 250-kilogram bomb dropped by an American F-16 jet killed the four Canadians and wounded eight others. But Baril made no apologies about keeping most of his findings secret for the time being.

"Let there be no mistake, when I'm talking about classification, it's not because the Americans are not giving us the information," he told a news conference. "We have it all, all that is classified. But for us and the Americans, it is something that we have agreed that at this moment we will not make public."

The Canadians were hit as they staged a live-fire exercise near their base in Kandahar last April 18. It has been suggested that the American pilot, seeing the tracer trails of the Canadian gunfire, mistakenly believed he was under attack and dropped the bomb in a misguided effort at self-defense. Baril's four-man board of inquiry held its first meeting three weeks ago. The investigators spent 11 days in Afghanistan, interviewing survivors and reviewing the procedures the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry followed in arranging the exercise.

"An investigation of such a terrible accident is not easy . . . these brave soldiers knew that the lifestyle they had chosen was dangerous indeed," Baril said. "But like other members of the Canadian Forces they accepted the risk because they knew the cause was just." 

Baril said he spoke to the families of those killed and injured but did not reveal much of what he told them.

"I have talked in confidence with members of the families and certainly we mentioned to them that we were not surprised by the degree of professionalism that we met in the training area, but that's as far as I want to go."

Baril said his team has been given free access to American records, including tapes of air-to-ground communications and electronic data. But they have yet to interview the American air crews involved.

"We have a lot of information now that is technical information, document information, but I think all of Canada, we want to talk to the people who were involved to know what they were thinking at that time."

A parallel American inquiry, which includes a Canadian brigadier general as co-chairman, is conducting its own investigation but has no requirement to file an interim report. Both final reports are due within 60 days. Both Baril and John Ashcroft, the U.S. attorney general, have said the inquiries will improve procedures and help prevent a repetition of the tragedy.
Genre News: X-Files Sweepstakes, Firefly, Angel, Catwoman, Patrick Stewart, Buffy & More!

X-Files Endgame Sweepstakes!

Hollywood May 15, 2002 (eXoNews) - To commemorate the end of The X-Files TV series, Fox has announced a giant sweepstakes that will award 202 prizes to lucky fans. The prizes include Lone Gunman Autographed trading cards, Chris Carter autographed trading card and PlayStation games, Seasons 1-5 DVD sets, Scully and Mulder figurines, "Fight the Future" black watches, Flashlight props from various seasons, "Harsh Realm" series crew gift hat, Scully baby bottles and many more.

The sweepstakes begins at noon Pacific Time, Monday, May 20, 2002, and ends at noon PT on Friday, May 31, 2002. To enter, log on to thexfiles.com to answer a trivia question about the final episode. (The final X-Files episode airs the previous night, Sunday May 19 at 8PM/7C on Fox. Don't miss the first half! This is a two-hour episode.)

Fox says (for some reason) the sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii, who are 13 years of age or older at the time of their registration and who have Internet access as of May 18, 2002.

For complete information and to try your luck at getting that genuine baby bottle, go to http://www.thexfiles.com/sweeps 

Post-'X-Files' Life for Spotnitz with Mann at CBS 
By Nellie Andreeva and Cynthia Littleton

Hollywood May 15, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - "The X-Files" alumnus Frank Spotnitz will continue his pursuit for the truth out there now that he has signed on as showrunner of Michael Mann's untitled new police drama series for CBS.

Spotnitz's decision to join the show helped clinch the series order for the project on the eve of CBS' fall schedule presentation to advertising buyers in New York today. Spotnitz will executive produce the police drama with Mann, while Mann partner Sandy Climan will produce. 

Barry Schindel, who wrote the pilot, has since left the project to focus on his duties as showrunner/executive producer on Universal TV's "Law & Order." As for the big question of where the Mann project will land on CBS' fall lineup, network brass -- under the orders of CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves -- were maintaining their usual pre-upfront code of silence. But sources speculated that the series could land in the Friday 10 p.m. slot, perhaps paired with the new spinoff "CSI: Miami" at 9 p.m.

Firefly Pix Hit the Web!

Hollywood May 15, 2002 (eXoNews) - Fireflyfans.net has posted some preview shots from the forthcoming Joss Whedon show Firefly, due this fall on Fox. Here are two: Persephone and a shot of the spacecraft Serenity. (Presumably these pix are Copyright 2002 Mutant Enemy, Inc. and 20th Century Fox - so don't put them on lunchboxes and sell them to your brother or something...)

The site also reports that Firefly will debut on October 2, 2002 with the episode Serenity written (naturally) by Joss Whedon. [Hey! That's my birthday! Ed.]

That having been said, Firefly news gets a little more complicated! According to the trades, Fox has or hasn't decided to dump Dark Angel in favor of Firefly. Most seem to agree that Firefly is the winner and will be shown on Fridays at 8PM. On the other hand, Zap2It reports that Fox didn't like the 2-hour first episode that Whedon shot and Whedon has offered to do a one-hour first episode in its place. Zap2It still maintains that Firefly will be a fall show, but Sci Fi Wire reports that Firefly has been delayed until midseason.

Who to believe? In any case, Firefly is the only new show on anybody's schedule with much of a buzz (pun intended) and Zap2It has a full list of all the newbies and returning shows for those who can't wait until fall to find out. (Nerds unite!)

[Beware the mask of Zorro, Joss! Remember what happened to previous Fox sci-fi shows Space: Above and Beyond and VR5, not to mention Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen! Ed.]

For the rest of the Firefly pix (now possibly obsolete if the show is to be re-shot) and the latest news and rumors, check out http://www.fireflyfans.net 

For the entire network fall line-up, see the charts at  http://www.zap2it.com 

Genre Show Finale Schedules

Hollywood May 15, 2002 (eXoNews) - In case you are confused or lost your own list, here are the dates of some favorite genre finales, coming up fast:

Angel (WB, Monday, May 20, 9-10 pm/ET) - Returns next year
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (UPN, Tuesday, May 21, 8-10 pm/ET) - Returns next year
Roswell (UPN, Tuesday, May 14, 9-10 pm/ET) - That's all folks (*). You missed it?
Smallville (WB, Tuesday, May 21, 9-10 pm/ET) - Returns next year [yawn]. Spidey rules!
24 (Fox, Tuesday, May 21, 9-10 pm/ET) - [Note: Buffy finale rules!] Coming next year, 48!
Enterprise (UPN, Wednesday, May 22, 8-9 pm/ET) - Returns next year
The West Wing (NBC, Wednesday, May 22, 9-10 pm/ET) - Returns next year
Dark Angel (Fox, Friday, May 3, 8:30-10 pm/ET) - Gone? You missed it.
Futurama (Fox, Sunday, April 21, 7-7:30 pm/ET) - Returns next year. You really missed it!
The X-Files (Fox, Sunday, May 19, 8-10 pm/ET) - Final TV episode. 2nd X-Files feature in 2004.

Syndicated shows like Earth Final Conflict and Andromeda will also be doing finales in the next few weeks. Check yer local listings.

The NEW season of Farscape starts in June on Sci Fi Channel. You can catch up with Farscape's greatest hits on Fridays until then! 

(*) Roswell fans already know that Roswell will be back - no, just as re-runs - on Sci Fi Channel in the fall. Same for X-Files.

Angel Returns! - WB Renewals and New Shows 

Hollywood May 13, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - The WB renewed Angel, the vampire spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Smallville, the freshman Superman series; and Charmed, the witch sister drama, Variety reported. Both Charmed and Angel will move to Sunday nights; Smallville remains on Tuesdays. The network will also repeat its dramas outside of prime time, on Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m., the trade paper reported.

The WB announced that it will air Birds of Prey in the fall, a new hour long superhero drama based on the DC Comics series, Variety reported. Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott and Rachel Skarsten star.

The frog net also ordered Do Over, a new half-hour fantasy series about a man (Penn Badgley) who is allowed to relive his 1980s life. Gigi Rice, Michael Milhoan and Angela Goethals also star in the series, the trade paper reported.

[Note: fireflyfans.com reports that Angel writer Tim Minear will be leaving Angel at the end of the current season to co-executive produce Joss Whedon's new sci-fi show Firefly on Fox. Once praised as a 'genius writer' by Joss Whedon, Minear previously signed a seven-figure deal with Fox to continue working on Angel, as well as create, write, and produce other projects for Fox. Ed.]

Paramount to Revive HG Wells' War of the Worlds
By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood May 10, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Paramount Pictures and studio-based C/W Prods. will bring author H.G. Wells' classic Martian invasion tale "The War of the Worlds" back to the big screen.

Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner will produce the project, which is aimed to go into production next year. There is no screenwriter attached and no commitment from Cruise to star in the project.

"War" previously had been brought to the screen in 1953 by Paramount and director Byron Haskin. The film, which starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, won a special effects Oscar. Published in 1898, "War" depicts a seemingly unstoppable Martian attack on Earth.

In 1938, Orson Welles adapted and performed the book as a radio play meant to sound like a live news broadcast, causing a panic on the East Coast.

Judd Considers Catwoman 
By CHRISTOPHER ALLAN SMITH 

Hollywood May 14, 2002 (Cinescape) - In an interview with an Australian magazine, Ashley Judd is talking again about the long-awaited, oft-rumored CATWOMAN film, this time worrying over how she’ll look in the famous skin tight leather.

"I'm a bit worried about my butt, but if it can look half as good as Michelle's [Pfeiffer], I'll be okay," Judd told NW magazine. She also revealed she’s working hard to get springy for the fight scenes. “I think it's going to be a really cool role. There's a female nemesis in it and I hope they cast someone really unsuspecting to play it. I'd like a tiny ninja person like Winona Ryder to do it."

I can think of a few friends who would like to see the same thing.

Kingsley Stars in Bradbury Film
By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood May 13, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Ben Kingsley is in final negotiations to star in Franchise Pictures' big-screen adaptation of Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" for director Peter Hyams.

Edward Burns and Catherine McCormack also star in the film, which begins shooting next month. "Thunder" is about a game hunter (Burns) who goes on a time-traveling safari -- owned and operated by Kingsley's character -- to hunt dinosaurs in the prehistoric era. When he kills a butterfly, he unknowingly sets off a chain reaction that will erase humanity from existence.

A team of experts must return back in time and replace the butterfly. McCormack is the inventor of the time-traveling computer.

Patrick Stewart to Become The Lion in Winter

Hollywood May 5, 2002 (startrek.com) - Following his starring turn in the upcoming "King of Texas," Patrick Stewart ("Jean-Luc Picard") is set to play yet another kind of royalty. According to Variety, the actor will portray King Henry II of England in a remake of "The Lion in Winter" for Showtime. The remake is based on James Goldman's 1968 Academy Award-winning screenplay for the original movie, which starred Peter O'Toole as Henry and Katherine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine. Glenn Close will play Queen Eleanor in the Showtime version, which will be produced by Hallmark Entertainment and Flying Freehold Productions.

The film is set in 1183 during the Christmas holidays, as Henry gathers his extended family together — his three sons, his imprisoned wife Eleanor, his mistress, Princess Alais of France, and her brother, King Philip of France. Henry plans to name the successor to his throne, but everyone involved has a stake in the outcome, and the various family members resort to scheming and deception to determine the fate of the empire.

Stewart will also serve as executive producer for "Lion," along with Wendy Neuss Stewart (who produced Star Trek: Voyager and co-produced Star Trek: The Next Generation), Robert Halmi, Sr. and Martin Poll. Poll also produced the original "Lion." Vicki Letizia serves as Showtime's creative executive.

Production kicks off early 2003 in Hungary. Those seeking to get a Stewart fix earlier should tune in to TNT's "King of Texas," which bows June 2 at 8 p.m.

In other Trek-related casting news, the actors behind one of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's most beloved duos both have roles in the pipeline. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Terry Farrell ("Jadzia Dax") will star in a Lifetime original movie tentatively titled "Losing It." The movie focuses on Farrell, who plays the coach of a girls' basketball team, and a parent (Adrian Pasdar) who reacts violently at a game. "Losing It" is slated to bow in July.

Meanwhile, Farrell's TV husband, Michael Dorn ("Worf"), has nabbed a part in Disney's "The Santa Clause 2," which reunites Tim Allen with his role as jolly Father Christmas.

The Official Star Trek Site - http://www.startrek.com

Buffy Fans Rock For Charity 

Hollywood May 10, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Baltimore fans of UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer are hosting a charity fund-raising party June 8 that will feature bands from the popular vampire series. The Shelter Shindig, sponsored by The BronzeShelter Web posting board in conjunction with CreepCon, will benefit the WPI Firemen's Fund, organizers announced. The party takes place at 9 p.m. at The Vault, a Baltimore night club.

Featured acts include Common Rotation (fronted by Adam Busch, who plays Warren on Buffy), Velvet Chain and Darling Violetta (which performs the theme music for Buffy spinoff series Angel). Tickets are $20, plus handling, available at the BronzeShelter site.

The BronzeShelter - http://www.bronzeshelter.com 
CreepCon - http://www.creepcon.com 

'Flying Saucer' Disk Found Around Young Star

Garching, Germany May 14, 2002 (ESO) - Using the ESO 3.6-m New Technology Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (VLT), a team of astronomers have discovered a dusty and opaque disk surrounding a young solar-type star in the outskirts of a dark cloud in the Milky Way. 

It was found by chance during an unrelated research program and provides a striking portrait of what our Solar System must have looked like when it was in its early infancy. Because of its unusual appearance, the astronomers have nicknamed it the "Flying Saucer". 

The new object appears to be a perfect example of a very young star with a disk in which planets are forming or will soon form, and located far away from the usual perils of an active star-forming environment. Most other young stars, especially those that are born in dense regions, run a serious risk of having their natal dusty disks destroyed by the blazing radiation of their more massive and hotter siblings in these clusters. 

The star at the center of the "Flying Saucer", seems destined to live a long and quiet life at the center of a planetary system, very much like our own Sun. This contributes to making it a most interesting object for further studies with the VLT and other telescopes. 

The mass of the observed disk of gas and dust is at least twice that of the planet Jupiter and its radius measures about 45 billion km, or 5 times the size of the orbit of Neptune. 

Planets form in dust disks around young stars. This is a complex process of which not all stages are yet fully understood but it begins when small dust particles collide and stick to each other. For this reason, observations of such dust disks, in particular those that appear as extended structures (are "resolved"), are very important for our understanding of the formation of solar-type stars and planetary systems from the interstellar medium.

The results described in this Press Release have been submitted to the European research journal Astronomy & Astrophysics ("The `Flying Saucer': a new edge-on circumstellar dust disk at the periphery of the rho Ophiuchi dark cloud" by N. Grosso and co-authors).

California Teacher Defends Panty Check

LOS ANGELES May 11, 2002 (Reuters) - A high school administrator who lifted the skirts of teen girls to make sure they were not wearing thong panties, infuriating parents and making national headlines, says her career has been destroyed because she tried to protect her students. 

Rita Wilson, a vice principal at Rancho Bernardo High School in suburban San Diego who was placed on leave two weeks ago after parents demanded her resignation, defended her actions in a tearful interview with NBC San Diego TV news. 

"This was a safety issue, it was not a choice of underwear issue, Wilson told the station. "And that's where there has been a misinterpretation." 

Girls who attended the April 26 dance say Wilson and another teacher lifted their skirts in front of male classmates and police officers to make sure they were wearing "appropriate" underwear. In some cases, girls said they were also made to partially undress if Wilson or the teacher suspected they were not wearing bras. 

Wilson said she had been concerned because dances at Rancho Bernardo, in suburban San Diego, had become raunchier and girls with short skirts and thong panties were often left exposing themselves during so-called "freak" dances. 

"I think that parents don't realize what school dances are like now," she said. "I think (they would) if they could see inside a dark gymnasium with 750 students simulating sex." 

Wilson said her efforts to control the "freak" dancing in the dark, frantic environment of a school dance had been unsuccessful in the past, so she turned to making sure that the girls at least were not getting exposed. 

"That's really what I wanted," she said. "If they were going to 'freak,' at least their bottoms were going to be covered. 'Freak' dancing is not a fun thing to watch all night. I've had employees who have been 'freaked' upon." 

Wilson said that her actions that night had been mischaracterized in the press and wanted the parents who were calling for her to be fired to know that she was a "good person" who was trying to protect their children. 

"I just want them to know I'm not what they've said in the press," she said. "I've been so vilified I can't believe it. It's been a lot of years working and my career is gone. And its devastating to me because it's a real part of who I was. I enjoyed it and I was able to do a lot of positive things."

Wired Family Goes On Display
London May 13, 2002 (BBC) - As the Big Brother household prepares for a third series, London department store Harrods is launching its own hi-tech version of the hit show. 

From 20 May, four members of the public will live in a shop window of Harrods, completing tasks and challenges set for them. 

Webcams set up in their virtual home will record all their movements. The participants, Sarah Wooster, Carl Newman, Charlie Parker and Steve Wilson, were selected in an online vote and will live for a week in the shop. 

Their 'home' will be filled with all the latest hi-tech gadgets, including an internet fridge freezer, washing machine and microwave oven, a plasma TV screen and internet controlled air conditioning. 

Web surfers will vote every day on the challenges the family must carry out. 

The internet family will get daily makeovers and their pick of outfits from Harrods. They will be visited each day by celebrities, including Kim Wilde and ex-Big Brother stars Helen Adams and Craig Philips. Organizer LG Electronics hopes the week will prove exciting for watchers and participants. 

"The LG internet family is a one-off," said Marketing Director John Lougher. "No one has done it before and we are all looking forward to seeing how it develops." 

Harrods - http://www.harrods.com 
House Approves Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

By Valerie Taliman
Southwest Bureau Chief
Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON May 14, 2002 (ICT) - The Bush Administration’s plan to revive the nuclear industry and store deadly waste on Indian lands will endanger Native communities and their future generations, according to several Native leaders and activists who blasted a May 9 House vote to approve Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.

"For the House of Representatives to support Bush’s plan to dump this country’s nuclear waste on the backs of Native Americans is an insult," said Tom Goldtooth, coordinator of the Indigenous Environmental Network, a grouping of 200 indigenous organizations with national offices in Bemidji, Minn. "This is an extreme act of environmental racism and a travesty against tribe’s rights.

"The nuclear industry has waged an undeclared war against indigenous peoples that has poisoned our communities for 50 years through uranium mining, testing of nuclear weapons, incinerating and burying radioactive waste, and even experiments involving Native peoples. We’ve already made countless sacrifices for this country’s nuclear programs."

In a Feb. 15 letter to the House and Senate, Bush argued that Yucca Mountain was necessary "to protect public safety, health and national security because completion of this project would isolate highly radioactive materials now scattered throughout the nation in a remote geological repository.

"Nuclear power is the second largest source of U.S. electricity generation and must remain a major component of our national energy policy for years to come," he added. "The cost of nuclear power compares favorably with electricity generation by other sources and nuclear power has none of the emissions associated with coal and gas power plants."

Chief Raymond Yowell of the Western Shoshone National Council said the Bush Administration never consulted with his people about serious risks that could "endanger the future of our tribal nation," the seven bands of the Western Shoshone Nation who still claim ownership of Yucca Mountain and millions of acres in Nevada under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.

"Yucca Mountain is a sacred site with spiritual and cultural significance in our sovereign territory of Newe Sogobia," Yowell said. "Yucca Mountain is not a responsible solution to our nation’s nuclear waste management problem because it lies in an active earthquake zone above an aquifer that provides water to many people in Nevada. The industry will only continue to create more waste, and I hear the Bush energy plan is even proposing to build more nuclear power plants."

Their comments came in response to the House vote to approve Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository, despite vehement opposition from Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn, a Republican, several states and dozens of tribes who will be impacted by transportation of the waste.

The House voted 306 to 117 -- with 12 not voting -- to approve the measure that advances the formal designation of Yucca Mountain as a national repository for 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste, most of it spent fuel from nuclear power plants located in the East.

Critics note that federal environmental regulations have been ignored and changed several times to accommodate the site, even though they say it sits atop 34 seismic faults and has potential for volcanic activity.

They also cite assessments by the Department of Energy that estimate about 300 accidents by trucks, so-called "Mobile Chernobyls," carrying nuclear waste over a 30-year span through 44 states and dozens of Indian nations.

The dispute pits at least one tribe against environmentalists in Minnesota, where Xcel Energy operates two nuclear power plants -- one of which is located only 600 yards from the Prairie Island Dakota community on an island in the Mississippi River. A total of 17 dry-cask nuclear waste storage units are projected for the site.

As the closest community in the nation to an existing, temporary nuclear waste storage site, the Prairie Island Indian Community has supported the Yucca Mountain repository. Tribal Council President Audrey Kohnen urged the project to move forward quickly, in a January 10 statement.

"We recognize this is a very difficult issue and we respect the viewpoints of those who don’t share our position on Yucca Mountain," Kohnen said. "We did not ask for a nuclear neighbor, and we know the people of Nevada have not asked for one either. But we believe that storing nuclear waste in a remote, militarily secure location, in a facility designed for permanent storage is a better solution than leaving it where it sits, virtually unguarded and only yards away from vulnerable communities such as ours."

Diana McKeown, energy program coordinator for Clean Water Action Network in Minnesota said, "The proposal to move nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain will not rid Prairie Island of nuclear waste currently stored on the banks of the Mississippi. As each nuclear waste cask is slowly moved from Prairie Island to Yucca Mountain, it will be replaced with another cask full of waste. The result is that we will always have 17 casks of nuclear waste on Prairie Island as long as the plant continues to operate."

At the late April Indigenous Energy Forum in Flagstaff, Ariz., Manny Pino, a professor of sociology and Indian Studies at Scottsdale Community College and a member of Acoma Pueblo, spoke about the devastation his community experienced after the largest open-pit uranium mine in the world operated only 2,000 feet from the village of Laguna, N.M.

"Between 1952 and 1982, 24 million tons of the richest ore was mined from this area," he said. "And today we have clusters of cancers among our elders, deformities in our children, birth defects and Down’s Syndrome. These are the innocent victims of the nuclear industry in Indian country.

"When we hear the Bush Administration talk about revitalizing nuclear power as an alternative to the coal-fired generating stations that produce power, we know where they are coming back to -- right to our backyard among the Laguna, Acoma and Diné peoples. Our challenge is to convince the decision-makers, the politicians, to do what is right and not put their economic interests first."

Goldtooth said American citizens are "being duped" with nuclear industry propaganda that portrays nuclear energy as a clean and safe source of power.

"It’s not safe, it’s an accident waiting to happen, whether it’s in energy generation, transportation across the country or in the waste storage process. Concerned tribal members from Prairie Island to Western Shoshone to the proposed Skull Valley Goshute dump in Utah are trying to tell all Americans that the risks are too great. We don’t want this radioactive waste in anyone’s backyard."

The next battleground is the Senate, where majority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., a vocal opponent, is responsible for calling up bills. Daschle may decide not to call the bill up and Democrats may successfully support a floor fight against the bill.

Workers To Dig Up Old Nuclear Waste
By FRANK MUNGER
The Knoxville News-Sentinel of Tennessee 

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. May 13, 2002 (Scripps Howard) - Workers will start digging up an old nuclear waste landfill on the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge reservation next month.

The intent is to remove a pollution source that's contaminating the groundwater about a mile west of the East Tennessee Technology Park, a former uranium-enrichment plant. Although there apparently is no immediate health threat, officials are concerned that migrating pollutants could enter local creeks and ultimately reach the Clinch River and downstream intakes for drinking-water supplies.

"The potential is there. If left unremediated, it could cause some human health problems," said John Lea, project manager for Bechtel Jacobs Co., the Energy Department's environmental contractor in Oak Ridge.

The biggest concern is trichlorethylene, an industrial solvent that is toxic and possibly carcinogenic. Radioactive materials - such as uranium and technetium - are present as well. An extensive sampling effort has shown that beryllium, a toxic metal linked to respiratory illnesses, was buried in some waste pits, and cleanup workers will have to wear protective respiratory equipment during certain operations.

For many years - stretching from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s - hazardous wastes from the plant's uranium-processing operations were dumped into a series of 62 pits and 26 trenches.

"We have disposal records that we estimate are about 75 percent complete," Lea said. "We took 210 samples (last year) to further delineate what's in there, and we feel fairly confident we know what's in each pit and trench."

The Energy Department plans to spend about $14.5 million over the next 18 months to dig up the one-acre landfill and transport 20,000 cubic yards of waste to a modern disposal facility several miles away near the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.

The protective liners currently used in landfills were not used at K-1070-A, so the nuclear and chemical wastes were spread by rainwater that regularly infiltrated the burial yard.
Predatory Fish Health Warning

London May 10, 2002 (BBC) - Women and children have been advised against eating shark, swordfish and marlin. Britain's Food Standards Agency is advising that pregnant women, women who intend to become pregnant, infants and children under 16 to avoid the fish. 

Officials said the advice was precautionary and follows a survey, which found high levels of mercury in those fish. Mercury can harm the nervous system of an unborn child if the fish is eaten regularly by its mother. 

In a statement, it said: "Large predatory fish like shark, swordfish and marlin can contain relatively high levels of mercury in the form of methylmercury, which can harm the nervous system of an unborn child 

"Infants and children may also be at greater risk from mercury poisoning because they eat more food relative to their body size in comparison with adults." 

Officials said occasional consumption of shark, swordfish or marlin as part of a balanced diet by any other adults is unlikely to result in harmful effects. But they advised people against eating more than one portion each week of either shark or swordfish or marlin. 

The FSA surveyed 336 fresh, frozen and processed sea fish and shellfish for mercury content, including trout, salmon, tuna, halibut, hoki, sea bass, lobster, mussels and prawns. Levels of mercury in fish other than shark, swordfish and marlin did not give cause for concern. 

The findings will be considered by the independent expert Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) at its next meeting in June. It will decide if further advice needs to be given to members of the public. 

Sue Davies, Principal Policy Adviser for Consumers' Association, welcomed the FSA decision to issue advice. She added: "The Food Standards Agency must ensure that the message gets through to high risk groups. It's appalling that, as a result of environmental contamination, some fish now contain toxic levels of chemicals, and can't be enjoyed by consumers." 

Official figures suggest that 1506 tons of shark and swordfish were consumed in the UK in 2001 compared with 244,366 tons of cod and haddock, the most popular fish. Medical experts suggest that people eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, as part of a balanced and varied diet. 

Eating fish has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Joan of Arc Found Not Guilty

By Randolph Fillmore
Discovery News

Baltimore May 7, 2002 (Discovery) — Joan of Arc, the 16-year-old French girl who led an army to defeat the English in 1428, was burned at the stake for heresy against the Church three years later for saying she received messages directly from God. And, she dressed like a man. 

Joan was given a new trial for heresy last Friday — 571 years too late to save her life — in a 150-year-old church at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The trial was part of a special scientific program cosponsored by the University of Maryland Schools of Medicine and Law. 

The legal issue: did Joan of Arc have a severe mental illness that caused her to hear and follow the commands of voices, leaving her not responsible for her actions?

Or was she a political zealot, grandiose, self-serving and fully accountable for violating church law? Lawyers grilled two "expert witnesses," both psychiatrists, who testified for and against Joan. A Maryland Court of Appeals judge presided, and a "jury" of 189 doctors, lawyers and students heard the case. 

The court and jury watched a videotape of Joan's psychiatric hearing, with Karen Sullivan, author of "The Interrogation of Joan of Arc," playing a small, frail, blond Joan in a ponytail.

"The voice comes on the part of God" Joan repeated at one point, her fingers touching her lips. The jury, as if wanting truly to hear the voice of God, collectively leaned forward. 

Then Joan's defense attorney, Roger Adleman (who prosecuted John Hinckley, Jr. for shooting Ronald Reagan) made opening statements, arguing that Joan was not accountable by reason of insanity. 

"Joan of Arc heard voices," said Adleman. "Not just any voices, but the voice of God. She said she was following the will of God when she led the French army. She continued to follow the voices and they made her violate church law." 

Adleman called his expert witness, Dr. William Carpenter, a psychiatrist (who testified in Hinckley's defense) with expertise in schizophrenia, a mental illness marked by auditory hallucinations.

"Joan suffered from a delusional disorder," testified Carpenter. "At the age of 13, she began hearing voices telling her she could save France. From her point of view, the voices were real. Because of them, she was unable to conform to church law." 

Prosecutor Herbert Better argued that Joan was fully aware of her actions. Better's expert witness, Dr. Robert Phillips, also a psychiatrist, testified, "Joan of Arc did not suffer from mental illness. She did not lack the ability to know right from wrong. Joan had a personality disorder. She was a self-serving narcissist and a religious zealot. The will of Joan that drove Joan derived from the will of Joan, not the will of God." 

The judge instructed the jury on what modern law said about the insanity plea and when a defendant does not know right from wrong. 

Not guilty by reason of insanity, said 113 jurists. Guilty as charged, said 76. 

"It's hard to send a nice heroine to the stake," said Carpenter after the trial.

Irish Heretic Dean Refuses to Repent
By PJ Bonthrone

London May 12, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - An Anglican dean who was put on trial for heresy after describing Christ as a "misguided prophet" yesterday refused to repent.

The Dean of Clonmacnoise, the Very Rev Andrew Furlong, was told that he would have to appear before the Court of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland after writing on the internet that "Jesus was a mistaken and misguided end-time prophet".

He was to have appeared at a special consistory court on Friday, but the hearing was called off after he announced his resignation on Tuesday. He has lost his living and will shortly lose his home in Trim, Co Meath. 

Mr Furlong said yesterday he had resigned because he felt that if he lost the case, it would "damage the liberal cause in Ireland". But he said that he still believed in the right, and obligation, of everyone in the Church to engage in "the lifelong quest for truth".

He affirmed that he did not believe in Jesus in the sense of "a human person and a divine person somehow blended into one individual".

His accuser, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Rev Richard Clarke, who was also interviewed on Radio 4's Sunday program, said: "I have no problem with people who explore, people who question, people who doubt . . . but there is a huge chasm between that and saying 'I deny the core beliefs of the Christian Church'."
Woody Allen Defies Cannes Boycott

Cannes May 15, 2002 (BBC) - Woody Allen has defied a call for all Jews to boycott the Cannes Film Festival, saying he does not believe the French are anti-Semitic. 

The actor and film director was speaking at a press conference to introduce his new film, Hollywood Ending, which will officially open the 55th festival on Wednesday night. The American Jewish Congress had led calls for all Jews to stay away from the event, claiming anti-Semitism is as bad now as in World War II. Cannes jury member Sharon Stone, whose husband is Jewish, also questioned the point of the boycott. 

Allen said he did not support the boycott and that the recent election defeat of the extreme right in France had proved its people were not racist. 

"The French people should be proud of how they responded in the last election against the right wing," he said. 

Stone also said she believed the election result showed France was kicking back against racism. 

"I think the anti-Semitism causing the row was due to France's recent election," she said. "The fellow who won did so by an overwhelming percentage of votes. In our country, we call that a landslide. France is a place I want to be, not a place I want to boycott." 

Film stars, directors and media are gathering in the south of France for the start of the Cannes Film Festival, the movie world's most glamorous annual outing. Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio are among the big names expected to make the trip to the French Riviera town. 

This year marks Allen's first appearance at the festival in the south of France. He said that after 25 years of his films showing at Cannes it was about time he attended. 

"The French have been so supportive of my films for so many years," he said. "I felt I wanted to give some gratitude back." 

Allen has directed more than 35 films in a career spanning five decades. 

"Making each film is very difficult. The fact you have made so many doesn't make it any harder or easier although it gets easier as technology improves," he told BBC News Online. 

The screening of Hollywood Ending will be followed by Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones at just after midnight local time, in line with the long-awaited film's global release. Another highlight will be a 20-minute preview of Martin Scorsese's delayed Gangs of New York. 

A documentary by satirist Michael Moore about the Columbine school massacre in the US is expected to stir controversy. 

UK and North American films dominate the competition for this year's prestigious Palme d'Or prize. Twenty-two feature films have been selected for the competition, including UK director's Mike Leigh's All or Nothing, Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People and Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen. 

Acclaimed US director David Lynch will head the panel of nine judges. The jury features five other directors, plus Stone and Michelle Yeoh. 

Cannes will also see 10 film-makers competing for a $1m feature film production deal at the annual Chrysler Million Dollar film festival. They must cast, shoot, edit and premiere a five-minute short film, having selected their cast from a pool of local actors in Cannes who were pre-screened by a casting agent.

Cat Goes on Rampage and Evicts Owners
DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia May 14, 2002 (Reuters) - A Canadian family had to flee for safety after their pet Siamese cat went on a rampage, tearing at clothes and skin and driving them out of the house, police said on Monday. 

The shaken group called police in the eastern port city of Dartmouth after taking refuge on their lawn on Sunday evening. 

"Earlier in the afternoon, the cat had attacked the babysitter," police Sgt. Don Spicer told Reuters. "The residents went to check on the cat and, essentially, the cat went crazy on them as well. It attacked the father and ripped his pants as well as the flesh underneath." 

It took police officers, armed with a blanket and a clothes hamper, 20 minutes to corner the cat. Spicer said Cocoa the cat was eventually secured in a pet carrier and handed over to the family who took it to the veterinarian. It was not yet known what caused the cat's frenzy. 

"We've been called to deal with a snake or various animals for one reason for another. But this is the first time that I can recall an actual cat going berserk," Spicer said. 

Another police officer said Cocoa was "a Siamese cat with an attitude problem."
Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms

Tokyo May 13, 2002 (BBC) - Japan is planning to outlaw the use of magic mushrooms, closing down a legal loophole which has allowed users relative freedom in a country famous for its strict drugs laws. 

Although the mushrooms' psychoactive ingredients, psilocybin and psilocin, are illegal in Japan, the mushrooms that naturally produce them are not. But from 6 June, those found in possession of magic mushrooms could face up to seven years in prison, a penalty on a par with that for cocaine possession. 

Magic mushrooms can induce hallucinogenic euphoria, but may also trigger nausea and fits of paranoia and panic. They do not spark a physiological dependence. But Japan's Health Ministry is alarmed by their soaring popularity - underlined by the increase in the number of people hospitalized for overdosing from one person in 1997 to 38 in 2000. 

The entertainment districts of Tokyo are awash with "headshops", where packs of mushrooms are openly for sale, laid out in glass cabinets. 

"You can find them anywhere," Hideo Eno from the ministry's narcotics division, complained to AP news agency. 

"Drug abuse is on the rise and legalized magic mushrooms aren't helping," said Chikashi Okutsu, director of Asia-Pacific Addiction Institute, a Tokyo drug abuse treatment centre. 

Restrictions on other drugs in Japan are so strong that it is not uncommon for customs officers to seize over-the-counter foreign cold medicines, and possession of cannabis can lead to five days in jail. 

The most famous victim of this law is Beatle Paul McCartney, who spent nine days in jail in 1980 for the possession of 219 grams (7.7 ounces) of marijuana.

Woody Guthrie Online

By Jim Regan
Christian Science Monitor 

HALIFAX May 10, 2002 (CSM) - He lived through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II, and the Cold War. He was a folk and protest singer, a political activist blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee ("I ain't a communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life."), and a writer of more than 1,000 songs and 2,500 complete lyrics. 

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was one of those rare artists who had a positive impact on society as well as on others in his profession, and Bound for Glory: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie offers an impressive interactive memorial to this folk legend.

Hosted by the Museum of Musical Instruments (which, despite its inclusive name, seems to be exclusively concerned with guitars), Bound For Glory was created to complement a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of Guthrie's work, which began touring the country in 1999.

A Flash splash screen rotates images of the artist while playing an archival audio clip of Guthrie introducing one of his songs (a clip that now serves to introduce the exhibition itself), and the main index page offers visitors an introductory essay and divides the exhibition into five segments.

Dust Bowl Blues takes Guthrie from childhood in Oklahoma and Pampa, Texas (and such bands as the Corncob Trio and the Pampa Chamber of Commerce Band), to his move to the West Coast at 25 - during the Dust Bowl. Garden of Eden recounts his growing awareness of the immense gap between rich and poor, reflected in such songs as "(If you ain't got the) Do-Re-Mi."

Bound for Glory follows the singer to New York, and Roll on Columbia describes work he did commemorating the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam - a project which brought affordable electricity to lower income communities. Finally, So Long, It's Been Good To Know You looks at Guthrie's legacy, including his influence on such later songwriters as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Billy Bragg.

While the material isn't exhaustive (you can find additional information at The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives), it does provide a fairly thorough summary of Guthrie's life. The text is peppered with thumbnails that open into new-window/full-screen images, accompanied by detailed captions. Files also include drawings by Guthrie and the original manuscript of "This Land is Your Land."

A bar at the top of each section links to RealAudio files of Guthrie songs and interviews. These bare-bones recordings might take some getting used to for those raised on the digitally enhanced vocals and mercilessly overproduced arrangements of many current releases, but they make an effective illustration of the appeal of substance over style. (An appeal reflected in the recent resurgence of 'roots' music.)

For musicians, the sheet music to four of Guthrie's most famous songs is onsite - and as for the artist's views about other people performing his material, the museum includes a statement Guthrie himself placed in a mimeographed book of his songs,

"This song is Copyrighted in US, under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

While the website is available in sizes to fit various screen resolutions, it may not feed you the size best suited for your machine. So if you find that you're doing more side-to-side scrolling than you would like, simply change the number at the end of the Index page's URL http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie/index_1024.html- to a smaller screen size - like 800.html, or 640.html.

Bound For Glory: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie - http://www.themomi.org/museum/Guthrie

How Whales Became Acrobatic Swimmers

By Patricia Reaney
Reuters

LONDON May 10, 2002 (Reuters) — Whales originated from land animals that looked like pigs, but changes in their inner ear helped them evolve into acrobatic swimmers, scientists said this week. 

By studying fossils of early whales, a team of international scientists have uncovered clues about the evolution of cetaceans — whales, dolphins, and porpoises — and how and when they adapted into such agile sea creatures. Whales left land permanently about 45 million years ago.

"We may have discovered the point of no return (explaining) why cetaceans are the only animals that went back to the sea completely," Fred Spoor, of University College London, said in an interview. 

Until a decade ago, little was known about how whales made the transition from land to sea. But newly discovered fossils have filled in many of the gaps, including how they can swim so acrobatically without getting dizzy. 

Whales and other cetaceans have a unique sense of balance because of semicircular canals, which sense head movement, in their inner ears that are much smaller for their body size compared to other mammals. In humans, sea sickness and dizziness from fair rides result when something goes wrong with the organ of balance. But in whales the ear canals are so tiny they are less sensitive to rapid, acrobatic movement. 

The scientists discovered that early whales evolved the small semicircular canals as soon as they invaded the seas and before they looked like modern whales or dolphins. 

But the specialized inner ear which was so good for swimming made it impossible for them to walk properly on land, so they became permanent sea dwellers. "Because they had to recalibrate their organ of balance to cope with their acrobatic aquatic lifestyle, that excluded being on land," Spoor explained. "There is no other mammal, bird, or reptile that modified its organ of balance as much as whales." 

Spoor and a team of paleontologists from Britain, India, Pakistan, and the United States uncovered the unique characteristic in whales by examining the inner ears of cetacean fossils. Their research is reported in the science journal Nature, published this week. 

"The early evolutionary development of small semicircular canals by cetaceans opened an entirely new mammalian niche for habitation and contributed to the broad diversity of marine living habits that we see in whales today," said Rich Lane, director of the National Science Foundation in the United States which funded the research.

Hollywood Wants Secession and Hollywood Sign!

By Harrison Sheppard
Staff Writer 

Hollywood May 14, 2002 (LA Daily News) - The agency studying Hollywood secession on Monday stood by its earlier findings that Hollywood would be viable as its own city, disagreeing with an opinion by State Controller Kathleen Connell.

Officials with the Local Agency Formation Commission said the controller's review was inconsistent and didn't explain her findings that a new Hollywood city would have a significant deficit.

"The controller's review has therefore not provided any information that would cause a re-evaluation of the fiscal viability findings made in the (original financial study)," LAFCO's consultants wrote.

Connell last week issued a review of the Hollywood financial study that found that the new city would have a deficit of 6 percent to 17.5 percent of its budget, and would not be financially viable on its own.

But LAFCO's original financial studies said it would be viable, if it could obtain a $10 million loan from Los Angeles to cover its first three years of operation, and also reduce service by $10 million.

Connell's office declined to publicly respond Monday to the LAFCO letter.

Also Monday, City Councilman Tom LaBonge launched an effort to keep the landmark Hollywood sign within the boundaries of Los Angeles should Hollywood secede.

Flanked by 30 Hollywood residents and Council President Alex Padilla, LaBonge said the sign should remain in Los Angeles because it is a symbol of the city and because Griffith Park should remain under the jurisdiction of a single city.

LAFCO's current plan calls for Griffith Park to remain with Los Angeles, except for about 500 acres that include the sign, and which were not part of the original Griffith family deed to the city. "Splitting this land between two jurisdictions makes no sense -- practical, historical or otherwise," LaBonge said.

LaBonge introduced a motion Friday directing the City Council to ask LAFCO to keep the sign in Los Angeles and he is expected to appear before the commission Wednesday.

Hollywood secession supporters say the sign should go to the new city because it will be the name of the city. They also say that arguing over the sign is distracting from the real issues.

"They ought to get a grip on what this is all about," said Gene LaPietra, president of Hollywood Voters Organized Toward Empowerment. "This is about reorganizing the largest city in California. It's not about a sign."

"The sign says Hollywood. It's in the Hollywood Hills. It's maintained by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. And it's the name of the new city."

Star Wars Returns!

Lucas Lights Up Star Wars Première

London May 15, 2002 (BBC) - Die-hard Star Wars fans sang Happy Birthday to director George Lucas at the London première of Attack of the Clones. 

Lucas, celebrating his 58th birthday, was among many stars turning out for the latest installment of the epic science fiction film series at London's Leicester Square. He said the best present would be "that everybody likes the movie" - and praised the cheering crowds. 

"It's very special to be here. It's amazing that it's stood up all these years and it's still as popular as it's ever been." 

Others turning up at the Odeon opening were Oscar winner Halle Berry and one of the film's stars, Samuel L Jackson. Jackson said of the film: "It's one of the coolest things I've done. My light saber skills are impeccable, you want to take me on outside the theatre?" 

Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin Skywalker, and Christopher Lee, who plays Count Dooku, also turned up. Christensen said: "I wasn't even born when the first movie came out, so it's amazing to be part of this. This is very exciting. I really enjoyed myself, I got along, with a sense of humor, with all the people. But I must admit I'm really not that great with a light saber when they choreographed all the fights. I practiced but I'm really not that good." 

Some other celebrities, such as pop group Atomic Kitten, Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman, chat show host Frank Skinner, comedian Johnny Vegas and pop duo H and Claire, were also there. But lead actors Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman did not turn up because of work commitments. 

Thousands of fans waited behind the crush barriers in Leicester Square, some saying they had waited 26 hours for the moment. BBC Liquid News presenter Libby Potter, at the scene, said that judging from the crowds, Star Wars fever was unabated. 

"It's as many people as I've ever seen at one of these events", she said. 

Fans have waited three years for the return of Star Wars, many having been disappointed with the last installment, The Phantom Menace. Lucas himself has admitted the prequel did not live up to expectations. Critics have been kinder to the latest film, describing the storyline and effects as much more impressive. Despite The Phantom Menace's critical drubbing it became the third most successful film ever, earning nearly $1bn (£690m) at the box office. 

But Lucas told reporters at the première he was not interested in which did better. 

"I'm not in a contest. I make movies, I'm not a racehorse." 

The London première also featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing John Williams' scores from the Star Wars trilogy, for which he won an Oscar in 1978. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones goes on worldwide release on Thursday 16 May.

Young Actors in Star Wars Episode Two 

BY BRUCE WESTBROOK 

Hollywood May 13, 2002 (Houston Chronicle) - Little "Annie'' Skywalker is all grown up in "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.'' But that doesn't mean the youth movement has been zapped from George Lucas' universe. 

In the film, opening May 16, a decade has passed since "Episode I: The Phantom Menace.'' Then, 9-year-old Jake Lloyd portrayed Anakin Skywalker - the future Darth Vader - as a fun-loving kid on the planet Tatooine. 

In "Episode II,'' Hayden Christensen, 21, plays the young Jedi with great responsibilities. But even younger faces are in the mix. 

One is Daniel Logan, 14. Like Lloyd, he plays a character in the prequel trilogy who was established at an older age in the original "Star Wars'' trilogy. In this case, it's bounty hunter Boba Fett, the helmeted cult favorite who first appeared in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back.'' 

In "Episode II,'' Logan portrays Boba as the teen-age son of bounty hunter Jango Fett, played by Temuera Morrison, 41. Like father, like son, Boba helps his dad in his furtive work, and his origins turn out to be linked to the film's title. 

Both actors are natives of New Zealand and trace the same Polynesian ancestry. They were able to work close to home in "Attack of the Clones,'' since much of it was filmed in nearby Sydney, Australia. 

Logan, who turns 15 next month, enjoys playing rugby and video games and hopes to have a career in acting. 

Another newcomer is Leanna Walsman, 22, also of Australia. She plays Zam Wesell - yet another bounty hunter. Zam isn't human but is a Clawdite. These creatures can shift shapes at will and can appear to be human. Walsman, who made her first film at 16, has an extensive "Episode II'' action scene in which she's chased by Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The chase occurs when Zam is sent to assassinate Padme Amidala, Naboo's former queen and now a senator (again played by Natalie Portman). 

During his investigations into the plot, Obi-Wan encounters many more youths. And they're not just any kids - they're the clones of the title. Amassing an army of such clones is hardly kid stuff. But that's one big difference between "Episode I'' and the new film, which adds dark intrigue, romantic longing and a catastrophic threat to the galactic Republic. 

Yes, the prequel trilogy, like Anakin himself, is growing up. And perhaps it's time to stop calling the future Lord Vader "Annie.''


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