Jack the Ripper!
The Mysterious Hill of Tara
,
Dark Energy, Big Bang Puzzle,

Firefly, Peg Phillips & More!
Jack the Ripper - A New Suspect!
November 13, 2002 (Sydney Morning Herald) - Bestselling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has turned her forensic talents to bear on one of history's most enduring crime mysteries - the identity of the 19th century serial murderer, Jack the Ripper.

Published yesterday, Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed points the finger of guilt at the Impressionist painter Walter Sickert, who was known to frequent London's seamy underbelly around the time of the murders.

Sickert has been offered up as a Ripper candidate before, although numerous specialists have rejected him.

Cornwell has acknowledged spending $US6 million ($A10.66 million) of her own money researching her book, which marks a non-fiction break from her Kay Scarpetta novels about a medical examiner who solves serial murders.

The money was used to purchase drawings, paintings and letters of Sickert, who died in 1942 aged 82, and on tests comparing samples of the artist's DNA with those recovered from letters attributed to the Ripper.

While Cornwell's investigations uncovered no concrete proof, her 400-page book lays out a disturbing psychological profile of her prime suspect.

"This guy is a psycho," Cornwell told the New York Times, highlighting Sickert's violently pornographic paintings of London prostitutes being threatened by malevolent male figures.
The American writer also sees guilt etched into a Sickert self-portrait she acquired.

"Every time I look at that face, I say, 'You are not going to get away with this'," she said.

One Sickert painting, Putana a Casa, shows a prostitute with her face mutilated in the same way as one of the Ripper's victims.

"Jack the Ripper" is the popular name given to the serial killer who brutally murdered a number of prostitutes in the East End of London in 1888. The killings took place within a mile area and involved the districts of Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Aldgate, and the City of London proper.

Cornwell's research indicates that at the time of the murders, Sickert was either in London or holidaying in Dieppe, north-western France - close enough to commute.

She also showed that the alleged Ripper letters and some written by Sickert used paper from the same stationary company.

Five of the Ripper letters were signed "Nemo" - Latin for "Nobody" - while Sickert's stage name when he was a young actor had been "Mr Nemo" or "Mr Nobody". Cornwell's findings and conclusions have been challenged by established "Ripperologists" who have made a living out of the mini-industry surrounding the Ripper mystery.

"These Ripper people are understandably very angry," Cornwell said. "They don't want somebody else to find out the suspect. It ruins their party."

Cornwell's book boasts a 13-page bibliography, while a "Jack the Ripper" search on Amazon.com produces 83 results.

Opponents of Cornwell's theory point out that the DNA samples used by Cornwell were old and only able to narrow the suspect list down to 33,000 people. At the same time, the paper used in the Ripper letters - even assuming the letters to be genuine - was of a type in wide use at the time.

"I'm going to have lots of fights in my hands," Cornwell acknowledged.

Bush Reverses Snowmobile Rule
By John Heilprin
Associated Press

Washington November 12, 2002 (AP) - The Bush administration plans to allow more snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on average, while cutting numbers on the busiest days. The decision reverses one taken during the Clinton presidency that would have banned them by next winter.

There would be no limits on snowmobiles for the winter season beginning next month and running until mid-March, Interior Department officials said.

But starting in December 2003, no more than 1,100 snowmobiles a day would be allowed in the two popular parks together and a portion of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting them, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For the past decade, the parks have had an average of 840 snowmobiles daily during the winter but as many as 1,650 a day during holiday and other busy weekends. Both parks are in northwestern Wyoming, but Yellowstone also extends into Idaho and Montana.

Interior planned to release an environmental impact statement today that details the proposal. The ceiling represents a compromise between the unlimited access wanted by snowmobile makers and users and the ban sought by environmental groups and some Democrats in Congress.

"This is just a boon to the industry," said Kristen Brengel of the Wilderness Society, an environmental group. Bill Dart, public lands director for the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition, which advocates opening more public lands to recreational motor vehicles, said his group is satisfied with the peak-days ceiling, even though it might not reflect the rising popularity of snowmobiling in the parks in recent years.

"Clearly, I don't think they're caving to industry," Dart said. "They're talking about one-third less numbers on peak days."

To minimize the impact and maximize safety, the regulations would require that 80 percent of the snowmobiles allowed in the two parks be led by commercial guides. Also, beginning next year commercially rented snowmobiles would have to have four-stroke engines, which are said to be quieter and less polluting. Private snowmobile owners could use traditional two-cycle engines until the 2004-2005 winter season.

Interior officials said their plan is based on a belief that four-stroke engines can significantly cut noise and reduce emissions of hydrocarbons by 90 percent and carbon monoxide by 70 percent.

They left open the possibility of adjusting the caps based on results from air quality and noise monitoring stations that will be installed in the parks. 

"This plan, in essence, stays away from the extremes," said Eric Ruff, an Interior Department spokesman. "It strikes a good balance. It protects resources and allows visitors a unique experience." 

The Environmental Protection Agency recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks as the "best available protection" for air quality, wildlife and the health of people who work and visit there. Interior advanced that idea in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

The Bush administration ordered a new review as part of a settlement with snowmobile makers who challenged the proposed ban.
The Mysterious Hill of Tara
By Evelyn Ring

Galway Ireland November 12, 2002 (Irish Examiner) - A huge temple, once surrounded by about 300 huge posts made from an entire oak forest, has been discovered directly beneath the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.

Conor Newman, an archaeology lecturer at NUI Galway, said the discovery at the ancient site made sense of the positioning of other graves and monuments in the area.

Mr. Newman, who has been working on the Hill of Tara under the State-funded Discovery Programme since 1992, was delighted by the find.

"It fills a very important place in the jigsaw because it allows us to make sense of the distribution of other monuments all around it."

The Discovery Programme, set up under the auspices of the Heritage Council, carried out a survey of the Hill of Tara between 1992 and 1996 when Mr. Newman was director.

When Mr. Newman moved to Galway he continued to be involved in the project Using sophisticated technology, he and his team of experts mapped what was underground. The work was slow and tedious because it yielded such a huge amount of information.

What they uncovered eventually at the crown of the hill was a huge, oval-shaped monument measuring about 170 meters at its widest point. Around it are 300 post holes measuring two meters wide, indicating a massive human effort involved in the construction.

"We think it probably dates from 2500 to 2300BC and still had a big physical presence even after the posts were taken out or rotted," Mr. Newman said.

While the monument is located just below the ground's surface, there are no plans yet to dig it out.

"There was a time when excavation was the first step in archaeological research. That's not the case now because it really is the systematic destruction of a monument. When you are dealing with something as important as the Hill of Tara, you don't do something like that lightly."

Mr. Newman reckons they will be able to learn more about the site from the data before the ground itself is finally excavated. "What we have is the clearest underground image I have ever seen. This one jumps off the page."

Mr. Newman is concerned about a planned extension of the N3 motorway from Clonee to just north of Kells. One of the sections from Dunshaughlin to Navan runs along the east side of the Hill of Tara.

"I have absolutely no doubt that they will be destroying dozens of monuments connected to Tara," he said.

Please Return Our Spears!
By Wendy Frew

Australia November 11, 2002 (Sydney Morning Herald) - The first British visitors souvenired spears hurled at them by the Botany Bay welcoming committee. Now the locals want them back. 

When James Cook and Joseph Banks returned to England in 1770 after their first South Pacific sea voyage, they took with them an array of flora, fauna and cultural artifacts from this newest of worlds. The booty included a collection of about 50 Australian Aboriginal spears that had belonged to the Gweagal people of Botany Bay.

Four of those spears - the only material reminders of the first meeting between Aborigines and Britons on the east coast - still exist. Few Australians have seen them. 

The spears are held in England at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, England. On permanent loan from the university's Trinity College, they are subject to one of the many requests for the return of indigenous people's artifacts that beset museums around the world.

Archaeologists say that the collection is priceless as the spears are among the few artifacts traced to Cook's first voyage. 

Some of the Gweagals' descendants still live in Sydney. One of them, Shayne Williams, has taken a softly-softly approach to negotiations with Trinity. He would like to see the collection back in Australia. However, he recognizes the role Trinity has played in looking after it.

"We have to be open-minded," he says. "The reason these artifacts still exist is because they have been preserved by British museums."

The spears were collected by Banks during the Endeavour's six-day stay at Botany Bay. The primary purpose of the first of Cook's three epic voyages was to observe from Tahiti the transit of Venus across the sun. But botany was the predominant occupation of the voyage, now considered one of the most successful scientific explorations of its time.

The flora and fauna collections have been well studied but little is known about the everyday weapons, personal ornaments and articles used by the people of the South Pacific that were collected. Some artifacts may still be in private hands. Others have been lost.

Those held in museums around the world are often poorly documented. However, the provenance of the Australian spears is clear.

Sailing up the east coast, Cook and his crew reached Botany Bay in April 1770. In his journal Banks wrote that some of the Aborigines retreated into the bushes as the Endeavour approached. However, several warriors remained on the rocks, "threatening and menacing with their pikes and swords". 

When Cook and his crewmen tried to land, two of the local men stood on the rocks, warning them off with spears and sticks.

After about 15 minutes there was an exchange of musket fire and spears. One of the Aborigines was hurt; Cook's men were unscathed.

The sailors went up the beach to an encampment. Convincing himself that it was abandoned, Banks "thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could find about the houses, amounting to 40 or 50". Of that cache, only four remain: two bone-tipped three-pronged spears, one bone-tipped four-pronged spear and a shaft with a single hardwood head. Cook gave the spears to his patron, John Montagu, First Lord of the Admiralty and Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who passed them on to Trinity. 

The spears were never forgotten by the Gweagal people. "My mother always told me about them," says Williams. "They are a tangible part of our culture. They are the oldest Aboriginal artifacts to be taken from the mainland, so they also have a national significance for people right across the country."

The repatriation of large collections of human remains of indigenous peoples in many European and North American museums has been a controversial issue. Most curators now recognize the right of indigenous people to reclaim and bury ancestors. With the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the Australian Government has concentrated efforts on this rather than artifacts. Edinburgh University sent its collection of Australian indigenous remains back to this country in 2000. Earlier this year, London's Royal College of Surgeons announced that it would return pieces of hair and skin of Truganini, the so-called last traditional Tasmanian Aborigine, who died in 1876.

But what happens to non-human remains such as the Gweagal spears? 

Williams believes Australia has to be realistic about its chances of getting many of these items back. "It was never my intention to ask for repatriation," he says. "I would like to get an exhibition up so that our elders can see the spears. Repatriation could take up to 10 years and that would be too long."

Trinity College council would make any final decision about the artifacts. Dr David McKitterick, head of Trinity's library, where the spears were on show for many years, explains that the need to educate people about different cultures by display would be set against the importance of returning the collection.

"The case for repatriating human remains is very strong," says McKitterick. "With artifacts, there is more sympathy for loans for exhibitions than repatriation ... These things were acquired, for all we know, in good faith. They are the only pieces [from Cook's journey] that have written documentation. It is a miracle, really, that we have that kind of documentation."

Last year the spears almost made it back home as part of a Sydney Harbour exhibition at the Australian Museum, but they proved beyond the museum's budget.

Dr Val Attenbrow, senior research scientist at the Australian Museum, says that the very existence of the spears, as some of the items Cook took back to England from Botany Bay, is exciting. "They are still in very good condition and people here have strong feelings about them," he explains.

For Williams the weapons represent Aboriginal resistance.

"People need to know we were not passive at the time of invasion," he concludes. "They need to know that Aboriginal resistance negated the idea that the continent was empty - negated the idea of terra nullius."

Dark Energy!
JODRELL BANK OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE

Manchester UK November 12, 2002 - An international team of astronomers, led by scientists at the University of Manchester have produced new evidence that most of the energy in the Universe is in the form of the mysterious "dark energy".

The new evidence comes from a 10-year census of the sky for examples of gravitational lenses, which are seen when a galaxy bends the light from a distant quasar to form several images of the same quasar.

Linking the number of lenses they found with the latest information on the numbers of galaxies, the scientists have been able to infer that most of the energy in the Universe is likely to be in an invisible, and presently unknown, form. 

Dark energy is closely related to the idea of a Cosmological Constant introduced by Einstein over 80 years ago, but most astronomers, including Einstein himself, have always strongly doubted its reality.

However, in the past 5 years several independent groups of astronomers have amassed evidence suggesting that dark energy exists and could well dominate the total energy of the Universe. 

Dark energy only affects the properties of the Universe over very large distances. As a result, the observations which are sensitive to its presence, in particular studies of exploding stars in distant galaxies, are all close to the limit of current capabilities.
Astronomers have therefore been keen to exploit many different tests and Dr. Ian Browne makes the point that "the new gravitational lens test is based on completely different physical arguments to the previous ones and so provides independent evidence in support of dark energy".

When a quasar is gravitationally lensed by an intervening galaxy two or more images of the quasar are produced but they are hard to recognize as the images are less than one thousandth of a degree apart. The team therefore employed several of the world's most powerful radio telescope arrays to make radio pictures of thousands of distant quasars.

Professor Peter Wilkinson points out that "we chose to use radio telescopes for our survey since they can pick out details many times finer than optical ones, even the Hubble Space Telescope".

The census showed that about one out of every 700 distant quasars is lensed by a foreground galaxy. 

To calculate the fraction of the energy in the Universe which is dark energy Manchester's Dr. Kyu-Hyun Chae combined the gravitational lens statistics with the latest results on the numbers and types of galaxies in the Universe made with optical telescopes.

The result which emerged is that around two thirds of the Universe's energy appears to be dark energy.

The remaining third is made up of Dark Matter, whose form is presently unknown, and "ordinary" matter which makes up the stars and planets.

For both of these forms of matter gravity acts as normal and attracts. In contrast dark energy has long-range anti-gravity properties and now appears to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate, rather than slow down as would be expected if gravity was the dominant force.

While astronomers have no idea about what dark energy might be, these new results add to their growing confidence that it is real.

Simultaneous Solar Flares
SUNSPOT, NM November 11, 2002 (AP) - Scientists say they have made the unprecedented discovery of solar flares erupting almost simultaneously on opposite sides of the sun. 

The flares — massive eruptions of hydrogen from the sun's surface — were observed by researchers at the National Solar Observatory in southern New Mexico on the morning of Oct. 31. 

Simultaneous solar flares have been seen in the past, but never so far apart. Scientists at the observatory are trying to determine whether the eruptions were linked or a coincidence, said solar physicist Don Neidig. 

Experts said the discovery could have far-reaching consequences if more cases are observed. 

"Now we have only one example of two flares that go off simultaneously that far apart, so it could be an accident. If we see more of these ... then it becomes extremely important," said Stephen Greggor, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of New Mexico. 

Observatory researchers speculated that magnetic fields may have primed the flares to erupt seconds apart.

They cautioned, however, that there is too little data even to put forward a theory. 

Solar flares are the largest known explosions in the solar system and are driven by magnetic fields. Neidig said the ones observed on Halloween had an explosive force equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs. 

The New Mexico scientists said they did not know if the flares had been observed anywhere else in the world. The researchers were using a new solar telescope being developed by the Air Force to help predict dangerous conditions in space. 

National Solar Observatory - http://www.sunspot.noao.edu/sunspot/sp_index.html 

Bosnian Radiation Blamed on NATO
By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer 

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina November 12, 2002 (AP) - U.N. experts said Monday they found three radioactive hotspots in Bosnia resulting from ammunition containing depleted uranium used during NATO airstrikes in 1995. 

The tests found radiation at two sites in the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici and one in Han Pijesak, in the Bosnian Serb republic, according to preliminary results released by the United Nations Environmental Program. 

During its 1995 bombings of Serb positions around Sarajevo, NATO used munitions containing depleted uranium, a slightly radioactive heavy metal that is used to pierce armor. The Bosnian government said some 10,800 rounds with the material were fired in its territory. 

Once lodged in the soil, the munitions can pollute the environment and create an up to 100-fold increase in uranium levels in groundwater, according to the U.N. Environmental Program. 

"We are concerned about the situation at the Hadzici tank repair facility and the Han Pijesak barracks," said Pekka Haavisto, the chairman of the U.N. agency's task force. 

In Sarajevo, the U.N. team detected depleted uranium-related materials and dust inside buildings that are now used by private businesses. At the site in the Bosnian Serb republic, the contaminated area is used as a storage facility by army troops. 

The areas where radiation is detected should not be used until the sites are decontaminated, Haavisto said. 

The international experts were invited by the Bosnian government to investigate concerns that depleted uranium could harm residents and international peacekeepers. 

The U.N. team advised the Bosnian government to start decontaminating the three sites and educating people about potential hazards. 

Apart from this team, a medical sub-team composed of experts from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Army, visited several hospitals in Bosnia, collecting medical data and statistics. A full report was to be published by UNEP in March 2003.
Antinuclear Activists Protest Waste Shipment
By Juergen Voges
Associated Press

DANNENBERG, Germany November 12, 2002 (AP) — Antinuclear activists staged a parade through this north German town near a nuclear waste dump Monday, and two police officers were injured in a skirmish with demonstrators.

Police said most of the roughly 1,000 protesters demonstrated peacefully against a shipment of 12 containers of atomic waste that are expected to arrive in midweek after traveling by rail and road from a reprocessing plant at La Hague in France — the biggest shipment yet to the dump at Gorleben. 

Yet about 100 radicals clashed with police, who responded with truncheons. Two officers were injured, police said. 

About 60 people also succeeded in blocking the road between the town of Dannenberg and Gorleben, ignoring a ban on all demonstrations within 50 meters (about 150 feet) of the final stretch of the route. 

The site at Gorleben, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Hamburg, has long been a traditional focus of Germany's antinuclear lobby. 

On Monday evening the transport departed from La Hague, accompanied by more than 300 police riding in three cars that were added to the train, the Cogema reprocessing company said. The train was expected to reach the French-German border Tuesday afternoon. 

About 15 Greenpeace activists wearing white jumpsuits protested at the Valognes train terminal as the 1,455 ton shipment left northern France. 

Over the weekend, farmers and antinuclear groups in Germany symbolically set up at least 12 "villages," with camp fires and bales of hay, near the route, and several thousand people demonstrated at Gorleben. 

Authorities have banned protests within 50 meters (about 150 feet) on either side of the final stretch of the convoy's route. 

This week's shipment is the first since last November, when demonstrators repeatedly defied some 17,500 police to stage sit-down protests along the route through Germany. Those protests were smaller than demonstrations that marked the previous transport in March 2001, the first in three years. The previous German government had suspended shipments after radioactive leakage was discovered in some containers. 

Spent fuel from Germany's 19 nuclear power plants is sent to France and Britain for reprocessing under contracts that oblige Germany to take back the waste. 

Last year, the government and power companies signed an agreement to phase out nuclear power within about 20 years. Activists hope that protesting waste shipments will push up the security bill and force a quicker shutdown.
Big Bang Puzzle
University of Rochester Press Release

Rochester NY November 11, 2002 - Scientists have recreated a temperature not seen since the first microsecond of the birth of the universe and found that the event did not unfold quite the way they expected, according to a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.

The interaction of energy, matter, and the strong nuclear force in the ultra-hot experiments conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was thought to be well understood, but a lengthy investigation has revealed that physicists are missing something in their model of how the universe works.

"It's the things you weren't expecting that are really trying to tell you something in science," says Steven Manly, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and co-author of the paper. "The basic nature of the interactions within the hot, dense medium, or at least the manifestation of it, changes depending on the angle at which it's viewed. We don't know why. We've been handed some new pieces to the puzzle and we're just trying to figure out how this new picture fits together."

At RHIC in Brookhaven, NY., Manly and his collaborators on the PHOBOS experiment wanted to probe the nature of the strong nuclear force that helps bind atoms together. They smashed two atoms of gold together at velocities near the speed of light in an attempt to create what's called a "quark-gluon plasma," a very brief state where the temperature is tens of thousands of times higher than the cores of the hottest stars. Particles in this hot-soup plasma stream out, but not without bumping into other particles in the soup. It's a bit like trying to race out of a crowded room-the more people in your way, the more difficult to escape. The strength of the interactions between particles in the soup is determined by the strong force, so carefully watching particles stream out could reveal much about how the strong force operates at such high temperatures.

To simplify their observations, the researchers collided the circular gold atoms slightly off-center so that the area of impact would not be round, but shaped rather like a football-pointed at each end. This would force any streaming particles that headed out one of the tips of the football to pass through more of the hot soup than a particle exiting the side would.

Differences in the number of particles escaping out the tip versus the side of the hot matter could reveal something of the nature of that hot matter, and maybe something about the strong force itself.

But a surprise was in store. Right where the gold atoms had collided, particles did indeed take longer to stream out the tips of the football than the sides, but farther from the exact point of collision, that difference evaporated. That defied a treasured theory called boost invariance.

"When we first presented this at a conference in Stony Brook, the audience couldn't believe it," says Manly. "They said, 'This can't be. You're violating boost invariance.' But we've gone over our results for more than a year, and it checks out."

Aside from revealing that scientists are missing a piece of the physics puzzle, the findings mean that understanding these collisions fully will be much more difficult than expected. No longer can physicists measure only the sweet spot where the atoms initially collided-they now must measure the entire length of the plasma, effectively making what was a two-dimensional problem into a three-dimensional one.

As Manly says, this "dramatically increases the computing complexity" of any model researchers try to devise.

Modeling and understanding such collisions are extremely important because the way that the plasma cools-condensing like steam turning into water against a shower door-might shed some light on the mechanism that gives matter its very mass.

Where mass itself comes from has been one of physicists chief conundrums for decades. Manly hopes that if we can understand exactly why the quark-gluon plasma behaves as it does, we might gain an insight into some of the rudiments of the world we live in. 

"Understanding all the dynamics of the collision is really critical for actually trying to get the information we want," says Manly. "It may be that we have an actual clue here that something fundamental is different-something we just don't understand." Smiling, he adds, "Yet."

NASA Cancels Moon Book
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Washington November 8, 2002 (BBC) - The US space agency (NASA) has cancelled the book intended to challenge the conspiracy theorists who claim the Moon landings were a hoax. 

NASA declined to comment specifically on the reasons for dropping the publication, but it is understood the decision resulted from the bad publicity that followed the announcement of the project. Criticism that NASA was displaying poor judgment and a lack of confidence in commissioning the book caused it to abort the project, agency spokesman Bob Jacobs said. 

Oberg will still write the book

NASA had hired aerospace writer Jim Oberg for the job on a fee of $15,000. He says he will still do the work, although it will now be an unofficial publication with alternative funding. 

The book will deliver a point-by-point rebuttal of the theory that the Apollo landings were faked in a movie studio, to convince the world that the US had beaten the Soviets to the Moon. It will explain why in still and video footage of the landings, no stars can be seen in the Moon sky, why a flag appears to ripple on the atmosphere-free satellite and why shadows fall in strange directions - all "facts", conspiracy theorists say, point to a hoax. 

Some commentators had said that in making the Oberg book an official NASA publication, the agency was actually giving a certain credibility to the hoax theory.
Mark Twain's Frog Loses Battle
Oakland November 8, 2002 (Earthjustice) - In a decision filed November 6, 2002, environmental groups seeking to retain more than 4 million acres of critical habitat designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for California’s threatened red-legged frog were dealt a significant set-back.

Washington D.C. Judge Richard Leon’s ruling approves a sweetheart deal entered into between the Home Builders and the Service from which conservationists were excluded to redo its study of the designation’s economic impacts, and nullifies all but 200,000 acres of critical habitat protection for the frog until that study is completed. 

"It’s a sad day for California’s natural heritage," said Mike Sherwood, Earthjustice attorney who argued the case on behalf of several environmental organizations. "The builders got exactly what they wanted -- carte blanche to continue to destroy the habitat of a species already reduced to living on a small fraction of its historic range." 

Critical habitat for this amphibian species, widely believed to be Mark Twain’s Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was established in March 2001 after a series of lengthy public hearings and thorough scientific review. Environmental groups had litigated for years to gain this protection for California’s vanishing, literary amphibian under the Endangered Species Act. 

Only three months later, the Home Builders Association of Northern California and other development interests filed suit in Washington, D.C. to overturn the designation, which protected watersheds in 28 counties and many of the remaining freshwater streams and wetlands in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coast Ranges. The frog’s critical habitat also included some of the last remaining wetlands in California, 90 percent of which have already been destroyed. 

"As far as our frogs are concerned, the Home Builders may be better described as the home wreckers," said Dr. Robert Stack, of the Jumping Frog Research Institute. "Shouldn’t we be seeking to balance the need for human homes with the need to provide the same for our beloved frog?" 

Earthjustice intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of several conservation groups including: the Jumping Frog Research Institute, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, the Pacific Rivers Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. 

"We do not believe this decision reflects the intent of Congress when it passed the Endangered Species Act," said Sherwood, who represented the coalition at the October 2002 hearing before Judge Leon. "The court has decided to put the economic interests of California’s developers ahead of protection for a threatened species, which runs counter to the Act. Without critical habitat protection, the frog is at the mercy of developers. One day, the only place left to see this famous frog may be the zoo." 

The fight to conserve the frog’s habitat is not over. Conservationists will press the Service to re-establish adequate critical habitat upon completing the new economic analysis.

Earthjustice - http://www.earthjustice.org 

Genre News: Firefly's Last Round-up? Majel Roddenberry, T3, The Incredible Shrinking Man and More!
Firefly's Last Round-up?
By FLAtRich

Hollywood November 13, 2002 (eXoNews) - Welp, it sure does look purdy, Captain Mal, but the fact is the Old West is a dyin'. Ain't much we can do about it, I suppose, but let's think on it a bit anyway.

Folks are just plain shying away from Firefly. Maybe they just need a little history learnin'.

Some say the idea of a sci-fi western is just too radical, but truth be told, there been lots of sci-fi westerns afore Firefly. Probably some silent flickers started it, but old timers hereabouts still recall when Gene Autry himself went up against them Muranians down below Radio Ranch in The Phantom Empire. That was back in 1935, when there weren't hardly no telly vision to speak of at all.

Science fiction and westerns always been kin. Don't know exactly when they started calling outer space adventures "space operas", but you can be danged sure they got it from "horse operas".

Used to be a whole lot of them horse operas! TV and the western had a great romance starting in 1945 when Hopalong Cassidy movies first hit the tube. Hoppy had his own show from 1949 to 1952. Gene Autry followed Hoppy to TV in 1950.

Roy Rogers started making movies with the Sons of the Pioneers in 1935, and Roy and Dale grabbed TV by the gun belt from 1951 through 1963. After that, westerns were everywhere.

The wagons kept rollin' for decades, from Death Valley Days and Annie Oakley to Have Gun Will Travel and Maverick. Bonanza ruled the range from '59 to '73, and shows like The Virginian were big all through the 1960s. Gunsmoke ran from 1955 to 1975!

Time was that there was a western on TV every night in almost every prime time slot. You never saw so many cowpokes trading lead! It was a glorious day for wranglers!

Now I know we was talkin' about Firefly here, so I want to make it clear that one of the first successful television westerns had a cowboy flying around in the clouds.

Weren't no space ship, mind you, but Sky King started on radio in 1947 and did an honorable run on TV in his single engine plane from '51 to '56.

Some folks still remember being raised up eating them Kraft Cheese Dinners and watchin' Sky and Penny and Clipper save the range from the Big Bads.

And heck, when Jim West and Arty showed up on the big screen recently, nobody was surprised to see them. Will Smith fans all know that The Wild, Wild West was really just a science fiction show set on the frontier.

Hard to believe it was only new from '65 to '70 - especially since it's still running out there in TVLand. The Wild, Wild West is probably the most repeated western in television history. 

Star Trek did sci-fi westerns a couple of times too. In 1968, when a few westerns still ruled, the Melkots transported Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov to the OK Corral in "Spectre of the Gun". The episode had a typical Roddenberry twist, finding a peaceful solution to the big gunfight, but not before Chekov got gunned down in the center of town.

[Trek Irony: most Trekkers know that DeForest Kelley was Morgan Earp in director John Sturges' 1957 western classic Gunfight at the OK Corral. Ed.]

In 1992, The Next Generation gave us "A Fistful of Datas". Worf's son Alexander convinced various Enterprise crewmembers to play with him in a Western holodeck program that went awry (of course!) Cut off from the rest of the ship, Worf, Deanna Troi and Alexander fought off Data clones in full western gear.

Some say the 70's Battlestar Galactica was a space western. After all, it did have Bonanza's Lorne Greene leading' a kinda wagon train home to Earth. The Galactica crew wore gun belts too.

So yer darned tootin' there's a tradition in genre bending westerns and science fiction and there's no doubt that Joss Whedon had a good idea when he saddled up Firefly.

Question is, why the Sam Hill doesn't Firefly have an audience?

Well, I heard tell that back in 1993 when Fox's new fall line up premiered The X-Files following The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Fox executives were betting on the western.

Turned out that Mulder and Scully's pursuit of aliens far outweighed Brisco and Comet's search for the mysterious orb, even though Brisco became a cult favorite rerun after it got the axe and it helped make Bruce Campbell a star.

There's a clue here, though, because The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. was really the last TV western on any network with a gun-toting, hard riding hero and an intelligent horse. Puttin' Comet out to pasture was a sign of the times.

CBS launched Space Rangers in 1993. It was a Trek clone with western overtones - the Rangers used lead bullets instead of phasers - but audiences failed to tune in and CBS canned the show after six episodes.

In 1994, Full Moon Pictures produced the sci-fi western feature Oblivion, staring the likes of George Takei, Meg Foster, Julie Newmar and Isaac Hayes.
The movie had some fun moments and inspired a sequel in 1995, but did nothing at the box office.

Other feature films have come on like space westerns, but the only recent one worth mentioning is 1998's Soldier from director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil).

Kurt Russell did a great John Wayne pilgrimage in Soldier, which is a wonderful shoot 'em up that is mostly sci-fi, part High Noon, part Shane. Unfortunately, Soldier was no blockbuster.

The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with Firefly. It has a great cast, intelligent scripts and direction, and imaginative production and effects.

Maybe it's true that Fox should have let Joss Whedon start with his two-hour pilot and explain the Firefly universe, but sci-fi fans already have a history with the sci-fi western concept. Fox may have screwed up by launching Firefly at the height of baseball season, but that wasn't the real reason Firefly didn't pick up an audience.

The problem is that Firefly is a western at heart, ma'am, and 21st Century television audiences don't understand westerns.

Like the real Wild West, modern times have eclipsed TV western traditions. Today's breed of fans don't know how to react to simple morality tales with heroes in white hats. The infamous 18-49 demographic have no cowboy stars to idolize outside of Toy Story.

They need to be taught to ride, but most of them have never even seen a live horse.

Hoppy is forgotten and the Sons of the Pioneers have faded into the sunset, buckaroos. If Firefly really is a-heading for the last round up, it has noble company, but western heroes never give up without a fight.

Old Windy Halliday said everything has a way of comin' around again.

Maybe Fox just needs to remind viewers of the heritage that Firefly celebrates.

So tune in while you can, dad blammit! Spread the word! And happy trails, pardners! Until we meet again.

Watch Firefly on Fox Friday at 8PM / 7C - http://www.fox.com/firefly

Find more eXoNews stories on Firefly using out handy Search engine or check the weekly eXoNews Genre page.

Firefly Fans Bidding To Support Show

Firefly: Immediate Assistance Press Release November 11, 2002 - Fans of the new FOX show Firefly are putting their money where their mouths are. In an effort to raise funds for a campaign to save the show, fans are bidding for Firefly collectibles on eBay.

Autographed items from the show are currently up for auction, with more auctions planned soon. Fans and collectors can bid on shooting scripts from Firefly episodes, a t-shirt available only to cast and crew members, and other collectibles. Auctions for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel memorabilia are also planned. Links to the auctions can be found at www.fireflysupport.com

Proceeds from the auctions will be used by the Firefly: Immediate Assistance campaign to purchase a full-page ad in Variety. Campaign organizers hope the ad will get the attention of FOX executives and let them know that the sci-fi/western show has a large, devoted audience. Their goal is to raise $3000 before December 2. Information about how supporters can donate directly to the campaign can be found on the website.

The Firefly: Immediate Assistance campaign was formed to show support for the FOX show. Excited by the news that FOX had requested an additional three scripts, fans wanted to show their appreciation to both FOX and the sponsors. Kimberly Hirsh, owner and manager of JossWhedon.net, organized the campaign to coordinate the voices of Firefly supporters. 

"Our objective is to show Fox how much fans of science fiction, Joss Whedon and Firefly itself appreciate the show," says a statement on the group's Web site. "We want to encourage Fox to continue showing Firefly. Consider this a very big thank you."

Firefly can be seen on FOX, Friday nights at 8:00 ET. More information is available at www.fireflysupport.com

Firefly Fan site - http://www.fireflyfans.net

Read a previous eXoNews article on the Save Firefly fan initiative here or click Search in the menu bar.

Majel Roddenberry Live!
By FLAtRich

London November 13, 2002 (eXoNews) - Majel Roddenberry is the mother of us all! I signed in to a very small celebrity chat with her once, hosted by Nelson Aspen on MSN (this was way back in 1997 when MSN was doing its all-Flash, experimental thing), and Majel's not just Gene's widow. I think it's safe to say that Majel is the ultimate Trekker. She's also a grand dame with a terrific wit and great stories.

For example, here's Majel from that chat on what NBC said after screening Gene's first pilot for Star Trek:

MajelR: Gene wrote that part first, last, and always for me. As a matter of fact, that was the first part that he wrote. He wanted a woman second in command and I was going to be that woman.

MajelR: So, when we did it we thought isn't this innovative and fun. NBC said, "No. Our people don't think so. We want you to recast the role, get rid of the woman because no one will believe a woman second in command."

MajelR: They said, "This show was too cerebral." And, they were going to try to make another pilot, but they wanted changes.

MajelR: Number one, WAS "Number One", which was my character name. Number two was, the guy with the ears had to go because he was too "Satanic" looking. So, Gene knew that it was going to break my heart, but he wanted the Spock character so badly that he figured, "Ok. I'll marry the woman and I'll keep the Spock character because I don't think Leonard would have it the other way around."

Majel went on to play the Voice of the Enterprise computer (and Voyager's) in addition to that original Number One and Nurse Chapel on TOS and, of course, Deanna Troi's mom on DS9. She owns a lot of rights within the amazing Trek franchise, and she also co-produces Andromeda with Kevin Sorbo. Andromeda is currently getting the highest weekly numbers of any independent syndicated TV show, BTW.

So, if you happen to be in England this week, StarTrekUK.COM says that Thames Television and Five are looking for ST fans to be in the audience when Majel appears live on 'Open House' with Gloria Hunniford on Tuesday 19th November on Five. For more info, visit StarTrekUK.COM or email the show directly at openhouse@five.tv  for tickets. (Probably got a full house by now, though :o)>

StarTrekUK.COM - http://www.startrekuk.com 

Official Gene Roddenberry site - http://www.roddenberry.com 

Official Star Trek site - http://www.startrek.com

Warners Previews Terminator 3 Site

Hollywood November 13, 2002 (eXoNews) - Amaze your friends! Impress your robot enemies from the future? Be the first on your block to see Warner's T3 website!

What else is there to say? T3 won't hit the theaters until July of 2003, but Warners isn't taking any chances.

It's all very hush-hush. Only thousands of people know about it :o)>

Check out the cool T3 site at http://www.terminator3.com/wb_members/index.html 

Supercards On The Way
By FLAtRich

Raleigh NC November 12, 2002 (eXoNews) - The North Carolina-based trading card company Inkworks has announced the release of trading cards for Smallville, Season One. Smallville is currently one of this season's the highest rated genre series, showing on the WB Tuesdays at 9 PM / 8C and repeating in the WB's Sunday block.

Smallville cards from Inkworks will be released on November 20, 2002. The 90-card base set includes Episodic Coverage, Character Cards, Welcome to Smallville Cards, Smallville Torch Cards, Heir to LuthorCorp Cards, Amazing Abilities Cards, and Destiny Cards.

The collector's series will be loaded with randomly inserted bonus cards including six different cards autographed by series regulars Allison Mack (Chloe), John Schneider (Jonathan Kent), Eric Johnson (Whitney) and others.

Smallville: Season One Premium Trading Cards will be packed seven cards per pack, 36 packs per display box. The suggested retail price will be $1.99 per pack.

250 sequentially numbered mini-press sheets of "Smallville High" will be available to hard core collectors at a suggested retail price of $69.95. A Smallville: Season One collector binder for $19.95 will also be produced by Inkworks.

A special 9-card Smallville Preview set was released by Inkworks on July 31, 2002, sold as 9-card sets, with only 2,500 sets available worldwide.

Find out more at the Inkworks web site - http://www.inkworkscards.com 

Smallville Official site  - http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/smallville/ledger/home.jsp 

Eddie To Shrink and Jurassic Park IV

Hollywood November 13, 2002 (eXoNews) - Hollywood Reporter says that Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are working on a new version of the 50's sci fi classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

The studios have hired Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant to pen the rewrite. Keenen Ivory Wayans will direct Eddie Murphy as the hapless shrinker.

HR also reports that Universal Pictures is talking with scriptwriter William Monahanis for a fourth "Jurassic Park". Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy will produce. Jurassic Park III grossed $181.2 million.

Monahan wrote Fox's historical drama "Tripoli" for director Ridley Scott and is working with Scott on a yet-untitled Crusades picture.

Gay Detectives on ABC?
By Michael Schneider 

Hollywood November 12, 2002 (Variety) - ABC is developing a gay version of "Hart to Hart," in which a pair of interior decorators stumble upon a murder each week.

The network has ordered a script for "Mr. and Mr. Nash," and Alan Cumming ("Cabaret") has signed to play one of the leads. 

The project is being developed by Steve Martin's production company, along with Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the banner behind "That '70s Show." 

"I am proud to be a part of 'Mr. and Mr. Nash,' especially the part where it's a big hit," said Martin, who was recently announced as host of next year's Academy Awards. 

His partner in the Martin/Stein Co., Joan Stein, described the concept as "fun and silly." She said the producers will shortly launch a casting call to find a partner for Cumming's character. 

Robert Palm ("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit") will pen the script, and serve as executive producer with Martin and Stein. Cumming is set to appear in the upcoming features "Nicholas Nickleby" and "X-Men 2." 

[Movie fans will remember Alan Cumming as the bad guy manager in Josie and The Pussycats. Ed.]

Actress Peg Phillips Dies at 84
SEATTLE November 8, 2002 (AP) - Margaret "Peg" Phillips, a retired accountant who took acting classes at age 65 and won fame as the tart-tongued shopkeeper Ruth-Anne Miller in the television series "Northern Exposure" is dead at 84.

Phillips, an unrepentant smoker, died Thursday of lung disease at a suburban care center.

Born in Everett, Phillips wanted to be an actress from age 4 but worked as a bookkeeper and tax accountant to pay the bills and rear her four children. Only after retiring did she enroll in the University of Washington drama school in 1984. She soon landed so many jobs that she was unable to complete her degree.

In 1990 she was cast in what was supposed to be an intermittent role in "Northern Exposure," a CBS series on the fish-out-of-water travails of a New York doctor working off his student loan in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska.

Shot in suburban Redmond and Roslyn, 65 miles from Seattle, the show began as a summer replacement series but became so strong in the ratings it ran through 1995.

Phillips made her character so popular she was given a regular role.

On occasional she wrote her own lines. Criticized for smoking in one episode, she retorted, "I've been smoking since I was 13 years old, and during the Eisenhower administration I peaked at three packs a day. I'm not about to stop now."

She also appeared in at least eight movies, a number of television commercials and made guest appearances in such TV series as "7th Heaven," "Touched By an Angel" and "ER."

She appeared with Shirley MacLaine in "Waiting for the Light" (1990) and in the made-for-TV movies "How the West Was Fun" (1994) and "Chase" (1985).

Phillips founded the Woodinville Repertory Theater in Woodinville, a suburb northeast of the city where she moved to a 100-year-old farmhouse in 1977. Her last stage appearance was in the company's production of "Bell, Book and Candle" in 1999.

In 1987 she founded Theater Inside, a drama program for juvenile offenders at the Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie. She continued to work as a volunteer in the program until her health failed in recent years.

Survivors include two daughters, the Rev. Elizabeth Greene of Boise, Idaho, and Virginia Phillips of Everett, four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

A memorial service was held on Saturday at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue.

The Moose's Guide to Northern Exposure - http://www.netspace.org/~moose/moose.html 

Northern Exposure Scrapbook - http://www.moosebook.com 


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