Meteors Strike!
Mars and Pluto!
Van and Mick!
Bird Eats Horse!
Leonid Meteor Storm Strikes Earth Sunday!

Associated Press

MOUNT WILSON, CA November 18, 2001 (AP) - This year's much-anticipated Leonids meteor shower delighted people around the world who stayed up late or woke up early to see it, including a meteor-watching party of about 75 people atop Mount Wilson, northeast of Los Angeles.

Every few seconds at least a bit of space dust burned harmlessly into the atmosphere. The brightest flares left shimmering trails that hung for a few seconds.

"There are the little 'eeee' ones, then there are the 'ooooh' ones - those ones you have to stand up and follow with your head," said Susan Kitchens, a writer and artist at the Mount Wilson party.

"I've never seen it like this. I don't recall seeing this many meteors - ever," said Rick Yessayian, a sixth-grade teacher in Montebello who for nine years has helped organize the Mount Wilson party.

The shower was less intense than the 4,000 per minute some had predicted, but nonetheless it was a more impressive display than astronomers have seen in years.

Between 800 and 1,000 meteors were falling an hour at the peak of the shower between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. EST, said Mitzi Adams, astrophysicist for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

One observer in New York reported seeing three to five meteors a minute even after dawn broke, she added.

The Leonids are minute dust particles shed by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The meteors are called Leonids because they appear to come from the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion.

The comet swings around the sun once every 33 years, leaving a trail of dust. Each November, the Earth's orbit takes it through that slowly dissipating trail.

Comet Tempel-Tuttle most recently passed close to the sun in February 1998. However, the dust particles seen as shooting stars across North America on Sunday were shed during a 1766 pass.

Those particles, each no larger than a grain of sand, enter the atmosphere traveling 45 miles a second. When they meet the friction of air molecules, they burn up harmlessly, leaving only a brilliant streak of light.

But for the estimated 630 operational satellites in orbit around the Earth, the particles can be deadly. Many satellite operators, in preparation for the shower, turn the spacecraft to shield them from the meteoroids or shut down electronic operations.

In 1966, observers couldn't count the shooting stars fast enough. Estimates ranged as high as 150,000 per hour. Astronomers expect another such shower in 2099. Next year Leonid watchers probably will be foiled by a full moon, which is expected to wash out the sky with its brightness.

Comets are believed to contain pristine examples of the materials that coalesced 4.5 billion years ago to form the solar system. The frozen balls of ice and debris are rich with basic elements like iron, as well as carbon-based molecules. Some scientists believe this is how Earth was seeded with organic compounds when it was repeatedly pelted with comets early in its history.

At least four U.S. and European spacecraft missions are expected to study comets from up close over the next decade.

Two 587 Crash Victims Escaped WTC Attack

NEW YORK November 13, 2001 (AP) - Two of the people killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 had escaped death just two months ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Felix Sanchez, 29, had left his job as a Merrill Lynch broker at the trade center on Sept. 10. On Monday, he was flying to the Dominican Republic to meet with clients for his new career as a financial adviser to Dominican baseball players.

"After the World Trade Center, he had a renewed outlook on life," said a friend, Sid Wilson. "And the last time I saw him, he was so high on life. I can't believe this."

The day after Sanchez cleaned out his desk at the trade center, Hilda Yolanda Mayor escaped from the ground floor restaurant where she worked in the complex.

She had stayed in touch with relatives in her birthplace near San Pedro de Macoris. "She was my treasure," her mother, Virginia Hernandez, said from the family's home.

Mayor, 26, was headed home to vacation with her mother and her two children, who had arrived from New York two weeks earlier.

"We were going to make a meal. We were going to have all the family together," Hernandez said.

Sanchez, who was active in Dominican civic groups in Manhattan's Washington Heights, had hoped to help his countrymen invest their money wisely.

"He was really getting tight with all these big-name ballplayers," said an uncle, Leon Sanchez. "To him, this trip was going to be a victory."

"This guy was an example of the things that have gone right in our community," Wilson said. "He never left where he came from."

The dead and missing after the Sept. 11 attacks included 41 Dominicans.

McCartney Witnesses Crash Aftermath

LONDON November 13, 2001 (AP) — Paul McCartney witnessed the aftermath of the New York plane crash from the window of a Concorde jet, which landed in the city minutes after the American Airlines jet went down.

The former Beatle had flown into John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday morning to promote his charity single, "Freedom.''

"I looked out of the window and saw smoke and thought, `Oh God, not again.' It was like the Trade Towers all again,'' he said in a statement released through his London spokesman.

McCartney, who was in New York on Sept. 11, was traveling with his fiancée, Heather Mills, to promote the song, which he wrote to raise money for rescue workers and victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

McCartney said the crash didn't deter him from flying, but strengthened his resolve to help those affected by the terror strikes.

"I am just going to keep on going and keep at it. We have got to get behind America,'' he said.

"That is why I have done this song. They need people to carry on coming here and I am determined to do all I can.''

Paul's new LP and the "Freedom" single -

Uranium Leak Forces Nuclear Shutdown
STOCKHOLM November 14, 2001 (AP) — One of Sweden's 11 nuclear reactors will shut down for repairs at the end of next week because of a uranium leak, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Claes-Goeran Falk, a spokesman at the Oskarshamn plant, said the leak was minor and the public was not at risk. Falk said the repairs would take about a week and were needed to prevent a stoppage later in the winter season.

Small amounts of uranium may have been leaking from the fuel rods into the reactor water since August, Falk said. Plant officials thought repairs could wait until next summer's annual system overhaul, but the leak increased gradually, he said.

"It's hardly measurable," Falk said. "The risk is that the water spreads the contamination into pipes throughout the system," Falk said.

The Oskarshamn plant, 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital, Stockholm, shut down another of its three reactors for nine days in August for a similar problem. The plant is one of four nuclear generating facilities in Sweden and provides 10 percent of the country's electricity.

Swedish voters decided in a 1980 referendum to phase out nuclear power, but so far only one reactor at the southwestern Barsebaeck plant has been closed.
Actress Etta Moten Barnett Turns 100

CHICAGO November 13, 2001 (AP) — Pioneering black actress and singer Etta Moten Barnett celebrated her 100th birthday with a 3-foot-high cheesecake.

Harry Belafonte led guests in singing "Happy Birthday'' before Barnett blew out the single, oversized candle on her cake.

Some 400 friends and fans attended Sunday's celebration at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Barnett appeared in "Gold Diggers of 1933'' and in "Flying Down to Rio'' with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She starred in "Porgy and Bess'' on Broadway in the 1930s and sang with Duke Ellington. Her clear singing voice caught the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who invited her to sing at his White House birthday party.

She was also the host of her own radio show, "I Remember When,'' and was active in the National Council of Negro Women, Chicago's DuSable Museum and other civic causes.

Studs Terkel, who was among those who attended the party, called her life "the story of a people and the story of a nation.'' She grew up in Texas during the Jim Crow era, went to college as a single mother of three and refused to take roles that demeaned blacks.

"She gave black people an opportunity to look at themselves on a big screen as something beautiful when all that was there before spoke to our degradation,'' Belafonte said. "In her we found another dimension to being black in our time. She was a true shining star.''

2500 Year Old Persian Canal Discovered

Glasgow November 13, 2001 (NY Times) - In 480 B.C., King Xerxes of Persia ordered his men to build a canal a mile and a quarter long through a peninsula in northern Greece — conceivably one of the biggest engineering assignments of its time.

The canal was critical to Xerxes' plan of invading Greece, a goal that his general, Mardonius, had unsuccessfully attempted 12 years earlier. Mardonius' fleet was destroyed in a storm while sailing around the tip of the peninsula, and Xerxes wanted to avoid a similar setback by building the canal.

Xerxes went on to invade Greece, starting a brief period of Persian conquest in Europe. In the 2,500 years since, historians have debated whether the famed Canal of Xerxes was really dug all the way from coast to coast. Some have doubted its existence, pointing to a rocky plateau that they argue would have made the construction an impossible task for workers of that day.

Now, scientists from Britain and Greece have come up with what they say is conclusive evidence that the canal was indeed built. Using geological information gathered from several yards below the earth's surface, where the structure now lies buried, the scientists have drawn a map detailing the canal's dimensions and course. The findings confirm the description given in an account by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, which some scholars have long regarded with skepticism.

Buried under centuries of silt and alluvium, the structure is testament to remarkable military strategy, work- force management and civil engineering. It also tells of shortsightedness and haste, and of a king who was probably in such a hurry to conquer that he never thought of preserving the canal as a permanent waterway.

"From the analysis of sediments in the canal, we know that it probably had a short lifetime," said Dr. Richard Jones, the lead researcher on the project and an archaeologist at the University of Glasgow. "The Persians did not think of it as a monument that would remain for centuries. Once their ships were through, that was the end."

Spanning about 100 feet at the surface, the canal was just wide enough for two war galleys to pass. Its sides sloped inward, forming a width of roughly 50 feet at the bottom, about 45 feet below the surface.

"It was a colossal enterprise," said Dr. Ben Isserlin, an archaeologist at the University of Leeds who started the canal exploration project in the early 90's. "There were no pulleys. So the workers had to shovel earth into baskets and pass them along, from one person to the next, all the way to the top."

The mapping of the canal was a laborious enterprise itself. Dr. Jones and his colleagues used a seismic method that has traditionally been used in oil and mineral prospecting. Essentially, they hit a piece of metal placed on the ground with a heavy hammer, sending shock waves into the earth. By analyzing the time it took the waves to travel back up, the scientists were able to draw a seismic profile — a kind of phantom image — of the buried waterway.

"This was too big a target for conventional archaeological techniques," said Dr. Vassilis K. Karastathis, a member of the team that conducted the seismic survey and a geophysicist at the National Observatory of Athens in Greece. The team's findings were reported in The Journal of Applied Geophysics.

The canal structure imaged by the geophysical team was confirmed by analyzing sediment samples drilled from different depths.

Dr. Maria Brosius, a scholar of ancient history at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, said the engineering skills showcased by the canal had been around before Xerxes. "The ability to build a structure like that can be traced to Babylonian and Assyrian roots," she said.

Canal building, Dr. Brosius said, may even have been known in the kingdom of Urartu, which existed between the ninth and sixth centuries B.C. extending over part of what is now Armenia.

The construction was as much a feat of management as of engineering. Xerxes is believed to have drafted Phoenician engineers and to have assigned teams of workers to different sectors of the canal. Upon completion of the canal, the Persian fleet made it safely to the Aegean Sea, where it was joined by the troops that had taken the land route from the north. The ships sailed on to Greece. Xerxes' soldiers stormed the coast and advanced deep into Greek territory. They destroyed Athens but eventually lost to the Athenians in a battle that ended the Persians' fleeting imperial presence in Europe.

"The canal was forgotten," said Dr. Jones, the lead researcher.
Statues of Ancient Indian Emperor Unearthed

BHUBANESHWAR, India November 9, 2001 (Reuters) - Indian archaeologists have unearthed two ancient statues of a third century B.C. emperor which are believed to be the first visual representations of the warrior king who gave up war to become a Buddhist monk.

One of the statues found in the eastern state of Orissa shows Ashoka praying without his royal regalia while the other has him flanked by his queen, said Debraj Pradhan, curator of the Orissa Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Education.

"The statues are of tremendous historical significance," Pradhan said.

Indian media reports said the statues were the first visual representations of the king.

Emperor Ashoka, a mere name in history texts until now, has been in the news recently because of a new Indian film on the king's life starring Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan.

The emperor is said to have ascended the throne after killing his brothers and expanded his kingdom through a series of ruthless wars.

But the king had a change of heart after seeing thousands of corpses strewn on a battlefield. He converted to Buddhism and began spreading the religion in his kingdom and beyond.

Microsoft's Gates Envisions 'Digital Decade'

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS November 12, 2001 (AP) - Despite an economic landscape of dead start-ups and battered high-tech companies, Microsoft Corp.'s chairman says innovation is still alive and will fuel what he calls the "digital decade."

In a keynote address Sunday to kick off the massive Comdex trade show, Bill Gates outlined his vision of a connected - and highly mobile - society, one he says will surpass the technological feats of the last 25 years.

"We have not even scratched the surface of what we can do," Gates said.

It's the vision of a world where the number of people using e-mail to communicate will quadruple from today and where e-commerce will finally take off in the way visionaries and analysts have talked about for years. Gates also predicted the percentage of American homes with PCs will grow from just over 50 percent to 75 percent by 2010. And many of the households will have more than one.

The PC, however, is only one part of that vision. Gates unveiled new prototypes of Tablet PC, a pen-based device that is expected to include wireless networking capabilities.

"The Tablet PC is going to be revolutionary," he said.

As envisioned, the Tablet PC would be a full-powered PC that runs on Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. It would function as a digital sheet of paper, allowing users to take handwritten notes on the device or create e-mails in handwriting, and then link the data with their laptops or desktops. Gates unveiled the tablet as a concept at last year's show, but this year showed off working prototypes of models that computer manufacturers plan to sell in the second half of next year.

Gates predicted the device will be the most popular form of the personal computer five years from now.

The showstopper of the keynote came at the end when there was a demonstration of Microsoft's Xbox game console, due to be released Thursday. The crowd roared when he gave away free consoles to four audience members.

Gates closed by urging the techno-savvy audience to forge ahead with their ideas.

"There's more opportunity for us to improve the world than anyone else," he said. "So let's go out and do it."

Spray-painted Death Declared Homicide
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. November 12, 2001 (Knoxville News-Sentinel) - The death of a man who was found spray-painted orange from "head-to-knees" this month has been ruled a homicide, police say.

Terry Pease, 45, of Morristown, Tenn., was apparently disrobed and then spray-painted with orange, "Halloween-type" washable hair coloring before collapsing dead at his cousin's house Nov. 2, according to Morristown Police Detective Rick Harmon.

The paint fumes overwhelmed Pease's respiratory system, causing his bronchial tubes to swell and cut off the flow of oxygen to his bloodstream, Harmon explained.

"He was alive whenever he was painted, because he'd obviously breathed in the paint," Harmon said. "On the cans of this type of hair dye, there are warning labels that say the paint can be fatal. This is unbelievable." The death initially wasn't classified as a homicide, but an autopsy report changed the thrust of the investigation.

Pease apparently spent the last afternoon of his life at cousin's home, Harmon said. In the evening, three people described as "one white male and two white females ... pulled up and hollered at Terry (Pease)," Harmon continued. Pease allegedly left with the trio and returned several hours later, visibly intoxicated and somewhat disoriented, Harmon said. He had been covered with orange paint.

"He was painted on his hair, his face, beard, stomach, groin and legs," Harmon said. "It looked like someone had pulled down his pants, spray-painted him and then gotten him dressed again."

Pease collapsed shortly after arriving at his cousin's home and couldn't be revived by his family. After an autopsy was performed, authorities came to the conclusion that Pease had met his death at the hands of someone else.

"I just don't think anybody would spray themselves in the face with this stuff," Harmon said.

Harmon said he believes that Pease died as the result of a "prank." There were no clues as to whether there was any significance to the use of the color orange. "I don't how they ended up with that color," he said.
Topless Protesters 'Strip-Tease for Trees'

EUREKA CA November 11, 2001 (Reuters) - Nine bare-breasted women briefly halted logging work near California's contested Headwaters Forest on Friday in a protest against what they said was unconscionable logging of redwood trees.

"These gorgeous young women were belly dancing. One logger actually got down on his knees and kissed the ground," said Dona Nieto, a California activist who has staged several "Strip Tease for the Trees" protests.

Nieto -- a poet who goes by the name "La Tigresa" -- said the protest interrupted logging work for about two hours at a point known as the "Hole in the Headwaters," an area of second-growth redwood trees left out of a 1999 deal between Pacific Lumber Inc. and state and federal officials aimed at preserving the Headwaters Forest about 250 miles north of San Francisco.

"To log the hole in the Headwaters is like raping a virgin, because the Headwaters Forest Preserve is supposed to be kept intact and virginal," Nieto said.

The protesters, who gathered at around 5 a.m. PST, stripped off their shirts, sang, chanted and handed out chocolates to surprised loggers, tying up traffic for about two hours until police arrived to clear up the scene. There were no arrests.

"The loggers and the cops were absolutely stunned," said Nieto, who launched her anti-logging protests last year with demonstrations of what she calls "Goddess-based, nude Buddhist guerrilla poetry" to a number of timber and logging sites in and around northern California.

Pacific Lumber spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel said the protest occurred on a county road, not company property, and quickly dispersed once police appeared.

"They weren't trespassing; they were on a county road. It didn't cause too much of a delay," she said.

Friday's action marked the largest environmental strip-tease to date.

One of the protesters, a 22-year-old who gave her name as "Maple," said she was surprised at how agreeable the loggers were when confronted by topless women.

Women Have 15% More Brain Cells

Ontario November 13, 2001 (BBC) - Women's brains are more tightly packed with cells in the area that control mental processes such as judgement, personality, planning and working memory, researchers have found.

A team from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, found that women have up to 15% more brain cell density in the frontal lobe, which controls so-called higher mental processes. However, as they get older, women appear to shed cells more rapidly from this area than men. By old age, the density is similar for both sexes.

Researcher Professor Sandra Witelson said it was not yet clear what impact, if any, the difference had on performance.

Dr Tonmoy Sharma, a consultant psychiatrist at Stonehouse Hospital, Dartford, Kent, said the greater density of cells did not mean that women could out-perform men.

He told BBC News Online: "Women have smaller brains, but there is no difference in the mental performance of men and women. The greater density of cells could be one way by which nature ensures that women can perform adequately despite the smaller size of their brain."

Dr Sharma said it was possible that the fact that women shedded cells at a greater rate put them at a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Alzheimer's disease, for one, is more common among women. But he said there were many factors which could come into play.

Dr Richard Harvey, research director for the Alzheimer's Society, told BBC News Online that the fact that women lived considerably longer than men was by far the most significant factor.

The findings were presented to the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Spinach and Blueberries Are Brain Food
Associated Press Writer

SAN DIEGO November 12, 2001 (AP) — Studies exploring the effects of specific foods on the brains of animals found that diets rich in spinach and blueberries may help stave off age-related declines in rats' mental abilities.

Rats fed a diet rich in spinach reversed a normal loss of learning that occurs with age, according to a study by researchers at the University of South Florida. The study was presented at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in San Diego this week.

Rats fed a normal diet that contained 2 percent freeze-dried spinach learned to associate the sound of a tone with an oncoming puff of air faster than those fed regular rat chow, the study found. The test measured the interval between the sound of the tone and when the rats blinked.

The experiment was designed to test the ability to associate two distinct but related events, a skill that has been shown to decline with age in rodents, rabbits and humans.

Spinach is rich in antioxidants, which scientists say can block the effects of free radicals. Studies suggest the lifelong accumulation of free radicals in the brain is linked to mental declines in old age and is also a probable factor in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

"This is a preclinical finding of significant interest that now needs to be tested in humans,'' said Dr. Paula Bickford of the University of South Florida, an author of the study.

Blueberries are also rich in antioxidants. A study by researchers at the University of Houston at Clear Lake and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico found that blueberries may help fight age-related declines in rats' memories.

Aging rats that were fed a blueberry-supplemented diet for four months tested as well as younger rats in their abilities to recognize objects after an hour. Aging rats fed a normal diet failed to recognize the objects.

"This complete deficit was fully alleviated by diet,'' said Dr. David Malin of the University of Houston at Clear Lake.

The brains of the rats in the experiment are being analyzed to determine whether blueberries slowed brain degeneration.
First Visible Picture From Mars Odyssey!

Pasadena November 13, 2001 (JPL/NASA) - This picture shows both a visible and a thermal infrared image taken by the thermal emission imaging system on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft on November 2, 2001. The images were taken as part of the ongoing calibration and testing of the camera system as the spacecraft orbited Mars on its 13th revolution of the planet.

The visible wavelength image, shown on the right in black and white, was obtained using one of the instrument's five visible filters. The spacecraft was approximately 22,000 kilometers (about 13,600 miles) above Mars looking down toward the south pole when this image was acquired. It is late spring in the Martian southern hemisphere.

The thermal infrared image, center, shows the temperature of the surface in color. The circular feature seen in blue is the extremely cold Martian south polar carbon dioxide ice cap. The instrument has measured a temperature of minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus184 degrees Fahrenheit) on the south polar ice cap. The polar cap is more than 900 kilometers (540 miles) in diameter at this time.

The visible image shows additional details along the edge of the ice cap, as well as atmospheric hazes near the cap. The view of the surface appears hazy due to dust that still remains in the Martian atmosphere from the massive Martian dust storms that have occurred over the past several months.

The infrared image covers a length of over 6,500 kilometers (3,900 miles) spanning the planet from limb to limb, with a resolution of approximately 5.5 kilometers per picture element, or pixel, (3.4 miles per pixel) at the point directly beneath the spacecraft. The visible image has a resolution of approximately 1 kilometer per pixel (.6 miles per pixel) and covers an area roughly the size of the states of Arizona and New Mexico combined.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington D.C. The thermal-emission imaging system was developed at Arizona State University, Tempe, with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing, Santa Barbara, Calif. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Green Light For Pluto

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online Science Editor

Washington November 8, 2001 (BBC) - Delighted scientists have welcomed the approval of space missions to the planet Pluto and Jupiter's moon Europa, on which there could be life.

A budget of $30m has been approved by the US House and Senate conference committee to develop the mission to Pluto. Another surprise was the committee's agreement to fully fund future missions to Mars, something it was widely expected to cut. However, the American space agency (NASA) must provide a new, detailed plan for the exploration of the Red Planet beyond 2007.

"This is a victory for public interest," said Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society. "The people let Congress know that they want NASA to explore Pluto - the only remaining unexplored planet in our Solar System - and Congress responded."

Scientists say that the US Government's decision to sanction a probe to Pluto comes just in time. If Congress had cancelled the funding, the opportunity for reaching the distant world would have been lost for a generation. Pluto's orbit is taking it away from the Sun and it is getting colder, so any further delay in sending a probe would have meant losing the chance of seeing the planet's atmosphere before it freezes and condenses in 2015.

Even so, the mission to Pluto cannot launch until 2006. And this is the last opportunity for more than a decade that a probe can leave the Earth and take advantage of a Jupiter gravity-assist to be slung on to Pluto.

The mission time, depending on the launch vehicle selected, will be from 10-12 years. The US Government also gave the go-ahead for the mission to put a spacecraft into orbit around Europa, one of Jupiter's major moons.

Europa is covered in ice but astronomers believe an ocean of water may exist beneath it that could harbor primitive life. Full funding of $92.1m was also granted for the Next Generation Space Telescope - the successor to Hubble - and NASA was ordered to submit a plan to launch it in 2007. If that cannot be done, Congress said that the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now over 10 years old, must not be turned off before its replacement goes into orbit.

Wil Wheaton Comes Home!

November 13, 2001 (eXoNews) - Wil Wheaton has an excellent web site! Unlike most of the multitude of celebrity sites around the Internet, Wheaton is a self-confessed geek who authors and maintains the site himself. What really makes this URL rock is the author's  unique take on what is probably the most successful science fiction venture of all time - Star Trek, a show that Wheaton once quit cold.

Since the launch of TNN's Star Trek: The Next Generation revival, Wheaton has resurfaced within the franchise and now he confirms that Wesley Crusher, his Star Trek alter ego last seen tripping off into the cosmos with the mysterious "Traveler", will return for the upcoming Star Trek: Nemesis, which begins filming this month.

Here's the text of Wil's announcement. Visit his site for lot's more data, Data.


"When I did Weakest Link, I stood next to LeVar. We were talking during the commercials, and I said to him that I really missed them. He said to me that I should be in the movie, especially since it's going to be the last TNG movie. I told him that I would love to be in it, but I really thought that Berman and company really didn't like me. He seemed surprised, and he told me that he was going to call Rick the next morning, and suggest to him that I be in the movie, at least as a cameo. I thought that would be really cool, and told him so.

"Last week, on Friday, my agent called me to let me know that there was an offer from Paramount to reprise the role of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek X. We just needed to work out the details.

"So we spent some time negotiating it, and --get this-- Rick Berman told my agent that he was "very pleased" that I was going to be in the movie!

"I am really excited about this for three reasons:

* I am going to get to work with my friends again.
* Wesley Crusher will have some real closure, finally.
* For the last 5 years, at least, everywhere I go, fans ask me if I'm going to be in a movie, and what happened to Wesley, and I can honestly say that I'm doing this for the fans, because it will be so damn cool to see all of us together again.


Wil Wheaton Dot Net -

Genre News: X-Files, Buffy, Star Trek, Roswell

Robert Patrick Talks X-Files

Hollywood November 14, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - The X-Files star Robert Patrick told SCI FI Wire that there will be conflict between Agents Doggett (Patrick) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) and surprising cooperation between Doggett and Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

"We've picked up right after the birth of Scully's baby," Patrick said in an interview. "We've introduced a couple of new characters [Lucy Lawless as Shannon McMahon and Cary Elwes as Asst. Director Fullmer], and we've closed a few doors, while opening up some whole new conspiracies and investigations."

Patrick added, "Let's see, what can I tell you without Chris [Carter] killing me? Scully's not happy with the way Doggett's proceeding with the investigation of the supersoldiers. It's confusing to me, because she flip-flops, and it just doesn't seem like her. There's a reason for that, and I don't know what it is. Doggett's also got a conflict with Kersh [James Pickens Jr.]. I don't trust him. Reyes and Doggett are now very clearly working together."

Speaking specifically of Doggett, Patrick reported that fans can expect Doggett to become the new Mulder in the coming weeks. "I've totally assumed that place on the show and at The X-Files," said the actor, who spent his summer hiatus relaxing with his wife and children. "And that's interesting and unnerving for Doggett. Remember, he was a fast climber in the FBI and very well respected. Now he finds himself totally alienated, and the friends he had in the FBI are no longer his friends."

X-Files airs Sundays at 9PM on Fox

Official X-Files Site -

Nice Alternate X-Files  site (ahem) -

'Buffy' Lands on the Auction Block

LOS ANGELES November 13, 2001 ( - Whether your tastes lean towards music or clothes, fans of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" can get their fill via online charity auctions.

"Buffy" star Sarah Michelle Gellar is auctioning off her outfits, along with "Dawson's Creek" star Katie Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, Britney Spears and Sheryl Crow -- just to name a few -- and all for a good cause. The clothes went on the block Sunday (Nov. 11) at  and the proceeds will help raise money for Sept. 11 relief organizations.

The clothes will remain on auction for two weeks after the starting date and include a geometric red and ivory silk print Valentino dress Gellar wore to the Golden Globes this year.

Meanwhile, "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon is allowing fans to bid on signed copies of the musical score he recently composed for a special musical episode of the horror/teen drama on, which will also be donated to victims of Sept. 11 through the website's Auction For America project which contributes to the Twin Towers Fund.

Those trying to get their hands on the signed score, however, better save up their pennies. The auction for a wooden stake and the signed sheet has jumped from a starting bid of $75 to $2,550 at press time. In addition, Gellar's dress is currently priced at $955.

Buffy airs Tuesdays at 8PM on UPN.

Official Buffy Site -

Nemesis Ready to Shoot

Hollywood November 14, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - The 10th Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, will begin filming on Nov. 19, the Trekker Newsletter reported. Nemesis star Patrick Stewart reportedly told fans at the annual Galaxy Ball convention and fund-raiser about the start date.

Stewart was joined at the event by Next Generation co-stars Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Wil Wheaton. When a fan asked if the events of Sept. 11 would have any effect on the script, Stewart replied, "The script is going ahead as planned. No changes have been made." Stewart added that given the recent situation, "there is no better time for a Star Trek movie and for this movie in particular."

Star Trek Stars On America Online

NEW YORK, November 14, 2001 (PRNewswire) - Space, the final frontier. But what about cyber-space? The New TNN: THE NATIONAL NETWORK, the home of the STAR TREK franchise, goes into warp speed to discover a new frontier with the most comprehensive STAR TREK chat to be held on America Online (AOL). The "Ultimate Star Trek Chat Marathon" will take place live on Monday, Nov. 19 and Tuesday, Nov. 20 and can be accessed at AOL Keyword: Live (8:00-11:00 PM, ET).

The Monday, Nov. 19 "Chat Marathon" will feature the men of STAR TREK while Tuesday, Nov. 20 features the women of STAR TREK. Some of the celebrities confirmed to participate include; Marina Sirtis -- Counselor Deanna Troi on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION; Denise Crosby -- Lt. Natasha "Tasha" Yar on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION; Robert Picardo -- Doctor on STAR TREK: VOYAGER; Walter Koenig -- Pavel A. Checkov on the original STAR TREK; Wil Wheaton - Ensign Wesley Crusher on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION with more stars signing on daily.

Rodriguez Reveals Roswell Details

Hollywood November 13, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Adam Rodriguez told SCI FI Wire that even after Jesse Ramirez (Rodriguez) and Isabel Evans (Katherine Heigl) tie the knot in the "To Have and To Hold" episode of Roswell the groom still wouldn't have any idea that his beloved is an alien.

"She feels she's got to hide it from me," Rodriguez said. "It's a huge dilemma for her."

Rodriguez added, "Once she tells me, if she tells, my life will change forever. Our lives will change forever, regardless of what I decide to do, whether I decide to stay with her or leave her and Roswell. I don't know how long they're going to play it out, but it's an interesting plot turn because it adds tension to everything that goes on for Isabel. It's also funny because I'm just oblivious to it all."

The actor is no stranger to genre television, having co-starred as Patrick Fortado on the short-lived UPN series, All Souls. Still, he readily admits, he didn't know thing one about Roswell before joining the cast.

"I had to learn about Skins and Antar and how the alien kids ended up on Earth and had their DNA mixed with human DNA and were put in these pods and then walked out of the desert 12 years ago and were adopted by human families," he said. "I had to learn everything. It's been an education. The whole back-story is really cool to me and now I'm just glad to be a part of it. I really dig it."

Roswell airs on Tuesdays at 9PM on UPN.

Unofficial Roswell Site -

Bush Administration Recycles Controversial Nominee
Washington DC November 12th, 2001 (Earthjustice) - Reacting to the news that the Bush administration’s first failed environmental nominee has resurfaced in another high-level position, Earthjustice called the move, "a deliberate and backdoor attempt to continue down a clear anti-environmental path." Donald Schregardus, the embattled and defeated nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement division, has now been named to a new environmental position – the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Environment – that, unlike the EPA post, does not require Senate confirmation.

Schregardus was recently appointed to the new post of Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Environment for the Navy’s Installations and Environment Division and is reportedly scheduled to begin work Tuesday. The post was created when another position — Assistant Deputy Secretary for Environment and Safety — was divided into two positions, possibly to create a spot for Schregardus. The new position appears to be in charge of compliance with environmental laws and clean up of hazardous waste sites for the Navy.

"We are pleased that the White House is taking an interest in recycling," said Earthjustice policy analyst Maria Weidner. "Unfortunately, they’re recycling a bad nominee by trying to again put him, again, in an important environmental position."

Schregardus had been the Bush administration’s nominee to head EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, but withdrew his nomination in mid-September after drawing fire from national, regional, and Ohio environmental groups, as well as several US Senators. Factors involved several troubling aspects of Schregardus’s track record as director of Ohio EPA, including:
  • Schregardus’s opposition while at Ohio EPA to every federal initiative to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants and his role in the agency’s decision to disregard a federal mandate that called for the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from utilities.
  • A ruling by a US administrative law judge that found Schregardus and other Ohio EPA officials guilty of violating the whistleblower provisions of seven federal environmental statutes and of misrepresenting possible threats to human health at contaminated sites in Marion, Ohio.
  • During Schregardus’ tenure at Ohio EPA, legal actions brought by the agency to force polluters to clean up contaminated sites fell by more than 50 percent.

"The announcement that Mr. Schregardus has been appointed to this environmental position is particularly disturbing because one of his most pronounced failures in Ohio involved not cleaning up contaminated sites — including a military site in River Valley that is the likely cause of a cancer cluster in that community," asserted Weidner. "Schregardus will almost certainly face similar situations in his new position, which appears to have responsibility for site cleanups and environmental compliance for the Navy."

King Pays One Cow For Violating Sex Ban

MBABANE, Swaziland November 12, 2001 (AP) - The king of Swaziland paid the traditional fine of one cow Sunday for violating his own ban prohibiting girls under age 18 from having sexual relations.

About 300 young women marched to a royal residence outside of the capital, Mbabane, and laid down their symbolic chastity belts - a multicolored tasseled scarf - in protest of King Mswati III's choice of a 17-year-old as his ninth wife.

The cow was then speared, roasted and eaten in a festive gathering held by the young women.

Concerned by the high rate of HIV infection in his country and describing teenage girls as "flowers that should be protected," the 33-year-old king in September reinstated the traditional chastity rite of "umchwasho" banning girls under the age of 18 from having sex.

More than 25 percent of adults in Swaziland are infected with HIV, according to the United Nations. The disease has already killed tens of thousands of Swazis.

According to Swazi custom, a man must pay a cow as a fine if he takes an underage girl as his wife after the ban is declared. Mswati's newest wife, Notsetselelo Magongo, is 17.

The sex ban was last imposed in this tiny mountain kingdom in southern Africa two decades ago.

Young women in traditional rural areas where powerful local chiefs enforce the king's will appear to have accepted the order, but it has been more difficult to enforce among the country's urbanized girls.

Pregnant Woman Gets Pregnant!
Rome November 12, 2001 (BBC) - An Italian woman is due to give birth in a hospital in Rome this week to a baby girl - before returning three months later to have triplets. If both deliveries are successful, it is thought that this will be the first such case in history.

Flavia D'Angelo, 20, denies suggestions that she might have had hormone or fertility treatment. She has already named her first child Denise.

She told Italian television: "When I was at the sixth month of my pregnancy and went to see the doctor for the usual tests and scans, he noticed that, apart from Denise, there were another three babies. I didn't believe it at first. I remember asking the doctor to make sure because I just couldn't understand how it was possible. The difficult thing is not knowing what is going to happen after Denise is born. After that it is all suppositions and theories."

Professor Ian Craft, director of the London fertility clinic, said it should not be theoretically possible for a woman to be pregnant twice at the same time.

"Normally when you are pregnant you switch off your ovulation, and you don't then ovulate again and you have no periods until your child is born and you are at least part the way through breastfeeding. I have never seen it in my whole professional career."

Professor Craft said the condition, known technically as superfecundation, does occur rarely in animals. However, he said it was extraordinary for someone to conceive naturally and then to spontaneously ovulate three eggs again. The chance of having triplets is only one in 6,000.

"How often would you expect these two combinations to go together? You are more likely to win the lottery."

Professor Craft said there was a high risk that the triplets would be born prematurely. He said there were also difficult questions about how the first child should be delivered to minimize risk to the triplets.
Old Rockers Never Die News:

Van Morrison Wins Libel Damages

Belfast November 14, 2001 (BBC) - Singer Van Morrison has won substantial damages over a newspaper allegation that he had an affair with American singer Linda Gail Lewis. A lawyer for the Sunday Independent apologized to Morrison and his long-term partner Michelle Rocca in the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday.

The allegations were contained in extracts from an interview with Ms Lewis who appeared on Ulster Television's weekly chat program, Kelly, last month.

A solicitor, reading out an agreed statement in settlement of Van Morrison's libel action, said the paper fully accepted that there was absolutely no truth in the allegations.

He said the paper's publishers, Independent Newspapers Ltd, had agreed not to repeat the allegations and to pay substantial damages to Van Morrison, together with his legal costs.

The Belfast-born singer, 56, who lives mainly in Dublin, recently recorded a top-selling album with Ms Lewis, a sister of legendary rock artist Jerry Lee Lewis. After the UTV appearance, he issued a statement denying her claims.

"These outrageous allegations are a complete and utter fabrication," he said.

Morrison's solicitor said: "Hopefully this full retraction and apology will put an end to the publication of these totally false allegations in the press."

He said a libel writ had been served on UTV and a detailed statement of claim was being filed on Wednesday.

"We have also put on notice The Mail on Sunday, the Irish Star and the Daily and Sunday Mirror our intention to issue libel proceedings if we do not receive a satisfactory response and proposals forthwith. Mr Morrison will also be seeking substantial damages and we have instructions to issue libel proceedings if we do not receive an immediate and satisfactory response."

No Sir Mick For Jagger

London November 14, 2001 (BBC) - Rolling Stone Mick Jagger has poked fun at the royal family for the lack of honors he has received during his long musical career.

In a documentary, the singer held a conversation between himself and an imaginary royal person, drawling in exaggerated upper-class tones: "Is it true that you haven't got anything at all? That is rather odd, isn't it?"

Jagger's fellow musicians Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John have already been formerly recognized, and The Beatles were all made MBEs many years ago, although John Lennon later handed his back. Jagger made his comments shortly before meeting the Prince of Wales at the London première of the film Enigma, which the singer produced.

Enigma, based on the book by Robert Harris, was about the work of code breakers working at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Channel 4's program, Being Mick, also sees the 58-year-old joke about Sir Elton and Enigma star Kate Winslet. It looks at Jagger in his film-producer role as he battles to get the ending of Enigma right following various test screenings. Being Mick also coincides with the release of Jagger's latest solo album, Goddess in the Doorway. Stars including Bono, Lenny Kravitz, Pete Townshend and Wyclef Jean, who all contributed to the album, appear in footage of various recording sessions.

Jagger's comments came after Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts confirmed that the band plans to reunite next year for a special 40th anniversary tour.

Last week Watts, who is currently performing with his jazz group in New York, said: "As far as I'm concerned, it will happen. We said we would do it in June and we are gearing up to it."

Psychedelic Stone Age Sound System
By John Innes

Reading, Scotland November 11, 2001 (The Scotsman) - Stone Age man deliberately built his tombs 5,000 years ago to create a "wall of sound", new research reveals. Tombs in Orkney and standing stone circles in Aberdeenshire were constructed to amplify the music until it left worshippers in a trance-like state. The effect of the low-frequency sound, which was mood altering, would be amplified by light.

The discoveries were made by two scientific teams, working in parallel, examining Neolithic sites in Scotland, England and Ireland.

Dr David Keating, of Reading University, said: "Stone Age people were a lot more sophisticated than we have given them credit for. We are seeing here a sophistication in acoustics that is apparent to us in the sophistication of the building, in its architecture, and its astronomical alliance. It has opened our eyes."

Dr Keating, of the cybernetics department, had begun his investigation with colleague Dr Aaron Watson. The archaeologist had made an accidental discovery while on a visit to the 13 standing stones at Easter Aquorthies, near Inverurie, in Aberdeenshire.

"When I first visited the circle, what struck me was, as I moved across the very central region of the monument, I heard an increase in volume - it became a fuller sound. Moving across the site, I heard those sounds suddenly decrease."
Recent Supreme Court Rulings
Associated Press

No To Review of Emotionally Troubled Student Case

WASHINGTON November 13, 2001 (AP) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to spell out what school districts are required to do to accommodate children who are emotionally troubled. Justices declined without comment to review a case that asked whether Congress intended special help for students like "Dale M.," who used drugs and caused problems in his Illinois high school.

"This case presents questions of exceptional importance regarding the rights of emotionally disturbed children," lawyers for the student told the court.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act says that disabled students are entitled to special accommodations at no cost. The act applies to children with mental retardation, specific learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and other disabilities like deafness. It has been used to require public school districts to pay for specialized private schooling.

In Dale's case, a school psychologist said he suffered from depression. He was skipping school, drinking up to 12 beers a day and regularly smoking marijuana. His mother enrolled him in a residential school in Maine, where court records show his discipline problems stopped. The mother said that the Illinois district where they lived should have to pay for the school, because of his disability.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals described Elan School as a "boarding school for difficult children." The court also said that because Dale's problems were not "primarily educational," they did not qualify him for reimbursement.

Illinois education officials had approved the school and its curriculum. A federal judge had already ordered the Bradley-Bourbonnais district to pay for Dale's classes. A panel of the 7th Circuit voted 2-1 to overturn that.

"None of us who wear black robes are in an institutional position to second guess the Illinois Department of Education that approved the program as a permissible placement for Illinois school children," Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in a dissent.

Lawyers for the Illinois school district Dale attended said that the Maine school did not have special treatment programs.

"Had the Elan school offered services tailored to address Dale's psychological and other needs arising from his disability, rather than serving only as a holding pen, the 7th Circuit's analysis leaves no doubt that it could have been an appropriate educational placement," the lawyers wrote in court papers.

Dale's problems date back to 1993, when he was 14. He was charged with various crimes and caused problems for teachers. School leaders enrolled him in a day school for troubled students, but he refused to go to classes.

The case is Dale M. v Board of Education of Bradley-Bourbonnais High School, 01-431.

Decision Doesn't Change Grandparents' Rights

WASHINGTON November 13, 2001 (AP) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider changing Louisiana's law that grants some grandparents court-ordered rights to see their grandchildren.

The justices declined without comment to review an appeal from a former oil-rig worker left to raise a 1-year-old daughter when his wife died of a brain tumor. Jeffrey Alan Harris argued that his late wife's family was trying to be a parent to his child. Last year justices struck down a Washington state visitation law and warned that states must be careful in giving grandparents and others with close ties to children the right to see them regularly against a parent's wishes.

The ruling gave America's estimated 60 million grandparents no special status in visitation cases. But at the same time, it did not definitively answer such questions as what standard judges should use in protecting the rights of parents. The emotional subject pits parental rights against states' efforts to promote children's best interests. States have a variety of grandparent visitation laws.

"A fit parent like Jeffrey should not be compelled into court by the state to, in effect, be 'married' to his in-laws," Harris' attorney said in asking justices to reconsider the issue.

Trisha Galjour Harris sued to end her two-year marriage in 1997, just weeks before her death. Among complaints was her husband's drinking, court records show.

Under Louisiana law, if a spouse dies or is imprisoned, that spouse's parents may be given reasonable visitation if a judge decides it is in the grandchildren's best interest. A Louisiana appeals court said the law was not too far-reaching.

In the Washington case, the Supreme Court ruled against the parents of a man who committed suicide. The couple had been given visitation rights to see their son's two daughters, over objections of the girls' mother.

"So long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children ... there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent's children," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in last year's decision.

The judge in the Louisiana case urged Harris to get along with his in-laws. "You're going to need some help raising a little girl, so that would be a very good resource to you. You all can try to get past this litigation and get on with your lives," the judge said.

After losing in Louisiana courts, he appealed the judge's ruling granting Gaston and Pat Galjour visitation to the Supreme Court. He argued that the state grandparent visitation law is unconstitutional.

"This statute cannot be read or stretched in any way to be interpreted as granting unto grandparents the same rights and status as parents," the Galjours' attorneys told justices. "Camille's liberty interest in preserving the bonds with her mother's family, especially given the fact that her mother is deceased, must not be ignored," the attorneys said in court papers.

The Galjours, who are retired, see their granddaughter one weekend a month, in addition to summer vacation and holidays. The court order forbids them to purchase her inappropriate gifts, take her out of the greater New Orleans area or let her visit her mother's grave without the father's permission.

The girl's father quit his offshore job in 1998 to spend more time with the daughter. His attorney said he is "a fit parent who only wants what Pat and Gaston Galjour had, the right of a parent to raise his child without interference by the state in favor of grandparents."

The case is Harris v. Galjour, 01-411.

Ruling Against Victim in Stolen ID Case

WASHINGTON (November 13, 2001 3:10 p.m. EST) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against a woman from California whose identity was stolen, closing the door on late lawsuits over credit reporting problems.

The 9-0 decision, the first of the court's term, strips Adelaide Andrews of the right to sue a former credit reporting agency for giving out her private information. Her attorney argued that the lawsuit was late because she didn't find out right away about the reporting activities. Justices rejected arguments that victims need extra time to sue over damaged credit but said Congress could reconsider the subject.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said from the bench that Congress imposed a two-year limitation on cases that accuse companies of violating a federal fair credit reporting law.

"Courts have no warrant to enlarge the exceptions absent a green light turned on by the legislature," she said.

Andrews' identity was stolen by a receptionist at a doctor's office, her lawyers said. Andrews sued TRW in 1996 for disclosing her credit reports in 1994 and wrongly including a transaction by the impostor in her credit report. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Andrews could sue TRW because the time limit for the case didn't start until she discovered a problem.

The Supreme Court, which overturned that, had been told by industry attorneys that companies could not keep records indefinitely in anticipation of lawsuits.

Consumer advocates, who supported Andrews, argued that the fear of successful lawsuits would force the agencies to police their information more closely and catch identity thieves. The Bush administration also sided with Andrews. At least 20 percent of victims of identity theft do not find out about the theft within two years, federal statistics show. Congress was told this spring that identity theft has become a national crisis. The number of people victimized may be as high as 750,000 a year, privacy advocates have said.

The case is TRW v. Andrews, 00-1045.
When A Bird Eats A Horse, That's News!
By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online

Messel, Germany November 14, 2001 (BBC) - A spectacular new fossil of a tiny ancient horse is shedding new light on the evolution of equines.

A developing foal inside the pregnant mare has been preserved in remarkable detail.

The fossil was found at the Messel open-pit mine in Germany, where more than 70 specimens of ancient horses have now been unearthed. Details of the discovery are revealed in the forthcoming BBC TV series Walking With Beasts.

Dr Stephan Schaal, of the Senckenberg Research Institute, Germany, told BBC News Online: "The find of the adult horse includes the best preserved foetus we have ever discovered in Messel. Compared with other Messel horses, it has impressive preservation of the complete jaws with its teeth."

The forest dwelling horses come from a time, 49 million years ago, when tropical forests stretched right to the poles. The largest mammals were about the size of a pig, and giant stalking birds, Gastornis, took the role of top predators.

Two species of the tiny forest-dwelling horses, Propalaeotherium, are known from fossil evidence at Eocene sites in Germany. The smallest was the size of a fox terrier, and the largest about the size of a German shepherd dog.

The stomach contents of most specimens show that they ate foliage but one was full of fruit - a grape similar to that used to make wine. Scientists believe the mammals browsed on whatever they could, including fallen fruit when it was available. The fossil also sheds light on how these ancient horses raised their young. All of the 10 fossils of pregnant mares found at Messel were carrying one foal.

This is evidence, says palaeontologist Dr Jens Franzen, that even primitive horses had an evolutionary strategy of raising one or two offspring.

"That would point to some kind of special care of the offspring and would indicate that there was a herd involved in joint care," he told BBC News Online.

The horses had just begun to diverge away from the group of odd toed mammals, or perissodactyls, that were the common ancestors of living horses, rhinos and tapirs. They had five toes, which over the course of evolution, fused into the one hoof found in modern-day horses.

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