To date, we've looked at Movies (The One, Harry Potter, Black Knight, Lord of the Rings and Not Another Teen Movie), TV (Buffy the Musical, Ab Fab and 24), the World Trade Center today, the on-going terrorist war, George Harrison, a new computer virus, an important Anthrax medical warning and in our night skies both Northern Lights and a dim comet...
Brush Fires In Australia
A line of about 100 fires are burning out of control and are close to the suburbs around Sydney (as near as 9 miles away) that stretch from the mountains to the seas (between 15 and 40 miles in distance). Arson is suspected in the worst brush fire incident since 1994. As yet there has been no serious property damage or injuries. Fire fighters had their Christmas holiday cut short as many were called up to fight the blaze...
Windows XP Users Need To Deal With Security 'Holes'...
Potential security problems in Windows XP have been independently identified. First requires a patch available from the Microsoft site. The second problem is that unless you are specifically using the Universal Plug and Play feature it should be disabled to prevent a possible security breach in your system...
Microsoft has made no common on the Plug and Play hole announced by the FBI today...
An Apparent Bomber Restrained On Trans-Atlantic Flight...
A man described as possibly being of Middle Eastern descent was grabbed and restrained by flight crew and passengers on a plane traveling from Paris to Miami. The flight was diverted to Boston's Logan Airport and escorted by U.S. Military planes. The man was believed to have home made explosives wired into his shoes.
Suicide Attacks Temporarily Halted.
Representatives from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said today that representatives of the militant group Islamic Jihad told them that they will be suspending further suicide attacks in Israel for at least a short period of time, while they decide what further action to take in the long run.
Previously another militant organization, Hamas, has also said it will stop such suicide attacks.
Both of these actions come at the prompting of Palestine's Yasser Arafat, who has been pressured by Israel, the U.S. and other international nations to bring an end to the bombings and suicide attacks in the region.
With luck a complete both Israel and Palestine will cease at least the most serious of the fighting and attacks for the immediate future.
For background on Palestine and the Middle East strife, see our story from May on Crisis in Jerusalem.
IMPORTANT Holiday Virus Alert!
If you get an e-mail with Christmas.exe attached or one saying 'Happy New Year' -- even if it's from somone you know -- don't open it! If you know the person, write them first and asked if they sent you something!
This new virus can disable your keyboard and wipe your system files!
The virus is known by several names, including Reeezak, Zacker and Malda. The primary text seen so far is: 'Hii I can't describe my feelings all I can say is Happy New Year :) bye' -- note that the first word: Hi, is spelled with two i's (Hii).
Riots in Argentina
Major riots have occured as a result of 18% unemployement and a government austerity program amidst a 4 year recession. People are breaking into supermarkets and stores stealing food, toilet paper, TV sets and other items.
Solar Eclipse in Central America Friday December 14th
There will be what is called an "annular" eclipse of the sun (the moon is too far from the Earth to totally hide the sun, so a small ring of sunlight will still be seen making it about 96% eclipsed, pictured at right is about how it will be seen in parts of Central America) in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The best U.S. views will be in Hawaii in the morning (79%) followed by Miami (50%) and Texas (40%) near sunset. All of Mexico should see between 50% and 90% of the sun's disk eclipsed.
Important! Do not look directly at the sun or use sun glasses! Project the image using a pinhole in paper (see the picture, below left, of the sun projected on a white table cloth via a pinhole in a shade or cardboard over the window -- this is how the eclipse will look in Los Angeles), a sun scope (Camera Obscura) or heavy welders glass -- not a plastic substitute, but glass! Glass filters some other harmful rays not blocked by plastic!
If you want to watch it on-line go to: http://eclipse.ice.co.cr/...
While not as spectacular as a fully total eclipse, partial and annular eclipses are still a rare event, occuring once every ten or so years for a given area of the world.
The eclipse will not be seen at all in the north east and tri-state area of the U.S. as it does not begin there until after sunset! It will not be seen as much more than a small bite out of the disk north of Los Angeles, Phoenix or St. Louis, with the worst views in Canada. It will also be seen below the equator in upper South America. For Hawaii the eclipse is in the morning, for the western U.S. and Mexico it begins in the afternoon. In the central U.S. and Mexico in begins in the late afternoon or near sunset. Maximum eclipse in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Havana will be at or near sunset.
The War on Terroism
The United States has just released the video tape they claim "incriminates" Bin Laden and his organization in the September 11th World Trade Center incident. In the transcripts we've seen of this tape Bin Laden talks about how the operation was planned, how the men were trained, kept in the dark about their mission and how much damage he had expected from the incident.
A Jewish Defense League (JDL) official has been arrested for obtaining explosives to be used in what appear to be 'terrorist' type acts against Arabs and Islamic buildings in Los Angeles.
Fighting still goes on around the mountains of Afghanistan.
Israel has broken ties with Yasser Arifat as a result of the latest bombings in Israel. The peace process in the Middle East seems to be totally stalled.
It should be noted that Bin Laden and those responsible for the World Trade Center incident have indicated that this was in connection with U.S. support of Israel and the treatment of the related Middle East issues...
The American caught fighting with the pro-Taliban forces in Afghanistan has stated that the U.S. will soon face biological or other terrorist attacks. Officials do not belive he was privy to such high level information due to his status with the Bin Laden and Taliban organizations and don't give his statement much weight...
New Movies Coming Out Soon...!
The first installment of Lord of the Rings is due out shortly in theaters. As with the very popular Harry Potter movie you may need to buy tickets in advance to catch the first few showings. It is unclear if this movie will do as good as the Potter film, especially since Hobbit fans have been around for most of 20th century (see our piece on the Hobbit books and the author in our July issue), they are a generally older, very hard core and difficult to please audience. Tolkien's son did not think his father would like this new movie very much! Unlike the Potter stories, which were written by a young, single mom in her free time, the Hobbit saga was written by an Oxford scholar, originally as bed time tales for his children...
Everyone who has seen the Potter movie seems to thinks it's the greatest thing since Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars or The Mummy...
Also coming out soon is a comedy spoof on teenage movies: Not Another Teen Movie for which we saw previews and there were a few good laughs in the trailer!
The One is still playing in some theaters. We rated it as a very good action film (see our review down near the bottom of this Update column).
The next two weeks will be your opportunity to catch a glimpse of this dim comet (magnitude of 5.5 to 6 -- you really need to be away from city lights to see this one) which can be seen under dark skies with a pair of binoculars as a fuzzy spot in the sky. It is quickly moving south in the night sky enroute to the setting Sun. Tonight you can find this comet in the constellation Cetus between NGC246 (a mag 8 planetary nebula) and Deneb Kaitos (a mag 2 star).
Here is a finder chart: http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov/images/00WM1/WM1-finder2.gif
Last Taliban Stronghold To Surrender
The Taliban are expected to surrender Kandahar, the city they had previously said they would defend to the last breath, to the new provisional government of Afghanistan on the condition at spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, will be allowed to live. The U.S. is expected not to favor these terms.
The search of suspected terrorist Omar bin Laden will still continue.
Our cover picture was taken after a big snow storm this year up at Frazier Park, California, which happens to be the home town of Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser (pictured at left), who was killed is the recent friendly fire incident out in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan. Frazier Park is a small mountain community of about 2,000 people, so virtually everyone in the town knew Sgt. Prosser or his family.
George Harrison Dies in Los Angeles
Harrison was the youngest of the 'Fab Four.' He played lead guitar for the band and wrote occasional songs. His first song, written with John Lennon, was on their fist album (Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers) and was not the song quoted in the Rolling Stone interviews with John Lennon (and published as the book Lennon Remembers), as I recall seeing a Lennon-Harrison song on that rather obscure album which featured the Beatles, who were primarily a back up band for singer Tony Sheridan.
Harrison also wrote some of their deepest songs, starting with Think For Yourself and he was very spiritual, getting involved with Transcendental Meditation and the Krishna beliefs. He studied Sitar with Indian musician Ravi Shankar.
He sang mostly back-up harmonies with the Beatles, but was featured as lead singer on most of their albums on at least one song -- the first I believe, was a Lennon-McCartney song called Happy Just To Dance With You and after that he only sang on his own compositions. He's best remembered for My Sweet Lord. Frank Sinatra liked Something, a Harrison song off the Abbey Road album so much he covered the song. Harrison's While My Guitar Gentle Weeps is supposedly a saga about the internal problems going on with the Beatles and featured Eric Clapton on guitar.
Harrison produced the second big hit for the group Bad Finger, Day After Day, playing the slide guitar solo on that song. He also helped produced many major films through his Hand-Made Films Company, including the popular Time Bandits.
Harrison helped the remaining Beatles overdub two Lennon song demos provided by Yoko Ono in the 1990s, which mark the last two songs on which all of the members of the Beatles performed together. The last official Beatles album, however, was Abbey Road. Harrison released several solo albums after the break-up of the Beatles.
His last thoughts, according to a close friend, were for everyone to love one another. In his deeply philosophical songs he tells us that "All Things Must Pass" and "Life Goes On Within You and Without You."
Bad Trans Virus Alert
This is the #1 worm, it comes in via e-mail, you don't have to open or execute the program, it runs automatically, puts a file called Kernel32.exe into your system. This program, like Sircam, spams everyone in your Outlook Express address book, replicating the virus. It also can provide your keystokes and all your passwords to the originator on the internet!
Visit the Symantec site: http://email@example.com to learn more and see our article on viruses for more information.
Photo of recent Northern Lights activity taken by John Kagey in Northwestern Virginia. This 30 second time exposure picture was taken with a Pentax K 1000 camera through a polarizing filter. John Kagey is affiliated with the All Astronomers Are Welcome club at Yahoo Clubs.
Because of recent solar activities it has been predicted that display of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) may be seen in the northern most regions of the world.
Northern lights occur when charged particles from the sun enter through an opening in the protective layer around our planet called the magnetosphere. This opening in the magnetosphere is found at both the north and south polar regions of the Earth. While normally you have to live in the Nordic countries, Alaska, Greenland and Canada or the very southern regions around Australia to see this spectacular display of swirling colors in the night sky, this year reports from as low as Atlanta were received! Quite often the northern most states in the U.S. such as Minnesota also get to see these regular displays which sometime occur around the midnight hour and are most often seen in the autum...
This weekend on both Saturday and Sunday such displays are a possibility due to the explosions on the sun which send highly charged particles out into space.
Since the magnetosphere that covers the rest of the Earth that is located away from the polar regions, the radiation and particles of solar wind are deflected and thus do not strike the upper atmosphere of the Earth.
The concept behind the Northern Lights is very much like the concept of television, where electronic particles strike a phosphor screen and generate light. In the case of the Aurora, the electronic particles sent out by the Sun strike a layer of our atmosphere that generates light from these intense particles.
World Trade Center Thanksgiving
Above, the American flag, flies at the site of what's left of the World Trade Center. Today is Thanksgiving day in the U.S. (see our look at Holidays for more information on this day) and one thing we have to be thankful for is that the estimated death toll at this site keeps dropping and is now thought to be less then 3,900.
Smouldering fires are still found during the digging process. Debris is now being removed to a landfill site at Staten Island.
Singles with Issues Magazine!
We have added a new feature to Issues Magazine which allows you to post a personals listing in our all new classifieds section. If you would like to meet someone new for the holidays or the new year, simply go to our Lifestyles Department and post your personals listing now, or browse our current listings!
IMPORTANT ANTHRAX WARNING YOU MUST READ!
Commentary -- The Federal Trade Commission has warned 40 web sites to cease offering remedies not proven to work for Anthrax. We have seen faxes come in from companies trying to cash in on the Anthrax worries.
If you have any flu-like symptoms, such as headache, body ache, chills, fever, sweating, vomiting or diarrhea you should not take home remedies, over the counter or internet web site "snake oil" medicines, but you should see a qualified physician immediately and go with their recommendations for symptomatic relief! There are no known home or over the counter cures for Anthrax or the flu. Both of these diseases can kill anyone. Both look alike and it is now flu season so one disease can be mistaken for another. See a Doctor if you have any symptoms, just to be sure this time around!
Again, no internet remedies available are known to cure or relieve Anthrax. If you have any symptoms that resemble the flu, contact your Doctor for a check up!
According to Iran radio, Osama bin Laden may have fled Afghanistan for the "free zone" inside Pakistan. This action has not yet been confirmed. On the war against terrorism front, Taliban forces now only control a fraction of the country that just five weeks ago saw them in control of nearly 90% of Afghanistan. The Taliban say this withdrawl from the rest of the country is part of their grand plan that includes the eventual destruction of the United States.
Plans and information on chemical and nuclear weapons were found in deserted strongholds used by either Osama bin Laden or the Tailban -- according to U.S. sources this information was not ulta classified and had not secrets one couldn't find elsewhere on the internet.
All sorts of things begin this weekend. Starting tonight (Friday) on UPN at 8pm with a repeat of Buffy The Vampire Slayer the musical -- which if you didn't see it was a real hoot! Worth taping and keeping!
The moon is just past "new" and a small crescent. Today begins the Muslim holiday of Ramadan -- a lunar month of fasting that continues into December (we look at this further in our regular Holiday section elsewhere in Features).
The first Harry Potter movie opens in the United States -- you will probably need to buy your tickets well in advance to get in this weekend and possibly next weekend, according to one employee of the AMC Theaters I talked with, as all shows will probably be sold out. The same may apply to Lord of the Rings when it opens in December. As we mentioned in our movie section the French film Amelie also opens in the next week or so in selected cities. This comedy got good mark with British audiences.
This weekend the Leonid Meteor shower occurs between tonight and early Monday morning. According to one science site we visited the high point of this meteor shower should occur between Saturday night and Sunday morning (there should also be some extra meteors out early Saturday, but Sunday around 2 am should be peak for many areas, while Monday morning may hold a second peak for the Western Pacific area). Normally this is not an overly spectacular shower, but periodically thousands of meteors can be seen in a hour and this year it is expected to be 'one of those' peak years! If you have a camera with a T or B setting you can photograph this with any film, by setting the focus to infinity, pointing the camera up into the night sky near the zenith, opening the shutter with a cable release and leaving the camera sit there with the shutter open for between 5 and 30 minutes.
World News and Politics
Bin Laden Claims to Have Nukes...
In an exclusive, but unconfirmed and unsubstantiated interview, with a Paskistan press editor, Osama Bin Laden claims to have an arsenal of both nuclear and chemical weapons. He said they would be used, but only in retaliation to a first strike against them from similar weapons.
U.S. officials feel Bin Laden does not have nuclear capability at this time.
Movie Review -- Now in Theaters
I've got good news for you and bad news... First the good news: It's a very good film. Lots of action. Excellent direction from James Wong. Solid script from Glenn Morgan and Wong. All the actors were top flight. Lots of fast action, special effects and Kung Fu fighting.
Now the bad news: If you're looking for something new and innovative, you won't find it here. This movie was heavily influenced by Jean Claude Van Damme's Timecop and the Keanu Reeves vehicle The Matrix.
Aside from the lack of true originality The One will have almost anything you could want in a hard fighting, action film. It has sci-fi elements but it's more a cop film. It has some humor -- I laughed my fool head off when the "evil" Jet Li picked up two motorcycles and made a policeman sandwich. That was a definite hoot! It has a good ending, befitting almost everyone. Lots of that high speed, slow speed, fast Karate kicking, slinky bullet dodging fight scenes.
It's all about an evil dude (Jet Li) who used to be a parallel dimension cop, but became corrupt when he found extra power by killing one of his own doppelgangers. So he went out in search of all 122 of the rest of his inter-dimensional doubles, meeting his match with good dude (Jet Li) L.A. Deputy Sheriff. Chasing after bad-guy Li are two Dimensional cops, bad Jet Li's old, experienced partner and a rookie. The Rookie befriends the good-guy Li and they work together to bring evil to justice! There are no silly, stupid characters in this film which also features Delroy Lindo, Carla Gugino, Jason Statham and James Morrison.
I was extremely pleased and felt the movie was well worth $8.50, even thought I got in at the $4.75 discount rate! I liked it better than The Matrix but felt MI2 was a better action film. So placing this film between those two is not bad! From Tri-Star Columbia. PG-13.
Also saw previews of the new Martin Lawrence film, Black Night which looks like it has a few laughs! Lawrence is a broke, average Joe who find an amulet in the pond and when he reaches for it he is magical sent back to the year 1300 where he is enlisted in a quest to restore the rightful Queen to the throne. This one opens at the end of November.
Also saw a preview of Not Another Teen Movie which is a send up of all those "teen" films like The Breakfast Club and American Pie and Scary Movie. This looks like it also has a few laughs -- a total send up of the 'John Hughes' genre...
AB FAB returns to Comedy Central on November 12th at 9pm. They "claim" with new epsidoes, not sure if that means really new, never before seen episodes of this popular British comedy formally known as Absolutely Fabulous which is about two burned out female friends who do too much blow, have too much sex and are jaded beyond belief. If you've never seen the show, it's a kick in the ass!
Politics and Religion
You may have heard in the news that the U.S. will be fighting through the Muslim month of fasting. We cover a little about that holiday and those that follow next month in December inside this issue in our Holidays around the World section...
BUFFY (The Musical) UPN Television Network -- I'm not usually a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, but I've been seeing the preview of their musical episode and I just had to tune in to see this one. If you missed it, better hope that UPN re-plays the piece! It's very clever, campy and their singing is mostly pretty good. If they did this every week I might watch the show more often! You don't have to like Buffy to like this episode, you just need to have a broad sense of humor and have a modest appreciation of Broadway musicals as an art form (and remember that this is, of course, a parody)!
Excellent lead-in for 24
24 - Fox Network. Very intricate show that will cover an hour per day in the life of an anti-terrorist task force leader who has 24 hours (read that as episodes) to find a hit man sent to kill a Presidential candidate.
Complicating Keifer Sutherland's life in this show is his missing teenager daughter, his wife out looking for her with the father of the daughter's best girlfriend. No one at the agency or in Government can be trusted. A 747 plane has just exploded over the desert (and possibly the hit woman has bailed out with a parachute). He just made an enemy of a high placed Government official by blackmailing important information out of the man. There is a love and allegiance triangle between him and two others in the anti-terrorist organization. The press has just told the Presidential candidate some news item that has him upset. The candidate's wife is upset because the he won't tell her what the news items was (obviously some dirty laundry).
The plot is definitely thick as a brick. Add to this triptic screens (action in three smaller windows from different angles and perspectives) for some scenes. The ticking digital clock before and after commercials (this show plays in "real time" one hour of our time is one out of his time).
Very excellent and novel television concept from ace writer Joel Surnow (most recently with Special Unit 2 and previously on staff with La Femme Nikita and Nowhere Man). Don't know what they will do for the second year. This idea didn't work very well when they tried it with lawyers (anyone remember Murder One which ran for a season, got recast and changed from looking at one case for a whole season to the typical type of L.A. Law type show), maybe it will work with spies!
It is a very good show, although the sub-plot with the daughter makes it very melodramatic. A little like some of the movies we've seen lately with Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford where their kids get taken and held until the star does some nasty deed. But the action is good, the actors well versed, the writing is consummate. This is a first rate show and ranks up their with Alias on my list of high tension shows.
The Department of Justice has reached terms of an agreement with Microsoft over the Anti-Trust case that has been pending for several years. It sets up a review board to make sure that Microsoft is complying. It sets up ways and means to allow other companies access to Microsoft operating system code and inside information.
Sun Microsystems (founders of the Java movement) is not happy with this settlement is and talking about a civil lawsuit against Microsoft.
Microsoft will no longer be including Java support in their Windows and Internet Explorer software starting in the near future as their agreement with Sun has expired and they will not be renewing that agreement.
Sun was displeased with the way Microsoft packaged Java (using Windows specific tools instead of generic code, making Microsoft Java incompatible with other systems, such as Linux and Macintosh).
Meanwhile Microsoft's new Xbox game site will officially open on November 15th. The site is located at: http://www.xbox.com. This is their new arcade game system...