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News Briefs

U.S. TV Broadcasts In Mideast Draw Mixed Reviews

By Neil Macfarquhar

The New York Times -- CAIRO, Egypt

A U.S.-sponsored satellite television station broadcasting in Arabic, probably Washington’s biggest propaganda effort since the attempts to undermine the Soviet bloc and the Castro government, is drawing mixed reviews in the Middle East, ranging from praise for slick packaging to criticism for trying to improve the image of “Satan.”

Those watching the station, inaugurated over the weekend with an interview with President Bush, find some appeal in the mix of news and pop culture. But many remain wary of the underlying political message.

The Bush administration began Al Hurra, whose name means The Free One, with the announced intent of challenging Al Jazeera and other Arab satellite stations frequently critical of U.S. policy.

Some differences in tone between Al Hurra and the Arab broadcasters were immediately apparent, like references to the “coalition forces” in Iraq rather than the “occupation forces.”

Instead of Palestinians trying to free themselves from the Israeli occupation, one anchor asked an analyst whether the Palestinians were ready to abandon their “historical dispute” for the economic prosperity surely to follow.

Everyone’s a Critic: 5,201 Trade Center Memorial Entries Displayed

By David W. Dunlap

The New York Times -- NEW YORK

Still not satisfied with pool-filled voids on the site of the twin towers? Count your blessings. It could have been a monumental red question mark, a geodesic steel egg, a glowing apple spiked on a tapering spire, two ghostly white airliners with the victims’ names inscribed on the seatbacks or a steel column tilted open like a Pez dispenser to reveal a jumble of mangled artifacts.

Well, actually, it couldn’t have been. A thirteen-member jury stood between New York and countless submissions to the World Trade Center memorial site competition whose creators were unconfined by the bounds of imagination. Or, often, by taste.

All 5,201 of the entries that the jury sifted through went on display at www.wtcsitememorial.org on Thursday. Visitors to the site who signed on to second-guess the jury -- “How could they have overlooked that?” -- probably left with a new respect for the jurors’ devotion and patience in going through the entire lot. Visitors may also have left with a sense that the world cared, no matter how clumsy or inartful the expression.

“Now everywhere and now everyone all over the world has the opportunity to view the global outpouring,” said Anita Contini, the director of the memorial program at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which oversaw the competition and created the Web-based exhibition.

Besides providing a kaleidoscopic perspective on ground zero from 63 nations and 49 states (hello, Alaska?), the Web site also offers an insight into the evolution of the winning design, “Reflecting Absence,” by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, competing entrants who became collaborators at the 11th hour.

New Data Supports View That Black Holes Can Destroy Stars

By John Noble Wilford

The New York Times -- New X-ray observations by orbiting satellites have given astronomers their first telling evidence that appears to confirm what had been only theory: that a star is doomed if it ventures too close to a supermassive black hole.

NASA and the European Space Agency announced Wednesday the detection of a brilliant flare of X-rays from the heart of a distant galaxy, followed by a fading afterglow.

An international team of scientists concluded that the telescopes had witnessed the overpowering gravity of a black hole as it tore apart a star and gobbled up a hearty share of its gaseous mass.

“Stars can survive being stretched a small amount, but this star was stretched beyond its breaking point,” said Dr. Stefanie Komossa of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, who led the discovery team. “This unlucky star just wandered into the wrong neighborhood.”

The astronomers estimated that about 1 percent of the victimized star’s mass was ultimately consumed by the black hole -- consistent with theoretical predictions that the momentum and energy of star destruction would fling most of the star’s gas away from the black hole.

For A Price, Women Add Their Touch To Adult Toys And Games

By Mireya Navarro

The New York Times -- Carlin Ross and Christina Head, a lawyer and a documentary filmmaker in New York, recently teamed up to plot new careers.

Among their first moves: Ross, 30, a general counsel to dot-coms, this month restarted an adult Web site, cherrybomb.com, that features “sex and love from a woman’s perspective.” Head, 26, who has primarily covered subjects like urban youth living in poverty, hopes to produce and direct pornographic films.

“It’s all about empowering and educating women and, of course, I enjoy sex,” Head said.

Head and Ross are part of a growing cadre of women who are selling sex to other women, in this case what Ross calls “female empowered” adult entertainment -- the kind with plots, foreplay and cuddling in the afterglow, the kind that is mindful of women’s tastes and suggests new possibilities for women’s pleasure.