NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 August 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, August 19, 2001

Spirituality and Medicine: A Proposal

NOTE: To view the article with Web enhancements, go to:


Lodovico Balducci, MD, and Russell Meyer, MDiv

[Cancer Control; JMCC 8(4):368-376, 2001. © 2001 Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute]


Dissatisfaction with medical care has increased among patients and providers, despite unprecedented medical successes.[1-3] This paradox may be caused by a number of possible reasons, including a higher degree of patient education,improved access to information,criticism of the profession by the media, emergence of alternative forms of medicine that make unrealistic promises, increased cost of care, fragmentation of care into specialties and subspecialties, and divestment of primary care of its original role of patient advocacy.

Surprise! The Earth may be OK after all


By Nicholas Wade

The New York Times

Sunday, August 19, 2001

The news from environmental organizations is almost always bleak. The climate is out of whack. Insidious chemicals taint food and drink.

Tropical forests are disappearing. Species are perishing en masse.

Industrial poisons pollute air, earth and water. Ecosystems are being stressed to the breaking point by the greedy, wasteful consumption of the Western lifestyle and its would-be imitators.

So it is a surprise to meet someone who calls himself an environmentalist but who asserts that things are getting better, that the rate of human population growth is past its peak, that agriculture is sustainable and pollution is ebbing, that forests are not disappearing, that there is no wholesale destruction of plant and animal species and that even global warming is not as serious as commonly portrayed.

The author of this happy thesis is not a steely-eyed conservative economist but a vegetarian,backpack-toting academic who was a member of Greenpeace for four years.

He is Bjorn Lomborg, a 36-year-old political scientist and professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. Lomborg arrived at this position, much to his own astonishment, through a journey that began in a Los Angeles bookshop in February 1997.

Lomborg was leafing through an issue of Wired magazine and started reading an interview with Julian Simon, a University of Maryland economist who argued in several books that population was unlikely to outrun natural resources. Simon, who died in 1998, is more widely known for his solution to the airline overbooking problem (having airlines pay passengers to take a later flight) and for a 1980 bet with Paul Ehrlich, president of Stanford University's Center for Conservation Biology. Simon bet that any five metals chosen by Ehrlich would be cheaper in 1990; Ehrlich lost on all five.

Lomborg felt sure that Simon's arguments were "simple American right-wing propaganda." Back in Aarhus, he started nightly study sessions with his statistics students to debunk Simon's contentions, using figures drawn from reports of the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Panel on Climate Change and other gatherers of official facts.

"Three months into the project, we were convinced that we were being debunked instead," Lomborg said. "Not everything he said is right. He has a definite right-wing slant. But most of the important things were actually correct." Lomborg has presented his findings in "The Skeptical Environmentalist," to be published in September by Cambridge University Press.

The primary targets of the book, a substantial work of analysis with almost 3,000 footnotes, are statements made by environmental organizations like the Worldwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. He refers to the persistently gloomy fare from these groups as the Litany, a collection of statements that he argues are exaggerations or outright myths.

Lomborg also chides journalists, saying they uncritically spread the Litany, and he accuses the public of an unfounded readiness to believe the worst.

"The Litany has pervaded the debate so deeply and so long," Lomborg writes, "that blatantly false claims can be made again and again, without any references, and yet still be believed."

Lomborg says it is necessary to look at long-term global trends that tell more of the whole story. For example, the Worldwatch Institute, in its 1998 "State of the World" report, said, "The world's forest estate has declined significantly in both area and quality in recent decades." But the longest data series of annual figures available from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization shows that global forest cover has increased, to 30.89 percent in 1994 from 30.04 percent of global land cover in 1950.

The Worldwatch report goes on to claim that because of soaring demand for paper, "Canada is losing some 200,000 hectares of forest a year." The cited reference, however, says that "in fact Canada grew 174,600 more hectares of forest each year," Lomborg writes.

Janet Abramovitz, Worldwatch's forest expert, said the world forest cover had shrunk significantly in the past 20 years. She based that contention on a different, shorter series of Food and Agriculture Organization statistics but declined to cite a percentage. The institute's figure on Canadian forest loss was an error, she said.

In its report for 2000, the Worldwatch Institute cited the dangers it had foreseen in 1984 -- "record rates of population growth, soaring oil prices, debilitating levels of international debt and extensive damage to forests from the new phenomenon of acid rain" -- and lamented that "we are about to enter a new century having solved few of these problems."

But in his book, Lomborg cites figures from the Census Bureau, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Environment Agency to show that the rate of world population growth has been dropping sharply since 1964; the level of international debt decreased slightly from 1984 to 1999; the price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is half what it was in the early 1980s; and the sulfur emissions that generate acid rain (which has turned out to do little if any damage to forests, though some to lakes) have been cut substantially since 1984.

Warming forecasts

Lomborg also takes issue with some global warming predictions. In assessing how waste gases could warm the world's climate, he says, there are four wild cards that affect computer models of climate change: the effects of clouds, aerosols and the sunspot cycle, and the multiplier effect of carbon dioxide.

As carbon dioxide heats the atmosphere a little, the air can hold more water, and that heats the atmosphere a lot more. How much more is in question, but Lomborg cites satellite and weather balloon data that seem to weaken the case for a strong multiplier effect.

He believes that the International Panel on Climate Change deals all four wild cards in a way that exaggerates the effect of greenhouse gases. Moreover, he contends that the internationally agreed Kyoto targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions will impose vast costs for little result. A more effective approach, according to Lomborg, would be to increase research on alternative sources of energy, such as solar and fusion.

Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said new satellite data were likely to point toward a strong multiplier effect for carbon dioxide. And while Michael Oppenheimer, an expert on global warming at Environmental Defense, agrees that clouds and aerosols are weak points in the climate models, he says Lomborg's contention on the effects of the sunspot cycle is not widely accepted.

"The Skeptical Environmentalist" portrays several other elements of the Litany as little more than urban myths. One is the prediction that the world's forests and a large number of species are headed for catastrophe. Lomborg believes that forest loss has been less serious than is often described -- only 20 percent since the dawn of agriculture, not 67 percent, as stated by the World Wildlife Fund.

He also puts the present annual rate of loss at 0.46 percent, as calculated by the Food and Agriculture Organization, rather than at 2 percent or more, the figure cited by many environmentalists.

Counting lost species

Given that the forests are not doing that badly, he is skeptical of claims that the world is about to lose half or more of its species.

The often quoted figure that 40,000 species are lost every year comes from a 1979 article by Norman Myers, an ecologist at Oxford University. But this figure, Lomborg says, was not based on evidence but on Myers' conjecture that 1 million species might be lost from 1975 to 2000, which works out to be 40,000 species a year.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the Red Book of endangered species, concluded in 1992 that the extinction figures for mammals and birds were "very small" and that the total extinction rate, assuming 30 million species, was probably 2,300 species a year.

Lomborg says Myers repeated his estimate in 1999 with a warning that "we are into the opening stages of a human-caused biotic holocaust."

Myers confirmed in an interview that the figure of 40,000 extinctions a year had come from his estimate but said that it was an illustration used to make his argument clear.

Lomborg believes that the environment must be protected and that regulation is often necessary. But exaggerating problems distorts society's priorities, he says, and makes it hard for society to make wise choices about whether to devote resources to the environment or, say, the easing of child poverty.

Though no longer a member of Greenpeace, Lomborg still counts himself as an environmentalist and portrays his critique as based on the outlook of a leftist. "I'm a left-wing guy," he says, "and a vegetarian because I don't want to kill animals -- you can't play the `He's right-wing so he's wrong' argument."




Thursday night's Politically Incorrect show was most enlightening for me. For starters, I got to meet Terry Bradshaw in the green room (he was taping a show of PI for the next night). Bradshaw is a four-time superbowl champion and all-around nice guy. But, more importantly, chatting with Whitley Streiber was most insightful. He told me that he has written 23 books, only 16 of which are fiction. In my opinion all 23 are fiction, but what I found interesting both off the record in the green room and on the record on the air, is that he equivocated considerably about whether he really thought it was aliens who "probed" him in the middle of the night while he was sleeping. I thought this was rather odd since in Communion, and in his other alien books, there seems little doubt that he does think it was aliens from another planet, and not neuronal aliens from his brain.

Before the show I found Streiber a very pleasant fellow and enjoyed talking to him, but during the show he was mostly irritating because he did not seem to know when to talk and when to listen. It was fine for him to interrupt me because that's what he and I were suppose to do (have it out over aliens). But he continually interrupted the very sweet "Mrs. C" from Happy Days, Marion Ross, and really blundered by interrupting Kevin Nealon, who was on the show to tell funny stories, which he did, despite Streiber's constant blurting out of remarks (Nealon had a little cheat sheet he kept pulling out during the breaks, on which was cribbed notes about different stories for different subjects). Also enlightening was Streiber's response to my calling attention to the fact that before his "alien abduction" he had already written a fair amount of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. What he said was that initially he too could not distinguish between a possible alien abduction experience and just his imagination and fantasy. Obviously he resolved that dilemma, at least long enough to add "A True Story" after his book title "Communion."

The mail has been mostly positive, but here's a gem I thought you all might enjoy. This guy didn't seem to understand that my little story about the aliens from the planet Vega was made up. I talked about how after spending five zillion zoloties on this exploratory mission they returned with only cattle genitals and photos of crop graffiti, and consequently got chewed out by Senator Zorg in the Senate hearings about why they spent so much money on this mission to earth for so little return. So, for the record: I made up this story. As far as I know, no aliens from Vega have visited Earth, and if they did I would have no idea whether they use money or not, or even if there is someone named Senator Zorg.

This reminds me of another show I was on last year with a couple of astrologers. I told the same story about Vegans spending 5 zillion zoloties on this mission and returning with cow genitals, Senator Zorg and the hearings, etc. The one said to me: "They don't use money on Vega. They have no possessions." My response: "Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man. You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one . . . " They didn't seem to get that joke either.

Maybe Lyndon Johnson's quip (related to me by a mathematician at a recent conference and modified slightly) goes a long ways toward accounting for such responses: "The modal human is too damn dumb to pour piss out of his boots."

That reminds me of James Randi's response to the question "why do smart scientists believe weird things?" We were both on a panel at a conference. As I gathered myself to launch into a lengthy discussion of the psychology of belief systems, etc., Randi grabbed the microphone and blurted out: "a lot of them are just not that smart." That brought down the house and I passed on answering the question.

VIEWER LETTER (spelling, etc. as sent):

Hello there, the MAIN reason i am writing is because i seen one of you fellas on Politically Incorrect: with Bill Mahyer (maybe when you write me back you could tell me who it actually was)

But anyways, THATS the fella you sent to represent you dudes and your skepticism?? Well, THATS why i'm writing to you! I'm sorry, but this fella was a MEATHEAD! He was dissing that sci-fi writer dude who said he was tested by Aliens, and he was goin on about "Why would Aliens spend alllll the money to come here to get cow testicles" Well i'd just like to say, to buddy, that MONEY is a HUMAN CONCEPT, and a stupid one at that. Why in the Universe would an intelligent species even think of money or even any kind of credit? He believes that Humans are an intelligent species, well thats enough for me i says. Be as skeptic as you want i say! But thats just foolishness.

But i would like to say theres nothing wrong with being rational, otherwise you are nothing but an animal right? But theres even a line between being rational and actually having an idea. I mean, you guys say yer bein skeptical, but you still base it on beleif, same as ANY RELIGION! Say maybe, the KKK? Hah, i don't think you know any better then they do. So what i'm saying is that what you say skepticism is, i say its a religion. Its great to have ideas, but its pretty much just plain stupid to believe anything. And you believe nothing but that you are right. " All i know is that i know nothing " You dudes took that too far i think anyways.

Its all good tho, you guys ain't the KKK, you are just trying to be rational, and thats alright, thats good, but have a little FAITH will you!! Something can and WILL happen, ANYTHING can and will happen. And if you were being rational then you would have this idea.

So on that, i'm done, tell me what you think about that.

I especially enjoyed reading this nasty review of my book, The Borderlands of Science, that appeared a couple of days ago in the British newspaper Independent. I think the reviewer embodies precisely what I discussed in the book about muddled thinking, particularly about how science really works. Here is my favorite line from the review:

"An old-fashioned believer in facts, he is quite unaware that ignorance has now become an integral part of science."

Well, yes, if facts are a part of science then I guess that makes me old-fashioned, and, no, I was not aware of the new and important role of ignorance, although it would appear that this reviewer has fully embraced the principle.

2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd 14 August 2001
Reviews (Oxford University Press)

A sceptic stuck in a scientific time-warp

The Borderlands of Science: where sense meets nonsense by Michael Shermer

By Ziauddin Sardar

Feeling intellectually challenged? Can't tell the difference between butter and margarine? This guide on how to be a sceptic should be ideal for you.

Michael Shermer is a professional sceptic: the kind who edits Skeptic magazine and goes around exposing spoon-benders, alternative medicine practitioners and other charlatans. He is on a crusade to expose frauds and gobbledygook. His weapon is science, "the best knowledge filter invented".

So we find the world divided into three neat parts: normal science, non-science and borderland science. Normal science includes evolution, quantum mechanics and the Big Bang theory. In the non-science corner, we have creationism, alien abductions and astrology. In the borderland area, we find superstring theory, theories of consciousness and hypnosis.

How do we tell the difference? Shermer kindly provides us with "The Boundary Detection Kit", a recipe for how to be a sceptic. It consists of 10 questions such as: how reliable is the source of the claim?; have the claims been verified by another source?; and how does this fit with what we know about the world and how it works?

When science and the kit come together, we can distinguish between truth and illusion. The knowledge filter, Shermer contends, wakes us so we do not allow our dreams, say of alien abduction, to become reality. The ideal is to develop a mechanism that automatically engages our knowledge filter, saving us from delusions, quack medicine and lunatic theories.

It's good, sensible advice. It will be of immense use to people who accidentally missed primary education or left their brains in their mothers' wombs. I suspect that most of these will be Americans, as the kind of non-science that Shermer exposes originates largely from North America.

But are people who believe in alien abduction, aura reading and past-regression therapy open to any kind of scepticism? And who is the bigger nut: the person who believes in "remote viewing" (the ability to travel in mind and give detailed descriptions of a person, place, process or object) or the person who devotes endless time to exposing it as fake?

There are more fundamental problems with Shermer's scepticism. It is firmly of the Eurocentric kind that believes science was invented in Europe 300 years ago. He lumps acupuncture and yoga with dowsing and channelling, unable to distinguish between bodies of knowledge thousands of years old, with their own system of rationality and evidence, and a recent new-age fad. Moreover, his knowledge filter and boundary-detection kit cannot really tell the difference between an ancient and sophisticated medical system such as ayurveda and the schemes of Deepak Chopra, designed for California buffoons who will believe in anything.

Worse, Shermer's scepticism is directed towards soft targets. When it comes to science, it turns into dogmatic belief. His understanding of history is less than rudimentary. When discussing the problems of ethics and morality in science, or the issue of cloning, his language becomes irrational and paranoid. Every argument is dismissed as a "historical common rejection of new technologies".

To top it all, Shermer's view of science is totally obscurantist. An old-fashioned believer in facts, he is quite unaware that ignorance has now become an integral part of science. We now appreciate not just that science seldom solves problems in neat packages, but also that there are always extra bits that cannot be solved. As in the case of nuclear waste, these messy bits of science are typically neglected by many scientists as well as professional sceptics. Only someone ideologically sold on the Victorian notion of science as absolute truth would insist that it should be the yardstick for measuring all reality.

When scepticism becomes a business, it blinds even its most ardent supporters. Shermer needs to open his eyes to genuine sceptical humility.

The reviewer's books include 'Introducing Mathematics' (Icon)

In case any of you want to do something really sick, here is how to shove a knitting needle through your skin. I've been asked how people do this and finally received an adequate explanation from B. Premanand, our skeptical friend in India, via American skeptic Gerald Huber:

1) The blood flow through the artery. When you stretch the skin to be pierced, the blood flow stops. After piercing when you suddenly let loose the skin, the spike presses the artery and so blood does not come out. By the time you remove the spike, the blood gets clotted around the spike which stops the blood flow later. May be just one drop of blood is sometimes seen at the time of piercing with the spike.

2) Pain is elivated because unless the experience of pain reaches the brain one cannot know it. The pulling of the skin before piercing numbs the artery and the nerves which sends pain message to the brain. So one does not feel the pain.


Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Director of the Skeptics Society (http://www.skeptic.com), host of the Skeptics Science Lecture Series at Caltech, columnist for Scientific American (http://www.sciam.com), and author of Why People Believe Weird Things, How We Believe, and The Borderlands of Science.

When Lake Monsters Attack! The darker side of aquatic enigmas.



When Lake Monsters Attack!
The darker side of aquatic enigmas.
by Davy Russell, Editor
X-Project Magazine

The majority of lake monster and sea serpent reports describe large, serpentine creatures that may startle observers, but rarely do these reports describe violent behaviour. However, there are numerous legends and eyewitness accounts that suggest some of these cryptids may be "sometimes" predatory. You may want to be wary next time you¹re enjoying your favourite lake, river, or swimming hole on a hot summer day...the pool may be safer!

Lake Erie Monster - USA
Bessie, the large, serpentine creature that haunts Lake Erie in the USA and Canada, has been sighted numerous times. There is an unconfirmed rumor which tells of a lethal encounter with a creature who¹s head was the size of a car and killed 3 people in 1992. Although Bessie is generally benign, a more sinister creature has been attacking swimmers near Port Dover, Ontario, Canada in August 2001. News headlines last week covered three bizarre incidents where swimmers were bitten by an unknown fish - or something. Dr. Harold Hynscht, who treated one of the bite victims, has ruled out some of the theories attempting to put a face to the bite marks. Released pet Pirranhas, Lamprey eels, snapping turtles, walleye, goby, and muskellunge fish have been ruled out, prompting Dr. Hynscht to suggest the attacks were caused by a Bowfin fish protecting its territory. However, this has not yet been confirmed.

The Lau And The Lukwata - Africa
A giant, 100 foot-long lake serpent that lurks in the swamps, rivers, and lakes in Uganda, Africa has been feared by natives because of its predatory nature, often taking large mammals or fishermen. Explorers of the region heard these bizarre tales that became more credible as some of them observed the creature themselves.

Dobhar-Chu - Ireland
A strange creature of the Irish lakes is the Dobhar-Chu of Lough Mask. Also called the dobarcu or dhuragoo, this "water hound" has been reported to attack people. It is described as sort of looking similar to a large otter, white in colour with black ear tips and black across the back. It is said by some to look like "half wolfdog/half fish". In Roderick O¹Flaherty¹s book, A Description of West Connaught written in 1684, he recalls a startling incident of the dobhar-chu. "There is one rarity more, which we may term the Irish crocodile, whereof one, as yet living, about ten years ago had sad experience. The man was passing the shore just by the waterside, and spyed far off the head of a beast swimming, which he took to be an otter, and took no more notice of it; but the beast it seems lifted up his head, to discern whereabouts the man was; then diving swam under the water till he struck ground: whereupon he run out of the water suddenly and took the man by the elbow whereby the man stooped down, and the beast fastened his teeth in his pate, and dragged him into the water; where the man took hold of a stone by chance in his way, and calling to mind he had a knife in his jacket, took it out and gave a thrust of it to the beast, which thereupon got away from him into the lake. The water about him was all bloody, whether from the beast's blood, or his own, or from both he knows not. It was the pitch of an ordinary greyhound, of a black slimey skin, without hair as he imagines."

Underwater Mystery Attacker - USA
Mrs. Darwin Johnson had a terrifying encounter with a strange creature while swimming in the Ohio River in Evansville, Indiana on 21 August 1955. Something with a claw-like hand under the water grabbed her knee. She struggled in vain as the thing dragged her underwater twice. She eventually fought off the unseen attacker with a friend's inner tub. The only evidence of Mrs. Johnson's ordeal were some scratches and a green palm print on her knee.

Thetis Lake Monster - Canada
Thetis Lake, located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, is said to be home to a silvery-scaled humanoid with gills that lurks in its waters. Sporting webbed feet, hands, and ears, the Thetis Lake Monster adds to its fearsome appearance with a razor-sharp fin or crest on its head. Its large, fish-like eyes are said to penetrate the murkiest of water. Two teenagers were allegedly attacked by the monster on 19 August, 1972. After seeing the scaly creature rise from the lake, the boys fled in terror, with the monster in pursuit. It caught up with one of the boys, cutting his hand with its barbed head-fin. The boys escaped, and told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the incident. The RCMP launched an investigation that yielded no evidence despite other residents coming forward with their sightings of the creature. The investigation was soon called off.

African Brain-Sucker (Mamlambo) - Africa
The "half horse, half fish" Mamlambo inhabits the Mzintlava River in the Mount Ayliff area of South Africa. Eyewitnesses describe this creature as being 20 meters (67 ft) long, with short stumpy legs, crocodillian body, and the head and neck of a snake. It is said to have a hypnotic gaze, and shine at night with a green light. It drags human and animal victims in the water, drowning them, and sucking their blood and brains out. The Mamlambo is described in Xhosa tribal mythology, and is said to bring great wealth to those brave enough to capture it. Government sources say that the creature has claimed 7 human victims in 1997 alone, along with several goats. But freelance journalist, Andite Nomabhunga, says that 9 human deaths have been blamed on the Mamlambo, including a school girl. Mount Ayliff police claim that most of the alleged victims which have been found had simply drowned. Sometimes, crabs have eaten away at the soft tissues of the face and throat. Despite police explanations for the deaths, villagers claim that they are not just superstitious tribe people, but educated people who are being terrorized by the Mamlambo.

Bunyips - Australia
According to Aboriginal legend, Bunyips are creatures that lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. They emerge at night, making terrifying, blood-curdling cries, and devour any animal or human that dare venture near its abode. The Bunyip's favourite prey is said to be women. Fearing to go near suspected Bunyip haunts, the Aborigines shared their fearsome legends with early white settlers. After hearing such tales, they became fearful of strange, loud noises at night, and seriously considered the existence of the Bunyip Monster. Descriptions of Bunyips include a wide spectrum of appearances from animal to spirit. Some describe the Bunyip as a gorilla-type animal (kinda like bigfoot, or the Australian Yowie), while others say it is half animal, half human or spirit. Bunyips come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are described to have long tails or necks, wings, claws, horns, trunks (like an elephant), fur, scales, fins, feathers...any combination of these.

More to come....

Saturday, August 18, 2001

Chupacabras potpourri

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@frontiernet.net

A comment on the following: Unfortunately, some current reports of livestock deaths are being immediately placed under shock headlines that proclaim Chupacabras have struck again. Forteans beware. There is no evidence in the following item of anything too unusual. Such killings are more likely linked to feral dogs or, as a real stretch, a puma. Anyone know of any primary sources of information on these incidents?

Thank you,


Chupacabras in Indiana?

Residents of St. Joseph county in Indiana are being urged to keep a close watch on their children, pets and livestock following a pair of vicious attacks on hogs at two farms in three days.

Ten hogs, some weighing as much as 250 pounds, were killed in the two early-morning attacks, said Township Trustee Winnie Sue Minor.

The most recent attack was early Tuesday [2 May or sometime in April 2000?] at the farm of Sal Ciesielski. His grandson, Ben Manley, 15, lost all four of the hogs he had been raising for this year's St. Joseph County 4-H fair.

The previous attack occurred two days earlier at another farm. A similar attack in which three pigs were killed occurred a month ago in the township.

It is unclear whether the killer is a large dog or a wild animal, since no one has seen it, Minor said. She said she suspects it is a large dog, perhaps weighing 100 to 125 pounds.

"Whatever is killing these hogs is a very large creature," said one local resident. "I don't think that a dog could kill these big pigs, but I don't know what around here could be big enough to harm the livestock like this thing has done."

Winnie Sue Minor added: "The attacks are getting very vicious, very mean. We're very concerned. Its killing not just for food, but for the fun of it."

Source: Conspiracy Journal [?], as posted on this list on 9 May 2000


There have been many reports of Chupacabras sightings and attacks in the South Texas area, as well as Mexico, Guatemala, Florida and definitely Puerto Rico. I have an excellent videotape that Chupacabras expert Joyce Murphy of Texas made in Puerto Rico whilst investigating these barnyard attacks. These Chilean reports that Terry sent are the first that I've heard in quite a while, however. Chupacabras activity in Texas seems to have quieted down in the last year or so. These Chupacabras even attacked a couple of people in Sonora, Mexico, requiring their hospitalization.

A couple of years ago I heard a report that a Mexican man in San Antonio actually captured a Chupacabras and turned it over to the University of Texas in Austin for dissection, but this was only a "rumor" - there was nothing "official" reported by the University or by the newspapers.

For the record, the word Chupacabras is both singular and plural like the word deer. B.


Leaving the barn at 8 p.m., Pino explained, "There was a large bull running wild. I was walking along when I saw something, and I thought that was it. 'Hey, damned bull!' I shouted, and then I saw that it wasn't. It hardly moved. It just stood there, looking at me. It stood about 1.5 meters (four feet) tall, like a big monkey, with long clawed arms, enormous fangs protruding from its mouth, as well as a pair of wings. I was so scared I turned and ran back for the hounds. I set them all loose and let them chase after 'The Bird.' Cachorro (one of the dogs--J.T.) came back with a bloodstained neck."

Ok...Let's start this over. A large bull. Got that. 1.5 meters (four feet) tall. Got that. Wait a minute. Just how large would a small bull be then? Bull. Yes. At least that part seems to be believable.



Because unless a whole lot of details have been left out of all of these reports, they sound like what happens on farms all over the world. If I did not know the odd habits of some animals, I would think something like the Chupacabra was here a couple of times. I am thinking specifically of once when an owl carried a rooster away into the woods. I followed it to try to save it, but it was pitch black, and stumbling around in the woods started to get dangerous, so when the rooster fell silent, I gave up. Another time coming home late at night from work I heard the creepiest animal noises I think I have ever heard. Next morning several chickens lay dead in the barnyard and several were missing. I assume it was either foxes or coyotes although we always closed their little door to the barnyard every night, so I am still not sure how anything got in there. I am also guessing that if it was a part of my culture to believe in demons or Chupacabras I would have sworn that that was why my chickens were dead. In another incident one night, our sheep started bleeting terrified in the barn. Had no idea why they would not have gone out into the barnyard if they were that frightened, so we ran outside to see what was going on. It was already dark, and what we saw were two huge 4-legged animals lunging at the sheep who were all cowering in a corner. John had grabbed a shotgun on the way out, but the animals took off across the field into the night. We had no idea what the hell they were....too large to be dogs and too thick and furry to be coyote or wolves. About the only thing we knew was that they were vicious. The mystery was solved the next day when we found out that a neighbor who lived in the woods down the road had been looking for two of his registered dogs. I had never even heard of the breed, let alone seen one, so never recognized them as dogs. Apparently they had been loose for over a week and presumably were getting hungry enough to attack our sheep. The neighbor (a psychologist) had paid around $1500 for each dog, so I was glad we did not kill them. Point is though, if we had not heard through word of mouth about them having gone missing, we still wouldn't have had any idea what they were.

I do not know Joyce Murphy. Not sure how you got the impression she was a trusted friend. Also, I want you to know that I do not entirely discount the existence of Chupacabras. Based on the report details however, and the fact that they are primarily seen only by the Hispanic community, I am very skeptical. I leave enough of the door open for light to come through though, so welcome any evidence that proves me wrong.



As you know, I am a believer in the Chupacabras. HOWEVER!, there is something suspicious about these so-called Chilean Chupacabras. The language in the reports looks too Americanized to me, as a linguist. In one of the earlier reports, for instance, I saw Americans referred to as "gringos". That is a US-Mexican border term. I doubt that a Chilean would refer to an American as a "gringo". I could be wrong, but it makes me suspicious. If anyone can shed more enlightenment on this matter, please do. Thanks. Beto


Good evening Beto. For me it's not a very weird thing to listen "gringos" talking about american people. It's a word that is known worldwide from old american movies about far west, cowboys and so on. It is a used word in Spain and in Sao Paulo too.



[So much for my previous "linguistic theory". Maybe I am just too suspicious about it, but where are these reports _actually_ coming from? B.]



"Around 7 a.m., the couple discovered what had transpired. In the very rear of the backyard--which can only be reached by crossing two gates--their three hens and one rooster were found dead, completely torn to shreds, as if they had been ripped open at the chest cavity and scattered in a 10-meter (33-foot) radius. It is worth noting that the house's entrance is a gate covered with chicken wire."

1) So the Chupas feeding habits including overly neat vampiric exsanguination and the occasional exploding chicken.

2) Did they find any satanic markings or altars in the region?

I'm beginning to see parallels between the chupacabras, cattle mutilations and ABCs. Maybe I've been messing with the whole subject for too long.


Bangkok's bins get curse in a bid to stop thieves

From Ananova at:


A Bangkok politician plans to put a curse on all the city's bins to stop thieves from taking them.

City Governor Samak Sundaravej says he'll use black magic to stop the thefts of the bins worth around £20 each.

Mr Samak put a curse on corrupt police officers shortly after he was elected.

Mr Samak told the Kao Sod newspaper: "A curse will be written on the bins warning people that they will suffer misfortune if they steal them."

Foot-and-mouth reduces mystery crop circles

From Ananova at:


A Wiltshire farmer claims the foot-and-mouth outbreak has led to a drop in the number of summer crop circles.

Tim Carson says the only crop circle on his land this year appeared after local footpaths were re-opened.

While some researchers believe the phenomenon is caused by magnetic forces or aliens, others are convinced they are man-made.

Mr Carson says the mysterious circles were a familiar sight on his land in Alton Barnes, near Malborough, until the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

He told the BBC: "I had a phone call to ask if the footpaths were reopen around our way.

"I said 'yes' and that night a crop circle appeared. Read into that what you will."

Mr Carson said the hoax circles were criminal damage and a waste of crops.

But he admits to being baffled by larger examples. He said: "My neighbour's just had one that's absolutely massive.

"It would take an army to do that, and there's no way an army could have gone undetected. It's something that defies belief."

Friday, August 17, 2001

Mormon [magic] underwear

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@frontiernet.net

And people think naked wiccans are weird! read on Steve

from Ask Bizarre at http://www.bizarremag.com):

Flan: Mormons apparently wear some sort of magic underwear. I've asked a few Mormons about this, but they have been evasive. What does this underwear look like? Do men and women wear different kinds? What is supposed to be the benefit of wearing it? Is there anywhere non-mormons can buy some? Love your column.

Dr Mike: Mormon underwear has long been a subject of fascination, both to curious non-believers, who seem intrigued at the very idea of holy lingerie, and to orthodox church-goers, who argue that the Mormons' firm belief in the ritual powers of their nether garments is proof they have no claim to be a Christian sect.

The gear itself traditionally comprised a white cotton all-in-one called the 'Garment of the Holy Priesthood and the New Name', which covers the whole body from neck to knees and is cut off at the arms like a T-shirt. It is notoriously hot and uncomfortable to wear, and in recent years more liberal Saints have substituted a more airy two-piece version of the Garment.

Anyway, the sacred undies are handed over at the Mormon equivalent of a confirmation service, which can only take place when the would-be initiate has reached the age of 19. After a serious of ritual washings, which are believed to cleanse the new Mormon of sin, a temple worker holds the new Mormon's Garment open wide at the neck, and the 'patron' steps into it (right leg first). It is then pulled up the sides, and first the right arm and then the left arm are slipped through the sleeves. After the initiate is presented with the Garment, they must not take it off and must wear it close to the skin both day and night. Any other underclothing has be worn on top, so devout female Mormons wear their bras over their Garment.

'This garment,' an official Church of the Latter Day Saints web site tells us, 'serves three important purposes: it is a reminder of the sacred covenants made with the Lord in His holy house, a protective covering for the body, and a symbol of the modesty of dress and living that should characterize the lives of all the humble followers of Christ.'

It seems, however, that there's more to these 'humble' undies than meets the eye. Each undergarment has a number of 'occult' markings sewn into it; many commentators have suggested these were created by early Mormons who were familiar with the rites of Freemasonry. The right breast features two adjoining buttonholes which resembles a Masonic "square" rather like a backwards 'L', while the left breast is adorned with two more buttonholes in the shape of a "compass" resembling a capital 'V'. Sewn into the abdomen and knee area are further markings which look like ordinary button-holes.

Mormons believe their undergarments protect them from Satan, and that they are replicas of the garment given by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden. 'Inasmuch as you do not defile [your Garment],' they are assured, 'but are true and faithful to your covenants, it will be a shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished you work here on earth.' Mormon folklore is full of stories of Saints' miraculous escapes from danger which are attributed to the power of the holy threads

Cosmic Crash Melted Earth, Created Moon, Study Says

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Cosmic Crash Melted Earth, Created Moon, Study Says

More than 4 billion years ago, the young Earth collided with an object the size of Mars at more than 30 times the speed of sound, slinging enough debris into orbit to create the moon, researchers said.

The cataclysmic crash, described in a paper in tomorrow's edition of Nature, lasted 24 hours when the planets' orbits crossed, generating a force sufficient to melt the Earth and vaporize the other planet.

About a century later, the resulting cloud of dust coalesced into the moon, a satellite that would alter the planet's development for billions of years. The impact created a rapidly spinning Earth and a moon large enough to keep the planet from wobbling as it circled the sun, two of the factors that helped the planet develop a climate suitable for life.

``If not for our moon, the Earth would not be the habitable planet we have today,'' said Robin Canup, a researcher at the nonprofit Southwest Research Institute and the co-author of the Nature paper. ``It brings those back to the broader issue of how common are habitable planets in the universe.''

Canup and co-author Erik Asphaug of the University of California at Santa Cruz harnessed modern computing power to recreate an impact that would account for the Earth's moon. The task was formidable, even with today's technology.

``Computer simulations of a planetary-scale impact is not a task for faint-hearted, point-and-click computer modelers,'' said University of Arizona researcher Jay Melosh in an editorial that accompanied the study. Any model had to take into account the complex gravitational interactions of ``all those hot fluids squirting around in space,'' he said.

Still, Melosh said even more precise models might be possible in the future, noting that Canup and Asphaug's research didn't take into account the different ways that solids, liquids and gases behave.

Ancient Mystery

The question of how the moon formed has vexed scientists for decades. The first theories on how the moon formed were shattered by the moon missions of the 1970s, which found that lunar rocks, unlike the Earth and the rest of the inner solar system, had little iron. That meant that moon wasn't likely to have been formed by the same process that created the Earth. The data prompted a Harvard astrophysicist to propose the ``giant impact'' theory a quarter-century ago, suggesting the moon was formed when a partially formed Earth collided with another object, throwing off material.

Early computer simulations weren't powerful enough to analyze the complex interactions of two massive objects slamming into each other in space, making it difficult to accurately predict how that crash happened.

Utterly bitching crop circle found in Wiltshire!

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Man, feast your eyes on this thousand-footer! Uhhh... we *are* sure these things aren't made by flying saucers, right? Just checking.

Awe inspiring, jaw dropping, mind warping, incomprehensible, bloody huge, are a few phrases that come to mind when viewing this years "finale" formation which was discovered on top of Milk Hill in Wiltshire above the White Horse on 13th August. It's difficult to take on board the sheer scale and complexity of this formation it spans ten tram lines and if you walked from one side of the formation to the other you would have covered approaching 1500ft! Compare that to the average diameter of formations this year which is approx 200ft. There are over 400 circles incorporated into the design a record amount dwarfing all previous formation. The formation has already been described as "Utterly AWESOME" by american radio talk show host Jeff Rense as well as receiving coverage on UK TV. This is an unprecedented formation and definitely one for the history books.

Here's something to ponder, if this formation was man made allowing for time to get into and out of the field under cover of darkness the construction time left should be around four hours. Given that there are over 400 circles some of which span approx 70ft in diameter that would mean that one of those circles would need to be created every 30 seconds and that's not even allowing any time for the surveying, purely flattening, this formation pushes the envelope and that's a MASSIVE understatement... my brain hurts!

View it here: http://www.circlemakers.org/totc2001.html


NASA Listens to God

by Elroy Willis

FREEDOM, WYOMING (EAP) -- The scientific community was in awe yesterday when a Wyoming man revealed that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. The man claims to have spoken to God and received a message telling him that scientific measurements can no longer be trusted and that the world is in danger.

Cory Collins, 55, of Freedom, Wyoming, claims to have spoken to God personally, and says that God is unhappy about the way science takes its measurements so seriously.

"God confirmed to me that what the Bible says is true, and that our Earth and the universe are actually 9,875 years old. Some people disagree with the creation story in the Bible, but God told me personally that every word in the Bible is the truth."

NASA is currently seeking the assistance of Collins, in hopes that he'll be able to help them re-program the computers in the Cassini space probe which will be making a pass around Earth next month.

"We don't want any disasters next month, and if Mr. Collins is so sure that God spoke to him, we want to take every precaution and get his input and calculations on the matter. He could be the saviour of our planet if what he claims is true," said Walter Adams, project lead for the Cassini project.

NASA is also interested in obtaining Collins' input on redesigning some of the software modules which process data from the Hubble space telescope.

"His advanced theories on the speed of light, plus his contact with God are of great interest to us," Adams said.

"We've been wrong all along, and we should've known better. It's a miracle that we made it to the moon and back without the help of Mr. Collins."


Thursday, August 16, 2001

No need for doors in Indian village where 'god fights crime'

From Ananova at


Villagers in India say they don't need doors because their god protects them from crime.

No theft or crime has been reported in Simulia in Orissa state.

No house has a door in the community where people believe the local deity Kharakhai Devi protects them.

"We have never seen policemen coming to even visit our village. It is Kharakhai that does the job of police here," Gayadhar Dwivedi told the Deccan Chronicle.

"When I was in school, a boy from the neighbouring village of Tarasar tried to steal some bananas from an orchard.

"He got mysteriously confined in the orchard. Despite his repeated attempts, he could not return to his home."

Villagers rescued the boy the next day, he added.

Divedi said a houseowner did once put up a door but the house went up in flames which did not spread to neighbouring houses without doors.

Alien helps in teenage anti-smoking campaign

From Ananova at


Health authorities have unveiled the alien star of the latest anti-smoking campaign to target teenagers.

The Health Education Board for Scotland is using a reporter from outer space to front its latest offering, Mysteries of the Universe.

The extraterrestrial is a puppet from Muppets creator Jim Henson's workshop.

It goes undercover to investigate the relationship between human beings and cigarettes, pointing out the damage to health and fitness caused by smoking.

The 50-second advert, aimed primarily at 10 to 14-year-olds, cost about £170,000 to develop.

It follows on from the "Stinx" advert featuring a girl band who sang about the turn-offs of smoking - such as bad breath and poor fitness - which was eventually made into a record after proving a hit in classrooms across Scotland.

The new advertisement, which was formally launched in Edinburgh, will be complemented by interactive features on Hebs' website for the first time, as well as a prize competition based on Hebs' adverts.

Story filed: 19:21 Thursday 16th August 2001

Transcript of radio communications during the UFO incident off Turkey

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Name of Turkish Air Force Pilot: Second Lieutenant Ilker Dincer
Name of Second Turkish Air Force Pilot: n.a.
Type of the aircraft: T-37 Training Jet (122nd Squadron)
Date: 6 August 2001
Time: 12:30 hours Turkish time
Place: Izmir, Candarli, Turkey
Duration of Encounter: 30 minutes

Dincer: "We are facing an unusual situation. We see an object shaped like a cross between a cone and a disc, with support legs, extremely luminous and high speed".

Dincer reports the incident both to the Ground Control and to the Combat Operations Center (COC) and asks for radar confirmation.

COC: "Negative. We detect a high rate of maneuvering in your aircraft but no detection of a second object around."

Dincer moves the T-37 closer towards the object and according to Dincer, the object also moves closer towards the T-37.

Dincer: "The object is now coming closer to my wings, now its behind us, Ill get it in front of myself, now its in front of us, hey this is certainly going for a dog fight with us".

The object gyrated around the T-37 for about a half hour. The object and the T-37 maneuvered around each other during the encounter until the object disappeared at an incredibly high speed.

The incident is under investigation by the Turkish Air Force and there is a great deal of concern and shock among the Air Force officials.

The incident will be reported to the relevant international institutions, especially NASA.

Gangster's ghost appears at wedding

From Ananova at


The ghost of a Prohibition-era gangster is thought to have put in an appearance at a wedding.

Jack Peifer's ghost is said to haunt the former Minnesota Federal Courthouse which is now the Landmark Centre in St Paul.

Kimberly and Joseph Arrigoni's 11-year-old niece spotted the uninvited guest when they got their wedding pictures back.

"We didn't even notice him when we first got the pictures back," Kimberley told the Pioneer Planet.

"My niece, Jamie Ness, who is only 11, was the first to look really closely. 'Who's that?' she asked. Nobody knew the man."

Jack Peifer was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment at the former courthouse for his part in the kidnap of brewery heir William Hamm.

Apparently he was so aghast at the sentence he committed suicide in the Ramsey County jail by ingesting potassium cyanide.

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Moon Base Clavius


Moon Base Clavius is an organization of amateur and professional engineers, scientists, and astronauts devoted to the Apollo program and its manned exploration of the moon. Our special mission is to debunk the so-called conspiracy theories that state such a landing may never have occurred.

This site is named after the Clavius Moon Base in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and visualized by Stanley Kubrick in the film of the same name.

If this is your first visit to the site, start [1]here.


1. http://www.angelfire.com/home/clavius/site.html

Witch hopes to raise Macbeth's spirit

From Ananova at


A witch is aiming to raise the spirit of Macbeth and lift the curse afflicting Shakespeare's play.

Kevin Carlyon will be joined by another witch and a medium. They'll try to contact the real King Macbeth of Scotland, who ruled from 1040 until 1057.

Mr Carlyon says he wants to ask Macbeth what he thinks of the play and whether he's responsible for the curse. The witch then hopes to cast a spell to lift it.

He will visit several Inverness sites connected to the king, including the scene of the battle of Culloden. He will also go to the supposed site of Macbeth's castle, which is being kept secret.

He has already recruited a second witch - a Scottish woman - and wants a medium to channel Macbeth's spirit to them. He wanted three people involved - to mirror the three witches in the play.

Mr Carlyon says he is supported by people from around the world who have been affected by the curse connected with the unlucky play.

A teacher in Missouri tried to stage a version of it and £45,000 of lighting was lost in a fire. Now she's planning to stage it again, and tour schools with it, she is very keen for Mr Carlyon's spells to work.

The witch asked Lady Cawdor if he could use her castle as a site because Macbeth is said to have stayed there, but she refused because of her Christian beliefs.

The attempts to contact Macbeth will be made on September 3, the day after a full moon.

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines - August 14, 2001

from The New York Times

While American researchers wait for politicians to issue rules on research involving human embryos, scientists in Britain are working under a less restrictive and more predictable system that allows many forms of research on embryonic stem cells and cloning.

For a decade, researchers in Britain have been allowed to create human embryos for research purposes, an idea that was proposed in 1994 by a National Institutes of Health committee, specifically rejected by President Bill Clinton, and widely condemned in the United States when a clinic in Virginia announced last month that it had created scores of embryos expressly for research.

Scientists in Britain also have received approval to proceed with therapeutic cloning, the idea of generating healthy replacements for diseased tissues from embryonic cells derived from the patient's own mature cells. The research is controversial because it takes the same route as human cloning - also known as reproductive cloning - creating an embryo from the adult's cell. But in therapeutic cloning, the embryos, instead of being inserted into a womb to develop into a fetus, would be kept in lab dishes and used to generate embryonic stem cells.


from Newsday

IT WAS AN extraordinary debate on an extraordinary issue. The House of Representatives voted recently to impose a broad prohibition on human cloning, whether to create babies or to produce embryonic tissues meant solely for research purposes.

The 265-162 vote on one of the most technically complex and ethically challenging issues of the day came after just three hours of formal floor debate. There were exaggerated claims from both sides of the aisle.

Some opponents of the ban said it would outlaw potentially valuable research on embryonic stem cells (though there are other sources of such cells already derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics). Backers of the bill raised the specter of mad scientists run amok, creating, as Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) suggested, "headless humans used as organ farms."

Several House members complained about a lack of information on the contentious issue and said the vote was premature. "In my nine years in this chamber, this is the least informed collectively that the 435 members of this body have ever been on any issue," said Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.), who co-sponsored an alternative bill, authored by Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.), that would have allowed creation of cloned embryos for research purposes.


commentary from The San Francisco Chronicle

The night President George Bush announced limited support for embryonic stem cell research, I asked Stanford chemist Paul Berg for his reaction to the policy and the process by which it was decided.

Berg holds a special place in biotechnology and not simply because of his Nobel Prize in chemistry. During the mid-1970s, Berg called for a moratorium on what lay people call gene-splicing and scientists call recombinant DNA.

The term refers to cutting DNA from one organism and pasting it into the genome of another. This cut-and-paste process reprograms the second organism. Recombinant DNA is biotech's foundation. It's how we trick bacteria into making new medicines for us, and how we teach grains to produce pesticides to protect themselves.

Of course, none of this was known back when Berg urged caution until scientists could be certain they wouldn't cut-and-paste biological perils. Berg was traveling the night Bush spoke. I reached him in the hotel room where he was taking calls from reporters who wanted his thoughts about the so-called compromise.


from The New York Times

If the story of the universe were made into a summer movie, starting with the biggest, baddest explosion ever and building up to the glorious development of stars, galaxies and human life, what sort of flick would it be?

Whatever its genre, it would more than satisfy Samuel Goldwyn's famous demand for a story that "starts with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax," because an earthquake looks like a mosquito's hiccup next to the Big Bang explosion in which the universe was born. On the other hand, the complexity of the tale would make it longer than "Apocalypse Now Redux," brainier than "A.I.," more populated with dramatis personae than "The Anniversary Party."

Despite the challenge of the material, what could put the movie over the top are its stunning visuals and the subtle but unbroken thread that connects virtually every important event in the story. Those advantages are the result of a gorgeous feature of the universe that determines its destiny and permeates space like a vast, three-dimensional system of rivers, tributaries, streams, creeks and rivulets: the cosmic web.


from Newsday

WHEN RESEARCHERS early this year announced they had strong evidence that their laboratory rats dreamed of navigating mazes, it was widely seen as a dramatic confirmation of what many researchers had thought: that dreams aid in memory and learning.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology findings, showing that the sleeping animals apparently reviewed their waking experiences in the mazes, were also striking for their use of the newest brain monitoring technology. Researchers believe they can now "read" some thoughts, in a crude sense, by recording brain cells' electrical activity.

But the findings in no way settled a long-standing debate among scientists about what functions dreams may serve. Rather, the research drew attention to a field of research that, its participants say, is undergoing a revitalization and a small revolution.

"There really has been an enormous renaissance in dream science," said Mark Solms, a psychoanalyst with Royal London Hospital and author of several books and papers on dreaming. "Suddenly everyone wants to do research in this area, because the questions are much more interesting than they were five years ago."


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Fisherman nets human head then dies when snake bites him - Ananova Alerting

A fisherman in India has died after being bitten by a snake on the day he found a human head in his net.

Baidya Behera, 40, of Lalsingh village in Bhanjanagar was fishing in a reservoir when he found the head.

He felt it was a bad omen, so he rushed to the nearest temple to pray. When he returned home, he was bitten by a poisonous snake and died.

Superstitious villagers have been praying "to appease evil spirits", Sify News reports.

See this story on the web at


Wicca books brew up suspect information


By CATHY KARLIN ZAHNER - Special to The Kansas City Star Date: 08/12/01 00:01

Many people who love children's books don't understand why some parents worry about the witchcraft in the Harry Potter books.

"It's just fantasy," they say.

But while Harry's capers with hippogriffs and vicious trees are purely imaginary, the practice of modern-day witchcraft, known as "Wicca," is real. Dozens of Wicca Web sites flourish on the Internet. A glance at our local Yellow Pages reveals bookstores, a masseuse and specialty stores offering magickal (that's how Wiccans prefer to spell it) supplies and services. A few weeks ago a car with a "Proud to be a Witch" bumper sticker passed me on Wornall Road.

So perhaps I shouldn't have been so shocked when a new book series on teen Wicca arrived on my doorstep recently. Yet I was surprised, for the Sweep series, by Cate Tiernan (Puffin; $4.99 each; ages 12 and up) is the first about Wicca I've seen in my 13 years as a children's book reviewer. Even more amazing to me was how the series' enticing, Cinderella-story plot doubles as a training manual for teens on how to start their own covens.

"Some say Wicca is the fastest growing religion in the U.S.," announces the publisher, Puffin, a paperback division of Penguin Putnam. "In a recent poll on teen Web site Alloy.com, Wicca was cited as the second most popular religion among teens (Christianity was first)."

Enter Sweep. In the series' first title, Book of Shadows, Wicca's Prince Charming is Cal, a hottie who suddenly shows up at Widow's Vale High. Every female student, including the drab, shy Morgan (starring in the Cinderella part) drools over Cal's "riveting, ageless, gold-colored eyes."

Morgan, a Catholic girl embarrassed to admit she is still a virgin, worshipfully describes Cal as "a miracle" ... "a god in a mortal place" ... "supernatural" ... "universal." She marvels at his ability to fit in with every clique, from trendsetters to stoners.

Cal has a party, where he invites Morgan and his other new friends to join his coven. He teaches them to hold hands and move "widdershins," or counterclockwise, in a circle around a fire in an open field. They happily chant "Blessed be" and "Thanks" to "the goddess" and "the god."

Afterward, the kids marvel about how wonderful their first Wiccan ritual was. "I felt so great afterward, like I just did yoga or massage or something," gushes Bree, Morgan's best friend. The occult bookstore becomes Morgan's second home as she and Bree buy Wicca books and make new witch friends.

Each day, at school or during coven meetings, Cal describes more about Wicca's history, rituals, chants, tools and powers.

"Our group was starting to listen to him like he was an apostle, teaching us," Morgan rejoices.

She "magickly" blossoms into a strong, beautiful, powerful young woman with supernatural powers.

When Morgan's worried parents object to their daughter's choice of Wiccan goddesses and gods over monotheistic Christianity, Morgan snaps, "I thought we believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. That's three."

Now, any Catholic first-grader could puncture that lame theology. But Morgan's parents can't figure out a reply. So Morgan eventually sets up a Wiccan altar in her closet and stashes her cauldron and other witches' tools in her bedroom. She enjoys shooting "crackly blue witch fire" at her enemies and listening to her "inner witch voice."

In the first book, Cal smoothly assures his new coven-mates (and young readers as well) that "there is no devil in Wicca. It's about the tamest and most inclusive religion there is, truthfully. It's all about celebrating nature."

If Wicca is so pure, then why, as the books progress, do the witches increasingly call on "the dark side" for evil spells and powers? Why is one of the seven so-called Wicca "clans" known as evil? Are we supposed to believe "the dark wave, the force of evil" that killed Cal's half brother and murdered a whole town of witches came from the Tooth Fairy?

Weirdest of all, in the fourth book, Dark Magick, Morgan discovers that Cal, her "main squeeze," is actually an evil witch who tries to burn her alive. Doesn't that pretty much establish Cal as a liar and ruin his claims about Wicca being "the tamest religion...all about celebrating nature"?

The books' claims that Wicca is based on centuries-old Stone Age and Celtic traditions is controversial, at best. According to an article in January's The Atlantic Monthly, archaeologists and scholars have been unable to find evidence proving that ancient Celts or other pagan cultures ever celebrated the "eight feasts of the wheel" that are focal points of Wiccan liturgy. Nor is there conclusive archaeological or written proof that "any ancient people ever worshipped a single, archetypal goddess -- a conclusion that strikes at the heart of Wiccan belief," writes the article's author, Charlotte Allen.

"The evidence is overwhelming that Wicca is a distinctly new religion, a 1950s concoction influenced by such things as Masonic ritual and a late-19th-century fascination with the esoteric and the occult," Allen writes.

Young readers could easily fall for Sweep's heady promises of romance, popularity and power through Wicca, a religion with a fuzzy history and even murkier purpose. It's my job to let parents know what's on the bookshelves. It's their job to decide whether their teens are "swept" away.

Mars May Be a Former Moon of a Now-Exploded Planet

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

From The Exploded Planet Hypothesis -- 2000
Tom Van Flandern, Meta Research


Evidence that Mars is a former moon

Mars is much less massive than any planet not itself suspected of being a former moon Orbit of Mars is more elliptical than for any larger-mass planet

Spin is slower than larger planets, except where a massive moon has intervened

Large offset of center of figure from center of mass

Shape not in equilibrium with spin

Southern hemisphere is saturated with craters, the northern has sparse cratering

The "crustal dichotomy" boundary is nearly a great circle

North hemisphere has a smooth, 1-km-thick crust; south crust is over 20-km thick

Crustal thickness in south decreases gradually toward hemisphere edges

Lobate scarfs occur near hemisphere divide, compressed perpendicular to boundary

Huge volcanoes arose where uplift pressure from mass redistribution is maximal

A sudden geographic pole shift of order 90° occurred

Much of the original atmosphere has been lost

A sudden, massive flood with no obvious source occurred

Xe129, a fission product of massive explosions, has an excess abundance on Mars

The above summarizes evidence that Mars was not an original planet, but rather a moon of a now-exploded planet occupying that approximate orbit. Many of these points are the expected consequences of having a massive planet blow up nearby, thereby blasting the facing hemisphere and leaving the shielded hemisphere relatively unscathed. Especially significant in this regard is the fact that half of Mars is saturated with craters, and half is only sparsely cratered. Moreover, the crustal thickness has apparently been augmented over one hemisphere by up to 20 km or so, gradually tapering off near the hemisphere boundaries. This "crustal dichotomy" is also readily seen in Martian elevation maps, such as in Figure 7.

The Original Solar System

Putting all this evidence together, we have strong hints for two original planets near what is now the main asteroid belt: hypothetical "Planet V" and "Planet K". These were probably gas giant planets with moons of significant size, such as Mars, before they exploded. We have hints of two more asteroid belts, probably from the explosions of two more planets ("Planet T" and "Planet X") beyond Neptune. And we have hints for two extra-large gas giant planets, "Planet A" and "Planet B", that exploded back near the solar system beginning.

Of the existing nine major planets today, we have strong evidence that Mercury is an escaped moon of Venus [xi], Mars is an escaped moon of Planet V, and Pluto and its moon Charon are escaped moons of Neptune [xii]. If we eliminate these, then perhaps the original solar system consisted of 12 planets arranged in 6 "twin" pairs. Such an arrangement would be consistent with origin of all major planets and moons by the fission process. [xiii] This model makes a major prediction that will soon be tested: Extrasolar planets should arise in twin pairs also, with 2-to-1 orbital period resonances common. If so, then many cases that now appear to be single massive planets on highly elliptical orbits will turn out, when enough observations are accumulated, to be twin resonant planets on near-circular orbits.

Planetary Explosion Mechanisms

The most frequently asked question about the eph is "What would cause a planet to explode?" We will mention three theoretical conjectures, although in- depth work must await a wider recognition of the phenomenon in the field at large.

The earliest and simplest theoretical mechanism is that of Ramsey [xiv], who noted that planets must evolve through a wide range of pressures and temperatures. This is true whether they are born cold and heat up under gravitational accretion, or born hot and cool down by radiation of heat into space. During the course of this evolution, temperatures and pressures in the cores must occasionally reach a critical point, at which a phase change (like water to ice) occurs. This will be accompanied by a volume discontinuity, which must then cause an Earth-sized or smaller planet to implode or explode, depending on whether the volume decreases or increases.

The second explosion mechanism, natural fission reactors, is currently generating some excitement in the field of geology. [xv] A uranium mine at Oklo in the Republic of Gabon is deficient in U-235 and is accompanied by fission-produced isotopes of Nd and Sm, apparently caused by self- sustaining nuclear chain reactions about 1.8 Gyr ago. Later, other natural fission chain reactors were discovered in the region. Today, uranium ore does not have this capability because the proportion of U-235 in natural uranium is too low. But 1.8 Gyr ago, the proportion was more than four times greater, allowing the self-sustaining neutron chain reactions. Additionally, these areas also functioned as fast neutron breeder reactors, producing additional fissile material in the form of plutonium and other trans-uranic elements. Breeding fissile material results in possible reactor operation continuing long after the U-235 proportion in natural uranium would have become too low to sustain neutron chain reactions. This proves the existence of an energy source in nature able to produce more than an order of magnitude more energy than radioactive decay alone. Excess planetary heat radiation is said to be gravitational in origin because all other proposed energy sources (e.g., radioactivity, accretion, and thermonuclear fusion) fall short by at least two orders of magnitude. But these natural reactors may be able to supply the needed energy. Indeed, nuclear fission chain reactions may provide the ignition temperature to set off thermonuclear reactions in stars (analogous to ignition of thermonuclear bombs).

The third planetary explosion mechanism relies on one other hypothesis not yet widely accepted, but holds out the potential for an indefinitely large reservoir of energy for exploding even massive planets and stars. If gravitational fields are continually regenerated, as in LeSage particle models of gravity [xvi], then all masses are continually absorbing energy from this universal flux. Normally, bodies would reach a thermodynamic equilibrium, whereat they radiate as much heat away as they continually absorb from the graviton flux. But something could block this heat flow and disrupt the equilibrium. For example, changes of state in a planet's core might set up an insulating layer. In that case, heat would continue to be accumulated from graviton impacts, but could not freely radiate away. This is obviously an unstable situation. The energy excess in the interior of such a planet would build indefinitely until either the insulating layer was breached or the planet blew itself apart.


We have covered most of the successful predictions of the exploded planet hypothesis mentioned in the abstract: (1) satellites of asteroids; (2) satellites of comets; (4) "roll marks" leading to boulders on asteroids; (6) explosion signatures for asteroids; (7) strongly spiked energy parameter for new comets; (8) distribution of black material on slowly rotating airless bodies; (9) splitting velocities of comets; (10) Mars is a former moon of an exploded planet. Two additional successes and one additional new prediction will be mentioned briefly here.

Abstract (3): salt water in meteorites. This refers to an obvious corollary of the eph, never explicitly put in writing in so many words. If meteorites come from the explosion of planet-sized bodies, the water from such bodies can be ocean water (as on Earth and as suspected for Jupiter's moon Europa), and would therefore be expected to contain salt from run-off of minerals from solid portions of the planet. Only recently has meteorite water been tested for salt content for the first time, with the surprising result that sodium chloride was found. [xvii] Certain aspects of this discovery suggest that water was flowing on the parent body from which the meteorite came. 'The existence of a water- soluble salt in this meteorite is astonishing," wrote R.N. Clayton of the University of Chicago in the reference cited. True, unless one had the exploded planet hypothesis in mind.

Supplementing the idea of salt water in meteorites, we did explicitly predict salt water in comets. [xviii] "In March, a long sodium tail was discovered in Comet Hale-Bopp. Aside from the general interest in this new type of comet tail, it was noted that the sodium ions have a half-life of just half a day, too short to survive a trip from the nucleus to the farthest parts of the tail. So the sodium must be conveyed as part of a parent molecule that is split by the solar wind into sodium and some other ions. The significance of this for comet models is that the exploded planet hypothesis says that comets originated in the explosion of a water-bearing planet. If that planetary water was salt water, as planetary oceans on Earth all tend to be, then water in comets would be salt water. The parent molecule for the salt escaping the comet's coma into the tail would be sodium chloride (salt), and the "other ions" would be chlorine ions. The unknown parent molecule has not yet been officially discovered. But one can readily see that the discovery of chlorine in comets to go along with this discovery of sodium would make a strong case for the planetary origin scenario."

Abstract (5): the time and peak rate of the 1999 Leonid meteor storm. Esko Lyytinen of Finland used the exploded planet hypothesis as a model for understanding and predicting the behavior of meteor storms. These had never before been successfully predicted. Although nearly a dozen professional astronomers attempted predictions for the possible November 1999 storm, only three teams had results that were correct for the time of the event, and only Lyytinen had both the time and the peak meteor rate correct to within the stated error bars. The complete story of this prediction, the expedition, and its successful conclusion are beyond the scope of this paper, but may be found in the reference. [xix]

With the documented track record the eph has now established, it is small wonder that professional astronomers are no longer willing to make wagers with eph proponents about the outcome of either recent or future eph predictions. But sadly, research funding is still being poured almost exclusively into competitor theories.


You might be interested in our webpage discussing this very topic, and who we think lived there ... a unique perspective at the very least.


Is Noah's Ark under the Black Sea?


Varna, Bulgaria, August 12 - A joint US-Bulgarian venture hopes to unearth the remains of a lost civilisation, which could clarify the timing and site of the legendary biblical flood.

The Akademik, which will set sail on August 15, will use sonar technology to comb for traces of the Provadiyaska and Kamtchia river mouths in the Black Sea. Numerous towns are believed to have been situated along the two rivers.

The supposed ante-diluvian society, predating those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, is believed to have been submerged by the Black Sea at the time of a massive flood 7,600 years ago. The flood transformed a stillwater lake into the saltwater sea.

US geologist Robert Ballard, famous for having discovered the remains of the sunken Titanic in 1985, is directing the expedition. He supports the belief that the great biblical flood occurred in the Black Sea.

Exactly what might surface? "We don't think that Noah's Ark could be found," Ballard said, even if this particular flood could have propagated the myth of the biblical one.

Inundation occurred all over the world 7,600 years ago, but "this was the flood of the floods," Ballard emphasised.

His Bulgarian counterpart, geology professor Petko Dimitrov, agrees. "Organic sediment which develops in times of ecological catastrophe has been found. It dates back 7,000-8,000 years, and this is the time of the Flood attributed by the Bible."

However, rivalling theories exist. Deltcho Solakov, a researcher at the Bulgarian Oceanography Institute, has pointed out that the Bible cites Mount Ararat, located south of the Black Sea in the Caucasus region, as the site of Noah's sunken ark.

In further defence of this theory, Ballard claimed that when glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age, water flowing from the Mediterranean surged over the Bosphorous at a speed 200 times greater than that of Niagara Falls, precisely because of the difference in the water levels of the former lake and the Mediterranean.

"The best place to find perfect ships is the Black Sea," said Ballard, citing its depth of 2,000 metres.In 1972, a neolithic necropolis containing "the oldest tomb discovered in Europe to this day" was discovered near Varna, proof according to Dimitrov that this lost civilisation exists.

The necropolis on display at an archaeological museum in Varna dates back to 4600-4200 BC It contains 294 tombs and about 3,000 gold objects, 200 copper objects, various tools made of flint and stone and numerous religious and funerary objects. The most decorated tomb belonged to a middle-aged man, either a priest or tribal chief, who was surrounded by 900 gilded objects.

A Bulgarian-Russian expedition also unearthed a round vessel from the Black Sea in 1985. Made of clay and sand, its inscription has still not been deciphered, but it's been nicknamed "Noah's bowl" by archaeologists.

Much remains to be explored, according to Ballard. "We have better maps of Mars than of the Black Sea," he said.

Feng shui ruined my life - divorcee

From Ananova at


A couple claim their happy life fell apart after taking instructions from a feng shui expert.

Annette Radley paid £300 to an expert from a London firm who specialises in the ancient Chinese art.

Shortly after her visit to their home in Ross-on-Wye, husband Tony lost his £150,000 a year job, Annette crashed four times and ended up getting a divorce.

Feng Shui is meant to give off good luck if mirrors and household furniture are arranged in 'favourable' positions.

The expert ordered her to move son Christopher, 17, from his bedroom into the snooker room of their five bedroom £300,000 house.

She told Annette to paint butterflies on wooden beams, change the position of mirrors in every room, stick bamboo flutes to the ceiling and re-arrange garden ornaments.

And she claimed putting crystals in a bowl was essential. Soon after the family was hit by the string of disasters.

Annette told The Sun: "I had been happily married for more than 20 years. Within days of that woman's visit I was rowing with my husband. He agrees our marriage was ruined by our brush with the so-called expert."

Then Tony lost his job as managing director of a refrigeration company. Next, Annette had the crashes, although she was not seriously injured. The couple eventually divorced and left the house.

Annette, now living near her old home, said: "That woman is responsible for everything that went wrong. My house looked ridiculous after all the changes. I trusted her because she was supposed to be an expert but she had just read one book."

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