NTS LogoSkeptical News for 8 November 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Alabama Biology Textbooks to Warn Students About Evolution http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAKNXT8TTC.html

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
Published: Nov 8, 2001

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama is maintaining its distinction as the only state where biology textbooks include a sticker warning students that evolution is a "controversial theory" they should question.

The State Board of Education voted without dissent Thursday to place the disclaimer on the front of 40,000 new biology textbooks to be used in the state's public schools.

The statement says in part that evolution is "a controversial theory. ... Instructional material associated with controversy should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

The board included the same statement in course guidelines for science teachers.

The state first put stickers on biology textbooks in 1996, but those books are being replaced with new editions next year. The new books will be used for the next six years.

The school board's vote came without any debate, far different from the initial decision to use the stickers.

"Boy, that was a surprise," board vice chairman Ethel Hall said.

The decision was actively supported by the Christian Coalition and the Eagle Forum, groups that seek more religious activity in public schools.

Joan Kendall, state education chairman for Eagle Forum, said the sticker is needed because biology textbooks contain outdated and disputed information about evolution.

John Giles, state president of the Christian Coalition, said the board's new sticker is not as strong as the old one, but he had been concerned the board was going to drop the sticker entirely.

"The insert they approved does provoke the child to think through the process," he said.

At a 1995 board meeting to approve the original disclaimer, then-Gov. Fob James impersonated an ape to poke fun at Charles Darwin, whose works are the basis of evolutionary theory.

That sticker contained questions students should ask about evolution, such as: "Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record?"

Alabama's use of the sticker to discredit evolution causes scientists to question the quality of its biology education, said Eric Meikle, outreach director of the National Center of Science Education.

"It's definitely a negative in people's view of education in the state," he said.

The teaching of evolution, the theory that humans and other living beings evolved into their present form over millions of years, has been an issue in several states. But no other state has used a disclaimer sticker in textbooks statewide, Meikle said.

The Alabama school board has approved several biology textbooks from different publishers, and local school boards select the books that are used in schools. The course is taught mostly in 10th grade.

AP-ES-11-08-01 1915EST

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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Today's Headlines - November 8, 2001

from The New York Times

The New York Academy of Sciences announced yesterday that its president and chief executive, Rodney W. Nichols, would leave at the end of the year. Mr. Nichols's efforts to reshape the academy, including closing its award-winning magazine The Sciences and putting its elegant headquarters on East 63rd Street up for sale, roiled the institution in recent months.

In his letter of resignation, given to the board of governors last Thursday, Mr. Nichols, a physicist and former executive vice president at Rockefeller University, said that he had served for almost a decade and "I believe it is time for me to pursue new goals." In an interview he said he had been mulling over the move for a year for a variety of reasons, including the fear that the criticism and resentment he was encountering were hurting the academy. "I'm more of a distraction to the continuation of the process of renewal and modernization," he said.

The academy, founded in 1817, is the city's oldest scientific organization, including Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin as former members. It is known worldwide for its work on human rights for scientists in foreign countries, for its scholarly publications and for holding groundbreaking scientific conferences on subjects like AIDS and women in science.


from The Boston Globe

Anthrax infection became part of doctors' daily repertoire yesterday as the world's most influential medical journal published detailed guidelines on diagnosing and treating the deadly bacteria. Doctors are now expected to consider anthrax as a possible cause for the thousands of skin lesions and flu-like symptoms they encounter every day.

The guidelines, published yesterday on the New England Journal of Medicine's Web site, are based on close study of the 17 Americans stricken with the disease in recent weeks.

The vast majority of doctors have never treated anthrax. Medical schools briefly mention it, dismissing it as a medical curiosity. But recent events have transformed Bacillus anthracis into a top-tier public health concern for which doctors serve as the first line of defense.


from The Associated Press

MUNICH, Germany (November 7, 2001 8:27 p.m. EST) - European officials upheld Harvard University's patent on a mouse genetically modified so that it predictably develops cancer, throwing out a complaint by Greenpeace and other groups.

The pan-European patent, granted in 1992, protects the "method of producing transgenic animals." Following a two-day hearing, Bernd Isert, head of the European Patent Office's appeals department, upheld the patent Wednesday but said the wording should limit it to rodents. In its current form, the patent is too wide and oversteps ethical limits, he said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to the Harvard mouse in 1988, the first transgenic animal patent ever granted. The mouse was intended to ease research and treatment of tumors in humans.


from Reuters

MARRAKESH, Morocco, Nov. 7 (Reuters) - Government ministers from around the world moved a step closer today to bringing a treaty to combat global warming into force after their officials reached agreement on a crucial sticking point.

Ministers were upbeat as they addressed the United Nations talks here to define the terms of the pact that will commit industrialized nations by 2012 to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases by an average 5 percent below where they stood in 1990.

Many were encouraged by a breakthrough in lower-level talks late Tuesday that put in place a system to ensure that countries comply with their pollution targets - previously seen as a stumbling block that could have sunk the treaty.

"The progress made thus far is solid and encouraging," the Iranian environment minister, Massoumeh Ebtekar, told the session on behalf of the group of developing countries known as the G77. "The agreement reached last night is indeed a very good outcome," she said.


from The Associated Press

The government said Wednesday it plans to reject an expected application from an Italian fertility doctor who wants to clone babies in Britain.

Dr. Severino Antinori, who is part of an international team seeking to become the first to clone a human being, has said he intends to apply to Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for a license to begin work on cloning babies.

His group says it is pursuing cloning as a treatment for couples who are unable to have their own children.


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Ghost-hunt presenters spooked by encounter in haunted barn

From Ananova at


Two female presenters reportedly encountered a real ghost while filming a new Blair Witch-style TV programme.

Miranda Pleasance and Emily Compston were filming for the series Spooky Happenings.

They reportedly ran screaming from a haunted barn near Port Quin in North Cornwall, claiming they heard whispering before the air turned freezing cold.

A friend of Miranda - the daughter of the late actor Donald Pleasance - told Ananova: "They were petrified, really freaking out.

"At first they thought it was a member of the crew mucking about. Then they realised they were alone and they bolted.

"The whole idea, in a light hearted way, was to chase spooks and take a look at things which go bump in the night. They didn't expect the real thing."

The show is being co-produced by Richard Crasske, who made The Tutankhamun Conspiracy for Channel 5, and former Bread star Giles Watling.

Both Channel 4 and Channel 5 are said to be in negotiations to screen the pilot programme, followed by a series next year.

The alternative Mrs Blair


And vacancies at London zoo

Catherine Bennett
Thursday November 8, 2001
The Guardian

Mrs Blair's impressive transformation from the frazzled working mother of 1996 to the serene and immaculate celebrity she is today is plain for all to see. But how was it achieved? While some attribute the changes to a combination of enhanced status and vastly increased investment in clothes, make-up and hairdressers, others merely mention the name Bharti Vyas, a beautician in whose salon Mrs Blair has reportedly enjoyed a wide range of treatments, from the appliance, it is said, of inflatable "Flowtron" trousers to the insertion of an acupuncture needle into the ear-gristle.

As Mrs Blair never speaks in public other than about solemn matters, far removed from personal grooming, the only reason we know about Vyas's handiwork must be because Vyas is apt to mention it. So much so that these days Vyas's name is rarely to be found, in her extensive media appearances, without some reference to that ultimate respectability-clincher, Mrs Blair's patronage. Is it possible to imagine a more compelling recommendation for a miracle-worker such as Vyas, a woman who believes that drinking "magnetised water" can "help control", among other things, cholesterol levels, obesity and hay fever? While, a few years back, the patronage of the Duchess of York would instantly confirm to any right-thinking woman the idiocy of whatever she touched, the invocation of Mrs Blair's name has precisely the opposite effect. If Mrs Blair, as the duchess once did, went and sat on a stool beneath a home-made pyramid, we should remark on the impressive, if unproven results of regular pyramid-shelter, rather than speculate on the mental agility of the sitter.

To anyone who watched the recent television documentary about Mrs Blair and heard tell of her prodigious intellectual powers, her sustained endorsement of Vyas's treatments must be enough to make them forget any reservations they might otherwise have had about the efficacy of Flowtron trousers, just as once they considered buying a BioElectric Shield pendant like Mrs Blair's, or wrote down the name of her venerable dowser, Jack Temple, in case they, too, ever felt like having pills bandaged to their ankles.

While the pendant seems to have been replaced by less protective ornaments (though its manufacturer still cites Mrs Blair as a shield-wearer) there was, until last week, little sign that Mrs Blair was discontented with her promotional role in the Vyas operation. Mrs Blair, remember, generally responds like a startled rattlesnake when she considers her privacy invaded. If she disliked being mentioned on the Vyas website, or having Vyas say things like "I knew Cherie Blair long before her husband became the PM, even Tony (Blair) I have known for a long time", then surely she would have descended on her as swiftly as she her former nanny Ros Mark. If she resented being used as the world's most exclusive sandwich-board for the house of Vyas, why did she appear at this year's party conference with her holistic ear-stud? When it was announced that Mrs Blair would be opening Vyas's latest enterprise, a training school, some of us speculated that, with this kind of support, Vyas's peerage and her subsequent appointment as lord chief justice could only be a matter of time.

But the day after she was photographed smilingly wishing Vyas every success with her new business venture, Mrs Blair seems to have been overcome by a surge of negative energy. Perhaps the beneficient ear-stud fell out in the night, or perhaps someone in the Blair household left the lavatory seat up, thereby releasing, as feng shui followers believe, a tsunami of bad chi into her relationship corner: for whatever reason, Mrs Blair suddenly took strongly against Bharti Vyas. A letter was dispatched from "the office of Cherie Booth QC", telling Vyas "how disappointed" she was that the opening was not the expected "quiet family affair". Mrs Blair complained about being "used this way (not for the first time) to promote your business". To teach Vyas a lesson, Mrs Blair said: "I am going take a few weeks off from visiting the salon and hope that in the meantime you and Priti will refrain from discussing anything to do with the press."

Vyas and her daughter have dutifully refrained. But by now, it hardly matters. In the evidence-free world of mind, body, and spirit, a top celebrity endorsement such as Vyas has from Mrs Blair's years of regular appointments is worth any number of replicable double-blind tests. The need - the reason for a temporary, rather than permanent cessation of consultations - appears to be on the side of Mrs Blair. Her appetite for alternative codswallop appears to be approaching that of the late Princess of Wales (another Vyas client) and is, less comically, likely to be just as influential in inspiring legions of fellow non-sufferers from nothing in particular that they should receive state-subsidised ayurvedic diagnosis, or auricular acupuncture, or glasses of NHS magnetised water to help harmonise the inner body. Still, in a way, it is rather a relief that this intelligent, vigorous and busy woman seems to be as much addicted as the Duchess of York to whiling away her hours in the hands of pricey energy unblockers. If it weren't for that, she'd be perfect.



November 8, 2001 -- It had all been pre-ordained.

Yesterday's horoscopes for mayoral rivals Mark Green and Michael Bloomberg could have given them the early scoop on the outcome of the elections if they had had a sneak peek.

The Post's Sally Brompton said of those born under the sign of Aquarius, like Bloomberg, "it's time to get serious about your career . . . the most important thing is motivation.

"Your winds of fate can blow you only so far - once you reach a certain point, you have to get by on your own strength and willpower. What is it you wish to accomplish?"

For those born under the Pisces sign like Green, she was more precise.

"What other people don't want you to know is exactly what you need to know . . . Curiosity may have killed the cat."

Brompton added for good measure: "And expect to be shocked."

Safe to say that Green was.

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

From Joe Littrell

Two admit faking alleged Viking inscription
Associated Press


"Two people say they are the ones who carved inscriptions on a 2,200-pound rock " not a band of Vikings who supposedly explored the state in 1363."

Illinois School Uses Lie Detectors
Associated Press


"One by one, the subjects were led into a room and hooked up to a polygraph machine."

Obesity drug seized following FDA investigation


"At the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Marshals seized almost $3 million worth of a product being marketed as a dietary supplement for the treatment of obesity last week. According to a press release issued by the FDA October 31, 2001, about 140,000 bottles of AMP II Pro Drops were seized from Utah- based company Biogenics Inc. (doing business as E'OLA International), and its contract manufacturer, Nature's Energy, Inc., also of Utah."

Nostradamus, Move Over!
by Gersh Kuntzman


"The Amazing Kreskin has lived up to his nickname"the “Amazing” part, I mean, not the “Kreskin” part"once again!"

AIDS myth fuels S. Africa's child-rape scourge


"South Africa is in shock over a surge in the rape of children and even babies, fueled by a myth that sex with a virgin will protect a man against AIDS, activists said Monday."

In a Crisis, Go With What Works
Los Angles Times


"Surfing the Internet or listening to talk radio in recent days, you might get the idea that herbs, homeopathy and other alternative health remedies can prevent and cure anthrax infection."

Lawsuit against Florida-based Psychic Hotline settled
Associated Press


"The Psychic Hotline, accused of overbilling Arkansans by $3.2 million, will issue refunds or forgive still unpaid bills in its settlement of a lawsuit filed by Arkansas officials."

Sexist, satanist, classist: will the real Harry stand up?
by Kira Cochrane
The Sunday Times [London]


"Pity Harry Potter. A teenage wizard with a healthy interest in chocolate frogs, he has never expressed a desire to run for public office or to become a United Nations ambassador."

Bishop Banishes Evil From 'Cursed' Soccer Stadium


"A struggling English soccer team has turned to religion for salvation by asking a bishop to carry out an exorcism at the club's ground."

Bishop denies football club 'exorcism'
BBC News


"The Bishop of Oxford has denied reports he performed an exorcism to lift a curse at a football club, but admits he held a ceremony to bless the ground."

From David Vanderschel

Here's an article at Stats.org with a good skeptical perspective.


Exploiting the Exploited?
Are America’s children being sexually exploited for commercial gain in far greater numbers than ever before estimated? You’d think so from news stories that ran nationwide on September 10 (“Children’s Sexual Exploitation Underestimated,” The New York Times, “Up to 400,000 kids a year involved in U.S. sex trade,” Houston Chronicle)

Here is a credible article which questions the mainstream view of a link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.


David V.

'Viking' carvings are a fake

From Ananova at


Two Minnesota academics have admitted making rock carvings which were taken for Viking writings.

The carvings, found six months ago in Kensington, caused much excitement among local historians.

The discovery revived a controversial myth that Norsemen had roamed the state in the 14th century.

But the two men have now admitted making the carvings in 1985 when they were students.

The huge stone was hailed as new evidence of the authenticity of the original Kensington Runestone, uncovered in 1898 by a Sweden-born farmer who said he found it wrapped in the roots of a tree.

Now Kari Ellen Gade and Jana Schulman have come forward admitting the new rock was their work.

"One of the reasons we came forward was we saw that people were being asked to make financial contributions to have the rock tested," Proff Gade said. "We didn't feel it would be right to carry this further."

Proff Gade and Proff Schulman say they carved the rock "for fun" and to cast doubt on the validity of the original Kensington Runestone.

They said three other University of Minnesota graduate students were involved but had declined to be identified.

Proff Gade is now chairwoman of the Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, and Proff Schulman is associate professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University.

They sent a letter to the Minnesota Historical Society outlining their role.

Geologist Scott Wolter, part of the team that announced the discovery of the new stone, still believes the older Kensington Runestone is valid.

"When I was in college I did some stupid things too," Mr Wolter told the Ottawa Sun. "But I give them credit for coming forward and admitting it."

Worshippers criticise plan to screen The Exorcist in disused church

From Ananova at


Religious groups have helped block plans to screen The Exorcist in a disused Manchester church.

Stella Artois had hoped to show the horror film at St Edmund's Church.

But magistrates rejected the application for a drinks licence partly because of the objections.

The Manchester Evening News said the screening would also breach legal restrictions drawn up when the church was sold.

They prohibit the building being used for anything 'offensive to the practice and principles of the Christian faith'.

The Reverend Sarah Bullock, of St Edmund's, said: "'Opposition has come from all sections of the community who felt outraged that a commercial firm was trying to make profit at this event although its actions offended a religious group.

''We're not killjoys - we've no objection to sensible, well-planned events. But frankly, the prospect of 400 people being 'bussed in' to drink and watch a completely inappropriate film isn't what we call fun.''

The church, in Whalley Range, Manchester, was sold to property developer Mehmet Kutay. Worshippers have used the adjoining building since 1989.

Mr Kutay says the screening will raise funds for vital repairs to the building so it can be used as a community centre.

Event promoters, Stella Screen, are meeting council officials to try and come up with a solution. They say the event hasn't been cancelled and an alternative venue could be found.

One in 5,000 chance of asteroid causing human extinction

From Ananova at


Scientists claim humans have a one in 5,000 chance of being wiped out by an asteroid impact over the next century.

Astronomers analysing a new study called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey say the Solar System contains about 700,000 asteroids big enough to destroy civilisation.

The figure is about a third of the size of previous estimates, which had put the number at around two million.

The odds are also more comforting than a previous estimate for extinction, put at one in 1,500 over a 100-year period.

Chief scientist Zeljko Ivezic, from Princeton University, New Jersey, USA, said: "Our estimate for the chance of a big impact contains some of the same uncertainties as previous estimates, but it is clear that we should feel somewhat safer than we did before we had the Sloan survey data."

Motorists told not to rely on lucky charms

From Ananova at


Motorists in Nigeria are being warned lucky charms won't prevent road accidents.

Instead road safety officers are advising drivers to comply with basic traffic rules and regulations.

They are targeting drink drivers, reckless motorists and those with unroadworthy vehicles, to cut down on accidents over Christmas.

Bisi Kazeem, of the Federal Road Safety Corps, said:"Several people have been picked up dead at scenes of accidents with their juju on their bodies." He says that proves charms don't work

He adds FRSC officers are equipped with breathalysers to detect those who indulge in heavy drinking before embarking on journeys.

The Guardian says any driver caught drinking will have his vehicle impounded and it will not be released until after the festive period.

State urges people to use cows' urine in medicines

From Ananova at


An Indian state's government is calling on people to use cows' urine to cure ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.

A state-owned Cow Protection Centre at Panki, near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, manufactures drugs from the animals' urine.

The drive to encourage other centres to preserve cow urine for the manufacture of drugs follows similar moves in states such as Maharashtra.

State Animal Husbandry Secretary Rajiv Gupta says cattle are important to rural life and believes cow urine therapy is an affordable alternative to some treatments for poorer people.

Sify News says some treatments even use cow dung, which is normally considered infectious by doctors.

Like dung, urine is now being used by many cosmetic companies to make shampoo, soaps, toothpaste and creams.

The Panki Cow Protection Centre is already producing some of the cosmetics and toiletries.

Firm chooses staff by blood type

From Ananova at


A Chinese firm will only employ people with a certain blood type because it considers them more stable.

The Shanghai company, in a job advert for a sales director, specified only those with blood type O or B need apply.

Chinese newspapers say the company is one of several which have put such constraints on applicants recently.

The personnel manager of the unnamed firm, Mr Yang, said: "We feel people with O or B blood types are comparatively more stable and personable - essential qualities all top sales talents should possess."

But one job seeker told the Straits Times: "I don't wish to work for a company that discriminates based on blood type."

The Shanghai authorities say companies had the right to set their own criteria for potential employees.

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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****** Special bulletin for Sigma Xi members and members of the media ******

2001 Sigma Xi Forum: Science, the Arts and the Humanities: Connections and Collisions

Click on the link below to view a detailed program of events, read about the featured presentation of the play "Oxygen," and register to attend.




Today's Headlines - November 7, 2001

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Energy Department and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are not keeping an accurate inventory of nuclear materials loaned out for domestic research, government investigators report.

An audit by the Energy Department's inspector general between April and August found that 119 locations handling government-owned enriched uranium, plutonium and other nuclear materials had returned more to the department than had been loaned out or leased.

While finding no evidence of nuclear materials being diverted or misused, the government's inaccurate records could undermine its ability to detect stolen or lost materials, said Gregory H. Friedman, the department's inspector general.

The records entered into a federal electronic database run by the Energy Department and the NRC "are not logical and almost certainly incorrect," said Friedman in the Oct. 26 report, released this week.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A tiny mosquito that takes shelter in the pitcher plant is evolving in response to global warming, researchers report.

In a study appearing Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Oregon in Eugene found that global warming is leading the pitcher plant mosquito, a tiny, fragile species that seldom bothers people, to delay when it breeds and develops.

The pitcher plant mosquito is not considered a pest. But experts say the study suggests that global warming also could lead to genetic changes in troublesome insects.

William E. Bradshaw of Oregon, the first author of study, said the pitcher plant mosquito bases its lifestyle on the length of day. When days grow shorter, it is genetically programmed to hibernate and settles in to spend the winter comfortably protected inside the pitcher plant, he said.


from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sunspots act like planet-sized hurricanes that suck in as much material as they spew out, temporarily overriding the laws of magnetic fields, scientists said on Tuesday.

A team of researchers from NASA and Stanford University said by peering into the Sun for the first time, they discovered how the magnetic fields, which make up the cool dark sunspots on the surface, clump together instead of dispersing.

Scientists had previously observed gases pouring out of the sunspots, and thought this was the product of the various magnetic fields repelling each other, in the same way magnets repel each other when brought together.

But the researchers said the outflowing matter is just a surface feature that occurs while the sunspot sucks in new material to hold itself together.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Star-gazing residents of the Bay Area and many other parts of the nation got a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights last night, but it's unlikely it'll happen another time soon unless the sun burps again.

"People saw them all over the country, from San Francisco to Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado," said Bing Quock, assistant chairman of the Morrison Planetarium in Golden Gate Park. "It was a pretty significant event."

People in the Bay Area who witnessed the aurora borealis said it was a soft, pinkish red glow low in the northeast sky. Most saw it in the hours between sunset and near midnight.


from The (Portland) Oregonian

A rock formation in Israel where the ancestors of modern humans left crude tools is about 1.7 million to 2 million years old, possibly making it the oldest known site of the first migrants out of Africa, say geophysicists from Oregon and Israel.

Shaul Levi of Oregon State University and Hagai Ron of the Geophysical Institute of Israel determined the age of the site by studying reversals in the Earth's magnetic field recorded in a formation called Erk-el-Ahmar.

The date will provide more information about the timing and path of the migration of hominids out of Africa, said Levi, a professor emeritus of oceanic and atmospheric sciences. The findings are reported in the October issue of the journal Geology.

"This date is significant because it helps document the trail out of Africa," said Philip Rightmire, a professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton. "This shows people were on the march at least 1.7 million years ago."


from Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A certain type of brain scan can detect for the first time whether memory lapses mean a person will develop Alzheimer's Disease, according to researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles.

In a study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, the research team found that positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brain can accurately detect early Alzheimer's up to 95 percent of the time.

Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative brain disease which leads eventually to profound dementia and death. Its causes are not fully understood, but autopsies show that the brains of Alzheimer's patients are riddled with waxy protein plaques.


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Skeptic Scientology story


John Travolta is thrilled that his beloved Church of Scientology found its way to Ground Zero.

When the longtime devotee of the religious group heard that his church was aiding rescue workers at the World Trade Center site, he told Rosie O'Donnell that "Some of our volunteer ministers who are on Ground Zero along with the Red Cross are using these assists that are taking people out of shock. And they really work."

The "assists" to which Travolta refers are procedures used to get an individual to confront and handle physical difficulties by addressing spiritual trauma. It was "these assists" that attracted Travolta to Scientology in the first place.

"I was in Mexico, shooting a movie with an actress who was a Scientologist," Travolta told O'Donnell in the December issue of her magazine, Rosie.

"I wasn't feeling well, and she gave me one of these assists, and I felt better immediately, and I thought, 'Hey, there has to be something to this.' I was only 21."

Travolta adds that Scientology even helps him know what role his own celebrity should play in the world - especially at a time like this.

"One of my favorite quotes from [Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard is, 'It's all right to think that you're the most important person in the world, as long as everyone else is equally important.'

"Celebrities can be more valuable in the time of crisis, but we are not more important." As all of us have seen these last two months.


From: bwroblew

In past discussions on this subject it was pointed out that SETI was valuable not only for extraterrestrial intelligence searches, but for serendipitous discoveries as well.

The url below is a good example of the usefulness of the data being generated.



Fossil finds change theory of evolution


By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 07/11/2001)

A TOOL kit carved from bone 70,000 years ago provides the strongest evidence yet that Africa was the birthplace of complex technology, scientists report.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001


I wonder if this guy would be willing to drink polluted water after "altering the molecular structure" using his "purifying" techniques.

John Byers

Masaru Emoto has published a book, The Message from Water, in which he claims that human vibrational energy, thoughts, words, ideas and music, affect the molecular structure of water. He publishes photographs of ice crystals claiming that the differences shown are caused by the following before and after offering a prayer, playing different music (Beethoven and heavy metal) and putting the following labels on bottles of water: love and appreciation, thank you, you make me sick, I will kill you, Adolph Hitler and Mother Theresa.

Here's some additional info on this subject gleaned from various websites...

High-speed photography of crystals formed in frozen water reveals changes in the same body of water after specific, concentrated thoughts were directed toward it. Small amounts of water (an 8 oz. glass) as well as large areas of water (such as dams lakes) were used in these experiments and in all cases the water samples reflected a molecular change.
Music and visual images were used to stimulate the water samples. The water was also exposed to words written on paper and photographs placed underneath or around the glass containers to see if these energies had any impact. They did.

Water from clear unpolluted springs, water that had been blessed or exposed to loving words showed brilliant, often complex and invariably beautiful snowflake patterns, sparkling with brilliant color and luminosity. By contrast, water from chemically treated sources, polluted waters or those exposed to negative thoughtforms, showed incomplete, asymmetrical or semi-amorphous patterns, low reflectivity and dull colors. ...the most exciting experiment...was one in which a sample of water was taken from a polluted dam in Japan and then frozen and photographed. Next, a Buddhist priest sat by the water and spent an hour in prayer. Immediately after another sample was taken, frozen and photographed. You can see the results...

Emoto came up with a theory that when a water molecule crystallizes, pure water becomes pure crystal, but contaminated water may not crystallize as beautifully as pure water.

Emoto's encounters with the study of water started when he became acquainted with his friend and colleague, Dr. Lee Lorenzen, the biochemist and developer of "micro-cluster water". Due to their work together, Emoto began his study of the properties of water and how human thought/feeling can influence it.

Dr Masaru Emoto is President of I.H.M. Co. Ltd, which was established in 1986 after working for Chisan Co. Ltd and chubu Yomiuri Shimbum (currently Central Head Quarters of the Yomiuru Newspapers). A certified and licensed doctor of alternative medicine form the Open international University in 1992, he has published twelve books (with world famous economist Dr Labi Batra) including several that have become best sellers in Japan. His latest book " The Message From water " published in June 1999 sold over 70,000 copies in the firt 10 months. He has presented numerous lectures on "The Miracle of water" and the power Hado ("Hado" is the Japanese word signifying the world of subtle energy related to consciousness, synonymous with "Chi "). He researches on water in the human body, in daily life and on Earth, from the personal rather than scientific aspect, and experiments creatively with water crystals, believing these to reflect the essence of water.

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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2001 Sigma Xi Forum: Science, the Arts and the Humanities: Connections and Collisions

Click on the link below to view a detailed program of events, read about the featured presentation of the play "Oxygen," and register to attend.




Today's Headlines - November 6, 2001

from The Boston Globe

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Hundreds of volunteers began receiving injections of smallpox vaccine yesterday, answering the call of researchers trying to determine whether the US can dilute and expand its store of 15 million doses of the treatment in case of a terrorist attack using the virus.

The vaccine, which is being administered in varying strengths, will make many volunteers feel as if they have flu symptoms, and, in extremely rare cases, could cause inflammation of the brain or even death. The vaccine, made from a virus related to smallpox, prompts the immune system to develop antibodies.

Despite the discomfort and risks, the four university centers conducting clinical trials report a stream of calls from Americans who are willing to take part in the study, either out of a sense of patriotism or because they fear a smallpox outbreak and want to be protected.


from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Mayo Clinic said on Monday it had developed a test for anthrax that works in one hour and can be used both on people and in the environment.

The DNA-based test uses technology developed by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG to look quickly for DNA from the bacteria that cause anthrax.

"The new test can identify the presence of anthrax in less than one hour instead of days," the Rochester, Minnesota-based clinic said.

"The first thing people want to know in a case of suspected exposure is whether the agent was in fact anthrax," Dr. Franklin Cockerill, a microbiologist at the clinic who led the development team, said in a statement.


from The New York Times

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 - In a development that may sidestep some of the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research, a scientist here says he has created stem cells that can turn into nerve cells using a kind of embryo that cannot develop into a baby.

The work, done in mice, is one of several recent experiments that explore the usefulness of asexual reproduction in deriving stem cells.

The researcher, Dr. Jerry L. Hall, uses chemicals to coax an egg to grow into an embryo of sorts without being fertilized by a male's sperm. Such embryos, even if implanted into a womb, would not grow to become viable babies, Dr. Hall and other experts said. But the embryos can be grown in a laboratory for a few days, long enough to become a source of stem cells.


from Reuters

MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) - Can we really trade the air we breathe?

Critics of U.N.-organized climate change talks rhetorically asked the question at a news conference Monday to charge that experts meeting in Marrakesh were far removed from real issues that affect the lives of ordinary people throughout the world.

Delegates from 164 countries began a second week of highly technical talks to wrap up a deal on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to combat global warming and reduce emissions of "greenhouse gases" blamed for raising the earth's temperature.

Representatives from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) said common sense was at times sorely missing in documents being prepared for the ministerial meeting on climate change from Wednesday to Friday which will conclude the two-week Marrakesh conference, the first major international gathering since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.


from The New York Times

Plunging into the roiled waters of human intelligence and its heritability, scientists say they have found that the size of certain regions of the brain is under tight genetic control and that the larger these regions are, the higher is intelligence.

The finding is true only on average and cannot be used to assess an individual's intelligence, said Dr. Paul M. Thompson, the leader of the research team and a pioneer in mapping the structure of the brain.

The measurement of intelligence has long been a controversial issue, and even more so the efforts to tease out the relative contributions of heredity and environment.

Dr. Bruce L. Miller, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco and an expert on brain changes in Alzheimer's disease, said Thompson's work was "an exciting study that starts to show there are some brain areas in which there are very significant genetic influences on structure."


Science Musings from The Boston Globe

Is language something we are born with, or is it something we learn in the first few years of life?

The answer would appear to be obvious. No babe comes talking out of the womb. Every child must learn a vocabulary, learn to match sounds to things or concepts.

Yet there are linguists who say that some aspects of language are inborn. The person most often associated with this view is Noam Chomsky, who, in a series of brilliant works in the second half of the last century, proposed that all human languages share a Universal Grammar that corresponds to innate structures of the human brain.

Chomsky was not the first to hold this view - even Darwin guessed as much - but he was the first to present a compelling argument based on common features of all languages and on observations of language acquisition by children.


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Crossing Over with John Edwards


John Edwards.....Will Ferrell
Fran's Friend.....Drew Barrymore
Fran.....Maya Rudolph

Announcer: From an early age, John Edward displayed remarkable psychic abilities, predictions and premonitions he couldn't explain. At 15, a reading by a psychic changed his life. John was told what millions have witnessed. He can reunite people in the physical world with those that have.. crossed over.

[ dissolve to set, John Edwards overlooking his audience ]

John Edwards: Welcome to "Crossing Over". Before we begin, I must stress again the importance of remembering the details that come from these sessions. Specifically, the things that don't seem to make sense at first. It's imperative that you remember everything I say. Okay. I think I'm ready. And.. I'm going over here.. in this direction.. right here. And someone over here, I'm getting a J. A J.. a woman with a J connection. Who's got a woman with a J? [ no response ] Maybe K? K or J? A woman with a K or J. [ no response ] Or.. R? K, J, R.. or F.

Fran's Friend: [ raises hand ] Oh! I know an F!

John Edwards: Okay. Okay, what's the name?

Fran's Friend: Fran.

John Edwards: And she passed recently?

No, she's sitting right here.


HTML O' The Day

[OK, this doesn't have a lot (anything?) to do with skepticism. But, let's have some fun for a change. Ed.]

The United States can look forward to the most spectacular meteor show since 1966 -- and it might be another 98 years before anything so sensational will be seen again.

"When are you going to fill that Jewish seat on the Supreme Court?" Attorney General John Mitchell asked. "Well, how about after I die?" Nixon responded good-naturedly.
"I don't think a woman should be in any government job whatever," he told Mitchell, "mainly because they are erratic. And emotional. ... I lean to a woman only because, frankly, I think at this time, John, we got to pick up every half a percentage point we can."

A campaign aide said Thursday the picture of the Luftwaffe officer was used in error.

If you don't like my work, don't nit pick, just sit down and explain chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in a document around three pages long yourself.

The real question is what would you do after the bird died? Where could you go?"

Ian Ashpole, 46, filled 600 toy balloons with helium and sailed gracefully to a new world record of 11,000 feet.

This titanic closing fight, by the way, may use cutting-edge effects, but has been written with slavish respect for ancient cliches. It begins with the venerable It's Only a Cat Scene, in which a cat startles a character (but not the audience) by leaping at the lens. Then the characters retire to a Steam and Flame Factory, one of those Identikit movie sets filled with machines that produce copious quantities of steam, flames and sparks. Where do they have their fight? On a catwalk, of course. Does anyone end up clinging by his fingertips? Don't make me laugh.

Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society

In what one attorney calls a "shocking decision," a California appellate court has ruled that software available on the Internet that enables DVDs to be copied is protected by the First Amendment.

Things you're no longer allowed to know.

Just because people choose to take drugs and go to raves doesn't justify subjecting animals to suffering and death in a laboratory.

In a demonstration of the exploit earlier this week, Slemko sent Wired News a specially crafted but innocent-looking e-mail. Moments after the e-mail was viewed using Microsoft's Hotmail Web-based e-mail service, Slemko rattled off, over the phone, the credit card number and contact information from the user's Passport wallet.

If anyone's interested in the story "from the horse's mouth", as it were, Slemko's own webpage is a detailed discussion of how he pulled the crack off, and the ramifications of what he did:


I've not had the chance to analyze his exploit in detail, but what scares me about the insecurity of the Passport service was that Slemko claims to have figured the crack out after about thirty minutes of brainstorming.

Best regards,

Len Cleavelin

Monday, November 05, 2001

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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****** Special bulletin for Sigma Xi members and members of the media ******

2001 Sigma Xi Forum: Science, the Arts and the Humanities: Connections and Collisions

Click on the link below to view a detailed program of events, read about the featured presentation of the play "Oxygen," and register to attend.




Today's Headlines - November 5, 2001

from The Washington Post

One month after a Florida photo editor became the first victim of a deadly, disruptive and highly alarming U.S. bioterrorist attack, federal investigators find themselves at a precarious and nerve-racking juncture.

All but one of the 22 confirmed or suspected cases of anthrax identified to date have been linked with some assurance to a few spore-laden letters sent to media outlets and a member of Congress. No new sources of contamination are known to have been mailed since Oct. 9, and it has been more than a week since the last new infection was identified.

For investigators who have struggled night and day to piece together the mind-numbingly complex epidemiological puzzle, the hope is that this hiatus will last a while, or perhaps even mark the end of the outbreak. Experts say they are desperate for a chance to reassess their response and reconfigure their resources so problems that arose during October's frantic effort will not reoccur if another -- and perhaps much larger -- outbreak develops.

They also are working furiously to solve the biggest lingering riddle of the current epidemic -- the mysterious anthrax death of a New York woman who had no known exposure to contaminated mail -- in the hope of learning potentially life-saving lessons before they are overwhelmed by another installment of terror.


from The Los Angeles Times

Imagine starting a drive from Los Angeles to Boston, lacking a road atlas or even a rental car map. Your only navigational tool is a giant wall map of the entire United States crumpled on the seat beside you, the scale so grand it reveals nothing smaller than interstate highways--and even they are barely discernible.

That image sums up how map makers historically have depicted the world's natural tapestry of forests, deserts, mountains and oceans. Such maps have been too broad and coarse to capture the complex mix of animals and plants found around the globe.

Before we set out to save the world, we need to know what lives in it, and where, said Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, one of the world's largest private conservation groups. He still remembers the advice of one scientific veteran: "The first thing you're going to need, to do conservation, is to go out and get a good map." When Dinerstein and colleague David M. Olson couldn't find the right map, they decided to design one, launching an eight-year effort that would involve the work of more than 1,000 biogeographers, taxonomists, conservationists and ecologists nationwide.

The result: what they call "A New Map of Life on Earth."


from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - An Italian fertility expert who wants to clone humans will not be allowed to work in Britain and could face a fine or imprisonment if he tries to conduct experiments in the country, an official said Monday.

The Rome-based gynecologist Dr. Severino Antinori told a Scottish newspaper he wanted to work in Britain because it was the home of many of the world's leading fertility and cloning experts.

But a spokesman for the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment in Britain, said Antinori had not applied for a license .

"He has not applied to us. He'd get short shrift if he did," James Yeandel, a spokesman for the HFEA, told Reuters.


from The New York Times

COTOVELO DO XINGU, Brazil - The tiny fish, among the most exotic and coveted in the world, are hardly larger than a thumb. But they are worth their weight in gold on a clandestine international market.

Lured by that prospect of wealth, as many as 400 divers have come to this remote stretch of river in the heart of the Amazon jungle, plunging to ever deeper and more dangerous depths, gasping for air as they surface. Their goal is to capture as many of the fish as possible for collectors' aquariums, but each success makes their prey even harder to catch.

The level of activity here is especially high in early fall because the end of the Amazon dry season is fast approaching. It is easier for divers to capture the fish when water levels are so low that shoals are exposed than during the six-month rainy season, which begins in November.


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Schoolbooks as instruments of religious indoctrination

From: The Textbook League ttl@textbookleague.org

The Web site of The Textbook League now displays an article that will be of interest to some members of this newsgroup. The article -- "Textbook-Writers Promote Religious Tales as "History" -- can be found at http://www.textbookleague.org/111hakm.htm

Bill Bennetta

Articles of Note & Darwin Day Update

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

Here is a link to a fan page that publishes transcripts of Saturday Night Live sketches. Why this link? A few weeks ago they did a sketch mercilessly ridiculing John Edwards. I thought you might enjoy seeing the transcript.


Superstitions run rampant
Associated Press


"Fear of crossing a black cat's path and other superstitions have long been part of Halloween."

TV psychic's telemarketers allegedly broke 'do not call' law
Associated Press


"Television psychic Miss Cleo may know intimate details about people's lives, but the state Consumer Protection Board says her company doesn't know New York telemarketing laws."

Ghost orbs haunt couple's snapshots
By Billy Cox


"Jim and Gretchen Costa seem like normal middle-class burghers. They have two kids, they work together in their new Viera home as mortgage industry recruiters, and they enjoy dressing their house in traditional seasonal decor, like for Halloween."

Some mythological monsters for All Saints' Day
by Neal H. Cruz
Philippine Daily News


"TODAY is that single day of the year when ghosts and other denizens of the nether world or the twilight zone reign supreme."

Ghost writer
By Suzy Hansen


"Friedrich Jurgenson was one of the first people to use EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon, to record the voices of "ghosts." When Jurgenson passed away, he was sure to let his fellow ghost hunters know what he was learning on the other side. The Jurgenson-like voice that experimenters caught on tape said, "All your scientific, medical or biological speculations miss the mark.""

by John Dooley
Portland Mercury


"Exorcisms: everybody's doing them. Recently, it was reported that Mother Teresa underwent an exorcism just prior to her death to rid her body of a violent, demonic entity. Soon after, it was revealed that Pope John Paul II himself performs exorcisms--but he isn't very good at it. According to a Vatican report, the pontiff attempted to exorcise evil spirits from a 19-year-old Italian woman last year, saying the woman "displayed superhuman strength," and that the Pope's efforts failed."

Relatives Cheer Bill Clearing Salem Witches
By Christopher Noble


"Descendants of those executed during the infamous 17th century witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts, were cheering on Thursday after the last of their wrongly accused ancestors were exonerated."

Trio Hanged for Witchcraft Murder


"A witchdoctor, her husband and assistant were hanged Friday for the murder of a Malaysian member of a state assembly, whom they lured with promises of political power before killing him for money."

Darwin Day

November marks the date when people begin to plan and organize for the upcoming Darwin Day celebrations. On or around February 12th, a diversity of outlets within society will be holding a Darwin Day event in their community. Participants include middle and high schools, college and universities, museums, zoos, academic societies, student clubs, libraries, bookstores, businesses, families and other interested outlets. Events range from small to large and include all kinds of activities. From large banquets to the annual Darwin Day lecture, debates and film festivals, special exhibits and displays, workshops and fun activities for children such as scavenger hunts, dinosaur spelling bees, nature quests and more. Individuals can also take part by distributing informative literature within their community, partaking in the "official" Darwin Day meal of Fish & Chips or getting together with friends to watch a documentary or to discuss the latest book on evolution. Events are being coordinated across the globe to make the Darwin Day Program an International Celebration of Science & Humanity.

We invite list readers to join us by visiting the Darwin Day Program web site at www.darwinday.org

Here you will find an event form that you can fill out online and tell us how you will be celebrating Darwin Day this coming February.

You can also join with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, John Maynard Smith, Helena Cronin and many other great minds, in supporting our efforts by sending in your name to be included in the list of program supporters.

The web site also contains a variety of other features including resources and material, ideas for activities and events, book lists, contests and more.

For more information on the Darwin Day Program and how you can participate and support our efforts, please contact Amanda Chesworth at a.human@mindspring.com

More Sheep Killings in Spain.

Flying Saucer Review, Volume 46/3, Autumn 2001, pp. 18 and 19

Exclusive Report to Flying Saucer Review

More Sheep Killings in Spain.

(c) by Raquel Andion and Enrique Tomas and Centro MIZAR UFO Research Group; C/Baja Navarra, 1 -6; Tel. 948551425 or 948556787, 31200 - Estella (Navarra) Spain.

(Translations from Spanish. G.C.)

[See also these authors' previous report, More Animal Mutilations in Spain, in FSR 44/2 (Summer 1999), and Magdalena del Amo-Freixedo's article Chupacabras Galore! in FSR 42/2 (1997) - Editor.] See inside front cover for colour pictures belonging to this article.

During the night and early morning of January 20/21, 1999, about 300 sheep were attacked in the paddock of Senor J. Ramon Luqui at Caparroso, in the Province of Navarra, [right below the Pyrenees, in Northern Spain. G.C.] The site, Caparroso, lies some 45 kms., as the crow flies, from Lerin (which featured in our last report) and close to the semi-desert tract known as Las Bardenas Reales, S.E. Navarra [a tract used by the Spanish Military and famous for a UFO landing case there many years ago which was fully reported in FSR. G.C.]

Of the flock of 300 sheep, it seems that only nine animals were directly killed by the aggressor, with the usual small circular holes bitten into the gullet. The rest of the flock died from panic, jostling, crushing and asphyxia.

When our MIXAR team reached the spot we met there the farmer J. Ramon Luqui and his family, and a Sr. Pedro J. Alcues of the Caparroso Town Council, and our team requested their permission to be present at the investigation. The opinion of the farmer himself was that the attacker was "some strange creature or animal". Also present were representatives from the Faculty of Veterinary Science in the University of Zaragoza. These latter, very speedily and giving no explanations, set about removing nerve ganglia from severed throats and went off with them. And the farmer subsequently received absolutely no information regarding the analysis and the findings of these veterinarians.

The nine directly attacked animals all had two small incisions of some millimetres and varying from 1.5 mm. to 2 mm. in diameter. These perforations were always two, as was established after a very careful scrutiny of the bodies. And what was surprising was the closeness of the two holes to each other, (1.5 cms. to 2 cms. apart).

No animal had been eaten, and none showed torn or ripped external wounding. Nor was there any blood whatever anywhere around the bodies apart from faint discolourings around some of the circular orifices.

Nevertheless - and most astonishing of all - every single animal showed the tracheal tube cut transversely, as though by a knife. *This fact contrasted with the total lack of damage to the skin of the throats, while the longitudinal blood vessels remained completely intact. How could such internal damage (of the very highest precision) occur with such minutely small external damage? This fact surprised even the Zaragozan analyst vets, who were indeed astounded, shaken, and assuring the farmer that never in their lives had they seen the like of it.*


The attacker had left various groups of footprints in the soil, some of which, as a member of farmer Luqui's family told us, had been intentionally destroyed by people sent from the MEDIO AMBIENTE (This seems to be the local Environmental Office. G.C.) WHY THIS DESTRUCTION ????

The footprints were 16 - 17 cms. long, by 15 cms. wide, with distances of 85 cms. between them, and a very strange distribution of the prints - one, followed by one - which gave everyone present the impression that it could only have resulted from the walk of - A BIPED!*

The soil was very hard and compact, as it had not rained for about ten days (checked subsequently with the Meteorological Service). The depth of the footprints was 2 1/2 cms. to 4 cms., which, after subsequent checking, indicated that whatever had left them had weighed over 80 kgs.

Another curious thing that must be mentioned is the strange sensation of "biological inactivity" felt in the vicinity. One member of the farmer's family said it was "as though the field, or the life-force, was somehow dead" - and there was also a strange silence in the days before and after the date of the attack.

Days later, our MIZAR group proved that the mysterious assailant had not terminated its presence on the scene, for, before we had recovered from the shock of Caparroso a phone call came, informing us that in the very early hours of the 25th/26th of that same month of January 1999, there had been a similar attack on the paddock of a farm at Lerin owned by Miguel Rodriguez, (cousin of Sr. Natalio Rodriguez, owner of the first flock of sheep attacked at Lerin on 8/9 October 1998, on which we had reported in our previous article, in FSR 44/2, Summer 1999). The result this time was that 18 sheep were dead, and 6 had disappeared, all the dead ones, scattered over an area of 2 square kilometres, showing the same features as had been seen in all previous cases.

There had been rain in the last few days before that attack, and the ground was relatively soft and humid, especially around the one particular spot where, this time, the footprints were found. *The most important track was almost 6 m. long, but owing to the marks of what seemed to be several animals at the spot, nothing could be seen clearly. But clearly to be seen there were two sets of 4 prints, with a distance of 3 m. separating them. And these prints, 12 cms. long and 10 cms. wide, with toes with very pointed claws, were distributed in a way that would have been well nigh impossible for a running animal.

Sr. Miguel Rodriguez received a "visit" from the same technical people of the Veterinary Faculty at Zaragoza University, and this time they took away with them the entire heads of the dead sheep!

When they inspected the bodies they found again the same cleanly cut windpipes and the same absence of bites or wounds. Moreover it was noted that most of the dead sheep were carrying unborn lambs.

Finally, early in the morning of 2.3 [sic] June 1999, and again at Lerin, a flock of sheep owned by Javier Guembe was attacked, with 18 killed. This time however, only 3 of them showed the unmistakable signs seen in the previous cases, the other 18 having died of asphyxiation.

We saw that the three with the throats punctured had the same sized circular wounds, and the tracheas cut internally. We were not able to verify whether the farmers had reported that any of the bodies had been drained of blood.


Given the magnitude of the problem, and the alarming evidence found at the site, our MIZAR Group decided to communicate the details to various experts in Zoology, Veterinary Science, and Biological Sciences in order to verify the tests and corroborate to what degree one could talk of attacks by really anomalous animals lying outside the conventional fauna found in the Iberian Peninsula.

So they consulted Juan Carlos Gil Cubillo, maker of documentaries and an expert on the wolves of the Iberian Peninsula; Xavier Manteca, a professor of the Animal Physiology Unit of the Independent University of Barcelona; the Fauna Department of the University of Alaska; the Fund for Animal Protection in Asturias; the biologist Fereico Torres Isturiz; and Dr. Jose Gomez Piquer, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zaragoza.

The following conclusions were derived from their analysis based upon the tests that they carried out:
1. The "Feral Dogs Hypothesis" was rejected totally, due to the fact that their method of attack is much rougher and bloodier than the action of wolves. And the "Wolf Theory" was also thrown out, owing to the absence of wounds on the bodies of the sheep.
2. The attacker seemed to be one single animal.
3. The type of the footprints points to a canid - i.e. a dog. But neither the size of the footprint nor its imprint corresponds to those of either wolves or dogs, and not to large felines either.
4. In Navarra THE WOLF IS EXTINCT. But the presence of wolves has been detected in *nearby* mountain ranges. It is thought that there could be wolves living in the vicinity of the scenes of the attacks, but there is no evidence of this, either direct or indirect.
5. No logical relationship exists between the size of the animal and the smallness of the gap between the teeth.
6. According to Senor Cubillo, the wolf expert, the heaviest Iberian wolf every weighed was 47 kgs., making imprints 11 cms. deep - very far from the weights and the sizes estimated for the attacking creature.


With all this data to hand, the MIZAR RESEARCH GROUP are in a position to offer their own opinion, which is that a mysterious attacker of an unknown and anomalous kind has been active among the livestock of Navarra Province - an attacker whose characteristics correspond in absolutely no way to those of the known depredators of the conventional Iberian fauna, and whose origin remains an enigma.

We at MIZAR have recently investigated several pieces of fresh testimony which speak of the observation of an animal of medium size, with abundant dark spiny fur, apparently heavier than it might appear to be, and having a very pronounced snout. Those farmers and agriculturalists of the region who have encountered them say they were unable to identify what species of creature was involved. ITS BEHAVIOUR IS EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT, AND IT APPEARS TO BE ABLE TO DISORIENT ITS PURSUERS AND TO AVOID PROVIDING ANY RELATABLE CLUE.

The conclusion at which we must finally arrive is that this case, and this entire subject, is irritatingly confused and absurd, but is relatable to the mysterious deaths which have occurred in other parts of the Globe and which invite the most aberrant of hypotheses....


To judge by this description given above, I now feel very certain that the only candidate that could fit the picture definitely is our gruesome old acquaintance, the *chupacabras* of Puerto Rico, which is a biped.





November 5, 2001 -- Metro Gnome

IT WAS Halloween night and SoHo's Manhattan Bistro was empty - so empty, in fact, that the staff decided to close up early.

"It's just dead tonight," said manager Tommy King.

King picked the perfect word - dead. After all, what else would you expect on Halloween at a restaurant that has a ghost residing in the basement?

Occultists, paranormals and other assorted weirdos have long proclaimed the existence of the "Spring Street Ghost," the haunting specter of a murdered hat-maker named Elma Sands who was dumped in a well three days before Christmas 1799 near the current-day intersection of Spring and Greene streets.

From time to time, people claim they've seen lights go on or off or plates crash to the floor although no one is in the room, but the supposedly haunted well was believed to have been lost to the ravages of time.

But it was not lost. It's in the Manhattan Bistro basement.

For almost two centuries, the basement of the 19th century building, which was once at street level, was filled with dirt, concealing the historic well.

But with business booming, owner Marie DaGrossa cleared out the dirt with the intention of turning her basement into a lounge or a second dining room.

DaGrossa's no archeologist, but she knew she'd uncovered something important. A cursory investigation, plus a visit from experts from the Landmarks Conservancy, provided a rationalization for years of ghostly occurrences.

"I've seen ashtrays just fly off the table and crash into the wall," said King. "Maybe Elma's ghost doesn't like smoking."

Elma Sands' killer never went to jail. Even in 1800, America's legal system had matured so that everyone understood that a rich guy with good lawyers must always beat the rap.

The facts of the case have not dulled over time: Elma Sands, a 21-year-old milliner, was living at a boarding house at the corner of Greenwich and Franklin streets, across the hall from Levi Weeks, a carpenter from a prosperous family of builders.

When Sands disappeared, evidence started mounting against Weeks. First, it was revealed that Weeks had promised to marry Sands and that the couple had been intimate as a result.

To defend himself at the first "Trial of the (19th) Century," Weeks hired a "dream team" - Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. They mounted a defense that first depicted Sands as promiscuous (apparently grounds for murder in those days) and then claimed that she committed suicide when Weeks withdrew his proposal.

He was acquitted.

Meanwhile, Sands' friend, Catherine Ring, was so disturbed by the verdict that she screamed at Hamilton, "If thee dies a natural death, I shall think there is no justice in heaven."

Hamilton, of course, died four years later from his quite unnatural duel with Burr, so at least the ghost of Catherine Ring walks the earth at peace.

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Armchair Nessie-watchers can view moving underwater webcam

From Ananova at:


Images from the first moving underwater Loch Ness webcam will be broadcast tonight.

The pressure-resistant camera and lights will be lowered from the side of the Deepscan research boat.

Images from a webcam above Urquhart Castle on the loch's shores are already available.

The underwater webcam - the first not fixed to one spot - begins broadcasting at 9pm at www.visitlochness.org.

Researcher Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project, told Ananova: "It's an excellent vehicle to make what we do accessible to people. And of course it's useful for us too."

He said plans for the broadcast are going well, though there is some wind.

The first underwater broadcast will be made in collaboration with Aberdeen-based firm Kongsberg Simrad. The equipment is provided by CamVista. The Inverness and Nairn Enterprise and the Loch Ness 2000 exhibition have also helped fund the project.

The camera will be lowered into the 230-metre depths by the Loch Ness Project team, who man the Deepscan vessel.

The land-based webcam sweeps across the bay, relaying images of the loch 24 hours a day from 10 positions and is refreshed every 5 seconds.

Saturday, November 03, 2001

The Top 20 Little-Known Terrorist Organizations

Skeptical humor from Terry Colvin

The Top 20 Little-Known Terrorist Organizations

20 Al Quesadilla -- fighting for Mexican cheese appetizers

19 B.R.A. (Banana Republican Army) -- khaki-wearing freedom fighting yuppies

18 International House of Paramilitarism -- No attacks before breakfast!

17 Al Shamu -- whales fighting for liberation of their Seaworld-captive brethren

16 Ku Klutz Klan -- clumsy cross-burning rednecks

15 Kabob-aloos -- Cuban freedom fighters armed only with skewers

14 The IRAs -- little nebbish guys who annoy the hell out of people, with pants hiked high to conceal their Glocks

13 El McPherson -- band of crazed-from-hunger Supermodels

12 The Moulin Rouge -- French Communist song and dance troupe

11 The Spanish Imposition -- Your Tia Josephina comes for a visit, stays for a month, and lounges around all day watching Spanish soap operas with the TV volume blasting.

10 Al Kato -- freeloading houseguests who move in and eat all your food

9 The Talibananarama -- spreading the message of bad British '80s dance music

8 Hamina-hamina-hamas -- freedom fighters for Jackie Gleason

7 Balsamic Jihad -- fundamentalist food critics

6 "Weird Al" Qaeda -- attacking the capitalist, American government by spreading their revolutionary message in the form of a rousing polka medley

5 The Black Pansies -- black-gloved horticulturists

4 Yeehaw Jihad -- "The Cowboys of Chaos"

3 Al Ro'ker -- eighty percent chance of a Rain of Terror!

2 Falun Bong -- Uhm... hey, man, what are we fighting again?

And Topfive.com's Number 1 Little-Known Terrorist Organization...

1 Pujafudin-Pujafudout -- spreading the terror that is the Hokey Pokey

Debunking the Waco FLIR


(c) 2001 Ian Williams Goddard

The 51-day standoff in Waco, Texas between members of the Branch Davidian sect and federal agents ended tragically when the Mount Carmel Center burned to the ground, leaving over 70 of its inhabitants dead. Before and during the fire an aircraft circled overhead with a heat detecting FLIR (forward-looking infrared) video camera. The documentaries Waco: the Rules of Engagement [1] and Waco: A New Revelation [2] produced by Michael McNulty popularized the claim that the FLIR recorded gunshots being fired into Mt Carmel before and during the fire.

Worthy Weekend Reading

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

Talking to the dead and Therapeutic Touch for the dead.
Chris Mooney, American Prospect

For the full article go to:


Amidst accusations of war profiteering by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, it's important to recall that times like these can give rise to another sort of profiteering as well -- one that attempts to cash in on people's grief.

I'm not just talking about fake charities trying to bilk those generous enough to donate to the families of September 11 victims. Consider: Jon Edward, the celebrity psychic medium and host of the Studios USA show Crossing Over, actually had the gall to record unaired segments in which he purportedly contacts the departed spirits of World Trade Center victims as a consolation to their loved ones. In the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine -- unfortunately not online at this writing -- Edward's spiritualist techniques are thoroughly exposed and debunked by the paranormal investigator Joe Nickell in an article titled "Jon Edward: Hustling the Bereaved." (Full disclosure: I used to work with Nickell at Skeptical Inquirer.)


Visit the CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer Magazine website at http://www.csicop.org.

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