NTS LogoSkeptical News for 28 November 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Witches launch festive season special offer

From Ananova at


Romanian witches have launched a special offer on spells for the Christmas and New Year period.

They are advertising spells which they claim will help potential clients have a happy time with their loved ones.

They are charging the equivalent of 20 for Christmas and New Year's Eve spells.

According to Evenimentul Zilei newspaper, the ad reads: "If you want to spend your holidays with the person you love and get rid of all that bothers you, please call ..."

The paper says that for a successful outcome, the witches request a picture of the person the spell is aimed at and objects belonging to the client.

A journalist who rang the number on the advert said she'd like to be with the man she loves but that he is married.

She asked if that could be arranged and the paper claims she was told that was possible.

It says the person she was speaking to added: "But you must bring me some stuff. I need a photograph of him, a blouse from you, two soaps that you use, two candles (a blue one and a white one), two bottles of oil and two kilograms of sugar."

Story filed: 12:00 Wednesday 28th November 2001

Preachers compete for Times award

From Ananova at


Five people are due to take part in the finals of a national preaching competition with a top prize of 1,500.

The last stages of The Times Preacher of the Year 2001 are o take place in Regent Hall, in central London.

Those taking part include the Rev Alison Adams, an Anglican priest from the Diocese of Leicester, Richard Warden, senior chaplain and head of religious studies at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire, and William Wolff, Rabbi of Wimbledon Synagogue.

Martin Camroux, Minister of Trinity United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church, in Sutton, Surrey, is also competing, as is Ian Knox, director of the 40:3 Trust, based in Coventry.

The competition, in its seventh year, demands that each participant gives a 10-minute sermon.

The judges include last year's winner, Colonel Margaret Hay, of the Salvation Army, Lewis Wolpert, professor of biology as applied to medicine at University College, London, an atheist, and Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue and this year's chairman of the panel of judges.

Dr William Beaver, director of communications for the Church of England, is also a judge in the competition.

The winner will receive 1,500 and a trophy with the runners-up awarded 300 each and a trophy.

The five finalists were picked out of more than 200 entrants.

Pagan Retreat Center Files Suit in Kansas


LEAVENWORTH, Kan. A Kansas retreat that caters to witches and pagan rituals is fighting for survival amid community talk that naked witches may be weaving magical spells in the moonlight.

The owners of the Gaea Retreat Center, a 168-acre (68-hectare) camp west of Kansas City that is home to such annual events as the Gaea Goddess Gathering and a "Heartland Pagan Spiritual event" filed suit in Leavenworth County District Court after county commissioners effectively put the retreat out of business by denying it a renewal of its land use permit.

"They say they're afraid of us, what we do here, the sound of drums. ... They don't know how lucky they are to have us as their neighbors," caretaker Wanda Roths said. "We're very quiet, very peaceful. There has never been any trouble out here."

The Leavenworth County commissioners denied the renewal for the permit, issued six years ago, in late October after a community petition raised accusations that the retreat fostered public nudity, pedophilia, and illegal drug and alcohol use. Neighbors also expressed concern about devil worship.

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.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


Today's Headlines - November 28, 2001

from The Washington Post

Astronomers for the first time have directly detected an atmosphere around a planet outside our solar system, employing techniques that will be used to search for Earth-like worlds and signs of life.

Working with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is orbiting Earth, scientists gathered telltale signs of an atmosphere around a planet about 150 light-years away. The planet is orbiting a star in the constellation Pegasus.

"Ten years ago, it was crazy to talk about looking for planets around other stars. And the idea of looking for their atmospheres was laughable," David Charbonneau of the California Institute of Technology said in announcing the advance yesterday. "All [of a] sudden, looking for Earth-like planets seems very reasonable. Studying their atmospheres is difficult, but it's really worth thinking about now."

The atmosphere that was detected is loaded with sodium, making the planet inhospitable for life as known on Earth. But the discovery, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, demonstrates for the first time that astronomers will be able to identify planets with atmospheres that can sustain life.


from The Associated Press

BOSTON - Several animal species have already been cloned into new adults. Many researchers felt sure the human embryo would soon follow.

Yet the achievement, announced by Advanced Cell Technology, suggests how difficult it might be to apply the lessons of animal cloning to human embryos, according to other cloning researchers.

Still, they say the effort will likely nudge the field forward by its impact on society, as much as on science.

"They're the first scientists that have really tried it," said Kevin Eggan, who has cloned mice at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., a prominent genetics research center. "It shows you can put together in a responsible way a human cloning laboratory."


from The New York Times

Scientists have decoded the genome of the anthrax bacterium and are sharing their findings with law enforcement officials eager for clues about who is using the lethal microbe as a deadly weapon.

The advance, experts said, might speed a frustrating criminal investigation into a scare that has sickened a dozen people and killed five others. Ultimately, they added, the advance also promises to aid diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which can be fatal if untreated.

The scientists are based at the Institute for Genomic Research, a private, nonprofit center in Rockville, Md., that has pioneered the decoding of genomes, the complete set of genetic material that serves as instruction books of life. In interviews, these scientists discussed the work reluctantly after a federal official divulged the completion of the genome.


from The Associated Press

BOSTON - Paul Keim was recently approached by an anthrax researcher at a small company who was seeking more samples needed for his work.

Keim, a microbiologist at Northern Arizona University, politely said he was too busy to supply them. Even for that, the other man was grateful.

Scientists at some other laboratories, the other man said, had just laughed at his request. One wise guy suggested he check with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

With new concerns about bioterrorism, legitimate scientists have been thwarted, at least temporarily, in their quest to study germs with terrorism potential.


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Tuesday, November 27, 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.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


Today's Headlines - November 27, 2001

from The Washington Post

Sunday's announcement that scientists in Massachusetts had begun to make cloned human embryos reverberated through international scientific, religious and legislative circles yesterday, culminating in words of disapproval from the pope and President Bush and a call in the U.S. Senate to pass quickly legislation banning such research.

"The use of embryos to clone is wrong," Bush told reporters yesterday. "We should not as a society grow life to destroy it. It's morally wrong in my opinion."

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said he would scrap a recent agreement he had made with the Senate leadership to postpone discussion of human cloning legislation until early next year. He said he would push hard to pass a sweeping ban in the waning weeks of this session.

The House passed such a ban in July -- one that would make it illegal to make cloned human babies and also prohibit the creation of cloned embryos for research, as the Massachusetts scientists have done. The Senate has been deeply divided on whether to pass a similarly broad ban, as Brownback has proposed, or one that would simply preclude the creation of cloned newborns. But it had agreed to put off that difficult debate until February or March.


from The Boston Globe

When Daniel Goldin took the helm of NASA, America's space program was still languishing in the shadow of the 1986 Challenger disaster. By the time he stepped down 10 days ago, the agency had a new space station, a roster of successes and failures exploring Mars, and a new sense of possibility. Goldin himself had become the longest-serving head of America's space agency and perhaps its most controversial.

Above all, Daniel Goldin got Americans talking about space again.

Against a drumbeat of constant budget cuts, Goldin's radical doctrine of ''faster, cheaper, better'' helped the US space program accomplish more in a short time than it had since its glory days of the 1960s.

But he also rubbed many people the wrong way. His sometimes brusque and quixotic style caused some respected veterans to leave the agency. And as the torch passes to Sean O'Keefe, the agency's new director, observers are assessing Goldin's legacy and his impact on the future of space exploration.


from The New York Times

BOSTON, Nov. 26 - The disappearance of a prominent Harvard biochemist in Memphis earlier this month has baffled his family, friends and law enforcement. But because the professor, Don C. Wiley, is a leading expert on dangerous viruses like Ebola, the mystery of his disappearance has provoked wider attention as well.

Professor Wiley, 57, has been missing since early Nov. 16, when the police found his rental car abandoned on a bridge over the Mississippi River outside Memphis.

There have been reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining the case in connection with its antiterrorism work. But Bill Woerner, the acting assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I.'s Memphis office, said today that it was not investigating the case, since there was no evidence of foul play.

And Gregory Verdine, a professor of chemical biology at Harvard, said, "If bioterrorists were to abduct Don Wiley, they'd be very disappointed," because his research was in studying the component parts of viruses, and "that doesn't really help you make a more dangerous version of the virus."


from The New York Times

With concern about bioterrorism growing, government officials, ethicists and scientists are beginning to grapple with a thorny question - whether the nation's biologists and biotechnology companies should be regulated, or regulate themselves, to restrict access to information and materials that might be used for biological weapons.

Already several proposals have been made in Congress to forbid some people, including certain foreigners, from working in laboratories that handle dangerous microbes. President Bush has proposed formulating an international code of ethical conduct for biological scientists.

And scientists are wondering aloud whether certain experiments should not be done or certain results should remain unpublished because they will help others design weapons.

"That's a whole new concept we've not faced before," said Dr. Ronald M. Atlas, dean of the graduate school of the University of Louisville and president-elect of the American Society for Microbiology. "Basic information, from publishing of genomes to doing experiments, has not been subject to banning before."


from The Associated Press

DALLAS - Scientists say they have evidence linking three genes to premature heart disease in what could develop into a better screening procedure for families at risk.

Using a new technique called high throughput microarray genotyping to sift through some 50,000 genes, the researchers found that three produce thrombospondin. The protein governs blood's ability to clot, a factor in heart disease.

The study in Tuesday's issue of the journal Circulation found that families with a variant of a gene called thrombospondin-4 were 89 percent more likely to have a premature heart attack compared with those who had a normal gene of the same type.


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Fib detector/Study shows brain scan detects patterns of neural activity when someone lies


Monday, November 26, 2001 (SF Chronicle)
Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer

Going the polygraph one better, scientists say they have spotted a telltale pattern of brain activity that can reveal when someone is lying. The new study shows that a brain-scanning method known as functional MRI -- which has already been used to capture images of such elusive mental states as romantic love and cocaine cravings -- also can snag a liar.

The discovery suggests police interrogators may someday be able to get a more direct view when devious wheels start turning in the minds of suspects. Some experts on lying said they would welcome a better lie-detection tool, while others said it raised serious privacy concerns.

Monday, November 26, 2001

NEW archived articles on Time-Space Displacement

The following material can be accessed from


(1) Contrary to the popular belief that the original intent of the Philadelphia Experiment was for radar invisibility, Bob Beckwith revealed to Chica Bruce that the experimental minesweeper (not the Eldridge) was using a "pseudo-teleportation" back along an established time-line to avoid mines. Tesla had discovered this accidentally on his lab bench and Teller (not von Neumann) tried to scale it up to ship-size. World War II veteran Bob King corroborated this somewhat by also stating the goal from the beginning was a type of "teleportation". Both accounts appear in the middle of the web-page.

(2) Details and theory of a space-based tomahawk fusion reactor-powered Time-Space Displacement System (achieving FTL speeds by using materials of heavy refractive index) are at A-2 at the bottom of the web-page.

(3) 1950's-era Canadian radio engineer Wilbert Smith claimed he saw an above top-secret U.S. memo concerning an effort to investigate UFOs. Smith himself was involved in "Project Magnet" involving Caduceus-Tensor coils. A simple explanation of their theory is at A-5a,5b at the bottom of the web-page.

(4) The "Delta-T" antenna made famous by all the Montauk tales rotated magnetic fields at FTL speeds which allegedly caused time vortexes to open. One of the rumored designs is at A-1 at the bottom of the web-page.

(5) To cause the Delta-T magnetic field to rotate required sinusoidal signals (out-of-phase by exactly 90-degrees) to be modulated by a sawtooth wave and drive power generators. A modern circuit that could supply these control signals (with extreme precision resistors, etc.) is at A-3 at the bottom of the web-page.

Mum loses life savings on false lottery number prayers

From Ananova at:


A Malaysian woman has spent her life savings buying special prayers to enable her to win the lottery.

The woman says she urgently needs the money to pay for her three-year-old son's heart operation.

Police say they have received complaints from people about the prayer services advertised in a magazine. It says a monk can predict lottery numbers.

The woman, who only wanted to be named as Rajes, gave more than 6,400 Malaysian Ringgits (about 1,200) for the services, but it did her no good.

Police say the advert in a local magazine featured testimonies from alleged lottery winners who used the service, The Star reports.

A police spokesman has warned the public to beware of such adverts.

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.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


Today's Headlines - November 26, 2001

from The Boston Globe

Pushing the frontiers of science, a Worcester biotechnology company announced yesterday that it had created the first clone of a human embyro in a process it hopes will lead to new treatments for debilitating diseases.

Officials of the company, Advanced Cell Technology, said they vehemently oppose cloning entire human beings and use tough security measures to ensure their research is limited to what they call therapeutic cloning - creating cells and tissues to replace damaged ones.

But some ethicists and policy-makers expressed outrage yesterday that the private-sector scientists have pressed ahead before the public debate on the ethics of cloning is concluded. In August, after other researchers announced that they hoped to clone humans within two years, the US House of Representatives voted to ban all human cloning. The Senate is to take up the issue in January.

''Blowing ahead like this makes it more likely that similar research will be banned,'' said George Annas, a bioethics professor at Boston University. ''This is irresponsible. I'm not sure it should be outlawed, but there should be well-thought-out ethical guidelines and strong oversight. It's not good enough for researchers to promise they won't clone a human baby.''


more on this story from The New York Times

...Such therapeutic cloning would have the advantage that the replacement tissue would be an exact genetic match, so patients would not have to take anti-rejection drugs. But the idea has raised ethical concerns because it would require destroying a cloned embryo to extract its stem cells.

In July, the Advanced Cell Technology revealed that it had been secretly working on therapeutic cloning for a year, paying young women $3,000 to $5,000 for eggs and using them to try to create human stem cells. Its experiments, financed with private money, raised questions about whether science was moving ahead of public policy.

The new paper on the cloning, published in E-biomed: The Journal of Regenerative Medicine, describes the results of those studies.


Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes" from The Washington Post

...The news raises all kinds of ethical, political and scientific questions. You get the feeling we have crossed an invisible line, inching into a new era with no turning back.

President Bush says he's opposed, but since the Massachusetts company that did the cloning takes no federal money - and the Senate never got around to taking up a House-passed ban - the research is perfectly legal.

We seem to be hurtling through a time of firsts. The first impeachment of an elected president. The first deadlocked election carried on television for 36 days. The first time one lawmaker's move has flipped political control of the Senate. The first time terrorists have knocked down a skyscraper.

A hundred years from now, this could be the most significant milestone of all.


from The Associated Press

JERUSALEM - Using a trillion living cells, a group of scientists have developed a computing device small enough to fit in a drop of water, an Israeli university announced.

The microscopic computer uses enzymes as hardware, which in turn manipulates DNA molecules as software, creating a single mathematical computing machine, called a finite automaton.

The "biological nanocomputer" was created by a group of scientists headed by Ehud Shapiro, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which announced the development.

"The living cell contains incredible molecular machines that manipulate information-encoding molecules ... in ways that are fundamentally very similar to computation," Shapiro said.

Another expert expressed both caution and optimism.


from The New York Times

They have almost all departed, the remarkable men and women who discovered how to release nuclear energy and then applied that knowledge to build the formidable weapons that until Sept. 11 had kept us safe. Hans Bethe at Cornell and Edward Teller at California's Hoover Institution endure like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and such is their intellectual vitality that they continue even in their 90's to contribute to our continuing effort to understand the consequences of their work.

Edward Teller has published other memoirs, but none has been so comprehensive as this presumably final statement; appropriately, borrowing the phrase from his old friend and fellow Hungarian Leo Szilard, he calls it ''my version of the facts.'' Sadly, if it sometimes enlarges and clarifies the historical record, it more frequently denies or distorts it.

Teller, born in 1908, remembers that he was an anxious child, with ''an almost chronic bad conscience'' and a ''fear of the dark.'' He distracted himself from his fears with compulsive calculation; ''finding the consistency of numbers is the first memory I have of feeling secure.'' It was security he would need in the difficult years of his childhood, when Hungary saw war, economic collapse, a Communist takeover and then, under Miklos Horthy, the first fascist regime in Europe.


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Religious preaching in a schoolbook used in California's public schools

From: The Textbook League ttl@textbookleague.org

Around the beginning of October, I posted an item based on a letter that The Textbook League had sent to the California State Department of Education on 21 September. The letter dealt with a textbook that the Board has adopted for use in California's public schools -- a book that explicitly and falsely depicts biblical myths as "history." The use of this book in public schools entails manifest violations of the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of California, and the California Education Code.

You will not be surprised to learn that the Board ignored our letter and made no reply at all. We therefore sent another letter, in early November -- and that is where things stand now.

Skeptics who interested in this affair can learn more about it by going to a page that has just been added to the League's Web site: http://www.textbookleague.org/spjoyh.htm

The page provides links to three documents: (1) a _Textbook Letter_ article that includes a detailed analysis of the religious material in the offending book; (2) our letter of 21 September to the California State Board, and (3) the follow-up letter that we sent to the Board on 6 November.

Bill Bennetta

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Three alleged 'penis thieves' burnt alive

From Ananova at:


Cotonou - Three foreigners were recently burnt to death for allegedly trying to "steal" penises in Benin's commercial capital, Cotonou, a private television channel reported Saturday.

LC2 television said the three alleged thiefs had supposedly tried to make the genitals of their supposed victims disappear.

The presumed thieves were caught and burnt alive, it said, without specifying their nationalities.

The belief that men's private parts can magically be stolen by incantations or even a simple handshake is widespread across parts of western Africa.

The channel said another presumed penis thief, of Nigerian nationality, was beaten by college students for the same reason.

According to the local Le Matinal newspaper five people have been recently killed for trying to make the genital organs of their victims vanish. - Sapa-AFP

Spooked TV staff demand studio exorcism

From Ananova at:


Staff are demanding an exorcism at a TV studio which they believe is haunted.

The Auction World TV channel moved into Teddington Studios in Middlesex in October and staff claim to have experienced weird goings on ever since. They include unexplained orbs of light backstage, power cuts, jammed doors, ghostly whispering, falling fixtures and cold spots. The studios were hit by a Second World War bomb in 1944, when three workers were killed. Auction World wonders if that could be connected to reports of strange events.

The company is also selling memorabilia from old films made at the studios and suspects that could have triggered the activity. Managing director Peter Newby said: "Every new channel suffers glitches and gremlins, but this is beyond explanation.

"Staff have complained the rooms are always cold - though heated regularly. Lighting fixtures fail and fall from above, making filming an every day dangerous event for us.

"Launch day was the worst event I've experienced. Nearly every door in the studio jammed for approximately two minutes during a live broadcast, causing panic among staff."

Staff at the Sky Digital auction channel have asked for an exorcism to be performed and managers are looking into whether it would be practical.

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Pagan seeks to improve Southampton's fortunes

From Ananova at:


A Hampshire pagan has blessed Southampton's new stadium to help improve the team's fortunes.

Southampton haven't won at St Mary's this season and have conceded 12 goals while scoring just five.

Cerridwen "Dragonoak" Connelly dressed in purple robes to deliver the Celtic language ceremony outside the ground.

The stadium is on an ancient pagan burial ground from where a number of bodies were exhumed during construction.

A spokeswoman for the team told Ananova the club refused to take part in the ceremony, and refused Cerridwen access to the pitch. Forty bodies were removed during the archaeological dig when the 30 million stadium was being built.

They were thought to be Christian burials but now archaeologists have revealed evidence suggesting it was a pagan burial site.

Before the first brick was laid, archaeologists spent six months excavating the Saxon settlement of Hamwic. Extensive research reveals the site dates back to around 670AD, the main part of which lies under the West Stand.

Evidence of a pagan site includes a cremation cemetery and buried goods such as shields and spears.

Ms Connelly told the Daily Echo: "The Saxons loved gatherings and competitions and I am sure they were the kind of people who would be delighted for a stadium like this to be built over their remains. The players should see it in that light and see it as something positive.

"Saxons, it is good to have you here and the players want to celebrate this and accept that this is also your home. I predict Saints will beat Charlton."

Friday, November 23, 2001

The Carl Baugh Page

by John Stear


"Dr" Carl Baugh is a charlatan second only to "Dr" Kent Hovind. Like Hovind Baugh's Credentials (also see Academic Justification for Voluntary Inclusion of Scientific Creation in Public Classroom curricula) are highly suspect. See A Matter of Degree: Carl Baugh's Alleged Credentials.

His main claim to fame was his attempt to peddle fake human footprints allegedly found alongside dinosaur footprints as being genuine. See Are Dinosaur and Human footprints found together in the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas?. Baugh's claims, of course, were quickly debunked. See "The Burdick Print".

Even Answers in Genesis has denounced Baugh as a fraud - condemnation indeed! See What About Carl Baugh - A Commentary by Answers in Genesis.

All this is old news unless you're new to the science/creation debate, but despite being shown to be a fraud Baugh has managed to promulgate his loony ideas to web sites around the 'net. Years after Baugh was thoroughly discredited (even by Answers in Genesis) his garbage still appears. One such site is The Interactive Bible which has a link to Dinosaur & Human Footprints Together.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Mystery of trembling artwork linked to war

From Ananova at:


People in a Norwegian town say a monument has been mysteriously vibrating ever since the start of the Afghan bombing.

Scientists are now investigating why one of three giant arrows in the town of Hared Sunnmore trembles.

They say the phenomenon may be due to the electromagnetic effects of cables or transmitters in the area.

Its sculptor Roger Wagland doesn't know what to believe.

He said: "It's very peculiar. I don't understand it all.

"The shaking has nothing to do with the wind. Even in the middle of the night - with no traffic and not even a breeze - the one arrowhead can start to tremble.

"Some claim the shaking started at the moment the bombing in Afghanistan started."

Professor Carl Martin Larsen, of the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, told the Aftenposten newspaper there is a reasonable explanation.

He says the arrow which vibrates is a different length to the others which implies that whatever is affecting it does so at a frequency which doesn't affect the other two.


Who ya gonna call?

From the Sutton Guardian


Hampton Court Palace, November 21st: The heavily trampled corridors of Hampton Court Palace have unfolded their secrets to an avid public over the decades, yet some of the inhabitants of the former Royal abode continue to make their presence felt in a more supernatural way.

Ghostly apparitions within the walls of the palace have been well documented, most notably the spirit of Henry VIIIs fifth bride, Catherine Howard, who it is said haunts the gallery where she was arrested for adultery by the Kings guards.

Two women taken on separate guided tours of the palace fainted in exactly the same spot in the gallery, where Catherine is said to have pleaded for her life.

Both complained afterwards of feeling cold and passing out. When they came round they said they felt hot and were sweating.

They reported seeing a woman dressed in white floating down the gallery towards the chapel. As she reached the door she ran back with a look of despair etched on her face and uttered the most unearthly shriek.

The ghostly apparition is believed to relate to the moment when Catherine was placed under house arrest by the king after he discovered she had been unfaithful.

She broke free from her guards and is said to have run to the palaces chapel to plead with the King for her life.

Catherine married King Henry in 1540 at the age of 19 and was executed at the Tower of London two years later.

Last year ghost-busting psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman conducted all-night vigils in the haunted gallery using thermal imaging cameras to try and explain the phenomena.

He suggested that the ghostly activity reported by visitors to the haunted gallery, was due to changes in temperature caused by a draught of cold air blowing underneath the concealed doors.

While the sightings of Catherine have received significant coverage, there are other less noisy spirits who have been seen wandering the palaces grounds.

Jane Seymour, the Kings third and apparently favourite wife, is rumoured to roam around the cobbled courtyard outside the Queens apartments, carrying a lighted taper.

The flickering ember of the candle illuminates her figure and her clothing, but not her surroundings. Visitors who have witnessed the apparition, say the former queen slips seamlessly from one world to another without causing a disturbance, much as she did in her life.

The sister of the Duke of Somerset, Jane had served at court as a lady in waiting to the Kings first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

She married Henry, following the execution of his second queen, Anne Boleyn, on charges of adultery and witchcraft, but died after developing complications giving birth to the Kings only son, Edward VI, in 1537.

Visitors have also reported sighting two cavaliers laughing and joking in a courtyard in the Stuart wing of the palace. The men were often mistaken for actors as they appeared so lifelike.

Workmen later uncovered the skeletons of two young men buried in a shallow grave in the courtyard of the palace. The sinister manner of their burial was never explained.

Also unexplained is the apparition witnessed by a policeman in February 1917, while he was on duty outside the main gates of the palace.

The officer saw a group of men and women approaching the palace dressed in evening attire. He assumed they were guests on their way to dinner.

He prepared to open the gate for them but when the group came within 30 yards of the palace they vanished, leaving the young bobby very bemused.

Prince Edwards nurse, Sibell Penn, died in 1562 and was buried at Hampton Church. When the church was demolished in 1829 her remains were disturbed and her spirit is said to have returned to the room she inhabited at the palace.

Shortly afterwards the sound of a woman working on a spinning wheel was heard from behind a wall in the south west wing of Hampton Court.

Later reports revealed that when the wall was pulled down a spinning wheel was discovered behind it.

Sightings of the nurse continue to be reported wandering around the courtyards and cloisters of the Tudor palace. From the Fortean Times at


by Dr David Clarke

The Ministry of Defence has always denied involvement in any official study of the UFO phenomenon. But files recently discovered in Government archives reveal how in 1950 the MOD set up a secret committee of scientists and intelligence experts to investigate sightings of 'flying saucers'. The report they produced for Winston Churchill's Government remained secret for 50 years and even today certain sections remain classified because of their intelligence content.

At the dawn of the 21st century it is claimed that sightings of UFOs have become so few and far between that one of the oldest groups of civilian enthusiasts, the British Flying Saucer Bureau, have announced they are closing down. While recent opinion polls show 50 percent of the public believe we have been visited by aliens, the Ministry of Defence have always denied they had ever taken the subject seriously.

Fifty years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the situation was radically different. Sightings of 'flying saucers' made newspaper headlines every day on both sides of the Atlantic. The now defunct London Sunday Dispatch even described the subject as "bigger than the Atom Bomb Wars." By the summer of 1950 with war in Korea and the successful testing of the first Russian atomic bomb adding to growing international tensions, the Western powers were growing increasingly worried by the 'flying saucer' mystery.

The Chupacabra Home Page


A myth? A legend? All we know is that it strikes in the night and has a weakness for blood. Put away the goats, and any other household pets, my friends, cause the Chupacabra may be coming to a barn near YOU. Find out more about Puerto Rico's version of the Yeti, the infamous Chupacabra.

Taliban leader issues orders on tilting turbans

From Ananova at:


Editor's note: I couldn't find anything skeptical about this, but I thought you would like to know it in case you were planning to wear yours otherwise.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is ordering his men to wear their turbans straight and not at an angle.

Men are told to wear their turbans correctly or face a beating under the strict Taliban regime.

Now a poster has gone up in all government offices personally signed by Omar saying it is vulgar and un-Islamic to wear a crooked turban.

Wednesday, November 21, 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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Today's Headlines - November 21, 2001

from The Boston Globe

A world-renowned Harvard scientist and expert in highly contagious and deadly viruses mysteriously disappeared in Tennessee early last Friday, leaving a rental car on a Memphis bridge.

Don C. Wiley was in town to visit relatives and attend the annual meeting of the scientific advisory board of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Police said there were no signs of foul play, just the car with the keys in the ignition on a bridge that spans the Mississippi River. Police found the car five hours after Wiley left a dinner at a posh hotel several blocks from the bridge.

''This is totally unexpected. He was fine on Thursday night,'' said Dr. Joseph Mirro, executive vice president at St. Jude's Hospital.

The disappearance of the popular, gregarious scientist has shaken the scientific board and the staff and directors of the hospital, Mirro said.


from The New York Times

Despite the widespread emphasis on raising academic standards, the performance of high school seniors on a nationwide science test has declined since 1996, with 18 percent of those tested last year proving proficient in the subject, results released yesterday showed.

The scores of eighth graders who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, improved so slightly as to be statistically insignificant. The scores of fourth graders remained flat.

Educators said the results underscored the urgent need for highly skilled science and mathematics teachers, as well as other improvements at the high school level.

"The decline is not huge, but it is statistically significant and morally significant, as well," Education Secretary Rod Paige said yesterday at a news conference. "After all, 12th- grade scores are the scores that really matter. If our graduates know less about science than their predecessors four years ago, then our hopes for a strong 21st-century work force are dimming just when we need them most."


from The Associated Press

DALLAS - A jury acquitted eight lab workers of falsifying test results in what federal officials had called the largest case of fraud in environmental testing in U.S. history.

Jurors rejected all 77 federal charges Tuesday against the former employees of Intertek Testing Services' Environmental Laboratories. The workers were accused of misrepresenting results in the cleanup of thousands of hazardous-waste sites and other environmental cases in a moneymaking scheme.

All the employees worked at the company's lab in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, which stopped operating in 1998. Five other employees and the corporation pleaded guilty before trial to falsifying lab reports. As part of its agreement, the corporation will pay a $9 million fine.

Prosecutors said Intertek managers pressured employees to bypass procedures required to produce reliable tests in order to complete lucrative government contracts faster.


from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A contraceptive patch that slowly releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy won approval from U.S. regulators on Tuesday.

The first-of-its-kind patch, called Ortho Evra and made by Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-McNeil unit, is about 99 percent effective when used as directed, the company and the Food and Drug Administration said. The product releases estrogen and progestin, the same hormones used in birth control pills.

"It gives the option of being able to just change a patch once a week rather than having to remember to take a pill on a daily basis," Dr. Dena Hixon, an FDA medical officer, said in an interview.

Ortho-McNeil said the patch would be available by prescription early next year.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2001


"Invented by former New York University nursing professor Dolores Krieger, therapeutic touch involves running your hands just above a person's skin in vigorous motions, allegedly in order to untangle the patient's personal "energy field." But now, reports Glazer, Krieger is advocating that this dubious technique -- which doesn't involve even touching a patient -- can be practiced from a distance to aid already deceased World Trade Center victims"

Full story on this, John Edward and other WTC scams (Joe Nickell gets a name check) at The American Prospect:


High School Seniors Flunk Science in 'Nation's Report Card'


WASHINGTON The nation's high school seniors have been blinded by science.

Only one in five 12th-grade students has a solid grasp of the subject, and only about half know even the basics, according to the results of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress test released Tuesday.

The students scored, on average, three points lower than their counterparts in 1996. In 2000, only 18 percent correctly answered challenging science questions and applied their knowledge to real-world situations, down from 21 percent in 1996.

The proportion of those who knew just the basics also dropped, from 57 percent in 1996 to 53 percent in 2000.

Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said he's not surprised at the poor results, considering that schools have increasingly focused on reading and math.

"Our nation continues to shortchange our students in science," he said.

Many science teachers complain that they can't persuade school officials to give them the time or money required for training, he said.

"Teachers want to do a good job they really want to see their students excel," Wheeler said. "But we have to give them the support they need."

The proportion of fourth- and eighth-graders who are proficient in science held about steady: 29 percent of fourth-graders, the same as in 1996; and a rise in eighth graders to 32 percent, from 29 percent in 1996.

Sixty-six percent of fourth-graders and 61 percent of eighth-graders have a basic, or partial, mastery of science knowledge and fundamental skills, the results show.

Among fourth-grade public school students, those in Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana and North Dakota scored highest; students in California and Mississippi scored lowest.

Among eighth-grade public school students, those in Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Vermont scored highest; students in California, Hawaii and Mississippi scored lowest.

As with past NAEP tests, white students continue to outperform minorities. While the percentage of white 12th-graders scoring above proficient in science dropped six points, to 62 percent in 2000, that was still nearly three times as high as their black peers and twice as high as Hispanic students.

Edward Donley, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which develops and reviews the tests, called the seniors' scores "particularly disturbing."

"What this clearly points to is a weakness for most students in their high school education," he said. The higher expectations of school reform efforts should extend from elementary education to high school, he said.

Wheeler said schools are competing with private industry for college graduates with science backgrounds. He worries that the private sector's higher salaries are "eating the seed corn" by taking so many talented potential teachers.

"If they really get all the good science-oriented people, then we won't have the science-teaching work force that we need to produce their next generation of scientists and engineers," he said.

About 46,000 students in 40 states took the tests for the national survey. The scores of an additional 200,000 students, in an equal number of states, produced more detailed state-by-state results, which were not included in the national figures. The national sample included public and private schools; the state-by-state sample included only public schools.

Strict comparisons among all 50 states are impossible, since about a dozen states either didn't participate or didn't have enough students taking the tests to be included in the results.

The NAEP test, also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is given every four years in math, science, reading and writing. Other subjects, such as history, civics, geography and the arts, are also tested periodically.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


Today's Headlines - November 20, 2001

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Only one in five high school seniors has a solid grasp of science, according to the results of a national test released Tuesday. Only about half know even the basics, and that figure plummets when it comes to what minority students know.

The 12th-graders who took the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress scored, on average, three points lower than those taking the test in 1996. In 2000, only 18 percent correctly tackled challenging science questions and applied their knowledge to real-world situations, down from 21 percent in 1996.

The proportion of those who knew just the basics also dropped, from 57 percent in 1996 to 53 percent in 2000.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - NASA scientists have failed to prove their contention that a Mars meteorite contains evidence of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet, a group of researchers say.

A group led by Peter R. Buseck of Arizona State University said that the NASA researchers have inadequate evidence showing that tiny crystalline structures in Mars meteorite ALH84001 were formed by bacteria billions of years ago as the rock was sitting on the Martian surface.

A study with Buseck as the first author appears Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Buseck said that NASA-supported researchers claimed in February that crystals found in the meteorite are identical to crystals formed on Earth by bacteria. The material, known as magnetite, is formed by some bacteria that live on the bottom of lakes. The magnetic crystals act as a sort of compass to allow the bacteria to orient themselves as they move along the lake bottom.


from The New York Times

A new sense of urgency about terrorism has prompted the Bush administration to try to repair federal relations with the nation's scientific elite - ties forged during the cold war that shriveled with the demise of the communist threat as advisory panels went out of existence and agencies dropped scientists in droves.

A main focus is the National Academies of the United States, which are perhaps the world's most prestigious scientific organizations. They have been asked to rally not only their own 5,000 members but the nation's other scientists as well. Last week, the academies ran a private meeting to help federal officials better protect the mail from anthrax, and have recently begun advising the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well.

"We need to understand what ideas are out there," said Dr. John H. Marburger III, president Bush's science adviser and former director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. "And we need to let the intellectual community know what is needed from our perspective."


from The New York Times

In the continuing debate over global warming and how to fight it, some scientists and entrepreneurs advocate using the oceans as a sponge to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Others are saying not so fast. They argue that widespread ocean dumping of carbon dioxide could unbalance the aquatic environment.

Carbon dioxide is one of the "greenhouse gases" that trap heat. Most scientists believe that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is a large factor in the warming temperatures of the last century and that capping those emissions is essential for limiting future warming.

Much of the extra carbon dioxide already dissolves into the oceans, where it has no effect on temperatures. Two schemes seek to augment that natural process.


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Nuke Manual Looks Like Internet Hoax

Editor's note: The North Texas Skeptics works to combat stupidity in our everyday lives. Sometimes, though, we think stupidity is doing just fine where it is. Read the following story for an example. For those not up on current events, the organization being discussed is called al Qaeda, which translates roughly as "the other white meat."

Mondo Washington
by James Ridgeway

Nuke Manual Looks Like Internet Hoax
Al Qaeda Duped?



Suddenly, Al Qaeda doesn't look so smart. Just yesterday, a Times of London reporter found a cache of plans, left in a Kabul home as the Taliban retreated, that included notes for making a thermonuclear device. The papers sent a chill through the Western world, since they appeared to indicate sophisticated designs for an atom bomb.

Now the online Daily Rotten says at least part of those documents photographed by the Times are taken verbatim from a "semi-famous" pseudo-document that has been circulating on the Internet for years. It's a reprint of a scientific parody called "How to Build an Atom Bomb," from the geek-humor newsletter Annals of Improbable Research, originally known as the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

In his report for the BBC, reporter Anthony Loyd held some of the papers up for the camera, giving a glimpse of documents the Daily Rotten now compares to the 1979 parody.

Even the language Loyd uses to paraphrase the abandoned material sounds like that of the satirical document.

Describing the scene in a Times article, Loyd wrote: "The vernacular quickly spun out of my comprehension but there were phrases through the mass of chemical symbols and physics jargon that anyone could understand, including notes on how the detonation of TNT compresses plutonium into a critical mass producing a nuclear chain reaction and eventually a thermo-nuclear reaction . . . ."

The parody document reads: "The device basically works when the detonated TNT compresses the Plutonium into a critical mass. The critical mass then produces a nuclear chain reaction similar to the domino chain reaction . . . .The chain reaction then promptly produces a big thermonuclear reaction. And there you have it, a 10 megaton explosion!"

To find these faux atomic-bomb plans, do a Web search for "The device basically works" or "Let's Build an Atomic Bomb!" instructs the Daily Rotten. "It gives us pause and joy to know the Taliban are wasting their time downloading what amounts to joke mail and spending time trying to discern the facts therein."

Homeland security secretary Tom Ridge acknowledged the plans had been found, but downplayed their importance. With this Daily Rotten report, the public may get a glimpse of why.

Reached at the Pentagon spokesperson Major Tim Blair said, "I can't comment on that. You can find all kinds of reports, and you have to look at which ones are credible. We issue briefings and press releases, but we don't talk about anything dealing with intelligence. I'm not throwing stones, but the media should check the credibility of their sources. You all have to do your job."

The foreign editor who handled the story for the Times was not immediately available for comment.

With reporting by Sarah Park

WTC faked photo - tourist guy

From: David K. Wall

By now most of you have probably seen the faked photo with the guy on the top of the World Trade Center and a plane in the background. He saw all the pictures, and apparently finally wrote to someone at the "Tourist Guy" web site. See http://www.touristguy.com/

Did Jesus really exist?

From: Paul W Harrison

The "fact" of the existence of Jesus appears to be substantiated only by reference to a few frequently contradictory scriptural texts, themselves written during a period subsequent to his death (if he lived at all).

Jesus as a sacred figure is essentially known only through the sacred books -- unlike, say, Caesar Augustus, who is known from many sources.

There were also many Gospels running around at the time. A committee winnowed through them and decided which ones would be part of the canon. "While we might agree with some of the rejections (eg, one about Jesus killing animals with his sacred power as a kid), we must admit that the picture we get of Jesus's life was a choice of a few people who lived after he'd supposedly died, all motivated by whatever draws people onto such committees."

Some of the Gospel account appears just plain ridiculous. The business of the Romans making everyone travel to the town where they were born to get registered for a tax makes absolutely no sense: unless it's your intent to satisfy inherently contradictory prophesies by having him be a Nazarene -- but born in Bethlehem. There are a few other logical fallacies, such as the simultaneous claims that Joseph had nothing to do with the conception of Jesus, and yet Jesus's descent from King David was supposed to take place via Joseph. Talk about wondering if it was the milkman. ;)

Quote and sources: David Burwasser. See also:


Debunking the Skeptics

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Forwarded from another list for those interested.


Debunking the Skeptics

A Column by Jim Richardson and Allen Richardson The keepers of the scientific faith are the professional skeptics, represented by the unfortunately named organization CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal) and other groups. They fancy themselves the most rational rationalists, the most mechanical mechanists, and the most reductive reductionists. Their mission is to save us from the kook, the crank, the crackpot, and the pseudoscientist. But in their zeal to defend the mundane, they've developed a pathological aversion to the anomalous.

Armed with a cognitive toolbox containing strict criteria of adequacy, and on the lookout for logical pitfalls, these grumpy skeptics go around tilting any windmill which doesn't add up. The criteria of adequacy are used to distinguish good ideas from bad. These criteria are testability, fruitfulness, scope, simplicity, and conservatism. This gets tricky right around the conservatism part.

The criterion of conservatism states that the best theory is the one which is most in agreement with well-established beliefs. So let's say you're looking for a theory which explains how the universe came to be and what principles determine its organization. To apply conservatism, you ask a cosmologist or an astronomer about the most established beliefs of their profession. And they tell you that the universe began in a big bang and that it organized through gravity.

But longstanding ideas in the field of plasma physics undermine this notion because the plasma physicists do not believe in the big bang. The most conservative view within this community is that the universe is organized around electromagnetic principles, and that a big bang origin is an unnecessary hypothesis. The plasma physicists have conservatively applied their science and arrived at completely different conclusions from other conservatives.

Scientific conservatism is not only unreliable in this way, but bears a close resemblance to a notorious logical fallacy known as the "appeal to tradit! ion". You are guilty of committing this fallacy when you argue that something must be the case because it is the way it has always been. This common pitfall is of course not logical. Notice that conservatism and the appeal to tradition are virtually indistinguishable. This amounts to nothing less than a fault-line running through the scientific method.

The way to innoculate science against the appeal to tradition is to jettison conservatism from the criteria of adequacy. This would leave the other criteria -- testablity, fruitfulness, scope, and simplicity -- intact.

A conservative science is blind to its own appeals to tradition, and dismissive of anomalies. But it is the anomalies in a theory which point the way to newer, better theories. The anomalies of current theory are a negative image of the theory which will replace it.

The skeptics guard our rear flank, intercepting the Bible-thumpers and neutralizing other nuisances like the holocaust deniers and the drippy New Age UFO religions. But these same conservative skeptics, although useful, can never discover anything new and exciting. They will never lead science forward. We say, get someone down here who explain all these anomalies!

Halfway between the hardest science and the most far-out speculation, we will take the best of both. Gonzo Science is the critical thinking of the skeptics crossed with the fearlessness and progressive thinking of the iconoclast. It's time to get Gonzo.

Recommended reading:

How to Think About Weird Things
by Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn;
Science Frontiers: Some Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature
compiled by William R. Corliss;
and see
Dark Matter, Missing Planets, and New Comets by Tom Van Flandern for a
discussion of "the unscientific method."

TT at WTC?

From: Jerry Goodenough

"Invented by former New York University nursing professor Dolores Krieger, therapeutic touch involves running your hands just above a person's skin in vigorous motions, allegedly in order to untangle the patient's personal "energy field." But now, reports Glazer, Krieger is advocating that this dubious technique -- which doesn't involve even touching a patient -- can be practiced from a distance to aid already deceased World Trade Center victims"

Full story on this, John Edward and other WTC scams (Joe Nickell gets a name check) at The American Prospect:


Shermer on Science & Pseudoscience

From: Jerry Goodenough

Michael Shermer's two-part Scientific American article on science and pseudoscience on-line at




Monday, November 19, 2001

New Bibliography Entry (Cuneo: Exorcism)

From: Taner Edis edis@truman.edu

American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in The Land of Plenty

Michael W. Cuneo
2001, Doubleday; 304p.
faith-healing, quackery:anthropology, religion:anthropology, religion:sociology, satanism:sociology
Michael W. Cuneo, who teaches sociology and anthropology, offers the disturbing idea that the popular entertainment industry has manipulated religious beliefs and behavior, resulting in a social movement around the practice of exorcisms. He explores Roman Catholic and charismatic practices, from rather sedate exorcism ceremonies to those with much swearing, vomiting, and struggling. Though Cuneo appears to remain undecided on whether exorcism really drives out demons, his work strongly supports a skeptical view. Possessed people put on a performance which closely corresponds to local expectations about demonic behavior. This acting out might be psychologically useful to some, but no true supernatural phenomena occurs, though many participants would claim otherwise. As Cuneo puts it, "There was nothing to be seen. People tend to be so keyed up during an exorcism, so eager to sink their fingers into something preternatural, that they easily convince themselves they're seeing, hearing, or feeling things that simply aren't there - not really there - to be seen, heard, or felt."

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@ayrix.net ]
[ See longer original review attached. ]

Please visit the rest of the bibliography at


Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer
Have you seen Satan lately? Seen any effects of demons? Maybe not, but you have much better chances of seeing them now rather than before 1973 when _The Exorcist_ came out. Then in 1976, _Hostage to the Devil_, a former Jesuit's account of heroic priests battling demons, became a best-seller. Before that time, well, yes, there were exorcisms. Jesus is supposed to have done them, and told his followers to do them, so one would think that we are only riding our part of a 2,000 year old tradition. In America, though, exorcisms were essentially nonexistent until the mid-seventies. Can it be that all the demons were waiting on Hollywood to release a movie they could be proud of before they started infesting everyone? Michael W. Cuneo, who teaches sociology and anthropology, is an "open-minded skeptic," and he doesn't find that this is the best explanation. In _American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in The Land of Plenty_ (Doubleday), he offers the disturbing idea that the popular entertainment industry has manipulated religious beliefs and behavior. He explains that not everyone will see _The Exorcist_ and be compelled to look up his local exorcist for treatment, but with millions seeing it, only a small percentage need to start taking exorcism as fact before it becomes some sort of social movement.

It is a movement with plenty of people behind it. It seems that there are over 500 evangelical ministries devoted to casting out demons. The Vatican, which had a recent history of frowning on the sort of loud ravings of "the possessed," is appointing official exorcists for archdioceses which never had them before, and non-official exorcist priests are being sought by those convinced it is the only way to get better. You may have to look around for someone to give you an exorcism, but it should not be too hard to do, and you can even find different styles from which to pick the one that would best suit you. There is the Roman Catholic version, which seems to be the sine qua non of exorcisms, the one that is featured in movies and whose enthusiasts get the most time on talk shows. You may not get anywhere asking your parish priest for such a service, but there is a growing number of official Catholic exorcists and there are also rogue priests who defy church decree because they feel that doing good is better than following rules. Cuneo finds the official Catholic service quite beautiful.

A charismatic service might be more to your liking, and certainly it would be more easily found. Cuneo, who has seen many types of exorcism, sees a gentleman freed of the demons of shame, rejection, sexual perversion, and so on, with no big drama except for his coughing and jerking his head. "The whole business is orderly and efficient... a calm, controlled, almost decorous procedure." Deliverance from such demons came into the charismatic churches three decades ago, and has grown in frequency and in ritual performance (combining "primitive shamanism, backwoods Pentecostalism, and middle-class psychotherapy"). There are charismatic churches that abhor the procedure, just as there are those that say that the often associated phenomenon of speaking in tongues is inspired by demons rather than the Holy Ghost (how would one be able to test such propositions, I wonder?). But throwing out demons is something that seems to be filling a need for a large number of people. One can cast out the demons of depression, alcohol dependence, lust, and in many cases the demon of a particular religion, if a subject is infested with, say, Roman Catholicism (there is no mention of Catholic exorcists expelling the demon of Protestantism). One who is exorcised can avoid being blamed for the naughtiness that happened beforehand ("The devil made me do it") and one gets rid of the problem quickly with validation of the procedure from others. Exorcism is thus oddly at home with various New Age therapies.

If you are looking for something more dramatic, you might take up what Cuneo calls the "rough and ready school" of exorcism. Those being exorcised do plenty of dramatic stuff, fighting, swearing, spitting, and vomiting. In the church auditorium where Cuneo saw this done, there were ample supplies of paper towels and plastic bags for clean up. After an hour, the group (for many people were being freed of devils simultaneously) broke for refreshments, and later started up with the exorcisms again. Sometimes those who had been doing the vomiting turned about to help the dramatically thrashing victims who had previously been helpers themselves. When time was up, the punctual demons stopped misbehaving, and all was calm. Cuneo also noticed that "the demons at this gathering communicate along rather quaint gender lines. When acting out in the men, they blister the paint with foul language, but with the women they mostly restrict themselves to screaming, shrieking, and crying out such innocuities as 'I hate this workshop' or 'Shut up!' In addition to cooperating with the staging of the performance, in other words, the demons seem respectful of local norms of public comportment."

Other exorcists look with disdain on such behavior. All that is needed is to bind the demons beforehand. This is simply done by commanding them in the name of Jesus Christ to hold their peace even before their expulsion, and it has become almost an obligatory procedure for the Catholic and Episcopal exorcists, perhaps only as a means of keeping the cleaning bills down. Cuneo has seen all different kinds of exorcism, and is willing to accept that exorcism can work, at least by means of the placebo effect. He is also clear that it can kill people; enthusiastic exorcists have pummeled and poisoned and suffocated those they thought were possessed, only to rid them of their lives, not their demons. And on the big question, Cuneo is far more tentative than I am, even without his experience. Does it really drive out demons? He maintains he doesn't know. In every exorcism he saw, "nothing happened - nothing that reached out and grabbed me by the throat. At the exorcisms I attended, there were no spinning heads, no levitating bodies, no voices from beyond the grave. (There was plenty of vomiting, no question about it, but nothing more impressive that what you'd probably catch most Saturday nights out behind your local bar.)" He was there when _other_ people saw a body levitating, but says, "There was nothing to be seen. People tend to be so keyed up during an exorcism, so eager to sink their fingers into something preternatural, that they easily convince themselves they're seeing, hearing, or feeling things that simply aren't there - not _really_ there - to be seen, heard, or felt." It is clear he has tried to be fair throughout his wittily-written and entertaining book, but he has given sufficient evidence that there is little in the world of exorcism that is better explained by demons than by simple human idiosyncrasy.

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.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

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Today's Headlines - November 19, 2001

from The Washington Post

His name was Leroy Richmond, and he was lethargic but coherent and calm. He had been waiting in Inova Fairfax Hospital's emergency room for a while, triage having put him at low risk because his symptoms were only labored breathing, slight fever and such. Cecele Murphy, the attending physician, entered exam room 8 and began chatting with Richmond as she watched his vitals on a monitor. It was late Friday afternoon, Oct. 19.

Where do you work?


It was a place Murphy did not know; Brentwood bore no notoriety yet. The patient said it was a post office and he handled Express, none of which was remarkable to the doctor. Richmond went on: Almost all of the Express Mail goes to the federal government. Half of that, he said, goes to the Senate.

"Bells and whistles went off," Murphy said.


from The Washington Post

For 23 years, Frank Strout has fished for lobsters in the waters off Portland, Maine, hauling in traps with a catch as precious as gold coins to those who live Down East. In recent days, those traps have teemed with lobsters, "but sometimes in the past," Strout remembers, "it was hardly worth the trip."

Lobster fishermen, he said, "were well on our way to another situation like that with the cod," which were largely wiped out by overfishing in New England waters. "Then we decided to try another way of managing lobsters, and for the most part, it's worked."

Strout was referring to a novel system adopted five years ago by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in which lobstermen have a major influence on how lobsters are managed. The numbers of lobster fishermen and the numbers of traps in seven "limited-entry" zones in Maine's waters are largely set by the fishermen themselves, said Robin Alden, co-chairman of the Stonington Fisheries Alliance and former Maine commissioner of marine resources.


from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - A designer "gene gun" blasting slivers of metal into an innocent soybean plant may sound like a futuristic and far-fetched way to ward off famine by improving the food supply of the world's poorest countries.

So does subjecting stalks of defenseless corn to doses of high-voltage electricity, or bombarding them with sound waves.

But these are just some of the techniques used by scientists striving for more versatility in altering plant cell structures in the controversial research area known as biotechnology, which tries to improve on the precision of natural plant breeding.

Their efforts, they hope, will eventually help the world's poor guard against starvation by beating crop disease and beefing up yields of staple foods such as soy, wheat and maize.


from The Associated Press

YAKIMA, Wash. -- In Canada's Northwest Territories, where the Mackenzie River empties into the Beaufort Sea, scientists are studying a vast deposit of frozen methane as a potential energy source.

Methane hydrates are ice-like substances found in deep ocean sediments and Arctic permafrost that contain methane in a highly concentrated form.

"We're investing in it because of the interest in trying to limit or reduce the amount of reliance that we have on foreign energy sources," said Peter McGrail, a staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, just north of Richland.

PNNL and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory are part of an international team of private sector energy and research companies and U.S. and Canadian governmental agencies working on the project at the Mallik Gas Hydrate Research Well.


from The Los Angeles Times

OAKLAND -- At 5:22 a.m. on Aug. 30, Colleen Kinzley, the elephant keeper at the Oakland Zoo, noticed the water. When a pregnant 8,000-pound African elephant's water breaks, there tends to be a lot of it. This was the moment the zoo had long been planning for: Lisa, a 24-year-old cow, was going to be a mother again. Elephants are slow breeders, with a gestation period of almost two years, and usually don't have another calf for two more years.

Their slow reproduction rate is one factor in the elephant's status as an endangered species, in zoos as well as in the wild. In their natural habitat there are fewer than 500,000 African elephants--down from 1.3 million 30 years ago--and fewer than 50,000 of their smaller Asian cousins. U.S. zoos hold fewer than 400 elephants, a population that is shrinking so fast that some experts fear that even seeing the noble pachyderm in zoos will someday be a rarity. Unless, that is, zoos can figure out how to breed the highly intelligent but reproductively mysterious animals.

The Oakland Zoo is one of a handful of institutions in the country that has had any luck breeding African elephants, the largest land animal in the world. Unfortunately, most of that luck has been bad. In 1995, for example, Lisa became the first African elephant to give birth in a zoo in a dozen years. The staff had no idea she was even pregnant. It's hard to notice a couple of hundred extra pounds on an animal that weighs as much as two Ford Explorers. Still, the zoo was happy to discover that its male elephant, Smokey, was one of the few African bulls in the country to demonstrate any stud potential.


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Ollie North: 'Not All Muslims Evil' But only Christians will go to heaven


Orange County Weekly
November 16 - 22, 2001
by Nick Schou

TV, newspapers, weekly magazines-since Sept. 11, many of them have been asking the same question in bold headlines: "Why do they hate us?"

Ollie North has the answer: Muslim radicals hate us not because we're free and rich nor because U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been designed to guarantee the unfettered flow of oil.

No, North tells us, Muslim fundamentalists hate us because they "know what the scripture tells us, which is that the only path to God in heaven is through his son, our savior, Jesus Christ."

Speaking at Anaheim's Melodyland Christian Center Church on Nov. 11, the Fox News commentator and former Marine Corps officer said he agreed with "his colleagues in the 'mainstream' news media" that not all Muslims are evil or hate America. But pointing at what appeared to be a Bible, North said, "We know that every single word in this book is true." And because of that, North asserted, America's Islamic enemies, including Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, hate Christians.

North's stunning revelation that only Christians will go to heaven came about two-thirds of the way through his Veterans Day speech, "Security in Uncertain Times."

The event began with 30 minutes of gospel singing, featuring deafening piped-in music and a band that performed such classics as "Our God Is an Awesome God." Children in the audience were treated to a special appearance by a quartet of costumed holy warriors-an Inspector Gadget look-alike, a fat girl with blue hair, an apoplectic kung fu expert, and a human-sized crime-fighting dog. They took the stage to a throbbing techno beat while Evil-represented by a man in a Mexican lucha libre costume-ran around the stage, flailing his arms as the sound system rattled with his maniacal laughter.

Introducing North, Melodyland's senior pastor, a crewcut South African named Neville McDonald, addressed the topic of insecurity as a white person who had "experienced terrorism" in South Africa. As many in the crowd began to shed tears, Neville urged them to scream and shout out their love of Jesus, saying that he learned to be loud in the military. "We are soldiers in the army of God," he explained.

But the highlight of the morning was clearly Ollie North. He defined terrorists as those who "try to inflict a few casualties, kill a few people, and scare many others." In contrast, North said, the U.S. Marine Corps "takes on the whole enemy apparatus and tries to kill as many of the enemy as possible." North also said that unlike terrorists, the Marines Corps exists to take land from the enemy. "Really, we're in the real-estate business," he joked.

North told his audience that he's also an expert on terrorism, having mastered the subject while working as Ronald Reagan's point man between 1983 and 1986, when the administration sold missiles to Iranian terrorists in order to raise money for Nicaraguan terrorists.

North didn't mention any of that. Instead, he discussed his whereabouts on the morning of Sept. 11. Flying from Detroit to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., at 8:45 a.m., he claimed, he was armed with two weapons-a Swiss Army knife and a leather-working tool that "went right through the metal detector."

North also claimed that he bribed an Afghan taxi driver to take him from Dulles Airport in Virginia, where his plane was diverted, to Capitol Hill, where North said he was urgently needed at Fox's television studio. North said he paid the cab driver $100 to drive him to Capitol Hill, even though that area of the city was being evacuated. After taking the bribe, North said, the cab driver told him, "Colonel North, we have to go after Osama."

North said he asked the cab driver how he knew bin Laden was behind the terrorist attacks. "'Because,' he said to me, 'I am from Afghanistan,'" North stated. When Melodyland's congregation began to emit cries of horror-"Oh, no! Not from there!"-North quickly reassured them.

"This man was not a Muslim; he was a Christian," he intoned. North added that the man was also a former CIA agent who had helped the U.S. drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in return for U.S. citizenship for his wife and children. According to North, the man agreed to help the mujahideen, the fundamentalist Muslim rebel army, because "he knew, back in the 1985 time period, that the Taliban were going to be a problem and kill all the Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The facts-that it was the Reagan administration-backed mujahideen that was busy slaughtering Christians in Afghanistan "in the 1985 time period" (most of them Soviet troops) and that the Taliban didn't exist until what we might call the 1996 time period-didn't seem to bother North's audience. They peppered North's entire speech with cries of "Hallelujah," "Bless the Lord," and "Go, Ollie!"

Finally, however, a young, conservatively dressed woman stood up and interrupted North's speech.

"Were you being a good Christian when you smuggled drugs into our country and sold weapons to terrorists?" she asked.

North's eyebrows fell; his voice followed. He politely offered to respond to her question "a little bit later, if that's okay with you."

Apparently to help facilitate that offer, a dozen church ushers and security guards hastily escorted the woman out of the building.

William Cooper shot dead

From: James H.G. Redekop

Apparently William Cooper, UFO kook and Majestic-12 conspiracy theorist, was shot dead after he shot a deputy in the head while the police were trying to serve an arrest warrant. The police fax about the incident is on the Cooper home page at

Cooper was such a kook that he saw hidden Communist Babylonian secret messages in Art Bell's logo (see http://www.williamcooper.com/artbsbell.htm): "Did you notice the hidden messages, "A.L." and "R.T. Bel"?" he asks. Apparently "A.L." means "Anno Lux" when Lucifer triumphs over God according to the Illuminati. I don't see where he explains "R.T. Bel", other than referring to Lucifer as "Bel" at one point. Apparently he thought Bell is a shill for the Marxist New World Order Secret Illuminati Freemason Conspiracy.

Lots of Cooper Majestic-12 material at

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