NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 December 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Ho ho ho edition

Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

Explorers View 'Lost City' Ruins Under Caribbean
By Andrew Cawthorne


"Explorers using a miniature submarine to probe the sea floor off the coast of Cuba said on Thursday they had confirmed the discovery of stone structures deep below the ocean surface that may have been built by an unknown human civilization thousands of years ago."

'Astrology rigged' in Sri Lanka election
By Frances Harrison
BBC News


"As Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new parliament many voters were keen to know what the astrologers were saying about the outcome."

Monster Hunter


"There are hundreds of lakes in Scotland, but only one of them, Loch Ness, is known throughout the world. Submerged in its waters may be a dinosaur, popularly known as the Loch Ness Monster."

Woodway woman sentenced to 2 1/2 years prison in psychic scam
Waco Tribune-Herald


"A Woodway woman who pleaded guilty to taking about $300,000 from callers nationwide in a psychic hot line scam was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison Tuesday."

Pastor Found Guilty in Exorcism Killing


"A Korean self-styled church minister has been found guilty of manslaughter in New Zealand after an ''exorcism'' in which one of his followers was strangled."

The Real Story of The Mothman Prophecies
IGN FilmForce


"If you've been following news on films to be released in 2002, you have probably heard about a movie called The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, and directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road). You might even have seen a poster or a trailer for the film, due out January 25, 2002, which comes with the ominous warning "Based on true events." But what are those true events? And what the heck is a "Mothman," anyway?"

Did Sept. 11 events refocus global consciousness?
By A.S. Berman


"As the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks plunged the world into confusion, a handful of researchers detected a noticeable ripple in what some believe is an interconnected Web of global consciousness. Nearly three months later, researchers aren't sure what, if anything, it means. On that day, 37 computers from New Zealand to Israel participating in the Global Consciousness Project were doing just what they've done since August 1998: using random-number-generating devices to "flip" virtual coins. And as before, every five minutes, software on those computers uploaded the results to the project's Web site."

Science or cult? A furor at WVU
By Tara Tuckwiller
Charleston Gazette


"West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center has established an institute based on a Canadian welder's 1973 epiphany about the link between thought and reality."

FTC fines herbal supplement company over false claims
Associated Press


"Comfrey will not cure what ails you, and a Utah herbal supplement company will have to pay $100,000 for claiming otherwise."

Study: Garlic, HIV Medication Don't Mix


"Garlic supplements can be dangerous when mixed with HIV/AIDS medication, according to a new study."

Dishonesty is a very winning policy
by Michael Glover
The Independent [UK]


"Deception is an ancient art. We deceive to survive."

Ollie, lonely authors and rock 'n' roll
by Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times


"From Don Preston of Kenmore. "This was forwarded to me by a former co-worker. Is it true? Inquiring minds want to know!""

Urban Legends Thrive by Playing on Our Emotions
By Melissa Schorr


"Did Ozzy Osbourne really bite the head off a bat? Did McDonalds once use ground up earthworms in its hamburger meat? Is Halloween candy really tainted with razor blades?"

Health hoaxes: flesh-eating bananas and other tall tales
By Judith Blake
Seattle Times


"They're among the zillions of hoaxes that proliferate on the Internet, a forum that has taken rumormongering to new heights. They're also among the phony health scares exposed on a hoax-debunking Web site of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."

Former critics decide Potter's a good model
By David Gibson


"When Harry Potter first cast his spell on the reading public, with the 1998 release of J.K. Rowling's first story about the boy wizard, many Muggles - er, nonmagical humans - in the Christian community refused to be charmed."

The world will end tomorrow - official
By Lester Haines
The Register


"There's some good news today for all our London readers who have always believed - as do we - that two days is just not enough of a weekend. Well, we have it on good authority that you won't have to get up early on Monday and trudge your way to the office. Here's why:"

Mayo study puts prayer to the test
by Josephine Marcotty
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune


"Some Mayo Clinic researchers believe that prayer helps patients, but their scientific study into the power of prayer didn't prove it."

Bayfield science class works to solve mystery
by Barbara Brown-Meredith
The County Journal [Ashland, WI]


"A phenomenon referred to as the Paulding Lights takes place every evening shortly after dusk in the small community of Paulding, Mich. near Watersmeet."

Getting the message on horse massage
by Brad McElhinny
Charleston Daily Mail


"Charleston chiropractor Rob Robertson wants to expand his business to include a new kind of client known for having a long, sturdy back. He wants to correct back problems for horses."

Psychic phenomenon
by Marian O'Briant
The Daily Times [Maryville, TN]


"To say that I was very nervous and somewhat skeptical when I arrived at the home of Jon Saint-Germain is an understatement. I was about to meet someone who, for a living, dabbles in the occult."

The magic touch
by Lynn Barber
The Observer [UK]


"I have the strongest sense of déj vu as I approach Uri Geller's house in Sonning, Berkshire. I know exactly what the interior will be like before he opens the door - marble floors and silk-lined walls, knicker blinds and velvet cushions, glass tables densely covered with knick-knacks, rows of crystals, piles of soft toys, blodgy paintings with titles like Awakening."

State sues operators of 'Miss Cleo' call line


"Attorney General James Doyle filed a consumer protection lawsuit Wednesday against two companies that advertise pay-per-call psychic services by a woman who has appeared in many TV ads as "Miss Cleo.''"

UFOs 'spotted' on 11 September footage
By Kieren McCarthy
The Register


"Be honest, you secretly knew that there's was something more to the WTC attacks on 11 September than some extremist Muslims angry with the US' foreign policy, didn't you?"

Security guards for 'nowhere' strike for contract, higher pay


"A group of 70 security guards known as the "camo dudes" walked off their jobs Monday in Las Vegas and at the covert military installation known as Area 51, a place they said they can't talk about."

Affinity scammers bilk the faithful in the name of Greed
By Laura Bruce Bankrate.com


It was the perfect fit. Forrest Bomar was tired of the ups and downs of the stock market. His investment account with Salomon Smith Barney was doing well, but Bomar was 68 years old. He and his wife wanted fixed income investments so they'd be sure not to lose any retirement money in a volatile stock market.

Marketing of dream catchers clashes with Indian cultures

By Renee Ruble, Associated Press, 12/25/2001


MILLE LACS LAKE, Minn. - Growing up, Millie Benjamin spent her nights sleeping under a dream catcher, a traditional American Indian object believed to ward off nightmares.

These days, she shakes her head in dismay when she sees them worn as earrings, hanging from car windshields, or sold as keychains in convenience stores. ''It has gotten out of hand. It's disrespectful for our people. It means something to us, it's a tradition,'' said Benjamin, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Popular Science Dares to Offend the Nut Fringe.

From: randi@randi.org (James Randi)

This is directed to the Skeptix List, and to Fred Abatemarco, Editor-In-Chief of Popular Science and the author of a 12-line editorial in the June/97 issue. Here we have a succinct message that pretty well sums up the attitude and opinion of those of us who are dismayed by the tendency of the media "to obliterate the distinction between unsubstantiated speculation and well-disciplined scientific hypothesis". Bravo, Fred! You risk the wrath of those readers who purchase P.S. in hopes of finding support for the nutty notions that are offered them by the irresponsible and uncaring media.

And, Fred, you're surely going to get your lumps from the Roswellites who read your cover story "UFO Mania at Roswell" by Dawn Stover. These same naifs will agree with the statement in her article that the Roswell event stands as "the best-documented case of an extraterrestrial encounter," and I heartily agree with that evaluation, but only because most other popular "documentations" have much less evidence of any sort, and most are entirely anecdotal. At least Roswell produced some physical material, parsimoniously identified as scraps of debris from Project Mogul.

Thank you, Popular Science. Let's see more such brave opposition to nonsense, in a day when science-bashing is so prevalent.

James Randi
James Randi Educational Foundation
201 SE Davie Blvd.,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815

phone: +1 954 467 1112
fax: +1 954 467 1660

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 - December 18, 2001

from The New York Times

The human body looks and works like a seamless whole, but it is constructed of individual units too small to be seen, some 100 trillion living cells. The designer of the body is evolution, but its builders are the cells themselves. They proliferate from a single egg, morph into at least 260 different types and spontaneously organize into a perfectly integrated system of organs and tissues.

Biologists only dimly grasp the principles of this extraordinary self-assembly, but they are quickly learning the habits of its principal actors, a special class of cell known as stem cells. One kind of master stem cell generates the infant from the fertilized egg and then, its living sculpture completed, disappears. A class of maintenance stem cells then assumes the duties of replenishing and repairing the body throughout the owner's lifetime. The fleeting creators, known as embryonic stem cells, generate every tissue of the body, but their successors, the adult stem cells, are generally limited in scope to making a single kind of tissue.

Stem cells have recently burst from the obscurity of the research laboratory into the arena of national politics, propelled by assertions that they are either the fruits of murder or the panacea for the degenerative diseases of age. Obtained from the surplus embryos generated in fertility clinics, human embryonic stem cells have not yet been much studied because many biomedical researchers - those supported by federal grants - were forbidden to work on them until President Bush's decision on Aug. 9 to allow research with embryonic cell cultures that had already been established.


from The New York Times

Stem cell biology is a growing field with many players. To the public, the best known is probably Dr. James A. Thomson of the University of Wisconsin who, as the first person to isolate human embryonic stem cells, has cut a prominent profile in the news media and seems to bestride the field like a colossus.

But scientists have a different mental map of the arena. Dr. Thomson is a well- respected researcher, but he and all others who work with human stem cells are building on foundations laid by biologists studying mice, the experimental animals that researchers turn to first to solve the hard problems of human biology.

Many scientists consider a chief architect of the embryonic stem cell field to be Dr. Martin Evans, a biologist at the University of Cardiff in Wales. This year Dr. Evans received a Lasker Award, a prestigious prize that is sometimes a precursor to the Nobel.


compiled by The Washington Post

Breakthrough Reported In Cold Medicine

Scientists have developed the first medicine proven to reduce the length and severity of the common cold.

Whether this is the long-sought cure is debatable, since it doesn't make the sniffles disappear immediately. Nevertheless, experts say there is little doubt this medicine makes people feel better sooner if their cold is caused by a rhinovirus, the most common culprit.

The drug, called pleconaril, makes a runny nose clear up a day sooner than usual and begins to ease the symptoms within a day.


from The Boston Globe

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - When Richard Orville finally found the answer, he was on a rural stretch of highway, just east of Lake Charles, La.

The Texas A&M University professor spent six months trying to figure out why two of his students, studying the number of times lightning struck two vastly different Southern cities, had found such similarities.

When he saw the huge oil refineries outside of Lake Charles, Orville said, ''It was obvious to me what we had uncovered.''

Orville, an atmospherics professor, said he believes that air pollution from the refineries, which also dot the landscape south of Houston, increases the number of lightning strikes in the two cities. He said the discovery may plug a significant gap in scientists' understanding of the weather phenomenon.


from The Boston Globe

Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg is perhaps best known to the general public as author of a scrappy remark near the end of his 1977 best-selling book, ''The First Three Minutes.'' He wrote: ''The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.''

It's one of those remarks everyone loves to hate because everyone likes to think the universe has a point.

The biggest problem in the world today is not that the universe might not have a point, but that too many people think they know what the point is. The terrorists who smashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon thought they knew the point. And heaven knows we have our share of homegrown fundamentalists who think they know the point.

Knowing the point can be consoling, I suppose; it can also be dangerous to those who profess to know a different point, or who don't know the point at all.


Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

Safety fears over herbal remedy


A popular herbal remedy could be removed from shelves across the UK following fears over its safety. The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has written to associations representing herbal practitioners asking them if they will agree to stop selling and supplying Kava-kava temporarily.

It follows the withdrawal of the product in Germany and reports that it has been linked with six cases of liver failure and one death on mainland Europe.

Kava-kava is used extensively as a treatment for anxiety and ailments affecting the bladder and digestive tracts.

The MCA is currently considering whether the product should be banned in the UK but has asked all those who may sell or supply Kava-kava to agree to a temporary withdrawal while it considers its position.

According to the MCA, several UK companies have agreed to voluntarily suspend marketing of the product as a precautionary measure.

Agreement sought

Richard Woodfield, head of herbal policy at the MCA, described the move as responsible.

In a letter sent out on Tuesday, he suggested that withdrawing the product from sale could help protect patients.

"We wish to establish as soon as possible whether there is support from all the relevant trade and practitioner associations for voluntary suspension by their members of the sale and supply to the public of medicines containing Kava-kava.

"If this proposal could be agreed rapidly and was seen to be operating effectively this would allow an opportunity for the MCA to take into account additional evidence before bringing forward regulatory proposals as may be necessary on grounds of public health."

The product has been linked with 30 serious cases of hepatotoxicity in Germany and Switzerland.

These include six cases of liver failure resulting in one death and four patients requiring liver transplants.

There have been no similar reports in the UK and the MCA said its decision was a precautionary measure


[from American Atheist News, 18 December]

A six-month study conducted by the prestigious Mayo Clinic has found that prayer had no effect on rates of death, heart attacks, strokes and hospitalizations.

The study was directed by cardiologist Dr. Stephen L. Kopecky, and was conducted between July, 1997 and October, 1999. Results were released in the current issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A statement from the Clinic said that researchers "found that... intercessory prayer had no significant effect on patients' medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit."

Kopecky's team followed 799 male and female patients aged 18 years or older. The survey was described as a "single-center, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial."

"We sought to improve on the design of earlier studies of intercessory prayer through the application of standard experimental methods with the hope of obtaining scientific evidence to elucidate the potential role of intercessory prayer in medical care," said Kopecky. Patients were randomly placed into an "intercessory prayer group" and a control group. Those in the former cohort were prayed for at least once a week for 26 weeks by a prayer-team of five people. "No significant differences were found between the intercessory prayer group and the control group," noted the Mayo Clinic team.

The findings add to a growing debate among religious leaders, scientists, health-care workers and even public policy makers about the role of spirituality in physical well being. Nearly 1,200 studies have attempted to examine the effects of prayer, and even Kopecky suggested that some forms of religious involvement and spirituality are linked to healthier lives. One possible explanation, though, suggests that benefits occur not because of the intervention of a cosmic deity exchanging medical outcomes for prayer, but rather the fact that when people pray, they are often relaxed and have lower blood pressure rates. Indeed, some have pointed to the benefits of laughter as a source of potential medical benefit. "Although the relationship between religious involvement and spirituality and health outcomes seems valid (in some studies)," said

Dr. Paul S. Mueller of the Mayo Clinic, "it is difficult to establish causality. The benefits of religious and spiritual involvement are likely conveyed through complex psychosocial, behavioral and biological processes that are incompletely understood." For those who argue that intercessory prayer and other spiritual practices benefit health due to the intervention of supernatural beings, the Mayo Clinic study offers little sanctuary. "Researchers could discern no scientifically significant differences" between groups of patients who received prayer, and those who did not. Fully 25.6% in the prayer group even suffered "negative outcomes" such as death, heart attack, rehospitalization or a trip to the emergency room. More bedeviling, of course, are the deeper philosophical and theological questions the Mayo study, and even surveys suggesting a link between health and spirituality don't answer. Why would God or angels wait until someone is on his/her deathbed, or in a serious medical crisis, before intervening? Why might prayer be said to work for some, and not others?

Equally puzzling is the comment of Rev. John Hatgidikas, "who teaches University of Minnesota medical students about spirituality" according to the AP story reporting the Mayo Clinic findings. He said that people who are unaware that they are being prayed for by others "may benefit in ways that we can't know or see."

For further information:

("Trying to make a Case for Faith Healing," by Kevin Courcey"

("Touched by a Feeling and High on Believing," by Kevin Courcey"

Finnish media amazed at American UFO abductions

From: Paul W Harrison / interEnglish intereng@netti.fi

In the December edition of "Cult" (despite its name, a Finnish-language topical urban newsprint journal with a wide circulation, published in Helsinki) the headlines scream (allow me to freely translate: please keep that in mind in the event my terms are not exactly the same as those generally used):

**"They looked half-human and half-alien!"**

A survey has been conducted among American residents to clarify the prevalence of UFO abduction experiences. The results were astounding, since over 2 % proportionate to the entire population -- over five million people -- declared that they had experienced such phenomena.

World-famous American researcher Budd Hopkins has investigated hundreds of such abductions, and has found two "abduction models" into which these events can be relegated.

*Is the earth being used as an experimental laboratory?* In one case, a woman who boarded an alien spacecraft reported meeting "chalky beings" who performed medical experiments on her. When the woman looked around, she saw the results of genetic experiments, suspended in transparent vats. In these, fetuses and infants were being preserved which appeared to be hybrids. "They looked," Hopkins' subject stated, "half-human and half-alien."

Hopkins concludes: "The activity of these beings indicates that they are strange anthropologists of sorts, who arrive from the vast regions of space curious about how human beings cooperate with each other and who are -- a fact which often emerges from the abductees under hypnotic regression -- deeply concerned about the state of this world. They're like an intergalactic Red Cross, and in my view everything they do is in our best interests."


Sender's comments: I note that Budd Hopkins heads up the "Intruders Foundation," which must be very dear to many a skeptic. ;) The website is:


The first of these, which Hopkins terms "recruitment," is a process by which the UFO crew takes "psychic control" of abductees and uses them in a certain way as guards or "weapons."

Spirit Photography



List members might be interested in Matthew Sweet's article on spirit photogrpahy in today's *Independent on Sunday*, and in the gallery of 19C "spirit photographs" at http://www.photographymuseum.com/believe1.html

Chris Willis


Monday, December 24, 2001

Articles of Note and Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com Near Proof for Near-Death?

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2001; Page A11


The 44-year-old man who had collapsed in a meadow was brought to a hospital, unconscious and with no pulse or brain activity. Doctors began artificial respiration, heart massage and defibrillation.

Afghanistan: Casting Out Evil Spirits Can Be A Full-Time Job
By Charles Recknagel
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


"To the uninitiated, it can be a little difficult to guess just what the little boys are doing."

Racist charged in mail threat


"A Sammamish white supremacist faces life in prison for allegedly mailing a letter that contained a light-brown powdery substance feared to have been anthrax."

Looking for Solace From a Psychic Connection
New York Times


"ANNA MOJICA had never been to a talent agency before, but then she found herself in the small, posh screening room at William Morris in Midtown, one of four widows of firemen who died at the World Trade Center. Along with others who lost loved ones in the attack, Ms. Mojica, a mother of two from Long Island, had been invited by the talent agency to try and "contact" her husband through a woman named Rosemary Altea."

Investments Called Longtime Scheme


"The investment empire run by EarthLink Inc. co-founder Reed Slatkin was a scam virtually from its inception in the mid-1980s, according to a report filed Friday by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee and Slatkin's creditors."

Myth of Atlantis all took place in Plato's mind
by Amelia Hill
The Observer


"The story of the lost city of Atlantis has fascinated academics and romantics for thousands of years. But despite the legend one leading expert has finally admitted the truth: it never existed."

Rael invited by the President of Congo
SOURCE: Raelian Religion


"Rael is on an official visitor to Congo from Dec. 12 to 15. He was welcomed and officially invited by the President of the Republic Denis Sassou Nguesso."

New York Post


"TV is turning into a psychic battlefield."

Call for Papers - Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine

Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, having gone quarterly, has now a requirement for twice the number of submissions for publication. We ask for submissions on a variety of subjects with relevance to medicine and health, especially on sectarian systems and anomalous methods.

Papers should fit into one of the following categories:

Analysis; Analysis of published reports in other publications including original research, clinical trials, and reviews.

Original Research: Basic research, animal research, surveys, clinical trials, observational studies (cross-sectional, longitudinal) and interventional studies (clinical trials)

Case reports

Reviews: Of subjects, diseases, disorders

Commentary: On medically related subjects such as Psychology, Physics, , Philosophy, etc.

Communications: Short notifications of interest

Letters to the editor

Before constructing a manuscript, contact the medical editor, Wallace Sampson (Wisampson@cs.com), or the executive editor, Meghann French (at Prometheus Books - 716 691-0133), for a complete set of author guidelines, to be published in the Winter, 2001-2002 issue. Scientific Review conforms to the medical manuscript style of JAMA, New England J Med, but has additional form and language requirements.


W I Sampson MD at Wisampson@cs.com

Uri Geller claims psychic powers ended Newcastle football jinx

From Ananova at:


Uri Geller claims he helped break Newcastle United's London jinx by running around the stadium 11 times.

The club had gone 29 matches without a win in London before last night's 3-1 victory at Highbury.

Geller says Newcastle went 1-0 down because he was late for the match, but when he arrived and touched the stadium Arsenal had a player sent off.

He was asked to attend the match by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. The newspaper had previously hired an exorcist and two voodoo witch doctors to try to change the team's fortunes.

Geller says he decided to run around the ground 11 times because it is a mystical and powerful number.

He said: "Newcastle had not won in 29 games and two plus nine is 11. While they were scoring the winning goals I was running round the outside of the ground 11 times to lift the hoodoo.

"I arrived late and had no ticket. But the moment I got out of the car and touched the Highbury stadium, the Arsenal player Ray Parlour was sent off."

He claims the fans' positive thinking coupled with his psychic energy spurred the players to victory.

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 - December 24, 2001

from Reuters

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was deploying five teams of scientists and staff to help administer an anthrax vaccine and extra antibiotics to people exposed to the deadly bacterium.

The CDC, which has led the medical investigation into an anthrax outbreak linked to contaminated mail sent after the Sept. 11 attacks, said on Friday the teams would be sent, as needed, to Florida, New York City, New Jersey, Washington and Connecticut.

Anthrax infections were confirmed in each of these places during an outbreak that began in October. Five people have died and another 13 have been infected with the disease during the outbreak.

"These teams will be working directly with a medical contractor to administer vaccine and antibiotics to those who choose to receive it," the Atlanta-based CDC said.


from The Los Angeles Times

At McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., brain researchers have hit upon what could become a new way to treat depression--blocking a brain chemical called dynorphin, the "evil cousin" of endorphin, which triggers the "runner's high."

At UCLA, psychiatrists have modified the standard EEG (or electroencephalogram) to predict which depressed patients will get better with drugs and which won't--weeks before the patients can detect any changes in mood.

At the University of Toronto, scientists are tracing the specific components of depression--sadness, distorted thinking, disturbed sleep--to separate, but linked, regions of the brain. In the process, they've found one key region in the "emotional brain," area 24a. If that's overactive, depressed people improve with drug therapy; if it's not, they won't. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, researchers are trying yet another approach--transcranial magnetic stimulation--that uses magnets placed on the scalp to stimulate the prefrontal lobes of the brain, which are often sluggish in depression.

Depression, in other words, is no longer believed to be a mere deficiency of key brain chemicals--norepinephrine, dopamine and, perhaps most important, serotonin. Today, brain researchers view this common illness, which strikes about 19 million Americans, as a malfunction of particular circuits. Those circuits connect the limbic system, or "emotional brain," with the prefrontal cortex, or "thinking brain," and the brain stem and hypothalamus, which control basic functions such as sleep, appetite and libido.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Every 10 years, George Rathmann tries his hand at creating a biotechnology company.

In 1980, he was the business brains behind Amgen, the Southern California firm that became the world's largest biotech firm -- and made Rathmann's reputation in the process.

In 1990, the biotech veteran moved north toward Seattle where he persuaded Bill Gates and other investors to help him launch ICOS Corp. Today, ICOS is poised to win government approval for Cialis, an erectile dysfunction pill to compete with Viagra.

In 2000, the legendary leader surfaced in Sunnyvale, where he took over as chairman of a struggling gene-discovery firm called Hyseq. Founded in 1994, Hyseq has long been overshadowed by better-known rivals such as Human Genome Sciences, Celera Genomics, Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Incyte Genomics.

In his bid to reinvent Hyseq, Rathmann, who will turn 74 tomorrow, has recruited Genentech veteran Ted Love, 42, to serve under him as chief executive. Becoming Hyseq's day-to-day boss makes Love, who is African American, one of the highest ranking minorities in biotechnology


from The New York Times

SCO LUMS, Brazil The Brazilian government, increasingly fearful of what it regards as "biopiracy" by foreign pharmaceutical companies, universities and laboratories, is moving to impose stricter controls on medicinal plants in the Amazon region.

The effort is motivated largely by a desire to build and profit from a domestic biotechnology industry instead of allowing non-Brazilians to get most of the benefits. But the government is also facing growing pressure from shamans and elders of the 230 indigenous peoples of Brazil, who worry that they are losing control of tribal wisdom and who also want a share of any revenue.

Brazil has nearly one-quarter of the world's plant species. Many of them grow only here and have yet to be tested by Western science, though they have been used for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples to treat a variety of ailments. That gives Brazil a prominence in biotechnology regulation far beyond that of any other country in the tropics, the region many scientists view as perhaps the most promising for the development of new drugs.


Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage

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American Scientist magazine

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Sunday, December 23, 2001

Bronze and Iron Ages Timeline Rewritten Using Sun's Solar Cyclesand Tree Rings

Things are on a roll over on HASTRO-L today ....

John McMahon
Le Moyne College


Archaeologists rewrite timeline of Bronze and Iron Ages, including early appearance of alphabet

FOR RELEASE: Dec. 19, 2001
Cornell University News Service

Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Office: 607-255-3290
E-mail: bpf2@cornell.edu

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Using information gleaned from the sun's solar cycles and tree rings, archaeologists are rewriting the timeline of the Bronze and Iron Ages. The research dates certain artifacts of the ancient eastern Mediterranean decades earlier than previously thought. And it places an early appearance of the alphabet outside Phoenicia at around 740 B.C.

Writing in two articles in the forthcoming issue of the journal Science (Dec. 21), archaeologists from Cornell University and the University of Reading (England) and a physicist from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Germany) have given a new kind of precision to the timeline of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Aegean and the Near East.

"Establishing this chronology means that the objects -- metalwork, furniture, woven textiles, and an alphabetic inscription found in a tomb in central Turkey -- were older than previously thought by some 22 years," said Peter I. Kuniholm, Cornell professor of art history and archaeology.

Among the artifacts found in the Midas Mound Tumulus at Gordion, the capital of ancient Phrygia, a site west of Ankara, Turkey, is a shallow, bronze bowl with a patch of beeswax on the rim carrying an alphabetical inscription. The inscription is a precursor to -- or contemporary with -- the earliest attested occurrences of the Greek alphabet. In addition to letter forms known from ancient Greek, there is a vertical arrow, known also from Etruscan inscriptions.

With the new chronology, the bowl now is independently dated circa 740 B.C., making its inscription as old as the oldest known artifacts on which the Greek alphabet appears: an oinochoe (a wine pitcher) from the Dipylon cemetery in Athens and a cup from Pithekoussai (now Ischia) in the Bay of Naples. The estimated dates of these pots previously had provided archaeologists with only an approximate date for these early alphabetic inscriptions. "The alphabet, which originated in Phoenicia at a time that is still disputed, was moving west at a rapid pace, traditionally thought to be by sea but now clearly by land as well. That's what this chronology shows: The alphabet was really catching on," says Kuniholm. Scholars believe that the birthplace of all Western alphabets, including the Greek and Roman, was Phoenicia (present-day Lebanon, Israel and Palestine). The oldest known Phoenician inscription was found in the Ahiram epitaph at Byblos, Lebanon, dating from about the 11th century B.C. Scholars think the alphabet was spread throughout the Mediterranean by traders who found the new shorthand an improvement over the syllabic scripts such as Linear B and cuneiform Hittite.

Kuniholm and his colleagues are using the science of both carbon dating and dendrochronology, dating through tree rings, to calibrate history. Their latest research involved carbon-14 analysis on 10-year slices -- that is rings covering 10 years of growth -- on wood from pine trees from the Catacik Forest in Turkey and from oak trees in Germany. By currently accepted models, the carbon-14 concentrations should have been identical in both the pine and the oak. And while the scientists discovered that this was true in general, they were surprised to find that for certain key periods, the Turkish pine appeared to be older than the German oak by as much as 17 years. "Those pieces of wood are the same tree-ring age, and they should have the same radiocarbon age, but they don't," says Kuniholm.

What happened, Kuniholm believes, is that the Turkish pine, growing in a warmer climate and at a lower latitude, absorbed less carbon-14 during documented periods of so-called solar minima -- prolonged cooling periods in the Northern Hemisphere, such as those in the eighth and ninth centuries B.C. and in the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. The German oak, which starts its growing season later in the spring than does the Turkish pine, absorbed measurably more amounts of carbon-14 during such cooling periods. "The trees are like a tape recorder of the radioactivity of the cosmos," Kuniholm said, "but they record only when they are growing."

Carbon-14, an isotope of the element carbon, is produced in the Earth's lower stratosphere by the collision of neutrons, produced by cosmic rays, with nitrogen. (An isotope is made up of atoms of the same element but with different numbers of neutrons.) During periods of high solar activity, the solar wind prevents charged particles from entering the atmosphere -- thus producing little carbon-14. However, carbon-14 production peaks during the solar minima, and it enters the Earth's troposphere as carbon dioxide-14 during the late spring in the Northern Hemisphere. By the following spring, the higher concentration of carbon in the troposphere is diluted. Thus, German oak, which grows late in the spring and summer, absorbs less carbon dioxide-14 than Turkish pine or juniper, which grows from the early spring to summer. "This is the first time scientists have been able to note a regional difference in tree rings of the same dendrochronological age," says Kuniholm. "Sadly, now, with all the carbon in our atmosphere, with the pollution we have from our cars and factories and energy facilities, the trees have all but given up providing many of these valuable signals."

Kuniholm's co-authors on the Science papers were Sturt Manning of the University of Reading, Bernd Kromer of Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, and Maryanne Newton, Cornell doctoral candidate. Research collaborators also include Marco Spurk, Universität Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, and Ingeborg Levin, Universität Heidelberg, Germany. The concurrent Science articles are titled, "Regional Radioactive Carbon Dioxide Offsets in the Troposphere: Magnitude, Mechanisms and Consequences" and "Anatolian Tree Rings and a New Chronology for the East Mediterranean Bronze-Iron Ages."

The research was funded by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, the National Science Foundation, the Malcolm H. Wiener Foundation, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Germany's Federal Ministry of Educational Research.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

Aegean Dendrochronology Project:


A companion opinion piece in Science by Paula Reimer,
Livermore Laboratories:


New insight into 'Ghost Head Nebula' - Your News from Ananova

Astronomers have released new information of what they call the 'Ghost Head Nebula'.

They say red and blue light which emits from the skull-shaped formation is from hydrogen gas heated by nearby stars.

Glowing oxygen elsewhere in the nebula emits a green light, and a white region at its heart is a combination of all three.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_478216.html

* Space story sent by Ananova, your personal news assistant

FWD (IUFO NEWS) more ORMEs & Russian free-energy studies

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

I found 2 more essays on ORMEs, the mysterious room-temperature monatomic superconductors that may also facilitate or be "influenced" by remote-viewing / PSI . See items 'G' and 'H' at =>


Also I found the host site of the essay on Russian Experiments With Rotating Magnetic Fields. It's listed under item 'I' at the above URL.

Until theories can be tested, the more incredible-sounding ones will always incur the "wrath" of the more conservative reviewer. I do not agree with this person's conclusions, but for fairness and "food-for-thought" I am bringing attention to his site for those interested. He has listed certain leading theoretical physicists in his physics "Crackpots Hall-of-Shame" . It can be linked-to from item 'M' at =>

http://www.geocities.com/stealthskaters/UFO_Science_URLS.htm .

McMinnville [UFO] a hoax?


Lots and lots of drawings of horizons and angles. If that's what turns you on....


"Scared green" - The Right in the Classroom


The Nation
December 20, 2001
The Right in the Classroom

"Tampering With Nature," John Stossel's June 29, 2001, special, became a public relations problem for ABC when several parents demanded that interviews with their children be removed from the show, complaining that they had been misled into believing that it was to be an Earth Day special. What missed the media spotlight, however, was that "Tampering With Nature" was part of a five-year right-wing effort to discredit and defund environmental education.

Since 1996, Michael Sanera, a former adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation, has been going around the country preaching the message that kids in school today are being scared into environmentalism by their teachers. When Stossel decided to do a show on the subject, Sanera was there to help. A group called Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (which serves as a pesticide-industry front group, according to Sheldon Rampton, an author and editor at PR Watch), posted a message from Sanera that read: "I have been contacted by ABC News. A producer for John Stossel is working on a program on environmental education. He needs examples of kids who have been 'scared green' by schools teaching doomsday environmentalism in the classroom. He needs kids and/or parents to appear on camera. I have some examples, but I need more."

An ABC spokesperson said that as soon as they found out about the e-mail, they told Sanera to "stop and desist." John Borowski, a teacher from Portland, responded to the Sanera e-mail posing as an "upset parent" who agreed with Sanera's ideas. Stossel's producers contacted him within days. (They later dropped him out of the interview pool.) Sanera declined to be interviewed.

Sanera's "scared green" message is also the message Stossel used to lead his special. "He [Stossel] started asking leading questions, and it was very clear what he wanted to get," said John Quigley, executive director of Earth Day Los Angeles, who was present for Stossel's interviews with the children. After the interview, some parents contacted the network to withdraw the releases they had signed, and an environmental activist pointed out that Stossel's conduct violated the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, which calls for "special sensitivity when dealing with children." The program ran with the children's faces obscured and their interviews cut, but Stossel talked on camera about why that was done, and he went out on the talk-show circuit to defend his actions, telling Fox's Bill O'Reilly that schoolchildren were being "brainwashed" by their teachers.

Sanera was, until recently, director of the Center for Environmental Education Research at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank whose funders have included the Scaife Foundation, Ford, General Motors and Dow Chemical, and which hosts a website (www.savejohnstossel.com) set up after Stossel came under attack for his story on organic food. Sanera now teaches at a charter school and edits books with Jane Shaw, a senior associate at the Political Economy Research Center, which describes itself as "the center for free market environmentalism." Sanera and Shaw authored the book Facts, Not Fear: A Parents' Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment. Facts, Not Fear bills itself as "the first guidebook to help parents and teachers give their children and students a more balanced, science-based view of the many environmental controversies they encounter." The book, sold on Amazon.com and in bookstores nationwide, is a credible-looking organizing manual that raises questions about environmental issues and environmental textbooks. Common beliefs about rainforests, endangered species and global warming are all challenged. A panel of over 30 "acknowledged experts" reviewed each chapter.

What Facts, Not Fear leaves out is that many of its experts have ties to right-wing corporations and corporate polluters. Fred Seitz and Sallie Baliunas, for example, who review the chapter on ozone, have worked with the George C. Marshall Institute, which is funded by conservative foundations like Bradley and Scaife. M.B. Hocking, another of the experts, formerly worked for Dow Chemical. Donald Stedman has written for Heritage and worked for Ford Motor Company. The book, published by Regnery, also has ties to the religious right. The copyright belongs to the Alabama Family Alliance, part of the Focus on the Family network.

Citizen groups who have begun organizing and sharing information have called into question what Sanera and Shaw mean by balance. Jeff Sellen, co-director of Citizens for Environmental Education in Washington State, was part of one such effort. "The main argument is to return 'balance' to environmental education," Sellen said. "What Sanera wants to do to balance environmental education is to give equal weight to scientific opinions that say global warming is not a problem. Of course, only fringe scientists think that."

Shaw says she and Sanera have reviewed over 130 textbooks and that she thinks the environmental crisis is overexaggerated. "One of the books we reviewed had a visual where New York City was underwater," she said. "They are saying that this will happen in our children's lifetimes." While Shaw thinks global warming is "quite possible," she also thinks that "To say that it is getting warmer does not mean we will have any kind of severe negative problem." She thinks the Stossel broadcast was good and that it "had an impact." "John Stossel wasn't just saying your kids are being mistaught," Shaw said. "He was saying that we as the public misunderstand these issues. We read about them in the paper, and it is very sensational. Newspapers tend to emphasize the scary and the negative."

The Stossel special aired at an opportune moment, just as the reauthorization of the National Environmental Education Act was moving through Congress as part of HR 1, the education reform legislation. The bill had wide bipartisan support, as indicated by its Senate co-sponsors, Republican James Inhofe and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sanera and the Competitve Enterprise Institute actively worked against the legislation. "There were a number of items, letters and things that were written by Sanera and others that were sent directly to Congress," said Rick Wilke, University of Wisconsin distinguished professor of environmental education. In addition, Wilke says, "We were very concerned about the impact of the show."

Wilke's concern was well founded. The legislation was taken out of HR 1.

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 - December 21, 2001

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A bizarre sea creature with 20-foot-long spidery legs that lives in the cold, inky black three miles below the surface of the ocean has been discovered in photographs taken by deep sea submersibles.

"I call it a mystery squid," said Mike Vecchione, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher. "It's unlike any other squid I've ever seen."

Vecchione, first author of a study appearing Friday in the journal Science, said the only evidence of the squid comes from photographs and video images taken during submersible dives. However, he said, the findings are persuasive because they came from eight independent worldwide sightings by scientists from eight institutions in four countries.

The sightings were in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and in the Gulf of Mexico. The deepest sighting came at 15,534 feet - almost three miles below the surface - in the western Atlantic off the coast of Brazil.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - This year's most important scientific breakthrough was the advancement toward making electronic circuits the size of a single molecule, according to the editors of Science, one of the world's top scientific journals.

Researchers at Harvard University, Bell Laboratories and elsewhere announced during the year that they had made tiny, molecular-sized circuits, teamed in some cases with tiny transistors, wires and switches, the journal said in a report appearing Friday.

Some of the experimental devices were made atom-by-atom with deposits of gold and other materials, such as a type of carbon that forms itself into tiny wires.

All of these devices were at a tiny scale measured in nanometers. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter and it takes about a million of them to span a typical grain of sand.


from The Washington Post

Four dozen congressional aides began receiving an experimental anthrax vaccine yesterday, as federal officials announced that Capitol Hill employees and postal workers had been exposed to much higher levels of the deadly bacteria than had been previously known.

Both the Hart Senate Office Building and the Brentwood postal station were contaminated with far greater amounts of anthrax spores than earlier estimates had shown, with some workers inhaling perhaps 3,000 times the lethal dose, government physicians said.

The new details came as federal authorities raced to defend their vaccination plan, dispatching medical teams to counsel likely participants and rushing out just-completed protocols and consent forms to workers in five jurisdictions hit by a series of anthrax attacks this fall.


from The Associated Press

A body found snagged on a tree in the Mississippi River carried the identification of a missing Harvard University scientist who was last seen in Memphis over a month ago.

Memphis police Lt. Joe Scott said the body and the wallet with Don C. Wiley's identification were found Thursday by workers at a hydroelectric plant in Vidalia, La., about 300 miles south of Memphis. An autopsy was scheduled in Memphis on Friday.

Wiley, 57, has been missing since Nov. 16, when his rental car was discovered on a Mississippi River bridge. The keys were in the ignition and the gas tank was full.

The molecular biologist had been in Memphis for a two-day annual meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.


Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage

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For feedback on In the News,

Shermer's Last Law


Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God

As scientist extraordinaire and author of an empire of science-fiction books, Arthur C. Clarke is one of the farthest-seeing visionaries of our time. His pithy quotations tug harder than those of most futurists on our collective psyches for their insights into humanity and our unique place in the cosmos. And none do so more than his famous Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Home owner claims deceased professor haunts her house


By Tami Watson, Transcript Staff Writer
December 20, 2001

Sometimes even death can't separate an individual from that which he loves. Such seems the case between a deceased University of Oklahoma physics professor and the Norman home he built in 1981. Mysterious occurrences have apparently forced two maybe three previous owners to suddenly move out of the home, some even leaving behind personal belongings.

Making his presence known

According to Agi Lurtz who has lived at 2115 Martingale Dr. since 1994 Sybrand Broersma continues to occupy his unique, cream-colored creation, even though he died in the home 15 years ago today. Broersma makes his presence known almost constantly, whether it be moving items from place to place, blowing out light bulbs or causing commotions, she said.

Romania to introduce legislation to regulate witches

From Ananova at:


Romania's Parliament is to discuss a witchcraft law to regulate the thousands of witches practising in the country.

Romanian MP Madalin Voicu says a new law reigning in some of the more questionable practices is logical.

Romania introduced taxes on witches' earnings earlier in the year.

Mr Voicu said: "They have a profession like everyone else, and we have to make sure that they are subject to the same rules and regulations as everyone else."

He added that would include the setting up of a witchcraft school, the "Romanian National Witches College" to ensure professional standards are maintained.

Mr Voicu says politicians will also be given a special department to give them advice on witchcraft matters.

The country's finance minister suffered a broken leg the day after introducing the tax on witches and several leading figures in witching circles tried to claim the credit for his misfortune as a punishment for the tax.

Mr Voicu says the new department will protect against such misfortunes.

He added: "There will be professional witches in the department to offer support to the politicians in improving their political activities."

Fortune tellers cash in on hard times

From Ananova at:


Thailand is seeing a boom in fortune tellers as the country's economy falters.

Those falling on hard times are visiting soothsayers for advice on jobs and finances.

According to a survey, 70% of men and 87% of women in Bangkok have consulted fortune tellers at least once.

Astrologers are also enjoying a year-end boom, as the superstitious flock for forecasts on what awaits them next year.

The Thai Farmers Research Centre study showed many Bangkok residents visit clairvoyants regularly and pay around 200 baht (about 3) per visit, reports the Straits Times.

It says: "In the midst of economic hardship, a great number of people are depressed financially and socially. Under these circumstances, people seek solace for the sake of their own lives and minds."

Articles of Note

Thanks to Joe Littrell. For these and more stories visit:

by Dan Gilgoff
Washington City Paper


"PAULA: What happened, Jeff?
JEFF: I saw a flying saucer."

Fortune Tellers Feel No Pinch in Downturn


"The economic woes that have dogged Thailand since 1997 have not dented the business of one industry -- fortune telling."

Some are doubting cougar's existence
By James A. Gillaspy
Indianapolis Star


"The official warning remains in effect, but state wildlife authorities are increasingly skeptical about their own reports of a cougar on the loose in Boone County."

Rare lynx hairs found in forests exposed as hoax
By Audrey Hudson


"Federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare cat species in two national forests, officials told The Washington Times."

Japanese seek their fortunes
Associated Press


"Many people look for answers in the stars. But in Japan, some are divining their future from a plate of sushi. Or an electrical appliance. Or sumo underwear."

Cubans skeptical about sea structures


"There is no evidence that a recently discovered spectacular rock formation on the seabed off Cuba's western tip was a lost city belonging to an unknown ancient civilization, Cuban specialists said Thursday."

Stormy Weather
by Bob Fitrakis and Fritz Chess
Columbus Alive


"With the grounding of virtually all civilian air flights in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the bizarre speculation about what's happening in North American air space heightened. Columbus Alive received numerous citizen reports concerning airplanes leaving contrails in the sky. Some feared we were under biochemical attack while others postulated we were being inoculated against anthrax or some other biochemical hazard."

Scientologists buy high-rise in Clearwater
St. Petersburg Times


"The Church of Scientology has purchased a vacant 13-story high-rise downtown that will house more than 600 new staff members in another step in Scientology's unprecedented expansion in the city."

Faithful Feel Power of Prayer
By RenC=ee K. Gadoua
The Post-Standard [Syracuse]


"They come from down the street, across town and across the state."

Heart doctor seeks more patients for chelation study
Miami Herald


"Sometimes, making medical history is harder than you think."

Survey: Vast majority of Americans believe in angels
Scripps Howard News Service


"Americans overwhelmingly believe in the angels that heralded the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago and think they still walk the Earth in these modern days."

They could be dirt capsules and the FDA won't know
By Suzy Cohen, R.Ph
Chicago Tribune


"Q. My wife and I take many nutritional supplements and vitamins. Who makes sure these are safe?"

Vatican Denies Fatima Rumors


"The Vatican sought Thursday to end speculation that the so-called Third Secret of Fatima foretold the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States."

Truth Or Fiction?
By Charles Bowen
Editor & Publisher


"Cyberspace has always had paranoid tenancies. However, since the start of America's war of international terrorism, everyone's e-mail has become swamped with warnings about everything from new viruses to anthrax in the holiday candy. Not only that, anyone who answers a newsroom telephone knows that frazzled readers are wanting to know if whatever they've just heard is a hoax or a legitimate concern."

Myth or Not, This Bud's for America
New York Times


"No matter what you may have heard, a truck driver delivering Budweiser beer on Sept. 11 did not walk into a convenience store and find two Arab clerks celebrating. Furthermore, the nonexistent truck driver did not wreak vengeance on the nonexistent Arabs."

For these stories and more visit:


No. 116, 22/29 December 2001

Early Christians hid the origins of the Bethlehem star


Science's annual 'Top 10' unveiled - Your News from Ananova

Tiny circuits which could lead to miniature medical robots were the most important scientific achievement of 2001.

A panel made up of editors from the journal Science named the development their breakthrough of the year.

Their 'breakdowns' of the year included the budget problems of the International Space Station and the Bush administration's 'scientific vacuum'.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_478181.html

Consumer Health Digest #01-51, December 17, 2001

[This issue has some items of special interest to the list. JK]

  Consumer Health Digest #01-51
  Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
  December 17, 2001
  Current # of subscribers: 4,085

Sorry about the delay. The Web version of this newsletter was posted on http://www.ncahf.org/digest/index.html, but a problem with the ISP prevented e-mail distribution until today. The problem has been fixed.


NCI study concludes that "low-tar/low-nicotine cigarettes" are not safer. A new National Cancer Institute monograph has concluded that cigarettes labeled as "low tar," "mild," or "light" are just as dangerous as other cigarettes. Switching to these cigarettes may provide smokers with a false sense of reduced risk, when the actual amount of tar and nicotine consumed may be the same as, or more than, the previously used higher yield brand. Nicotine addiction results in smokers seeking a constant level of nicotine from smoking each day. The FTC's tests used to measure tar and nicotine levels have provided numbers that have been used for promotional purposes. However, these numbers have been artificially low because the cigarette paper enables air to dilute the smoke during the FTC's machine tests, whereas real smokers maintain their nicotine levels by positioning the cigarettes differently. The monograph details the extent to which the tobacco industry deliberately misled consumers. [Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Machine-Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 13, National Cancer Institute, Nov. 2001] http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/nci_monographs/MONO13/MONO13.HTM The American Medical Association has cited the new report in its efforts to persuade Congress to permit the FDA to regulate tobacco.


Psychological support fails to prolong breast cancer survival. A controlled study has found that weekly supportive-expressive group therapy improved mood and pain perception but did not prolong survival of women with metastatic breast cancer. The study involved 235 women who were expected to survive for at least three months. The authors noted that although the cancer [Goodwin PJ and others. The effect of group psychosocial support on survival in metastatic breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 345:1719-1726, 2001] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/htbin-post/Entrez/query?db=m&form=6&dopt=r&uid=11742045 The report failed to replicate a similar study reported in 1989 by psychiatrist David Spiegel, M.D., who found that therapy participants survived about 18 months longer.


Colloidal silver marketer sentenced to probation. Steven Tondre, of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, was sentenced on four misdemeanor charges of selling a misbranded product to which he had pled guilty in federal court. He was placed five years' probation, fined $4,000, ordered to pay more than $12,000 in restitution, and given 10 days to take down his Web site. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~exp7 The charges arose from his marketing of "EXP," a colloidal silver solution that he sold for $50 per quart. The Web site falsely claimed that "EXP" would prevent and cure AIDS by "hyperoxygenating the blood" and that "whenever EXP comes into contact with single cell pathogens or any microbial bacteria or viruses, EXP immediately incapacitates and destroys them before they have a chance to multiply or mutate."


Intercessory prayer flunks another test. Mayo Clinic researchers have found no significant effect of intercessory prayer (prayer by one or more persons on behalf of another) on the medical outcomes of more than 750 patients who were followed for 6 months after discharge from in hospital coronary care unit. The patients were randomized within 24 hours of discharge into a prayed-for group and a control group. The prayer involved at least one session per week for 26 weeks by five randomly assigned individual or group intercessors. [Aviles JM and others. Intercessory prayer and cardiovascular disease progression in a coronary care unit population: A randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 26:1192-19198, 2001] http://www.mayo.edu/proceedings/2001/dec/7612a1.pdf


Four arrested in anthrax-related stock fraud scheme. Four men have been criminally charged with exploiting fears about bioterrorism and inflating the stock prices by falsely claiming that a hand-held device could be used to prevent anthrax. Government news releases indicate that the men obtained a controlling interest in Spectrum Brands Corp., http://www.quicken.com/investments/quotes/?defview=FULL&symbol=spbr purchased "DeGERM-inator" devices from the manufacturer, and advertised through the Internet that the device could eliminate anthrax germs on surfaces in a matter of seconds. The defendants allegedly drove up stock prices by buying and selling shares, making it appear that they were widely traded, and then dumped their stock and left legitimate investors holding nearly worthless shares. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed related civil charges. The DeGERM-inator http://www.spectroline.com/Degerm.html is a hand-held device that uses ultraviolet rays to sanitize surface areas. The manufacturer's Web site now carries a disclaimer that the device is not recommended for killing anthrax spores. For additional details, see http://www.quackwatch.com/04ConsumerEducation/News/degerminator.html


Skeptical Inquirer now has 25-year index online. The Skeptical Inquirer, the official journal of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), has added a 25-year index to its Web site. http://www.csicop.org/si/index/ The journal contains many incisive articles about health-related fraud, quackery, and pseudoscience.


NIDDK obesity report updated. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has updated its booklet on obesity, which covers the causes, consequences, diagnosis, and treatment of obesity in adults. [Understanding adult obesity. NIH Publication No. 01-3680, October 2001] http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/unders.htm


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. Other issues of the Digest are archived at http://www.ncahf.org/digest/index.html. For information about the National Council Against Health Fraud, see http://www.ncahf.org/about/mission.html. If you enjoy the newsletter, please recommend it to your friends.
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  http://www.quackwatch.com (health fraud and quackery)
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Thursday, December 20, 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 - December 20, 2001

from The Washington Post

Jason Nietupski was ordered to take three shots of anthrax vaccine in February and March 2000, right before he was deployed to South Korea as a U.S. Army reserve officer.

Within weeks, Nietupski developed a host of medical problems that an Army medical evaluation concluded were related to the vaccine: Blood clots appeared in the aspiring fighter pilot's legs and a bloody mucus dripped into his mouth; he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and an allergic reaction called Steven Johnson's syndrome.

"I was very healthy and never went to doctors before I took the vaccine," said Nietupski, 29, in an interview yesterday, describing how his life changed after the shots. "Now if you look at me the last 18 months, I have a medical record six to eight inches thick."

As thousands of postal workers and Senate staffers who were exposed to anthrax bacteria during this fall's attacks debate whether to take the anthrax vaccine, they face a brutally difficult decision: Should they listen to those like Nietupski and avoid the vaccine, or should they listen to the exhaustive scientific evaluations that have found the vaccine to be generally safe?


from The New York Times

In an important milestone toward making powerful computers that exploit the mind-bending possibilities of calculating with individual atoms, scientists at the I.B.M. Almaden Research Center, in San Jose, Calif., are announcing today that they have performed the most complex such calculation yet: factoring the number 15.

The answer itself was no surprise: 3 and 5, the numbers that divide into 15, leaving no remainder. But the exercise that led to that simple result - the first factoring of a number with an exotic device called a quantum computer - holds the promise of one day solving problems now considered impossible, and cracking seemingly impenetrable codes.

Tiny though they are, the switches that manipulate ones and zeroes in current state-of-the-art computers each consist of billions of atoms. In the quantum computing experiment, the scientists performed the calculation by manipulating single atoms, the submicroscopic equivalent of abacus beads. This confirmed a big advantage: because of the chimerical nature of quantum mechanics, the law that rules the atomic realm, the procedure's multiple steps could be carried out simultaneously.


from The Associated Press

Sugar compounds, an indispensable ingredient for life today, have been found in meteorites, bolstering the theory that chunks of rock from outer space delivered the materials that gave rise to life in Earth.

Another key ingredient, amino acids, has already been found in meteorites.

George Cooper of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., said that while it has not been proved that meteorites delivered the materials that led to life, the discovery means meteorites containing the building blocks were at least present on the planet early in its history.

His findings appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.


from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists said on Wednesday they have deciphered the third human chromosome which contains a treasure trove of information about diseases ranging from obesity and eczema to dementia and cataracts.

With more than 727 genes and nearly 60 million DNA letters, chromosome 20 is the largest human chromosome to be finished so far.

Thirty-two of the genes are linked to genetic illnesses including the brain wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, severe immune disorders and illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and dermatitis.

"This is one more completed chapter of our genomic anatomy textbook -- medical research will be using this information for decades to come in its quest to tackle our common diseases," said Dr. Mike Dexter, the director of the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest medical charity.


from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who eat a meat-laden diet have more than triple the average risk of esophageal cancer and double the risk of stomach cancer, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

The report adds to several studies that link eating meat, especially "red" meat such as beef, with certain cancers. Colon cancer has been the most strongly linked with a high-meat diet.

The study of people living in Nebraska found that those who ate the most meat had 3.6 times the risk of esophageal cancer and double the risk of stomach cancer when compared to people eating what the researchers considered a healthy diet.

People who ate a lot of dairy products, who tended also to eat a lot of meat, had double the risk of both cancers, the researchers report in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


from The Washington Post

Okay, it wasn't much of a jolt. A measly 1.5 to 2.0 on the Richter scale: nothing like the 5.0 that shook the Volcano Islands off Japan the same day, or the 6.8 northeast of Taiwan, or the 4.5 in western Nepal.

But scientists confirmed yesterday that it was in fact an earthquake that bumped Columbia on Tuesday afternoon, in the same general area where a series of little quakes, many of them unnoticed, rattled through in 1993.

The quake, whose exact depth and epicenter remained unknown yesterday, struck at 1:34 p.m., according to state geologist Gerald Baum. There was no reported damage or injury, and just a smattering of 911 calls.

But it reminded scientists how little is known about earthquakes in areas of the country that don't often experience them.


from The Washington Post

The 44-year-old man who had collapsed in a meadow was brought to a hospital, unconscious and with no pulse or brain activity. Doctors began artificial respiration, heart massage and defibrillation.

A nurse trying to feed a tube down the man's throat saw that he wore dentures and removed them. The patient was moved to the intensive care unit.

A week later, the nurse saw the man again. The man immediately recognized the nurse as the person who had removed his dentures and also remembered other details of what had happened while he was in a deep coma. He said he had perceived the events from above the hospital bed and watched doctors' efforts to save his life.

This account would be standard fare in a supermarket tabloid, but last week it was published in the Lancet, a British medical journal. It's the latest in a long series of attempts to either document or debunk the existence of "near death" experiences, something that for the most part has remained in the realm of the paranormal.


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Reciting the Ave Maria as good for you as yoga


By Nicole Martin
(Filed: 21/12/2001)

RECITING the Ave Maria is good for a person's health because of the calming power of prayer, a study says today.

Repeating the rosary prayer slows down breathing, thereby improving the workings of the heart and lungs, according to a team from Italy.

They found that the Catholic practice was as effective as yoga in controlling breathing, enhancing concentration and inducing a feeling of calm.

Researchers from the University of Pavia published their findings in the British Medical Journal following an analysis of breathing rates in 23 adults.

The beneficial effects of the familiar prayer emerged after participants were examined while talking normally, chanting a yoga mantra, reciting the Ave Maria, and during six minutes of controlled breathing.

The team found that both the Ave Maria, the Latin version of the Hail Mary, and the mantra, slowed breathing to around six breaths per minute, a rate believed to be favourable to the functioning of the heart.

Wednesday, December 19, 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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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 - December 19, 2001

from The Associated Press

GENEVA, Dec. 18 (AP) - The Earth's temperature in 2001 is expected to be the second highest in the 140 years that meteorologists have been keeping records, the United Nations weather agency said today.

"Temperatures are getting hotter, and they are getting hotter faster now than at any time in the past," said Michel Jarraud, deputy secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.

Nine of the 10 warmest years since 1860 have occurred since 1990, the agency said, and temperatures are rising three times as fast as in the early 1900's.

As it has in the past, the organization attributed much of the warming to the greenhouse effect from burning fossil fuels.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 - Deep Space 1, a small spacecraft that overcame seemingly impossible odds to complete its primary mission and then capture the best pictures ever taken of a comet, ceased its operations today.

Engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, Calif., sent a signal to the robot spacecraft at 3:15 p.m. Eastern time, ordering it to shut down its ion propulsion engine and stop communicating with Earth. After executing final orders, the last transmission from the craft ended nine seconds after 4 p.m., while it was 86.5 million miles away, in orbit between those of the Earth and Mars.

"I'm going to miss it," Dr. Marc D. Rayman, the project manager, said in an interview. "It's like losing a dear friend. But it's time to move on."

Since its launching in October 1998, Deep Space 1 logged a series of successes and a few failures, but the spacecraft that Dr. Rayman called "the little spacecraft that could" ended its mission with nothing left to prove. "We were unbelievably successful," he said.



from The Washington Post

The federal government will begin offering anthrax vaccine as an experimental treatment to thousands of people potentially exposed to the deadly bacteria during a series of attacks this fall, administration officials announced yesterday.

For those wary of taking the controversial, unlicensed vaccine, health officials laid out two alternatives: take an additional 40 days of antibiotics or take no new medicines and wait to see if symptoms arise.

The decision to make the vaccine available as early as today reflects growing unease that antibiotics may not be sufficient protection against a disease that scientists know very little about. Bacteria may survive longer in people's lungs than 60 days and continue to pose a health threat. The vaccine may enable the immune system to fight off any lingering spores.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The anthrax investigation is focused on fewer than a dozen laboratories that have worked with the deadly bacteria, federal officials said, and investigators are trying to identify the genetic fingerprints of anthrax held at each of them.

Investigators are increasingly convinced the anthrax that has killed five people since October came from inside the United States, and they are hoping to find the laboratory that produced it.

There have been no new cases of anthrax infection for weeks, but officials still are dealing with fallout from those exposed to the tainted letters during the fall.

Federal health officials said Tuesday they would offer the experimental anthrax vaccine and an extra 40 days of antibiotic treatment to thousands of Capitol Hill, media and postal workers in case any anthrax still lurks in their lungs.


from The Associated Press

Call it "Star Trek: The Next Harvest": An agriculture extension agent strides into a field and, guided by a hand-held computer and global-positioning device, walks right to the middle of the most productive plot in the county.

There, he pulls up a series of overlaying computer maps and examines crop yield histories, soil and crop conditions -- even the closest pest activity.

The details help farmers answer the question, "If it's good here, why isn't it good somewhere else?" said John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University Extension Service specialist.

The scenario should become more common in the next three years, thanks to a $742,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of a program to find practical applications for data NASA can provide, Nowatzki said.


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