NTS LogoSkeptical News for 29 January 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, January 29, 2002 06:03:24

Martian rocks bonanza


Monday, 28 January, 2002, 15:18 GMT

By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Scientists have found five new Martian meteorites.

The new rocks, which were blasted off the Red Planet in the distant past only to land on Earth at a later date, were recovered by expeditions to Antarctica and the hot deserts of Oman and the Sahara.

They bring the number of known stones from Mars to just 24. Scientists are fascinated by the rocks because they contain chemical clues about Martian history and the possibility that the planet once possessed oceans of water and life.

The recent cache includes six specimens, but two are believed to be chunks from the same meteorite. One of the pair weighs 13.7 kilograms (30 pounds) and is the second largest Mars meteorite fragment ever recovered.

Antarctica and the world's deserts have proved fruitful hunting grounds for meteorite collectors. The dark rocks from space are easier to pick out on snowy and sandy landscapes.

Martian suspect

One of the rocks was picked up by veteran Mars rock finders Bruno Fectay and Carine Bidaut of France. They found one now catalogued as NWA 1068, in the Western Sahara.

It is estimated that 20,000 meteoroids strike the Earth every year, but only a few come from Mars. The most controversial Martian meteorite is undoubtedly ALH 84001 which was found in Antarctica. It is thought by some scientists to contain fossilised evidence of microbial life.

The Mars rocks are thought to have been expelled from the Red Planet eons ago by a comet or asteroid collision. After floating through space, these rocks would have landed on Earth - one as recently as a few decades ago.

Scientists are confident they come from Mars because of their relatively young age (less than 1.5 billion years old), their texture and the masses of their constituent atoms (like oxygen), which are found in ratios not seen in rocks on Earth or on the Moon.

There are about 22,000 meteorites catalogued worldwide. These are mostly pieces from asteroids and their ages all cluster around 4.5 billion years old.



11:00 - 25 January 2002

HAVING been battered to death and thrown down the well by her enraged husband, two-timing ghost Florrie could be forgiven for holding a grudge.

For the best part of 300 years she has been a regular at the Red Lion - mischievously spooking customers, bar staff and landlords with her otherworldly antics.

And this week she continued to run rings around the living, sending a TV crew - filming a documentary about haunted houses - screaming into the night.

Florrie's shadowy capers include drumming on beer barrels, re-arranging furniture, switching on and off the lamps, flinging loo rolls and soap and sending a spectral chill through the ancient tavern.

Many a guest has fled in terror at her hair-raising horseplay after being unable to remain the whole night at the thatched hostelry situated within the famous Avebury stone circle.

So it was no surprise when Florrie dutifully sent a chill up the spines of the visiting film crew.

Fronted by former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding, the 11-strong team, including a medium and parapsychologist, stayed for 24 hours at the pub on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They were there to produce a Blair Witch type episode for a series called Most Haunted for Living TV.

And, according to Yvette and the crew, it wasn't an experience they will easily forget.

Within five minutes of parking herself alone with a hand-held camera in the most haunted of the Red Lion's bedrooms Yvette scampered out white faced and shrieking after something - presumably Florrie - put a hand on her shoulder.

And when producer Carl Beattie returned with the nervous presenter he was mysteriously scratched behind the neck.

Para-psychologist Jason Karl was also touched by the hand of Florrie in the Avenue Room and refused to return there alone.

Then an invisible force tugged on the trouser leg of respected spiritual medium Derek Acorah.

In the meantime the crew filmed some inexplicable tiny white orbs on their infrared equipment as well as an eerie light, which wasn't the moon, shining on the pub wall outside the most haunted bedroom.

Even rigger Stewart Torevel, a strapping lad known for his scepticism, refused to spend more time alone in one of the bedrooms after 45 minutes of eeriness.

Yvette, aged 33, said: "It was frightening - really frightening.

"I was in that room on my own when something, and I don't know what, grabbed me by the shoulder."

Producer Carl said: "She was extremely scared when she ran out the room - you just had to see the look on her face."

Landlord Richard Bounds, 26, and his wife Tracey were at first spooked by Florrie but he said: "You just get used to it. We've never known her do anything malicious."

Most Haunted is due to be screened on Living TV in April or May.

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 - January 29, 2002

from Scripps Howard News Service

Doctors are using high-frequency radio waves to zap cells that cause irregular heartbeats, eliminating the problem for more than 70 percent of patients with a type of erratic rhythm, according to a new study.

Dr. Hakan Oral, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, and his team looked at patients suffering from atrial fibrillation. Their research is being published Tuesday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers of the heart - the atria - beat erratically, causing blood to pool inside the chamber and become stagnant, which can cause blood clots and lead to strokes.

Traditionally, the condition has been treated either with defibrillators that shock the heart back into normal rhythm or with drugs that chemically adjust the pace.


from The New York Times

For several years now, Dr. Beatrice H. Hahn and Dr. George M. Shaw, AIDS researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have been well aware that the scientific evidence for the origins of AIDS had a few crucial gaps. And they intended to fill them.

But, as their new research has now shown, AIDS viruses do not always behave as expected.

The investigation began when the Alabama scientists and others argued that the AIDS virus causing the devastating human epidemic originated in chimpanzees. It jumped to humans decades ago, they said, probably when infected animals were killed and eaten.


from The New York Times

Scientists have long known that sperm production requires coolness. The mammalian scrotum has two testes that hang below the warm body cavity, lowering temperatures to the point that sperm production is possible, at least for animals like cats and dogs, cows and horses, rats and bats - and humans. If a man wears overly tight pants or spends too much time in a hot tub, the testes warm up and he may become a candidate for the fertility doctor.

But what about whales and dolphins, which have no scrota, their bodies sleek for fast movement though the water? Do testes lying deep beneath layers of fat and muscle somehow defy inner heat?

Answers to such questions are revealing a hidden world of marine mammals and helping people take better care of captive animals. For instance, insights into how dolphins regulate their inner body heats are helping veterinarians diagnose animal diseases with greater skill, most especially by refining the interpretation of temperature measurements.


from The Boston Globe

Somewhere in Mark Fishman's lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a tiny mutated fish, called ''fusili'' because of the way its misshapen kidney resembles the pasta. There are others with deformed and dysfunctional hearts; there are even a few with antisocial behavioral problems, and a handful with fluorescent cells. Thousands more swim in blue plastic tanks, looking and acting fine, but quite possibly carrying genes that will soon cause defects in their offspring.

Fishman hasn't merely constructed a holding pen for aquatic misfits. He's pursuing a form of cutting-edge genetics on biology's cutting-edge animal - zebra fish, the small striped swimmer from the Ganges that most people know only from pet-store tanks.

Despite the obvious differences between a small tropical fish and a human being, biologists believe there are striking similarities between the two in the basic genetic marching orders of early organ development.


from The Boston Globe

After officials at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute completed their investigations of Dr. Lois Ayash's responsibility for two chemotherapy overdoses, they began to nudge her out the door, Ayash testified yesterday in her defamation suit against the hospital and The Boston Globe.

The hospital had reprimanded her in August 1995 for failing to check the doses of chemotherapy that were mistakenly ordered by another doctor. The overdoses, which occurred in a research experiment designed and run by Ayash, killed one patient and severely injured another.

Ayash said yesterday that after the reprimand, hospital officials initially said they were ready for her to return to patient care and her former duties supervising research on high-dose chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Instead, she said, they essentially pushed her aside. http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/029/metro/Researcher_says_she_was_eased_out+.shtml

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,

Mothman the movie

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Let's take a break from sparring with Pooks and talk about something substantive. OK, maybe only I think it's substantive, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.

OK, I saw it, and I have to admit, it's an excellent film. Through clever use of the soundtrack, interesting psychological devices to heighten tension, and unusual cinematic techniques, you really get the sense it's building up to something terrifying.

It's too bad I knew the ending - I guess if you never read the book or didn't remember the Silver Bridge disaster, it is really chilling the way the event is worked into the narrative at the end. It all comes down to a choice by "Klein": will he accept the toll-free call from his dead wife (or whatever is pretending to be his dead wife), or will he accept Connie's invitation to return to Point Pleasant for Christmas. I guess I won't spoil the (film) ending, but it makes an interesting point: sometimes we must choose the human world over the spectral world and its empty promises.

Anyway, I'm going to offer what I see as the key divergences between the film and the book, just because I think I need to straighten it out in my mind.

In some senses, I understand why they did what they did; one clear goal of the film is to remove the quite funny and humorous parts of MP in order to turn it into a pure tale of psychological terror. As a very chilling horror tale, it works quite well, but only at the cost of failing to convey that while "Cold" and his ilk could be terrifying and mysterious, they also were often frequently awkward, absurd, and ludicrous.

0. As noted, the film translates the 1966-67 events of the book into the present. The governor of Virginia was never in any way involved with the story.

1. "Connie Carpenter" was an 18-year old girl and one of the first Mothman witnesses, but she was definitely not a police woman. Nor was she anywhere near the same age as Keel. Not that that might have dissuaded him from pursuing her, but... in any case, it was her ear that bled, during a night spent searching for Mothman in the TNT area, not "Gordon's".

2. The "Gordon" character is a pure invention. I'm assuming he is based on Woodrow Derenberger, the UFO contactee who "channeled" "Cold" (that was what he first called himself before later changing it to Indrid Cold). But Derenberger lived in Mineral Wells, not Point Pleasant, and was a young, unmarried man. Also, "Cold" told Derenberger he was from the planet "Lanulos" in the "galaxy of Ganymede", something the film doesn't mention, perhaps because focusing on the absurd aspects of Cold takes away from his "fear factor".

3. Keel came to Point Pleasant to investigate the sightings, period. His car didn't mysteriously stall. And, not being married, he did not have a wife to set up the narrative tension that drives the film. To me, it is interesting that his wife's name in the movie is "Mary," just like Mary Hyre, the town newspaperwoman who Keel spent far more time with than Connie Carpenter. Of course, he also made his home during that time in New York, not Washington DC, and wrote for magazines, not the Washington Post. Anyway, it was Mary Hyre who had the vision of packages floating in the water, not Connie. Keel calls her the "town busybody" but also hints he spent a lot of time with her. I make no other innuendo.

4. Loren spoiled the significance of "Alexander Leek" for me, but it's obvious that "Leek" is in the film to be the mouthpiece for some of Keel's ideas. "Klein" is the naive "pre-1966" Keel, and "Leek" his older, wiser self... an interesting split. While "Leek" tells "Klein" several important "Keelisms" ("Just because they can see what we can't doesn't mean they're any smarter than we are"), he also says something ridiculous. There were no Mothman sightings in the vicinity of Chernobyl.

5. MIA from the film: Mount Misery, a Long Island site where Jaye P. Paro and Jane, two of Keel's other "contactees" lived (filtering messages from "Apol," who was a different entity from "Cold"); the parade of nonpeople who barraged Point Pleasant (such as Tiny the pop-eyed dwarf and the guy with a wire in his leg); Keel's pals Ivan Sanderson and Gray Barker; and Princess Moon Owl, the "alien" woman who liked to call up Long Island UFOlogists at random and talk about an upcoming saucer convention by Moseley.

6. The film suggests the cause of the "Silver Bridge" disaster was unknown. Technically, the cause is known. It was an old bridge, and could not handle the traffic load that backed up on the bridge that night. However, the reason traffic was backed up on the bridge were that traffic lights on both sides of the river were malfunctioning - and why this was the case still remains mysterious... Keel notes people saw "men in coveralls" climbing on the bridge a few days before the disaster, but that doesn't appear in the film.

He also observes that some of the survivors of the bridge disaster don't remember ever escaping their cars after they hit the water. I don't know whether that kind of amnesia in a traumatic situation is common or not. Connie, Mary, and JK were NOT on the bridge that night; Keel wasn't even in Point Pleasant. In fact, Apol told him the apocalypse would occur when Lyndon Johnson lit the national Christmas tree, and that this would cause a national blackout. Apol and Cold also, he claims, predicted the assassination attempt on the Pope and Martin Luther King (although they got the dates wrong).

7. The film DOES do a good job of relating the phone weirdness that Keel experienced. It does it in a sort of hokey "Chapstick scene" which never occurred. However, the entities that called Keel on the phone were able to track his whereabouts and movements, even when he didn't tell anybody else where he was going. At one point, he went out in his car to await the end of the world with several bottles of water. Although he told no one else where he was going, he later got a phone message from "Apol" offering to help him drink all that water.

If all of the phone-related weirdness Keel experienced was the work of a human spook agency, it is VERY good at what they do, especially considering the events he relates occurred in 1967 when technology was less sophisticated.

Did the film distort the story beyond recognition as badly as _Fire in the Sky_? No. It even offers filmgoers a few choice "Keelisms" from the mouth of Alexander Leek. All in all, it may motivate some people to read Loren or JK's books, but, to appease a concern of Jacques, they can do so in the library if they want (although Loren's new book may not be in one for a while). And while I think it captures the aura of terror surrounding Mothman and Point Pleasant, it also fails to capture the absurdisms surrounding the antics of Cold, Apol, and co. Which Keel, like Vallee, thinks is an important clue to their nature.

Looking for Life's Imprint -- Light Years Away


Looking for Life's Imprint -- Light Years Away
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 28, 2002

"Are we alone in the universe?" Short of receiving a convenient radio transmission from another civilization, how can we find out if a distant world harbors some form of life?

The discovery of more than 70 planets outside our solar system within less than a decade has brought a new sense of immediacy to the search for life. Scientists believe our best bet might be to build instruments capable of detecting life's chemical signatures, called biosignatures, or biomarkers

Terrestrial Planet Finder, a mission managed by JPL for NASA's Origins program, will be among the first generation of instruments capable of searching for the atmospheric "life signs" of habitable, or even inhabited, planets.

Terrestrial Planet Finder, scheduled for launch in 2014, will deploy revolutionary technologies to block the blinding glare of a star. By doing this, scientists will be able to detect planets as small as Earth, which are considered better prospects for life than the large planets detectable with current technology.

The closest planetary systems are many light years away, but the faint light the planets emit, if separated into its component frequencies, can provide a wealth of information. By analyzing the colors of infrared radiation detected by Terrestrial Planet Finder, astronomers can search for atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone.

The best candidates for closer study would be located in the habitable zone, the region around the system's star where we can expect to find liquid water, which is considered a prerequisite for life. If the planet is too hot, the water evaporates. If the planet is too cold, the water freezes. Earth is inside the habitable zone for our star, the Sun; the zone starts beyond Venus and ends before Mars.

Among the most reliable biomarkers we might find is oxygen -- a byproduct of photosynthesis on Earth. Oxygen molecules don't linger in the atmosphere, but combine with other molecular types in a process known as oxidation. An even more valuable biomarker is ozone, a form of oxygen that's easier to detect by analyzing the wavelengths of light. So, a planet with an atmosphere rich in oxygen or ozone implies the presence of a source to keep it replenished -- in other words, life, right?

Not so fast, says James F. Kasting of Pennsylvania State University, a member of the Terrestrial Planet Finder science working group.

"We know of non-biological processes that can also result in an oxygen-rich atmosphere," Kasting said. "The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is one example. A frozen, Mars-like planet big enough to hold its oxygen would be another."

Still, the presence of ozone would at least suggest we're "getting warm" in the search for life. What additional clues could we look for?

The most persuasive indicator of life, Kasting says, would be the simultaneous presence of oxygen or ozone, along with another chemical such as methane or nitrous oxide.

These gases are more abundant than we might expect in Earth's atmosphere. They are present because they, too, are produced by organisms. Methane comes from a type of bacteria that lives in soils without oxygen, such as rice paddies, and in the intestines of cows and sheep. Nitrous oxide comes from a type of bacteria in the ocean and in soils without oxygen.

James Lovelock, a British scientist who has written numerous books on the "Gaia Hypothesis" --the theory that life controls atmospheric composition and climate -- suggested more than 30 years ago that the simultaneous presence of oxygen and a reduced gas like nitrous oxide or methane would be strong evidence for life. This advice is still considered good today, Kasting says.

In any case, the large-scale chemical clues won't tell us about the complexity of the discovered life; it could be either algae or a developed civilization.

It's possible that planets without oxygen could sustain life as well. Photosynthesis might conceivably occur with another element, such as sulfur, playing the role of oxygen. In the search for life, scientists acknowledge, we must control our assumptions of just what it means to be living.

Related Links

Planet Quest: the Search for Another Earth

Terrestrial Planet Finder

Mayor 'did not have permission to ban the Devil'

From Ananova at


Officials say a mayor was not authorised to ban Satan from her Florida town.

Carolyn Risher composed a written statement on official stationery and put copies in hollowed-out fence posts at the four entrances to Inglis.

She said she had been prompted by concern about issues like drunken drivers, fathers who molest their daughters and people who steal from neighbours.

The Town Commission has now decided the proclamation was the work of an individual, not a town official, because it was never authorised.

It is reported the decision appears to have warded off a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The St Petersburg Times reports it was taken at a meeting on Monday.

A supporter of the mayor, Glenda Townsend, 50, told the meeting: "The ACLU makes me sick. Evil will abound when good men do nothing. It's time to stand up, America."

Town Commission member Floyd Craig said he would challenge the mayor next year: "We're getting a lot of media attention lately, and it's made the town the laughingstock of the country."

The anti-Satan proclamation states: "Be it known from this day forward that Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is hereby declared powerless, no longer ruling over, nor influencing, our citizens."

Copies were put in hollowed-out posts painted with the words Repent, Request and Resist.

Fake website proves too tempting for gullible investors

From Ananova at


An inventive web campaign to warn people about stock market scams drew 125,000 hits in two days using fake offers.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission set up a website for a new company promising sure-fire investment returns.

Over-eager visitors were told not to be so hasty when they tried to apply. The regulators planned the exercise to shock investors out of being too easily taken in by investment fraud.

It began late last week with the publication of a bogus press release extolling the virtues of fictional biological defence firm McWhortle Enterprises.

The release invited interested parties to browse further information - including glowing testimony from made-up analysts - via a special website.

However, visitors were given a shock when they clicked a link to request information on how to invest.

The on-screen message read: "If you responded to an investment idea like this you could get scammed!"

According to FT.com, the SEC says it is already planning to repeat the exercise in the near future.

Afrocentric scholar to be honored


Afrocentric scholar to be honored
By Herb Boyd
The Black World Today

When Dr. Ivan Van Sertima published his book, They Came Before Columbus (Random House, 1976), he introduced a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the development of Western culture. At the core of his thesis was the conclusion that Africans had ventured to the West long before the voyages of European conquistadores and other plunderers.

Upon discovery of the pioneering ideas of such prominent scientists as Leo Weiner and Alexander von Wuthenau, Van Sertima forged his own independent study and research on the Olmec civilization of Mexico, particularly the massive Africanoid, stone heads found in the La Venta region of the country. Van Sertima concluded: "The ancient Americans who sculpted them have been shown to be absolute masters of realistic portraiture, and did not arrive at these distinctive features through accidental stylization. The features are not only Negro-African in type but individual in their facial particulars, canceling out the possibility of ritual stereotypes of an unknown race produced by some quirk of the sculptor's imagination." In other words, Africans had integrated with the indigenous people and left vestiges of their cultural assimilation long before the Europeans arrived.

These conclusions placed him in a maelstrom of scholarly debate, where his primacy of thought and inquiry have carved him a permanent niche. Several aspects of this niche will be explored this Saturday, Jan. 26 from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Among those slated to examine Van Sertima's impact on a multitude of disciplines are Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. Jan Crew, Dr. Charles Finch, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Prof. Wayne Chandler, Prof. Larry Obadele Williams, Prof. James Crawford, and Prof. Runoko Rashidi. Dr. Van Sertima will also deliver his own presentation.

The tribute will be presented by the John Henrik Clarke-C.L.R. James African World Research Institute, under the direction of Dr. Clinton Crawford, and Trans-Atlantic Productions, and its director, Minister Clemson Brown. Van Sertima is currently, professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University, where he has taught for 30 years. His voluminous writings include a dozen volumes of the Journal of African Civilizations which he founded in 1979/ as editor, he has published the following titles: African Presence in the Art of the Americas, African Presence in Early America, African Presence in Early Asia, African Presence in Early Europe, Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern, Black Women in Antiquity, Egypt: Child of Africa, Egypt Revisited, Golden Age of the Moor, Great African Thinkers, Great Black Leaders: Ancient to Modern, and Nile Valley Civilizations.

As an acclaimed poet, Dr Van Sertima's work can be found on the pages of River and the Wall, 1953. His major essays have been published in Talk that Talk, 1989. Future Direction for African and African-American Content in School Curriculum, 1986, Enigma of Values, 1979, and in Black Life and Culture in the United States, 1971.

His landmark presentation before Congress in 1987 was illuminating and brilliantly presented in the name of all peoples of color across the world. Born in Guyana, South America, Dr. Van Sertima was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University and Rutgers Graduate School. He holds degrees in African Studies, Linguistics and Anthropology. He is a literary critic, a linguist, and an anthropologist and has made a name in all three fields. As a literary critic, he is the author of Caribbean Writers, a collection of critical essays on the Caribbean Novel. He is also the author of several major literary reviews published in Denmark, India, Britain and the United States.

He was honored for his work in this field by being asked by the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy to nominate candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature, from 1976-1980. As a linguist, he has published essays on the dialect of the Sea Islands off the Georgia Coast. He has also compiled the Swahili Dictionary of Legal Terms, based on his fieldwork in Tanzania, East Africa, in 1976. The acclaim and praises for his Magnum Opus, The African Presence in Ancient America: They Came Before Columbus, 1976 is voluminous, culminating with the Clarence L. Holte Prize, a prize awarded every two years "for a work of excellence in literature and the humanities relating to the cultural heritage of Africa and the African Diaspora."

CSICOP in the News

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

CSICOP In the News
January 28, 2002

Kevin Christopher
Public Relations Director press@csicop.org

It's been quite a while since I last compiled a list of news clipping about CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer, so I'd like to highlight some of the major news stories from the past few months where CSICOP fellows and SI appeared. CSICOP and SI have appeared in major papers and magazines in Germany and Russia, and major North American Newspapers such as the NY Times, the Toronto Star and the Washington Post. Here are the highlights:

Time.com Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2002
Investigating the Power of Prayer'


A San Francisco researcher looks into whether prayer can heal even if the person doesn't know he's being prayed for. Dr Elizabeth Targ must be doing some very important work. The National Institutes of Health has already awarded her grants of $611,516 for one study, $823,346 for another. Even greater Federal largesse may be forthcoming before her studies are completed...

Discusses the Skeptical Inquier article by Martin Gardner

December 14, 2001
Die Woche
(German National Weekly)
"Der Ufo-Jaeger" ("The UFO Hunter")
by Jochen Paulus

Paulus' full-page feature story chronicles the recent successes of Skeptical Inquirer and CSICOP, citing Paul Kurtz, Martin Gardner, James Alcock and others.

December 20, 2001
The Albuquerque Journal
(Albuquerque, New Mexico)
"the truth is out there"
by John Fleck, Journal Staff Writer

Fleck's feature story Ken Frazier recognizes the Skeptical Inquirer editor's significant contributions to combatting pseudoscience and other flim-flam.

December 17, 2001
The Washington Post
(Washington, DC)
"Near Proof for Near Death?"
by Shankar Vedantam, Post Staff Writer

Vedantam examines current opinion and evidence in the wake of the just-released Lancet study on NDEs. Quotes Paul Kurtz, who says that nothing in the study "suggests anything beyond the dying process."

December 16, 2001
New York Times
(NY, NY)
"Looking for Solace In a Spirit World"
by Bob Morris

Morris cites CSICOP and James Randi as those who track and analyze the success claims of mediums.

December 2001
Nauka i Zhizn' ("Science & Life")
(Russian popular science magazine)
"Nauka, Antinauka, i mi Rovoy Krizis"

Article covers the October 2001 Moscow conference attended by Paul Kurtz and Joe Nickell. Quotes Nickell, Kurtz, and Dr. Eduard Krugliakov.

November 10, 2001
Toronto Globe and Mail
(Toronto, Canada)
"Channelling the Masses"
by Gayle MacDonald

Macdonald discussed the media phenomenon of John Edward; quotes CSICOP executive director Barry Karr at length on the skeptical view of Edward's stage act, and the disgust felt by those who feel that Edward is profiting off of the loss and pain of others.

November 9, 2001
Toronto Star
(Toronto, Ontario)
"Learning to spot snake oil"
by Peter Calamai, Star Science Writer

Calamai discusses the critical need for teaching critical thinking to young children. Mentions Diane Swanson's recent book: "Nibbling on Eistein's Brain" and notes CSICOP as one of the only organizations dedicated to promoting science and reason. Quotes Young Skeptics director, Amanda Chesworth.

October 31, 2001
Cox News Service
(Atlanta, GA)
"Higher Communication"
by Bill Hendrick


AJC journalist Bill Hendrick examines the broad popularity of mediums and spiritualism in pop culture. Cites SI's articles on John Edward and Gary Schwartz's study on mediumship. Hendrick writes: "The study was savaged in the current edition [Nov/Dec 2001] of The Skeptical Inquirer, published by CSICOP."

October 30, 2001
The Washington Post
(Washington, DC)
"EMDR, In the Eye of the Storm"
by Sandra Boodman, Washington Post Staff Writer

Boodman reports on the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Quotes CSICOP fellow Scott Lilienfeld who states for the record the glaring lack of evidence for the efficacy of EMDR.

October 5, 2001
The Sacramento Bee
(Sacramento, CA)
"Rumors, myths make rounds after attacks"
by Steve Wiegand, Bee Staff Writer

Wiegand wrote a thorough-going feature story on the Internet hoaxes that cropped up in the wake of the 9/11 massacres. Deals with such hoaxes and the "Tourist Photo", bogus Nostradamus quatrains, and the rumor that CNN has used old footage in its coverage of celebrations over the attacks in the Middle East. Quotes CSICOP PR director on the shamelessness of such hoaxing.

October 2001
Popular Mechanics
(NY, NY)
"Truth, Lies and Polygraphs"
by Jim Wilson

Wilson reports on revived criticism of the polygraph, quoting Sandia National Laboratories' Alan Zelicoff of the junk science at the heart of polygraph's claims to guage the physical responses to deception. Cites Zelicoff's article in Skeptical Inquirer.

September 18, 2001
Associated Press
(NY, NY)
"Urban Legends, misinformation spread in wake of attacks"
by Michael Hill, AP Writer

Hill reports on the hoaxes and confused information in the immediate wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Quotes CSICOP PR Director Kevin Christopher.

September 8, 2001
Associated Press
(Los Angeles, CA)
"Paranormal skeptics to open center"
by Robert Jablon

Jablon reports on the Center for Inquiry - West's move and expansion to Hollywood, quotes Paul Kurtz and CFI West executive director James Underdown on the current uncritical reportage on paranormal claims.

September 2001
Termeszet Vilaga
(Budapest, Hungary)
"25 eves az amerikai szkeptikusok szervezete a CSICOP"
by Bencze Gyula

Bencze writes on CSICOP's 25 anniversary, cites Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman, Paul Kurtz and James Randi.


Direct all comments and questions regarding "CSICOP In The News" to Kevin Christopher at press@csicop.org.

From E! Online News briefs:

CROSSING OVER: TV psychic John Edward partnering with Studios USA to develop a primetime drama series in which he'd play a man who, wrestling with the ramifications of his psychic gift, leaves a career in medicine to explore his spirituality and how it intersects with the law.

(John Edward wants to be an actor?!! Who'd a thunk it?!)




January 29, 2002 -- "The Pet Psychic"
Tonight at 8 on Animal Planet

MOVE over John Edward, you've got some serious competition coming your way - Sonya the pet psychic.

And I love her with all my heart.

Tonight on Animal Planet, Sonya Fitzpatrick, an around-the-bend Englishwoman will talk to the animals on her one hour special, "The Pet Psychic." And they'll talk back. Oh shut up! (No, I wasn't talking to your dog - I'm talking to you!) I'm serious.

For one thing, pets - both dead and alive - are a helluva lot better psychic communicators than most humans - both dead and alive. This is especially true for men - well, those in relationships anyway. When I watch "Crossing Over" with John Edward, I always wonder why dead humans go through the hell of breaking through the space/time continuum to make their debut on TV just to say: "I liked you red scarf when I was alive."

I mean, really, if you went through all that trouble, wouldn't you at least give out a winning lotto number to your loved one? Now, pets, that's a different story.

Tonight, if you are an animal lover - and even if you're not but love all things psychic - you're in for a serious treat-a-roonie. Sonya - in a setup not unlike Edward's, but with pets - not only psychically communes with the animals, but explains to their often frustrated owners (who are there too) just what's bothering them. And she is a real hoot.

If you think she's full of it, you just need to look around the studio. Sitting cheek by jowl, as it were, are dogs, cats, snakes, an iguana, a couple of llamas, and yes, even a camel.

That's right, "Crossing Over" but with a camel. Who outside of Siegfried and Roy could make a room like that behave?

Here's what Sonya and the pets discuss (Sonya not only talks with the animals but to them as well): Ginny the dog, who was rescued from a hellish life, psychically tells Sonya that she was thrown out of a truck and walked so far her paws almost came off.

And she wants her owners to know how happy and grateful she is for giving her such a nice home.

Then there's the dog who chewed up $6,000 worth of furniture and rugs. He wants his owner to know he's really a good boy, but that he chews like crazy because he needs to throw up - or the chemicals will kill him.

Then there's the single woman whose dog wants to know what happened to the nice guy they used to live with. (I'm sure, the woman is just as curious!) Sonya also visits with dead pets (owners bring in pix), who mention that they are hanging out with various dead people the owners seem to know.

Tonight's show is just a one-hour special Sonya is what Anne Robinson should be but can't: Genuinely entertaining. OK, so you have to be around the bend yourself to dig this show. I am and I do.

You wanna make something of it?

Have you ever met Leo - the 100-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback who loves me with all his heart?

I didn't think so, pal.

Gerald Aardsman and geochronology

From: George Seabrook

Try www.biblicalchronologist.org for Dr. Gerald Aardsma's web page. You may find what you are seeking there.

Monday, January 28, 2002 07:27:55

Articles of Note

From: CSICOP www@cuinfo2.cit.cornell.edu

False Claims?


"More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year and studies suggest that many of them explore alternative therapies. But do the treatments actually work?"

Boy may have been victim of ritual killing


"Detectives hunting the killer of a boy whose torso was found in a river believe he may have been the victim of a ritualistic murder."

Assembly debates life's origins
By Jennine Zeleznik
Dayton Daily


"The "origins of life as we know it" has been a hot topic among educators, scientists and lawmakers for decades. The issue won't be cooling in Ohio any time soon."

Psychic Wants To Go Beyond
Sci-Fi Wire


"Psychic James Van Praagh told SCI FI Wire that his proposed new show, Beyond, will differ from the SCI FI Channel series Crossing Over With John Edward. Van Praagh was pitching his series at the 2002 National Association of Television Program Executives convention."

The truth is out there, but 'Mothman' swerves clear of it
By Mark Rahner
Seattle Times


"When dealing with the paranormal, it's best to start with the things we know. In this case, it's the trailer for "The Mothman Prophecies," which is inescapable if you own a TV."

Film triggers interest in Mothman
By Anthony Breznican
Associated Press


"No one is quite sure what came to the river town of Point Pleasant, W.Va., in the 1960s."

Afrocentric scholar to be honored
By Herb Boyd
The Black World Today


"When Dr. Ivan Van Sertima published his book, They Came Before Columbus (Random House, 1976), he introduced a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the development of Western culture. At the core of his thesis was the conclusion that Africans had ventured to the West long before the voyages of European conquistadores and other plunderers."

Unsafe Supplements?
By Melinda T. Willis
ABC News


"Canadian health officials are warning consumers to stop using kava, an herb that has been implicated in approximately 25 cases of liver disease in Germany and Switzerland."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Fisher Obtains Preliminary Injunction Against Psychic Reader's Network and Access Resource Services
Press Release
SOURCE: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General


"Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher today announced that a Cambria County Court judge has entered a preliminary injunction order against Psychic Reader's Network and its billing agent, Access Resource Services. The injunction requires the businesses to cease calling Pennsylvania consumers who requested no further contact and to halt attempts to collect outstanding bills that consumers are disputing. The injunction remains in effect pending the outcome of Fisher's lawsuit against the defendants."

'Mothman Prophecies' is fantastically dull
Sacramento Bee


"To their credit, the makers of "The Mothman Prophecies" don't open their film with the usual disclaimer, "Based on a true story." Instead, they advise us that this bit of paranormal hokum was "inspired by events that happened in Point Pleasant, W. Va.""

Irish inventor claims of 'free energy' a hoax?


"It has been a pipe-dream of inventors since Leonardo da Vinci, but has the secret of free energy now been found in Ireland, or is this just another misguided attempt to build a perpetual motion machine?"

Does the internet harm health?
British Medical Journal


Judge rules cult pair faces jail tomorrow for silence on baby
by Dave Wedge
Boston Herald


"An appeals court has cleared the way for an Attleboro cult couple to be jailed tomorrow for refusing to say where their newborn baby is and child welfare officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the infant's safety."

Tune in to 'TNN's Conspiracy Zone With Kevin Nealon' and Get Ready to 'Name That Conspiracy'
Press Release


"Could you be involved in a conspiracy and not even know it! Was that Elvis you saw last week? Is your neighbor really an alien from another planet? Now viewers can check their conspiracy-finding skills by tuning into The New TNN'S CONSPIRACY ZONE WITH KEVIN NEALON on Sundays at 9:00 PM, ET/PT and then logging onto TNNOnline.com to play the ``Name That Conspiracy'' online game."

Magnets alone unlikely to aid wrist pain: study
Reuters Health


"Magnets have been touted as a treatment for many ailments, including chronic pain and depression. Now, according to the results of a study on the effectiveness of magnet therapy for people with carpal tunnel syndrome, some users may find temporary pain relief--but the effect may have nothing to do with the magnets."

Unidentified flying ice crash-lands into car dealership
Associated Press


"A chunk of ice crashed through the roof of a car dealership and, while authorities aren't exactly sure where it came from, scientists say a plane, perhaps flying from the north, is a distinct possibility."

Quaking lights
By Alberto Enriquez
Anchorage Daily News


"When it comes to earthquakes, the earth doesn't just move. It often roars. It broadcasts at radio frequencies. And if the conditions are right, it even produces a visible glow."

Ark of the Covenant features in Ethiopian celebration
By Matthew J. Rosenberg
Associated Press


"In Axum, there's no mystery about what's become of the lost biblical Ark of the Covenant."

'Mothman' sightings will continue
By Stephen Schaefer


"Until now, the Mothman has been known only to a devoted, cultlike few. That's certain to change with The Mothman Prophecies, out Friday and starring Richard Gere. The otherworldly 7-foot, red-eyed, winged apparition known as Mothman might even become a pop-culture totem, like Big Foot."

Would You Walk Under a Ladder With This Magazine?


"So it's payback time, you wily, old Jinx. Finally, you're plastered on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sprung to life in the form of a lone black cat. The headline: "The Cover that No One Would Pose for: Is the SI Jinx for Real?""

Doomsday rumours give quake survivors jitters
Times of India


"Fear is palpable as the earthquake-scarred people of Gujarat ready themselves to take on the first anniversary of the country's worst natural disaster on January 26. But a flurry of absurd astrological predictions and rumours about an impending earthquake have left many in a bundle of nerves."

Taxpayers Duped By Slavery Scam
Associated Press


"A growing number of black taxpayers are being misled by scams falsely claiming they can get tax credits or refunds as reparations for slavery."

Look Into Judge's Crystal Ball: Psychic Going To Jail


"An east side psychic really can tell her future, but so can the people she cheated out of thousands of dollars, NewsChannel5 reported."

Separating Sept. 11 facts from fiction

(snopes in the news again)


Months after terror attacks, many myths still find believers

Jan. 22 Calamity and mass communication proved a potent recipe for misinformation in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, when urban legends, half-truths and falsehoods circled the globe on the Internet in the time it once took for a juicy rumor to spread down the block. Erroneous reports in the media and stranger-than-fiction true accounts added to the confusion, which explains why some otherwise level-headed individuals are still willing to believe that Osama bin Laden owns Citibank and why others aren't sure whether Jewish workers at the World Trade Center stayed home on the day of the attacks.

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 - January 25, 2002

Mammography study to undergo outside review
from The Chicago Tribune

BETHESDA, Md. -- Swedish mammography researchers, under intensifying pressure from critics at home and abroad, said Thursday that they would be willing to make their controversial data available for independent analysis by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute or another international body.

The apparent major concession followed Wednesday's decision by a cancer institute advisory group to qualify its advice to women that a mammogram every year or two can reduce the risk of fatal breast cancer by 30 percent. The new language is not expected to appear on the institute's widely read Internet site for another few weeks.

For 15 years, the benefits of regular mammography beginning at age 50 have been touted by the American Cancer Society and other medical organizations, including the NCI. The mammogram, a specialized breast X-ray, has become an annual ritual for more than 30 million American women and a $3 billion-a-year U.S. industry.

There is as yet no reason to believe that mammography's advertised benefits do not exist. But the reliability of five Swedish studies, some of which date to the mid-1970s and offer the only empirical support for the 30 percent figure, has been questioned by two Danish researchers, Dr. Peter Gotzsche and Ole Olsen.

Earlier requests by the NCI to examine the Swedish mammography data were politely declined, according to researchers in both countries.

Dr. Nils Bjurstam, who headed a mammography study in Gothenburg, Sweden, beginning in the early 1980s, explained in an interview that the previous reluctance stemmed from the researchers' perception that NCI researchers seemed to be "talking about taking over what we have started," rather than simply affirming the Swedish results.


from The Philadelphia Inquirer

LONDON -- A new study indicates that moderate consumption of alcohol, which has already been shown to help prevent heart disease and strokes, may also ward off Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

The study, published this week in The Lancet medical journal, also found that it does not seem to matter what people drink - the effect is the same. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence for the health benefits of moderate drinking.

Experts say the key is moderation, defined in the study as one to three drinks a day.

The adverse effect of excess alcohol is beyond question. Besides destroying the liver, excessive drinking can be toxic to the brain. Alcoholics can end up with a shrunken brain, which is linked to dementia. There is even a medical condition called alcoholic dementia.

"For people who drink moderately, this is another indication that they are not doing any harm. And for those who don't, if they don't simply out of health concerns, they might want to rethink that position," said Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

Scientists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, conducted a six-year study of 5,395 people aged 55 and over who did not have signs of dementia.


from The Richmond Times Dispatch

NEW DELHI, India (AP) - India successfully tested a new version of its nuclear-capable, intermediate-range Agni missile - the most powerful weapon in its missile arsenal - from an island off the eastern coast Friday, officials said.

The test came amid simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, as soldiers, ballistic missiles, fighter jets and tanks face each other across the border in the nuclear rivals' biggest military standoff in decades.

The government said the test was routine, however, and did not carry any political meaning. The missile test had been planned for months, well before the border troop standoff that followed a Dec. 13 militant attack on India's Parliament, which New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based groups. Pakistan has denied involvement and banned the groups.

"Agni is an ongoing project. We are taking many more steps for the nation's security and protection. This is one of them," Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in a broadcast message.

But Pakistan criticized the test. "We hope the international community will take note of this Indian behavior, which is prejudicial to the pursuit of stability in our region, especially during the current situation," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said. "On its part, Pakistan favors a policy of restraint."

The statement added: "Pakistan has the means to defend itself." Pakistan's arsenal includes nuclear-capable ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 900 miles, capable of reaching most targets in India.

India's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Nirupama Rao, said the timing was determined only by technical factors. "The flight test was not abrupt or sudden. It was a well-thought-out measure," Rao told The Associated Press.


from The Washington Post

A Senate subcommittee yesterday heard impassioned arguments for and against a proposed ban on research involving human embryo clones, an ethically charged topic that grew even more so this week with the release of controversial scientific findings.

Yesterday's hearing highlighted the increasingly convoluted politics of human embryo research, a field of science that proponents believe will lead to an exciting new era of regenerative medicine and that opponents decry as unethical.

Traditional polarities of left and right began to break down last year as some antiabortion activists came out in favor of the research and some environmental and feminist groups supported a ban.

Scientific and political currents collided again yesterday when proponents of a ban touted new evidence that bone marrow cells taken from adults might have the same curative potential as embryo cells -- and as the scientist who led that research countered that her work was being misinterpreted to suit legislative agendas.

"Even though we're excited about the fact that there seem to be cells in adult tissue that seem to have greater potential than we thought, it's too soon to say they have the same potential and capabilities as embryo cells," said Catherine M. Verfaillie, the University of Minnesota biologist who led the recent studies.


from The Los Angeles Times

By the time many women realize they have reached menopause, they have missed the chance to ease symptoms, stave off early bone loss or even become pregnant.

Menopause is not formally diagnosed until a woman has completed a full year with no menstrual period. But by that time many have suffered hot flashes, insomnia or other symptoms without understanding their significance.

Two new developments, however, may help women understand the changes in their bodies--and make health decisions accordingly. In the first, doctors have now labeled the stages of reproductive aging. By assessing hormone levels and menstrual cycle patterns, they place women in one of seven categories related to fertility--from "early reproductive" to "late postmenopause."

Use of the stages, the doctors say, will give women and their physicians a more accurate picture of where women are in the aging process. It also should encourage earlier discussions about the gradual decline of fertility, leading to better decisions about pregnancy planning, contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy and strategies to avoid uncomfortable symptoms linked to menopause.

In the other development, a North Carolina company has developed a home menopause test kit that will show women whether they are beginning to lose fertility.


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Sunday, January 27, 2002

"Out There"

Paradigm Research Group

Update - January 27, 2002

Dan Aykroyd's company, Beyond Belief Productions, has ceased production of "Out There," a half-hour, daily interview program on the paranormal for the SciFi Channel. This was announced one month after the acquisition by Vivendi Universal of entertainment properties of USA Networks, which included the SciFi Channel. About two dozen programs had been completed by that time.

information on the acquisition, please see:


PRG founder, Stephen Bassett, was the first interview taped for "Out There." The focus of the program was the politics of UFOs/ Disclosure. Mr. Aykroyd, one of the most creatively funny men in movies and television, was quite serious about the subject. He and his wife, Donna Dixon Aykroyd, have both had two strong sightings - one in a Concord at 50,000 feet.

On camera Mr. Aykroyd stated that his wife, an American citizen, would donate $1000 to X-PPAC. He then signed the 2002 Open Congressional Hearing Petition, as did many of his staff.

The SicFi Channel has indicated it is considering another format utilizing Mr. Aykroyd's talents. Nevertheless, the concept of a serious interview program on the paranormal is overdue to turn up on a major cable network. It is only a matter of time.

From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus


[Debate on who was Jesus of Nazareth continues at a roiling pitch, and consensus - even on issues so basic as what constitutes evidence and how to construe it - seems a distant hope.
Second Edition, Yale University Press Nota Bene Series. 2000.

By Paula Fredriksen
William Goodwin Aurelio
Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture
Boston University School of Theology]

FBI investigated animal mutilations

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Ran across a site that has a 128 page animal mutilation report, prepared by the FBI. They investigated cases in the latter 1970's and came up with no arrests. The animal mutilations continue.


Animal Mutilation Project

"These records contain accounts of animal mutilations which were discovered in various states during the late 1970's. Over the years, several theories have been expounded to explain the mutilations, including UFOs, satanic cults, pranksters, unknown government agencies, or natural predators. The FBI entered the case when 15 mutilations occurred in New Mexican Indian country. The investigation was negative with respect to identifying the individuals responsible.

Harry Potter and the 21st Century Culture Wars

[From: Jim Mica jmica@ITHACA.EDU]

The person who posted this said that it is from the Australian satire paper, "The Chaser":

Harry Potter Fans Warn Against Dangerous Effects of The Bible

OXFORD, Tuesday: A number of concerned British Harry Potter fans have spoken out against the Bible, claiming that the holy text of the Christian Church can cause serious damage to children. "Reading the Bible teaches children to believe in the supernatural," said one English Literature academic from Oxford University, Lewis Williams. "The tales of Jesus turning water into wine are fairly harmless, but there is a serious risk of children drowning if they try to walk on water," he said. "And the chance of serious bodily harm isn't exactly minimised by that whole 'resurrection-from-the-dead' story either."

[Not to mention the unsavory familial activities of several Old Testament characters]

Christians have responded that reading the Bible assists with literacy skills, but Williams rejects this idea too. "The Bible is only ever read in very small chunks, a few paragraphs at a time. It's never read as a long sustained narrative like the Harry Potter series. Reading too much of the Bible promotes a very short attention span," he says.

Critics such as Williams warn that without appropriate parental guidance, reading the Bible may make children unable to enjoy quality children's literature. "Enjoying books such as Harry Potter or the Narnia series requires the ability to suspend disbelief," he said. "When children are taught that the Bible is absolutely literally true, and that a story like Noah's Ark actually happened, the imagination is completely stifled it's very detrimental."

Williams has also pointed out that some of the scarier elements in fantasy novels will really frighten children if they think they are true. "Some children may think that murderous Dark Wizards such as Voldemort (the villain of the Potter series) are actually real if they've been corrupted by Christians who believe that devils and magic actually exist," he said.

Shopkeeper loses feng shui challenge


A Chinese shopkeeper who claimed poor feng shui would ruin his business has lost his court battle.

Tak Ping Yeung claimed moving to a building with the number four could bring harm to his family.

He attempted to use the Human Rights Act to stop his gift shop in London's China Town being moved.

He was being asked to move from 6 Gerrard Street to No 4, to make way for a new restaurant.

The two buildings, owned by Waller Investment Trust, are said to be practically identical, except for one thing - four is considered a bad omen.

The shopkeeper claimed his family's human rights would be infringed by moving to No 4.

But Judge Anthony Hallgarten threw out his claim at the Central London County Court, saying it was no different to someone not wanting to move because they feared the house was haunted.

Since 1979, Mr Yeung, 49, has been trading successfully in ornaments, charms and horoscopes, and believes the shop's good fortune is down to feng shui, the ancient art of arranging furniture and spaces to maximise health and prosperity.

But he claimed that moving it to No 4 - a number that sounds like "death" in Chinese - would spell doom for the family's prosperity, and even pose a threat to their physical well-being.

Lawyers representing Mr Yeung's landlord today withdrew the offer to move into No 4, but instead offered him 67,000 in compensation. However, Mr Yeung, who was not in court to hear the ruling, was ordered to pay costs, which are expected to be at least 40,000.

All change for 'Devil's number' houses


All the house numbers in a Romanian street are to be changed because of superstition.

There are more than 40 buildings on the street and they all have numbers beginning with 66.

Officials in Sinpetru say the numbers will be altered because of mix-ups and the "bad reputation" of 66.

The number is associated with 666, the 'number of the Devil'.

Evenimentul Zilei Online reports the first houses built five years ago in Renasterea Street, or Revival Street, were numbered 66.

People kept on building new houses and the same number was used.

They added letters after the number to help identify the houses and, when they ran out of letters, they added another digit on the end, coming up with the likes of 66A1.

Residents say they are very proud of their addresses because they haven't heard of anything similar. The postman says he always delivers by name rather than by address.

Officials want the numbers changed following the next census in the spring.

Antarctic lakes show climate effects


Antarctic lakes show climate effects
By BBC science correspondent Christine McGourty

A 20 -year study of lakes on an Antarctic island has revealed dramatic ecological changes caused by a one degree Celsius rise in temperature.

The scientists who carried out the research say the study provides more evidence of extreme changes in the Antarctic Peninsula region, which has warmed up faster than almost anywhere on Earth - an increase of 2.5 degrees C in the last 50 years.

A team from the British Antarctic Survey (Bas) has been looking at the temperature and chemistry of the lakes on Signy Island, which lies at about 60 degrees south, just off the tip of the peninsula.

Summer air temperatures there have increased by about one degree C between 1981 and 1995. At the same time, the number of days where the lakes are free of ice cover has increased by about one month.

Not predicted

In addition, the researchers say that estimates from photographs indicate that permanent ice cover on the island has reduced by 45% since 1950. They say this has "radically affected" the island.

The effect of the increasing air temperature on the chemistry and biology of the lakes has taken scientists by surprise. Dr Cynun Ellis-Evans, one of the team who carried out the work, says: "Over 20 years, the lake temperatures have increased by almost three times the increase in local air temperature over the same period.

"So what we're seeing is that the heat is being drawn into the lakes, being stored there and building up to have a magnified effect.

"The chemistry and microbial processes in the lakes are increasing substantially," he adds. "The scale of the change that we're seeing is greater than predicted and substantially higher than current global climate models are predicting for systems in the polar regions."

Useful lessons

The ecology of the lakes has been altered by an increase in their exposure to the Sun, and as a result of the introduction of nutrients transported there by glacier melt-water flowing over exposed ground.

A 10-fold increase in the amount of phosphate has acted as a natural fertiliser, allowing algae to flourish. There is now three times the amount of chlorophyll from algae in the lake than there was 20 years ago.

Professor Lloyd Peck of the British Antarctic Survey said these lakes were the first to undergo such rapid changes in the Antarctic, but that he expected similar changes would be seen in lakes further towards the South Pole if warming in the region increased.

Changes were also taking place in lakes in northern Europe and in America. "Understanding what happens when there's a rapidly changing environment is likely to be very useful to us in years to come when there are similar rapid changes in Western Europe, too," he added.

Jellyfish Horde Uncovered After Half a Billion Years

January 26, 2002



PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 25 - Thousands of fossilized impressions of jellyfish, some up to three feet in diameter, have been discovered in a Wisconsin quarry, in what scientists say is one of the largest finds of its kind in the world.

About 510 million years ago, the jellyfish were washed up in a small lagoon, stranded by a freakish tide or storm, and buried by sand just hours later.

Anti-Evo Legislation in WA

[from ncse@inia.cls.org]

Anti-Evolution Legislation Introduced in Washington Senate

On January 18, 2002 a new anti-evolution bill was introduced in the Washington State Senate and referred to the Education Committee. According to the bill's digest, SB 6500: "Finds that the teaching of the theory of evolution in the common schools of the state of Washington is repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and thereby unconstitutional and unlawful. Provides that all textbooks and curriculum that teach the theory of evolution shall be removed from the public schools forthwith and replaced with textbooks and curriculum that teach the self-evident truth of creation."

The sponsor of this bill also introduced SB 6058, calling for an Alabama-style evolution disclaimer in textbooks, in 2001. That bill has not yet been taken up by the Education Committee, as of this date.

Full text of the bill available at:


If Washington residents wish to express their opinions on this legislation, they may write to the following Education Committee members:
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D-1), Chair
Senator Tracey Eide (D-30), Vice Chair
Senator Bill Finkbeiner (R-45), Ranking Minority Member
Senator Don Carlson (R-49)
Senator Mike Hewitt (R-16)
Senator Harold Hochstatter (R-13)
Senator Stephen Johnson (R-47)
Senator Jim Kastama (D-25)
Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36)
Senator Margarita Prentice (D-11)
Senator Marilyn Rasmussen (D-2)
Senator Debbie Regala (D-27)
Senator Joseph Zarelli (R-18)

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609
510-601-7204 (fax)

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Saturday, January 26, 2002

Doctors 'face ruin' at hands of urine-blessing holy man - Your News from Ananova

Doctors in an Indian village say they're losing business to a holy man selling a 'divine urine cocktail'.

Residents of Chomo Ber Kalan in Punjab are queuing to have urine blessed by 86-year-old Tantrik Baba

Reports say he tells his patients to bring along five litres of their partner's urine which they then drink.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_505120.html

Anti-Evo Legislation in WA

[from ncse@inia.cls.org]

New Anti-Evolution Legislation Introduced in Washington Senate

On January 18, 2002 a new anti-evolution bill was introduced in the Washington State Senate and referred to the Education Committee. According to the bill's digest, SB 6500: "Finds that the teaching of the theory of evolution in the common schools of the state of Washington is repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and thereby unconstitutional and unlawful. Provides that all textbooks and curriculum that teach the theory of evolution shall be removed from the public schools forthwith and replaced with textbooks and curriculum that teach the self-evident truth of creation."

The sponsor of this bill also introduced SB 6058, calling for an Alabama-style evolution disclaimer in textbooks, in 2001. That bill has not yet been taken up by the Education Committee, as of this date.

Burrows cave et al

Below is copied from last part of:
The "Burrows Cave" Controversy

A New Twist (update 1/2002)

Recently a number of readers have requested information about a man named "Glenn Kimball" and his association with Burrows Cave. As this fellow's name had never before been seen in the context of this saga it seemed prudent to perform some additional research, which is still underway. However, the story so far is as follows.

"Glenn" Kimball's real name is Eldon W. Kimball; he may be a Mormon and he operates a Web site where he sells books, or at least photocopied works, relating to religious topics such as the "secret teachings of Jesus" and other apocryphal subjects. Since at least mid 2001 he has been posting messages on his discussion board regarding the "excavation" of a cave near the rumoured location of Burrows Cave; he claims to be in the process of performing site studies in preparation for the recovery of golden coffins, inscriptions relating to the Bible, and so forth. Kimball claims to have conducted GPR (Ground Penetrating RADAR) and other technical studies of the area in question. Some of the charts and other data from these studies are posted on one of Art Bell's Web sites since Kimball has been a frequent guest on Bell's show. However, as another researcher points out on his site, none of the charts show any sort of legend or distance scale, so we're presented with ambiguous data that could have been obtained anywhere. Without the chart certification data and scale indicators we have no idea what the images show, where they were taken, or even if they were obtained by a competent operator. See an off-site article for more information, as well as allegations (as yet uncorroborated) that the GPR and other sensing equipment was tampered with in order to cause it to produce spurious results.

At first it seemed Kimball represented a completely new, independent player who was trying to capitalize on the notoriety of the cave, possibly in order to promote his Christian-text sales efforts. However, recent postings on Kimball's e-mail list have revealed that the old triumvirate of Wayne May (publisher of The Ancient American magazine), Frank Collin, and Russell Burrows are involved in Kimball's efforts. This is extremely interesting, given the latter's statement that "In January, 1998, I was informed by the person now in charge of the property that my responsibility to what has become known as Burrows Cave had ended" (Burrows, 1998). If this is true, how has he suddenly become involved in this saga yet again?

Kimball himself is an interesting character. He uses the honorific "Dr." but does not specify in what field it was awarded . He also claims to have "taught at Southern Illinois University" in the 1976-78 timeframe. The personnel department at this institution was unable to find any record of Kimball's status as a faculty member; instead he was listed as a graduate teaching assistant in the Communcations department during the timeframe mentioned above. They were also unable to find any record of his having received a PhD or any other advanced degree.

Similarly, Kimball recently claimed he was in discussion with The Discovery Channel regarding "his" new TV series; in one message he claimed "we have met with [the channel] on Monday and shown them the pilot of my new series. It was so well received that they told us point blank they are sending us a package contract for our consideration" (Kimball, msg. of 25 Oct., 2001). When contacted about this, an individual working on the concept for the series in question replied:

"All I can say is that Glenn Kimball is exaggerating. We are developing a concept with a producer...[who]...is the same guy who put us in touch with Glenn to begin with and he put Glenn in the demo reel as the host. Glenn is not going to be the host. He may come in as an expert here and there, but he is not the host...I think we mentioned the show to Discovery (and only in passing) but at this point they have not expressed any level of interest." [identity withheld by request]

Another researcher who is familiar with Kimball's career commented on a portion of his resume':

"I can give you a concrete example of how Kimball inflates his (self-)importance:

3- Glenn was the keynote address speaker at the UFO convention in 1999 in Nevada

In reality, I was the keynote speaker at that conference (UFO Congress). Because I teach that Christ is an ancient mythical motif found in many pre-Christian cultures, Laurence Gardner, who was set to speak after me (I had replaced Sitchin, who couldn't make it), objected to my presence, and I was asked not to show up. I stepped down, and Gardner decided not to show anyway. I was replaced by Jordan Maxwell, who likewise teaches Christian mythology, and Gardner was replaced by Kimball, who likewise spreads pablum. He was very much a last-minute replacement, and followed Maxwell, who would then technically be considered the keynote speaker." (Acharya S., msg of 17 Aug, 2001).

The same person noted that many of Kimball's "hidden Christian documents" are known apocrypha -- texts of highly questionable authority and authenticity -- that are not accepted by the mainstream Church. Kimball often claims to have "found" these himself, when in reality most have been known, and known to be forgeries, for centuries.

If the rest of Kimball's credentials and alleged accomplishments are similarly exaggerated, it bodes ill for the future of his escapades with the Cave. That he may be a Mormon is even more revealing, since the LDS church have long tried to manufacture evidence to support the authenticity of their claims regarding pre-Columbian American and "the lost tribes of Israel."

The roles of Burrows, Collin, and May in these recent developments are still under investigation, but some of the connections may become obvious since May is a Mormon.

One last item of interest: as of January 2002 the Illinois State Museum had no record of any registered archaeological digs in the area of Richland County mentioned on Brian "Harry" Hubbard's site. The researcher who checked on the status of known sites in this area even commented "boy, it's awful flat in that vicinity, and hardly the place I'd expect to find any caves. I'm not aware of any limestone formations around there" (Klobuchar, 2002). Is the reported location incorrect? Is this yet another hoax?


The major problem with Burrows Cave is that the more one examines the story, the more hoax-like and fabricated it begins to sound. At first glance it sounds plausible--a hiker falls into a cave and finds a trove of potentially-important artifacts. Then we find that the artifacts appear Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Scandinavian, Roman, Vedic (from India/Pakistan), Hebrew, and so forth. The situation begins to sound suspicious since it's highly unlikely that all these cultures would've been interacting with the same native American tribes, much less at the same time, without leaving records of their own to tell the tale.

The situation is further complicated by the appearance of Frank Collin/Frank Joseph, a former neo-Nazi and convicted felon who's restyled himself in a new and more respectable mold. But loud alarms begin going off once murky relationships involving certain diffusionists, Mormons, and fundamentalists begin to emerge. Here we are presented with groups who desperately want to believe in extensive contact between native American tribes and various Old World cultures, for a variety of reasons, and who reject interpretations that fail to support this theory.

Worse still, these same groups label mainstream science as the "defenders of orthodoxy" who are attempting to "suppress" their new discoveries. These are the rantings of the pseudoscientist who believes in his own genius and that everyone else is simply misguided or wrong. One is reminded of UFOlogists who treat government denials as "proof of the conspiracy," or hawkers of perpetual-motion devices who claim their revolutionary breakthroughs are being ignored or "suppressed" by jealous scientists.

Burrows Cave may be a legitimate find or it may be an elaborate hoax; given the available data the latter conclusion seems far more likely. If it is the former, then it behooves its supporters to bring it more fully to the attention of mainstream archaeologists using the same channels and publications that are used for scholarly purposes; write and publish solidly researched articles, allow a legitimate archaeological survey of the site, and let the evidence stand on its own. If it is indeed a hoax, then the reason the location of the cave (if one even exists) is being kept secret becomes obvious--a close examination would reveal the lie.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Until Burrows supporters allow proper studies to be done by competent and unbiased researchers, and until they are willing to accept legitimate criticism from scholars who find their evidence sketchy at best, their claims will remain relegated to the "junk science" file. Likewise, scientists and historians who have dismissed the site as a hoax would do well to publish at least one detailed refutation discussing all the available physical evidence to support their own viewpoint. A blithe dismissal of the site without publishing a readable, accessible refutation only provides additional fuel to support the views of those who accuse mainstream science of excessive orthodoxy and an inability to accommodate new ideas. But the burden of proof is firmly upon the supporters of the cave's authenticity since their extraordinary claim has, to this date, produced only sketchy evidence and a great deal of suspiciously evasive maneuvering. To echo the words of several academics, it's time for Burrows supporters to put up or shut up.

Back to Dick Joltes' Homepage.

Note: All information contained in these pages is 2001 Richard E. Joltes. Excerpts may be used in other publications where proper credit is given. All rights are reserved.


another site:

Interesting sites - not related to Burrows Cave

Area UFO sightings not yet identified by officials


By Jeff Kaplan, rockinghamnews@seacoastonline.com

FREMONT Unidentified flying objects are not unusual in Rockingham County. At an increasing pace over the last decade, UFOs have been sighted performing a gymnast's repertoire of aerial maneuvers. The Web site www.ufopage.com lists 33 documented sightings since 1995.

Last Thursday New Hampshire may have been visited again.

At 10:04 p.m. Fremont Police Officer H.D. Wood was dispatched to Main Street to investigate a report of two objects hovering silently in the air. The objects were described as "bright and full of lights," according to the police report.

Wood had been on these calls before, though his department lacks any protocol to follow and the police academy does not train cadets for these situations.

"Quite frankly, I don't believe we have a policy as to how to handle this kind of thing," Wood said. "I guess it's common sense, really."

Wood said the witness was describing the actions of the UFOs as he was en route. The witness described the objects as hovering silently in the air. The larger of the two objects flew south toward Sandown. The smaller object flew north toward Brentwood. They were gone when Wood, assisted by a Brentwood police officer, pulled up.

"We arrived on the scene and (the witness) said, 'I'm not crazy. I'm not on drugs,'" Wood recalled.

He said the witness and the witness's wife and daughter all saw the objects. The witness claimed a passing motorist also saw the event but didn't stop.

Wood investigated the area, saw no evidence the snow had been disturbed and wrote his report. Without other witnesses or any physical indication of a visitation, Wood said he considers the case closed.

"In my mind, if it's substantiated, you call the FAA to see if there are any reports of aircraft in the area," Wood said. "Then you call other dispatch centers to see if they've gotten calls, because what happens is, if something is sighted, everyone is going to call."

Wood said his first reaction when he received the call was to seek background on the caller.

"To be honest, when I did get the call I did pull up my laptop to see if we'd had any previous contact at this address," Wood said.

He describes himself as a skeptic, but said he absolutely believes the witness did see something.

"I was skeptical at first," he said. "Then I listened to the person discuss the issue and they were very adamant that they saw something."

Fremont Police Chief Neal Janvrin was an officer with the Exeter Police Department on Sept. 3, 1965, the day of New Hampshire's most notorious UFO sighting, an incident that became the subject of a book, "Incident at Exeter." That day would be a significant date in history for believers in alien visitations. It is rare that a police officer can substantiate a sighting, but on this day two of Janvrin's fellow officers, Dave Hunt and Gene Bertrand, as well as many civilians, would report seeing a large, elliptical object with red lights around it. The object reportedly moved between houses and trees while the lights blinked in sequence.

Janvrin said he's been on UFO calls before, but he's never seen a UFO himself. Janvrin said the only thing an officer can do is take a report.

"Obviously, if we get there and we see something we would try and photograph it," he said. "If there was some sign of disturbance we would record it."

Janvrin said he doesn't consider himself a non-believer, but does not have enough evidence to say he is a believer.

"You look up in the sky and you see all the suns and every sun has so many planets. I guess the possibility does exist. We're on this planet," he said.

He added that Hunt and Bertrand's experience gives him pause to reconsider. "They were two guys who I worked with and I trusted," Janvrin said.

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