NTS LogoSkeptical News for 5 February 2002

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Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines - February 5, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

A NASA satellite designed and built by Berkeley astronomers is set to fly into orbit today to study explosive solar flares whose storms of radiation can disrupt radio signals, force space-walking astronauts indoors and black out entire cities.

A rocket carrying the 645-pound satellite, appropriately colored blue and gold in honor of the University of California at Berkeley, will be dropped from the belly of a high-flying airplane and fire the spacecraft up to its orbit 373 miles above the Earth this afternoon.

The satellite is called the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or HESSI. It carries a single highly sophisticated instrument that combines a telescope with a spectrometer designed to analyze and create images of the intense blasts of X-rays and gamma rays.


from The New York Times

Last week in a quiet triumph, Fermilab, the high- energy physics laboratory outside Chicago, announced a discovery of great importance in the search for a theory of everything - the seamless intellectual framework that would explain how the universe is made.

Firing up the Tevatron, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, an international team of scientists slammed together matter and antimatter, creating volleys of silent, invisible explosions. Then they sifted the debris through their computers, looking for the long-sought prey: exotic wisps called supersymmetric particles - SUSY's for short.

In the Jan. 28 issue of Physical Review Letters, the scientists revealed the results. They didn't find anything. And if that seems like dubious cause for a paper to be published in so prestigious a journal, then consider: In searching for SUSY's (pronounced "Suzies"), physicists now at least have a better idea of where not to look.


from The New York Times

In the summer of 1904, Hermann Merkel, the chief forester at the Bronx Zoo, noticed that a few of the majestic American chestnut trees lining the zoo's walkways had developed a mysterious new disease. The next year, nearly every chestnut tree in the parks of the Bronx had the disease. And by the 1950's it had spread from Maine to Georgia, killing billions of chestnut trees and changing the East's wooded landscapes forever.

Merkel had discovered the disaster known as chestnut blight, giving scientists their first bitter taste of the imported diseases that have been sweeping through American forests ever since.

The best known are chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, both of which are believed to have come from Asia and are still attacking trees today. But scientists say a host of devastating forest pathogens have continued to arrive. Among the most recent is sudden oak death syndrome, which has killed thousands of oaks and other trees in California and may threaten the mighty redwood as well.

Fast-moving and usually hard or impossible to cure, these exotic diseases have destroyed countless trees in forests, cities and suburbs. The results can be seen not only in landscapes stripped of some of their most beautiful species but in changes to how forest ecosystems work and in the economic value of this natural resource.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Sometime soon, perhaps within the next couple of years, gray wolves will make their way across mountains, valleys and streams into Northern California looking for new territory.

Wolf experts believe they're already on their way.

The migration is all but inevitable, wolf lovers believe, as inevitable as the push westward by humans searching for new lives.

To prepare for the wolves' stealthy arrival, an environmental group, Defenders of Wildlife, has petitioned the federal government to designate 16 million acres of national forests and parks in Northern California and southern Oregon as suitable wolf habitat for study and management purposes. They say the area -- a swath of land nearly twice the size of New Jersey -- could support as many as 500 gray wolves.


from The Boston Globe

Tobacco may be the most maligned crop growing on Earth, a plant blamed for millions of deaths around the globe. But today, in a greenhouse in Giles County, Va., a scruffy patch of tobacco is being cultivated for a singular, ironic purpose - to see if it holds the key to treating certain cancers.

In its most familiar state, cigarettes, tobacco has proved to be deadly. But scientists are learning that, once genetically altered, tobacco has the potential to produce vast quantities of crucial drugs to combat a range of human ailments that could well include cancer.

''The possibilities are exciting,'' said David T. MacLaughlin, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, whose group is working with CropTech, an 8-year-old biotechnology company in Virginia, to harvest potential medicine from the tobacco. ''But there is a great deal of work to be done before we know more.''


from The Boston Globe

Feed a cold, starve a fever

It looks like the idea that whether you eat or not may help you fight a cold or a fever is more than just an old wives' tale (assuming that the cold is caused by a virus and the fever by bacteria). Gijs van den Brink of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam and his colleagues were interested in the effects of alcohol on the immune systems of people boozing it up at Christmas. Surprisingly, while alcohol seemed not to have much effect, food did. Comparing the immune systems of people who fasted led to even more surprises. Eating seems to increase the production of gamma interferon, indicative of an increased immune response to viruses. Fasting, on the other hand, boosted interleukin-4 levels, which are associated with immune mechanisms that do better at handling bacteria. It remains to be seen whether or not these finding will become clinically useful or not, but they might provide you with at least some feeling of control next time you come down with some bug.


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Intelligent Design

From: "Guy Nason" nason@tvo.org

An open letter to Gov. Taft, the Ohio Board of Education and all citizens of Ohio:


Dear Governor Taft and members of the Ohio Board of Education, Ohio Board of Regents, Ohio House Education Committee and Ohio Senate Education Committee,

As a Canadian, I am not one of your constituents, so I have no vote at any level of government in the Great State of Ohio. However, as a good neighbour, I feel compelled to address an issue currently before the Ohio Board of Education: the issue of introducing Intelligent Design into the Ohio science curriculum.

As a Canadian, I heartily support this initiative. Forty years ago, a similar event had a major impact on hundreds of Canadians' lives. I am encouraged that it might happen again. Let me explain.

Back in the early 1960's, the Canadian federal government, as a result of direct and very heavy pressure from Washington, cancelled the Avro Arrow Project. The Avro Arrow was a jet fighter/interceptor that, even at the prototype stage, could fly much faster, higher and farther than any similar aircraft you Americans had at your disposal at the time. Understandably, the Pentagon was most upset that such a weapon existed outside their direct control. In the best interests of American security, it was decided that this project could not be allowed to continue. So it was cancelled and all existing prototypes, parts, blueprints and technical records were destroyed at the Pentagon's insistence.

This aircraft was designed and built by some of the world's greatest aeronautical scientists, engineers and technicians. Suddenly out of work, with no immediate prospects in Canada, what were they to do? Appropriately, help came from the very nation that threw them out of work in the first place. They were invited to the United States to take up careers in the fledgling US space industry. Consequently, Canadians played a major role in the American Space Program, working for NASA, JPL, McDonnell-Douglas, North American Rockwell and other high-paying aerospace firms. If this was at the expense of less accomplished American scientists, engineers and technicians, well, that's just the way it was.

Now, 40 years later, I am very heartened to see that America in general, and Ohio in particular, soon will be keen to encourage Canadians to move to the United States and earn US dollars -- even if it means that many Americans will be denied these high-paying, and highly rewarding careers in science. In this current atmosphere of international cooperation, it's the NAFTA thing to do. How kind, generous and noble you are!

By dumming down your science curriculum at the very time when Canadian jurisdictions are emphasizing good scientific and technological content in their schools, Ohio and other US states will soon be opening their doors to our highly qualified graduates, while slamming it in the faces of their own underqualified, and no doubt confused, sons and daughters.

Thank you very much for looking after future interests of Canadians, even though it may mean sacrificing your own childrens' expectations.

What great neighbours you are!

Guy Nason
Toronto, Canada

Superstitious surgeons decline routine operations on Mondays

From Ananova at


Doctors at a Romanian hospital are so superstitious they refuse to carry out routine operations on Mondays.

It's emerged that medics at the Vascular-Cerebral Institute in Bucharest have downed scalpels for anything but emergency operations since 1996.

The trend was started by distressed surgeons following a failed operation which happened on a Monday. Now no one dares break the tradition.

Dr Stefan Barsila told the Azi newspaper: "We started this custom years ago after an operation went wrong and we were all left very sad.

"It's well known that doctors are not superstitious, but even so nobody in the institute would dare break this rule."

Humans are using up too much sun

[The kook of the week for your reading pleasure]


By Alan Caruba
web posted February 4, 2002

"The energy of the sun, captured by plants and passed on to animals, powers everything in our world---dolphins leaping out of the ocean, geese moving across the sky, people stirring their morning oatmeal."

So says Elizabeth Sawin. Her article, published in Grist Magazine, was entitled "There Goes the Sun: humans are gobbling up too much of the sun's energy."

Now, if this strikes you as too stupid to deserve comment, you're right. On the other hand, I will comment on it because it reflects what lots and lots and lots of people believe. These people have passed through our elementary and secondary school systems since the 1960s and are thoroughly indoctrinated to believe we are using too much of the sun's energy.

Come on people, go easy on it. There's only five billion more years left of the sun They believe, as does Ms. Sawin, "There is only so much energy on Earth, and all the interconnected, complicated, essential parts of the living system cannot survive without a share of it." Do you think we are running out of the Sun's energy? Do you think there's only just so much energy to be had that we have to completely alter all human activity to insure there's enough for the geese and the dolphins?

Let me tell you a little bit about the Sun. It is a ball of hot gases and is 865,000 miles in diameter. Its mass makes up more than 99.9 percent of the solar system. This is necessary to insure that its gravitational attraction is great enough to hold the entire system together. It is a star of "average" temperature, about 15,000,000 degrees Celsius in its interior and about 6000 degrees Celsius at the surface. Its energy, radiating through space, is the only significant source of heat and light for the solar system. Here's where it gets worrisome. Scientists estimate that there's only some five billion years of energy left.

Oddly, despite its enormous generation of heat, there are whole parts of the Earth covered in ice. These places are very cold and home to polar bears and penguins. No sensible person wants to live in these places because nothing grows there. Once ice covered a much larger portion of the Earth and, until it melted sufficiently-thanks to the sun-human beings didn't even exist. Their ancestors reputedly lived in trees or ran around on all fours eating Lord knows what.

I tell you this because it well may be that, having passed through our educational system, you too haven't a clue about the sun, the earth, and all that dwells thereon.

Back to Ms. Sawin. The reason she "knows" that humans are using up too much of the sun's energy is that "humans co-opt 32 percent of the total solar energy captured by land plants, according to a study in the Dec. 2l issue of Science. Ecologists know this because they can measure the plant biomass created each year, something called the Net Primary Production, or the NPP, and estimate how much of it is diverted away from the rest of life by human activities."

Follow me closely now because you will learn why virtually everything any environmentalist or ecologist tells you is the biggest pack of lies you have heard since your husband told you you're not getting fat or your wife told you she doesn't care you're going bald.

First of all, the article she cites appeared in Science, a magazine that, like Scientific American, has been seriously infected by the environmental agenda to the point that much of what it offers as proof of anything requires heavy duty, critical examination and deconstruction. The notion that the Net Primary Production index or whatever they call it can accurately measure plant biomass is ludicrous. Can you imagine anyone being able to determine with certainty the use of solar energy by all the grasses, plants and forests of the earth? No, of course, you can't.

This is a typical environmental propaganda device, much like the computer models cited to prove global warming is happening. It sounds scientific. It looks scientific. It is a load of crap.

However, the Elizabeth Sawin's of the world will continue to worry that "the solar energy flowing through a cornfield won't find its way to some of the specialized birds and insects that populate a prairie, because those prairie creatures don't have the faintest idea what to do with corn stalks or corn earworms."

If this strikes you as idiotic, go to the front of the class, put a gold star beside your name, and return to your seat satisfied in the knowledge that you are not as big an idiot as Ms. Sawin. Then go home and bake some cornbread muffins. Hmmmmm, good!

Alan Caruba is a frequent contributor. The founder of The National Anxiety Center, he writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on its Internet site at www.anxietycenter.com. Alan Caruba, 2002

Acupuncture Licensing

From: Linda Rosa rosa@ezlink.com

Dear Fellow Skeptics,

The Colorado Legislature has before it a bill that would allow for acupuncture licensure. The Front Range Skeptics have put together information that will help our local skeptics testify before committee hearings (see below).

Acupuncture proponents here claim that they are mounting a big push this year for licensure in many states. While we haven't verified what states they are referring to, we thought it might be helpful to other skeptics groups to be alerted to this situation.

Yrs, Linda Rosa
Corresponding Secretary
Front Range Skeptics
711 West 9th Street
Loveland, CO 80537
(970) 667-7313


National Council Against Health Fraud's "Acupuncture Position Paper":


Reasons to Oppose Acupuncture Licensure:

1.) DID DORA DO IT'S JOB?: In Colorado, the House Committee, when asked if DORA (Dept. of Regulatory Agencies) evaluated the efficacy and safety of acupuncture, a representative answered only, "Some." When asked why acupuncturists need licensure, DORA did not answer the question by saying: "We consider them licensed already."

2.) IS THE FISCAL NOTE ADEQUATE? ACUPUNCTURE LICENSURE IS ABOUT $$$$, NOT PUBLIC HEALTH: Colorado HB1117 will have a huge impact on state expenditures for Medicaid, etc. The bill's fiscal note is wholly inadequate on this point. Many states are moving toward laws that require third-party reimbursement of any therapy prescribed by a licensed health professional. With HB1117, acupuncturists anticipate that their licensure status will give them greater reimbursement status and greater acceptance without having to do the science.

3.) ACUPUNCTURE IS "QUACKERY": Acupuncture has repeatedly failed to show it's worth in refereed journals. The acupuncture licensure bill would legitimize practices that are quackery and haven't been able to pass scientific muster. Efficacy and safety for any of the many different (and contradictory) types of acupuncture have not been established. To charge money for unproven therapies is the definition of "quackery."

4.) ACUPUNCTURE TREATS PATIENTS AS GUINEA PIGS: Without proving efficacy and safety, acupuncturists are offering practices that can only be classified, at best, as experimental. And unfortunately, these expensive, invasive practices are used on innocent children who have not the abilities or power to judge therapies for themselves. (See attachment "NCAHF/Acupuncture" -- a position paper from the National Council Against Health Fraud.)

5.) ACUPUNCTURE IS FRAUD: An analysis of acupuncture research from the last decade shows that acupuncture treatment is no more effective than sham treatment. (See attachment "Ramey/Sampson Preprint)

6.) COURT-ORDERED ACUPUNCTURE FOR ADDICTION IS WORTHLESS: Courts across the country have given a worthless option to criminals -- take acupuncture for addiction. Indeed, one of acupuncture's biggest claims is to successfully treat addiction, but a large study appearing in first JAMA issue of 2002 rocked the acupuncture world by showing acupuncture had no effectiveness at all for the treatment of cocaine addiction.

7.) LICENSURE REALLY ALLOWS ACUPUNCTURISTS TO PRACTICE MEDICINE: By their own philosophy, by advertising, and by history, there is no limit to what acupuncturists can do. HB1117 is really an authorization to practice "Traditional Chinese Medicine," which goes well beyond sticking needles in people. Some physicians are worried that this bill does not prohibit acupuncturists from practicing medicine. Acupuncturists testifying before a House committee commented that acupuncturists often advise patients "to change physicians because their M.D. has given them the wrong diagnosis." Acupuncture schools are notoriously poor and in no way prepare acupuncturists to know when they are practicing medicine and when they are not. When asked at the House committee meeting why licensure, an acupuncturists states it was to protect acupuncturists from charges that they are practicing medicine.

8.) THERE IS NO OBJECTIVE BASIS FOR REGULATION: There are many different and contradictory types of acupuncture -- HB1117 does not establish which one will be used by the licensure board as its standard. Note that whatever director is in power of the licensing board will set standards: "...which standards may be established by utilizing the assistance of any professional organization whose membership includes not less than one-third of the persons licensed." This is a bizarre way of setting practice standards, but it reflects the reality that acupuncture is just a belief system, not a profession.

9.) ACUPUNCTURE RUNS COUNTER TO SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE: Acupuncturists don't accept Germ Theory or any of modern biochemistry. They don't even speak the same language as real health professionals. An acupuncture textbook, for example, describes epilepsy as:

"...generally caused by rising air and congestion, causing the heart to be stuffed and confused. The disease is in the heart, the liver, and the bladder. Treatment should be designed to ease the liver, to stop the rising air, to eliminate congestion, and to open up stuffed circulation."

It is impossible for modern health professionals to work with people who's beliefs are based on ancient superstitions.

10.) ACUPUNCTURE SCHOOLS ARE NOTORIOUSLY POOR: Two to three thousand hours of learning about "rising air," non-existent organs (e.g. the "triple-burner"), and the like, is worse than useless, it is dangerous.

11.) ACUPUNCTURISTS KILL ENDANGERED SPECIES: Acupuncturists also sell Chinese medicines -- i.e. they prescribe untested and unregulated herbs, including the powdered glands of endangered species, such as the Chinese black bear and rhino horn (for impotency).

12.) STATE LIABILITY: Licensing of unvalidated practices is the same as promotion of them. States are finding they can be held liable for promoting worthless practices; California repealed the licensure of naturopaths for this reason.

13.) REPORTS OF OFFICIAL ENDORSEMENTS ARE MISLEADING: Acupuncturists claim that the FDA, NIH, WHO and US Dept. of Education all "endorse" acupuncture. This is not true.
* FDA: While the FDA approved acupuncture needles as safe in 1996, it's strong 1993 statement against the usefulness of acupuncture still stands.
* NIH: An NIH Consensus Panel once looked over some studies and claimed that acupuncture was shown useful. Over half the studies looked at by an NIH Consensus Panel were unrefereed; there was no evaluation of the quality of the studies. This controversial panel has been criticized in "Science" and other journals for their failure to adequately review acupuncture research.
* WHO recommendations were based on cultural sensitivities, not the science.
* DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: The Dept. of Education has not evaluated the worth of acupuncture when it allowed accreditation of its teaching; it means nothing about its validity. Even astrology schools have such accreditation.

14.) TEXAS DE-LICENSING TELLING: The action taken against acupuncture licenses in Texas is ten times the rate taken against physicians.

15.) WE DON'T NEED ACUPUNCTURISTS: Should some acupuncture practices prove to have merit, then they can be performed -- better -- by existing licensed health professionals. It would then be applied in a context of professional training, education, judgment, and accountability to determine its appropriateness.

16.) WHEN IS THE NEXT SUNSET REVIEW: Some bills the next sunset for an extraordinary long time -- e.g. in Colorado, it's for 12 years. Ask for justification for lengthy periods.

17.) David Ramey, DVM, and Wallace Sampson, MD (Wisampson@cs.com), have a paper coming out in the next *Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine* which looked at "200 evaluable clinical trials from 1990 to the present" and concluded: "Effectiveness could not be established with confidence for any condition studied. Taken as a group, reviews of clinical studies published since 1990 on the clinical efficacy of acupuncture do not support the notion that acupuncture is effective for a variety of medical conditions. Reviews do not support efficacy for most specific symptoms for which acupuncture has been reported as effective , or for which acupuncture is in common use."

Disc-shaped spyplane could hunt for terrorists


12:25 04 February 02
Max Glaskin

What looks like a flying saucer, takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane? The next remote-controlled surveillance aircraft on the hunt for terrorist fugitives like Osama bin Laden, apparently.

Pilotless aircraft came into their own in the Afghan conflict, greatly reducing casualties in US Air Force and ground troops on both reconnaissance and attack missions. But today's uninhabited aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have big drawbacks: they need a runway, they are slow and they cannot hover. But a bizarre machine that aims to fix all these problems passed its first wind tunnel tests last week at Norway's National University for Technology and Science in Trondheim.

The disc-shaped SiMiCon Rotor Craft (SRC) appears to be inspired at least partly by the design of Star Trek's USS Enterprise, but instead of twin engines raised above the main body it has a single rear jet engine below it--and a conventional tailplane above.

It's also tiny. A full-size machine will have a diameter of just 4.5 metres, though development work and testing is being done with three scale models, each with a diameter of 1.5 metres.

Conventional runways

The circular fuselage is shaped like an aerofoil and contains retractable rotor blades that extend telescopically from the disc as they spin up to speed. These are driven by a small jet engine and allow vertical take-off. When the craft has taken off, the jet engine, which is fixed below, takes over to propel it forward. The rotor blades then retract into the circular wing, but can be extended again when the craft needs to hover or land. To prevent the craft from spinning like a top, sideways thrust from the jet engine, or a small tail rotor, counters the effect of rotor torque.

The SRC's three-man design team hopes military and civilian organisations will be interested. "The UAV market is more accepting of unusual designs than the manned aircraft industry," says Ragnvald Otterlei of Trondheim-based SiMiCon. With no people on board, safety is a low priority.

More than 150 UAV designs have emerged in recent years, but few have combined vertical take-off with high-speed forward flight and the ability to hover. Both types of UAV that the Americans used in Afghanistan need conventional runways. The Predator from General Atomics needs a 670-metre take-off strip, while the high-altitude Global Hawk from Northrop Grumman needs more than a kilometre to get airborne. The SRC, however, should be able to take off from the back of a flatbed truck.

Civilian applications

The wind tunnel tests proved the SRC would be stable at low and high rotor speeds and during the transition from vertical flight to forward flight, says SiMiCon designer Vegard Evjen Hovstein. "The next challenge is to find a low-profile jet engine design which doesn't project too far below the aircraft's bottom disc," he says.

The project is brimming with unknowns: how will the extension and retraction of the rotor blades work? And can the rotor be angled to change the craft's direction?

"What we have done so far is build models with off-the-shelf components from radio-controlled kits and shown that our ideas are robust enough to work even with such poor materials," says Hovstein.

He's bullish about potential civilian applications for his versatile UAV. The vehicle could be used by police for surveillance, or to track pollution and map terrain, he says. But he adds that it could be five years before the first SRC takes to the air.

Monday, February 04, 2002

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 - February 4, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

To most people, Antarctica is just a big, dumb block of ice swarming with penguins.

But to scientists, Antarctica is one of the emerging puzzles of global warming research.

Unfortunately, global warming is such a politically charged, complex issue that scientists have had trouble conveying the complexities through the news media. They complain that coverage of two recent studies seriously misrepresented the meaning and significance of their research.

One study showed that while other continents are warming, major parts of Antarctica are cooling. The other demonstrated that the glacial "ice streams" that feed the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica appear to be growing, not shrinking.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

University of California officials will announce today that they have recruited a top federal scientist to head a new multidisciplinary biotech research initiative called QB3.

The QB3 project -- short for bioengineering, biotechnology and quantitative biomedical research -- is supposed to boost California's biotech industry by encouraging biologists, engineers and computer scientists from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Francisco to push the frontiers of science.

The project has been a pet of Gov. Gray Davis, who helped seed QB3 with $75 million in state funding. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore has quietly pledged an additional $10 million to launch this novel high-tech/biotech collaboration.

So far, however, QB3 hasn't been much more than another academic dream, which is why university officials are excited that Marvin Cassman has decided to give up his post as director of the National Institute of General Medical Science in Bethesda, Md., to direct the fledgling effort.


from The (Raleigh, NC) News and Observer

WILSON - The phone rang on a Friday afternoon, just 10 days after Joshua Allen was born and while the newness of him still enchanted his first-time parents, Sharon and Jimmy.

When the lady said she was calling from the hospital, Sharon's anxiety spiked. A new blood test taken after Joshua's birth indicated a problem, the lady said. There may be a metabolic disorder. "It hit me so strong," Sharon Allen said. "My cousin immediately came to mind."

Six years before, Sharon's cousin, Toni Cline, had a baby girl, Kasie, who appeared to be perfectly healthy until, at 9 months, she went to sleep and never awoke. Tests showed she died of a hidden metabolic disorder in which her body lacked an enzyme to process fat. Now here was Joshua, facing the same thing.

But thanks to a screening test days after his birth in 1997, Joshua's illness was diagnosed. And other than eating a special low-fat diet, he now lives the life of a normal 4-year-old.

Joshua was the first baby identified as part of an infant screening program that North Carolina pioneered to detect as many as 30 metabolic disorders -- genetic defects that impair the way foods are digested and absorbed. Without diagnosis, the disorders can result in mental retardation or death.


from The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 3 - In the world of computer chips, Moore's Law is becoming less of an axiom and more of a drag race.

At the world's premier chip design conference, which begins here today, the spotlight will be on blinding computer speed. That emphasis suggests that the trajectory of desktop PC performance increases of the last two years will not slow in the near future, but actually accelerate.

Intel, the world's dominant manufacturer of microprocessors, will present a paper detailing a portion of a microprocessor chip that has performed at up to 10 gigahertz at room temperature - the fastest calculating speed yet reported for a microprocessor, the chip that controls the math, logic and data-transfer functions of a computer.


from The New York Times

ISLAMORADA, Fla., Feb. 1 - To many residents of the Florida Keys, eccentric characters only add to the local lore that attracts tourists. Now, though, a custody battle of sorts is playing out that has even those involved admitting to being embarrassed.

"This is like a nasty divorce where nobody worries about the children," said Russ Rector, a central figure in the dispute. "We have got to stop this fighting and worry about the children."

The "children" in this case are dolphins, and at issue is who should have the right to care for those that become stranded. The dispute has become so testy that Mr. Rector, a former dolphin trainer turned marine mammal rights activist, has threatened to shut down U.S. 1 leading to the Keys in protest and to call for a tourist boycott.

Mr. Rector, the lead rescuer of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, and other dolphin lovers have accused some of the rescue agencies of responding too slowly to dolphins in distress and of providing improper care. One agency drawing the ire of Mr. Rector and others says its rescuers have been harassed and intimidated.


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The signs have arrived?

Interview with Colin Andrews
by Monte Leach

A British engineer discusses the details of his research into crop circles, pointing to a momentous event on the planet.

Colin Andrews is an electrical engineer and former senior officer with local government in West Hampshire, England. He is founder of Circles Phenomenon Research, an international organization dedicated to the investigation of the crop formations. His 1989 international best-selling book Circular Evidence, co-authored with Pat Delgado, brought widespread attention to the phenomenon, and has been translated into Japanese, German, Spanish, and Italian. A more recent book, The Latest Evidence, was published in 1990 (see Share International July/August 1991). Monte Leach interviewed him.

Share International: What is the latest update on the crop circle phenomenon?

Colin Andrews: We have been showing evidence, arrived at by a German distillation process at HSC laboratory, at Stroud in Gloucestershire, that there had been a change in the crystalline structure of the [crop circle] plants. This is an unconventional process that's worried a lot of scientists who were concerned that we were travelling up the wrong road in our research. I disagreed, and continue to disagree. But because it was an unconventional approach, we had to find a laboratory prepared and equipped to undertake more conventional analytical processes.

Dr W.C. Levengood, a biophysicist and plant expert in Michigan, took up the challenge. He already has secured two major discoveries. One is that the cells at the nodal point, the point at which the plants bend, about a half to one inch above ground level, have fractured and scarred. That cannot occur by the trampling of feet, or whirlwinds, or the other processes that we hear about. Dr Levengood is not able to state precisely what causes that to happen, but is suggesting that it is due to a rapid increase in temperature within the plant. This fracturing and scarring of the cell structure supports the HSC Laboratory results.

SI: What was the other important finding?

CA: Dr Levengood planted the seeds from the cereal crops involved in this phenomenon (those that were involved last year) and germinated them in environmentally-sound conditions. He found that the date at which the plants germinated was consistent with the controls, the plants outside of the crop circle area. What he then found, and this is consistent with what we have been looking at over the years, is that the plant growth is positive. That is to say, the plants, once they've germinated, grew at a very much more accelerated rate above ground level [than the control samples]. The root structure was also much more extensive and healthy below ground level, as compared with the control samples - indeed many-fold healthier and more productive. That, too, is a very important discovery. The plants were taken from three sites in the world - Australia, America, and Great Britain. We're looking at a consistency here. Again, comparing that with wind damage, hoaxing, and trampling by human feet, it isn't an effect than can be replicated.

SI: Will these results be published in any way?

CA: Yes, they will be. In fact, in a limited way, they have already been published recently.*

SI: Are there any other developments with the scientific research?

CA: Yes, the work of Gerald Hawkins, the respected scientist in Washington, DC, who has written books on the geometry of Stonehenge.

SI: What has he found with the crop circles?

CA: It's looking very exciting indeed. Prior to the launch of Circular Evidence, we had an 'uncontaminated' period, a period during which - I would pretty well put my life on it - we were not receiving any hoaxes at all. Since the book was launched, the public became aware that something unusual was going on, and of course now we have a high number of claims of hoaxes and indeed physical hoaxes as well.

But in the crop formations of that pre-contaminated period prior to 1989, what Gerald Hawkins has proven is that, well beyond a chance of over 90 per cent, we are looking at diatonic ratios within the crop circles. And perhaps we're looking at ancient geometry which could relate to sound itself, because these are the same ratios which underlie the diatonic scale in music It's an extremely significant development. What's for sure is that I doubt if there is any hoaxer in the world who would begin to even know what it is we're talking about, let alone calculate his handiwork to compare ancient diatonic ratios of that kind.

The Gulf Breeze incident

SI: Anything that we can look forward to in the coming months?

CA: Early this summer, there's going to be a surveillance operation. It will be similar to what happened when I planned Operation Blackbird with the British Army, but it will involve no media whatsoever. It will be confidential. A site has been chosen. It's in central-southern England, and it will be at a site where the ground markings have appeared regularly, and also where aerial phenomena are occurring regularly.

We're interested in those two particular elements because of a major development which took place in Gulf Breeze, Florida, on 13 March this year.

SI: This is your work with Steven Greer?

CA: We've been working with Dr Steven Greer, a physician here in the US. He's now heading his own SETI project [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence], and has worked out over a period of 18 months a protocol for interaction with an airborne object. He took his team of 33 observers to Gulf Breeze, opposite the Pensacola military establishment there.

On 13 March, his team of 33 observers established their position. Using powerful one million candle-watt search beams they formed a triangle of light in the sky. Within seconds five white lights with orange balls on the under side appeared, moved across the sky and took up position at the triangle's apex. They maintained this position.

In the next stage Steven flashed the search beam at a pre-determined rate onto one of the objects. Meanwhile, everything was being filmed on video cameras. There were, I believe, another 20 or so members of the public observing this from six other locations around Gulf Breeze. The team then traced a course with a beam from above the five objects down onto the beach, suggesting to the objects that they move along this line to ground level. Two objects broke away from the five, and moved along that beam. But they stopped, took up a hovering position directly over the observers there. They maintained their position for quite some while, and at that point, through binoculars, all of them, Steven included, could see the structural detail of those objects. At this point, the objects gave out two flashes of white light, and all of them, the two and the remaining three, just simply disappeared.

A CBS television film crew was there on the following Tuesday filming something quite different. Some of Steven's team were still in the area. I don't know how they made contact with one another, but apparently they suggested to CBS that they should stay and that Steven's team would have a second try at this. They did, and the television crew filmed two UFOs, which responded similarly. Quite an extraordinary case.

If it is as reported, we have something here of great importance. Steven and his team will be coming over to Britain, and carrying on that particular process over the fields where these markings have appeared. I have a very positive feeling about this, as Steven does himself. We may well be entering a critical phase. Response to a sick molecule

SI: Could you talk a bit about what you believe the crop circles mean?

CA: We are entering a very crucial and important phase in our evolution. The crop markings are only a part of a major shift in the consciousness of mankind, and moving us forward, probably the biggest leap forward in our evolution in history.

In terms of this planet, I believe that we are looking at a single, living molecule. The Gaia theory makes perfect sense to me, that we are indeed looking at a living planet, a living organism. It's what the indigenous peoples have always tried to tell us. They have survived only because they have understood how to interact with nature. They found their place in nature. We are here in a material way, and are on a course to folly. We have a limited time to put things right. It's 10 seconds to midnight. Unless we learn to harmonize, to interact with all living things, I'm afraid we are going to see the closing down of a living organism on which we rely. This message is also coming from those who are working in pure science right now. We have a big problem. The planet has a big problem. The evidence is there.

I believe that the crop circles are graphic markings that have within them, in their entirety, a meaning. That meaning, and the response to that visual intake, is automatic, because it's within our blueprint. It is within us subconsciously to recognize them. Many people feel this, but they are unable to establish where they've seen them before.

It is, I believe, part of the change of consciousness. There are high levels of energy which are being intelligently placed into position in critical parts of the planet. These, if you like, are probably the chakra points, to give it a term, important energy points of the living organism. They are not random, and they have never been random. They are at specific points, and they recur at those locations. I believe that they are occurring literally at the interface between this dimension of the world that we know quite a lot about and those other dimensions of which we know so very little. We are beginning to see that we can interact in a limited way, directly with other dimensions.

We are seeing, I think, the reaction of the brain end of the universe, the thinking end, which is automatically responding to a very sick molecule. If you were to cut your finger, the brain end of your universe, your head, would react subconsciously to that. You certainly wouldn't be saying, "Send me hemoglobin and white corpuscles." But the brain end automatically responds. If we could watch the processes going on within your framed universe, what we would see in a microscope is white blood corpuscles moving to that point and interacting. The behavioral tendency would be the equivalent of the UFO. That would be the UFO response from the brain-end of the universe to this planet. That's the analogy. The manifestation to come

SI: In the video 'Undeniable Evidence' you say that this crop circle phenomenon is leading to a manifestation of some type. What do you think is going to happen?

CA: I have felt for quite some years that we are certainly going to experience something of great magnitude. It is going to be very soon. We are going to encounter something here which I don't think any man or woman is going to doubt.

This coming few months is going to see one or two events which are going to shake the world. It is going to focus our attention and the reality of knowing we are not the only thinking components of this living planet. We are going to be stunned into accepting that we have much more to consider.

SI: Do you have a bottom line? Do you know what it's going to be, but hesitate to make it known in public?

CA: I do, because I still feel it is most important at this juncture, as it has been for the last 10 years, that this research, this effort at disseminating what we already know about this phenomenon, must be kept rational. SI: You believe this event will take place soon, and will leave no doubt that we are not alone here. Is that the main purpose of these events? CA: It is indeed. We will be receiving assistance of new knowledge, new abilities, because we will be working at a different level. We will see manifestations of the Fatima** type. That is the picture that is in my mind. It is a very clear picture. I see certainly a Fatima-type experience occurring. I believe it will be in the vicinity of Silbury Hill, Stonehenge, Avebury in southern England, because that's where the focus of attention is.

There has to be a reason why this is happening right there. Having said that I believe that will be the door opener. The whole world is going to experience something of tremendous importance.

Close to a Golden Age

SI: What you are saying correlates in some ways with Benjamin Creme's message.

CA: I would like to say on the record that I have great respect for Benjamin Creme's work. Indeed, I hope to meet him. I have read a fair bit of your magazine, in fact.

The thinking end, the brain end of the universe is the way I have been putting it in recent times. We could easily fall out with society here because there is potential for great difficulty when we are talking about the thinking component of the universe. That could be Jesus. It could be God It could be extraterrestrial. It could be high nature. I don't feel that we have time to fall out over that. We have something which has thought, something which is intelligently interacting with us, and providing us with proof of its existence.

SI: I believe that all of these phenomena are very much connected. I think the appearance of the Teacher, the crop circles, the UFOs, are all working together to raise the consciousness of humanity. That's my opinion.

CA: It's one that I share totally. We are living in special times. There is no doubt that at this time next year, the world is going to be very different. We are living very close to a Golden Age. I really feel that. But equally, one has to say a word of warning, that always there are equal quantities of blackness right alongside. It's as easy to get it wrong as it is to get it right. We have to put out that white light, to put out there positive thinking, with sincerity and good heart. At the end of the day, we ll be doing all we possibly can for humanity.

It is also worth bearing in mind the Hopi Indian prophecy. We have reached a stage at the very end of the evolutionary path where the Hopi are awaiting the white man who left their land to return with the missing piece of a tablet on which there will be the signs. I would suggest to you that if we can focus our attention on the crop circles and the interaction with the UFO in the very near future we will appreciate that the signs have arrived. As the Hopi prophecy shows, we are about to hold and shake the hand of the Spirit, the very Spirit that started us on this path.

*Linda Moulton Howe, an award-winning documentary film maker and a UFO researcher, has helped to co-ordinate Dr Levengood's work. Howe had these comments at a recent conference in San Francisco:

"Dr Levengood has found under microscopic examination that in the plants that were affected, the cell pits - the tiny holes in cells of plants where fluid moves back and forth, and keep the plants growing and healthy - have been expanded. The only way that Dr Levengood could duplicate this cell pit separation was to put plants inside of a microwave for up to 30 seconds. He's not saying that it's microwave radiation that did it. He's saying that rapid heating was the only way he could duplicate the cell pit separation in the plants.

"Further, a nuclear design engineer in Tennessee has done preliminary work on some soil samples and has found that there were three different types of isotope changes that were found in the soil underneath at least two crop formations. That work is now considered to be tentative. They need many more soil samples from many more formations to make any kind of definitive scientific presentation. But at least the preliminary findings are intriguing because they suggest that some kind of energy is being applied in the formation of these crop circles that is not understood."

**Three children in Fatima, Portugal, reported a series of visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. The experiences culminated in October of that year in a manifestation which included miraculous phenomena witnessed by thousands.

Measuring instrument and dowsing rod

From: Garrison L. Hilliard


Doubting the activity of the dowsing-rod comes from the fact that no measuring device has been made to validate unseen energy, which we predict would show the identical reactions. We all know the current view of skeptics who say- it is impossible to declare something to be true, that is indemonstrable; especially when the dowsing-rod does not come though well in any of three trial tests. If we judge the arguments from the point of view of current science, there is nothing to talk about. It is possible to add something to the whole current knowledge and the arguments could take a different form. Judge for yourself. I will share all my experience with you.

I shall describe meeting a man who has received admiration for his extraordinary activities. Such men are usually born with these abilities, but Oldrich Hradil (1912-1989) from Brno was different. After being badly poisoned with lead he lost his ability to feel hot and cold, but his heat receptors were reacting to something mysterious instead of hot and cold. This he found very disorientating at first. Already in the hospital, he learned that the strange feeling going through his whole body from head to toe and back, was being caused by people who were moving along the corridor which was located behind the wall next to his bed. After few days he was able to distinguish whether the person in the corridor was a male or female. When I met him, he was already able to distinguish about 80 kinds of the reactions what were causing various sensations in his receptors. He was able to identify the kinds of metals in a box without error. At the cemetery he was able to recognize with covered eyes whether the grave contained man or woman or man and woman buried together. He felt even more reactions than I am able to identify with the dowsing-rod. And the difference was he could say what caused them and how intense they were.

Frantisek Kahuda who is dead by now experimented with his unique abilities and made records about them. By meeting Mr. Hradil I realized that the sensor for the measuring device which could replace the dowsing-rod is to be found in every human being (maybe in other organisms). I was speculating about experimenting with heat receptors what could be affected in the same way as the dowsing-rod. By questioning some doctors and studying scientific literature I realized that it would not be easy. The heat receptors are still within the area of medicine that needs further investigation because present knowledge does not enable further research. It follows that dowsing-rods respond to a phenomenon for which full credit awaits full recognition. This is why the old-fashioned word "unscientific" is used when talking about dowsing-rods. It is necessary to realize that the reaction of the dowsing-rod is consistent with the laws of nature, which are yet to be learned.

On the internet address http://www.pribram.cz/centrum/ I describe the instructions for the reaction of the dowsing-rod which starts from many natural and man-made energetic sources and are located everywhere but in as yet unnoticed amounts. Each source produces results through its energy components. Various differing metal-shaped dowsing-rods produce strange forces. If we make the dowsing-rod shorter or longer it will react to different energy components in the same way as changing the identity of the power. I have described only three energetic components only because I used shorter and less sensitive dowsing-rods. Even though I suppose that energetic components will be much more. It is almost impossible to orient all the reactions with no systematic procedure and knowledge of the energetic component's regularity. This is one of the reasons why dowsing-rods have not held up in any of the tests.

Miroslav Provod

The Wolf Files: The Selling of Mothman

Fri Jan 25, 5:33 PM ET
By Buck Wolf ABCNEWS.com


- Move over, Bigfoot. See ya, Sasquatch. America's new No. 1 monster this year is destined to be Mothman.

The flying, blood-eyed, 7-foot-tall monster that once terrorized Point Pleasant, W.Va., chasing cars and mutilating animals, is making a comeback. He's out to fill Bigfoot's big shoes especially at the cash register.

The Mothman Prophecies , starring Richard Gere, opens in theaters Jan. 25, and that might be the best thing in the paranormal tourism business since the Loch Ness Monster backstroked to Scotland.

Get ready for Mothman Beanie Babies, T-shirts and Christmas ornaments. One West Virginia man has already sold Sony Pictures on a Mothman Internet game.

'He's Our Monster'

"He's our monster, so we want to make money off him," says Hilda Austin, executive director of the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce. "We don't want anyone stealing our thunder."

People used to run from ghosts. But these days, people run to ghosts. Monsters are good for business, and if your hotel is haunted, all the better.

Only a few years ago, The Blair Witch Project had folks flocking to Burkittsville, Md., where the hit horror film is set. Local officials complained that thrill-seekers were snatching up road signs and vandalizing tombstones.

The obsession reached such heights that the mayor offered this exasperated message on her voice mail: "This is the town office, Burkittsville, Maryland. If this is in regards to The Blair Witch Project , it is fiction."

But Burkittsville, a tiny hamlet of 200 people, wised up to the fast-buck mentality. Previously unemployed locals quickly found a place in a burgeoning tourist business, selling "witch-chaser" bags filled with smooth stones, garlic cloves and lavender sprigs.

Now, Point Pleasant, an Appalachian town of 6,000 near the Ohio border, is looking for an unlikely hero in the form of a huge, hideous moth. That's pretty amazing, considering the legend.

Between 1966 and 1967, dozens of people came forward to claim they'd seen a giant man-bird with red, hypnotic eyes.

The first reports were from two young couples. Almost immediately, others came forward. Authorities found it harder to slough off each new monster sighting, and a media sensation was born.

Batman Inspires Mothman

The Batman TV show inspired a local newspaper copy editor to dub the creature "Mothman." Had this come a few years later, the creature may have been called "Big Bird," although a flying Bigfoot spotted on Washington state's Mount Rainier has been dubbed "Batsquatch" (not Batboy).

Writer John A. Keel later speculated that the sightings might even point to an alien visitation. His book, upon which the movie is based, documents a rash of UFO reports, alleged poltergeist activities, Men-in-Black harassments, unexplained animal slaughterings, and other strange activity.

"There were so many unusual occurrences in a short, 13-month burst," says Loren Coleman, author of Mothman and Other Curious Encounters (Paraview Press). "What's amazing is, if you speak to the people today, their lives have changed. Some changed jobs. Some moved. Some got divorced.

"Whatever happened to these people, they were terrified."

The last time people saw Mothman was when Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge collapsed on Dec. 15, 1967, killing 46 people. Some even say the strange creature sounded a rodent-like squeal to warn of the disaster.

Even today, Mothman isn't a joke in Point Pleasant.

But we all must come to terms with the past. And now, the monster is fodder for local souvenirs.

"Let's face it, if we don't do it, someone else will," says Austin. "We're the home of Mothman, and we're proud."

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list .

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Politician asks monks to drive evil spirits from accident blackspot

From Ananova at:


A Thai politician wants monks to improve road safety by ridding an accident blackspot of evil spirits.

The stretch of carriageway in Trang is known locally as the '100 corpses crossroads'.

People believe several ghosts are causing fatal crashes so the spirits of the victims can help guard the area.

Governor Sanguan Chanaksorn had organised a religious ceremony to try and improve safety.

He says monks will perform a prayer to cast out evil spirits and bring good luck, reports the Bangkok Post.

People invited to the ceremony will be given holy water and asked to offer their own prayer.

A Leap of Faith for Utah's 'Peculiar People'

February 3, 2002



IT was Mark Twain, now riding the revival circuit courtesy of the latest Ken Burns documentary, who said of the empire that the Mormons built at the base of the Wasatch Mountains: "This was a fairyland to us - a land of enchantment and awful mystery."

Less than a week before the start of the Winter Olympics, as Utah opens its doors to the world, Twain's head-scratching over the cryptic nature of the Beehive State still holds. As he said, no outsider can truly comprehend Utah, a state whose history and modern life are cluttered with contradiction.


Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Kenyan doctors oppose herbal remedies

James Njoroge


Kenya's leading medical organization is challenging government plans to allow herbal medicines to be dispensed in public health institutions such as hospitals.

The 6000-member strong Kenya Medical Association (KMA) is concerned that the effectiveness of most herbal drugs has not been scientifically proven.

The country's public health minister, Sam Ongeri recently announced that the government plans to introduce a bill in parliament regulating the handling of traditional medicine, and allowing its introduction in the country's health institutions.

"Our position is that only properly researched drugs with proven medicinal value should be incorporated into evidence-based practice and provided in our public hospitals," says KMA chairman, James Nyikal.

New research fuels MMR debate


The doctor who publicly voiced concerns about the safety of MMR, has not proved the triple jab may cause autism and bowel disease in some children.

BBC One's Panorama programme gained exclusive access to the latest research by scientists, including Andrew Wakefield, which is due to be published in the Journal of Molecular Pathology in April.

In the research Wakefield and his collaborators report that they have found the measles virus in 83% of gut samples from children with autism and bowels disorders but only in 7% of children without these conditions.

However, Panorama reveals the scientists have not proven any link between the measles virus present in the children's guts and the triple vaccine.

Outbreak fears

This latest development in the MMR furore comes amid growing fears of a measles outbreak in the UK, after several children contracted the virus which has left one toddler dangerously ill.

Wakefield first publicly claimed MMR may not be safe in 1998, and recommended the use of single vaccines.

Since he voiced these safety concerns the uptake of MMR has fallen dramatically leaving more children unvaccinated against measles, which in extreme cases can prove fatal.

It has taken more than a year for Wakefield's latest research to be published - a year during which successions of studies have denied any link between MMR and autism.

Despite failing to prove the MMR vaccine may harm children, Mr Wakefield is still convinced the triple jab may cause autism or bowel disease in some children.

He told Panorama: "You do not combine three live viruses into one vaccine and assume that it is a benign process.

"These are viruses that are live, they are capable of establishing long term infection and they are capable of producing long-term adverse events."

However the UK Government insists the triple vaccine is safe, and will not offer parents the choice to opt for single vaccines.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Pat Troop says: "If we were to offer single vaccines it would suggest to parents that there was a problem with the vaccine [MMR], we would end up with fewer children vaccinated rather than more.

"There may be some who might come forward for single vaccines but I think many more parents would just turn away from the vaccine and...we would have many more children exposed to serious diseases."

As the MMR controversy continues Downing Street has again refused to confirm reports that Tony Blair's son Leo has been given the MMR vaccine.

New webpage on Thunderbird and Bighoot

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Just a note to let you all know that I have added a third link on my first website. This newest one links to "Thunderbird and Bighoot." The psge outlines the presence of these two kinds of birds and publishes the very latest information on the ripples caused by the debut of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. You can go direct to this page at



State Seeks Child Parents Don't Acknowledge


February 3, 2002


BOSTON, Feb. 2 - It may be the most unusual case of a state trying to take custody of a child: the parents will not even confirm that the baby exists.

For weeks, the state of Massachusetts has been wrangling with a couple who belong to a tiny religious group called the Body. State officials say the couple, Rebecca and David Corneau, had a baby late last year, and a court has ordered the couple to turn it over for fear it is in danger.

The dispute's roots extend back three years. State authorities hold members of the Body responsible for the death of two babies in 1999. They say one, a 10-month-old boy, was starved by his parents, members of the sect. Prosecutors say the other child, a son of the Corneaus, died minutes after a home delivery because his lungs were not cleared.

"Unfortunately, the history of this family, and yes, I'll use the word, this cult, is severe and replete with situations in which children were put in harm's way," said Judge Kenneth P. Nasif of Attleboro Juvenile Court in a contempt order against the Corneaus on Jan. 17 for refusing to turn over the child. "The body count stands at two in this group. We don't want it to climb to three."

The state's highest court is expected to rule next week on whether the Corneaus should be jailed pending appeal of their contempt order.

Based in Attleboro, in southeastern Massachusetts, the Body is a fundamentalist Christian sect with about 20 members who reject modern medicine to such an extent that they will not use prescription eyeglasses. They also mistrust the government.

In 1999, a former sect member gave the police a diary with an entry saying that 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux died because his parents withheld solid food, contending they were acting on God's instructions. While investigating, the police learned about the death of Mrs. Corneau's baby, Jeremiah.

Eight sect members were held in contempt and jailed for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry. Mr. Corneau accepted an offer of immunity for himself, his wife and three other sect members, and led the authorities to a park in Maine where the babies were buried in pine coffins.

Samuel's mother, Karen Robidoux, and his father, Jacques Robidoux, the sect's leader, are charged with murder. The Corneaus were not charged in Jeremiah's death, which they say was a stillbirth. Rebecca Corneau is Jacques Robidoux's sister.

But the authorities then placed the Corneaus' four other children with relatives who do not belong to the sect, saying that the children were bruised from being swatted with a wooden paddle. When Mrs. Corneau became pregnant again in 2000 and refused to have a prenatal exam, the authorities took her into custody until she gave birth, and then placed the baby with a foster family.

In late 2001, when Mrs. Corneau, 33, was in court on an unrelated matter, the authorities noticed she appeared to be pregnant. The state Department of Social Services has sought to confirm the birth and take the child into custody.

J. W. Carney Jr., the Corneaus' lawyer, accused the state of engaging in a witch hunt motivated by the Corneaus' religious beliefs. "The department intends to take away any child that the Corneaus acknowledge exists," he said. "If a family knew in biblical times that the Egyptians were planning to seize their first- born son, they would act the same way that the Corneaus are acting."

The state has placed 14 of the sect's children in foster care.

David A. F. Lewis, a lawyer appointed to represent the Corneaus' child in the appeals, said a justice of the Court of Appeals found on Jan. 23 that there was enough evidence that a baby had been born to justify the contempt finding.

Churches on Right Seek Right to Back Candidates


February 3, 2002


As far back as the Revolutionary War, America's religious leaders have taken to their pulpits to galvanize their followers on the political issues of the day, from taxation to slavery to abortion.

But since 1954, when Senator Lyndon B. Johnson pushed a little-noticed law through Congress, ministers have been barred from preaching about political candidates. Under the law, churches are prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates or risk being stripped of their tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. Nevertheless, the law is frequently flouted, and the I.R.S. rarely intervenes.

Now religious conservatives are starting a campaign to remove the prohibition. A Republican member of Congress from North Carolina, Walter B. Jones Jr., decided last year to make it his signature issue.

Is human evolution finally over?


Scientists are split over the theory that natural selection has come to a standstill in the West. Robin McKie reports

Sunday February 3, 2002
The Observer

For those who dream of a better life, science has bad news: this is the best it is going to get. Our species has reached its biological pinnacle and is no longer capable of changing. That is the stark, controversial view of a group of biologists who believe a Western lifestyle now protects humanity from the forces that used to shape Homo sapiens.

'If you want to know what Utopia is like, just look around - this is it,' said Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, who is to present his argument at a Royal Society Edinburgh debate, 'Is Evolution Over?', next week. 'Things have simply stopped getting better, or worse, for our species.'

This view is controversial, however. Other scientists argue that mankind is still being influenced by the evolutionary forces that created the myriad species which have inhabited Earth over the past three billion years.

'If you had looked at Stone Age people in Europe a mere 50,000 years ago, you would assume the trend was for people to get bigger and stronger all the time,' said Prof Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. 'Then, quite abruptly, these people were replaced by light, tall, highly intelligent people who arrived from Africa and took over the world. You simply cannot predict evolutionary events like this. Who knows where we are headed?'

Some scientists believe humans are becoming less brainy and more neurotic; others see signs of growing intelligence and decreasing robustness, while some, like Jones, see evidence of us having reached a standstill. All base their arguments on the same tenets of natural selection.

According to Darwin's theory, individual animals best suited to their environments live longer and have more children, and so spread their genes through populations. This produces evolutionary changes. For example, hoofed animals with longer necks could reach the juiciest leaves on tall trees and therefore tended to eat well, live longer, and have more offspring. Eventually, they evolved into giraffes. Those with shorter necks died out.

Similar processes led to the evolution of mankind, but this has now stopped because virtually everybody's genes are making it to the next generation, not only those who are best adapted to their environments.

'Until recently, there were massive differences between individuals' lifespans and fecundity,' said Jones. 'In London, the death rate outstripped the birth rate for most of the city's history. If you look at graveyards from ancient to Victorian times, you can see that a half of all children died before adolescence, probably because they lacked genetic protection against disease. Now, children's chances of reaching the age of 25 have reached 98 per cent. Nothing is changing. We have reached stagnation.'

In addition, human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change. This increased mixing can be gauged by calculating the number of miles between a person's birthplace and his or her partner's, then between their parents' birthplaces, and finally, between their grandparents'.

In virtually every case, you will find that the number of miles drops dramatically the more that you head back into the past. Now people are going to universities and colleges where they meet and marry people from other continents. A generation ago, men and women rarely mated with anyone from a different town or city. Hence, the blending of our genes which will soon produce a uniformly brown-skinned population. Apart from that, there will be little change in the species.

However, such arguments affect only the Western world - where food, hygiene and medical advances are keeping virtually every member of society alive and able to pass on their genes. In the developing world, no such protection exists.

'Just consider Aids, and then look at chimpanzees,' says Jones. 'You find they all carry a version of HIV but are unaffected by it.

'But a few thousand years ago, when the first chimps became infected, things would have been very different. Millions of chimps probably died as the virus spread through them, and only a small number, which possessed genes that conferred immunity, survived to become the ancestors of all chimps today.

'Something very similar could soon happen to humans. In a thousand years, Africa will be populated only by the descendants of those few individuals who are currently immune to the Aids virus. They will carry the virus but will be unaffected by it. So yes, there will be change there all right - but only where the forces of evolution are not being suppressed.'

However, other scientists believe evolutionary pressures are still taking their toll on humanity, despite the protection afforded by Western life. For example, the biologist Christopher Wills, of the University of California, San Diego, argues that ideas are now driving our evolution. 'There is a premium on sharpness of mind and the ability to accumulate money. Such people tend to have more children and have a better chance of survival,' he says. In other words, intellect - the defining characteristic of our species - is still driving our evolution.

This view is countered by Peter Ward, of the University of Washington in Seattle. In his book, Future Evolution, recently published in the US by Henry Holt, Ward also argues that modern Western life protects people from the effects of evolution. 'I don't think we are going to see any changes - apart from ones we deliberately introduce ourselves, when we start to bio-engineer people, by introducing genes into their bodies, so they live longer or are stronger and healthier.'

If people start to live to 150, and are capable of producing children for more than 100 of those years, the effects could be dramatic, he says. 'People will start to produce dozens of children in their lifetimes, and that will certainly start to skew our evolution. These people will also have more chance to accumulate wealth as well. So we will have created a new race of fecund, productive individuals and that could have dramatic consequences.

'However, that will only come about when we directly intervene in our own evolution, using cloning and gene therapy. Without that, nothing will happen.'

Stringer disagrees, however. 'Evolution goes on all the time. You don't have to intervene. It is just that it is highly unpredictable. For example, brain size has decreased over the past 10,000 years. A similar reduction has also affected our physiques. We are punier and smaller-brained compared with our ancestors only a few millennia ago. So even though we might be influenced by evolution, that does not automatically mean an improvement in our lot.'

Saturday, February 02, 2002

Institute of Biblical Defense

Training Christians to Boldly Defend the Faith !


Punxsutawney Phil


Punxsutawney Phil: Another Six Weeks of Winter

Sat Feb 2, 9:58 AM ET

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (Reuters) - The weather-prognosticating groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Saturday, signaling six more weeks of winter in North America.

The chubby rodent, stirred from his burrow on Gobbler's Knob at the height of the annual Groundhog Day festival, was hauled from beneath a maple tree stump into the morning gloom and the glare of television camera lights as thousands cheered the 116-year-old ritual.

According to an ancient custom brought to the New World by European immigrants, winter will soon give way to spring if a burrowing animal like a groundhog or hedgehog fails to see its shadow on Candlemas Day, which falls on Feb. 2. A shadow sighting means wintry weather for another month and a half.

In Punxsutawney, a town of 6,800 people located about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh that promotes itself "the Weather Capital of the World," the ceremony is officiated by a group of middle-aged men in top hats and tuxedos who are led by a local funeral home director.

This year, the ceremony took place amid heightened security, with National Guard troops and bomb-sniffing dogs on duty to protect against the possibility of a terror attack. The tiny rural hamlet expected up to 30,000 people to turn out.

Phil's handlers, who claim to understand "Groundhogese," read an English "translation" rich in crowd-pleasing patriotic rhetoric.

"Thank God I live in the land of the free and the brave," said Phil's written "proclamation," which official reader Phil Johnson conveyed to wild cheers from crowds who stood beneath a cloudless sky just before sunrise. "And I live in a burrow and not in a cave. I've been sleepin', been noddin', been livin' better than bin Laden."

Groundhog Day, which includes parades, food, music, sleigh rides and ice-carving competitions, has been observed since 1887 at Gobbler's Knob.

In recent years, however, the custom has become a world phenomenon attracting media coverage from as far away as Europe and Asia, thanks mainly to the popularity of the 1993 Hollywood movie "Groundhog Day", starring Bill Murray.

Phil, a woodchuck who has been feted by luminaries from former President Ronald Reagan to television talk show host Oprah Winfrey, weighs 15 pounds and measures about 22 inches in length.

Organizers say he owes his prognosticating powers to an unusual diet among rodents that has been known to include ice cream and strawberry sundaes.

Edward's vision on drama series


The Hollywood Reporter via Yahoo News, January 27 2002

Successful medium, John Edward, of CROSSING OVER fame, is looking to develop and star in a dramatic television series about a medium.

West Virginia Town Hopes for Mothman Bonanza


Reuters via Yahoo News, January 31 2002

Story on the effect of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES movie on the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Mentions tie-ins, such as a sandwich and a pizza. Includes links to websites.

Church Offers Payout for Sex Abuse in Ireland


Associated Press Writer
January 31, 2002, 7:17 AM EST

DUBLIN, Ireland -- The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has agreed to a landmark $110 million payment to Irish children sexually abused by its clergy over decades. Sex abuse campaigners and opposition lawmakers brand the offer as inadequate.

The deal late Wednesday was designed to conclude a 10-year struggle by the church in this predominantly Catholic nation to overcome sex scandals going back to the 1940s. More than 20 priests, brothers and nuns have already been convicted of molesting children, with much of the abuse taking place in state-funded, church-run schools.

The stream of accusations also has exposed both the government and church to potentially gargantuan legal bills from victims' lawsuits.

In Rome, the Vatican declined comment Thursday on the deal.

In exchange for the church's financial commitment in Ireland, the government agreed to indemnify the church against further legal action by victims in Ireland.

"I think the religious orders have been extremely generous in the way that they have responded," said Bishop Eamonn Walsh of the Catholic Bishops' Child Protection Committee. "This is putting their money where their mouth is, and I think they should be congratulated. It must have put extreme strain on their resources."

But sex abuse campaigners and opposition lawmakers said total claims by an estimated 3,000 victims to a new government-run compensation fund could exceed $350 million. That means taxpayers would cover most of the tab, they said.

The church's offer includes $32 million in cash, about $70 million in property to be donated to the state and $8 million to fund counseling services for sex-abuse victims.

Crucially, any victim who accepts money from the fund must agree to drop legal action against the church or state.

"The church has gotten away very cheaply," said John Kelly, spokesman for a lobbying group called Survivors of Child Abuse. "The taxpayer should not pick up the bill for abuse committed by members of the religious orders."

Education Minister Michael Woods, who oversaw negotiations with church authorities, said successive governments must share the blame for allowing cases of individual or systematic sexual abuse in certain Catholic-run schools to go unpunished for decades.

Governments, he said, had been "responsible for placing the children in the institutions involved."

Roisin Shortall, spokeswoman on children's issues for the opposition Labor Party, questioned the church's commitment to funding counseling services.

"It is patently obvious that any counseling service that would have a connection with a religious institution would present huge problems for any victims of abuse," she said.

The 1990s saw the stature of the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland plummet under the weight of scandal, starting in 1992, when Bishop Eamonn Casey was exposed as having an illegitimate son in the United States whom he had secretly supported from church coffers. Casey fled the country for South America.

Within a few years, Irish people were recalling Casey's demise almost fondly as much darker revelations of pedophilia within the clergy were exposed case by case.

In 1994, one Irish government collapsed over allegations that it suppressed the extradition of a priest, Brendan Smyth, to neighboring Northern Ireland to face charges of molesting and raping former altar boys.

Smyth eventually was convicted in courts in both parts of Ireland of abusing more than 30 children as far back as 1958. Church leaders admitted they had long known about some complaints but chose to transfer Smyth to new parishes rather than hand him over to police.

Smyth's case broke the taboo against seeking criminal prosecutions of priests, and the trickle of complaints turned into a tide.

The court cases are cited as one factor fueling a steady decline in Mass attendance in this country of 3.8 million people, more than 90 percent of whom are baptized Catholics.

The Battle Over Far-Flung Pluto


Copyright 2001 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

The Battle Over Far-Flung Pluto
Kenneth Chang New York Times Service
Thursday, January 31, 2002

NEW YORK In 1991, the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of stamps commemorating American space exploration. The stamp for Pluto consisted of a painting of a grayish disk with an apology of sorts underneath: "Not Yet Explored." The smallest and farthest of the solar system's planets, Pluto is the only planet that has not been visited by a spacecraft.

In the 71 years since Clyde Tombaugh, an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, spotted Pluto as a point of light on one of his photographic plates, the planet has largely remained just that: a point of light. Ground-based telescopes are not powerful enough to pick out any details of its surface.

But with ingenuity, astronomers have learned a lot just by staring intently at the point of light. Specific colors in the light point to the composition of its surface and thin atmosphere. By measuring how it brightened and dimmed during eclipses with its moon, Charon, scientists have even created a rough map of its surface.

"We know quite a bit in general," said John Stansberry, an astronomer at the Steward Observatory in Tucson, "but we don't know a lot in particular."

In the public limelight, Pluto has recently been the subject of a custody battle between astronomers who say it should be counted among the Kuiper Belt objects - a ring of icy rocks beyond the orbit of Neptune that failed to coalesce into a larger planet - and those who attack any efforts to diminish Pluto's status as the ninth planet.

The debate boils down to what is a planet and what is not, a seemingly straightforward concept with no precise definition. Beyond semantics, planetary scientists care about Pluto because, like comets, it may be made of many of the same materials as the primordial solar system. Together with the thousands of Kuiper Belt objects, Pluto represents a "fossil remnant" of the planet-making process, said Alan Stern, director of space studies at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Here we have, for some reasons we do not understand, a place where accretion was halted in midstep."

Pluto also appears to be a close cousin of Triton, one of the large moons of Neptune, and some hypothesize that other, large Pluto-like bodies remain hidden farther out in the Kuiper Belt.

Despite its distance from the sun - 2.8 billion miles and growing - Pluto is not just an unchanging, frozen iceball. Its polar caps wax and wane over the decades. There are suspicions that although the atmosphere is thin, winds blow at up to a couple hundred miles an hour. Planetary scientists desperately want a closer look at Pluto, and NASA's off-and-on plans to send a mission there are on again, at least for the moment.

After canceling its own efforts in 2000, NASA in November chose a team led by the Southwest Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, to design, build and operate a reconnaissance mission to Pluto at a cost of $546 million.

Just a decade ago, Pluto was regarded as a single oddball at the fringe of the solar system of little scientific interest. The first Kuiper Belt object was seen in 1992 and hundreds more have been catalogued since, a wide expanse of unexplored real estate. After years of exploring the inner solar system and the gas giants, "this is a mission to reconnoiter the third geographic region of the solar system," said Mr. Stern, the mission's lead investigator. Pluto, he said, has moved in scientific importance "from footnote to center stage."

Called New Horizons, the spacecraft would be launched in January 2006 and would take a decade to travel to its destination to explore Pluto, Charon and a couple of the Kuiper Belt bodies. Congress provided $30 million in this year's budget for preliminary work, but the administration's budget plans for 2003 and beyond do not include any money for actually building and flying the mission.

"I'm glad it's getting started," said Marc Buie, an astronomer at Lowell. "I think it's a travesty it takes this long to get to this point." He added, "On the other hand, we can't kick a gift horse in the mouth."

Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the uncertainty was familiar to Pluto researchers. "The analogy a lot of us give is it's like Lucy holding the football," he said, referring to the "Peanuts" comic strip character who inevitably jerks away the football just as Charlie Brown tries to kick it. "Once again," Mr. Binzel said, "the football is there."

Origins of AIDS Remain Murky


Copyright 2001 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

Origins of AIDS Remain Murky
Gina Kolata New York Times Service
Thursday, January 31, 2002

NEW YORK For several years now, Beatrice Hahn and George 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 demonstrated, AIDS viruses do not behave according to expectations. The investigation began when they 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.

The evidence was three captive chimpanzees, all infected with a virus closely resembling the one that causes AIDS and all of a subspecies, Pan troglodytes troglodytes, that lives in west-central Africa. So, scientists hypothesized, AIDS originated there.

Investigators also found a fourth captive chimpanzee that was infected with a genetically distinct AIDS-like virus. No one knew where this animal came from, but Dr. Hahn and others said it must be from somewhere other than west-central Africa - its virus was just too different from the one in the other three animals.

"We had four chimp viruses, three that were closely related to each other and to the human strains," Dr. Hahn said. "And they were different from a fourth strain. So we said, obviously, the west-central African chimps were the likely source" of the human AIDS virus.

But some scientists looked askance. "Some said: Four chimps are not a lot. You don't know what happens in the wild," Dr. Hahn recalled. So she and her colleagues set out to find a way to detect AIDS-like viruses in wild chimps.

Dr. Hahn and Dr. Shaw were pretty certain what they would find - widespread infection with a virus that resembles the AIDS virus but does not make chimpanzees ill. After all, they reasoned, there must be a reservoir of infected chimpanzees if the virus had passed to people. The captive chimpanzees that were infected had not become ill. And researchers have found that other animals - such as wild cats, including cheetahs, lions, ocelots and pumas - have their own AIDS-like viruses, are widely infected with the viruses, but do not become ill.

It seemed that wild cats had somehow learned to live with the virus and not get sick. But domestic cats, new victims for the virus, were defenseless and quickly succumbed. Others were discovering the same pattern in primates, looking in the wild at monkeys that were not endangered, even kept as pets, and also examining captive animals.

At least 20 species of African primates are infected with, but seemingly unaffected by, AIDS-like viruses. Asian monkeys, in contrast, were not infected. But when Asian monkeys in research laboratories were given the African monkey viruses - either deliberately by researchers who were studying the viruses or accidentally because they were in cages with African monkeys - the Asian monkeys contracted a disease that looked like AIDS.

"African primates all carry their own little viruses," said Jonathan Allan, a virologist at the Southwestern Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio. "In some species, the viruses have been there for thousands of years. And the natural host never gets sick."

With this background, the challenge for Dr. Hahn and Dr. Shaw was to find a way to look for AIDS-like viruses in wild chimpanzees, which are a protected and endangered species. It is illegal to capture them or even to anesthetize them and take their blood. They discovered that they could find identifying traces of the virus in feces and urine. They tested their methods, first with human feces and urine and then with feces and urine from chimpanzees in captivity.

Then it was time to go into the wild, working with primatologists who study chimpanzees so closely that they know each animal in a colony. That allowed the researchers to trace every sample to a specific animal, to verify suspected infections by looking at more than one sample from an animal, and to observe whether infected animals were ill.

The primatologists collected urine and feces from 58 chimpanzees from colonies in the Taei Forest, a national park in Ivory Coast, in Kibale National Park in Uganda, and in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and shipped the material to Dr. Hahn and her colleagues. None of the chimpanzee communities where primatologists spent years observing the animals included the subspecies, Pan troglodytes troglodytes, but the researchers expected that most chimpanzees, no matter where they lived, would be infected with AIDS-like viruses.

But, to the investigators' surprise, only one animal was infected, a healthy 23-year-old male from Gombe. And he had a virus that did not resemble the human AIDS virus. It was, instead, like the virus isolated previously from the captive chimpanzee of unknown origin. The scientists reported their results in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal Science.

Other AIDS experts were equally astonished. "It's quite incredible," said Edward Holmes of Oxford University.

There are three possible explanations, he added. There may be widely infected chimpanzee populations, but they are so isolated that they did not spread their infection to other chimpanzees. Or chimpanzee populations that once harbored the virus have gone extinct, possibly because they were hunted and eaten and their habitat was destroyed by development. Or, most puzzling of all, perhaps there really is very little infection in chimpanzees.

But, scientists ask, if infected chimps are so scarce, how did the virus jump to humans? The scientists know, from looking at genetic variants of human AIDS, that the virus infected humans on at least several occasions before becoming a full-fledged epidemic.

Space Science news from NASA HQ...

From: Jack Kolb

Centaurus Cluster Vast Hot Gas Plume May Be A Passing Attraction - a new Chandra image, of intergalactic gas with the mass of a billion suns. How did it form?


NYTimes.com Article: Seeking a Role for Religion on Campus

Seeking a Role for Religion on Campus

February 2, 2002


BELCHERTOWN, Mass., Feb. 1 - David K. Scott believes the modern university has lost its way in a world crying out for attention to values and spiritual concerns.

Mr. Scott said he feared that constitutional prohibitions against promoting religion had been used to effectively banish religion from public universities, or at least to "ghettoize" religion in departments where it can be safely ignored by those who do not study it.

A former research physicist who until last spring was chancellor of the University of Massachusetts flagship campus in Amherst, Mr. Scott, 61, comes to this view from an unusual background.

His boyhood in the Orkney Islands off Scotland gave him an instinctive feel for some of the big questions people have always grappled with, he said in a recent interview at his home here, next door to Amherst.

"If you grow up on a small island, there is a sense of everything being connected," Mr. Scott said.

His career includes studying and teaching at Oxford, directing scientific research at two leading nuclear science laboratories and, as provost, overseeing academic affairs at Michigan State University.

Since stepping down from his chancellor post, Mr. Scott has devoted some of his time to compiling essays coming out of a conference he held two years ago called "Going Public with Spirituality in Work and Higher Education."

Diane Chapman Walsh, the president of Wellesley College who held a similar conference two years earlier, said Mr. Scott "has become a leader in a growing movement that believes that we need to redefine the role of religion and spirituality in higher education."

Mr. Scott, who is on leave, will join the Massachusetts faculty in September. His writing and activism in trying to create what he calls the "transrational" or "integrative" university raised some hackles, said David Schimmel, a professor of educational policy. Those opposing his ideas included people who felt that they wasted time and resources and people who felt that any weakening of the barriers between church and state was dangerous.

As one of the more vocal skeptics, Professor Schimmel was invited to join the organizing committee of Mr. Scott's spirituality conference, where the professor successfully lobbied to invite the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen, and Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum, a nonprofit group that promotes press and religious freedom.

Mr. Scott acknowledges that anyone seeking to introduce a spiritual perspective into public education will encounter resistance.

"It takes some nerve to bring these matters up," he said, "but I found that if you do, there is a tremendous reservoir of people within academia who are looking for these ideas."

His only regret, he said, is that he did not start talking about them earlier in his career. "You would never have heard me use the word `spirituality' at Michigan State," Mr. Scott said. "Maybe it was a failure of nerve or maybe I felt it would have been counterproductive."

Now Mr. Scott talks about ideas like turning an abandoned chapel in on campus into "a center for a new community." He envisions it as a place where people of different faiths could gather to "find out what they have in common and to explore how to incorporate these ideas into the curriculum."

Mr. Scott helped establish a campus office, financed by a grant, devoted to what he calls promoting contemplative practice, which he compares to meditation or prayer. He says he can foresee a day when entire departments gather for extended periods of silent meditation.

For more than a year now, meditation sessions have been offered on campus twice a week.

Mr. Scott said he would like to see universities revamp the general education requirement to include courses and activities that challenge students to think about "how to live, how to be with each other, how to be in the universe."

His own beliefs are influenced by his Presbyterian upbringing, and he is currently concerned with identifying and appreciating commonalities among the world's religions. A yearning for a deeper sense of spirituality was building on the campus for a long time, said Mr. Scott, who added, "I provided it some legitimacy through the imprimatur of the chancellor's office."

Mr. Haynes, of the First Amendment Center, said recently that as a constitutional scholar he had no quarrel with the idea that "religion has a place in the public square." But he said he was concerned when he heard people use "slippery and confusing definitions of spirituality to do an end run around some of the tough questions raised by the Constitution."

There is a danger, Mr. Haynes said, that when a public institution seems to be embracing religion, people within it will, in effect, say, "Let's let in the kind of spirituality that we like and keep out the dogmatic people who might spoil the party."

He said he worried that "when government gets into the religion business," people who already have strong religious convictions stand to be excluded from "the marketplace of ideas" intended by the Constitution.

Mr. Scott responds that by clinging to a view of the Constitution that interprets a prohibition against fostering particular religions as a prohibition against fostering any kind of religion, universities tend to drive people into extreme camps with rationalists on one side and fundamentalists on the other.

Instead he said he would like to see public universities embrace spirituality as an antidote to the polarizing and fragmenting effect of shunning religion altogether.

Mr. Scott's wife, Kathleen, a scholar of medieval texts, could probably be included as one of the skeptics when it comes to her husband's ideas about religion and the university.

"I'm a bone dry academic," she said. "It will be interesting to see where he goes with all of this."


Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Woman sues church for lying about Second Coming

A Utah woman has won $270,000 in a lawsuit against a fundamentalist church when their promise that she would witness the Second Coming of Christ and meet Jesus in the flesh if she gave them 67 acres of her farm and shares of water rights worth $270,000, did not materialize.

And what says the Church? They say their requirement to pay for the land is religious persecution.

Ananova 30-Jan-02


Bush Names Jim Towey Head of `Faith-Based' Initiative Office

By Holly Rosenkrantz


Washington, Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush tapped Jim Towey to direct his effort to help religious charities obtain government money for social programs, and urged Congress to pass a bill carrying out one of his top domestic priorities.

A lawyer for Mother Theresa for 12 years, Towey lived for a year as a full-time volunteer in her home for people with AIDS in Washington. He replaces John DiIulio, who resigned last summer.

Towey's appointment comes as Bush's so-called ``faith-based initiative'' has stalled in the Senate. Opponents say it violates the separation of church and state and is an affront to civil rights. Bush said the bill is needed to make sure religious charities aren't denied federal funds available to secular groups.

``Since the attacks of Sept. 11, it has become obvious to everyone how essential the community and faith-based groups are to the well-being of our nation,'' Bush said today. ``They have helped heal the nation's wounds.''

The House last year passed a scaled-back version of Bush's proposal to expand the right of religious charities to compete for government grants to provide services such as crime prevention and job training. The legislation also seeks to increase charitable giving by allowing taxpayers who don't itemize to deduct charitable donations.

In the Senate, Democrats object to a provision that allows the groups to refuse to hire people of different religions.

Talks are under way for a compromise that wouldn't allow protection against bias lawsuits, while still allowing some tax incentives for their donors and technical help when they seek federal funds. House Republicans haven't said they would accept a watered-down version, and Bush might not sign it.

Supporters of Bush's measure say an exemption from federal anti-bias laws long has existed for religious groups so they can hire clergy and staff of their faiths.

Bush today appealed for legislators to resolve their differences and send him the measure. ``There are things more important than political party,'' he said.

Battleground God


Can your beliefs about religion make it across our intellectual battleground?

In this activity you'll be asked a series of 17 questions about God and religion. In each case, apart from Question 1, you need to answer True or False. The aim of the activity is not to judge whether these answers are correct or not. Our battleground is that of rational consistency. This means to get across without taking any hits, you'll need to answer in a way which is rationally consistent. What this means is you need to avoid choosing answers which contradict each other. If you answer in a way which is rationally consistent but which has strange or unpalatable implications, you'll be forced to bite a bullet.

Of course, you may go along with thinkers such as Kierkegaard and believe that religious belief does not need to be rationally consistent. But that takes us beyond the scope of this activity, which is about the extent to which your beliefs are rationally consistent, not whether this is a good or a bad thing.

Spiritual sites attract larger flock

By Lisa M. Bowman
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
January 30, 2002, 11:10 AM PT


After his morning commute but before he embarks on a hectic day as a health care worker, Robert Turner flips on his computer and gets a small slice of spirituality.

First, he encounters the "God is Light" screensaver he downloaded from the Interviewwithgod.com site. Then he reads a daily inspiration from a Web page designed to deepen his devotion.

"I can focus on the Lord first," Turner, 43, a father of four living outside of Charleston, S.C., said of his quick morning ritual. "I start my day that way. It's kind of symbolic."

In today's go-go world of Blackberries and instant messaging, the notion of a virtual religious experience is catching on with many people--from the churchgoer such as Turner, who augments weekly services and daily prayers with an injection of daily cyber-scripture, to the agnostic Generation Xer considering a less traditional approach to spirituality.

In fact, legions of the deeply faithful and the merely curious are logging onto religious sites at an increasing pace. Whether to study a religion, learn meditation, or find a like-minded mate, people are scouring the Web for spiritual information.

A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that one in four Web surfers looks for religious content. Last week, research firm Jupiter Media Metrix noted that more spiritual sites are showing up on its most-popular list. Also last week, the Pope devoted an entire speech to the prospects and dangers of the Web while urging his followers to get wired.

Religious options on the Web are seemingly as vast as the medium itself. Mom-and-pop operations post daily meditations and screen movies for "objectionable" content. Religion-specific portals including IslamiCity, Torah.net and Hindu Universe provide online communities and answer questions about faith. Wiccan and pagan chat rooms are bursting at the seams.

What's more, religion-specific dating services such as JDate , a Jewish site boasting 300,000 members, sponsor singles events and link those looking for love in cities from New York to San Francisco.

And large nondenominational sites such as Beliefnet have taken online religion to a new level, providing meditation guides, prayer circles, columns and daily news--while trying to make a few bucks in the process.

The Web's ability to provide individualized, anonymous, immediate gratification is transforming spirituality as we know it--allowing people to post questions they might be afraid to ask in person, or to explore a religion outside of the mainstream.

"It's clear that the Web is a profoundly useful tool for people who are interested in spiritual matters," said Steve Waldman, who founded Beliefnet. "The Web enables you to explore other people's faith or your own faith safely."

Show of faith A surprisingly large number of spiritual sites are volunteer efforts.

Steven Greydanus estimates he spends about 25 hours a week reviewing films and posting information on Decentfilms , his volunteer site that filters movies through a Christian lens. "It was something I wish someone else would do, but no one else was doing it," he said.

Greydanus' wife uses the Web to get information, both secular and religious, for homeschooling his three children.

One of the most popular spiritual sites of late is Interviewwithgod.com, which posts movies that pair serene songs and scenes of mountains, woods and deer with scripture passages. Creator Scott Kinney launched the site last summer; he said traffic soared after President Bush gave a Nov. 8 speech, in which he noted that victims of the Flight 93 crash had said the Lord's Prayer before the plane went down. A day earlier, Kinney had posted a new movie called "The Lord's Prayer."

Kinney said his traffic soon began doubling nearly every day. In December, his site attracted 617,000 visitors, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. Kinney, who works for an Arkansas-based Christian greeting-card company affiliated with Hallmark, said the growth is mainly the result of word-of-mouth promotion, something that's surprised him as much as anyone.

"I wanted to be able to provide something to people as a tool, as a comfort," he said, adding that he learned "if you provide something that really connects with people, you don't have to tell a soul. They'll come to you."

The popularity of spiritual sites is good news for modern-day religions, said Tom Beaudoin, an adjunct professor at Boston College's theology department and author of "Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X."

"It still means people are hungry. It still means people are curious," Beaudoin said.

He added the growth of online spirituality mirrors the growth of spirituality in popular culture.

"These days, spirituality is something that's highly personal, usually noninstitutional and something that someone cuts and pastes from different aspects of different religions," he said. "The Web is perfectly positioned to cater to that."

However, Beaudoin said it's unlikely virtual spirituality will replace real-world congregations anytime soon. "This is a technology, unlike the architecture of a church, that encourages aloneness," he said of the Internet. "If all you have is the Web, then you don't have a fully human experience of the spiritual life."

Textbooks peddle Jesus myths as "history" in California schools

From: The Textbook League ttl@textbookleague.org

I have begun an analysis of how Jesus and the origin of Christianity are presented in three textbooks that have been approved by the California State Board of Education. These textbooks are now being used in California schools.

All three books were adopted -- for use in grade 6 -- during California's textbook-adoption proceedings of 1998-1999. Those proceedings dealt with instructional materials in history and social studies. The "1998-99 Adoption Report" issued at the conclusion of the proceedings alleges that all of the adopted materials were examined by a "Content Review Panel" (CRP) composed of "scholars," and that the scholars examined the materials for "accuracy." The report's introductory material includes an "Acknowledgements" [_sic_] section in which gratitude is extended to the CRP scholars for helping to ensure that the instructional resources were "accurate and based on current and confirmed research."

The three books to which I have given attention are:

Ancient Civilizations
copyright 2000 by Harcourt Brace & Company
Ancient World
copyright 2000 by McGraw-Hill School Division
A Message of Ancient Days
copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
I have examined the student's edition of each book, and think that some members of this newsgroup will be interested in my initial observations. Here they are:
In every book, the material about Jesus and the origin of Christianity fails to reflect, in any way, the research and findings of 20th-century scholars.

No book mentions the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In every book, the material about Jesus and the origin of Christianity consists of myth-mongering and pseudohistory. It lacks any connection to historical scholarship, and it clearly has been fashioned for the purpose of religious indoctrination.
In every book, the material about Jesus and the origin of Christianity is rife with devices of deception. These include word-tricks, half-truths, undeniable falsehoods, and the use of selective omission to mislead students.
Every book cites the New Testament -- but no book describes the New Testament in any meaningful way, and no book presents any scholarly information about the origins of the four canonized gospels that constitute the New Testament.
No book mentions the other gospels -- the gospels that exist but don't appear in the New Testament.
No book distinguishes the Jesus of history from the myth-Jesus described in the four canonized gospels.
Every book depicts the myth-Jesus of the New Testament as a real person.
Every book depicts the New Testament as a record of history.
Every book explicitly retails New Testament myths as historical events.
Two books (A Message of Ancient Days and Ancient World) explicitly refer to the material in the New Testament as "the" story of Jesus. This locution necessarily leads students to believe that the New Testament is a coherent, unitary document from which a single story ("the" story) of Jesus can be extracted. The writers have thus covered up a fact that is known to anyone who actually has read the New Testament: Because the canonized gospels sometimes contradict each other outright, they cannot be fused into a single story.
Two books (A Message of Ancient Days and Ancient World) use misleading locutions (such as "According to") to create the impression that the tales in the New Testament are reliable sources of historical information.
One book (Ancient World) presents an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke and explicitly tells students that the Gospel of Luke is a "primary source."
Those are my initial observations. I shall undertake closer analyses of the individual books as soon as I find some time for doing so.

Bill Bennetta

Mayor banishes Satan from Inglis

Copies of a proclamation announcing the ban are stuffed into fence posts at the four entrances to town.


St. Petersburg Times,
published November 29, 2001


INGLIS -- The words just flowed from Carolyn Risher's pen as she sat at the kitchen table Halloween night. She wrote fast, ignoring commas and periods.

When the Inglis mayor finished, she put the fierce rhetoric down on official town stationery complete with gold seal.

"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."

Friday, February 01, 2002

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 - February 1, 2002

from The Washington Post

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31 -- For the first time, researchers have shown that children who breathe heavily polluted air are much more likely to develop asthma, according to a decade-long study released today.

The scientists said the study is the strongest evidence yet that smog can not only aggravate existing childhood asthma, which has reached epidemic proportions among American youth, but may actually be one cause of the life-threatening disease.

Asthma is now the leading serious chronic illness among youth, afflicting about 9 million children, and it causes not only suffering, but millions of lost hours at school and at work for parents who must nurse sick kids. Asthma sufferers feel their lungs constrict and experience, during their episodes, each new breath as if drawn through a narrow straw.


from The New York Times

Researchers say they have taken a step toward developing a novel source of embryonic stem cells, the all-purpose cells that biologists hope to use in repairing human tissues. The new method may avoid the usual controversy over the use of embryos, because the stem cells are derived from embryos that seem to have no chance of going to term.

The new source is the unfertilized eggs that can be harvested from ovaries. The idea is to trick an egg into dividing as if it had been fertilized by a sperm. When the egg has developed into an early embryo, scientists derive embryonic stem cells, which could be converted into particular body tissues for use in patients.

The embryonic stem cells studied so far have been derived from the leftover embryos generated in fertility clinics. Because the procedure requires killing the embryo, abortion opponents object to the research.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 - Partners in the International Space Station released guidelines today dictating who could visit the outpost: tourists and other nonastronauts are welcome, but not if they are drug abusers, alcoholics or guilty of "notoriously disgraceful conduct."

The five major partners in the project, made up of the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe, released a nine-page document that they said had been in the works for two years.

The "ISS Crew Criteria Document" lacked specifics about medical and training requirements, essentially leaving these details to each partner.

W. Michael Hawes, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration official who helped draft the rules, said the partners were aware of the spirit as well as the letter of the agreement. He said the simple appearance of the agreement was a credit to the negotiators.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

California could become the first state to try easing global warming by limiting carbon dioxide emissions from cars if a bill approved this week by the state Assembly becomes law.

The bill would give the Air Resources Board until January 2004 to adopt regulations that achieve the "maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction" of carbon dioxide from cars and light trucks.

Critics called it an exercise in environmental extremism and warned that the law might inconvenience some state motorists by forcing cars off the road.

"This bill gives the Air Resources Board -- a group of unelected bureaucrats -- the ability to create sweeping regulations in less than two years," said Minority Leader Dave Cox.


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February 1, 2002 -- WHAT do you do if you're not into football?

Well, if you are dead, or have dead friends and relatives, you can instead watch John Edward bring Anne Rice's dead daughter back for a reading right inside Rice's spooky New Orleans manse.

Now, really, you can't beat that with a stick. Or a football helmet.

At first I was concerned to see the celebs. I mean, let's be honest. As soon as successful shows start bringing on celebrities, you may as well get the shark out, because this is usually a signal that this is a show that's about to jump the shark, (as in drown, tank, buy the farm, drop off the radar screen).

Bringing out the celebs on game shows or dramatic shows is usually the equivalent of producers taking the sitcom family on a trip to Hawaii. (Not that it didn't work for "The Brady Bunch.")

But bringing out the big guns doesn't always bring up the ratings. Think "Celebrity Millionaire." Not that "Celebrity Spotlight" segments are new for "Crossing Over With John Edward," but this time, it's an hour-long special.

In addition to Rice, Edward reads this Sunday for Roma Downey and Ricki Lake. Talk about the big "who cares?" I'd rather watch Rita from Wantagh "connect" with her dead brother's friend then a celebrity.

First off, what about celebrities lives is not already out there and available to anyone with an Internet connection?

But when you bring on the queen of the undead to commune with the definitely dead, you've created something truly, well, super. Especially for fans of Rice - who are legion.

In addition to supposedly connecting with Rice's daughter who died as a child from leukemia, medium Edward tells her that the child, Michelle, is surrounded by swirling colors. Rice almost drops dead herself at this point.

It turns out that Michelle was the model for little Claudia in "Interview With A Vampire" and, in the poster for the book, Michelle posed with colors swirling all around her.

Now the problem with all this is that surely the story that her own daughter was the model for the character is probably well known.

And the poster? Well, since it was for this mega-best selling book, the poster's also a well-known entity (no ghostly pun intended).

It's when Rice's son, Chris, connects with his best friend who committed suicide that this show goes further above reproach. For one thing, the friend says Chris wants to move to California.

Chris admits after the reading that just the night before he broached that very subject with his parents for the first time.

And yes, he's going. And no, nobody except the kid and his parents supposedly knew.

Rice fans (the author not the food) and Edward groupies will be in, er, heaven.

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