NTS LogoSkeptical News for 9 February 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, February 09, 2002

Galaxy is 'stuck in reverse' - Your News from Ananova

Astronomers have found a spiral galaxy which is spinning in the wrong direction.

The spiral arms of galaxies usually trail behind but the Hubble telescope has revealed that two arms of one point forward.

Astronomers think the unusual structure may have been caused by a crash with a smaller galaxy.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_516253.html

Rabbi Says Kill Gays


Rabbi Says Gays Should Die
Thursday, 7th February 2002

A leading Jewish cleric has called for homosexuals to be killed. The statements have come in the week that members of leading lesbian and gay groups are to meet Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Rabbi David Batzri told the Israeli Ma`ariv newspaper that homosexuals should be "put to death" according to Jewish religious law.

Batzri added: "Homosexuals and lesbians are not only a sickness, they are an abomination which should be removed from every city in the country, also from those districts where they feel protected, like in Tel Aviv."

Batzri's comments have caused outrage.

Reform Rabbi Uri Regev said, "the only abomination here are the words of Batzri, and not the existence of homosexuals and lesbians, who are part of the world created by the will of God".

Batzri's remarks follow news that members of the Political Council for Gay Rights in Israel will meet with prime minister Ariel Sharon next week. It is the first time such a gathering has taken place.

The meeting follows a discussion with president Moshe Katzav last year. PCGRI representative Menahem Shizaf said: "We see those meetings with the president and prime minister as an accomplishment and an important message to the public."

Faith school rebels defeated

The government has defeated the biggest backbench rebellion this Parliament, over plans to promote further faith schools in England.

An alliance of Labour backbenchers and Liberal Democrats was voted down by a margin of 405 votes to 87 in the Commons on Wednesday.

A total of 45 Labour backbenchers rebelled against the government stance but ministers still secured the overwhelming majority, helped by Conservative support.

The government is committed to creating more faith schools, where there is demand from parents - a policy that was challenged by Labour rebels led by former health secretary Frank Dobson.

Mr Dobson put forward an amendment to the Education Bill which would have limited the selection rights of schools with religious affiliations.

This would have required faith schools to offer at least a quarter of places to children of another or no religion, with the aim of creating greater inclusivity and lessening the risk of social division.

But the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, said this argument for quotas and limits was deeply flawed and was scapegoating faith schools for problems that lay in society rather than in the education system.

The selection of pupils according to religion was not acceptable when places were funded by all taxpayers, Mr Dobson told the House of Commons.

"If you were to substitute race or colour for the word 'religion', it would be unacceptable," said Mr Dobson.

He used the example of the disturbances outside the Holy Cross primary school in Belfast to show how segregated schooling can aggravate conflicts.

Appealing to parents

Rejecting the amendment, Estelle Morris said that faith schools benefited from "shared values, a sense of purpose and a sense of mission".

And the head teachers of such successful schools should not be denied the right to maintain such an ethos, she said.

In mainstream schools there were many examples where almost all the pupils were Muslim or white - and she said that if similar strictures on mixed intake were imposed on all schools, this raised the prospect of bussing pupils and racial quotas.

And she attacked the linking of faith schools to the type of social divisions made apparent by riots involving Asian youths in northern towns last year.

Faith schools should not be "made a scapegoat for all the ills in a multicultural society".

But in defending the selection rights of faith schools, she also indicated little interest in promoting their expansion.

Ms Morris told MPs she would not be "spending one minute of my time or one ounce of energy going out there and promoting more faith schools".


Also speaking against the amendment, the Shadow Education Secretary Damian Green attacked the "unfair denigration" of faith schools.

And he made "the simple, pragmatic observation that the church school is often the good school".

For many parents, he said, the only chance of a good education was through their local faith school.

As evidence, he cited this week's annual chief inspector's report on schools, in which over a third of the most successful schools identified by Ofsted were faith schools.

Faith schools were often academically successful and popular with parents and so should be able to expand, he said.

And the "hugely damaging" amendment would not "improve the education of a single child", he said.

Mr Green also defended the right of the Muslim community to have their own schools and reflected on how impressed he had been by his own visits to Muslim state schools.

Socially diverse

The amendment was also criticised by Labour MPs, who defended the record of social inclusivity of faith schools.

There were arguments that faith schools were often more racially and socially diverse than mainstream state schools, which take pupils from a narrow catchment area.

Paul Goggins said that already in Roman Catholic schools an average of 20% of pupils were non-Catholics.

And he criticised the logic of a proposal that would mean "Jewish children would be turned away from Jewish schools".

There were also claims that in the northern towns affected by riots involving Asian youths last year, the least racially integrated schools were often mainstream state schools.

Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesperson, said the amendment was not an attack on church schools, but an attempt to make them more inclusive.

"If faith schools are excellent, they should be available to all pupils," he said.

But Mr Willis's support for the amendment was dismissed by the shadow education secretary, as showing that the Liberal Democrats were now "the Labour party circa 1975".

'Distinctive ethos'

The government has a longstanding commitment to developing faith schools as a successful example of diversity within the state school system.

And it has argued that the "distinctive ethos" of faith schools has helped them to succeed academically and to make them attractive to parents.

The Education Bill would be likely to lead to a particular increase in the number of Church of England secondary schools - and would open the way to more faith schools of other denominations.

There are currently Church of England, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Greek Orthodox faith schools.


Debunking Seeing Without Sight

A Russian girl accepts James Randi's $1 million challenge to prove she has paranormal powers


Leon Jaroff, Time
Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2002

Ashen-faced and weeping, ten-year-old Natalia Lulova sat dejectedly in a Manhattan law office last week while her mother stroked her hair, consoling her. Natalia, who with her family emigrated from Russia three years ago and now lives in Brooklyn, had just failed to win a million dollar prize offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal, supernatural or occult power. It was still another of the seemingly endless setbacks to purveyors of the paranormal.

Natalia's claim, put forth by her lawyer, was that she could both read and discern colors while blindfolded. How? By sheer mental perception. She had willingly submitted to the Million Dollar Challenge, a test proposed by investigator James Randi and agreed to by her lawyer and by her coach, Mark Komissarov, a Russian chemical engineer and expatriate who now specializes in teaching pupils to develop what he considers to be their innate paranormal powers.

While video cameras rolled, Natalia's mother covered her daughter's eyes, first with black duct tape, and later with a black, sponge rubber blindfold. During the nearly hour-long "warmup" period that followed, her coach, occasionally speaking to her in Russian, passed a series of cards, each imprinted with a simple word, and sheets of colored paper in front of her. Natalia strained, turning her head from side to side, tilting it forward, grimacing, contorting her face, occasionally rubbing her chin against one shoulder or the other, and calling out words and colors.

Finally, she pronounced herself ready. How many of the ten words would she recognize, she was asked. "All ten," she said confidently, and then proceeded to do so, as well as correctly identifying the colors of paper sheets passed in front of her face. As the blindfold was removed, Natalia could not hide a triumphant smile. A miracle? Not so fast.

Now it was Randi's turn to test. He outfitted Natalia with a pair of swimmer's goggles, the lenses blocked by sponge rubber and aluminum foil, and asked Komissarov again to demonstrate his pupil's talents. After another warmup, and under close scrutiny by Randi, Natalia was successful once more. Undaunted, Randi placed duct tape around the edges of the blindfold, taking care to place an extra strip across the bridge of Natalia's nose. "Please speak only in English," he admonished both coach and pupil, "and Natalia, please do not rub or pull on your face" (actions that Randi knew were intended to loosen the masking tape). Suddenly, Natalia's powers vanished. Time and again, she flubbed her identifications of words and colors. After more than an hour, her lawyer conceded defeat.

Randi's explanation of Natalia's earlier success was simple. He had noticed an unusual concavity in the bridge of her nose and discerned, from the sideways turning of her head, that she was using her right eye to look left — or the left eye to look right — through tiny, hairline gaps between the blindfold and her distinctive nose. By placing duct tape over the bridge, he had, so to speak, unmasked Natalia's (and Komissarov's) deception.

For many years, as a master debunker of the paranormal, Randi had offered $1,000 and then $10,000 to anyone who could, in a test agreed upon by both Randi and the challenger, prove supernatural powers. But five years ago, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur and admirer of Randi called and said, in effect, "Ten thousand simply doesn't cut it these days." He promptly dispatched a million dollars to Randi's foundation, which purchased negotiable bonds and placed them in a special account where they await the first successful challenger. It promises to be a long wait.

Most of the challengers to date have been minor players in the world of the paranormal: a nurse who practices therapeutic touch, assorted dowsers, medical quacks and psychic readers. All have failed. But despite Randi's specific challenge to several of the big guns, none has risked being exposed. Among those who have refused are Israeli psychic Uri Geller, French chemist and mystical homeopathy buff Jacques Benveniste, "Crossing Over" host John Edward and University of Arizona scientist Gary Schwartz, who claims to have validated Edward's claims that he hears from the dead. Noted psychic Sylvia Browne, who months ago brashly promised on the Larry King show that she would indeed take the Million Dollar Challenge, has since avoided Randi's calls and has yet to be heard from.

What are they afraid of? Charlatans, fakirs, mystics, and dreamers alike, they are all too aware that James Randi's meticulously-devised tests can destroy their reputations, such as they are, and make fools of them all.

Global Warming: Earth can EXPLODE !!!


The REAL danger for our entire civilization comes not from slow climate changes, but from overheating the planetary interior.

Galileo discovered that Earth moves. Copernicus discovered that Earth moves around the Sun. In 2000 Tom Chalko, inspired by Desmarquet's report, discovered that the solid nucleus of our planet is a nuclear reactor and that our collective ignorance may cause it to overheat and explode. The discovery, verified by experts in many disciplines of science, has been published in June 2001 by the new scientific journal NUJournal.net.

Polar ice caps melt not because the air there is warmer than 0 deg Celsius, but because they are overheated from UNDERNEATH. Volcanoes become active and erupt violently not because the Earth's interior "crystallizes" as it is currently believed, but because the planetary nucleus is a nuclear fission reactor that needs COOLING..

The current doctrine of a "crystalline inner core of Earth" is more dangerous for humanity than all weapons of mass destruction taken together, because it prevents us from imagining, predicting and preventing truly global disasters.

In any nuclear reactor, the danger of overheating has to be recognized early. When external symptoms intensify it is too late to prevent disaster. Do we have enough imagination, intelligence and integrity to comprehend the danger before the situation becomes irreversible? Did you see the figure above?

If we do not do anything TODAY about Greenhouse Emissions that cause the entire atmosphere to trap more Solar Heat, we will not survive THE NEXT DECADE. In a systematically under-cooled spherical core reactor the cumulative cause-effect relationship is HYPERBOLIC and leads to explosion. There will be no second chance...

If you doubt whether a planet can explode - you need to see a witness report of a planetary explosion in our Solar system. Plato (428-348 BC) reported that the explosion of the planet Phaeton had been perceived by our ancestors on Earth to be as bright as lightning...

We apologize for making this message pop up in front of your eyes, but the matter is URGENT. Please forward this page (or the link to it) to ANY scientist or person of integrity whom you know. Our ONLY chance is to UNDERSTAND and PROVE to everyone what will happen if we do not change our attitude to atmospheric pollution. Avoid the mass media - they are controlled by those who run the "economy" and are interested in keeping humanity misinformed to the greatest extent possible.

Withholding, distorting or otherwise interfering with the Truth about the Planetary Core is a Crime Against Humanity - one of the greatest crimes that man can commit. Please copy and print this page and this article before they will become assassinated.

Money cannot save the Planet.
Only Understanding can.
Focus on Understanding. It cannot be undone.

Explanation in 18 languages is available at

P.S. The ability to Understand is called INTELLIGENCE.

DISCLAIMER: we have nothing to do with e-mail spamming campaign that totally misrepresents us. Use your intelligence.

God and Dr. Pepper

Dr Pepper under fire; girl says it left out God


COLT -- A 12-year-old Colt girl is asking Christian organizations to boycott Dr Pepper after the soft drink company left off the words "under God" in a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance displayed on more than 40 million cans.

The cans, distributed in 12 states but not in Arkansas, feature a graphic of the Statue of Liberty next to the Dr Pepper logo. Written in white type across a blue background around the top edge of the can are the words "One Nation ... Indivisible."

"I was offended," Alyssa Haynie said. "They totally left God out of it. They cut up the Pledge of Allegiance, and they didn't have that right."

The omission was not a slight on religion, said a Dr Pepper spokesman, but instead an effort to capture a "bipartisan patriotic statement" that reflected the nation's mood after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"We wanted to focus on the message," said Mike Martin, director of Dr Pepper's corporate communications, in the soft drink's Plano, Texas, office. "We felt this was neutral and was understood to be a patriotic message. The last thing on our mind was to offend anybody."

Martin said 41 million cans were distributed Nov. 28 to dealers in 12 states including Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

The soft drink company's next promotion will be May 3, when Dr Pepper releases cans to tie in with the release of the movie Spider-Man.

Alyssa, who is home-schooled by her mother, Lisa Haynie, said she saw the Statue of Liberty can about two weeks ago. She was studying about world religious thoughts at the time.

"I told her about how Christianity was formed and what it was made up of," Lisa Haynie said. "I told how our country is based on Christianity and how we need to take a stand."

Unbeknownst to her parents, Alyssa found Dr Pepper's Internet Web site and sent an e-mail to the company's consumer relations.

"I am [or was] a very enthusiastic fan of your product," she wrote on Jan. 23. "I strongly disapprove of cutting up the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe that this shows disrespect for our country, the founders of our country, the Pledge of Allegiance and, most importantly, our God."

Alyssa included her signature and her age, along with a postscript: "[I'm] not too stupid to miss this intentional omission."

Dr Pepper responded in an e-mail, explaining that the words "under God" wouldn't fit across the can.

"I looked at the can," Alyssa said Friday. "There was room. They could have made the type smaller."

She sent two more e-mails to the company. Her e-mails were not answered.

The Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamyin August of 1892 as a flag salute for children, did not originally include the words "under God." Bellamy also wrote "my flag" in his original work which was later changed to "the flag of the United States of America."

In the early 1950s, the Knights of Columbus began a campaign to include "under God" after "one nation." The group successfully petitioned Congress and after gaining support of President Eisenhower, Congress adopted the "under God" version on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

"We appreciate what Alyssa has done," said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association.

The association is a conservative organization based in Tupelo, Miss., that encourages family values and morals. It was one of several Christian organizations Alyssa wrote to and urged for support of her boycott.

"She has brought this to the attention of the adults. She has opened our eyes," Sharp said.

He said he wants Dr Pepper to admit their mistake. "They left out the most important equation of our country in a time when more and more people are calling to God," he added. "We'd like them to admit their mistake."

Martin said he won't debate with Alyssa over the omission. "In America, people have the freedom to believe what they want to believe," he said. "I think this is much ado about nothing."

Friday, February 08, 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 8, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Radioactive fallout from Soviet atom bomb tests caused genetic mutations in families living nearby, researchers have discovered, but they found no sign that those changes caused harmful health effects in the children of the parents they studied.

The first clear evidence that long-term exposure to high doses of radiation could damage human genetic material is surprising, American scientists say, because no such mutations were found in Japanese survivors of America's atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Soviet scientists tested nuclear weapons during and after World War II near Semipalatinsk, a desert region in what is now the independent nation of Kazakstan.

In a report published today in the journal Science, a research team from Britain, Kazakstan and Finland described results of DNA tests on the members of 40 Soviet families who had received high doses of radiation in fallout from four major Soviet bomb tests between 1949 and 1956.


from The Los Angeles Times

As Olympic speedskaters move to the starting line Saturday for the first of their races, they will be wearing the best that science can offer.

Ditto for the other winter sports that will be showcased in the coming weeks. Even the clunky sport of curling (a kind of shuffleboard on ice) has its innovations.

But the most persistent buzz in Salt Lake City has been about the speedskaters' skintight racing suits, with sports apparel giant Nike leading the way. At first glance, the Nike suit doesn't look much different from any other of the one-piece stretch garments that cover racers from head to skate. But the Nike Swift Skin, as it has been christened, is made up of six kinds of fabric, each designed to enhance a skater's speeds by cutting drag and friction. For instance, a fabric with a slick finish covers the fastest-moving body parts--hands and skates. A mesh fabric on the arms creates a dimpled effect, similar to that of a golf ball, to aid in cutting through the air. All this, so that skaters using the suits can cut mere milliseconds off their times. Those fractions of time, though, could mean the difference between winning and finishing far back in the pack.


from The Washington Post

LONDON, Feb. 7 -- Public health officials reported a dozen new cases of measles this week as Britain's latest health scare -- this time focusing on a vaccine used in 90 countries around the world -- prompted thousands of parents to refuse to allow their children to receive the recommended shot of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

Britain's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, warned today that the country faced a resurgence of the three childhood diseases, and Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the media of "totally irresponsible scaremongering" about the vaccine.

But parents continued to express doubt, and the vaccination rate in some cities was falling sharply, the National Health Service said. Some Britons are having their children vaccinated separately for each of the diseases, a method they believe is safer but that the government calls less effective.

"I know what the government says," said Nuala Garvey, 32, who paid for the separate shots for her toddler at London's Portland Clinic. "And I know the science is unsettled. But I have my own feelings, and that should be respected."


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists have discovered a new type of specialized, light-sensing cell in the eye that keeps the brain's built-in circadian clock running on track.

The new findings outline a previously unknown link between basic physiology and the amount of light in the environment, suggesting a new approach for relieving jet lag, the grind of shift work and maybe even the wintertime blues.

It's long been clear that the amount of light in the environment has a big effect on hormones, mood and many other basic body functions. But how the light cues are gathered and sent to the brain is only now starting to become clear.

"What we've found here is a novel apparatus in the eye to detect light," said neuroscientist Ignacio Provencio, an assistant professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.


from The Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. - At the University of Georgia, home to thousands of students raised on Southern fried chicken, chicken fat is being used in an unusual way: heating the campus. Officials say it's cheap, it's safe - and it doesn't make the town smell like a KFC.

Chicken fat, restaurant grease and similar so-called biofuels could become a good alternative to fuel oil, Georgia scientists say.

In tests over the last few weeks, the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering has used giant steam boilers - converted to burn animal fats - to heat water and buildings on campus.

Tom Adams, the department's outreach coordinator, said the fuel is safer for people and the environment than burning coal and oil, and no one has complained about odor.


from The New York Times

SLIDELL, La. - I can't vouch for the old chestnut about atheists in foxholes. But I do know that there are no pessimists in the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker. When your feet are always wet, optimism is a necessary alternative to dry socks.

This insight occurred to me when I was following Peter McBride scouting out some wet woods in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area here. It was after the third or fourth time I removed my boots to pour a full load of bayou water onto the ground. Mr. McBride, a habitat biologist with a strong, if not irresistible, attraction to swamp water, never even bothered to take his off to drain them. He'd just tilt his foot up and let the water rush out to get on with the search.

At first, I thought this was taking stoicism a bit far. But then I got the point. You don't want to keep raising and then dousing expectations for dry feet. Besides, taking your boots off slows you down.


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

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Boneheaded psychic

Bonehead award three goes to a New Zealand psychic who is so stupid she gives out "lucky Lotto numbers," that are above 40 - the top number, which has only gotten her police attention. But she should have known this would happen.

Of course, we might want to say something about all the people, hundreds, that sent her $100 for her revelations and lottery numbers purely on the basis of her claim to be psychic, but we won't go there.

The New Zealand Truth via Stuff.co.nz 1-Feb-02


News From Prometheus and Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

The foreign-rights division of Prometheus Books has announced that it signed 49 new book contracts in 16 countries in the year 2001. The list of books and countries is below. The countries include Japan, China, Spain (available also in South America), Malaysia, Poland, Korea, Thailand, Russia (available in neighboring Republics), Italy, Perú, Turkey, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Brazil (and Portugal), the United Kingdom, and Taiwan.

All told, over 424 books have been translated into 40 languages in the past 10 years.

Prometheus, now 33 years old, is the largest secular humanism, freethought, and skeptical press in the world.

Antisocial Behavior - Japan - Tuttle-Mori
The Art of Becoming Human - China - Front Publishing
The Art of Becoming Human - Spanish - Panorama
Atheism - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Battling the Inner Dummy - Turkey
Business Ethics - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Caring for the Alzheimer Patient - Spanish - Ediciones Tempora
Caring for the Parkinson Patient - Spanish - Ediciones Tempora
Clear Thinking - Korea - Seokwangsa Publishing Company
Conquering Rheumatoid Arthritis - Spanish - Alfaomega
Culture Wars and the Global Village - China - Guizhou People's Publishing House
Cyberethics - China - Guizhou People's Publish House
Decisions, Decisions - Korea - Book Cosmos
Einstein's Brainchild - Netherlands - Tirion
Einstein's Brainchild - Taiwan
Einstein's Brainchild - Spanish - Aguilar/Grupo Santillana
Einstein's Brainchild - Korea - Yang Moon
Einstein's Brainchild - Portuguese - Editora Perspectiva
The Evil We Do - Chile - Cuatro Vientos Editorial
The Evil We Do - China - Living Psychology Publishers
The Evil We Do - Czech Republic - Redaktor
The Faith Healers - China - Xinhua
Great Essays in Science - Korea - Gummyoungsa Publishers
In the Mind's Eye - Brazil - Angela M.F. Alem
Islamic Mysticism - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
It's Not the Glass Ceiling, It's the Sticky Floor - Korea - Book Cosmos
The Joy of Self-Pleasuring - Korea - Hanul Publishing Company
The Love Songs of Sappho - UK - Chester Music
Manic Depression and Creativity - China - Living Psychology Publishers
The Mask of Nostradamus - China - Xinhua
Michel Foucault's Force of Flight - Turkey - Ayrinti Yayinlari
Old Tales for a New Day - Czech Republic - Redaktor
Philosophy in Crisis - Spanish - Gedisa
Pseudoscience and the Paranormal - China - Xinhua
Qigong - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus - China - Shanghai Copyright
Science Meets Alternative Medicine - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Science vs. Religion - Poland - Graal
Sex without Love - Korea - The Agency
Starry Night - Doubleday Select/Astronomy Book Club
Test Your Science IQ - China - Hai Nam Publishing
Test Your Science IQ - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Test Your Science IQ - Thailand - Kobfai Publishing Project
The Truth about Everything - Russia - Ast Publishers
The Wandering Womb - China - Guizhou Publishing House
The Wandering Womb - Korea - Book Cosmos
Why Atheism? - Malaysia - Peer Mohd
Why I Am Not a Muslim - Italy - Edizioni Ariele
The Defense of Reason: Essays in Humanism and Skepticism - Perú - Ediciones de Filosofia Aplicada

Media goofed on Antarctic data
by Keay Davidson
San Francisco Chronicle


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

Indiana Mystery Creature Baffles


"Rick Deckard looks at the footprints on the ground near his property and is certain of two things."

Human Sacrifice in London?
By Andrew Chang
ABC News


"The body discovered in the Thames River on Sept. 21 last year raised alarm bells from the start. It belonged to a boy, aged 5 to 7 years old, of Afro-Caribbean descent, and it was missing its head, arms and legs."

Support for creationism resurfaces
By Leo Shane III
Cincinnati Enquirer


"Evolution is still in Ohio's classrooms, but the creationism debate is back in the Ohio Statehouse."

Standing stones on wild hill remain a puzzle
Associated Press


"As cold and lonely as the winter sky, the standing stones atop Burnt Hill have snagged the imagination of fiction writers and generations of blueberry pickers."

IRS issues tax scam reparations warning
By Richard Craver
High Point Enterprise


"The latest version of a tax scam focusing on slavery reparations has been reported in High Point and the Triad."

Great Salt Lake makes for tall tales


"Anyone who takes a break from the Winter Olympics to visit the lake which gives Salt Lake City its name could find themselves coming face to face with a 19th century grave digger. Or so local legend has it."

Scientologists Open Hotel Doors To Community
Tampa Tribune


"The pool at the Fort Harrison Hotel holds some of Liz Roche's fondest childhood memories."

Anthroplogist speculates that creature might be exotic bear
By Kurt Van der Dussen
Bloomington Herald-Times


"It's almost certainly not an ape, but it might be some sort of exotic bear."

Weather lore vs. modern science
By Sharon Denning
Odessa American


"When a fellow wearing a top hat and tuxedo pulls that grouchy-looking groundhog out of his hole in Punxsutawney, Pa., Saturday morning, West Texans, along with most Americans, won't put much stock in his predictions."

Prosecutors in Massachusetts fight for custody of sect member's baby - if there is a baby
Associated Press


"The state of Massachusetts is trying to take away a baby it has never seen and cannot prove exists."

A Gaggle of Quackery Going Mainstream
Los Angeles Times


"Feeling run-down? A bit saggy of spirit? Step right up to the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It looks like a coffin, but it's filled with pure energy. Sit inside and soak up vigor."

Experts to weigh in on science standards
by Catherine Candisky
Columbus Dispatch


"Scientists from throughout the nation are being summoned to help the Ohio Board of Education decide whether students should be taught that life on Earth is the result of evolution or intelligent design."

Lawsuits in Miss Cleo's future
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service


"OK, Miss Cleo of head-wrapped TV fame."

Selling the Moon
By Jack Karp


"A bridge in Brooklyn. Swampland in Florida. Since retailers first started selling goods, there have been people trying to trick naive buyers into wasting money on nonexistent products. Is that what Dennis Hope is doing?"

Myth Versus Miracle
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post


"Was Juan Diego an Aztec to whom the Virgin Mary appeared almost 500 years ago? Or is he simply the leading character in a feel-good fairy tale?"



Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have uncovered the first genetic evidence that explains how large-scale alterations to body plans were accomplished during the early evolution of animals.

In an advance online publication February 6 by Nature of a paper scheduled to appear in Nature, the scientists show how mutations in regulatory genes that guide the embryonic development of crustaceans and fruit flies allowed aquatic crustacean-like arthropods, with limbs on every segment of their bodies, to evolve 400 million years ago into a radically different body plan: the terrestrial six-legged insects.

The achievement is a landmark in evolutionary biology, not only because it shows how new animal body plans could arise from a simple genetic mutation, but because it effectively answers a major criticism creationists had long leveled against evolution—the absence of a genetic mechanism that could permit animals to introduce radical new body designs.

"The problem for a long time has been over this issue of macroevolution," says William McGinnis, a professor in UCSD's Division of Biology who headed the study. "How can evolution possibly introduce big changes into an animal's body shape and still generate a living animal? Creationists have argued that any big jump would result in a dead animal that wouldn't be able to perpetuate itself. And until now, no one's been able to demonstrate how you could do that at the genetic level with specific instructions in the genome."

The UCSD team, which included Matthew Ronshaugen and Nadine McGinnis, showed in its experiments that this could be accomplished with relatively simple mutations in a class of regulatory genes, known as Hox, that act as master switches by turning on and off other genes during embryonic development. Using laboratory fruit flies and a crustacean known as Artemia, or brine shrimp, the scientists showed how modifications in the Hox gene Ubx—which suppresses 100 percent of the limb development in the thoracic region of fruit flies, but only 15 percent in Artemia—would have allowed the crustacean-like ancestors of Artemia, with limbs on every segment, to lose their hind legs and diverge 400 million years ago into the six-legged insects.

"This kind of gene is one that turns on and off lots of other genes in order to make complex structures," says Ronshaugen, a graduate student working in William McGinnis' laboratory and the first author of the paper. "What we've done is to show that this change alters the way it turns on and off other genes. That's due to the change in the way the protein produced by this gene functions."

"The change in the mutated protein allows it to turn off other genes," says William McGinnis, who discovered with two other scientists in 1983 that the same Hox genes in fruit flies that control the placement of the head, thorax and abdomen during development are a generalized feature of all animals, including humans. "Before the evolution of insects, the Ubx protein didn't turn off genes required for leg formation. And during the early evolution of insects, this gene and the protein it encoded changed so that they now turned off those genes required to make legs, essentially removing those legs from what would be the abdomen in insects."

The UCSD team's demonstration of how a mutation in the Ubx gene and changes in the corresponding Ubx protein can lead to such a major change in body design undercuts a primary argument creationists have used against the theory of evolution in debates and biology textbooks. Their specific objection to the idea of macroevolutionary change in animals is summed up in a disclaimer that the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee voted in November, 1999 to include in that state's biology textbooks:

"The word evolution may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may evolve into gray moths). This process is microevolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing into another, such as reptiles and birds. This process, called macroevolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory."

"The creationists' argument rests in part on the fact that animals have two sets of chromosomes and that in order to get big changes, you'd need to mutate the same genes in both sets of chromosomes," explains McGinnis. "It's incredibly unlikely that you would get mutations in the same gene in two chromosomes in a single organism. But in our particular case, the kind of mutation that's in this gene is a so-called dominant mutation, so you only need to mutate one of the chromosomes to get a big change in body plan."

The discovery of this general mechanism for producing major leaps in evolutionary change has other implications for scientists. It may provide biologists with insights into the roles of other regulatory genes involved in more evolutionarily recent changes in body designs. In addition, the discovery in the UCSD study, which was financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, of how this particular Hox gene regulates limb development also may have an application in improving the understanding human disease and genetic deformities.

"If you compare this gene to many other related genes, you can see that they share certain regions in their sequences, which suggests that their function might be regulated like this gene," says Ronshaugen. "This may establish how, not only this gene, but relatives of this gene in many, many different organisms actually work. A lot of these genes are involved in the development of cancers and many different genetic abnormalities, such as syndactyly and polydactyly, and they may explain how some of these conditions came to be."

Roswell Report: Case Closed

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com


Executive Summary
published in 1997

This publication is a treasure trove of photographs (all black and white), historical perspective, and references to the extensive U.S. Air Force test programs in New Mexico. The anthropomorphic dummy test program kicked into high gear in the mid 1950's.

The unconfirmed events near Roswell, New Mexico occurred in June and July 1947, an area southeast of America's nuclear testing grounds.

My first beef is with the Air Force's contention that Project Mogul is the initial source for the civilian reports of crashed UFOs and dead or dying occupants. Project Mogul balloons carried acoustic sensors to detect Soviet nuclear weapon detonations in the Soviet Union. I have two questions. Did American military science predict an early test of Soviet nukes by putting up prototype balloons? The following snippet indicates they were indeed ahead of the learning curve. I doubt this. Why not put these balloons much closer to the Soviet testing grounds, for example, in Turkey? Perhaps we did.

"August 1949
The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic device on August 29, 1949. The event surprised American nuclear scientists--who hadn't expected it so soon--and shook the American public's sense of security."

My second beef is with the Air Force's contention that their anthropomorphic dummies were remembered by civilians around Roswell as the occupants of crashed UFOs. The introduction to the section titled "High Altitude Dummy Drops" reads: "From 1953 to 1959, anthropomorphic dummies were used by the U.S. Air Force Aero Medical Laboratory as part of the high altitude aircraft escape projects *High Dive* and *Excelsior*.(42) The object of these studies was to devise a method to return a pilot or astronaut to earth by parachute, if forced to escape at extreme altitudes.(43)"

This testing began a full six years after the 1947 events. I can partially agree that selective memory and confabulation could "misremember" (is that a new word?) the Roswell events with the later Air Force test programs.

High altitude research projects with manned balloon flights further complicates the picture. Quoting again, "Two manned balloon projects, *Man High* and *Excelsior*, were conducted within the time period targeted for research: *Man High* from 1957 to 1958(163) and the manned portion of *Excelsior* in 1959 and 1960. The only other manned high altitude balloon project in Air Force history, *Stargazer*, did not fly until 1962."

Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr. made several parachute jumps from and flights in balloons, the first on June 2, 1957, at New Brighton, Minnesota. His highest altitude jump took place near Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico during Excelsior III on August 16, 1960, from 102,800 feet. Capt. Kittinger, Jr. accompanied Capt. Dan D. Fulgham, injured in a balloon accident on May 21, 1959, into Walker AFB Hospital (Roswell AAF renamed Walker AFB in 1948). "When the balloon gondola struck Fulgham's head, he received, according to his clinical record states, "Extensive hematoma forehead and anterior scalp."(229) A hematoma is a localized blood-filled swelling, that in this instance was on the forehead. The hematoma resulted in immediate facial swelling, two black eyes and later caused his skin to turn yellow.(230)"

Military dependents and other civilians witnessing Capt. Fulgham could be one source for the "creature" observed to walk under its own power into the hospital. The overlapping years from the late 1940's to the early 1960's of multiple reports could still be confusing the somewhat ordinary human activities with alien activities. Someone on another list wrote this one-liner: "The plural of anecdote is not data."

Aside #1.
from pp. 117-18
"The "Red-headed Captain" and Dr. J. Allen Hynek

"Captain Kittinger, the *Stargazer* high altitude balloon pilot and project enginner, had extensive professional contact with Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an anstronomer and *Stargazer* project scientist. Additionally, Hynek ws also one of the scientific consultants in the Air Force study of UFOs, project *Bluebook*. Hynek is best known, however, for his apparent endorsement of extraterrestrial theories concerning UFOs after concluding his associations with the Air Force.

"When asked about his recollections of Hynek, Kittinger stated that when they were associated, from 1958 to 1963, they discussed UFOs at length.(224) At that time, Hynek was steadfast in his opinion that most, if not all, UFO sightings could be resolved by applying known scientific analysis.(225) Kittinger said he was "flabbergasted" when, years later, Hynek appeared to reverse his opinon and endorse extraterrestrial explanations.(226) Hynek's reversal in philosophies led to numerous commercial endeavors, most notably as a technical advisor for the science-fiction film *Close Encounters of the Third Kind*.

"Also, based on his experience with project *Stargazer*, Hynek was familiar with balloon operations at Holloman AFB, visiting the Holloman Balloon Branch several times.(227) Interestingly, there is no record that Hynek, who died in 1986, ever endorsed what is now presented as the "best evidence" of UFOs, the so-called Roswell Incident, which was actually a conglomeration of numerous events, some with origins in Holloman AFB launched balloons."

Aside #2.
The West Range at Fort Huachuca (adjacent to Sierra Vista, Arizona) is one testing area for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), formerly called Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs). Testing here began in the late 1950s, the post museum has a dinged-up RPV from that period on display. I have lived on Fort Huachuca and in Sierra Vista since 1980, except for a tour of duty in Panama (1981-84). Several UAVs have crashed in the area and I've seen many taking off, flying overhead, and landing. One "got away", overflew Mexico, ran out of fuel, crashing into the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez. Although this area hasn't seen the hoopla over the 1947 events in Roswell there has never been a UAV misidentified as a UFO. I did see a daytime egg-shaped object over Sierra Vista on July 20, 1991.


Psychic prediction on missing cat wins out


A tabby cat missing for two years has been found less than a mile away from where a psychic predicted he would be found.

Toto disappeared from Richard and Jill Hollis Grave's home in Norfolk after climbing on to the back of a furniture lorry and being carried miles away.

A woman came forward to say she had the cat after a renewed appeal for information on the second anniversary of his disappearance.

The woman thought the five-year-old cat from Upton was a stray. She lives in Norwich, just a mile away from where a West Midlands psychic said the cat would be found.

Mrs Hollis Graves told the Eastern Daily Press: "He recognised us when we walked in and he put his paw on my cheek in such a tender way."

"It's a fairytale ending to an amazing story. We had almost come to terms with the fact that we would never see Toto again. But we never gave up hope."

Accepts James Randi's $1 million challenge

From: Raymond Nelke


Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2002
Debunking Seeing Without Sight
A Russian girl accepts James Randi's $1 million challenge to prove she has paranormal powers

Thanks to:
for the source of this story


Ghostwriting for drug companies

Scandal of scientists who take money for papers ghostwritten by drug companies Doctors named as authors may not have seen raw data

Sarah Boseley, health editor

Thursday February 7, 2002

Scientists are accepting large sums of money from drug companies to put their names to articles endorsing new medicines that they have not written - a growing practice that some fear is putting scientific integrity in jeopardy.

Ghostwriting has become widespread in such areas of medicine as cardiology and psychiatry, where drugs play a major role in treatment. Senior doctors, inevitably very busy, have become willing to "author" papers written for them by ghostwriters paid by drug companies.

Originally, ghostwriting was confined to medical journal supplements sponsored by the industry, but it can now be found in all the major journals in relevant fields. In some cases, it is alleged, the scientists named as authors will not have seen the raw data they are writing about - just tables compiled by company employees.

Full text


Holy Roller buses

[forwarded by Saffron]

Pace's 'God' bus rolling all over the Constitution


You can see Zorn's past columns on state/church separation at: An archive of columns by Eric Zorn on Church/State separation issues

"Alternative" veterinary treatments for Skeptic-listers?

From: Robert Imrie, DVM

I just received an e-mail from a television documentary producer who is evidently working on an hour-long program dealing with "the explosion of 'alternative' medical therapies offered for pets and other animals." She is interested in "exploring the range of possible outcomes for these treatments." If any list members have had a veterinarian suggest or provide an "alternative" therapy for one or more of your animals, I'd appreciate hearing about it. I'd particularly like to know if such unproven and/or disproved therapies were offered or provided in lieu of ones of proven efficacy, and what the pertinent fees were. Please e-mail me off-list regarding the particulars.

Bob Imrie, DVM
NCAHF Veterinary Task Force


Join the hunt!

From: gj bart

See how the Academy of Remote Viewing Through Space and Time has joined the fight against the "Dark Forces":


There's 25 mil waiting for the guy who finds bin Laden...I wonder what the hold up is?


Bush Greets Prayer Meeting, Faith Plan Gains Steam


February 7, 2002

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As his initiative to promote government support for religious charities gained momentum, President Bush said on Thursday Americans' faith had helped them weather the shock of the Sept. 11 attacks.

``Our country has never had an official faith. Yet, we have all been witnesses these past 21 weeks to the power of faith to see us through the hurt and loss that has come to our country,'' Bush said at the 50th national prayer breakfast.

Bush, who opens Cabinet meetings with a prayer and credits a deepened faith with leading him to quit drinking at age 40, has struggled to win congressional approval of his ''faith-based'' initiative to aid religious charities. Critics of the proposal worry that it amounts to government promotion of religion.

Later on Thursday, Bush was to meet with the architects of a bipartisan Senate compromise on his faith-based plan following agreement in the Senate on Wednesday.

The measure was drafted by Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman in consultation with the Bush administration. It would cost an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion over two years and provide a variety of tax breaks to increase giving to religious and nonreligious charities.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, has promised to schedule a Senate vote on the measure this year. The House of Representatives already has approved a separate version of the initiative.

``The president is very pleased to see that the Senate is moving forward with a very constructive action,'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Thursday.

Bush administration officials have said the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States gave a boost to Bush's efforts to promote faith in American life.

At the prayer breakfast, attended by several thousand political and religious leaders, Bush said Americans' had demonstrated their faith under adversity.

``The prayers of this nation are a part of the good that has come from the evil of September the 11th, more good than we could ever have predicted,'' Bush said.

He commended what he said was a tolerance, rooted in faith, shown by Americans in the wake of the attacks blamed on Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.

There is a ``moral design'' to individual lives and history, he said. ``As individuals, we know that suffering is temporary and hope is eternal. As a nation, we know that the ruthless will not inherit the earth,'' he said.

NCSE asks DI: Where's the Shrimp?

The National Center for Science Eduction asks Discovery Institute: Where's the Shrimp?

In a Discovery Institute press release dated Feb. 6, Jonathan Wells accuses three developmental biologists of making "exaggerated claims" in a recent paper in Nature (advance online publication, Feb. 6, 2002). But it is Wells, in his zeal to criticize any research supporting evolution, whose claims are "exaggerated."

For the complete story see:


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

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Thursday, February 07, 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 7, 2002

from The New York Times

The leader of Hitler's atomic bomb program, Werner Heisenberg, portrayed himself after World War II as a kind of scientific resistance hero who sabotaged Hitler's efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

But in a series of letters and other documents made public yesterday, his friend and onetime mentor, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, said that is not so.

Bohr, who died 40 years ago, said that under his beloved protégé, "everything was being done in Germany to develop atomic weapons."

In particular, the documents describe a meeting that Heisenberg initiated between the two men in occupied Denmark in September 1941.


To visit the Web site of the Niels Bohr Archive, click on the link below:


Documents are linked directly from this page:


from The Christian Science Monitor

Cloning moves from the lab to Capitol Hill this week as the US Senate considers a bill that would outlaw the procedure for human reproduction but, permit it for research on stem cells.

The bill, the subject of hearings tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee, is competing with another proposal that would ban human-embryo cloning not only for reproduction, but for research as well.

For many opponents of cloning, the ethical debate revolves around theological issues, such as whether life begins at conception. But important scientific questions are also at play, notably whether the medical possibilities of stem cells can be explored without any embryo cloning at all.

A broad range of scientists and scientific organizations, most recently the National Academy of Science, support cloning for research - the approach backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California. Yet, recent discoveries may pave the way for the full cloning ban proposed by Sen. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas, some scientists say.


from Reuters

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - The remains of a city thought to be the oldest in the Americas, buried under Peruvian soil since the era of Egypt's pyramids, could be destroyed by erosion and exposure to the elements if the world community does not rush to the rescue, archeologists said on Wednesday.

Researchers believe that Caral, a complex of stone temples, altars and dwellings located in a desert valley 110 miles north of Lima, dates to before 2,600 B.C. -- around the same time the famed Giza pyramids were built in Egypt.

"Nowhere in Peru or in the Americas -- in the Mexican hills or in Mayan lowlands -- is there a city this old. Peru predates (other sites) by 1,500 years," archeologist Ruth Shady, who has headed Caral's excavation since 1994, told reporters.


from The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully extended the main communications antenna it will use to send science data to Earth, NASA officials said Wednesday.

Engineers received confirmation late Tuesday that the boom holding the 4.3-foot wide dish had deployed.

The spacecraft will use the parabolic antenna to transmit the scientific data it gathers, including images, back to Earth at 110,000 bits per second.


from The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe made an ''honest mistake'' in its 1995 reporting on Dr. Lois Ayash's role in two tragic overdoses at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but the newspaper didn't ''gang up'' on Ayash, harm her reputation, or cause her any severe emotional distress, an attorney for the Globe argued yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court

''It would have been a long, sad year [for Ayash] even if The Boston Globe hadn't reported one word,'' Martin Murphy said in his closing arguments in Ayash's defamation lawsuit against the Globe and Dana-Farber. Lawyers for the hospital and Ayash will make closing arguments today.

Ayash designed and ran an experimental breast-cancer treatment in which two women suffered chemotherapy overdoses in November 1994. Globe health columnist Betsy Lehman died and a second woman was severely injured. Ayash did not write the overdose orders, but the Globe erroneously reported on March 23, 1995, that she had approved them. The newspaper ran a correction on June 4, 1995.


from The Boston Globe

BURLINGTON - Allan Womac has thousands of thoughts, feelings, and impulses coursing through his brain, but yesterday morning, as he sat on a Lahey Clinic operating table, surgeons peered into two narrow surgical head incisions and saw a vast electronic appliance.

Womac, 27, has dystonia, a neurological disorder that makes his limbs, neck, and head twitch uncontrollably. Typically, he would be treated with drugs. Or part of his brain would be removed. But yesterday he was outfitted instead with what resembles a brain pacemaker - two battery-powered electrodes, one on each side of his brain, that will transmit tiny shocks for years to come, to block the frenetic brain signals that cause his disorder. With local anesthesia, Womac was awake for the entire six-hour procedure, blinking and nodding as surgeons bore into his brain.

In recent years, the procedure has produced encouraging results for Parkinson's disease patients, reducing tremors in many. But specialists believe this targeted, implanted shock therapy could one day treat depression, eating disorders, paralysis, epilepsy - almost any affliction involving neurological dysfunction.


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Illness is a consequence of sin, says Vatican official

[We don't make this stuff up, folks.] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3-2002063681,00.html

Thursday February 07 2002
From Richard Owen in Rome

A Senior Vatican official has asserted that illness is the result of sin and that people have a natural desire to be "healthy and good-looking". Presenting the Pope's message for Lent, Archbishop Paul Cordes, the German head of the Vatican's agency for humanitarian aid, maintained that there was scriptural authority for the idea that those who contract illnesses do so because they have sinned.

Father Georges Cottier, the Pope's chief theologian, immediately stepped in to reassure those who were ill that they were not in fact "paying for their sins".

The Pope, in his message, had urged genetic scientists and other health experts not to succumb to the temptation of "tampering with the Tree of Life" under the illusion that advances in biotechnology had made man his own creator.

Monsignor Cordes, elaborating on the Pope's remarks, went further and said that the root of much modern illness lay in sinful or immoral behaviour.

"Jesus heals sickness and banishes sin," he said. "He therefore teaches us that there is a link between sin and illness. This does not happen in every individual case, but it is a fundamental law. The history of salvation shows us that illness is a consequence of sin."

The theory was enshrined in Roman Catholic doctrine, he said. "Man's desire to be healthy, good-looking and strong is justified because it anticipates our future salvation. One cannot deny that death, of which illness is an anticipation, has always been seen as a consequence of sin."

He quoted the Gospel of St John, which describes Jesus curing a crippled man he found lying on a pallet by the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Jesus told the man, who had been crippled for 38 years: "Take up your bed and walk". Finding him later in the temple, Jesus ordered the cured man to "go and sin no more, or something worse may happen to you".

Father Cottier said that the original sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden had "introduced sin and suffering into the human condition". This was not the same as saying the sick were guilty and it was unacceptable to use passages from the Gospel in which Jesus "frees people from sin" to suggest otherwise.

Commenting on the altercation, La Repubblica said that the idea that those who were vigorous and good-looking were blessed while the ugly and the sick were damned was an ancient one that predated Christianity. La Stampa said that if illness really was the result of sin and crime, then "the great dictators and criminals of the world would all have been struck down".

Father Bruno Moriconi, a leading theologian, said that illness was neither a blessing nor a curse, but simply a result of the malfunctioning of the human organism. "There is no point in looking to the Bible for an explanation."

Public tell Nasa to blast off to Mars - Your News from Ananova

An online survey has found that members of the public want Nasa to concentrate on exploring Mars.

More than 90% of those who replied ranked it among their top five mission priorities.

The US space agency set up the survey to find out what everyone wants from its planetary exploration programme.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_513160.html

Skeptical Dilbert

From: James H.G. Redekop

Scott Adams has had some pretty fun strips taking digs at altmed (by way of Dogbert's "holistic tech support"). Today's strip takes a dig at chiropractic and anecdotal evidence at


The series starts at


Democracy vs. Science?

From: Taner Edis edis@truman.edu

One question I've been toying with a bit lately: does democracy and science go well together or not?

We tend to assume (or at least I did) that the two are related somewhat positively. After all, modern, mostly Western democratic countries are also those where science as an institution is at its strongest. But if you think of democracy as something deeper than regularly going to the polls and voting on whether Tweedledum or Tweedledee has the better advertising campaign, the question gets a bit more complicated. Much of anti-science thought is populist in nature, while science is elite. If we think of democracy as public participation in shaping our world, and as something with an anti-elite attitude rather than a process of choosing which subset of an elite is going to rule, what then of science and democracy?

Consider the following movements who are suspicious of modern science:

* Many postmodernists strike populist attitudes. They defend minority and non-Western cultures against "Western rationalism" and uphold "other ways of knowing."

* Creationists are populists. In the US, they come out of a democratic, elite-mistrusting culture. They demand educational reforms and changes in funding priorities to reflect the level of their democratic support.

* Islamists are populists who use democratic rhetoric in protesting despotic regimes. They are also big on Muslim distortions of science, and their communal perspective creates much friction with scientific demands for freedom of inquiry.

Then take a look at science:

* Institutional science establishes a cognitive elite. Skeptics often say "science is not a democracy"; scientists like to be independent with respect to politics and to respond to norms of conduct internal to science itself.

* Moreover, science receives financial support by hiring out its services to other elites, military and commercial elites in particular.

* Science also claims privilege over "other ways of knowing," particularly intuitive and religious approaches non-elites tend to prefer.

So, does this mean that science and a fuller sense of democracy do not sit well together? Bear in mind that I'm not talking about either democracy or science as some abstract, pie-in-the-sky sort of thing, but as we find them. And yes, I am assuming that democracy fosters populism, and that, given human nature, this will most often be a religiously tinged, communally oriented populism.

Taner Edis

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 6, 2002

from The New York Times

After months of internal debate, the Bush administration has outlined a climate policy that calls for a far more gradual approach to global warming than the one in a 1997 treaty endorsed by most nations.

White House officials said yesterday that President Bush had still not settled on details. But a report on the economy published by the White House yesterday spelled out its philosophy on the contentious issue of limiting emissions of gases linked to global warming.

In contrast to the hard targets and short timetable in the 1997 treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the administration's policy calls for technology and incentives that would lead to a decades- long decline in emissions, according to officials involved in the policy debate and experts consulted by the administration.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Washington -- The debate over cloning moved to the Senate yesterday as members of a panel took up Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to permit the use of cloned human embryos for research into ailments such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the California Democrat's bill, which bans cloning to replicate a human, showed the deep divisions over the issue and also raised a host of troubling ethical and moral questions about stem cell research.

Last year, the House banned cloning, and President Bush ordered strict limits on federally funded research using stem cell lines created from embryos.

But advocates of the medical research, in which embryos are harvested early in their development to try to coax so-called stem cells to grow into any organ or system of the body, say the House ban and Bush's limitations would be a severe mistake. The cloning comes into play when an embryonic nucleus is removed and replaced with genetic material from a potential recipient. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/02/06/MN110220.DTL

from The Washington Post

Local businesswoman Catherine B. Reynolds told the Smithsonian Institution yesterday that she will withdraw most of a planned $38 million donation that would have created an exhibit on individual achievement at the National Museum of American History.

"Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate that the notion of inspiring young people by telling the stories of prominent Americans from all disciplines would be so controversial," Reynolds wrote in a letter to Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small.

The gift, announced last May, was supposed to create a 10,000-square-foot hall of achievement that would feature the life stories of eminent Americans. In announcing the plans, Reynolds suggested the hall could feature Nobel laureates and Medal of Honor winners, as well as people such as AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case, entrepreneur Martha Stewart, civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, skater Dorothy Hamill and newsman Sam Donaldson.

The idea immediately drew loud and sustained criticism from curators at the museum. They questioned Reynolds's close involvement in the development of a museum presentation and said the Smithsonian hierarchy was putting fundraising ahead of scholarly integrity. They attacked the planned emphasis on famous individuals instead of focusing on demographic groups or ordinary Americans. They worried about the exhibit's connection to the American Academy of Achievement, a little-known organization run by Reynolds's husband, Wayne, that organizes an annual gathering that brings together dozens of "superachievers" with hundreds of high school students.


from The Washington Post

The former head of a federal project to build a nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada said yesterday that U.S. officials have known since 1995 that the site's geologic features would not adequately protect groundwater and air from potential radioactive pollution.

John W. Bartlett, an engineer who headed the Department of Energy project from 1990 to 1993, said the proposed site's rock formations were found to be "far inferior to that originally expected" in terms of preventing contamination. DOE's response, he said, has been to shift its reliance almost totally to man-made canisters -- an emphasis that undermines the need for a remote mountain burial site in the first place.

Energy Department officials strongly disputed Bartlett's assertion, saying they continue to support an approach dependent on both natural and engineered barriers. They noted that Bartlett is a $150 per hour consultant to the state of Nevada, which opposes the project.


from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. government weather experts on Tuesday said warmer temperatures expected in the Pacific Ocean off Latin America were more evidence of the return of El Nino, a weather phenomenon which can cause deadly flooding and devastating droughts.

Governments, farmers and energy companies are closely watching weather forecasts because the last El Nino in 1997-98 caused billions of dollars in damage worldwide.

El Nino, meaning "boy child" in Spanish, is an abnormal warming of waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean that usually happens once every two to seven years. First reported by Latin American fisherman, the weather anomaly was usually seen around Christmas.


from Reuters

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - A saboteur pouring a test tube of foot-and-mouth disease virus into a feed bunk could severely harm the huge U.S. cattle industry, leading meat scientist Gary Smith said.

While the likelihood of such an attack was very slim it was a major concern among cattle producers, Smith, a meat science professor at Colorado State University, said on Tuesday.

"It is the one everyone is the most frightened of," he said.

Smith, who has worked with the beef industry to develop new products and food safety systems, told a visiting group of cattle producers that of the many possible bio-terrorism threats including mad cow disease and anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease was probably of greatest concern to the cattle industry.


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Feng shui experts tip stocks to rise in Year of the Horse

By Brian Walker


HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Year of the Horse will get off to a stumbling start for investors in Asia but the second half will see stock markets galloping ahead, "feng shui experts" from Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia say in their annual Chinese New Year forecast for the region.

Claiming to draw on the ancient Chinese lore of geomancy, CLSA's "Wicked Sorcerer of the East" Kenny Lau said investors should ride with great caution in the first half of the year.

"We expect huge volatility in the market because of the mixing of fire and water elements, so its going to be a real steeplechase run for the horse," said Lau, dressed in flowing blue and gold robes.

Although the musings were developed with the help of CLSA's own feng shui master, Lau warned not to take them too seriously.

But many Chinese take the ancient art of interpreting the interaction of water, wind, earth and other forces as a real guide for fortune and major life decisions. Thus it may be a good reading of investor sentiment, if not necessarily divine destiny.

CLSA has been issuing the tongue-in-cheek forecasts for 11 years and some have proved more accurate than others. Last year, global strategist Nilesh Jasani at his Feng Shui forecast press conference said he expected the Hang Seng to rocket up to 18,000 in 2001. In fact, the index fell 24.5 percent to end the year at a disappointing 11,397.


CLSA's analysts say the "cunning of the snake" had them fooled in 2001. The September 11 attacks in the U.S. unleashed a "baby dragon" which knocked 7,200 points off the Hang Seng. But by flipping the feng shui chart, reversing good and bad luck as well as CLSA's forecast, the index could be said to have accurately mirrored the Hang Seng's fall and late-year recovery.

This year's index does not make a target prediction for the HSI, saying "the spirits forbid us from associating ourselves with the magic 20,000 -- or any other arbitrary round number."

But in 2001, at least for investors, CLSA claims to have accurately predicted consolidation in the local banking sector, a continued downturn in semiconductors and a drop off in market turnover, leading to layoffs for brokers and investment bankers.

The report also says that horse years -- like snake years -- are often marked by strife and economic turmoil. The 1918 horse year brought an end to World War I but launched a deadly influenza pandemic that killed millions, 1930 saw a deepening of the Great Depression, while 1942 was one of the bloodiest years of World War II.

But some previous horse years have been marked by technological advances such as the polio vaccine in 1954, so look for biotech breakthroughs say the geomancers. But telecommunication stocks will be pulling the cart in the world's markets as broadband and wireless 3G networks begin to come online.


CLSA notes that horses often are prey animals and are thus in an undesirable position in the food chain. However, their eyes are on either side of their head, so they can see danger coming from any direction: "stealth, guile and alertness remain crucial," writes Lau.

The report points to high hurdles for the horse to leap through June, with water elements dominating fire for stocks, but the second half will see the markets galloping ahead.

The geomancers predict that China will benefit from a change in jockeys, as current Vice President Hu Jintao is predicted to take over from President Jiang Zemin. But China's most surprising achievement will be her defeat of Brazil in the first round of the 2002 World Cup.

Japan will benefit from good placement of the stars, and CLSA predicts that the yen will not go below 145 to the dollar and the Nikkei 225 will finally hit the bottom of its 11-year decline.

America and Europe saw their good business fortune in the "seventh-luck" period reaching its peak in 2001, and the next 20 years won't be as good as the last 20 years.

And, Argentina's water sign will overcome Portugal and its red fire colours in the World Cup Final. But no comment from the stars on the final score.

Castles in the sea ...

From: Terry W. Colvin


Graham Hancock's critics would say he is either a lunatic, a charlatan, or both. He seems to see himself as an Indiana Jones figure, kicking against the constraints of academia. Whereas archaeologists start with objects, Hancock starts with ideas. Hancock complains that marine archaeology has been obsessed by shipwrecks rather than settlements, Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Announcing: AustinParaTimes newszine

-Not Your Normal News-
From the Paranormal to the ParaPolitical

A new print-news-zine is emerging next month in Central Texas. From the producers of last year's National UFO Conference (SMiles Lewis) and its accompanying 16 page program/mini-mag (Edited by SMiles Lewis & Published by Russ Dowden's 2012 Media group) comes the best news-source for Paranormal and ParaPolitical information and events happening in and around Austin, Texas.

Austin Para Times will cover everything anomalous about Austin, its residents and history as well as ParaPhenomena around the State:

-From Spirits of North Texas to the Ghosts of Galveston...
-Marfa Mystery Lights to Bigfoot stomping grounds in east Texas...
-Anomalous Musicians & Artists in Austin to Paranormal, Spiritual and ParaPolitical Events across the State...
Austin Para Times is there chronicling the strange and all things "Para" in this vast great State of ours. We promote CommUnity through Anomaly!

If you would like to contribute articles, news, reviews, event announcements, art, poetry, dream diaries or anything at all dealing with the Paranormal, Dreams, Consciousness, Spirituality, UFOs, Parapolitics, Conspiracy, Parapsychology etc. please contact SMiles Lewis (Editor).

Deadline for March 1st 2002 Issue is February 15th.

PO Box 33509
Austin, TX 78764
(512) 682-6987 x8205
For Advertising & Sponsorship Information:

2012 MEDIA
407 W 18th St #209
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 472-8987

About the Austin Para Times Crew

After successfully producing a Conference Program Booklet for the 38th annual National UFO Conference, Russell Dowden (a coordinator for the event) decided to experiment with the notion of publishing a quarterly newspaper about the paranormal. Growing up around the family business, Malone & Associates (a publishing firm), has been a huge help in his knowledge of publications. For 11 years Dowden has been in advertising and marketing. He's a former Syndicated Talk Radio host with a love for the paranormal and his hometown of Austin, Texas.

With all the strangeness in the world today it would be nice to have a locally produced, easily understandable yet cutting edge, news oriented publication around town with a focus on all that IS WEIRD about Austin and the world. 2012 Media has set out to create a publication for Austinites that is intriguing, investigative and with an obviously Austintatious sense of humor.

Look for Articles by local activists and organization with alternative ideals and unique forms of expression to give this publication its true character. Local contributors like:

SMiles Lewis - Creator of and writer and publisher for the ELFIS print/web journal and Anomaly CommUnity Network, State Section Director for the Mutual UFO Network in Travis and Williamson counties, cofounder of and writer/producer for Anomaly TV, Board Secretary for INACS (Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness Studies), Host of Radio:Free:Elfis internet webcast and Volunteer Services & Special Projects Coordinator for the TSLAC's Talking Book Program.

Russell Dowden - Founder of SETLAB (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Life & Answers from Beyond) and 2012 Media, Host of SETLAB Chat web/radio show.

Mack White - Austin Underground Artist and Writer.

StarChild - Timeless vision & wisdom from one of Austin's newest Sages.
Jim Marrs - Texas Author of Crossfire, Alien Agenda & Rule By Secrecy.
And many many more artists and writers from around Texas & the World.

We are working with KVRX 91.7 FM Student Radio to promote this exciting venture into the Austin Metro area, and its many alternative business owners. We hope that you and your business would like to target our audience of readers with display advertisements, or as a distribution location.

Please see the attached ad-rate for more details or for more information:

2012 MEDIA
407 W 18th St #209
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 472-8987 setlab@jump.net
Web Radio Broadcasts by APT Crew
The folks behind AustinParaTimes also produce Internet Radio Shows for broadcasts of similar topics on timely issues.

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Mothman Theories Spark Paranormal Catfight


SAN FRANCISCO (Wireless Flash) -- Richard Gere's new movie, "The Mothman Prophecies," is causing a catfight in the paranormal community.

On one side is cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who says the Mothman may be a physical being -- especially since Native Americans in West Virginia have reported sightings for centuries.

But paranormal researcher Jon-Erik Beckjord disagrees and calls Coleman an "idiot."

He says all available evidence suggests only one thing: The Mothman incidents are really cases of people having out- of-body experiences.

Beckjord says many people report "going somewhere" when they dream and figures someone who's left their body might look like a winged man to casual observers.

Meanwhile, Coleman says every time "sane cryptozoologists" make any serious headway, Beckjord shows up to "make a ridiculous claim like this one."

CONTACT: Jon-Erik Beckjord, **** (combustive); (510) 666- 9412; Loren Coleman, ****; (207) 772-0245


Where's Osama

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

Dear CSICOP List Reader,

Each year for the past ten years or more, we have published an end of the year look-back at the predictions made by alleged psychics and astrologers for that year. It seems that pretty much each New Year every newspaper in the United States and elsewhere feels obligated to run such a story, and we figured it would be good to try and get these papers to run a story about the dismal failures the previous predictions turned out to be.

The writer who regularly does the feature for us did not want to do the roundup this year. He rightly thought that the events of September 11 made it painfully clear and obvious how capable psychics and astrologers were at predicting the future.

Instead he proposes a challenge to psychics and astrologers, as outlined below and on the following website:

Barry Karr
The suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001, exacted a terrible toll but offered several lessons. One of them: psychics and astrologers cannot predict the future. The folks who tell you with great certainty where you misplaced your TV remote control were never able to pick up enough vibes to warn authorities and thwart the attacks, even though the tragedy was destined to resonate throughout the psyche of the Western world. As someone who has retrospectively reported on published psychic predictions every year since 1979, I wasn't surprised. Almost invariably, the psychics and astrologers miss the big, unexpected news events of the year, from the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster to Princess Diana's death. Nonetheless, all it takes is one real psychic to demonstrate that such powers could exist. To that end, I propose giving the psychics and astrologers another chance with this challenge: Identify the date that Osama bin Laden is captured or his body is found Let's see if any psychic comes close and if non-psychics can do as well. If someone succeeds, then we can ask them for a few other specific predictions to see if their powers are real, or they were just lucky. Gene Emery

The Smoking Gun: Documents of the Day: 2/4/02

From: Leonard R. Cleavelin

The skeptical connection is in the second paragraph and link therein, noting that Johnny Carson's private foundation made a $100K donation to The James Randi Educational Foundation in the year 2000. Of course, that should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed either Carson or Randi. IIRC Carson broke into show business as a stage magician, Randi was a (frequent?) guest on "The Tonight Show" when Carson was host, and I believe Randi helped Carson and "Tonight Show" staff set up the "props" for an appearance by Uri Geller, which resulted in one of Geller's more noteworthy public failures.


Best regards,

Len Cleavelin

Uri Geller backs 'charismatic' Gareth for Pop Idol

From Ananova at


Uri Geller says he is backing Gareth Gates to win Pop Idol because of his "aura".

The psychic says Gareth has charm pouring out of him.

And Geller says he can programme the contestant's brain to cure his stutter.

Gellar told the Daily Record: "He has a charisma and an aura around him that charms people. His voice is magnificent."

"If he comes to me, I will teach him how to stop stuttering. The brain is the most powerful computer in the world and if he comes to my house I can programme his brain.

"It is not necessarily hypnotism that does it. I speak to people about how to be positive themselves. I don't do this as a business - I do this because it is my duty."

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