NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 February 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, February 22, 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 22, 2002

from The New York Times

The government should more carefully, and publicly, review the environmental impact of genetically altered plants before approving them and, to detect unforeseen problems, should monitor fields even after such crops are being grown commercially, a panel of biologists and agricultural scientists concluded yesterday.

The panel, convened by the National Academy of Sciences, said the Department of Agriculture had not missed any big environmental risks in its review of genetically modified plants, a step required before the plants can be either field-tested or grown for marketing.

The scientists also emphasized that their findings were intended to "improve an already functioning system," and noted that "the standards being set for transgenic crops are much higher than for their conventional counterparts."


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A new Veterans Administration analysis of death rates among Gulf War soldiers exposed to deadly gases from an Iraqi chemical weapons depot has cast doubt on the Pentagon's determination of which soldiers were exposed, veterans groups say.

The Pentagon has said about 100,000 soldiers were exposed to toxic gases when the Khamisiyah chemical weapons facility was blown up by U.S. combat engineers. It steadfastly has said the level of exposure was not hazardous, but has revised which soldiers were involved.

A group of 34,000 the Pentagon initially thought were exposed were removed from the exposure list following a new analysis of the vapor cloud and were replaced with another group the same size.


from The Washington Post

Twelve volunteers inoculated with a highly touted experimental vaccine designed to reverse the course of Alzheimer's disease have fallen seriously ill with brain inflammation, forcing the vaccine's manufacturer to stop giving the shots and raising doubts about the product's clinical potential, according to sources familiar with the study.

The vaccine, made by the Irish pharmaceutical company Elan and known by its code name AN-1792, had generated unusually intense enthusiasm among scientists and patient advocates during the past two years, as experiments in mice suggested it could halt the progression of Alzheimer's and perhaps even cure the deadly disease.

Alzheimer's gradually robs people of their minds. It affects 2 million to 4 million elderly Americans and is expected to affect 15 million by 2030. Even the best treatments today have a very modest impact.


from The Washington Post

The federal government attempted yesterday to quell a growing controversy about the usefulness of mammograms, issuing a far-reaching new recommendation that women get screened every one or two years beginning at age 40 to reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer.

The recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services is based on a comprehensive two-year evaluation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group charged with developing health recommendations for the federal government. Endorsed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), these guidelines are intended to be the federal government's final word on the subject.

The step comes at a time when many women are confused about whether to undergo the tests and many doctors are uncertain about whether to recommend them. The confusion stems from an influential analysis by a pair of Danish researchers, who reported last fall that the most important studies supporting mammograms were deeply flawed, making their conclusions questionable. Last month, an NCI advisory panel agreed.


from Newsday

Common bacteria survived under almost a quarter-million pounds of pressure in an experiment that suggests microbes may live in extreme environments on Earth and in the solar system where life was thought impossible, researchers say.

In a study appearing today in the journal Science, scientists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., report that when they squeezed bacteria between the jaws of a diamond anvil at up to 17,000 times normal atmospheric pressure, some of the microbes were able to live and consume their chemical diet. It was the first scientific demonstration that common bacteria could adapt to such pressures and survive, said Anurag Sharma, the first author of the study.

"Since these microbes could adapt to such extreme pressures, this suggests that when we look for life in places beyond the Earth, we have to look beneath the surfaces," said Sharma. "The habitable zone is now expanded." Dr. Kenneth Nealson, a geobiologist at the University of Southern California and a researcher at NASA's Center for Life Detection at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the implications of Sharma's research "knocked my socks off." "When you realize that organisms could function at pressures equivalent to many kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth, it extends the limits of life," said Nealson. "It has very interesting implications for the potential of life for places like Jupiter and other large planets where the gravity is so immense."


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Child claimed to read while blindfolded exposed as fraud

from Consumer Health Digest #02-08, February 19, 2002

Child claimed to read while blindfolded exposed as fraud. Ten year-old Natalia Lulova, who was claimed to read and discern colors while blindfolded, has been exposed as a fraud. The child was tested by magician James Randi, who has a standing offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal, supernatural, or occult abilities.


When blindfolded by her mother, the child was able to read and report colors correctly. But after Randi blindfolded her with special care to seal spaces near her nose, her "powers" vanished. Randi stated that he had noticed an unusual concavity in the bridge of the girl's nose that had enabled her to see through hairline gaps between the blindfold and her nose when she turned her head. Others who have failed to pass Randi's test include a nurse who practices therapeutic touch, assorted dowsers, medical quacks, and psychic readers. Several prominent paranormalists have refused to be tested. [Jaroff, L. Debunking seeing without sight: A Russian girl accepts James Randi's $1 million challenge to prove she has paranormal powers. Time Web site, Feb 6, 2002]


France puts Scientology sect on trial


Court case questions church's recruitment methods

Jon Henley in Paris
Thursday February 21, 2002
The Guardian, London

France's bitter 10-year legal battle with the Church of Scientology will reach a critical stage today when a Paris court will for the first time hear charges against the organisation itself rather than individual members. The case, which could well decide the movement's future in France, is the first since the adoption there last year of tough anti-cult legislation that allows the dissolution of suspected sects found guilty of common offences.

Prosecutors will charge the Church's inner temple, the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology in the Paris region, and its president, Marc Walter, with abuse of civil liberties, misleading publicity and attempted fraud.

"It's a hugely important case, the first time the Church has been accused as a legal entity in its own right," said Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the National Union for the Defence of Families and Individuals, which is demanding that the organisation be outlawed.

The case stems from the complaints of three men, including two former Scientologists, who were sent brochures, booklets and invitations from the Church two or three times a week for several years despite having repeatedly demanded to be removed from its mailing lists.

A year-long inquiry headed by Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke found that the three men's names featured in half a dozen different Scientology databases maintained in France and Britain but also at the organisation's European HQ in Denmark and the International Association of Scientologists in Los Angeles.

"That is a clear-cut case of breach of civil liberties and data protection legislation," a spokesman at the public prosecutor's office said yesterday. "The judge also argues that the organisation was set up specifically to commit these offences."

The Church, which has dismissed the case as "a minor affair about the complaint of a couple of individuals", will also be accused of attempted fraud based on the "false allegations and untrue promises" in its tracts.

Unlike the US, France refuses to recognise Scientology as a religion, arguing that it is a purely commercial operation out to make as much money as it can at the expense of often vulnerable victims.

In a trial in Marseille three years ago, five Scientology officials were found guilty of selling bogus "purification" treatments costing between £1,200 and £15,000 but consisting mainly of sessions in the sauna, jogging and vitamin pills.

Other leading French Scientologists have in the past been sentenced to jail terms - often suspended - for fraud and other financial offences, but this is the first time the Church itself and its recruitment methods have gone on trial.

Founded in 1954 by the late L Ron Hubbard, an American science fiction writer, the Church of Scientology claims more than 8m members worldwide, including the Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

In France, where the organisation says it has some 50,000 members, Scientology was first described as a sect in a 1996 parliamentary report, and still features on a list of 173 groups under permanent government surveillance.

The movement was again strongly criticised this week in the government's annual report on quasi-religious activity. It accused the Scientologists of trying to "cash in on catastrophe", handing out thousands of pamphlets offering help and advice after last September's explosion at a chemical factory in Toulouse that killed 30 people, injured 2,500, and left 1,400 families homeless.

Last year France became the first country to pass specific legislation against sects, creating a new offence, the "fraudulent abuse of a state of ignorance or weakness", which carries a prison sentence of up to three years and a maximum fine of £250,000.

The Church of Scientology has described it as "an attempt to impose state atheism".

Digital data puts Mars on map


By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Scientists have produced the most detailed atlas of Mars ever compiled, and it is freely available on the internet.

It is based on the accurate images sent back from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), which has been in orbit around Mars since 1997.

Even though other spacecraft are mapping Mars, the atlas is unlikely to be bettered for many years and researchers say it will be essential to plan future landings.

It will also assist those who hope to prove that Mars is still an active world. Many suspect that changes still occur occasionally, but so far little has been seen.

Global data

The atlas has been produced by Malin Space Science Systems who process the data obtained by the camera onboard the MGS.

According to Dr Mike Malin, it took about a month to acquire the data for the atlas in May and December 1999 with some additional data of the polar regions in 2001. It then took a further two months to develop the software needed to stitch the data together.

Finally, it took about two days of continuous computer processing using a Sun SunBlade 1000 system with dual 750-Mhz UltraSPARC III processors and 4 GB of RAM to composite the final map.

Dr Malin told BBC News Online: "It is one of several new maps we are creating that will show at 250 metre scale how Mars has changed since the Mariner 9/Viking era in the mid-1970's.

"It will provide a background for further detailed studies of the geology and geological history of Mars. It will be the best global data set for some time to come, so future exploration missions will base their location knowledge on comparisons with these maps."

While scientists have been able to study individual MGS images to scrutinise detailed areas of the planet, the atlas provides a unique global view of Mars.

"I like the overall map because for the first time you can see both the morphology and the brightness variations...this is something new for digital maps of Mars," says Dr Malin.

But even with the aid of such a detailed map of Mars scientists have not seen much change on the surface of the red planet.

"There are a number of ephemeral and small changes that have occurred," says Dr Malin, "such as occasional small dust avalanches, dust-devil streaks, the waxing and waning polar caps, and the enlargement of the pits in the south polar cap.

"But we have not yet seen any movement of sand dunes or formation of new gullies, but we have come not to expect these latter things to occur...we think they are still rare on a 1-2 year timescale."

Robertson Calls Islam a Religion of Violence, Mayhem


Washington Post
February 22, 2002
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer

Television evangelist Pat Robertson yesterday described Islam as a violent religion bent on world domination, drawing immediate protests from American Muslims.

Robertson, one of the most powerful figures on the religious right, made the remarks on his Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club." In mid-September, he and fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell sparked controversy by suggesting on the same show that abortionists, feminists, gays and liberal groups were partly responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

After a segment yesterday on the political views of Muslims in America, the announcer, Lee Webb, turned to Robertson and asked: "As for the Muslim immigrants, Pat, it makes you wonder, if they have such contempt for our foreign policy why they'd even want to live here?"

"Well, as missionaries possibly to spread the doctrine of Islam," Robertson answered. "But, ladies and gentlemen, I have taken issue with our esteemed president in regard to his stand in saying Islam is a peaceful religion. It's just not. And the Koran makes it very clear, if you see an infidel, you are to kill him."

Robertson added that "the fact is that our immigration policies are now so skewed to the Middle East and away from Europe that we have introduced these people into our midst and undoubtedly there are terrorist cells all over them."

Islam, he concluded, "is not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist. They want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then if need be destroy."

Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called Robertson's remarks "truly outrageous."

"We know the word for this. This is called anti-Semitism," Ibish said. ". . . It's a resurgent anti-Semitism with the word 'Muslims' instead of the word 'Jews.' "

Thursday, February 21, 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 21, 2002

from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Huge amounts of water -- enough to cause catastrophic floods -- gushed out of fissures onto the surface of Mars relatively recently, scientists who analyzed photographs of the red planet said on Wednesday.

The deluge washed the equivalent of one and a quarter times the water found in Lake Erie onto the surface of the planet near its equator, carving out a series of tear-shaped mesas, the team at the University of Arizona reported.

And it was an unusual torrent, spurting from underground much like lava, the scientists report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"This is a completely different water-release mechanism than previously studied on Mars," Devon Burr, who is working on a doctorate degree in geosciences at the University of Arizona, said in a statement.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Institute of Medicine reported Wednesday that getting up to 20 vaccinations by the age of 2 does not increase a child's risk of developing diabetes or various infections.

However, there is not enough evidence yet to decide if multiple shots increase the risk of developing asthma, the panel of independent scientists concluded.

The report should reassure parents that "there's not a lot of support for those risks" critics often cite, said the panel chairwoman, Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health. But "the diseases that their children are being protected against are very real."


from Newsday

Dropping body temperature by just a few degrees apparently prevents brain damage in people who become unconscious as a result of a heart attack, two teams of doctors reported in studies released today.

The analyses provide answers for one of the long- standing questions over what to do in the wake of a cardiac arrest and could prompt new guidelines on treatment, experts said yesterday.

Even though a heart can be jump-started by electric shock, protecting the brain has proved more problematic. People lose consciousness during a heart attack because oxygen cannot reach the brain, and brain-death starts within four to six minutes.

Reporting in today's New England Journal of Medicine, medical research teams in Europe and Australia, using two different techniques, have come to the same conclusion: cooling spares brain function. And cooling, the doctors said, should begin as soon as possible.


from The Christian Science Monitor

A new study using seven decades of temperature data shows that mid-depth water around Antarctica has warmed nearly twice as much as the world ocean as a whole. That wasn't supposed to happen.

Geophysicists expect global warming to be strongest in polar regions. However, as Sarah Gille at the University of California, San Diego, explains: "We thought the ocean between 700 and 1,100 meters [2,300 and 3,600 feet] was pretty well insulated from what's happening at the surface. But these results suggest that the mid-depth Southern Ocean is responding and warming more rapidly than global ocean temperatures [generally]." How this unexpected finding fits into global-warming forecasts is unclear, but it could be significant.

Professor Gille notes that the Southern Ocean "is a very climatically sensitive region." It is at one end of the conveyor-belt circulations that carry heat poleward in upper-level currents and return cold water equaterward at great depths - a key part of the system that maintains Earth's present climate. Any change in Antarctic waters could directly affect circulations in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.


from The Washington Post

The projects' creators describe them as akin to digital ant colonies.

They are networks composed of millions of computers working together across the Internet to solve some of the world's most intractable problems: analyzing possible cures for cancer or AIDS, scouting the universe for signs of life, or even cracking a code for prize money.

The machines are ordinary PCs. Volunteers need only download a free screensaver to participate. The software program harnesses any leftover processing power, without interrupting a volunteer's normal activities, and diverts it to tackle some large computing problem. In this way, average citizens are helping scientists help the world.


from The Washington Post

For the past month, some of the world's most experienced bird experts have waded through a southern Louisiana swamp in search of a huge, regal woodpecker they hoped had miraculously returned from the dead.

With only a forestry student's 1999 eyewitness account to go by, the group gambled it could track down a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers, once the largest woodpecker in North America. Six scientists from the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, using state-of-the-art satellite tracking and recording equipment, combed 35,000 acres of rugged, tree-covered terrain and bayous northeast of New Orleans in search of the ghostly bird that no one has seen, with certainty, since shortly after World War II.

Yesterday, however, the scientists ended their search. They announced that although they had found and heard several possible signs of the ivory-bill, they had neither seen it nor heard its distinctive call.


from The Christian Science Monitor

If you don't know the difference between a mourning dove and a common ground dove; if you've never heard of the Sibley Guide to Birds; and if you've never thought of packing a pair of binoculars, a telescope, and a bird checklist and taking to the woods for a weekend - listen up: The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a four-day event that kicks off at dawn tomorrow, is the great leveler of bird-watching.

All you need is a patch of sky and a small interest in birds. More than 100,000 people have participated in the annual count, now being held for the fifth year. It is a joint project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, and an offshoot of the 102-year-old Christmas Birdwatch.

For ornithologists, it's the ultimate in what some call "citizen science."


from The New York Times

It has been here for at least a decade, quietly chewing its way through the city's beloved maples and elms, leaving barren neighborhoods and parks in its wake. First discovered in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it appeared in Queens, Long Island and Manhattan, before finally, disappointingly, wreaking its telltale damage within the stone walls of Central Park, uncovered at the end of last month.

Even as teams of inspectors try to scour every vulnerable tree in the city and scientists race to develop ever more sophisticated methods of search-and-destroy - from sexual lures to computerized eavesdroppers - officials are discovering just how formidable the Asian longhorned beetle can be.

Asked what the best hope was for eliminating the beetle from native soil, David Lance, an entomologist at the United States Department of Agriculture's plant protection lab on Cape Cod, said, giddily, "Well, just beat it to death with as many sticks as you can, basically."


from The Dallas Morning News

Nancy Kerrigan isn't skating in this year's Olympics, but a lot of physicists are thinking about her anyway.

They have in mind the image of Nancy on the cover of Sports Illustrated after she was whacked on the knee before the 1994 Winter Games. In particular, they fixate on the headline that echoed Nancy's famous quote from that time:

Why me? Why now?

For the last few years, physicists have been saying the same thing.


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Why Can't Johnny Understand Science?


News Service
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Contact: David Brand
Office: 607-255-3651
E-Mail: deb27@cornell.edu

Why can't Johnny understand science? Question vexing researchers and educators to be aired at AAAS session

February 17, 2002

BOSTON -- Science is part of our daily lives -- the way we understand the natural world, the technologies we use and the decisions we make about our health and the environment. So why, asks Cornell University researcher Bruce Lewenstein, do most people know so little about science?

Lewenstein, who is an associate professor of science communication at Cornell, is among the growing number of educators exploring the gap between practitioners of science and the public at large. Aided by federal and university funding initiatives, they are working to promote general "scientific literacy" through community involvement and education efforts, known as outreach. But, they ask, are their efforts working?

The question will be addressed by researchers and educators at 9 a.m. today (Feb. 17) at a symposium, "Best Practices From Research Scientists Who Communicate With The Public," at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting. The panel is organized by Lewenstein and by Ilan Chabay of the New Curiosity Shop, consultants in the design of science learning experiences and programs.

In recent years, increasing emphasis on outreach and education by major scientific funding agencies -- including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health -- has sparked renewed interest among scientists in developing ways to work outreach into their research programs. For example, the NSF, which distributes more than $4 billion in research funding annually, in 1997 stopped evaluating grant proposals primarily on the intellectual merit of the proposed research. Now the standard includes broader social impacts of the research under consideration and strengthens the role of education and the participation of underrepresented groups. Even so, says Lewenstein, public education still has a long way to go. "Senior people at scientific institutions and societies all recognize the importance of outreach. Meanwhile, younger researchers are often socialized to not engage in outreach but to stay in the lab," he says. "There are lots of scientists who engage in outreach, but compared to the number who could, it's pretty small."

Lewenstein edits a quarterly academic journal, Public Understanding of Science, and directs the New York Science Education Program, a consortium of colleges committed to improving undergraduate science education.

Also speaking on the AAAS panel will be Nevjinder Singhota, educational programs director at the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR), one of 29 such NSF-funded centers that promotes interdisciplinary research and education.

Singhota coordinates a diverse outreach program, one of several at Cornell that brings science faculty, graduate students and undergraduates into area K-12 classrooms. CCMR also runs workshops for teachers, home-schooled children and teenagers in juvenile detention facilities. A crucial factor in the success of CCMR outreach, according to Singhota, is making education part of the administrative vision. She notes that the director of CCMR, Frank DiSalvo, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Sciences at Cornell, and the associate director, Helene Schember, encourage faculty to do outreach. "They themselves do it, they develop the lessons, and so it evolved from that. It's just part of the whole process," she says.

During the past two years, CCMR has offered more than 40 programs reaching more than 70 undergraduates, 2,000 K-12 students, 100 teachers, 125 parents and 20,000 upstate New York newspaper readers through an ask-the-scientist column. Participants have included more than 100 faculty members, 80 graduate and post doctoral students, 16 professional staff members and numerous undergraduates.

DiSalvo sees science education as essential to a democratic society in which the public makes decisions related to science and technology. "A scientifically illiterate public is a recipe for disaster," he says. "As a democracy it's in our best interest to become scientifically literate, and that's really what outreach is about -- to introduce people to the methods of science and the fun of science."

Related World Wide Web sites:

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


* Public Understanding of Science

* International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology

Mrs. Betty Bowers on Miss Cleo

First They Came For Miss Cleo And I Did Nothing

As America's Best Christian, it concerns me greatly that the FCC is cracking down on people who charge a great deal of money for what they can't deliver. No, I'm not referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta or Sylvester Stallone, but that would-be Caribbean sorceress, Miss Cleo. According to the secular news, the federal government has joined with state attorney generals in trying to shut down a woman who inveigles the public by purporting to know their future. After one charming glass of wine with her unsaved accountant, however, it became clear to me that Miss Cleo should be more renown for making fortunes rather than telling them.

As a True Christian, I've never had cause to use any supposed clairvoyant's services. I don't speak to the dead. They are naively unaware of this rather specific slight, as I don't tend to speak to most of the living either. Nevertheless, are these harmless tête-à-têtes so terrible? To be honest, I find the fact that people credulous enough to spend $5-a-minute to hear vague prognostications from a phone-bank of women one paycheck away from making cold-calls for telemarketers somewhat comforting. If they weren't tied up on the telephone ignoring common sense by making small-talk with someone imbued with less supernatural powers than Darrin Stevens on Bewitched, they might be in the car behind mine ignoring the red light dangling before us.

Once Miss Cleo is sent back to behind the counter at Taco Bell, will the FCC turn its stated desire to protect the American public from chicanery to other people on TV who hawk the future like it was theirs to sell for an exorbitant fee? I am, of course, talking about Pat Robertson. What of the televangelists who promise to cure everything from cantankerousness to cancer in exchange for a generous "love offering"?

Will the Attorney General of New York swoop down and padlock all the Catholic confessionals? After all, Miss Cleo is only promising the hair color of next Thursday's fling, not a rendezvous with God, eternal life and a charmingly appointed mansion of gold overlooking the Milky Way. Indeed, when it comes to having the ingenuity to package the future and market it to the public for a retail price, Christianity makes Miss Cleo look like quite the hapless amateur. Once tithes and other contributions to our rather prosperous enterprise are spread out over the course of a light afternoon of confessions or faith-healings, the minute-by-minute fee renders Miss Cleo a below-market bargain.

As the CEO of a Fortune 500 Christian ministry, I admit to harboring disdain for any woman who indulges the amusingly gullible public's quaint hankering to know the unknowable -- and parlays it into cash or real estate. That is, after all, my demographic. Nevertheless, while I have always considered Miss Cleo's syntax and mode of dress criminal, it worries me that she may be criminally liable for duping an audience verily begging to be deceived and fleeced. To blame Miss Cleo for someone else's desperation is tantamount to jailing the man driving the train that Anna Karenina found herself under.

Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian

A woman known throughout Christendom for her joie d'après vivre

Keep Annoying Trash Out of Heaven! Buy: "What Would Betty Do?" (2002 Simon & Schuster)


Dennis Lee update

From: Thomas J Wheeler tjwheeler@louisville.edu

On two occasions I have posted stories about legal problems of "free energy" promoter Dennis Lee in Kentucky. Here is the latest:

Controversial business faces charges, suit Kentucky among states acting against Lee's marketing tactics

By Matt Batcheldor
The Courier-Journal

See an engine that runs on a cocktail ''of pickle juice, soda pop . . . even human urine.''

Watch live electricity pass across a room ''without any wires.''

As Dennis Lee's operatives demonstrate such devices at seminars advertised on Web sites and in faxes, they ask the curious to sign up for information about a machine that will provide them with free electricity -- if it's developed.

Later they're offered $15 memberships in a ''discount club'' selling videos and devices like a plastic laundry disc that claim to end the need for detergent. Those who recruit other members into the discount club are eligible for free kilowatts of the electricity.

Lee's enterprises are based in New Jersey, but his dealers and recruiters extend throughout the country, and at least eight states, including Kentucky, have taken legal action against him.

Even so, numerous Web sites continue to promote Lee's companies, and 150 people attended a demonstration in Louisville in December. One of them, Edward Bowden, 29, insisted to a reporter that Lee's products were legitimate as the crowd watched a demonstration of how radioactive waste could be ''neutralized.''

''People have been programmed to believe these things aren't possible by the big corporations,'' said Bowden, who once lived in Louisville and now lives in West Lafayette, Ind. His brother, he said, is a dealer.

Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler has filed criminal charges and a lawsuit against Lee. A hearing on the civil case is set for today in Jefferson Circuit Court, when a judge will consider whether to stop Lee and his companies from doing business in Kentucky.

In the criminal case, Lee is scheduled to go on trial in District Court on March 22 on charges of not registering his business opportunity and making false earnings claims.

Lee says he is breaking no laws.

Chandler said the cases show how his office tries to stop fraudulent companies from operating in Kentucky. Last year there were 4,461 complaints of such businesses, up from 4,161 in 2000 and 4,377 in 1999.

In Lee's case, however, no one has filed a complaint with the state.

Here's a look at how he operates, and what the state is doing:

full story at:


Tom Wheeler

UFO Fly-By Predicted for the Olympics

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The massive security at the Winter Games could be put to the test Thursday when a delegation arrives in an unusual fashion.

Intergalactic visitors are expected in the early evening, according to a woman who claims to have had "multiple visitations" by the aliens . . .


Star Trek creators to be honoured by Space Foundation - Your News from Ananova

The creators of Star Trek are to be honoured by the Space Foundation.

The late Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry have won the foundation's Douglas S Morrow Public Outreach Award.

This year's award will be presented during the National Space Symposium's opening ceremony on April 8.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_525821.html

Physicists claim antimatter breakthrough - Your News from Ananova

Physicists in Switzerland say they have captured antimatter for the first time.

Scientists have often wondered whether they can get energy from the reaction when antimatter and matter collide.

Until now they have found it difficult to make and control antiatoms.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_525738.html

ANN: event, Evolution and God, March 2, Cleveland OH

Case Western Reserve University's Center for Policy Studies is pleased to announce a public presentation -FREE and open to the public- 1 pm, March 2, 2002, at the Allen Theater, Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH:

Why Intelligent Design Theory Isn't Science



Cynthia Beall
Sarah Idell Pyle Professor of Anthropology, And member of the National Academy of Sciences Moderator

Lawrence Krauss
Professor and Chair of Physics, Case Western Reserve University author of The Physics of Star Trek "The Nature of Science and the Current Situation in Ohio"

Stephen Jay Gould
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Harvard University author of Wonderful Life, & Rocks of Ages "The Factuality of Evolution & The Non-Scientific Nature of Intelligent Design Theory"

Kenneth R. Miller
Professor of Biology, Brown University Author of Finding Darwin's God "Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: Do the Details of Life Reveal Design or Evolution?"

This event is FREE and open to the public
1 pm, March 2, 2002
Allen Theater, Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH:

FMI Patricia Princehouse, Dept of Philosophy pmp7@cwru.edu
Joe White, Dept of Political Science jxw87@po.cwru.edu
CWRU www.cwru.edu

H-NET List for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
email: h-sci-med-tech@h-net.msu.edu
web: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~smt/

Destruction of the Bible


"If the truth gives pain, it is not the fault of the teacher, nor of the reader who hears it for the first time, but of error, which stabs and stings before it will surrender its victim." M.M. Mangasarian, The Bible Unveiled.

Despite claims of imaginary "personal relationships" and "revelations", the foundation of the Christian religion, no matter what their adherents say, is based upon the book known as the bible. This book is claimed to be the "inspired word of God", but penned by human hands-- it is believed that the people who wrote the books that form the bible were inspired or directed by God to write His laws and teachings.

The bible is forced upon us at every turn-- we take oaths on it, U.S. presidents are sworn in on it, it is impossible to get a hotel room without one, and there are unrelenting efforts to get bibles re-introduced into public schools. There is an assumption in this country that the bible is "the Good Book", and that it is true. I shall show that neither of these statements is correct.

Wednesday, February 20, 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 20, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Consumers beware: Scientists say the bacteria that cause food poisonings aren't going away, despite the efforts of the food industry to eliminate them.

New germs arrive in imported foods and bacteria already here develop in new forms, according to a report for the Institute of Food Technologists. The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes are so common in the environment, it's "practically impossible" to keep food entirely free of them.

"Zero risk is not a reality," said the report released Wednesday.

The scientists also say the increasing use of manure as fertilizer poses the risk of spreading harmful bacteria to food, either by contaminating irrigation water or by coming into contact with crops.


from The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON - A virus that infects about 65 percent of all children by the age of 14 may play a role in the development of the most common type of malignant brain tumor found in the young, researchers report.

In a study appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers say that proteins from the JC virus were found in 20 specimens of brain tumors taken from children.

Dr. Kamel Khalili, senior author of the research, said that "the presence of the virus ... is suggestive of a biological role for this virus in the development of these tumors."


from The Boston Globe

When the life-altering phone call came before dawn last Oct. 9, a flustered Wolfgang Ketterle repeatedly told himself to sit down.

''Of course, I was already sitting down at the time,'' he recalled with a chuckle.

It was the Nobel committee on the line, and, at age 43, the MIT physicist was being honored by the world's elite minds.

And then life continued. Back to the lab. Back to the classroom. Back to scientific lectures. But it was never quite the same.


from The Boston Globe

The countdown begins to create the first authentic reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer. With a deadline of Dec. 17, 2003 -- the centennial of the plane's first flight -- engineers struggle to get all the details right.

WARRENTON, Va. - It was late summer 1901, and for two brothers who would go down in history as the inventors of the airplane, their train ride home from Kitty Hawk was glum indeed. Wilbur and Orville Wright had just concluded a second season of flight tests on the secluded North Carolina beach. The glider they had spent many hundreds of hours researching and building was, in fact, a dog.

It did not have the lift their calculations had promised. In fact, the glider, with its 22-foot span, had flown just about as well backward as forward. The dream of powered controllable flight for the Wright brothers, now in their early 30s, was fading fast.

''Not in our lifetime ...'' history would record Wilbur muttering to Orville as the train chugged toward Dayton, Ohio. ''Not in a thousand years.''


compiled by The Boston Globe

Predator to prey

It's almost impossible to predict how an ecosystem will respond when a new species is added, and now a study of the California Channel Islands shows that one of the strange things that can happen is that predators can become prey after the introduction of new prey. Gary W. Roemer of the University of California at Los Angeles and his colleagues showed that the introduction of pigs, as food for people, increased the golden eagle population. These eagles in turn ate most of the indigenous fox population, which earlier had been basically predators and not prey. In the meantime, with the fox populations dropping, the skunks, which were being beaten out by the foxes, started to increase in numbers. The upshot then is that pigs introduced to the islands all but wiped out the foxes, while the skunks won out as a sort of side-effect. Perhaps there's a warning here about the effect of messing around with Mother Nature. ref.: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jan. 22, 2002.


from The New York Times

Crumple a piece of paper, squeezing it into a crooked sphere.

Even the strongest of hands is not able to squeeze it much smaller than a golf ball. A sheet of paper, flimsy when flat, gains surprising strength as it crumples.

"At the end, you realize most of what you've got in your hand is 75 percent air," said Dr. Sidney R. Nagel, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago. "This tiny sheet of paper, which has not much strength at all, is able to resist your squeezing very, very well. Why is it as strong as it is?"

Unfold the crumpled sheet and the scarred landscape, like a miniature mountain range of peaks, valleys and ridges, provides a partial answer. To squeeze the wad further would require breaking the peaks and ridges into smaller ones.


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AANEWS for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Department of Housing Unaware Of Scam?
Church Profited From Public Money

A highly touted partnership involving the federal government and a Washington, DC faith-based consortium "is violating federal rules and failing to deliver on its promise," according to an article in today's Washington Post.

The story revealed that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development quietly suspended a working program with the Church Association for Community Service after the group hired a for-profit firm to oversee the renovation and sale of properties in the federal district in order to encourage private home ownership.

"That side deal has proved to be a moneymaker for both the church group and the for-profit firm," noted the Post.

AANEWS has learned, though, that individuals in the scam are intimately tied to powerbrokers in the metro government, and that similar programs -- with minimal supervision and oversight -- are now operating in at least fifteen other communities throughout the nation, including Fort Lauderdale, FL; Los Angeles, CA; Providence, RI: Rochester, NY; and Chicago, Ill.

At issue is the fate of approximately 300 abandoned houses worth $14 million scattered throughout Washington, DC. The deal was for sixty local churches to band together under the non-profit corporate umbrella of CACS, renovate the properties, and sell them at cost to low-income families and people otherwise excluded from the booming real estate market. HUD would provide the FHA-foreclosed properties which were within designated "revitalization zones." The houses were transferred to CACS ownership thanks to "deep discounts," according to a press handout dated July 17, 2001 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mayor Anthony Williams has praised the faith-based partnership saying that it would "build and sustain healthy neighborhoods."

Like many houses of worship, though, the churches associated with the CACS-HUD venture had no expertise in finance and property renovation. When some officials expressed concerned, the Clinton administration -- at the behest of Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former D.C. delegate and member of the Church Association Board of Directors -- waived the minimum requirements, and the venture was underway.

Unable to manage the rehab project, CACS then contracted with an outside firm known as GLM Real Estate, a for-profit corporation founded by Gregory Holloway. Holloway is a friend and supporter of Mayor Williams, and according to the Post, some officials at HUD were aware of the cozy and improper financial arrangement between the realty management firm and the faith-based partnership.

Of 31 properties already renovated and sold, the Church Association and Holloway's firm reaped an estimated $39,000 in profits for their efforts -- an estimated 38% over the costs incurred by CACS. This would have generated $2.3 million in extra costs -- and profits for CACS and GLM -- for the new "low income" residents buying the first 141 properties.

Despite the fact that financial gain was not to be part of the faith-based operation, Holloway declared that he looked forward to a "modest profit."

"They ended up doing a political negotiation," said Thomas Bledsoe of the Housing Network Partnership, a coalition of other groups which has been involved in low-cost housing. "If you step into this new, you're going to run into problems." He added that the revelations concerning the Church Association for Community Service "gives our business a bad name."

The faith-based project also appears to have bypassed even the most basic construction and regulatory processes. For instance, municipal records indicate that no permits were obtained for any work done on 17 of the properties. The Post reveals that one inspector found a CACS home "too hazardous to occupy." A balcony was not properly attached, and when a second-floor bathroom spigot was turned on, water cascaded down through a ceiling light fixture below. "You could take a shower while frying your eggs," quipped one disgusted home owner.

Church Group Was Under Investigation

Incredibly, the faith-based corporation was under investigation by the D.C. Inspector General when the Department of Housing announced the initial deal. Mayor Williams had already been exposed by news media for having aides solicit individuals and corporations to contribute to "charitable organizations," with the money going instead to mayoral perks and other activities.

One of the charities was the Church Association for Community Services. In April, 2001, reports surfaced that the group's bank account had allegedly paid a friend of the mayor's mother over $2000 to chauffeur her around the city.

A story published by DC Watch noted Williams' office "set up phony nonprofit organizations to solicit political donations and used preexisting nonprofit organizations, like the Church Association for Community Service, to funnel donations to its political causes."

A HUD spokesman told reporters that the agreement between the agency and CACS had been completed in March, and that the faith-based partnership had passed a "certification process to qualify for the program, demonstrating its housing experience and ability to finance renovation (of) the properties," according to the July 18, 2001 Washington Post. But that was smoke and mirrors; CACS had no experience in the field, and the certification process had been short-circuited at the instigation of Rev. Fauntroy.

Equally puzzling was an admission by Rev. Frank Tucker, head of the Church Association, who said that his group was collecting money to pay for Mayor William's 2000 "prayer breakfast."

"Cash Mismanagement"

A story in the January 12-18, 2001 edition of Washington City Paper discussed the financial calamity plaguing the nation's capital, noting: "The only way the District government knows how to fix a problem is to throw more money at it." The article detailed the frantic rush by city officials in generating their required report on city finances in time to meet the February 1 mandated deadline. A slew of "consulting firms" and advisors was brought in, all "lapping up tax dollars" to coordinate everything from clerical work to "cash reconciliation." Mr. Holloway's name surfaces here. He headed the team of "independent auditors" who produced the delayed fiscal 1999 audit, and since had gone on to start his own firm, Holloway and Co. "According to the (new) contract, Holloway's new operation may earn up to $200,000 to help install and personalize the city's computerized Universal Accounts Receivable system," noted City Paper.

Faith-Based Staff At the Mayor's Office

In the district mayor's office, Williams had created a special post for an "advisor for religious affairs," an appointment held by Rev. Donald Robinson. In November, 2001, Robinson was transferred to a $48,0000 per year job in the Department of Employment Services. During his tenure, he had persuaded the city's Office of Partnerships and Grant Development to "assist" religious groups with grant and proposal writing.

AANEWS has learned that a key contact was Rev. Tucker, pastor at the First Baptist Church where Robinson was serving as "associate minister."

Rev. Tucker was also listed as member of Williams' Electoral Transition Team in 1998. Meanwhile, the honorary chair of Williams' Inaugural Committee was none other than Virginia Hayes Williams, the women who received $2,000 in CACS money to chauffeur the new mayor's mom around the nation's capital.

Bush Administration Boosted CACS Project

"Your dream of home ownership is only a phone call away!" declared one advertising notice from the Church Association for Community Services. "Realize your dream of home ownership for the same cost as your rent!"

No mentioned was made, however, that despite the imprimaturs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Freddie MAC (a federal home lending agency) and local banks, the Church Association project was running amok without government oversight, and cutting secret side-deals in the process. A description of the Church Association for Community Services identified the group as "a faith-based non-profit organization ... established in 1989 to improve the quality of affordable housing, to enhance the quality of life of its members and the community, and to be a catalyst for economic development across targeted areas of the city."

Instead CACS sold properties for "at market" costs, enlisted a for-profit corporation as a stealth partner, and mixed its own money in a variety of suspect enterprises, including those related to mayoral activities. What accountability guidelines were in place to prevent such abuse were circumvented in part to the Clinton administration, and Rev. Walter Fauntroy, Pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church which is a member of the CACS network. The scheme operated as a component of President Bush's federal faith-based initiative, and received enthusiastic support from HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, who in 2001 gloated in public statement over the role his department was playing in conjunction with CACS.

"This is another wake-up call that the faith-based initiative is not only unconstitutional, but a reckless invitation for corruption and graft," said American Atheists President Ellen Johnson. "The situation with CACS shows once again that the government is handing out tax money and cutting deals with churches without any meaningful oversight or accountability procedures being in place."

"It's the 'honor system' when it comes to houses of worship spending taxpayer dollars," Johnson added.

For further information:

(Background, archive of articles on the faith-based initiative)

("Compromise reached on faith-based funding scheme," 2/8/02)

("Good God! Faith-based scams proliferate," 8/13/01)

("Stark truth for policy makers: data lacking to support claims of faith-based social program success," 4/25/01)

("Suit exposes use of lottery revenue to fund religious groups, pageant," 6/8/01)

("Philadelphia faith-based director charged with theft..." 3/17/01)

Articles of Note & CFI Radio Show

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


Supplement Safety
By Lauran Neergaard
Associated Press


"The 45-year-old woman became jaundiced and then, in just months, became so ill she needed a liver transplant. Her doctor suspects the popular herbal supplement kava."

Chiropractic treatment linked to stroke
by Emma Young
New Scientist


"Neck manipulation by chiropractors could be a major cause of strokes in young people, say neurologists at the University of Toronto, Canada. They are now calling for the practice to be banned."

Existence of Virgin's shepherd doubted
by Letta Tayler


"When Juana Garay's cousin, Pablo, came down with a mysterious illness that spread painful lesions across his body, the Mexico City housewife did what millions of Mexicans do when they face a personal crisis: She prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe."

Chinese rush to wed before new year


"Chinese couples are stampeding to get hitched before the Year of the Horse starts next week, spooked by a cosmological sign that the coming lunar year bodes ill for newlyweds."

Fortunetellers may be welcome
by Cheryl Meyer
Chicago Tribune


"Village officials recommended that trustees amend the municipal code to allow fortunetellers to ply their trade."

Return of the Mothman
by Paul Souhrada
Columbus Dispatch


"There are two kinds of people in Point Pleasant."

Rabbi Says Gays Should Die
Rainbow Network


"A leading Jewish cleric has called for homosexuals to be killed. The statements have come in the week that members of leading lesbian and gayprime minister Ariel Sharon."

It's simply shocking
by Sean O'Hagan
The Observer [UK]


"In a laborartory at Yale University in 1961, Professor Stanley Milgram carried out a dramatic and disturbing psychology experiment. He recruited people from all walks of life, supposedly for an investigation into 'memory and learning', but, unbeknownst to the volunteers, carried out what has since entered contemporary folklore as the Milgram Obedience to Authority Experiment."

The Two Skepticisms
By Kenneth Silber


"Who are "the skeptics" in America today - the defenders of science and rationality, the scrutinizers and debunkers of dubious and unwarranted claims?"

Devotion, miracles, prayers for peace
The Press of Atlantic City


"Construction of a 40-foot shrine to Padre Pio, one of the most beloved figures in Roman Catholic history, is under way."

Mystery Man
By David Templeton
North Bay Bohemian


"Loren Coleman wasn't all that frightened by The Mothman Prophecies, the freaky new creep show starring Richard Gere as a journalist on the trail of an eerie supernatural being."

Phone radiation 'shield' claims spur FTC lawsuit
By Denny Walsh
Sacramento Bee


"The Federal Trade Commission claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that a West Sacramento firm employs false and deceptive advertising for a device purported to protect cellular telephone users from radiation."

The Kokomo Hum
By Oliver Libaw
ABC News


"Some say it's like a diesel engine idling. Others describe it as a deep drone or fluorescent light-like buzz. And a great many people don't hear anything at all."

It's a bird ... It's a plane ... Wait ... What the heck IS that?
By Monica M. Brown
Alamogordo Daily News


"Those who have spied a strange flash of light on the mountains east of Alamogordo while traveling home in the late afternoon are not alone."

Unintelligible Redesign
By William Saletan


"According to scientists, teachers, and civil libertarians, the Taliban has invaded Ohio. Creationists have devised a theory called "Intelligent Design" (ID) and are trying to get Ohio's Board of Education to make sure it's taught alongside Darwinism. Unlike creationism, ID accepts that the Earth is billions of years old and that species evolve through natural selection. It posits that life has been designed but doesn't specify by whom. Liberals call ID a menace that will sneak religion into public schools. They're exactly wrong. ID is a big nothing. It's non-living, non-breathing proof that religion has surrendered its war against science."

Antiquarian has taste for the unusual
Norwich Bulletin


"Vampires in Griswold and the possible remains of a Civil War soldier from Killingly that may have been found 140 years after he was reported missing are just two cases that have defined the life of Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, state archaeologist."

Mars bares big hearts; one rising, one sinking
By Richard Stenger


"A strange mesa really stands out on the red planet on Valentine's Day. So does a pit that extends more than a mile in length."

New Amityville Film, TV Due?
Sci Fi Wire


"The Coming Attractions Web site reported rumors that a new feature film or television series is in the works based on the Amityville Horror franchise.

Daniel Alter, the manager of screenwriter/director Daniel Farrands, confirmed to the site that Alter is talking to "several interested parties" about both the series and the film project."

2) Center for Inquiry Radio Show

The Center for Inquiry is pleased to announce that it is adding an outstanding radio program to its print and broadcast media offerings (www.centerforinquiry.net). "Ideas and Issues", a weekly interview show hosted by the distinguished ethicist Hugh LaFollette, is heard on public and commercial radio in parts of the mid-South and Midwest, and broadcast worldwide over the Internet. The show is co-sponsored by East Tennessee State University (ETSU).

LaFollette, a professor of philosophy at ETSU, is author of Personal Relationships, co-author of Brute Science, and editor of the Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics and the Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory. His thoughtful approach has attracted top interviewees from the fields of philosophy, science, politics, and journalism, including Sissela Bok, Richard Dawkins, Tom Beauchamp, Stanley Fish, Nat Hentoff, Barry Lynn, Martha Nussbaum, James Randi, and Matt Ridley.

Topics of past programs include: The Role of the University in Civic Education, The Public (Mis)Understanding of Evolution, Privacy and the Media, Business and the Environment, Animal Intelligence and Animal Emotion, The Birth of Modern Science, Prophecy, Folk Medicine, Spiritual Communication, Why I am a Secular Humanist, and What Role, if any, Should Religion Play in Public Schools?

The Center for Inquiry, dedicated to reasoned, critical reflection on important issues of our time, is proud to support this unique service. Streaming audio and online archives are available at www.etsu.edu/philos/wets.htm.

Press release: silver fleece awards

From: Bill Steele www@cuinfo2.cit.cornell.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago

In a lighthearted attempt to make the public aware of the anti-aging quackery that has become so widespread here and abroad, the first annual Silver Fleece Awards will be announced Feb. 12.

S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, will announce the awards at 12:45 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Miami, 400 SE Second Ave.

The awards are part of a presentation by Olshansky at a two-day seminar about aging and longevity for journalists sponsored by the International Longevity Center-USA.

Olshansky, a noted scientist and demographer of aging, will present awards for the product and organization that he says, "make the most outrageous or exaggerated claims about human aging."

The award - a bottle of vegetable oil labeled "Snake Oil" - will be presented (in absentia) to each award winner.

The Silver Fleece Award for Anti-Aging Quackery will go to Clustered Water(TM), www.clusteredwateronline.com/frame.htm of Olympia, Wash. This award is given to "the product (and its producer) with the most ridiculous, outrageous, scientifically unsupported or exaggerated assertions about aging or age-related diseases," said Olshansky.

According to information presented on their Web site, the producers of Clustered Water(TM) claim that it "truly assists our body's natural processes in counteracting the cellular malfunctions that many health practitioners and researchers believe are responsible for degenerative health."

Olshansky says, "Clustered Water(TM) is the latest in a long line of miracle anti-aging waters that have been sold to the public for thousands of years."

A four-ounce bottle of concentrated Clustered Water(TM) currently sells for $39.95, and, as suggested by the manufacturer, yields four gallons of Clustered Water(TM) when mixed with regular water.

The criteria for this award included an evaluation of the purported health and longevity benefits, claims about scientific evidence supporting the product, the degree to which legitimate scientific research is exaggerated and the profit potential for those selling it.

The recipient of the Silver Fleece Award for an Anti-Aging Organization will go to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Chicago, www.worldhealth.net/index.shtml. This award "honors" the organization that contributes the most to disseminating misinformation and/or products associated with the claim that human aging can now be stopped or reversed.

The organization describes itself as a nonprofit medical society of 10,000 physicians, health practitioners and scientists from 65 countries worldwide who pursue life-enhancing and life-extending medical care. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine describes itself as "dedicated to the belief that the process of physical aging in humans can be slowed, stopped, or even reversed through existing medical and scientific interventions."

"More than any other organization in the world, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is responsible for leading the lay public and some in the medical and scientific community to the mistaken belief that technologies already exist that stop or reverse human aging," Olshansky says. "It has created an alleged medical subspecialty and accreditation in anti-aging medicine, even though there are no proven anti-aging medicines in existence."

The awardees were selected by a committee of three scientists in the field of aging: Olshansky; Leonard Hayflick, University of California at San Francisco; and Bruce Carnes, National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Olshansky and Carnes are authors of "The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging" (Norton, 2001). Hayflick is author of "How and Why We Age" (Ballantine, 1996).

As authors of hundreds of scientific articles on aging, Olshansky and his colleagues are thoroughly familiar with both the legitimate, ongoing research in the fields of aging and the anti-aging claims that have been made historically and in recent years.

"Although there is reason to be optimistic that scientists will eventually be able to intervene in one or more processes associated with human aging, it is not currently possible to stop or reverse aging," says Olshansky. "In spite of this fact, a large number of anti-aging products are now being sold by entrepreneurs and administered by physicians and other health care practitioners in the United States and abroad under the pretext that they will stop or reverse aging and/or combat major fatal diseases."

Olshansky and Carnes say in their book, "The life extension industry begins with a grain of truth but quickly gets mixed with a tablespoon of bad science, a cup of greed, a pint of exaggeration and a gallon of human desire for a longer, healthier life -- a recipe for false hope, broken promises and unfulfilled dreams."

For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu

For more information about the International Longevity Center-USA and its recent scientific report "Is There an Anti-Aging Medicine?," visit www.ilcusa.org

Bill Steele

Exorcisms in the Vatican


VATICAN CITY, Feb. 19 — The Vatican said Tuesday it would neither confirm nor deny a report that Pope John Paul II has now carried out three exorcisms during his papacy, the latest in September.

THE REV. GABRIELE Amorth, an exorcist for the Rome diocese, told La Stampa newspaper, that the most recent exorcism involved a young woman who appeared to be possessed during the pope's general audience. "This girl was rolling around on the ground. People in the Vatican had never seen anything like it. For us exorcists it is run of the mill," Amorth said.

A former papal aide, the late Cardinal Jacques Martin, wrote in his memoirs that John Paul performed an exorcism on an Italian woman in 1982.

A second case occurred during John Paul's general audience two years ago, Amorth said at that time. A papal spokesman said then that the pope comforted the woman, but he did not believe John Paul performed an exorcism.

In 1999, the Vatican issued guidelines for driving out devils, stressing the power of evil. John Paul has repeatedly sought to convince the skeptical that the devil is very much in the world. Amorth told La Stampa said the pope had carried out the exorcisms "because he wanted to give an example" to his priests.


For Roman Catholics, exorcism is the casting out of what is believed to be an evil spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands. Amorth said possession by demons took many shapes.

"I have seen many strange things...objects such as nails spat out. The devil told a woman that he would make her spit out a transistor radio and lo and behold she started spitting out bits and pieces of a radio transistor," he said.

"I have seen levitations, and a force that needed six or eight men to hold the person still. Such things are rare, but they happen," he said.

Amorth said the woman whom the Pope exorcised in September was still undergoing treatment. "It's a very serious case. A series of curses," he said.

The interview was published a day after the Pope warned of the daily temptations of the devil during his Sunday address.

"The devil, the 'prince of this world', even today continues his insidious actions. Each and every man...is tempted by the devil when he least expects it," the Pope said.

The official Roman Catholic exorcism starts with prayers, the blessing and sprinkling of holy water, the laying of hands on the possessed, and the making of the sign of the cross.

It ends with the priest commanding the devil to leave the possessed person.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Scientists use data from many satellites to create the most detailed composite image of the Earth

(includes pictures)

Welcome to Earth
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

This is what scientists are calling the most detailed colour image ever made of the entire Earth.

Composite satellite images showing the cloud-free Earth have been made before, but Nasa's latest image beats all others in terms of accuracy and the amount of data that went into it.

For a year thousands of images and satellite measurements were knitted together until every square kilometre of the globe was covered.

Climatic regions are well seen, as are tropical forests and grasslands. City lights, encroaching on the world's dark regions, are also easily detected.

Care was taken to render the colours accurately so that the final map represents the Earth's actual tint and hue.

Cloud free

Although data from many satellites was used, much of the information for the map came from Nasa's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectoradiometer (Modis) on the Terra satellite that is in a 700 km (435 miles) orbit above the Earth.

Scientists say that Modis is a versatile sensor able to observe a variety of terrestrial, oceanic and atmospheric features of the Earth.

For the land and coastal regions, data was collected between June and September 2001. It was processed to remove clouds.

The polar regions were also surveyed by Modis as well as by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's AVHRR sensor onboard a polar orbiting satellite. The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer is particularly suited to gathering polar data.

Bright lights, big city

The image of Earth's city lights was created with data from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Linescan System (OLS).

Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth's surface.

It shows that the brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanised, but not necessarily the most populated.

Even without an underlying map, the outlines of many continents would still be visible. The United States interstate highway system appears as a latticework.

In Russia, the Trans-Siberian railroad is a thin line stretching from Moscow through the centre of Asia to Vladivostok. The Nile River, from the Aswan Dam to the Mediterranean Sea, is another bright thread through an otherwise dark region.

Antarctica is entirely dark. The interior jungles of Africa and South America are mostly dark, but lights are beginning to appear there.

Finally, Nasa scientists, having spent so much effort in removing the clouds from the images, decided to put them back to create a typical view of our planet. To do this they collected two-days' worth of global cloud images and a third day of thermal infra-red imagery over the poles.

The result is a stunningly beautiful blue and white planet like no other known world. Welcome to Earth.

Dinosaur discoveries wow Boston

By BBC News Online's Jonathan Amos

Sensational fossil discoveries were unveiled on Monday, including the most primitive wishbone yet found in a dinosaur.

Also presented was an exquisite skull from a tiny crocodile that could help provide vital new evidence on when the landmasses of Africa and South America split to take up their current positions on the planet's surface.

The finds were described by Paul Sereno, one of the world's leading dino hunters, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Dr Sereno, from the University of Chicago, told the meeting that science was on the cusp of a new era in dinosaur discovery. He said Africa, in particular, would soon yield extraordinary specimens that would enable scientists to explain more fully how these great beasts evolved.

Original role

The wishbone, or furcula, is significant because it informs the debate on whether birds evolved from dinosaurs; until recently the V-shaped bone was thought to be a unique feature in birds.

The fossil furcula shown off by Dr Sereno was part of the skeleton of an 11-metre-long predator known as a spinosaur. Although the 110-million-year-old wishbone is not the oldest known to science, the creature from which it came had a very deep lineage.

"There is an allosaur furcula that is 150 million years old but this is from the chest of an animal with a more ancient origin.

"We are trying to nail down when the wishbone as fused clavicles first appeared in theropod (bipedal meat-eaters) evolution. So, this new furcula is now the most primitive one ever found.

"That's not to say that spinosaurs are closely related to birds; the wishbone, like many other adaptations, had nothing to do with flight in its original role. Only later did it become a flexible spring between the shoulder blades of flying birds - a totally different role."

Duck muzzle

The spinosaur was uncovered in Niger, Africa, on what Dr Sereno said was an amazing expedition which brought away 20 tonnes of fossils and rock.

The spinosaur specimen was found within 80 kilometres of the site of the dwarf crocodile skull also displayed at the AAAS meeting.

This fossil came from a 60-centimetre-long animal that has yet to receive a formal classification but which has been dubbed the "duck croc" because of its unusual jaws.

"It has a muzzle that looks like a duck," Dr Sereno said. "It's very broad but the upper jaw hangs over the lower jaw, so viewed from the side you don't even see the lower jaw. There's no interaction between the teeth at all."

Dr Sereno thinks this arrangement may have enabled the animal to catch specific kinds of prey, "such as a frog or a type of fish". Other features suggest it spent more time out of the water than it. "I think it was more land-adapted - living on the bank, catching frogs."

Dr Sereno said the 110-million-old skull and other finds from Africa and South America could upset current views on how the once giant supercontinent of Gondwanaland broke apart many millions of years ago.

'New frontier'

He said there was a big argument over whether Africa split first, meaning South American animals and plants were more closely related to fauna in India, Madagascar and Antarctica.

"I think we're going to overturn that now with some of the evidence we have dug up," he said. "It's going to show that Africa and South America were very closely related up to about 90 million years ago."

Dr Sereno said he had many more discoveries in the pipeline that would eventually be submitted to journals for the science community to review. These include new predatory dinosaurs from India and Africa that hail from the Cretaceous Period (146 to 65 million years ago).

Dr Sereno said Africa was the "new frontier" in dino research. Specimens were required from this under-researched part of the world to fill in important gaps in our knowledge.

"To understand how plate techtonics (the movement of the continents) affected the evolution of a major group like dinosaurs, we need Africa."

Tuesday, February 19, 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 19, 2002

from The Boston Globe

The nation's largest annual general scientific conference wraps up in downtown Boston today after five days of networking, coffee to go, and talks on subjects that included anthrax, alternative medicine and the search for other dimensions.

The meeting, held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is always a sprawling affair because it tries to bring together researchers from all the sciences with Washington policymakers and journalists and the general public. It is a quirky crowd that includes people with Nobel prizes, and people who sit on the floor and knit while a speaker pontificates on the future of scientific research. Here is some of what the Globe's science team saw and heard.

Friends forever

On Saturday, Eric Lander of the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute delivered a lecture on the future of genomics to a standing-room only crowd and briefly thanked ''our colleagues at Celera.'' An hour later, only a few rooms away, J. Craig Venter, former head of the Celera Genomics Corp. delivered a thought-provoking, yet uncharacteristically soft-spoken, talk on how human racial differences have proved to be genetically negligible.


from The Minneapolis Star Tribune

BOSTON -- Couples who have dreamed that genetic research might enable them to produce little Einsteins should put that expectation on hold indefinitely, experts said Sunday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Despite widespread predictions that parents would use new genetic tools to select for smarter children, scientists haven't been able to identify genes that would tell whether a child is going to be highly intelligent, said Matthew McGue, a University of Minnesota psychology professor who specializes in IQ studies.

Some genes that play a role in mental retardation have been isolated, he said. But McGue and other experts in behavioral genetics said researchers are finding the genes that influence overall intelligence and behavior to be more elusive and complex than had been expected a few years ago.


from Scripps Howard News Service

BOSTON - Scientists may be moving closer to the day when neurologists can say "brain, heal thyself."

Until recently, experts were sure that new brain cells were impossible for adults to come by, that all the gray matter we get is pretty much in place well before we reach adolescence.

But there's new evidence that a few regions of the brain keep churning out new cells, and new hope that the precursors of those specialized cells can be coaxed into producing other types of brain cells needed to reverse or repair damaged regions.

Research on two tracks in rats was reported Monday during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


from The Washington Post

Former Army scientist Richard Crosland kept scrupulous notes about the frozen crystals he kept in his lab, and for good reason: The crystals contained botulinum toxin, a biological poison so deadly a single gram could kill a million people.

For 11 years, Crosland carefully logged each shipment of toxin he received and accounted for every molecule, thinking somebody would want to know. But no one asked -- not once during his career as an Army biodefense researcher, and not when he left the job in 1997, hauling away boxes of personal effects that no one checked.

"No one asked questions," Crosland said of his time at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Pentagon's top biodefense research center at Fort Detrick, Md. "You could literally walk out with anything."


from The San Francisco Chronicle

THE DECLINING economy has not been kind to the Bay Area. Hotel rooms are empty, offices are going begging, the dot-com world has deconstructed. But things are still jumping at research universities and federal laboratories in the Bay Area -- one of the largest concentrations of centers for discovery and education in the nation.

A multitude of economic studies have shown that discovery is a major driver of the nation's economy. A recent analysis, presented at the Bay Area Council Outlook Conference 2002, confirmed that this is particularly true for the Bay Area's knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy.

Thanks to the region's culture of innovation and other factors attributable to research institutions, the analysis forecasts economic growth for the Bay Area of more than 4.2 percent -- and as much as 5.1 percent -- during the next three to five years.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 - The Hubble Space Telescope, after almost 12 years of peering deeply into the recesses of space, will soon get a new look and a new way of looking that astronomers say will broaden their chances of understanding the workings of the universe.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to send the space shuttle Columbia soaring toward the orbiting telescope on Feb. 28 for an elaborate overhaul and upgrade of what has become one of astronomy's most valuable tools.

Over the 12-day mission, Columbia, returning to duty after two years at rest for a major upgrade of its own, is to dock with Hubble 360 miles above the Earth and attach it to a brace in its open cargo bay. There, pairs of astronauts are to conduct five spacewalks to revamp the telescope.


from The New York Times

Want a piece of a historic meteorite from the Smithsonian collection or maybe the Natural History Museum in London?

Offer a blank check and the answer will be, sorry, it is not for sale.

But there is a good chance that the curators at those and other natural history museums will give it to you - if you can trade another extraterrestrial rock they want.

Rare meteorites act as their own currency, giving private collectors access to collections at the most prestigious museums.


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Pope Has Performed 3 Exorcisms, One Last September


Feb. 18

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul has performed three exorcisms during his 23-year pontificate, including one as recently as September, one of the Catholic Church's leading exorcists said Monday.

Father Gabriele Amorth told Italy's La Stampa newspaper that the Pope had carried out his first exorcism in 1982.

"This girl was rolling around on the ground. People in the Vatican had never seen anything like it. For us exorcists it is run of the mill," Amorth said.

The Pope has since taken part in two more exorcisms, including that of a 20-year-old woman in September, to underline the importance of the ceremony.

Bigfoot has lost its most credible and powerful advocate.



A student of Sasquatch, Prof. Grover Krantz, dies


Monday, February 18, 2002


Grover Krantz, a professor of anthropology at Washington State University and a widely recognized expert on human evolution, died four days ago of pancreatic cancer at his home in Sequim. He was 70.

While few outside the field of anthropology may know of his significant scientific accomplishments in evolutionary theory, many know of his work on Bigfoot or Sasquatch -- the hairy, humanoid, extra-large ape-like creature that some contend exists in the shadowy forests of the Pacific Northwest.

"Within the established academic community, Grover was the first one to stick his neck out," said Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist (one who studies creatures not yet officially identified) at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Pope has performed 3 exorcisms to ward off devil


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul has performed three exorcisms during his 23-year pontificate, including one as recently as September, one of the Catholic Church's leading exorcists said on Monday.

Father Gabriele Amorth told Italy's La Stampa newspaper that the Pope had carried out his first exorcism in 1982.

"This girl was rolling around on the ground. People in the Vatican had never seen anything like it. For us exorcists it is run of the mill," Amorth said.

The Pope has since taken part in two more exorcisms, including that of a 20-year-old woman in September, to underline the importance of the ceremony.

"He carried out these exorcisms because he wanted to give a powerful example. He wanted to give the message that we must once again start exorcising those who are possessed by demons," Amorth said.

For Roman Catholics, exorcism is the casting out of what is believed to be an evil spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands. Amorth said possession by demons took many shapes.

"I have seen many strange things...objects such as nails spat out. The devil told a woman that he would make her spit out a transistor radio and lo and behold she started spitting out bits and pieces of a radio transistor," he said.

"I have seen levitations, and a force that needed six or eight men to hold the person still. Such things are rare, but they happen," he said.

Amorth said the woman whom the Pope exorcised in September was still undergoing treatment.

"It's a very serious case. A series of curses," he said.

The interview was published a day after the Pope warned of the daily temptations of the devil during his Sunday address.

"The devil, the 'prince of this world', even today continues his insidious actions. Each and every man...is tempted by the devil when he least expects it," the Pope said.

The official Roman Catholic exorcism starts with prayers, the blessing and sprinkling of holy water, the laying of hands on the possessed, and the making of the sign of the cross.

It ends with the priest commanding the devil to leave the possessed person.

Thousands queue to get new lucky surnames

From Ananova at


Thousands of people in Thailand have been queuing up to get a new surname.

The names were blessed by the nation's religious leader the Supreme Patriarch at a Red Cross fair in Suan Amporn.

They have been drawing lots to get a new name because Thais regard certain letters or names as unlucky.

Red Cross staff have even started taking reservations for 2,545 'lucky' names.

Most others are forced to register for coupons just to draw lots to get any new name going. The names were created by monks at nine temples.

Some people queued up for hours but still missed out on the chance to register. Only people with coupons numbered 1-280 were allowed to register while the rest were told to come back on another day.

Kamtun Noksammuang, 45, said she wanted to [change] her name because she's been unlucky in love. "My marriage life has never been happy. Every man I married was a drunk," she told the Bangkok Post.

Kimseng Sae-Chu, 57, said the word "Chu" in his surname meant "diamond'' in Chinese, but was much less flattering in Thai: "a certain breed of dog."

"So I wish I could get a Thai name, with a close meaning to 'Sae-Chu'. The one I prefer most is 'Sawatsathitayodom' which also means possession of diamonds,'' said Mr Kimseng.

'Fake traffic warden' charged with fraud

An unemployed Italian has been accused of issuing false parking and speeding tickets to make money.

The Milan man is alleged to have retouched an old parking fine he was given by traffic wardens.

He is said to have replaced the council's bank account details with his own and started issuing fines to motorists in the Dergano area, north of Milan.

Tgcom website reports the 23-year-old is believed to have collected payments for dozens of fake tickets, each worth £20.

He was found out when a motorist went to the traffic wardens' headquarters to complain about a fine and discovered it was a fake.

Police say he's been charged with fraud.

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