NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 March 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Sonic Fusion


Scientists have reported that by bombarding a liquid with sound they were able to produce nuclear fusion in a tabletop apparatus. But their colleagues doubt it.

By W. Wayt Gibbs

Donald Kennedy, editor of the prestigious journal Science, knew he was in for a row if he published the paper. It's not that the work was shoddy or came out of left field. On the contrary, the experiments had been performed with great care by well-respected senior scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

But what the authors were claiming was just so extraordinary: that nuclear fusion reactions, of the sort that power stars and hydrogen bombs, had been created on a lab bench using little more than a vibrating ring, a neutron gun and a beaker of specially prepared acetone. Add to that the fact, reported in the Washington Post, that at least three of the experts to which the article had been sent for peer review urged Science to reject it. And finally there was the follow-up study (not yet subjected to peer review) by another team at Oak Ridge that claimed that the evidence of fusion reactions disappeared when it repeated the experiment with different sensors and analyzed the data in a different way.

Senator Rick Santorum's ID view

March 14, 2002
Illiberal education in Ohio schools

By Rick Santorum

"I hate your opinions, but I would die to defend your right to express them." This famous quote by the 18th-century philosopher Voltaire applies to the debate currently raging in Ohio. The Board of Education is discussing whether to include alternate theories of evolution in the classroom. Some board members however, are opposed to Voltaire's defense of rational inquiry and intellectual tolerance. They are seeking to prohibit different theories other than Darwinism, from being taught to students. This threatens freedom of thought and academic excellence.

Today, the Board of Education will discuss a proposal to insert "intelligent design" alongside evolution in the state's new teaching standards. Supporters for a change in teaching standards want the board to include the idea that living things could have been "designed" in some meaningful way. Sen. Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, approves of having alternate theories taught in the classroom. He believes children should be "able to speak and examine various scientific theories on the basis of all information that is available to them so they can talk about different concepts and do it intelligently with the best information that is before them."

The theory of intelligent design, which predates ancient Greece, contends that nature shows tangible signs of having been created by a pre-existing intelligence. This is in contrast to Charles Darwin's theory, which assumes all physical and material reality has gradually evolved through pure chance and natural selection, whereby the fittest members of each species survive and reproduce. Critics of intelligent design, such as the newly formed Ohio Citizens for Science, claim that intelligent design is not a viable scientific theory and should not be taught in the classroom. They fear it is creationism in disguise, and hence, propagates religion in public schools. Despite a recent poll that shows overwhelming support for including the theory in the new teaching standards, these critics continue to resist its adoption.

This opposition to intelligent design is surprising since there is an increasing body of theoretical and scientific evidence that suggests an alternate theory is possible. Research has shown that the odds that even one small protein molecule has been created by chance is 1 in a billion. Thus, some larger force or intelligence, or what some call agent causation, seems like a viable cause for creating information systems such as the coding of DNA. A number of scientists contend that alternate theories regarding the origins of the human species - including that of a greater intelligence - are possible. Therefore, intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.

Yet, opponents of intelligent design contend that by including the theory in the new teaching standards, the separation of church and state will be weakened. This is false. Proponents of intelligent design are not trying to teach religion via science, but are trying to establish the validity of their theory as a scientific alternative to Darwinism.

Students should be taught a variety of viewpoints in the classroom. Dissenting theories should not be repressed, but discussed openly. To do otherwise is to violate intellectual freedom. Such efforts at censorship abrogate critical thinking and will ultimately thwart scientific progress. Stifling freedom of discussion is wrong because it undermines the pursuit of truth and the presentation of different points of view, which should be the primary goal of education.

In order to protect intellectual freedom in the classroom from the dangers of political correctness, I drafted an amendment to an education bill that emphasizes how students studying controversial issues in science, such as biological evolution, should be allowed to learn about competing interpretations. Teachers have a constitutional right to teach scientific controversies so long as the discussion is about science, not religion or philosophy. Teachers must teach these theories, even if some believe they have religious or philosophical implications. There is no reason to ignore or trivialize scientific issues involving controversial theories, regardless of their implications for religion or philosophy.

The bipartisan amendment was adopted 91-8 by the Senate. It was strongly supported by both Republicans and Democrats. In short, the conviction that students should be taught alternate scientific points of view, no matter how controversial, is not a conservative or liberal position; rather, it is a pro-education, pro-learning position that champions excellence in the classroom.

At the beginning of the year, President Bush signed into law the "No Child Left Behind" bill. The new law includes a science education provision where Congress states that "where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist." If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education. Many will be left behind.

Rick Santorum is a Republican member of the United States Senate from Pennsylvania.

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 March 19, 2002

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 18 No one thinks that much about gravity, one of the most powerful, yet subtle, forces on the earth. It is just there, seemingly never changing, holding feet to the ground.

Now scientists say it is time for a new look at gravity. Minute variations around the globe, they say, can tell us about the earth and what's going on beneath the surface of the land and the oceans, where dynamic processes are constantly moving around masses of material.

To get the most detailed measurements ever taken of these changes, scientists have launched the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or Grace.

The project, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the German Aerospace Center (or DLR), consists of a pair of satellites nicknamed Tom and Jerry, which will follow and monitor each other in space and, in the process, produce a gravity map of the planet 100 times as accurate and detailed as any done before.


from The Los Angeles Times

Twenty times larger than the sun, the largest object in the solar system is a violent, radiation-filled magnetic bubble that surrounds Jupiter, according to new data resulting from the timely rendezvous of two spacecraft around the giant planet.

''This inner region is probably the most intense and hazardous environment in the solar system except for the surface of the sun. It's the extreme of the extreme,'' said Scott Bolton, a space physicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who worked on several of the studies.

Jupiter's magnetic field arises from electric currents generated by the planet's metallic interior. Earth has a magnetic field, too, but it is much smaller and simpler than Jupiter's. Both magnetospheres contract and expand dramatically as they are buffeted by the solar wind, the streams of charged particles that are hurled into space by the ferocious activity of the sun.


from The Associated Press

LONDON -- A large Antarctic ice shelf in an area that is warming faster than the global average has collapsed with "staggering" rapidity, British scientists said Tuesday.

The shelf designated as Larsen B, 650 feet thick and with a surface area of 1,250 square miles, has collapsed into small icebergs and fragments, the British Antarctic Survey said. Before breaking apart, the ice shelf was about the size of Rhode Island.

The collapse was first detected on satellite images earlier this month by Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.


from The Los Angeles Times

Dragging nets along the ocean floor, a widely used method of commercial fishing, causes such devastation to sea life that the practice should be banned from areas with fragile marine habitat, federal researchers concluded Monday.

A report released by the National Academy of Sciences points out numerous areas of concern along the Pacific Coast, the North Atlantic, the Gulf coasts and waters around Alaska.

It also recommends that the federal government reduce bottom trawling, as the practice is called, and require trawlers to modify their gear to minimize damage. The study, requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service, was applauded by some fishing and environmental groups that liken bottom trawling to chain sawing forests as a way to hunt for deer.


compiled by The Boston Globe

Lumbering Lizards

While tyrannosaurus rex was certainly big and strong, it looks as if he was also pretty slow. John R. Hutchinson, now at Stanford University, and Mariano Garcia, now at Borg-Warner automotive in Ithaca, N.Y., decided to have a look at dinosaur dynamics from an engineering perspective. It turns out that two-legged animals need leg muscles that can support two and half times their full body weight at the time of highest stress, when they run, the researchers said. The rule applies to chickens and people and there's no reason to expect the dinosaurs to be exempt, they said. The upshot is that bigger animals need thicker leg muscles relative to their size as they get bigger, and for T rex it turns out its legs would have to be about 86 percent of the full body weight for it to be able to run at the speeds that people had previously thought they could manage, the researchers said. These dinosaurs could probably only get to about 15 miles per hour, well below earlier estimates of as much as 45 miles per hour, they contend.

ref: Nature, Feb. 28

from The New York Times

For at least 12 centuries, the oracle at Delphi spoke on behalf of the gods, advising rulers, citizens and philosophers on everything from their sex lives to affairs of state. The oracle was always a woman, her divine utterances made in response to a petitioner's request. In a trance, at times in a frenzy, she would answer questions, give orders and make prophecies.

Modern scholarship long ago dismissed as false the explanation that the ancient Greeks gave for the oracle's inspiration, vapors rising from the temple's floor. They found no underlying fissure or possible source of intoxicants. Experts concluded that the vapors were mythical, like much else about the site.

Now, however, a geologist, an archaeologist, a chemist and a toxicologist have teamed up to produce a wealth of evidence suggesting the ancients had it exactly right. The region's underlying rocks turn out to be composed of oily limestone fractured by two hidden faults that cross exactly under the ruined temple, creating a path by which petrochemical fumes could rise to the surface to help induce visions.


"Scientist at Work," from The New York Times

Dr. Leon R. Kass was trained as a physician and a biochemist but throughout his professional career has been trying to heal a single patient. Now that President Bush has appointed him chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, Dr. Kass is at last in a position to administer, if he chooses, a sharp dose of corrective medicine.

His special patient is no less than science itself. Dr. Kass, who has taught philosophy and ethics at the University of Chicago since 1976, has long believed that science could threaten the human condition, both by undermining human self-esteem and by generating tools that might be misused, particularly by genetically reshaping the human mind or body.

Science has become so dangerous, in his view, because it is a powerful force, yet one that has been deliberately stripped of moral values by scientists who are trained to pursue the truth objectively. His gloomy criticisms of biomedical research have led him, though by a very different intellectual route, to the same restrictive views on many reproductive issues as are held by conservatives and opponents of abortion. He has opposed genetic screening that results in abortion and once called the in vitro fertilization methods of fertility clinics "a degradation of parenthood."


from The Boston Globe

When the first humans depart to colonize space, there will be no port waiting, no native guide to greet them, and no guard against despair.

Using present technology, a trip to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, would take 70,000 years, but NASA engineers are conceptualizing rocket technology that would shorten it to several centuries. Passengers would depart knowing that they, and at least several generations of their descendants, would only know life confined within a space capsule. For that to work, social scientists say, NASA will have to turn to the work of anthropologists.

Space explorers could leave as the plunder ing Vikings left, exploding east as far as the Caspian Sea on crafts with fearsome, carved prows. They could leave as Moses left, a group of families bound together by faith and their willingness to risk their lives.


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Sitchin: Sensational Human Genome Discovery


In whose image was The Adam the prototype of modern humans, Homo sapiens created?

The Bible asserts that the Elohim said: "Let us fashion the Adam in our image and after our likeness." But if one is to accept a tentative explanation for enigmatic genes that humans possess, offered when the deciphering of the human genome was announced in mid-February, the feat was decided upon by a group of bacteria!

Life's sweet beginnings

By Chet Raymo, 3/19/2002


`How sweet it is,'' said Jackie Gleason.

Yes, life is sweet. Sugar is a key ingredient of all life on earth and has been since the beginning.

Life appeared on the young earth more than 3 billion years ago. We don't know where it came from - most scientists believe life arose spontaneously from inanimate matter - but we have a pretty good idea how it made its living.

Settling the galaxy

How humans can colonize space without killing each other on the way

By Ellen Barry, Globe Staff, 3/19/2002


When the first humans depart to colonize space, there will be no port waiting, no native guide to greet them, and no guard against despair.

Saudi minister backs religious police


Monday, 18 March, 2002, 13:09 GMT

Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Nayef has denied reports that religious police blocked the rescue of girls trapped in a school fire last week.

Saudi newspapers have accused the powerful "mutaween" police of hindering attempts to save 15 girls who died in the fire on Monday because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress.

One witness described police beating the girls back because they were not wearing the abayas (black robes) and headscarves required under the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.

Prince Nayef said the reports were untrue and the religious police were only there to ensure that the girls were not subjected to any mistreatment once outside the school.

The incident has caused an unprecedented outcry in Saudi Arabia, where public criticism of the religious police is rare.

Feared force

The mutaween - or Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - are widely feared in Saudi Arabia. They roam the streets enforcing dress codes and sex segregation, and ensuring prayers are performed on time.

About 800 pupils were inside the school in the holy city of Mecca when the tragedy occurred. More than 50 were injured in the incident.

Prince Nayef said that two members of the police force had gone to the scene of the fire to "ensure that the girls were not subjected to any kind of mistreatment outside the building".

They "did not interfere in any other matter," he said in an interview with Monday's Arab News, a Saudi government-controlled daily.

Differing accounts

Prince Nayef said newspapers had rushed to report "news which turns out to be untrue".

"What has been said about the men of the commission was totally baseless," Prince Nayef was quoted as saying.

Earlier the director of the religious police, Sheik Jaber al-Hakmi, denied his officers had prevented rescuers from entering the school.

But the head of Mecca's police, Mohammed al-Harthy, said that when he arrived at the fire he found a member of the religious police "trying to interfere".

"He was fighting with a police officer, trying to prevent him from entering the school," Mr al-Harthy said.

Space station crew to talk to ET - Your News from Ananova

The crew of the International Space Station will take part in the first alien-to-astronaut phone call later today.

They will be contacted by ET to help publicise the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the film.

Children from schools in Florida will take part in the event and learn about life in space from the astronauts.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_547917.html

Ripples in Ohio From Ad on the Big Bang

March 19, 2002


A full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Sunday by a professor of radiology at Ohio State University about abstract theories of heat, the Sun and the cosmos was described by other scientists as demonstrably incorrect and, because of a debate on teaching science in Ohio, politically worrisome.

The advertisement cost roughly the professor's yearly salary.

The debate, centering on whether evolution should be taught as the sole theory of human origins, has involved extensive discussion of whether academic science publications filter out material that does not jibe with mainstream thought. The advertisement by the professor, Dr. Pierre-Marie Robitaille, begins with the assertion that his work would not "stand any chance of publication in the peer reviewed physics literature." http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/19/national/19ASTR.html?ex=1017526556&ei=1&en=abed998632d71b29

They Died for Lack of a Head Scarf


Washington Post
March 19, 2002 By Mona Eltahawy

The fire was a tragedy that could have struck anywhere. Fifteen girls between ages 13 and 17 were trampled to death and 52 others were hurt when a blaze swept through their school.

Parents and journalists angrily demanded the resignation of education officials they accused of incompetence and corruption. There was plenty to be angry about. Some 800 schoolgirls were crammed into a building designed for only 250. The main gate to the school was locked. There were no emergency exits, no fire alarms and no fire extinguishers in the building.

But another far more sinister detail in this particular tragedy shows that it could not have happened anywhere but Saudi Arabia.

Firefighters told the Saudi press that morality police forced girls to stay inside the burning building because they were not wearing the head scarves and black cloaks known as abayas that women must wear in public in that kingdom. One Saudi paper said the morality police stopped men who tried to help the girls escape the building, saying, "It is sinful to approach them."

Girls died because zealots at the gate would rather see them burn than appear in public dressed inappropriately.

Who are these men who would choose a scarf and an abaya over a girl's life? The morality police, or mutawwai'in as they are known in Arabic, are officers of the Kafkaesque-sounding Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The State Department describes the committee in its annual human rights report as a "semiautonomous agency that enforces adherence to Islamic norms by monitoring public behavior."

What kind of virtue is it to allow girls to die in a fire because of what they were not wearing? Whose Islam is it that allows these men to dilute the faith I and millions of others cherish for its teachings of compassion and justice to nothing more than a dress code and sexual segregation? I grew up learning God is merciful and that faith was based on choice -- you could not force actions on anyone in the name of religion.

For anyone who has not been to Saudi Arabia, the best way to describe the mutawwai'in is as the godfathers of the Taliban. It is the ideology of the mutawwai'in -- based on the puritanical Wahabi school of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia -- that gave birth to the Taliban and the misery they unleashed on the people of Afghanistan.

The only difference is that the Taliban ran a lawless country for a few years until the military might of the United States brought its rule to an end as punishment for its support of a terrorist network.

Where are the international outcries over the mutawwai'in's treatment of women in Saudi Arabia? Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both demanded investigations into the mutawwai'in's reported hampering of rescue efforts. But many reports published by both watchdogs, as well as those issued annually by the State Department that highlight the fear and intimidation that surround the mutawwai'in, have fallen on deaf ears in the past.

The mutawwai'in have the power to detain for up to 24 hours anyone they believe has committed a "crime of vice." When I lived in Saudi Arabia for six years as a teenager, I watched with dismay as they distilled the teachings of Islam into rudimentary lessons in terrorizing a populace.

One day, in a mall, I didn't see the morality police coming. I usually pulled on a scarf when I saw them approach.

"Why isn't your daughter covered properly?" the mutawwa asked. "Don't you know that it is your duty as a Muslim father to make sure your daughter is properly covered?"

"My daughter is an adult and you know you cannot force your adult children to do anything," my father bravely replied. "You can only advise."

Angered by my father's attempt to debate him, the mutawwa turned to look at my brother who at the time wore a popular short-back-and-sides haircut. "And why does your son cut his hair like the infidels?" the mutawwa shot back.

From this point on the conversation descended into a surreal battle of wills that ended with the mutawwa ordering the policemen around him to take my father and brother into custody. One of the policemen talked him out of it.

To its credit, the Saudi press has roundly condemned the mutawwai'in in the aftermath of the fire. Such public criticism of the morality police was previously unheard of.

Crown Prince Abdullah has vowed to bring to justice anyone found responsible for the fire. In the kingdom, the prince has a reputation for honesty and fairness. That reputation can only be enhanced if his calls for justice extend to the feared mutawwai'in. Bringing to justice anyone who obstructs rescue efforts is the true virtue.

The writer reported from the Middle East before moving to the United States.


Announces "Open Door" Policy On Entitlements To Houses Of Worship

from AMERICAN ATHEISTS NEWS, 18 March, 2002:

Housing Secretary Mel Martinez is defending a Roman Catholic social program that receives public funds, and asks residents and others seeking services at its homeless shelter to pray before receiving meals.

That move comes just 24 hours after the secretary announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will not exclude faith-based groups from federally funded housing programs because of their religious beliefs. Martinez is instructing more than 3,200 local public policy housing authorities to institute an "open door policy" and invite religious organizations to apply for taxpayer grants, and becoming involved in social services to residents.

On Saturday, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper revealed that Martinez was defending a grant of $63,000 to the St. Francis House shelter in Sioux Falls, S.D., operated by Catholic Charities. A city official told the outreach that it would have to end its policy of orchestrated prayer that precedes each dinner.

Martinez defended the practice, though, declaring "I believe that the request that St. Francis House modify the content of its program was improper.

"At a time of hardship in our cities, when government resources are already stretched to the limit, we need these guardian angels," gushed Martinez. "My hope is to end the confusion and help to establish a level playing field for faith-based and community organizations that seek a partnership with the federal government."

In a statement released by HUD last Friday, Martinez also ordered public housing directors across the nation to "provide access to the common areas and meeting rooms of your facilities," for any organizations -- including faith-based agencies -- involved in operating social programs.

Citing "a fundamental constitutional principle regarding faith-based organizations," Martinez added "to the extent the common areas and meeting rooms are made available to any organization for the purpose of conducting residential programs, faith-based organizations may not be denied the equal right of access because of their religious character..."

All of this was done under the veneer of defending President George Bush's lavish faith-based initiative which is seeking to open the budgets of major federal departments, including HUD, to religion-based social service providers. The program has not fared well on Capitol Hill, however, with critics on both sides of the aisle attacking the scheme as a threat to the independence of religious groups, or a violation of state-church separation. A compromise agreement is being proposed in the U.S. Senate, which would rely on tax incentives to encourage donations to faith-based and other philanthropic groups, and a system of "trickle down" funding through the Community Development Block Grant System.

American Atheists has challenged the legislative compromise as a disingenuous ruse to fund faith-based programs 'through the back door," by handing federal tax money over to state agencies and local granting bodies. These agencies then "launder" the funds by distributing money directly to religion-based programs.

The Sioux City programs underscores the legal and public policy questions of funding social outreaches which include sectarian religion in part of their program.

"The St. Francis Mission is another example of where our tax dollars are subsidizing activities which include proselytizing and religious ritual," said Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. "This group is exploiting one of the most vulnerable segments of our society, homeless people, and doing it with public funds.

"It's illegal, and it needs to be challenged in court,"Johnson added.

For further information:

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

("Indianapolis faith-based program under scrutiny after charges of forced confinement, other abuse of juveniles," 3/9/02)

("Charges of scandal, financial impropriety linked to faith-based home ownership scheme," 2/24/02)

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


from The Los Angeles Times

BETHESDA, Md. -- Dr. Stephen E. Straus has never tried acupuncture. He has never gone to a chiropractor, nor has he ever swallowed a Chinese herb. Millions of Americans have used complementary medical approaches, but Straus is not one of them.

Some might find this unusual, since it is Straus who leads the federal government's research effort aimed at finding out what works and what doesn't in this controversial medical field. Straus describes his abstinence as more the result of his robust physical condition than a product of his inherent scientific skepticism. "I have no symptoms," he says. "I'm healthy."

And he points out that his personal skepticism is an essential part of doing science. "Otherwise," he says, "there wouldn't be any point to studying things." This has been the core of his approach to his job as director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health. Many observers believe his perspective finally may bring credibility to the field and to a federal research effort that, by all accounts, got off to a rocky start when it began 10 years ago. Alternative medicine--or "complementary" medicine--has been the subject of debate for many years. Although nontraditional therapies such as acupuncture and herbs have been embraced by consumers, many mainstream doctors continue to scorn them. To be sure, it is possible that many alternative therapies actually work, even if scientists don't know exactly why. It is also possible that many do not work. And there is growing concern that some therapies may even be dangerous, especially nutritional supplements and herbs that remain largely unregulated for safety and effectiveness by the federal government.


Feng shui doctor to lift Millennium Stadium curse

From Ananova at


Officials at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium are asking a feng shui doctor to lift a curse on one of its dressing rooms.

Eight consecutive football teams who've used the south dressing room have lost their games.

They include Arsenal, Birmingham City and Spurs. He'll try lift the curse before the weekend's LDV Vans Trophy.

Paul Darby, 52, from Nottingham will try to alter the energy of the room by scattering incense and sea salt, lighting candles and chanting. He'll also redecorate it.

In a statement, stadium bosses said: "The unlucky south dressing room will be given the full feng shui treatment ahead of the Football League's LDV Vans Trophy final between Blackpool and Cambridge on Sunday."

Monday, March 18, 2002

NYTimes.com Article: As Rabbis Face Facts, Bible Tales Are Wilting

March 9, 2002


Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.


Overclocked Jesus Performs Miracles Faster

"Jesus came walking down the hall and he looked like he had drank about 10 cups of coffee. He laid his hands on me and said my cancer was cured. It was and as a bonus I got this extra leg too!"

Full Story:


Asteroid sentry takes up post on web

From Ananova at:


Nasa has developed an automatic look-out for asteroids which could hit the Earth.

The Sentry system constantly updates the orbits of known asteroids as new information comes in.

Objects which pose any risk are posted on the system's website and withdrawn once it becomes clear they are safe.

Sentry was designed by Nasa's Near-Earth Object Programme over a period of two years.

Objects normally appear on the system's so-called 'risks page' because their orbits can bring them close to the Earth's orbit but it isn't always immediately clear how close.

A spokesman says newly spotted objects can be added at any time.

He added: "Several new 'Near Earth Asteroids' each month may be listed on the Sentry Impact Risks page, only to be removed shortly afterwards.

"This is a normal process, completely expected. The removal of an object from the Impact Risks page does not indicate that the object's risk was evaluated mistakenly: the risk was real until additional observations showed that it was not."

The Sentry system works with the Neodys Clomon impact monitoring system operated in Italy.

Story filed: 14:22 Friday 15th March 2002

Jesus Christ to be Exhumed in Kashmir


Suzanne Marie Olsson just wants to do a little DNA matching, that's all. The New-York based researcher is in Sringagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. She's studying the Muslim shrine of Rozabal and she believes that what she's found there is the final resting place of the body of Jesus Christ.

As Scandal Keeps Growing, Church and Its Faithful Reel


The New York Times
March 17, 2002

By Tuesday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Me., has promised to turn over to local prosecutors a file containing all accusations of sexual misconduct involving its priests. The district attorney wants to see every accusation ever made against a living priest.

"Even if it was triple hearsay, let me decide," said Stephanie Anderson, the district attorney of Cumberland County, who said she would follow their transfers from parish to parish in search of victims new and old. She wants to track the history of every priest accused of sexual misconduct.

Billy Graham Responds to Lingering Anger Over 1972 Remarks on Jews

March 17, 2002


It seemed impossible, when H. R. Haldeman's White House diaries came out in 1994, that the Rev. Billy Graham could once have joined with President Richard M. Nixon in discussing the "total Jewish domination of the media." Could Mr. Graham, the great American evangelist, really have said the nation's problem lies with "satanic Jews," as Mr. Nixon's aide recorded?

Mr. Graham's sterling reputation as a healer and bridge-builder was so at odds with Mr. Haldeman's account that Jewish groups paid little attention, especially because he denied the remarks so strongly.

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 March 18, 2002

from The Washington Post

Six months ago, they were mere Cold War trash: hundreds of small radioactive power generators scattered across the Soviet Union decades ago and largely forgotten, except when the odd lumberjack turned up with severe radiation burns.

But in the aftermath of Sept. 11, these aging but potentially lethal devices are being viewed in a troubling new light: as possible components in a weapon to be used in a terrorist strike. Even more troubling, some of them have vanished.

In Georgia, on the Black Sea, a search is underway for at least two of the devices, called radiothermal generators, or RTGs, believed to have been abandoned and then stolen after the closing of a Soviet military base. Just before Christmas, three woodcutters in northwestern Georgia suffered massive injuries after stumbling upon a similar device in the middle of a forest.


from The New York Times

Since Sept. 11, the federal government has sharply increased support for research into advanced sensors that could detect nuclear weapons or so- called dirty bombs if they fall into the hands of terrorists in the United States.

Last week, several national laboratories unveiled an ultrasensitive hand- held radiation detector weighing 10 pounds that could join bomb- sniffing dogs as an essential tool for emergency response teams. But nuclear terrorism experts say that even the latest detection technologies and others that are the focus of research face forbidding odds. Ultimately, the experts said, all detectors are likely to meet a brick wall imposed by the laws of physics.

Without intelligence information to narrow the search, "needle in a haystack" is far too mild a phrase, said Dr. Steven Fetter, a physicist and security expert who is a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. "If you tell me there's a warhead in New York, it's just hopeless," Dr. Fetter said. "You just hope you never get to the point where you have to track down one of these in a city."


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A scientist working with Geron Corp. said he plans to seek government approval to test whether embryonic stem cells can repair spinal injuries in paralyzed patients without cloning the cells to overcome immune system rejection.

Hans Keirstead, a researcher at the University of California at Irvine, said that when he seeks permission to conduct these human trials, he intends to propose using immune-suppression drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted stem cells.

Keirstead's disclosure, made in response to a Chronicle reporter's questions, undercuts the notion that scientists must use cloning to turn versatile embryonic cells into replacement nerves, muscles or other tissues.


from The New York Times

As a 23-year-old Harvard medical student, Eugene Chan came up with a bold, even arrogant thought: would it be possible to map any given individual genome swiftly and inexpensively by mimicking the way that DNA naturally acts when it duplicates itself?

This idea came to him several years before the announced completion in June 2000 of the Human Genome Project, which ultimately took about 10 years and $3 billion to map a single, generic human genome.

Mr. Chan spent his free time obsessing on the idea. His tiny dorm room in Vanderbilt Hall became a warren of scientific papers. And when other students dropped by to invite him out for a beer he would demur, instead hunkering down on the weekends to work out his theory.


from The Washington Post

The scourge began in the late summer of 1845, with a spate of unseasonably cool weather and weeks of fog and rain leading into the fall. Lesions began to appear on the leaves of the potato plants, and a fluffy fungus traveled down the stems, carried by rainwater until it reached the tubers beneath the ground.

Within days, the plants were dead shriveled to a few tiny tendrils of greasy black slime but that was just the beginning. In the ensuing years, the Irish Potato Famine killed a million people and caused more than a million others to emigrate, most of them to the United States. Pre-famine Ireland had 8 million people. Post-famine, it has never had more than 4 million.

For 150 years, the famine has been a source of enduring rancor between the Irish and their then-masters from Britain. It has also been the source of one of the all-consuming mysteries of plant pathology, confounding scientists.

In many ways, the pathogen called Phytophthora infestans, or potato late blight fungus, is even more dangerous now than it was the year it made its apocalyptic debut. Thumbing its nose at modern science, it remains today the most pernicious and persistent plant disease on Earth. In the developing world alone, the blight causes $2.75 billion in crop losses a year.


from The Associated Press

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) -- After two years of urging Asian-American scientists to pass up jobs at nuclear weapons labs, the Berkeley professor who organized the boycott says he's proven his point.

"I am committed not only to ending this boycott, but also to becoming actively involved in recruiting Asian-Americans to these labs," Ling-chi Wang said.

Officials at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories agree a negotiated deal is near.

Wang, a longtime activist, is still waiting for a written plan that would address issues of promotion, disparity in pay and a workplace culture that sometimes leaves Asian-American employees feeling left out.


from The Los Angeles Times

BETHESDA, Md. -- Dr. Stephen E. Straus has never tried acupuncture. He has never gone to a chiropractor, nor has he ever swallowed a Chinese herb. Millions of Americans have used complementary medical approaches, but Straus is not one of them.

Some might find this unusual, since it is Straus who leads the federal government's research effort aimed at finding out what works and what doesn't in this controversial medical field. Straus describes his abstinence as more the result of his robust physical condition than a product of his inherent scientific skepticism. "I have no symptoms," he says. "I'm healthy."

And he points out that his personal skepticism is an essential part of doing science. "Otherwise," he says, "there wouldn't be any point to studying things." This has been the core of his approach to his job as director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health. Many observers believe his perspective finally may bring credibility to the field and to a federal research effort that, by all accounts, got off to a rocky start when it began 10 years ago. Alternative medicine--or "complementary" medicine--has been the subject of debate for many years. Although nontraditional therapies such as acupuncture and herbs have been embraced by consumers, many mainstream doctors continue to scorn them. To be sure, it is possible that many alternative therapies actually work, even if scientists don't know exactly why. It is also possible that many do not work. And there is growing concern that some therapies may even be dangerous, especially nutritional supplements and herbs that remain largely unregulated for safety and effectiveness by the federal government.


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Sunday, March 17, 2002

Young Earth Creationists teach bad science and worse religion

By Richard Dawkins
(Filed: 18/03/2002)


THE absurd row over Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead has raised an even more absurd confusion, which must be cleared up.

There are not two debating positions, but three. Actually more than three, and some of them could be represented as a shaded continuum, but for simplicity I'll stick to three.

1) Young Earth Creationists. They believe the world is only thousands of years old, based on a literal reading of Genesis (or the Koran, or whatever is their holy book).

2) Old Earth Theists. Theirs is a broad church, embracing the great majority of educated religious people. They believe in a Divine Creator, but they read their creation myth allegorically rather than literally, and accept that the world is billions of years old.

With the exception of some Old Earth Creationists, they mostly agree that evolution happened, but may allow God some supervisory role. Many think evolution was God's ingenious way of accomplishing his creation. Some believe he helped evolution over the difficult jumps.

Others think God kept his hands off evolution, but set up the universe in the first place in such a way as to make it likely to happen.

3) Atheists and agnostics. Within the broad middle group, you'll find the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Oxford (who gave an admirable Thought for the Day on the subject on Friday) and, I would guess, most of the bishops and clergy of the Roman and Anglican churches.

You'll also find Tony Blair and those of his parliamentary colleagues of all parties who profess religious belief. You will not find the head of science at Emmanuel CTC, Gateshead.

I count myself in the third group, but it is not in that capacity that I object to what is happening in Gateshead. From time to time, I argue against Old Earth Theists, but not on this occasion.

On the Gateshead issue, scientists and theologians, bishops and atheists stand shoulder to shoulder. Young Earth teachers may do some damage to science education, but it's a pinprick compared with the damage they'll do to religious education if they get a grip on this side of the Atlantic.

Confusion is rife because commentators have failed to understand that the Gateshead row is about Young Earth Creationism. Wrongly presuming that we who have asked Ofsted for a re-inspection are attacking religion, they have rushed intemperately into print, not least in this newspaper, imputing to us all sorts of horrific Torquemadan motives.

Without bothering to read what we have said, and - worse - without bothering to read what the Gateshead teachers have said, they have assumed that we are attacking the middle group of mainstream religious believers.

As one retired contributor to The Daily Telegraph (letters, Mar 16) said: "I am a Christian and a scientist. I see no particular problem in reconciling the evolutionary and Creationist approaches to the formation of the Earth."

Well of course you don't see a problem, sir! You are a member of the large consensus in the middle. But the whole point of the Gateshead row is that the head of science at the school does see a problem. He is a Young Earth Creationist.

In the same issue of this newspaper, Tom Utley ("God knows what Professor Dawkins is talking about") tells me at insulting length what I already knew, namely that many Creationists don't think the earth is young. Why, Utley ponderously wonders, do I assume that the Gateshead teachers do?

For one excellent reason. I take the trouble to read what they say. Steven Layfield, the head of science at Emmanuel, gave a lecture on September 21, 2000 (which would therefore have been available to the Ofsted inspectors).

The full text is at:
http://www.christian.org.uk/html-publications/education3.htm. Read it. If you love true science, or if you love true religion, the thought of what the children must be missing under this travesty of teaching may sadden you enough to provoke a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, urging her to reopen the case with Ofsted.

Layfield remarks that there is no immediate hope of evolution being removed from the national curriculum, and he lists ways in which Creationist science teachers can compensate.

For example: "Note every occasion when an evolutionary/old-earth paradigm (millions or billions of years) is explicitly mentioned or implied by a text-book, examination question or visitor, and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement. Wherever possible, we must give the alternative (always better) Biblical explanation of the same data."

For Layfield, then, the universe is not billions, not even millions, of years old. It is only thousands.

This head of science - this science teacher and mentor of other science teachers - blinds himself to the whole edifice of exciting scientific work, not just in biology and geology (fossils, the molecular clock, the geographic distribution of species in the light of plate-tectonic continental movements), but also physics (numerous independent methods of radioactive dating converge on the same answer) and cosmology (in a young universe, all stars would be invisible to us except the tiny minority within a few thousand light years).

Moving on in the lecture: "In view of the current inclusion of earth science into the Sc3 component of the national curriculum, it would seem particularly prudent for all who deliver this aspect of the course to familiarise themselves with Flood geology papers of Whitcomb & Morris . . .

"In particular, they would do well to point out that no rock is unearthed with a clear age label and that dating processes in general are speculative, frequently contradictory and in many instances altogether incompatible with a great age."

Yes, Flood geology means what you think it means. We're talking Noah's Ark here. Noah's Ark - when the children could be learning the spine-tingling fact that Africa and South America were once joined, and have drawn apart at the speed with which fingernails grow.

We have here the head of science, in a school that has received star rating from Ofsted. When I suggested a re-inspection, it had not occurred to me that the people who really come out of the affair badly are the Ofsted inspectors. It is not too late for them to make amends and look properly at what they obviously overlooked before.

With hindsight, it might have been better if those of us in Group Three had kept our big mouths shut and left it to the bishops. They have more to lose than we have, and are less vulnerable to prejudiced and perverse misunderstanding.

Over to you, gentlemen. Power to your elbows. If there is anything I can do to help, you'll find me lying low, with my head down. With the best will in the world, I seem to do more harm than good. It's somebody else's turn.

Richard Dawkins FRS is Oxford's Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science. His latest book is Unweaving the Rainbow

The UFO Flap in Prescott, Arizona


By Richard W. Kimball
The Daily Courier
[Prescott, Arizona]

An old American Indian rock carving near Mishongnovi, Arizona accurately describes the existence of "flying saucers" and space travel, according to a Hopi Indian leader.

In the summer of 1970, the late Chief Dan Katchongva, in the company of his counselor Ralph Tawangyawma and interpreter Caroline Tawangyawma, went to the city of Prescott to learn more about the rash of UFOs recently seen in that area.

The residents of that central Arizona community said they saw hundreds of flying saucers in the night sky over the city for more than two weeks prior to the Hopi leader's arrival.

Katchongva, who died in 1972, said he believed the sightings were intimately connected to Hopi prophecy. The traditional Hopi chieftain has long been interested in UFOs because he believed they were a part of Hopi religious beliefs.

UFO researcher and former Prescott resident Paul Solem said the existence of the saucers justified an old Hopi prophecy that a "Day of Purification" was soon to arrive. It would be a day when all wicked people and wrong-doers would be punished or destroyed.

Contact with flying saucers would signal the first step of an massive migration northward by Indians from Central and South America, Solem said.

Chief Katchongva told reporters of the Prescott Evening Courier that the petroglyph on the Hopi Reservation shows a definite connection between the Indians and visitors from space.

"We believe other planets are inhabited and that our prayers are heard there," he said.

"The arrow on which the dome-shaped object rests, stands for travel through space," Katchongva said in explaining the rock carving.

Priest-Physicist Polkinghorne Wins Templeton Religion Prize



March 15 2002

John C. Polkinghorne, a British mathematical physicist and Anglican priest whose popular writings on reconciling religion and science have helped propel the boom of public interest in the field, was named winner of the 2002 Templeton Prize on Thursday.

The $1-million religion award is the world's largest annual monetary prize awarded to an individual. It was created in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, a global investor who wanted to offer a prize exceeding the Nobels to underscore his belief in the importance of advances in spiritual discoveries.

Bid to discover body of Jesus in Kashmir tomb


SRINAGAR (India), Mar 11: An American researcher who believes she has found the final resting place of Jesus Christ is campaigning to exhume a body at a Muslim shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir for scientific tests, reports AFP.

Suzanne Marie Olsson, a New York-based researcher is currently in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, studying the Muslim shrine of Rozabal. While Muslims say Rozabal houses the tomb of Yuza Asaf, a Muslim saint, many researchers believe it contains the body of Jesus Christ.

To put an end to speculation Olsson has suggested exhuming the remains at Rozabal for DNA testing and carbon dating. "This will trace him (the saint) to his origin ... and resolve the raging controversy over the identity of the place forever," she told the Sunday edition of Kashmir's leading daily, the Greater Kashmir.

Olsson has already dug up a shrine at the Murree hill station in Pakistan under the supervision of archaeologists Ahmad Hassan Dani and Saida Rahman. Muree is believed to be the resting place of Jesus' mother, Mary (Marium). "The exhumed remains have been sent for the DNA testing and the report is awaited," she told the newspaper.

"Now Rozabal holds the key. If the remains there are sent for testing and then tallied with the results of the Murree project, it will either establish the link between the two shrines as being of similar origin and thus authenticate the Marium-Jesus theory or prove it wrong for good."

However, her project has run into trouble with the managers of the Rozabal shrine, who are strongly opposed to its "desecration". "We will never allow it," said Mohammed Amin, one of the managers. But Olsson, stressing the "purely scientific nature of her work" and her identity as a "seeker of truth", is pleading to be allowed to "verify the origin and identity of the saint" to put to rest wild speculation.

She has even written to Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for help. Olsson also believes Moses is buried in Bandipore in north Kashmir, the Islamic prophet Haroun at Harwan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, and Solomon at Takht-i-Suliaman in Srinagar. "You have more Christian holy sites than even Egypt or Israel," she said in her appeal to the chief minister.

Olsson says she wants to unravel the truth about the shrines so that the scenic Himalayan region of Kashmir, ravaged by a decade-long Muslim insurgency that has claimed 35,000 lives, can become a pilgrimage centre for Christians and Muslims.

Predicting the Stock Market Is Child's Play

LONDON (Reuters) - A five-year old girl has beaten a financial analyst and an astrologer in an experiment to find the most accurate stock market predictions over a year, organizers said on Thursday . . .


Murdered Bandit Queen believed to be haunting her former home

From Ananova at:


An Indian politician is having his new home exorcised because he believes it's haunted by the ghost of the murdered Bandit Queen who used to live there.

Phoolan Devi, who herself became a lawmaker, was shot dead last July in front of the New Delhi bungalow were she used to live.

Kailash Meghwal won't move in until Hindu priests have blessed the house.

Navyug newspaper reports Mr Meghwal is a newly elected member of the Lok Sabha, the decision-making lower house of Parliament.

He says friends have warned him of a ghost that walks the lawns of the house at midnight and in the early morning armed with a gun.

"I always wanted to be friends with Phoolan Devi when she was alive," he said. "I have now mentally readied myself for a meeting with her but I am not very sure I will be privileged to see her. If I encounter a bhoot (ghost) on the lawns l will simply whisper the name of Lord Rama and it will vanish."

Hindus believe invoking the name of the warrior god Rama drives away evil spirits

Mr Meghwal said he hoped Phoolan Devi had found peace and would not mind his presence.

"I must say I feel like an intruder. I would have been happier moving into another house but the authorities told me getting an official residence would have involved a longer wait and that is something I cannot afford. I hope she doesn't mind."

Police stop bone-eating sect from digging up skeletons

From Ananova at:


Police in southern India have stopped members of a sect from digging up human skeletons from a graveyard and eating them.

Three spear-carrying members of the Kolayar 24th Manai Telegu Chettiars reportedly danced to a cemetery near Coimbatore.

Officers were there to stop them. One of their members says the move is threatening the group's future.

According to The Times of India, they had planned to dig up graves in Sundakkamuthur graveyard and eat bones in a ritual that's supposed to stop members of the group dying on a holy day.

The ritual is known as Mayana Kollai.

''Now that we have been prohibited from practising our ritual, I do not know what will happen to the community,'' group member Arumugam Chettiar said.

The ritual came to light when TV channels covered the event last year.

Fundamentalists re-create Eden, with dinosaurs

By Oliver Poole in Los Angeles
(Filed: 10/03/2002)


AMERICAN scientists are outraged over plans for a multi-million-dollar museum dedicated to telling the nation's schoolchildren that God made the world in seven days and that Darwin is a fraud.

The backers of the $14 million (10 million) Creation Museum and Family Centre, which is to open in 2004 close to the Ohio River in Kentucky, boast that the structure will act as an antidote to the "brainwashing" taught in science museums worldwide.

Exhibits will include re-creations of the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark. A giant double helix of DNA will be suspended in the middle of the hall in order to argue that living creatures are so complex that they could not have evolved by random mutation.

Real fossils will be used to demonstrate how scientific methods such as carbon dating can be wildly inaccurate, and life-sized dinosaurs will illustrate the belief that they lived alongside Adam and Eve in a period before the Fall, when animals, man and dinosaurs cohabited, free from violence.

Ken Ham, whose Answers in Genesis ministry is behind the project, said that the museum was a long overdue offensive against the scientific establishment.

"This is a cultural war," he said. "They need to know we're coming. We're not doing this to say: 'Here's the evidence for and against, now you decide.' We admit our bias right from the start.

"The Bible is not a science textbook. But where it touches on science, we can trust it. This is the truth."

The only other museum in America dedicated to "creationism" - the theory that the Bible's Genesis story is both literal and accurate - is at the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego in California.

It covers 3,500 sq ft and will be dwarfed by Mr Ham's Creation Museum, which will include a 50,000 sq ft exhibition hall and 47 acres of outdoor trails and displays. Some exhibits have already been purchased, including the DNA and dinosaur models, in addition to a walk-through replica of a human cell.

Answers in Genesis already puts out a faith-based family magazine, a technical journal detailing the "science of creation", a daily radio programme that is broadcast on 400 stations across the United States, and pamphlets distributed worldwide on subjects such as "Where Did the Races Come From?".

A recent survey in the magazine Scientific American reported that 45 per cent of Americans believe that God created life some time in the past 10,000 years, despite the vast majority of scientists maintaining that life in its simplest form first appeared 3.9 billion years ago and has been evolving ever since.

Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Centre for Science Education, said that the new creationist museum was a sermon disguised as scientific study intended to hoodwink the public. "The authoritarian presentation of this information is likely to confuse people into thinking that these are scientifically valid views," she said.

"Science is not a democratic process. Once an idea is proved wrong, you don't continue to present it. The idea that everything on Earth appeared all at once 10,000 years ago has been disproved."

In recent years Christian fundamentalists have been accused of targeting small towns and placing supporters onto the local boards of education in a campaign for more teaching time to be spent on creationism. Two years ago the Kansas Board of Education reversed a decision to ban mentions of Darwin in schools after a public revolt voted a number of its members out.

To the outrage of the state's scientific community, Ohio is proposing a similar initiative to forbid teaching of scientific evolution. Similar propositions are also to be debated soon in New York State and Massachusetts.

SkeptiNews: Angels Created Universe

SkeptiNews! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - All The News That's Fit To Question

# Fringes of: Science, Faith, Sex, Dope, Art, Paranormal, Conspiracy, etc.
# Confused? See the disclaimers & excuses at http://skeptilog.pitas.com/
# No thawed transhumanists were harmed during production of this bulletin.

- RIP Grover Krantz: http://cosmiverse.com/paranormal03070202.html

* Radical science: Did Angels Create The Universe? A proposal for creating new universes in the laboratory may not be as far-fetched as it sounds:

* JINN from INNER EARTH are Manipulating Surface Population! Worse than terrorism:

* More: Science of the Jinn:

* Diviners: Deliver Or Perish


* 9/11 - The Conspiracy

Do you mostly fear angels/aliens, deities/demons, djinn/diviners, me? Are your travels most likely to be ruined by terrorists, missiles, plots, B.O.?

* There's An Alien Implant In J.Lo's Butt! It's all that keeps her afloat!

* Shapeshifting:

* 'CARIBOU-FLAVOURED' CONDOMS. Pauktuutit Inuit Women's Association stocks Arctic Winter Games

* I dream of djinni:

* HINDUS HAND OVER SACRED PILLARS IN PEACEFUL CEREMONY - violence & death ensue anyway. Bother.

* 'Jesus Christ' in Kashmir:

Would you rather have sex with aliens/caribou/djinni/werewolves/hindus/me? Which would be the most rewarding/risky/rancid/refreshing? Would you try??

* Spanking Makes You Smarter! Hit me again, baby! Again! Now I'm a genius!

* Tell The Truth. Or not. Whatever:

* Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About KABBALAH (or KABALAH or CABALA or QABALAH or KABALA or However The Hell You Spell It) But Were Afraid To Ask:
http://www.sonic.net/~ric/go/vfaith5.htm#kaba (complete text)

* Why Science Should Re-Examine the UFO Phenomenon (Without Ever Mentioning Aliens)

* Mutant fashion:

Have you been spanked/spelled/examined/mutated/truthful/fashionable lately? Has it done you any good? Do mindcontrol rays interfere with your progress?

"I never knew the lower classes had such white skins." --Lord Curzon

# Rev. R.Carter, ULC * http://www.sonic.net/~ric * FAX: 561-423-6102
# These bulletins are now posted online: http://skeptinews.pitas.com
# To get this in realtime, subscribe: http://sonic.net/~ric/vsub.htm

Ohio's students need all the facts


Patrick H. Young

As the State Board of Education grapples with new science standards for our children, some comment from an industrial scientist who has been involved with the hiring process seems appropriate.

Certain advocates of evolution are predicting "dire consequences" if Darwin's theory is not taught as fact. The Columbus Dispatch wrote, in an editorial, "As Ohio competes for eminence in scientific and technological pursuits, the last thing the state needs is to subject itself to ridicule." An article from the same paper quoted an evolutionist as saying, "Biotechnology firms will be the first 'science-dependent' industries to shun or flee Ohio."


As Scandal Keeps Growing, Church and Its Faithful Reel

March 17, 2002


The sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church, far from being nearly over, has only begun.


Saturday, March 16, 2002

NYTimes.com Article: EgyptAir Pilot Sought Revenge by Crashing, Co-Worker Said

March 16, 2002


A former EgyptAir pilot told investigators two years ago that the co-pilot of a crashed EgyptAir flight wanted revenge on a company executive who demoted him.


SkeptiNews: Pray for health

From: Ric Carter

SkeptiNews! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - All The News That's Fit To Question

* Fringes of: Science, Faith, Sex, Dope, Art, Paranormal, Conspiracy, etc.
* Confused? See the disclaimers & excuses at http://skeptilog.pitas.com/
* No misbegotten anthropomorphs were harmed to produce this bulletin. Yet.

@ VROOM! http://www.spaceweather.com/comets/Ikeya-Zhang/Schrantz1.jpg

* Evidence For Religion-Health Link Is Bogus. Popular claims that religious activity provides health benefits have virtually no grounding in medical literature. This sharply contradicts assertions that a large body of evidence indicates that religious people enjoy better physical & mental health.

* Researchers Demonstrate Direct, Real-Time Brain Control Of Computer Cursor:

* US town offers home to frozen French couple - cryogenic expatriates:

Do you pray for health, wealth, happiness, control, immortality, sex, food? Are your prayers answered? Positively or negatively or indifferently? When?

* UFOs remain active in Central America. ETs really enjoy the tropical climate and conflicts:

* In Italy: Humanoids, flaps, USO, landings etc. That hot Latin temper draws Reptilioids:

@ Ruins on Mars Northern Plain? Secret Cave in the Grand Canyon? Crashed spacecraft, Stonehenge, goldmine on Mars? Tetrahedral Structure at Cydonia? Island City Discovered on Mars!

@ There were Giants then:

Have many UFOs been active in your neighborhood lately? Have they avoided you? Have you avoided them? Have they taken you to Mars, to Heaven, to bed?

* Technophobes May Be Right After All - tech doesn't always help:

* When a shell is more than a shell - photo "looks like a vagina" - yum:


* Nuclear Posture Review - nuke'em all, with smaller/better nukes:

Has hi-tech helped you lately? Do technologies bring sensations, energies, destructions that don't really exist? Are you bothered by the deception??

"Last summer I went on a camping trip down to Mexico and I got this bad fever. I prob'ly would'a died, but this nice lady came and took care of me at my campsite. She fed me fruit and sang me these weird songs the whole time. I thought she must be an angel, except she kept stabbin' me whenever I tried to get up for some water. The more I think about it now... I'm pretty sure that lady was a cactus." --Max Cannon

* Rev. R.Carter, ULC *
http://www.sonic.net/~ric * FAX: 561-423-6102

* These bulletins are now posted online:

* To get this in realtime, subscribe:


Why Stephen Jay Gould is bad for evolution.


FOUR months ago, when the Kansas Board of Education voted to cut evolution from the mandatory science curriculum, few people were more outraged than Stephen Jay Gould. Teaching biology without evolution is "like teaching English but making grammar optional," Gould said. The Kansas decision reeked of "absurdity" and "ignorance" and was a national embarrassment. The question of whether to teach evolution "only comes up in this crazy country," he told an audience at the University of Kansas after the decision.


This essay originally appeared in The New Yorker, Dec. 13, 1999. It is adapted from chapters 19 and 20 of Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, by Robert Wright, published by Pantheon Books in January, 2000. Copyright 2000 by Robert Wright. (Please note that a central argument of this essay--that biological evolution is directional--is made in much greater detail in the book.)


Asteroid sentry takes up post on web - Your News from Ananova

Nasa has developed an automatic look-out for asteroids which could hit the Earth.

The Sentry system constantly updates the orbits of known asteroids as new information comes in.

Objects which pose any risk are posted on the system's website and withdrawn once it becomes clear they are safe.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_545457.html

Atheist raises hell in Florida


'ATHEIST' plate raises a holy ruckus After getting complaints, the state decides a Florida man's license plate is objectionable and yanks it.

By KATHRYN WEXLER, Times Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times
published March 14, 2002

Steven Miles has tooled around Gainesville for 16 years with a license plate that says "ATHEIST." To Miles, it is a form of self-expression, one he is happy to spend a few extra dollars every year to keep.

But to the state of Florida, the tag is "obscene or objectionable," according to a letter Miles received last month from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. That puts the personalized plate on the department's blacklist, right up there with epithets, expletives and words describing certain body parts.

The state must use "great caution" in screening plates, the letter said. Medical reference books are consulted. Slang dictionaries, too.

"The plate must be canceled," it ordered. Officials want it mailed back.

Miles, 55, is incensed. Giving up his tag is out of the question.

"It's kind of disconcerting to know that the United States is based on freedom of expression, yet in actuality, it's quite restrictive," said Miles, an electrical engineer at the University of Florida.

He also is vice president of Atheists of Florida.

The review was prompted by a complaint signed by 10 people, said DMV spokesman Robert Sanchez. A supervisor in the Bureau of Titles and Registrations in Tallahassee sided with the protesters and decided to yank the plate. Department officials routinely refuse to issue blatantly offensive personalized tags. But pulling them off the street is rare.

A few complaints about license plates trickle in every month and are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Sanchez said.

The last kerfuffle happened in October over a Fort Myers personalized plate that depicted manatees and had the phrase, "EAT UMM." It was pulled.

Miles thinks his First Amendment rights are being curtailed. He said he intends to fight and is in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I was quite surprised and angry that one person would infringe on my rights," Miles said.

He has a backer in Christos Tzanetakos, a Fort Pierce resident. About six years ago, Tzanetakos founded the Atheists of Florida, a civil liberties group that claims a 300-person mailing list. He recently wrote the department a stinging letter about its decision.

The DMV appears to be succumbing to the "religious hysteria that prevails after Sept. 11," Tzanetakos said Wednesday.

"For the department to claim or state that the word 'atheist' is offense or objectionable is something to be upset about," he said.

Sanchez said a letter in support of Miles is prompting the DMV to take a second look at the issue. But if Miles is unsatisfied with the final decision, he has an alternative, Sanchez said.

"There is a venue for people's free speech on automobiles and that's a few inches below the license plate," he said. "That's a bumper sticker."

The controversy over the plate didn't start with the DMV. Others have reacted strongly to it since he screwed it to his Isuzu in 1986.

"I had a wrench thrown at me in Jacksonville about 10 years ago. It went right over the hood," he said. Another time, "someone surreptitiously tore up my tag and threw it in the bushes. I put a frame and a plastic cover on it after that."

People would sometimes slip into his yard and place notes beneath the plate or the windshield wipers. Some took issue with his stance; others cheered him on.

But it never occurred to him to give up his tag.

Lakeland resident Kenneth Vickery understands why. For 15 years, he has owned two personalized plates dear to his heart: "ALL4GOD" and "GOD4All."

Vickery was concerned to learn of Miles' run-in with the DMV. "They may cancel mine, too."

Miles should be allowed to display his message, he said, "if that's what they want to advertise."

Vickery, a preacher at the United Methodist Temple in Lakeland, added this about Miles:

"If I get a chance to meet the guy, we've got something to talk about."

Cold Water on a Hot Topic

By Barry Williams


It is not often that a Skeptic can experience the sensation of fulfillment that comes with seeing one of our areas of interest finally laid to rest, but some of us must have felt it when we viewed Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) on [Australian TV]. Originally produced for the BBC, the program went somewhat further than a similar program of several years ago and may well have provided the final explanation for a long-term mystery. For those unfamiliar with the concept, throughout history there have been cases of the remains of people being found, usually in closed rooms, with the majority of their bodies reduced to ash, only some outlying pieces, like the lower legs, remaining unconsumed, and with no serious damage to the other contents of the room.

Items of Note

Check out the CSICOP Los Angeles Conference Program at:

Thanks to Joe Littrell, John Thomas, Greg Martinez, Gary Stone, and Steve Barrett for the Items of Interest Below

1) Articles of Note
2) Message from the National Capital Area Skeptics
3) Message From the National Council Against Health Fraud

Florida Town Finds Satan an Offense Unto It
New York Times, March 14

"People call and ask me, 'Carolyn, is Satan there?' And I tell them, 'Satan is only where we let him.'"
-CAROLYN RISHER, mayor of Inglis, Fla., who issued a decree banning Satan from town.


Fresh threat to Darwin in Ohio schools
by Duncan Campbell
The Guardian [UK]


"A debate seen as a test case for how children across the United States are taught about the origin of the universe is reaching its climax in Ohio this week."

Ohio school board hears evolution debate
By Liz Sidoti


"Hundreds of parents, teachers and students gathered yesterday to hear scientists who support teaching evolution square off against backers of "intelligent design" as the state school board struggles to develop science-teaching standards."

Ohio debates evolution
by Francis X. Clines
New York Times


"Proponents of the intelligent-design movement, which challenges Darwin's primacy in the science classroom, argued yesterday for equal footing in the state's new teaching curriculum, while critics warned that speculative theories of some ultimate agent underpinning evolution were the antithesis of true science."

Lochside video footage shortens odds on Nessie
The Scotsman


"THE odds on hard evidence proving the existence of a monster in Loch Ness shortened yesterday, with the announcement that a new video revealed something lurking in the depths."

Suspected cult members arrested, child rescued
Associated Press


"Police have arrested 16 members of a suspected religious cult that eschews medical treatment and rescued a dying child, a senior police official said Tuesday."

Students, parents attend discussion on teaching evolution
Associated Press


"Sandy Epling brought her 11-year-old son to a discussion Monday on the teaching of evolution so he could better understand her family's rejection of the theory."

Skeptics put diviners to the test
Australian Broadcasting Corporation


"The world's largest gathering of water diviners will take place at Mitta Mitta in Victoria's north-east today as they attempt to prove their skill exists."

'All is forgiven, Pauline'
By Glenn Milne
The Australian


"THE departure of Pauline Hanson from politics was welcomed by both the legitimate Left and Right in Australia as a vindication and a blessing. That response may now have to be re-thought."

US researcher seeks to exhume 'Jesus Christ' in Kashmir
Australian Broadcasting Corporation


"An American researcher who believes she has found the final resting place of Jesus Christ, is campaigning to exhume a body at a Muslim shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir for scientific tests."

Fusion Experiment Sparks an Academic Brawl
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post


"A small glass cylinder sits at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee."

Humana to cover alternative medicine
by Angela Gonzales
Phoenix Business Journal


"Humana Inc. has tapped a Phoenix-area physician to integrate alternative medicine into its national health plan, a move that could change the face of managed care in the future."

Educators to debate teaching creationism
New Philadelphia Times-Reporter


"Lew Fikes is a committed Christian."

Houdini statue makes a reappearing act
New York Times


"Harry Houdini, the greatest escape artist of all time, has done it again!"

When 9/11 Conspiracy Theories Go Bad
by David Corn


"Please stop sending me those emails. You know who are. And you know what emails I mean ... Okay, I'll spell it out -- those forwarded emails suggesting, or flat-out stating, the CIA and the U.S. government were somehow involved in the horrific September 11 attacks."

Statue's 'Tears of Blood' Lure Curious


"The faithful and the curious flocked to a church in the Sicilian city of Messina on Wednesday after a report that a statue of a monk due to be made a saint in June was shedding tears of blood."

Woman sentenced for fraud


"A woman claiming to be a psychic will serve at least a year in prison for obtaining money from two people by false pretenses."

Natives in two nations spear Ogopogo
by Joseph Brean
National Post


"The producers of a Hollywood movie about Ogopogo, a prehistoric monster said to inhabit Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, have agreed to drop all references to the legendary creature in deference to a local Indian band."

2) National Capital Area Skeptics

Saturday/Sunday April 6-7

SKEPTICS GET-AWAY WORKSHOP - Go beyond astrology, dowsing, homeopathy. Explore advanced topics: the Mars Effect, Digital Biology, and the latest high-tech scams. Special guest speakers James "The Amazing" Randi and Voodoo Science author Robert Park, PhD. Hilltop House Hotel, 400 East Ridge St, Harpers Ferry, WV $40 advanced reservation required. National Capital Area Skeptics (301) 587-3827. email: ncas@ncas.org www.ncas.org

Event Flyer: http://www.ncas.org/pdf/mar-02.pdf

Thank you,

Gary Stone
NCAS VP for Programs

3) National Council Against Health Fraud

Consumer Health Digest
March 13, 2002.

WHCCAMP report "hijacked." The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) wants the Bush Administration to reject the final report of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP), because the Commission has failed in its mission. Its final report does not appropriately assess "CAM" methods, lacks objectivity, and was principally the opinions of Commission leaders who revised it without most of the members ever seeing the final edition. The report is an unqualified endorsement of so-called "CAM," a New-Age marketing term which falsely proposes that untested and unscientific methods of care are equivalent to evidence-based medical practices. Some members of the Commission have objected to the methods and recommendations and issued a significant dissent, pointing out where the Commission had fallen short. WHCCAMP's public relations agency released a list of "final draft" recommendations more than a week ago. Subsequently, the Commission's leadership took control of the report and rewrote sections in an attempt to stifle dissent from several members. The final report went to the White House without the majority of the commissioners actually seeing the final copy. [White House Commission fails, lacking objectivity; leadership hijacks report; members speak out against recommendations. NCAHF news release, March 13, 2002] http://www.ncahf.org/news/whc2.html

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Board Chairman, Quackwatch, Inc.
NCAHF Vice President and Director of Internet Operations
P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105
Telephone: (610) 437-1795

http://www.quackwatch.com (health fraud and quackery)
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http://www.nutriwatch.org (nutrition facts and fallacies)
http://www.ncahf.org (National Council Against Health Fraud)
http://www.chsourcebook.com (consumer health sourcebook)

Editor, Consumer Health Digest http://www.ncahf.org/digest/chd.html
Weekly column: http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/home.html
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