NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 March 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, March 30, 2002

Keep The Faith And Keep Your Health


March 29, 2002

By Rhonda B. Graham
InteliHealth News Service

For 20 years, social epidemiologist Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H., has been collecting data to see if there's a link between faith and health.

His conclusion, coming on a holy week for the nation's Christians and Jews: "About 80 percent to 90 percent of these studies show there is something positive going on. We're swimming in empirical evidence."

Among those documenting the case is Harold G. Koenig, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Duke University Medical Center: "Our studies have shown those who benefit most are those who both attend religious services and practice personal belief at home such as reading religious literature and prayer," he says.

According to his research as director of the Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, Dr. Koenig, who also leads seminars on the on the subject for the Harvard Medical School Continuing Medical Education program, has found:

* People who regularly attend church service, pray individually, and read the Bible are 40 percent less likely to have diastolic hypertension than those who seldom participate in these religious activities.

* People who attend religious services regularly may have stronger immune systems than their less-religious counterparts. Those who never or rarely attend church or synagogue tend to have the highest levels of interleukin-6, perhaps indicating a weakened or overactive immune system.

* People who attend church regularly are hospitalized less often and leave the hospital sooner than people who never or rarely participate in religious services.

* The deeper a person's religious faith, the less likely he or she is to be crippled by depression during and after hospitalization for physical illness.Religious people have healthier lifestyles. People who attend church at least weekly have about one-third the rate of alcohol abuse and are about one-third as likely to smoke than those who seldom participate in congregational worship.

* Religious youth show significantly lower levels of drug and alcohol abuse, premature sexual involvement, and criminal delinquency than their non-religious peers. They also are less likely to express suicidal thoughts or make actual attempts on their lives.

Levin, who has received grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, found that faith is an especially potent source of well-being.

"The big challenge for us is to answer the why question, what does all of this mean?"

In his recently published book, "God, Faith and Health, " Levin examined more than 200 studies on faith and health. Among the common links are:

* On the average, people who are more religious tend to have healthier lifestyles.

* Attending church, mosque or synagogue provides a social structure. "Being around other people you receive support. We know that social support is good for people's health," he says.

* The practice of prayer, meditation or public worship services elicits positive emotions. A variety of new scientific research suggests that our emotions can lead to psychological changes that benefit our health.

* New research on optimism and hope is suggesting a possible placebo effect that promotes healing.

The studies Levin looked at involved a range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations. They involved a variety of research methods, including representative samples, longitudinal and psychiatric studies, as well as analysis by condition, such as lung disease or cancer.

Levin and Dr. Koenig are part of a growing movement to quantify the impact of religion on health.

Others are working on the subject too. For instance, a recent Columbia University research report concluded that people with religious faith are markedly less likely to abuse alcohol and illegal drugs than non-believers.

In 2001 the Harvard Divinity School launched "The Religion Health and Healing" initiative to study the intersection of healing and religion across the world's cultures.

The university's Pluralism Project has joined with Boston Medical Center's Healing Landscape project to explore the extent of religious healing in an American city. The project is producing a data bank of information about the diversity of religious healing practices in urban America.

While research supports a connection between faith and physical well-being, the evidence is stronger for the benefits of faith on emotional and mental health, says Dr. Koenig, author of seven books on the subject, including the most recent, "Spirituality in Patient Care."

For most people, faith's power involves a healing of the intangible spirit, and of relationships with others, he adds.

In fact, illness tends to bring spirituality to the surface.

"As people become sicker and struggle with more suffering they can become very deeply spiritual," Dr. Koenig says. "They may look sick or be struggling with depression, but they may be deeply spiritual and have a very strong faith connection."

This is because without faith, illness and suffering is devoid of meaning for patients and their loved ones, Dr. Koenig says. "It gives these difficult conditions a sense of purpose, that somehow a good thing can result. That God can transform this horrible situation into something good, or it can have a benefit to those around them."

The research suggests that intensity of belief and practice is an affecting characteristic in the relationship between health and spiritual practice. In one study patients were asked to rank the importance of their faith, they were given a range of possible answers from not important to strongly important.

"There is some evidence from some of these types of questions, that people who answer in the stronger category tend to do better in health and in psychological well being," Levin says.

Yet the research does not suggest that non-religious people can't also be healthy.

"There are unquestionably people who do not practice religion and are perfectly healthy and get along just fine. And there are people who are very religious and suffer illnesses," Levin says.

But with research unquestionably documenting a health benefit for members of religious groups, Levin concludes: "Spirituality in the broadest sense can be a vitally powerful resource in the lives of many human beings for those who participate in spiritual activities on a regular basis."

NCAHF Press Release

Please read and react.....   Randi

Plese distribute this on your mailing lists.
It is the most important document NCAHF has ever issued.

Consumer Group Labels White House Panel's Proposals "Irrational" and "Contrived"

The National Council Against Health Fraud Wants the Bush Administration to Reject the Recommendations of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP)

NCAHF News Release, March 28, 2002.

The National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. (NCAHF) has concluded that policies prescribed in the report issued this week by the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) would lead to widespread adoption of unproven, disproven, and irrational methods and would cost the American public billions of dollars and thousands of human lives.

After two years of study the Commission provided a blueprint for a costly bureaucracy to promote "CAM" (a marketing term for complementary and alternative medicine), which it failed to define and which functions as a marketing term for quackery. CAM would be integrated in all federal programs, medical schools, and the entire educational system of the USA. James Gordon, WHCCAMP's chair, maintains that the US government should create a special office for CAM that would ensure that it is spread widely.

The WHCAMP Report is vague, long, unfocused, and rambling. The Commission's failure to critically analyze CAM reflects the zealotry of its chair and many of its members. Two Commissioners, Joseph Fins and Tierona Low Dog, issued a clear and concise dissent that was buried in the report as Appendix G. The Report was apparently modified at the last minute by Gordon to try to blunt some of the impact of the dissent. The modifications were made without review by the Commission.

NCAHF has issued a position statement and has posted a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis as well as links to additional information about WHCCAMP and its members.

Gordon's advocacy of reshaping medicine to include numerous CAM practices without regard to their scientific defensibility appears to be the major weakness and cause of the failure of the Commission. Gordon had a strong role in the selection of the Commissioners, its charge, activities and agenda. On why the Commission didn't find any forms of CAM lacking, Gordon replied that that was not the job of the Commission. He was quoted on National Public Radio All Things Considered, as saying that there are thousands of therapies, and that studying each to find out which ones work and which ones don't is a major project. He calls for more funds to be spent on this endeavor-without regard to which methods even make sense. Commissioner Fins replied that "Science doesn't work that way."

Given limited resources to improve health care in our society, diversion of federal spending to study illogical and ill-conceived ideas makes no sense. Many CAM practices and methods are illogical, unsafe, and never likely to be effective, a point made in the dissent by Commissioners Fins and Low Dog. The pathway for funding research has always been based on testing viable hypotheses, not all hypotheses, whether viable or not.

Following the Commission recommendations, anyone could create a "new" therapy, whether it be catching moonbeams or adding spices to coffee enemas and call it CAM. Gordon's plan would create a perpetual motion machine for funding research on such nonsense. For ethical reasons, most CAM therapies cannot be used in human subject research since such studies fail to meet the requirements of the Belmont Report, the template under which human research must be done in the USA. By Gordon's own statements CAM cannot be studied validly as one cannot satisfy the requirements of the Belmont Report regarding the nature, scope and assessment of risks and benefits.

The WHCCAMP Report is carefully contrived to suggest that CAM is close to the mainstream and that its critics are on the fringe. The opposite is true. The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) promotes reliable information backed by experimentally derived data on safety and effectiveness. It studies issues and generates reports so that individuals can make informed rational choices. The WHCCAMP represents quackery.

The National Council Against Health Fraud recommends that the Commission's findings and plans be viewed as unsupported, and considered accordingly. The recommendations go far beyond any data or findings of the Commission, and also go beyond reason and rationality. For additional information, includng a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the WHCCAMP report, see http://www.ncahf.org/whc/00.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)
http://www.chirobase.org (guide to chiropractic)
http://www.homeowatch.org (guide to homeopathy)
http://www.ihealthpilot.org (under construction)
http://www.mlmwatch.org (multi-level marketing)
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
Donations of $1 to $50 to help support Quackwatch can be made through

Friday, March 29, 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 - March 29, 2002

from The Miami Herald

WASHINGTON -- Teenagers who watch more than an hour of television a day during early adolescence are more likely to be violent in later years, researchers say. The rate of violence, including assaults, fights and robberies, increases dramatically if daily TV time exceeds three hours, according to researchers who studied more than 700 people for 17 years.

"Our findings suggest that, at least during early adolescence, responsible parents should avoid permitting their children to watch more than one hour of television a day," said Jeffrey G. Johnson of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

"The evidence has gotten to the point where it's overwhelming," said Johnson, who led the team of researchers studying families in two upstate New York counties.

The work is the latest to associate aggression with television viewing. But while other studies have linked watching violent television to later aggressive behavior, Johnson said this is the first to investigate the total amount of time individuals spent watching and to follow those people over many years.

"I was surprised to see a fivefold increase in aggressive behavior from less than one hour to three or more hours," Johnson said in a telephone interview. The study is appearing in today's issue of the journal Science.


from The Miami Herald

NEW YORK -- Fireproofing, sprinkler systems and the water supply for hoses all largely failed in the twin towers on Sept. 11 in the face of a blaze so intense that it drove temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees and generated heat equivalent to the energy output of a nuclear power plant, a federal report on how the towers fell has concluded.

The fire, combined with these failures, brought down the towers even after they had shown surprising and lifesaving resiliency to massive structural damage caused by the impact of two hijacked airliners, the report says.

The report's findings detail for the first time the horrific series of events that led to the collapse of two of the world's tallest buildings. They are contained in a draft of a report commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The draft describes a structure that showed both remarkable strength and critical weaknesses. As was obvious to television viewers worldwide, the towers sustained the initial impact of the planes and were able to redistribute loads away from damaged columns so well that they could probably have remained standing indefinitely if not for the fires, a major earthquake or an overwhelming windstorm, the report said. Team members are still debating the delicate question of whether the tremendous fires could have brought the towers down on their own.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is not due to be officially released until late April or early May. It simultaneously provides documentary evidence that supports and rejects many of the theories that have been offered about what happened to the twin towers on Sept. 11.


Experts Debate Theory Hijacker Was Exposed
from The Washington Post

In January, outside of formal channels, an FBI official asked biodefense experts at Johns Hopkins University to examine a curious lead in the federal government's investigation into last fall's anthrax attacks.

The experts were to evaluate the diagnosis of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., emergency room physician who had treated one of the Sept. 11 hijackers last June. The physician, Christos Tsonas, initially thought the man had a minor infection, but after the wave of bioterrorist attacks he told the FBI that, in retrospect, he now believed the black lesion on the suspected hijacker's lower left leg was consistent with the skin form of anthrax.

The FBI official told the Hopkins experts, Tara O'Toole and Thomas V. Inglesby, he was concerned the FBI had not pursued the Florida case aggressively enough. The two-page memo they prepared is now circulating among senior government officials, and its findings have stirred up debate over their accuracy and the focus of the FBI's investigation, now in its sixth month.

O'Toole and Inglesby, who head the Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, concluded that Tsonas's diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax was "the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available." Since the contents of the memo became public last week, that conclusion has been endorsed by D.A. Henderson, the top bioterrorism official at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Richard Spertzel, who presided over the inspection of Iraq's bioweapons program as part of a United Nations team.


More than 79 million acres of genetically engineered corn and soybeans are expected.
from The Los Angeles Times

American farmers will plant more genetically engineered crops this year, including one-third of the corn on U.S. soil, shrugging off international resistance to biotech food.

The farmers are expected to grow more than 79 million acres of genetically engineered corn and soybeans, the nation's two most widely planted commodities, a 13% increase from last year, the Agriculture Department said Thursday.

The gene-altered crops require fewer chemicals, making them easier and cheaper to grow. The crops are engineered to be toxic to insects or to be resistant to a popular weedkiller. "Farming has become so competitive, so small margin, that if we can find something that works economically and environmentally, we'll jump on it," said Minnesota farmer Gerald Tumbleson, who grows biotech corn and soybeans.

About 74% of this year's soy crop, or 54 million acres, will be genetically engineered, compared with 68% last year and 54% in 2000, the Agriculture Department said. Soy is a crucial ingredient for a variety of foods and, like corn, also is used for animal feed.

About 32% of the corn crop, or 25.3 million acres, will be biotech varieties, compared with 26% in 2001 and 25% the year before. Strong consumer resistance to agricultural biotechnology has arisen in Europe and Japan, but most U.S.-grown corn and soybeans are used domestically.


from The Washington Post

Squatting unobtrusively on the banks of a man-made pond in an unremarkable corporate subdivision a few miles outside the Beltway, the home of the Internet's authoritative root server and master registry of dot-com addresses is virtually indistinguishable from the other red-brick office buildings that surround it.

Despite its humdrum facade, VeriSign's Network Operations Center (NOC) is one of the most important physical locations in the virtual world, and since Sept. 11 it has proven irresistible to dozens of government officials who have sought to assure themselves that the Internet is safe from physical and electronic attacks.

"Security and stability are like Siamese twins. You cannot have stability without security," said Mark Rippe, vice president of technical operations for VeriSign Global Registry Services. "If people can come and mess with your system, one way or another, you have no control over your systems....Our primary function is the stability of the global Internet."

Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers.

While the location of the building is not a true secret -- dozens if not hundreds of Internet addressing insiders know where it is -- it would be difficult for a casual vandal or criminal to stumble across it, Rippe said.

Visitors start with a stroll through a metal detector and past a guard desk, much as they would in any moderately secure office building. They take an elevator to the top floor, where security is tightest and inconspicuous cameras monitor the hallways. The few entrances to the operations center and server rooms can only be reached through antechambers called "mantraps" which are outfitted with scanners that read the unique contours of visitors' palms.


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SkeptiNews: Wing & Tail Grafts

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/
# Few telepaths were badly overloaded during production of this bulletin.

@ NUTZ: http://www.sonic.net/~ric/arts/nutz.jpg

* A respected American surgeon says that, within five years, he will be able to graft wings & tails on to human beings. Too bad he can't install brains.

* Telepathic TV -- TV you watch with your third eye - tune your xtals:

* Mystery spots: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/set/SCIspots.html

* The Houston Wearable Computer Group:

* The End Of Existence:
http://www.endofexistence.org/ (bye)

* The Cydonian Imperative:

Have you worn/swallowed/implanted/grafted/lost any (in)organic prosthetics lately? Has your existence been imperiled/ended/enhanced because of this??

* Star-Crossed Orbits: Inside the US/Russian Space Alliance (a plot!)


* Electric Christian Rapture Test: Evangelist Dennis Lee sells the power of God. And then it's free forever. Plug in all your altars, desktops, dildos:

* A NEW FORM OF MATTER: It comes in waves and bridges the gap between the everyday world of humans and the micro-domain of quantum physics. Zow!!

What're y'r favorite forms of matter, energy, rapture, conspiracy, ecstasy? Have you orbited any Xian/Russians/aliens/fish lately? When will they fall?

* Live From Rachel NV, home of Area 51, it's Strange Days, Indeed:

* Autonomous Mutant Fest:
http://www.mutantfest.org/ (party time!!!)

* Star Wars Gangsta Rap: "Its not the east or the west side... Its not the north or the south side... Its the DARKSIDE!"

* Playing ALIEN & CLONE & DIVINE & HOLY & ROBOT Sex Games:
http://www.sonic.net/~ric/go/vgame3.htm#xsex (scoring)

* How to have sex with dolphins:

The last time I was in Rachel NV I shoplifted from the Little A'Le'Inn, was interviewed by 'journalists' and chased off by cammo dudes. No sex, though.

"Perhaps the real reason why we have always been able to champion free speech in this country is that we know perfectly well that hardly anyone has got anything to say, and that no one will listen to anyone that has." --Daily Mail, UK
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Chewing gum can boost brainpower


By Lorna Duckworth Social Affairs
14 March 2002

Chewing gum can greatly improve the performance of the brain, research issued yesterday suggests. People who chewed gum scored 40 per cent more in memory tests than those who didn't in a study presented to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Blackpool.

Reconstructing the tomb of Christ


Science, scholarship shed new light on religious epicenter

March 26 For Christians, it's the epicenter of the ultimate mystery: the place where Jesus was laid to rest after the crucifixion. High-tech tools and fresh archaeological insights have sharpened scientists' view of the prime religious real estate at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, favored by centuries of tradition. But Oxford Professor Martin Biddle is hoping for more the first-century equivalent of graffiti saying "Jesus was here."

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Articles of Note

Check out the CSICOP Los Angeles Conference Program at:


Thanks to Joe Littrell & Greg Martinez

Warning of confusion over Creationism
BBC News


"Scientists say schoolchildren are being confused by conflicting teaching about the creation of the world."

Natural health stands trial as Colleen Harvey case begins Monday
By Susan Hoffmann
Mitchell Daily Republic

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=3640922&BRD=2166&PAG =461&dept_id=406442&rfi=6

"The court trial of Colleen Harvey, a Mitchell woman charged with practicing medicine without a license, begins Monday at the Davison County Courthouse."

Dania law augurs ill for psychic business
By Georgia East
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


"For months, the fate of a family's proposed psychic service has been unpredictable."

Some Herbs Boost Breast Cancer Risk
By Liza Jane Maltin


"Alternative remedies are more popular than ever, and women are now seeking "natural" solutions for the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. But natural doesn't always mean safe. In fact, researchers have found that certain herbs may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer."

Kava warnings cripple state's industry
By Dan Nakaso
Honolulu Advertiser


"Hawai'i's fledgling kava industry took another hit yesterday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an official warning to consumers that the popular herbal supplement may be linked to serious liver injury."

Animals, some in chains, found inside shop
By Joe Hughes


"A passer-by who heard what he thought was a woman moaning in pain led police to almost 50 animals that authorities said were being kept in unsanitary conditions at a City Heights shop in preparation for religious sacrifices."

FDA: Herb Kava May Hurt Liver
By Lauran Neergaard
Associated Press


"People who have liver problems or take drugs that can harm the liver should ask a doctor before taking the popular herbal supplement kava, the government warns."

Google replaces Scientology page


"Google Inc. restored a Web site critical of the Church of Scientology on its Internet search engine Thursday while free speech advocates slammed the the company for removing the site in the first place."

Japanese cult leader sentenced in children's deaths
Associated Press


"A cult leader who claimed he could cure sick children through prayer was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for causing the deaths of a premature baby and a 6-year-old boy by depriving them of medical care."

Among Believers
By Joe Schoenmann
Las Vegas Weekly


""Welcome to Earth!""

Anti-Aging Products: A Health Hazard?
by Richard A. Sherer
Geriatric Times


"Univera Pharmaceuticals' Anabolic/Catabolic Index Test can detect anabolic metabolites in a urine sample and determine the current level of a subject's metabolic efficiency. It costs a pittance: $124. The test is used in conjunction with Longevity Signal Formula, a supplement that can enhance energy, strength and stamina; support hormonal balance; bolster immune defenses; and support the subject's mental and physical performance. It can also slow signs of aging. A 30-day supply of the formula is available for only $79."

Creative creationism: The dishonesty of 'intelligent design' theory
Daytona Beach News-Journal


"Creationists have had a terrible time making their case since winning their fatal victory in the Scopes trial in 1925. Evolution is understood to be scientifically defensible, if not yet beyond doubt. Creationists can't keep it from being taught in schools. But they can make an argument for keeping evolution from being the only theory being taught. Doesn't the scientific method require that all evidence be considered, especially contrary evidence? Isn't it the mark of an open mind to hear other views?"

Miss Cleo scandal points to a larger problem
By Edward L. Hudgins
Tallahassee Democrat


"Miss Cleo is in big trouble. In her TV commercials, in her Caribbean accent, she offers to tell her callers' fortunes, to divine their problems, and advise them on solutions through free tarot card readings. Florida's attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission both have charged her and her Psychic Readers Network with fraud."

Skepticism and common sense can protect you from scams
By Betty DeRamus
Detroit News


"America's scoreboard of scandals is so crammed with players that I can barely tell the innocent from the guilty."

White Buffalo a `Miracle' for owners, sacred for Native American visitors
Chicago Tribune


"She looks like any other buffalo, big and brown and shaggy, slogging through her muddy pasture at David and Valerie Heider's farm."

Homeopathists Advise Cubans About How to Make Remedies
by Kate Evans
Morgan Messenger

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=3595514&BRD=2095&PAG =461&dept_id=358515&rfi=6

"Cuban pharmacists now better understand the manufacturing of homeopathic medicine due to the efforts of local Homeopaths Without Borders."

Chinese explorer thesis fails to satisfy academics
by Tim Castle


"An amateur British historian who has made headlines by contending that the Chinese reached America 70 years before Christopher Columbus has presented new evidence to support his theory, but academics said they were not yet convinced."

Five years after Heaven's Gate mass suicide, last member still keeping faith
By Seth Hettena


"Rio DiAngelo walked away from the regimented life within the Heaven's Gate cult in 1997 after three years, but a message from cult members drew him back a month later to the group's rented hilltop mansion."

Colloidal Silver, Setting a Gold-Medal Standard for Spam
By Don Oldenburg
Washington Post


""Flu symptoms are history!" The recent spam's claim was matched in boldness only by the e-mail's gaudy green background. Boost your immune system, it promised: "Protect yourself and your family against any and all infections, germs, fungi, bacteria and viruses.""

Perfume e-mail raises a stink
By Elaine Aradillas
San Antonio Express-News

http://news.mysanantonio.com/story.cfm?xla=saen&xlb=180&xlc=64 5301

"An urban legend that warns of poisoned perfume samples in the mail gained a false sense of credibility thanks to an urgent e-mail that appears to be signed by the Harris County attorney's office."

Have You Heard About Osama's Cheez-It Stash?
Los Angeles Times


"It's an article of faith among some Muslims that Israel and/or the international Jewish/Zionist cabal were behind the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Tales of "4,000 Jewish workers" who stayed home Sept. 11, and of Israeli spies videotaping the twin towers collapsing, were quickly debunked. Still, the stories persist. Most of us chalk them up to anti-Semitism, denial or ignorance, and go on our way."

Nigeria launches site to target e-mail scams
By Brian Sullivan


"Have you received an e-mail claiming to be from Nigerian government officials or petroleum executives trying to smuggle money out of their country? Are you getting tired of spiking all that Nigerian spam?"

With Psychic Friends Like These... The lawsuits pile up for Miss Cleo.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 20 02


I'm looking at a "collection letter" addressed to my husband for $119.76 in unpaid "psychic services." The bill is for a 24-minute phone call that we al legedly made to the "Jamaican" "master shaman" "Miss Cleo." This Miss Cleo may be a heck of a fortuneteller, bu t she's not much of a record-keeper. We disconnected this phone number six m onths prior to the time of the alleged phone call, and our phone company has rightly refused to pay her. So, she's sent a "personal" letter, urging us t o "take responsibility" for our "spiritual journey."

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate s factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public. It also promotes science and scientific inquiry, critical thinking, science education, and the use of reason in examining important issues www.csicop.org

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 28, 2002

from The Washington Post

A pharmaceutical company has discovered 70 million to 90 million long- forgotten doses of smallpox vaccine in its freezers, instantly increasing the known U.S. inventory of the vaccine six-fold and ensuring the nation an adequate supply in the event of a bioterrorist attack, according to government sources familiar with the find.

The immediate impact of the discovery is to buy time for the federal government and its pharmaceutical contractors, which together have been racing to produce tens of millions of smallpox vaccine doses as part of the new biodefense initiative. Companies will be able use that cushion of time to fine-tune some of the new vaccine candidates under development, instead of rushing effective but perhaps less-than-perfect vaccines into production as an emergency stopgap measure.

"It's a great insurance policy," said D.A. Henderson, director of the newly created federal Office of Health Preparedness.


from The Washington Post

ATLANTA, March 27 -- The number of British cases of the rare and fatal human equivalent of "mad cow disease" is doubling every three years, even though measures to protect meat, the presumed source of the infecting agent, have been in place for nearly a decade.

The continued growth of the epidemic of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) almost certainly reflects the long delay between infection and the appearance of symptoms, rather than representing new infections, a British scientist told a gathering of infectious disease specialists here.

"The trend is continuing upward," said Robert Will, of Western General Hospital, in Edinburgh, Scotland. "The central issue is, how long is this going to go on? We don't know, because we simply don't know what the incubation period is."

So far, 117 cases of vCJD have been diagnosed in Britain, five in France, one in Italy and one in Ireland. No cases have been found in the United States, nor has this country had any cases of mad cow disease.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Out in the far reaches of our galaxy, newborn stars are cooking up chemicals essential for life, and for the first time scientists have created some of the very same stuff in Earth-bound laboratories that mimic the deep, cold vacuum of outer space.

It's strong new evidence, they say, that billions of years ago interstellar chemistry could have helped supply our planet with the chemicals for life to get started on Earth -- and maybe elsewhere in the universe.

It also challenges older ideas that the compounds necessary for earthly life were all originally formed right on our home planet, and nowhere else.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A thick dust storm whipped up 7,000 miles away in China's Gobi Desert could hit California's coast today, turning Bay Area skies milky-white and sunsets blazing red.

Forecasters said the sandstorm was 500 to 1,000 miles east of Japan yesterday. They believe the dust storm will have thinned out considerably by the time it hits the West Coast of the United States and should pose no significant health risk in California.

"It just shows we're all interconnected," said Russ Schnell, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado. "You're living downstream of China."


from The New York Times

THIS is a case of monkey think, monkey do.

A rhesus macaque monkey at a Brown University laboratory can move a cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about it playing a pinball game in which every time a red target dot pops up, the monkey moves a cursor to meet the target quickly and accurately.

The monkey doesn't do this trick with a mouse or a joystick. It plays the game mentally, controlling where it wants the cursor to go by thinking. (The simple pinball video game the monkey played can be viewed at donoghue.neuro.brown.edu/multimedia.php.)

But this is not the story of a psychic monkey, or of a research project designed to teach monkeys how to play mental pinball. The project is the latest in a series of serious research efforts in brain-machine interfaces, a field in which researchers eavesdrop on the brain as it plans motion and then write programs that can translate those thoughts into specific movements.


from The New York Times

BASEBALL fans who watched major league games on Fox's cable stations last season may remember seeing a kind of instant replay, generated entirely by a computer, showing the path of selected pitches.

Three years ago, while watching a televised game in Boston, Paul Baim saw an early version of that computer-generated replay. At the time, Mr. Baim was the director of software engineering at the Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corporation, which builds systems that help the military track troop movements and missiles. He saw that the replay system, like many a rookie player, had some problems but also lots of potential.

"I said, that's the kind of thing we have the technology to do, and do pretty well," he recalled. "It looked like a lot more fun than what I was doing."

Mr. Baim contacted QuesTec Inc., a small company based in Deer Park, N.Y., that had been trying to get wider attention for its pitch-tracking system. A partnership was born, and Atlantic Aerospace helped QuesTec overhaul its technology, bringing a bit of military intelligence to the ball field.


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Among Believers

They say they have proof, now researchers want the technology

By Joe Schoenmann (schoenmann@vegas.com)

"Welcome to Earth!"

We held up our arms in a communal Y and half-heartedly chanted the phrase three times in unison.

"That's all, you can sit down now," raspy Dr. Roger Leir told those gathered at the River Palms for his lecture on the surgical removal of alien implants. He explained that spotters were sitting outside the Laughlin casino, gazing into the skies to see if our collective thoughts of goodwill had attracted any mind reading extraterrestrials.


Peer review is stifling for scientists on fringe



John Mangels and Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporters

Pierre-Marie Robitaille and Stephen Meyer don't trust scientific method.

For two scientists, this is a problem.

Their profession requires that new ideas face off against existing theories in a Roman Colosseum ruled by fellow scientists. Challengers to scientific orthodoxy vie for acceptance, grant money and notoriety, with anonymous panels of scientists determining winners and losers, thumbs up or down. It is a brutal but effective system called peer review that has driven a century of progress.

With Psychic Friends Like These...


The lawsuits pile up for Miss Cleo.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2002, at 2:17 PM PT

I'm looking at a "collection letter" addressed to my husband for $119.76 in unpaid "psychic services." The bill is for a 24-minute phone call that we allegedly made to the "Jamaican" "master shaman" "Miss Cleo." This Miss Cleo may be a heck of a fortuneteller, but she's not much of a record-keeper. We disconnected this phone number six months prior to the time of the alleged phone call, and our phone company has rightly refused to pay her. So, she's sent a "personal" letter, urging us to "take responsibility" for our "spiritual journey."



NASA scientists today announced the creation of amino acids, critical for life, in an environment that mimics deep space. The research will be published in the March 28 issue of the journal Nature.

In a laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, the team of astrobiologists shone ultraviolet light on deep-space-like "ices," simulating conditions that are commonplace in interstellar space. Deep-space ice is common water ice laced with simple molecules. The team subsequently discovered amino acids, molecules present in, and essential for, life on Earth.

"This finding may shed light on the origin of life itself," said Dr. Max Bernstein, the first author and chemist at NASA Ames and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. "We found that amino acids can be made in the dense interstellar clouds where planetary systems and stars are made. Our experiments suggest that amino acids should be everywhere, wherever there are stars and planets."

The amino acids they detected (glycine, alanine and serine) are the basic parts of proteins from which all life is made. Proteins provide the structure for, and do all the work in, living things.

The amino acids produced in the NASA Ames lab are similar to those found previously in carbon-rich meteorites. Meteorites are pieces of asteroids or comets that have fallen to Earth. The chemical similarities may indicate that amino acids in meteorites were made in deep space, before the solar system formed, the scientists say.

"This finding suggests that Earth may have been seeded with amino acids from space in its earliest days," said Jason Dworkin of Ames and the SETI Institute. "And, since new stars and planets are formed within the same clouds in which new amino acids are being created, this increases the odds that life also evolved in places other than Earth."

"Taken in combination, these results suggest that interstellar chemistry may have played a significant part in supplying the Earth with some of the organic materials needed to jump-start life," Dworkin concluded.

To conduct their experiments, the research team simulated space-like conditions by freezing mixtures of molecules (such as wood alcohol and ammonia) that are abundant in interstellar clouds. They then exposed the resulting ice to ultraviolet light.

Previously, the team demonstrated that irradiating interstellar ice 'look-alikes' generated compounds called amphiphiles that can organize themselves to form membranes; and molecules called quinones that play important roles in the metabolism of all living organisms on Earth. The next step, they say, will be to tackle the issue of left- and right-handed amino acids. Both forms exist in space, but only the left-handed forms are used by life on Earth.

In addition to the principals, other scientists on the team included Drs. Louis Allamandola, George Cooper and Scott Sandford, all of Ames.

Astrobiology is the multidisciplinary study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. NASA Ames Research Center is the location of the central offices of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and serves as the agency's lead center for astrobiology.

More detailed information about these findings is available at: www.astrochem.org

Remember, this is under press embargo until wed March 27th at 11 PST. Please contact the journal Nature if you have any questions.

To receive Ames news releases, send an email with the word "subscribe" in the subject line to:ames-releases-request@lists.arc.nasa.gov. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "unsubscribe" in the subject line. Also, the NASA Ames News homepage at URL, http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov includes news releases and JPEG images in AP Leaf Desk format minus embedded captions.



Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Heaven's Gate Survivor Keeps Faith

SAN DIEGO Rio DiAngelo walked away from the regimented life within the Heaven's Gate cult in 1997 after three years, but a message from cult members drew him back a month later to the group's rented hilltop mansion.

There, on March 26, 1997, he uncovered the worst mass suicide on U.S. soil. The 39 cult members killed themselves, believing they were shedding their earthly ``containers'' to catch a ride on a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet.

Five years later, DiAngelo, or ``Neody'' as he was known in the group, still sees himself as its messenger.

``I'm really the only one left,'' the 48-year-old Los Angeles resident said.

Interviews with news organizations five years ago left DiAngelo angry at the media, but he agreed reluctantly to a phone interview with The Associated Press last week.

Little remains from the group whose androgynous-looking men and women downed a lethal concoction of pudding or applesauce spiked with vodka and barbiturates. They sealed their fate by placing plastic bags over their heads.

The group's possessions have been auctioned off. The 9,000-square-foot mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, one of San Diego's northern neighborhoods, was sold for a fraction of its value.

Now a free-lance designer who makes ergonomic items, DiAngelo is applying what he learned from Heaven's Gate to his earthly life and cashing in on it. DiAngelo is auctioning off the cult's van on eBay to mark the Tuesday anniversary of the suicide.

He is asking a minimum of $39,000 for the 1992 Ford van, which cult members once used for road trips to SeaWorld and Las Vegas.

Some victims, who ranged in age from 26 to 72, had traveled around the country with the group for decades. They included Jackie Leonard, a grandmother who was the eldest member of the group, and Thomas Nichols, 59, whose sister, Nichelle, played Lt. Uhura on TV's ``Star Trek.''

Clad in black outfits with ``Away Team'' patches and Nike tennis shoes with their trademark comet-like swoosh, each packed a small bag and carried identification, $5 and some change for their journey toward what they believed was a ``level beyond human.''

Two other cultists later followed with similar suicides.

``They weren't trying to kill themselves because of a crazy idea, although some people saw it as a crazy idea,'' DiAngelo said. ``It really is an advanced level of being.''

DiAngelo said cult leader Marshall Applewhite, 66, known as ``Do,'' was from another planet and taught DiAngelo to be more aware, honest and sensitive to the world around him: in short, a better person.

``What I've gained from this group is phenomenal,'' he said. ``If he is just a gay music teacher from Texas how he could teach all these advanced ways of being that really work?''

At the same time, DiAngelo, is not sentimental about the past.

He signed a development deal to write a TV movie based on Heaven's Gate, but the project never got off the ground. A tabloid offered him $1 million for exclusive rights to his story five years ago, but he refused, preferring to preserve the dignity of his departed friends. Today, he said he'd take the money.

His life today is far from his days in Heaven's Gate, when members watched selected TV programs in assigned seats and wrote the ``Individual Needs Department'' when they ran out of deodorant.

He has re-established contact with his 19-year-old son and earns his living working in the nation's second-biggest city, slogging his way through daily traffic jams.

``Here I am a slave to commerce like everybody else,'' he said.

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines March 27, 2002

from The Associated Press

ATLANTA - The government kicked off a new campaign for doctors and hospitals Tuesday aimed at slowing the growth of so-called supergerms - powerful bacteria that develop resistance to overused antibiotics.

An estimated 1 million hospital infections each year and tens of thousands of deaths are blamed on drug-resistant germs.

Among the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

-Avoid infections by limiting the use of catheters, the thin tubes that let fluids pass in and out of the body, and by vaccinating more patients against the flu...


from The Washington Post

ATLANTA, March 26 -- A recent ban in Denmark on the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of farm animals has markedly decreased the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria but has not affected the health of the animals or the price of meat, a Danish scientist told infectious disease researchers and public health officials here.

Farmers now spend somewhat more to feed their animals, but that is offset by what they save from not spending on tons of antibiotics for entire herds and flocks, said Henrik C. Wegener of the Danish Veterinary Institute in Copenhagen.

"If the effects are so marginal, why on earth continue using them?" he asked rhetorically.

Wegener was speaking at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases being held here this week. Emerging infections are ones that are rapidly becoming more prevalent, appearing in new places or being transmitted through new routes. They also include the much smaller group of illnesses caused by newly discovered organisms.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

No, the bombing of Afghanistan did not trigger Monday's killer quake.

What did trigger it is the pushing and shoving of immense tectonic plates as they ram together in Central Asia, fissuring the crust into a thicket of fault lines, experts say.

The result is one of the world's shakiest, deadliest regions. Even a moderate Afghan quake can topple the omnipresent mud homes and kill thousands of people.

Relatives of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and other callers phoned quake experts early this week, anxious to know whether the military bombing campaign triggered the seismic slaughter.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Always the teacher, Ling-chi Wang jots down the four Chinese characters he learned long ago as a student in his native Xiamen. It is a simple phrase that has become his guiding principle in a life devoted to Asian American civil rights.

"When you see injustice," Wang translates, "protest."

He pauses, then laughs. "Actually," he says, "the literal translation is scream."

Wang has done plenty of that but in his own soft-spoken way. The 63-year- old coordinator of the Asian American studies program at the University of California at Berkeley has been called the "Asian Martin Luther King" for his four decades of activism.


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Scientists sound alarm over advance of creationists


Tania Branigan
Monday March 25, 2002
The Guardian

Scientists yesterday warned that "young earth" creationists who dismiss evolution as a lie are gaining strength in the UK and are trying to give themselves credibility by establishing dialogue with British academics.

A fundamentalist Christian with links to the Australian-based Creation Research organisation is surveying staff at British universities to find out their views on the origins of life and hopes to organise a conference on the subject.

Creation Research's international director, John Mackay, has already taken part in debates with academics at meetings held by Christian unions at universities in the UK.

On its main website, Creation Research complains that the media and schools have "indoctrinated [people] with evolutionary humanism, with ape-men, and billions of years of change which denies creation, the Bible and Christ."

Its UK website appears to blame a belief in evolution for the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, commenting: "Believers should not be surprised when things like this happen ... The root cause of this increasing violence is sin - sin which is rooted in the refusal to glorify The Lord as the God who created the universe.

"In recent western culture this refusal has been built around evolution and the denial of a god of any sort."

Yesterday one of the recipients of the questionnaire warned that the survey could be used to promote creationism unless academics took part.

"There's a danger that if [most] scientists bin it without expressing their views, then those with creationist views will dominate and that will skew the results," said John Farrar, director of the Institute of Environmental Science at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Professor Farrar added: "It is clearly coming from a creationist perspective. I can't complete it because it's uncompletable - it is so badly worded that it clearly is not written by someone who knows about the area - but I'm going to write back making my views clear. Scientists have a responsibility to get involved in this kind of debate."

Tim Astin, a geology lecturer at Reading University and a Church of England priest, who last year debated with Mr Mackay, said that creationism was growing in the UK and he believed it was important to defend evolution.

Another geologist, Trevor Emmett of Anglia Polytechnic University, who has also debated with Mackay, said: "To enter into engagement with them gives them credibility they don't deserve. But to ignore them gives them a free rein in schools and universities. They won't go away. They have a lot of influence in Australia and the US, and Britain could be next on the line. I don't think we can afford to stand back and let these guys have a free run with our kids.

"I think these guys work to an agenda which isn't about open debate; they are only interested in promoting their own views."

Randall Hardy, who runs the British office of Creation Research, said that the survey of academics was being carried out by its supporter Andrew Forbes, who could not be contacted yesterday.

"Andrew's overall objective is to email every academic in the country," he said. "It's a long term, rolling project. We are working with him [but] it's a personal initiative, not something we are paying for.

"I think the point of the debates is similar to what they are trying to do at Emmanuel College: most people in this country are under the impression that as far as science is concerned the debate about whether evolution is a valid theory has been sewn up."

The debate about creationism in education began after the Guardian revealed that staff at Emmanuel, a state-funded school in Gateshead, are promoting anti-evolutionary theories.

The Catholic and Anglican hierarchies accept evolution and last week the Bishop of Oxford said that young earth creationists brought Christianity into disrepute.

'Dreams warned mayor' of council break-in


A Czech mayor says a recurring dream made him insure his council offices two days before they were burgled.

Stefan Suranya, from Zadni Chodov, claims the dreams even prompted him to check the offices just hours before the raid. He said they were secure.

A man has been charged with the theft of a computer and some unspecified documents. Police say they are not pursuing any other lines of inquiry.

Mr Suranya said: "I went to the council building and checked the basement, windows and door, but everything was all right."

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines March 26, 2002

from The Boston Globe

Like the rest of us, scientists have long wondered what exactly goes on - or, more precisely, goes wrong - in the minds of murderers. And, like most of us, many scientists assumed that the real roots of violence lie in bad environments and abusive parents, a view that is still scientifically supported, as well as politically correct.

But a growing body of evidence, in particular, from studies that use modern scanning technologies to look inside the brains of killers, now strongly suggests that damage, or at least poor functioning, of a particular part of the brain - the prefrontal cortex, which lies just behind the forehead and eyes - is often involved in violence.

Though a number of research teams are exploring this, perhaps the most compelling visual evidence for the link between brain damage and violence is the work of Adrian Raine, a clinical neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.


from The Washington Post

ATLANTA, March 25 -- The ancient parasitic infection known as guinea worm is nearing extinction, with only war-torn Sudan standing as a major impediment to the disease's disappearance in the next several years, researchers reported today.

The disease, known formally as dracunculiasis, afflicted 3.5 million people a year in Africa and Asia in the mid-1980s, when a program to eradicate it was undertaken by international health organizations. Last year, there were about 64,000 cases, with almost 80 percent of them in Sudan, an official involved in the campaign told scientists attending the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"Sudan's neighbors need to create pressure on Sudan for peace," said Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, of the Carter Center, the Atlanta-based organization helping coordinate the eradication effort. "As long as the war rages, the global campaign [to eradicate dracunculiasis] will not succeed."


compiled by The Washington Post

Embryo's Stem Cells Form Blood Vessels

Cells extracted from a human embryo have been nurtured into tiny blood vessels, a key step toward someday using embryonic stem cells to aid ailing hearts or fix blocked arteries, researchers say.

For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that human embryonic stem cells can be coaxed to form blood vessels spontaneously and organize themselves so they could nourish tissue in the body, said Robert Langer, leader of a laboratory team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

If the technique is refined, scientists may be able to make in the laboratory blood vessels that could replace diseased arteries, Langer said. Endothelial cells -- those that line veins, arteries and lymph tissue -- also might be used to restore circulation to cells damaged by heart attacks. He said the processed stem cells may be able to re-establish blood flow to hearts failing because of blocked arteries.


from The New York Times

A new study of old tree rings shows that 1,000 years ago, long before power plants and sport utility vehicles, temperatures across North America, Europe and Asia rose in a period of unusual warmth.

In warm weather, trees thrive and grow a thick ring of wood in their trunks for that year. In cold years, growth slows and the tree ring is thin.

Temperatures were known to be warm in Europe between 900 and 1100, what is known as the Medieval Warm Period. Collecting wood samples in 14 locations that cover a swath of the globe from New Orleans north to the top of Alaska, researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Swiss Federal Research Institute found evidence that the warm temperatures extended to much of the Northern Hemisphere.


from The New York Times

In the fall of 1915, Albert Einstein, living amid bachelor clutter on coffee, tobacco and loneliness in Berlin, was close to scrawling the final touches to a new theory of gravity that he had pursued through mathematical and logical labyrinths for nearly a decade. But first he had to see what his theory had to say about the planet Mercury, whose puzzling orbit around the Sun defied the Newtonian correctness that had long ruled the cosmos and science. The result was a kind of cosmic "boing" that changed his life.

Einstein's general theory of relativity, as it was known, described gravity as warped space-time. It had no fudge factors no dials to twiddle. When the calculation nailed Mercury's orbit Einstein had heart palpitations. Something inside him snapped, he later reported, and whatever doubt he had harbored about his theory was transformed into what a friend called "savage certainty." He later told a student that it would have been "too bad for God," if the theory had been subsequently disproved.

The experience went a long way toward convincing Einstein that mathematics could be a telegraph line to God, and he spent most of the rest of his life in an increasingly abstract and ultimately fruitless pursuit of a unified theory of physics.


Commentary from The Boston Globe

We have no shortage of gurus willing to lead us into the environmental future.

They range from doom-and-gloomers who foresee imminent global catastrophe - melting icecaps, flooded cities, mass species extinctions, disease and starvation - unless we turn our backs on our consumerist, technological lifestyles and adopt the pastoral ''restraint'' of our ancestors, to right- wing, think-tank economists and radio talk-show hosts who believe the ''environmental crisis'' is an invention of tree-hugging wackos, and that any problems caused by unfettered economic growth can be solved by technology.

Needless to say, there are bits of truth buried in the rhetoric at both ends of the spectrum, and certainly democracy thrives on dissent. Yet every open-minded person who has listened to the debate knows the environmental crisis is real (it has been with us since the dawn of human consciousness), and that it behooves our best interests as a species to adjust our behaviors accordingly.

But how? We need our gurus. For my money, the best is Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, 72, author of the recently published ''The Future of Life.''


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Cold Fusion Rides Again

Science magazine publishes more evidence of tabletop nuclear reactions
Hal Plotkin, Special to SF Gate
Monday, March 25, 2002
2002 SF Gate



Science magazine dropped a bombshell earlier this month: The prestigious journal published a paper by a team of researchers at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory who say they have discovered evidence of what looks like nuclear fusion taking place in a relatively inexpensive tabletop device.

The findings bear striking similarities to the controversial cold-fusion claims made by chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann in 1989, although the particular experiment is different.

TV company wants two paranormal investigators


A TV company is looking for two members of the public to help film a series of paranormal investigations.

The pair will take trips to South Africa, the US and Easter Island.

One of the US projects will involve an exorcism in an historic Gettysburg hotel.

Galaxi Television's managing director Ross Hemsworth said: "We felt this was a novel way of funding the filming, whilst also giving members of the public, the opportunity to be involved in the making of a TV series.

"We also get support from companies who sponsor the filming, and our popular website at www.phantomorfraud.com, so it tends to get filmed one way or another."

The Phantom Or Fraud Project has a filming contract with Galaxi Television.

It was recently featured as The Ghost Detectives on UK Horizons and the BBC's Ghostwatch Live which was transmitted worldwide last year.

People interested in bidding for the two places can check out all the details at the Phantomorfraud website or contact Ross Hemsworth by e-mail or phone on 01582 605222.

Monday, March 25, 2002

The Times that try men's souls

From: Dave Palmer

Three articles of interest in Sunday's LA Times:

In the Opinion section, there's a front-page story about NASA's dubious investment in the Podkletnov anti-gravity machine:


An article on urban legends concerning 9/11:


Finally, there's a story in the Living section on BASE jumpers, those people who are apparently so bored with life that they have to get their thrills by jumping off of bridges and tall buildings:


I've always suspected that these people are ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, if you catch my drift, but here's a bit more evidence of that, a little bit of denial-by-innumeracy:

The group is led by Mick Knutson, 31, a software architect who runs the BASE jumpers' Web site in Salt Lake City. The site gets 260,000 hits a day, Knutson said. In the U.S., he estimates that there are about 10,000 active BASE jumpers. By his count, the fatality rate is low. Worldwide, in the past 20 years, 41 people have died on BASE jumps, Knutson said. (By comparison, from 1990 to 2000, the U.S. Parachute Assn., the FAA-recognized group that sets voluntary safety standards for skydivers, has tracked 349 fatalities. There are more than 350,000 skydivers nationwide, according to the Virginia-based association.)

Hmmmm, I wonder if he had a hand in developing the accounting software used at Anderson?

The first thing that jumps out at one here is that, despite the lack of all the information necessary to make a fair comparison between BASE jumping and regular skydiving, BASE jumping *still* seems MUCH more dangerous. The most important figure lacking here is how many jumps per year are made by both groups. However, I'd guess it's a reasonable assumption that there are MANY more regular skydives than BASE jumps. That makes the latter even more dangerous.

The only semi-meaningful figure you can get from the quoted statistics is deaths per participant, or what fraction of participants you can expect to wind up as road pizza. Adjusting the skydiving figures for 20 years, you get .0041 for BASE jumping and .0002 for skydiving.

What good is PinStruck?


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Your victim will receive an e-mail from PinStruck.com letting them know someone has placed a voodoo curse on them. To view their curse, they are prompted to click the web link included in the e-mail.

SkeptiNews: Punching thru space-time

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

* Fringes of: Science, Faith, Sex, Dope, Art, Paranormal, Conspiracy, etc.
* Texts between plagiarisms are editorial comments, to provoke discussion.
* Nothing contained here is ever endorsed for truth, accuracy, or meaning.
* 20 endangered species were barbequed during production of this bulletin.

@ Sock Jedi: http://www.thisisgood.com/starwars/sp/

* Aliens Eschew Antimatter - "Whatever beings are responsible for crop circles, abductions, cow dismemberments, and other strange phenomena, they aren't getting here in antimatter spacecraft." Riding tachyons?

* "Spacetime is a four-dimensional matrix that can be twisted and distorted by massive bodies like stars in ways that are highly counterintuitive and even bizarre."

Stanton Friedman responsed to the question, "How can ETs travel such vast distances?" by bending the top right corner of a piece of paper to touch the bottom left corner. I don't know if he poked a hole thru to other side.

* ARE THERE OTHER UNIVERSES? The irresistible, mind-boggling fantasy comes to just about everyone, sooner or later: What if everything we knew, our whole universe, was just a speck of dust on someone's shoulder? Imagine...

* Saudi cops 'stopped' fire rescue. Saudi Arabia's religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress.

* Religious sect rampages in Kenya. At least 20 were killed in Nairobi.

* Rent fuels Nazi-Vatican debate. Italian bishop rented seminary as Jewish internment camp in WW2.

Who's your favorite terrorist/genocidist/fundamentalist/enthusiast? Are you enthusiastic about your beliefs? Would you rather kill or be killed for God?

* 'TERRORISM MADE BIN LADEN IRRITABLE' An astonishing interview with the wife of Osama bin Laden has revealed his attempts to manage his compli- cated domestic life while planning his terrorist campaign against the US.

Does organizing and executing operations of death and destruction leave you cranky & irritable? Do you turn to prayer, drugs, meditation, torture, sex?

* Exorcism of devilish mascot fails - Red Devil may be cast in concrete:


* Papal ban on sea-turtle meat sought - Lent tradition fuels extinction:

* Christian signs take over town - business boom for sign salespeople:

"Charlemagne's strong point was morals. He was so moral that some people thought he was only fooling. These people came to no good." --Will Cuppy

* Rev. R.Carter, ULC * http://www.sonic.net/~ric * FAX: 561-423-6102
* (sorry, I can't answer all email - but thanks for your feedback)
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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 March 25, 2002

from The Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- The Antarctic's huge ice shelves may break up as ice floes across the frozen continent slow or even stop and the global climate warms, a New Zealand climate researcher warned.

The collapse reported last week of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica was "a wakeup call to expect more collapses," said Tim Naish, a senior researcher at the government-owned Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

Such collapses would have "a dramatic effect on global climate" by disrupting ocean currents, he said.


from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - At 8:32 a.m. on April 4, 2001, Elaine Holden-Able, a healthy retired nurse, consumed a glass of orange juice that had been mixed with a dietary supplement for the sake of medical research. The Alzheimer's experiment, financed by the tobacco industry, wound up killing her in what was called a ''tragic human error.''

The case seemed tailor-made for review by a little-known federal agency with the weighty title of the Office for Human Research Protections. But the agency, headed by a former top Boston hospital official, didn't learn of the death until four months later. No official from the agency traveled to Cleveland to interview hospital workers, who had denied making any mistake. The agency reviewed and mostly accepted the hospital's internal report, imposed no penalty, and closed the case.

Even this modest inquiry was unusual.

The agency opened investigations in response to only 1 percent of reports in 2001 from hospitals and universities that an unanticipated ''adverse event'' or death had occurred as a result of a research experiment.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Science magazine dropped a bombshell earlier this month: The prestigious journal published a paper by a team of researchers at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory who say they have discovered evidence of what looks like nuclear fusion taking place in a relatively inexpensive tabletop device.

The findings bear striking similarities to the controversial cold-fusion claims made by chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann in 1989, although the particular experiment is different.

There is considerable controversy surrounding the purported discovery, as well as the magazine's decision to publish the Oak Ridge team's findings. Many members of the mainstream scientific community, physicists in particular, contend that tabletop fusion is physically impossible and a violation of the basic laws of nature.


from The New York Times

LEXINGTON, Ky., Mar.20 Spring is sweeping as bountifully as ever across the bluegrass pastures of the thoroughbred horse farms. The season's early foals are tottering upright in the barns and prancing forward from the starting gate of life.

The newborns' gamboling is a sight more precious than ever as the Kentucky thoroughbred industry anxiously watches for any return of the mysterious illness that ravaged breeding farms a year ago, taking the lives of an estimated 3,000 or more foals and fetuses at the height of spring.

"We don't know that there wasn't a Secretariat in those mares," said Ric Waldman, the breeding consultant at Overbrook Farm. He evoked the historic competitor in pondering last year's decimation of the foal crop and what would have been its progeny.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Taking a position that seems to question biotech's financial underpinnings, Affymetrix Corp. last week told a government panel that gene patents are hindering medical progress and that the United States should quit handing them out.

"There should be no patenting of gene sequences, period. They were invented by nature," said Barbara Caulfield, general counsel for the Santa Clara company. "This a position Affymetrix feels strongly about."

Caulfield, a noted trial attorney and former federal judge, made her declaration before the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. The two agencies are studying whether patents may be stifling competition, rather than encouraging innovation, in knowledge-based industries such as biotech.


from The Washington Post

The radio commercial goads listeners to guess where the world's first "bio-artificial" kidney was developed. Not Silicon Valley or Boston, recognized leaders of high-tech innovation, but Michigan, known more for welding SUVs than splicing genes.

"And you thought all we make in Michigan is cars," the announcer says.

The ad is playing on Washington area radio, beckoning Maryland's biotechnology industry and the executives, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors that drive it. It is one sign that Maryland's life-sciences industry, which state officials see as a cornerstone of Maryland's economic future, faces intensifying competition to attract companies, entrepreneurs, workers and investment.

Biotechnology is becoming one of the hottest sectors among economic- development officials charged with generating new business growth. In the past, they tried to lure auto-manufacturing plants, customer call centers and most recently dot-com firms before the high-tech bubble burst. With demand growing for new medicines among an aging and increasingly affluent population, many states now see biotechnology as the surest ticket to prosperity.


from The Los Angeles Times

For centuries people have launched bottles into the seas for sentimental reasons -- to preserve a paean to lost love, perhaps, or to feed a basic human desire to touch a soul in a distant land.

Dean Bumpus did it for science -- and on a scale that most likely has no rival.

To track ocean currents, the scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts pitched tens of thousands of glass vessels into the Atlantic Ocean for 30 years, starting in 1948.

"Break This Bottle," the labels Mr. Bumpus affixed to them read.


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Supernatural causation

From: Patricia Princehouse princeh@fas.harvard.edu

The Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture is currently lobbying the Ohio Board of Education to insert a definition of science into their K-12 standards that would allow for supernatural causation to be considered fair game for public school science instruction.

Their website makes an assertion (quoted below) about the history of science. Without going back to Thales (perhaps not even to Newton), I would like to hear evaluations of this argument from those knowledgeable about the history of a variety of scientific disciplines, particularly concerning the period around 1860.

"The popularity of Darwin's theory has been so great that he helped convince many that science must be intrinsically naturalistic, in flat contradiction to the actual practice and beliefs of most scientists before and during his time. Nevertheless, naturalistic evolutionism is now the defended orthodoxy, the status quo, and its defenders tolerate no serious challenges. Despite this, we believe that to define science as intrinsically naturalistic is tendentious, inaccurate and distorting, and we do not concede it. In fact, we seek to defeat it."



Patricia Princehouse
Dept of Philosophy
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44106

Exploring Mind, Memory, and the Psychology of Belief

Tom Genoni, Jr.

The 1994 CSICOP conference, held in Seattle, Washington, June 23 to 26, set out to explore the various ways in which our minds operate, how our views are formed, and how our memories can be influenced, altered, and even manufactured. Titled "The Psychology of Belief," this lively four-day event, attended by more than 700 people from around the United States and abroad, featured sessions on UFOs and alien abductions, the highly controversial recovered-memory debate, expert testimony and pseudoscience in the courtroom, and conspiracy theories. There was also an unannounced visit from James Randi, who showed a videotape of his latest adventure in Australia accompanied by his always nimble-witted commentary. The highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Carl Sagan, who emphasized the need to popularize science and the potentially dangerous consequences of a society in which scientific understanding is in the hands of the few. (See his article in this issue.) But it was the first session, with Harvard professor of psychiatry John Mack discussing alien abductions, that created the most controversy.


Beast of Bladenboro, North Carolina

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

Mark A. Hall gives forth with an extremely interesting March 2002 issue of Wonders. It contains a complete and insightful 20-page examination of the Beast of Bladenboro, a melanistic felid cryptid (and its young?) that terrorized North Carolina, in 1953-1954. This animal was a ruthless dog-killer, dispatching at least eight dogs and one hog. Hall talks of monster hunts, NC hints of other mystery felids from bygone years, and briefly dips into the eastern cougar debate (a la' Bruce S. Wright, Harley Shaw, and Chris Bolgiano). He ends his Beast of Bladenboro discussion with some thoughtful speculation on what the unknown animal was (is).

For more information on the issue (which also reprints a 1927 article about African cryptids), go to:

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