NTS LogoSkeptical News for 5 April 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, April 05, 2002

Science In the News

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

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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – April 5, 2002

RICE'S GENETIC MAP MAY HELP BUILD A BETTER CEREAL
from The Los Angeles Times

Competing public and private research groups released remarkably complete drafts of the genetic sequence of rice Thursday, unlocking hereditary secrets of the plant that feeds half the world.

The findings by a corporate biotechnology laboratory in San Diego and an international academic team led by scientists in Beijing promise to almost immediately accelerate the search for more productive and nutritious strains of rice.

Researchers also are eager to use rice--the first crop to yield most of its genetic code--as a key to decipher the more complicated genetics of wheat, corn and other major cereal crops. Already, the genetics of rice have scientists rethinking the nature of complexity.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000024380apr05.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

JOURNAL RAISES DOUBTS ON BIOTECH STUDY
from The New York Times

Five months after publishing a report that Mexican native corn was contaminated with genetically engineered DNA, the journal Nature made the highly unusual move yesterday of announcing that it should not have published the work.

The announcement was printed online, with two critiques and a defense of the study.

The original study alarmed environmentalists because the native corn varieties had been collected from a region considered to be the world's center of diversity for corn, exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that many scientists had hoped to protect from genetically engineered DNA.

The conclusion of contamination has largely remained unchallenged. Instead, scientists have focused their criticism on data suggesting that genetically engineered DNA might behave in unexpected ways, scattering around the genome — something that opponents of so-called FrankenDNA have feared. It is that suggestion, and dissatisfaction with the quality of the work, that have caused ink to be poured and mud to be slung.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/05/science/05CORN.html

ASTEROID'S FAR-OFF DANGER DETAILED
from The Washington Post

An asteroid nearly a mile wide could be headed for an apocalyptic collision with Earth. That's the bad news. The good news is that it won't arrive for 878 years, and it might be pretty easy for our descendants to move it out of the way.

A team of researchers determined that an asteroid known as 1950 DA, a gigantic, near-spherical boulder hurtling through space on an elliptical orbit around the sun, has a one-in-300 chance of smacking into the Earth on March 16, 2880. One-in-300 is as close as the odds have ever been for an asteroid collision.

"The orbits will meet up," said senior engineer Jon D. Giorgini of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. He led the team that reported the calculation in today's issue of the journal Science. "The question is, 'Will the Earth and the asteroid be there at the same time?' "

But even if further study determines the asteroid and Earth are on a collision course, another researcher argues that asteroids such as 1950 DA could be thrown off line relatively easily by manipulating their ability to absorb sunlight and translate it into thermal energy. Once absorbed, solar energy radiates from the asteroid's surface like a tiny thruster engine. That's meaningless in the short-term when compared with the gravitational forces that give orbits most of their size and shape. But it's potentially decisive in moving a small celestial body a few degrees off-course over a period of centuries.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63550-2002Apr4.html

EPA RESISTS PENTAGON'S EFFORTS TO LOOSEN POLLUTION RESTRICTIONS
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- For years, environmental restrictions have limited the military's use of low-altitude training flights over certain lands that harbor endangered species.

And just recently, the Interior Department told the Army that it could use the California desert to prepare its troops for Afghanistan only if exercises were conducted during daylight and on roads.

The Pentagon had hoped that in George W. Bush, it had found a president who would lift these kinds of environmental restrictions in the name of national security. But now it could find itself locked in a bureaucratic battle with the Environmental Protection Agency, whose career staff has prepared for trench warfare against what it views as the Defense Department's assault on long-standing environmental rules and laws.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000024412apr05.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

LEAK GROUNDS SPACE SHUTTLE UNTIL SUNDAY EARLIEST
from Reuters

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A hazardous leak caused by a ruptured fuel line forced NASA to postpone its launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on Thursday.

The U.S. space agency said it would take until Sunday at least to fix a leak in the 16-inch aluminum pipe, part of a launch platform that dates back more than 30 years to the Apollo moon missions.

The shuttle plans to deliver the first rail system in space to the International Space Station.

It will carry a 44-foot truss piece that will eventually extend more than 360 feet as more pieces are added. It will support nearly an acre of solar panels to supply electricity for the station.

http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=sciencenews&StoryID=777111

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

Sigma Xi Homepage
http://www.sigmaxi.org

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http://www.mediaresource.org

American Scientist magazine
http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

Rev. Jerry Falwell files complaint over Web site bearing his name

http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/3000509.htm

Posted on Thu, Apr. 04, 2002

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - The Rev. Jerry Falwell claims a Web site that spoofs his views on the Bible and his fund-raising methods violates a trademark of his name.

Falwell filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization against the owner of the site which can be accessed at www.jerryfalwell.com and www.jerryfallwell.com.

Falwell and The Liberty Alliance -- a nonprofit organization affiliated with Jerry Falwell Ministries -- own the site www.falwell.com. A section of the Web site called ``How to follow the Bible'' has an open letter to Falwell, referring to his citation of biblical passages that speak against homosexuality.

It asks Falwell to explain how other passages from the Bible should be followed: ``I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?''

The complaint, filed in November, says the parody site violates a ``common-law trademark'' of his name.

In a response filed last week, the site's owner, Gary Cohn of Highland Park, Ill., says Falwell's name isn't entitled to trademark protection since he hasn't used it ``to identify certain goods and services.''

Falwell ``is trying to shut down a noncommercial Internet site that makes fun of him for blaming the Sept. 11 bombing of American landmarks on the supposed moral decline of America, and quotes the Bible at Falwell in the exact same way that Falwell likes to quote it at other people,'' Cohen wrote.

The WIPO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, will appoint a three-person panel to decide the case.

In the 1980s, Falwell sued Hustler publisher Larry Flynt over an off-color parody in the magazine. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Flynt, saying that even extreme forms of parody are protected by the First Amendment.

300-million-year-old tracks found in state Animal described as 'big-headed lizard with smooth skin'

http://www.courier-journal.com/localnews/2002/04/04/ke040402s181551.htm

By Alan Maimon
amaimon@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal

In a rare find that sheds light on early animal life in Kentucky, a Lexington fossil hunter has discovered animal footprints about 300 million years old on a slab of sandstone in Perry County.

Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, made the unexpected discovery in December while leading a team on an annual search for plant fossils near two major roads in Hazard.

The discovery of the fossilized footprints, or trackway, was the first of its kind in the region and only the second ever in Kentucky. Scientists say the footprints date to a time when Kentucky had an equatorial climate similar to that of modernday Indonesia.

Dan is a former NTS member--ed.

NYTimes.com Article: Experts Say They Have Key to Rice Genes

April 5, 2002

By NICHOLAS WADE

A Chinese team and the Swiss company Syngenta are publishing two versions of the rice genome today, opening what experts believe will be a new era in plant breeding and food production.

Knowledge of the genome - some 450 million units of DNA encoding around 40,000 genes - will help breeders create better varieties not only of rice but also of corn, wheat, barley and other crops.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/05/science/05RICE.html?ex=1018991675&ei=1&en=e640518659e4a250

NYTimes.com Article: Journal Raises Doubts on Biotech Study

April 5, 2002

By CAROL KAESUK YOON

Five months after publishing a report that Mexican native corn was contaminated with genetically engineered DNA, the journal Nature made the highly unusual move yesterday of announcing that it should not have published the work.

The announcement was printed online, with two critiques and a defense of the study.

The original study alarmed environmentalists because the native corn varieties had been collected from a region considered to be the world's center of diversity for corn, exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that many scientists had hoped to protect from genetically engineered DNA.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/05/science/05CORN.html?ex=1018991976&ei=1&en=03e8db324307bdb2


Thursday, April 04, 2002

Science In the News

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

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – April 4, 2002

CHARGES FLY OVER SCIENCE PANEL PICK
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is pushing for an engineer from India to take over the helm of an influential international science panel on global warming that is now headed by an American atmospheric chemist who has been criticized by the energy industry.

Energy lobbyists have accused Robert T. Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of promoting his own agenda. In a memo to the White House a year ago, a senior Exxon Mobil Corp. official urged the administration to push him out.

"Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?" asks the memo, which was obtained from the White House through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. The council accuses the Bush administration of turning its back on solid science and bending to industry wishes by supporting Watson's challenger, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri. In an election later this month, the 100-plus member countries of the climate panel will have one vote each on the chairmanship.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000024164apr04.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

SCIENTISTS CALL FOR COOPERATION
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Scientists will talk this week about sharing more biological information in an effort to better understand earth.

"We are calling for global cooperation among scientists to utilize new technologies to enhance the sharing of information on biodiversity," John Kress, head of the Smithsonian Institution's botany section, said Wednesday.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro brought more widespread attention to the diversity of nature. But at the same time the growing recognition of the potential value of plants and animals unique to individual countries has caused many of them to restrict exports.

A Smithsonian meeting on biodiversity opens Friday with speakers from as far away as Kenya, Spain and Brazil.

Dennis O'Connor, the Smithsonian's undersecretary for science, said exports are so limited in some countries that material cannot be obtained for studies.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/wire/sns-ap-biological-symposium0403apr03.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dscience%2Dheadlines

DISEASES FOLD INTO ONE
from Newsday

Subtle errors in protein-folding seem to lie at the root of disastrous brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and the human form of mad cow disease, scientists reported yesterday.

If that is correct, it suggests that a common mechanism may be causing various brain disorders, all of which involve the gradual dying off of neurons, the brain's thinking cells. The disease symptoms range from loss of memory to loss of muscle control, personality changes and many other problems.

What this new evidence also may mean, the scientists hope, is that a common disease mechanism is offering a common target for treatments. There may be a single way to attack what seem to be various diseases.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsfold042654719apr04.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

RUINS OF AN ANCIENT TRADING CENTER SOON TO BE UNDER WATER
from The Christian Science Monitor

The ancient city of Assur, once the seat of a mighty empire and now an archaeological window into a key period in the history of human civilization, is on the verge of falling victim to a dam.

The ruins lie in the path of a reservoir that will fill when Iraq completes the Makhoul Dam across the Tigris River some 124 miles south of the city of Mosul. The dam is designed to provide irrigation water to Iraqi farmers who rely on the Tigris, a river whose flow has been reduced by dams upstream.

"The loss of a place like Assur, which was a world capital, would be a catastrophe for archaeology," says Richard Zettler, associate curator of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. "This is in the category of world-heritage sites," although it does not carry that designation officially, he says.

The impending loss of Assur (also known as Ashur), and what Iraqi officials estimate to be at least 100 other ancient sites, is part of an accelerating trend in the region as countries struggling to develop their economies build dams to supply irrigation water and electricity.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0404/p16s02-stss.html

SCIENCE NOTES
from The Christian Science Monitor

Giving new meaning to phrase 'power suit'

It may not be long before your portable CD player, PDA, or digital watch is powered by its case instead of a battery.

Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley say they have developed a way to make low-cost solar cells that could be painted onto surfaces or easily layered within them. The discovery could lead to many more uses for solar cells.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0404/p16s01-stss.html

LIVING ON INTERNET TIME, IN ANOTHER AGE
from The New York Times

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- TECHNOLOGY is always about the New Big Thing. It is, literally, a work in progress. But what about the Old Big Thing? Yesterday's future gets short shrift in our what-have-you-done-for-me- lately society, and children grow up with such a confused sense of history that they think Grandpa, when he was a lad, had to play Game Boy by firelight.

Even many of the middle-aged seem to revere the late 1990's as the pinnacle of innovation and entrepreneurship, as if the modern era began with the sacred Gates and Bezos.

Lo! Let them come to West Orange and meet its pride: Thomas Alva Edison.

Many parents and even schoolchildren know the basic facts of Edison's life, at least that his creations over a prolific lifetime included the incandescent light bulb — the very symbol of creative epiphany — and the phonograph. Fewer know that his range of invention included new kinds of storage batteries, complex systems for generating and delivering electricity, the fluoroscope, and advances in moviemaking, in telegraphs and telephones, in mining and cement production and in technologies that would lead to the mimeograph machine.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/04/technology/circuits/04EDIS.html

DOW TO USE MICROBES TO CLEAN UP GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION
from The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Marking the end of a five-year lawsuit, Dow Chemical Co. has announced its plan to contribute $3 million for San Francisco Bay protection while it also cleans up groundwater contamination at its nearby Pittsburg plant.

The deal, struck between environmental group San Francisco BayKeeper and Dow, lets the company back out of a previous agreement to build a groundwater pumping plant to clean up the contamination, which could have cost the company as much as $100 million.

Instead, Dow says it will use bioremediation cleanup technology in which nutrients are pumped 100 feet into the ground, stimulating naturally occurring microbes that will eat away at the contaminants.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/04/04/state0328EST0015.DTL

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

Sigma Xi Homepage
http://www.sigmaxi.org

Media Resource Service
http://www.mediaresource.org

American Scientist magazine
http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

Blair adviser sent to settle school creationism row

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/31/ncre31.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/31/ixhome.html

By Francis Elliott, Deputy Political Editor
(Filed: 31/03/2002)

TONY BLAIR is brokering a secret compromise deal with an evangelical Christian businessman to allow the promotion of creationism in state-funded schools.

The Prime Minister has despatched one of his most senior lieutenants to defuse the growing row over whether children should be taught that God created the world in six days in science lessons.

Andrew Adonis, the head of the Number 10 policy unit, has been called in to negotiate with Sir Peter Vardy, the car dealer who helps fund the school at the centre of the dispute, Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead.

Mr Adonis is expected to reassure Sir Peter, who put £2 million into the school and has offered to fund five more, that the Government will not intervene to prevent it teaching creationism.

He is, however, hoping to make it clear that the Government has no plans to downgrade lessons on the theory of evolution to make way for the creationist message. Teachers at the school have been encouraged to promote the literal truth of the Bible's creation story as a "superior" theory of the origins of the universe.

The stance has infuriated some leading scientists, who are calling for the school to be re-inspected by Ofsted. City technology colleges are independent but charge no fees because they are funded by the Government as well as the private sector. They are allowed more freedom than other state-funded schools but must follow the basic national curriculum which includes teaching evolution.

Sir Peter, who is chairman of the school's board of governors, has insisted that the school has not broken the rules and that it encourages children to make up their own minds.

Ministers, however, fear that the controversy will add fuel to a backbench revolt over the Government's proposals for more "faith schools". MPs and peers opposed to legislation enabling an expansion of state-funded religious education institutions say that the case highlights its dangers.

Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, hopes that a compromise can be reached before the Bill returns to the Commons after the Easter recess. Privately, officials admit that the handling of the affair has been taken out of their hands by Mr Blair.

"This is something that Downing Street and Andrew Adonis are getting involved in. We are reluctant to intervene publicly," said one senior figure in the Department for Education and Skills.

Mr Blair has been careful not to criticise the school in public. Challenged in the Commons recently, he said that reports that it was teaching creationism had been "exaggerated" and praised its exam result record.

The basis for a compromise was laid last week when Mike Tomlinson, the head of Ofsted, wrote to the school inviting it to "clarify" its position. It is thought that Mr Adonis is seeking to help the school frame a reply that will end the controversy.

The determination of fundamental Christians to spread the creationist message through the new city acadamies has been underlined by an article by the Gateshead school's former head teacher, John Burn, however.

In Faith in Education magazine, Mr Burn, who is chief education officer for the Vardy Foundation, the charitable body set up by Sir Peter, wrote: "There are opportunities for biblical Christians to influence all the compulsory requirements in schools. Have we the courage to contend for this?"

15 March 2002: Bishop calls for new check on Creation school

10 March 2002: Fundamentalists re-create Eden, with dinosaurs

New Local Groups & Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

1) New Local Skeptical Groups
2) Website of the Day (well for April 1st)
3) Articles of Note

1) New Local and National Skeptical Organizations are popping up all over. Perhaps there is a new one near you:

a) Syracuse, New York, Contact: Bill Busher, Bill.Busher@Inficon.com

b) Jacksonville, FL, Contact: Curtis Wolf, wolfc@worldnet.att.net

c) Las Vegas, NV, Contact: Skeptics of Las Vegas (S.O.L.V) Robert Anderson, Rba1988@aol.com

d) Hawaii, Contact: Charles T Hoffman, KONAKODGER@AOL.Com

e) Argentina, Contact: Argentina Skeptics, Juan Gegennaro, juan_degennaro@yahoo.com

f) Ecuador, Contact: Dr, P. Schenkel, schenkel@ecnet.ec

For a list of skeptical organizations around the world, please visit: http://www.csicop.org/groups/ http://www.csicop.org/groups/world/

2) http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/topten1.html
The Top Ten April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time

by Alex Boese
The staff at the Museum of Hoaxes (that would be me) has scoured its archives to select the top ten April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time.

3) Articles of Note - Thanks to Joe Littrell

Design vs. Darwin
By Amanda Onion
ABC News

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/DailyNews/evolution020401.html

"Charles Darwin is in the hot seat again."

Ohio Science Teachers Can Only Teach Evolution
Associated Press

http://www.newsnet5.com/news/1339849/detail.html

"A new draft of Ohio's guidelines for the teaching of science will be posted on the Ohio Education Department's Web site today with no change in the evolution position."

Using psychics to find Sidarovich
by Christy Arnold
Charlotte Sun-Herald

http://www.sun-herald.com/NewsArchive2/040102/tp6ch3.htm?date=040102&story=tp6ch3.htm

"Psychics have helped law enforcement agencies solve cases."

'Creationism' in schools attacked
by Sean Coughlan
BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1903000/1903807.stm

"Religious fundamentalism should not be allowed to interfere with science lessons, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman has warned."

'Psychics' Bilked and Badgered Clients, Indictment Says
By DAVID ROSENZWEIG
Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-000022818mar30.story

"Two self-described psychics were accused in a federal indictment Friday of conning or badgering clients into paying thousands of dollars in fees to free the customers from bad karma."

The fault lies not in the stars...
By Doug Wyatt
Savannah Morning News

http://www.savannahnow.com/stories/033102/LOCSpaceBook.shtml

"Heaven knows we don't know the heavens."

Indian lore, Catholic shrine ensure steady stream of visitors
by Patrick Kastner
Columbus Dispatch

http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/news/news02/mar02/1170236.html

"Some arrive hobbling with crutches or canes, hoping to leave them behind. Others come for the serenity, hoping to take some with them when they leave."

Blair adviser sent to settle school creationism row
By Francis Elliott
The Telegraph [UK]

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/31/ncre31.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/31/ixhome.html

"TONY BLAIR is brokering a secret compromise deal with an evangelical Christian businessman to allow the promotion of creationism in state-funded schools."

Jews grapple with skepticism about Exodus story
By KRISTEN E. HOLMES
Philadelphia Inquirer

http://www.dallasnews.com/religion/stories/exodus_30rel.ART0.91843.html

"The liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt is a freedom story that resonates beyond the Bible and was remembered at countless seder tables Wednesday evening with the beginning of Passover."

Tall, tall tales equal Bigfoot
By BOB WELCH
Eugene Register-Guard

http://www.registerguard.com/news/20020328/1d.cr.welch.0328.html

"ONE OF THE more fascinating parts of being a journalist is finding yourself listening to a man tell you how he was parked with his fiancee on a suburban street late one night when a large, furry creature suddenly bounded from curb to curb in five steps."

Hunts for haunts could lead toward solid dollars
By Beth Kassab
Orlando Sentinel

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/volusia/orl-locghost29032902mar29.story

"Years ago, downtown DeLand was a ghost town. Shop windows were boarded, storefronts were deteriorating, and the sidewalks were empty."

Shrine 'apparition' draws 50,000 Indians
Associated Press

http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/south/03/29/india.shrine.ap/index.html

"Thousands of pilgrims have thronged to the shrine of an Islamic saint in northwestern India after reports that an apparition had appeared on the dome of the 800-year-old building."

No miracle, says dewan of dargah
by SANJAY SINGH BADNOR
Times of India

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=5500835

"Dewan of the Khawaja Moinnudin Hassan Chisti Dargah Syed Zainul Abedin Khan has dismissed the "miraculous" patterns on the dome of the dargah which resembled a face. He says they are patterns created by the dampness in the plaster of Paris covering the surface of the dome and not a miracle, as it is being made out."

High school student pushes county to post Five Pillars of Islam
Associated Press

http://www.tennessean.com/local/archives/02/03/15440830.shtml?Element_ID=15440830

"Bradley County, one of several Tennessee counties to vote recently to post the Ten Commandments, has been asked to extend its endorsement of religious documents in public places to include the Five Pillars of Islam."

Sept. 11 Conspiracy Theory Book Lures French
By Rebecca Harrison
Reuters

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=573&u=/nm/20020401/od_nm/conspiracy_dc_1

"The French are lapping up a Sept. 11 conspiracy theory that argues the plane that smashed into the Pentagon never existed and that the world has been duped by a murky U.S. government plot."

The diffusionists have landed

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2000/01/001stengel.htm

You've probably heard of those crackpot theories about ancient Phoenicians or Chinese in the New World. Maybe it's time to start paying attention

by Marc K. Stengel

(The online version of this article appears in three parts. Click here to go to part two or part three.)

It is arguably the biggest discovery never to have elicited any reaction whatsoever. In November of 1994 a small monthly newspaper called Y Drych (The Mirror), which serves as an expatriate journal for North America's Welsh diaspora, published the following curious item among a batch of breezy tidbits:

According to [Alan] Wilson and [Baram] Blackett ... the court of Camelot is more likely to be found in Kentucky! They claim that [King] Arthur was killed in North America by Indians after emigrating there ca. 579 A.D.

Feds Target Online Scammers, Spammers

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,49385,00.html

Wednesday, April 03, 2002
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

WASHINGTON — Professional hucksters and online snake oil salesmen best beware of the federal government, which is eyeing the Internet for scammers and spammers and has already started a series of crackdowns on con artists bilking millions from innocent consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that is has created a nationwide task force that has already brought 63 law enforcement actions against Web-based scams ranging from auction frauds to bogus cancer-curing sites.

Feds Cracking the Whip on Spammers

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/04/03/1440221&mode=nested&tid=111

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday April 03, @09:45AM
from the little-to-the-left-please dept.

Britano writes "Fox News is reporting that the FTC has started to go after spammers and online scammers. So the governement has finally started on the side of the consumer. "The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that is has created a nationwide task force that has already brought 63 law enforcement actions against Web-based scams ranging from auction frauds to bogus cancer-curing sites." Hey, this way we don't have to spend our own money on fighting this problem!"


Wednesday, April 03, 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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – April 3, 2002

FIVE PLANETS WILL CLUMP TOGETHER IN APRIL, MAY
from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The five so-called naked eye planets -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- will appear to clump together later this month in a sight that might not be seen again for a century.

But don't call this a planetary alignment. And even though this is fairly rare, there is nothing for earthlings to worry about, astronomer Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory said on Tuesday.

The grouping of the five will begin to be visible with unaided eyes around April 20, with the planets clustered closest by around May 4, Chester said by telephone.

"It is an opportunity to see all five of the naked eye planets in the same part of the sky at the same time and that does not happen very often," Chester said.

http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=sciencenews&StoryID=767689

COLORADO WILDLIFE OFFICIALS HUNT DEER TO LEARN EXTENT OF FATAL DISEASE RELATED TO 'MAD COW'
from The Asslciated Press

CRAIG, Colo. (AP) -- State wildlife officials killed 150 deer in northwestern Colorado this week and plan to kill at least 150 more to determine whether a fatal brain disease is spreading.

Chronic wasting disease, which causes animals to grow thin as it destroys their brains, has been confirmed in two deer on a ranch about 200 miles northwest of Denver. A third deer was tested but found not to be infected.

The cases were the first found in wild deer west of the Continental Divide. To the east, the contagious disease has infected elk and deer in parts of the Great Plains and Rockies over the past decade.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/04/03/national0903EST0535.DTL

DECIPHERING CONTRADICTORY ANTARCTIC CLIMATE PATTERNS
from The New York Times

Antarctica is experiencing some of the fastest warming in the world. Antarctica is cooling.

Some of its glaciers are thinning. Some are thickening. Ice shelves are disappearing. More sea ice is forming.

Scientists have reported all this in recent months. It may all be true, even the contradictory parts.

"Confusing, isn't it?" asked Dr. Eric Rignot, a glacier expert at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/02/science/earth/02ICE.html

PHYSICISTS AT PLAY HELP UNLOCK THE MYSTERIES OF LAVA
from The New York Times

Lava works in mysterious ways.

Consider, for example, what happened tens of millions of years ago in what is now County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Basaltic lava flowed up through cracks in the limestone under the area, creating a plateau. As the lava cooled, it formed remarkably regular and parallel columns, mostly five-, six- and seven-sided, up to 12 feet thick and up to 40 feet high.

Yesterday's volcanic activity is today's tourist attraction, and the Giant's Causeway, as the formation of roughly 40,000 basalt columns is known, draws thousands of visitors a year to the small coastal village of Portballintrae. (They learn, among other things, that the formation was the work of the mythical giant Finn McCool, who fell in love with a lady giant in the Hebrides and built it to bring her to Ireland.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/02/science/physical/02GIAN.html

A DIM VIEW OF A 'POSTHUMAN FUTURE'
from The New York Times

If the human mind and body are shaped by a bunch of genes, as the decoding of the human genome seems to underscore, then biotechnologists will one day be able to change both and perhaps, in seeking to refine the imperfect human clay, will alter human nature.

That prospect should be worrying a lot more people, in the view of the political theorist Francis Fukuyama, because history's central question — that of what kind of society best suits human needs — has been settled only if human nature remains as it is, warts and all.

Dr. Fukuyama, now at the Washington campus of Johns Hopkins University, is known for his widely discussed book "The End of History and the Last Man," published in 1992, a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In it he argued that with the demise of communism, liberal democracy had emerged without rival as a political system with universal appeal. The challengers of this tempting thesis included Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard, who argued that struggles between the world's major cultural groups would predominate in a post-Communist world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/02/science/social/02END.html

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US invented air attack on Pentagon, claims French book

Monday, April 1, 2002
The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/september11/story/0,11209,677112,00.html

Jon Henley in Paris A bizarre book claiming that the plane that ploughed into the Pentagon on September 11 never existed, and that the US establishment itself was at the heart of the New York and Washington attacks, has shot to the top of the French bestseller lists to indignation on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Frightening Fraud, by Thierry Meyssan, sold out its original run of 20,000 copies within two hours of going on sale. "We've sold 2,500 copies in 10 days, when a blockbuster novel sells maybe 1,500 in a month," a spokesman at Fnac Les Halles, one of France's biggest bookshops, said. "It's a phenomenon."

Mr Meyssan's conspiracy theory argues that American Airlines flight 77, which killed 189 people when it smashed into the headquarters of the US defence department, did not exist, and that the whole disaster was a dastardly plot dreamed up and implemented by the US government.

The French media has been quick to dismiss the book's claims, despite the fact that Mr Meyssan is president of the Voltaire Network, a respected independent thinktank whose left-leaning research projects have until now been considered models of reasonableness and objectivity.

"This theory suits everyone - there are no Islamic extremists and everyone is happy. It eliminates reality," said Le Nouvel Observateur, while Libération called the book "The Frightening Confidence Trick... a tissue of wild and irresponsible allegations, entirely without foundation".

A Pentagon spokesman, Glen Flood, said the book was "a slap in the face and real offence to the American people, particularly to the memory of victims of the attacks". He said he had not read it and had no intention of doing so.

Mr Meyssan's argument, which started out as a rumour on the internet and has risen to prominence largely thanks to the author's reputation and chatshow appearances, suggests that the plane could not have existed because eye-witness statements are contradictory, there are suspiciously few photographs of the catastrophe and none of them shows any wreckage. Even the rescue workers' accounts, published on the Pentagon website, are not convincing, he says.

He also asks why the facade of the Pentagon did not immediately collapse from the shock of the impact, and questions the fate of the plane's passengers. "What became of the passengers of American Airlines flight 77? Are they dead?"

Both Libération and Le Monde set out to disprove his theory, tracking down photographs that do show debris, and speaking to victims' relatives.

But Le Monde admitted that the information made public by Washington did not entirely add up. "There is no official account of the crash. The lack of information is feeding the rumour," it complained.

Special report on the events of September 11 at guardian.co.uk/september11
Monday, April 1, 2002
The Guardian

Investigating Possible Sunken City Off Cuba

Scientific investigators hope to better determine later this year if an unusual rock formation deep off Cuba's coast could be a sunken city from a previously unknown ancient civilization.

Manuel Iturralde, research director of Cuba's Natural History Museum, has joined a Canadian exploration company in efforts to solve the mystery of the smooth, geometrically shaped, granite-like rocks laid out in structures resembling pyramids, roads and other structures in a 73/4-mile-square area.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000023299apr01.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

The road to Atlantis?

By Tim McDonald, AP

NORTH BIMINI, Bahamas — A quarter-mile off Paradise Point, where the thin leaves of Australian pines wave in the southeasterly trade winds, lies an ancient, underwater arrangement of stones that has baffled natives, mystics and scientists for generations. Decades of both weird and real science have only served to intensify the mystery. They call it the Bimini Road and some say it leads to the lost continent of Atlantis.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/travel/leisure/2000/ltl536.htm

Subtle Connections: Psi, Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum

http://goertzel.org/dynapsyc/1996/subtle.html

Ervin Laszlo
The International Society for the Systems Sciences and The Club of Budapest

Are human beings entirely discrete individuals, their organism enclosed by the skin and their minds enclosed by the cranium housing the brain? Or are there effective, if subtle, interconnections between humans — and between humans and the world at large? This study argues that the latter assumption is likely to be true. Though the evidence for "subtle connections" is not in the form of incontrovertible "hard data" it is nevertheless cogent and significant. The directly pertinent findings are generated by research on psi- phenomena and the practice of psychotherapists. Possible explanations for the findings can be traced to the ideas of Carl Jung, and are now pursued at the leading edge of the physical sciences.

Web site devoted to optical illusions

SandlotScience.com

http://www.sandlotscience.com/

http://www.sandlotscience.com/MysterySpots/MysterySpots.htm Famous Mystery Spot Illusions Explained

Internal ANC document questions AIDS theories

Nicky Lewis

http://www.scidev.net/frame3.asp?id=2603200217162326&t=NB&c=1&r=1&posted=26%20Mar%202002

A document written by top officials in South Africa's ruling African National Congress party is reported to question the existence of AIDS, to state that HIV tests are ineffective and to describe AIDS drugs as "poisonous".

The document was circulated among members of South Africa's National Executive Committee (NEC), who attended a meeting from 15 to 17 March to discuss the government's policy on AIDS, according to ANC parliamentarian Peter Mokaba.

Science's latest discovery: how much we don't know

Flora Lewis IHT
Wednesday, April 3, 2002

http://www.iht.com/articles/53310.html

DIVONNE, France A seminar from the frontiers of research in various fields, such as one presented here during the Forum 21 conference recently, is breathtaking. While we've been busily reading about war in Afghanistan, violence in the Middle East and fallout from the Enron scandal, the scientists have been quietly but steadily pressing on with revelation of nature's secrets.

Reporting to about a hundred laymen on the latest word from their specialties, a cosmologist, a particle physicist, a molecular biologist, a nanoelectronics physicist and an astronaut showed that the understanding of the physical world has changed profoundly in recent years.

NYTimes.com Article: Dispute Arises Over a Push to Change Climate Panel

April 2, 2002
By ANDREW C. REVKIN

After a year of urging from energy industry lobbyists, the Bush administration is seeking the ouster of an American scientist who for nearly six years has directed an international panel of hundreds of experts assessing global warming, several government officials have said.

The specialist, Dr. Robert T. Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank, is highly regarded as an atmospheric chemist by many climate experts. He has held the unpaid position of chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since the fall of 1996. Now his term is expiring and the State Department has chosen not to renominate him to head the panel, which is run under the auspices of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/02/science/02CLIM.html?ex=1018822573&ei=1&en=27a60296160fd1cd

The Motionless Electromagnetic Generator, Extracting Energy from a Permanent Magnet with Energy-Replenishing from the Active Vacuum

http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/meg.htm

from Thomas E. Bearden, Ph.D. James C. Hayes, Ph.D. James L. Kenny, Ph.D. Kenneth D. Moore, B.S. Stephen L. Patrick, B.S.

"..This one works beautifully and produces COP=5.0..." has said Tom Bearden - ( COP=5 is equal to an efficiency of 500% )


Tuesday, April 02, 2002

The Flying Saucers Are Real

by Donald Keyhoe
[1950]

This was one of the first books published about the UFO phenomena. We are fortunate that it ended up in the public domain.

It is a template for much of what would follow: the paranoia, the government disinformation, the inescapable conclusion that the saucers are not of this earth. Keyhoe, with his spare, matter of fact writing style, which also conveys a profound sense of wonder, has to be the prototype for the deadpan Fox Mulder of the X-Files.

On one hand we can see the birth of a key modern mythology. On the other, there is a body of almost naive evidence in this text unpolluted by that very mythology. The case studies are real. The witnesses were highly reliable. These cases are still unexplained.

When Medicine is Murder

by Sharon Lerner

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0213/lerner.php

Leah Grove said "inhalation therapy" felt like riding a magic carpet. Perhaps that's why she continued the treatment in the face of common sense—and her own violent physical reaction. She would thrash, shake, and gasp for breath as her psychiatrist, a 73-year-old named James Watt, held a mask to her face and began administering the combination of gases that was supposed to help her recover repressed childhood memories. Twice, the 38-year-old computer sales executive threw up immediately after the sessions. On one occasion, Grove even punched Watt in the face, which led him to suggest that she bring someone along to the appointments to help restrain her.

Looking to the Sea for Answers

http://www.calendarlive.com/top/1,1419,L-LATimes-Calendar-X!ArticleDetail-55074,00.html

By SCOTT SANDELL, Times Staff Writer

If you had a family album stretching back to the dawn of animal life on Earth, you'd find the first picture to be of a sponge. Not the square sponge carcass found in bathrooms, but something more like the sponges living in today's oceans. At least, that is what the evolution of evolutionary theory has determined.

A new PBS series, "The Shape of Life," presents this finding and other revelations about evolution in an intelligent and highly watchable format. Though the science itself is remarkable on its own, the documentary keeps the action focused through spectacular underwater photography, nicely used computer animation and a generally tight script.

In the first of the two hourlong installments being shown tonight, "The Shape of Life" begins with a longish introduction full of a lot of unanswered questions; don't let that turn you off. Soon enough, the scene shifts to Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, where UC Santa Cruz biologist Christina Diaz is researching the surprisingly complex structure of sponges.

E-SKEPTIC FOR APRIL 1

FUNNY LETTER ABOUT MY SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN COLUMN DEBUNKING JOHN EDWARD
(spelling and punctuation original)

Hey Michael Shermer,
You must have a very poor out look on life. First of all , we all are here,

so what is it you dont believe in?

It's skeptics like you that want to take away what others believe in. But actually I am wasting my time, just as you are wasting your time by trying to tell others that what they believe in is not true.

So go ahead and waster your life by writing your stupid columns, cause one day you will cross over and be begging to speak through John Edward or someone like him.

Get a Life!

Teri Krukowski

When I do "cross over" to the other side (which I presume will be hell, where all the cool people will be--see the wonderful dictionary Who's Who in Hell), and if I do decide to communicate through someone, it sure as hell isn't going to be done at a television studio in New York or through some slick flimflam artist and former ballroom dancer masquerading as a medium. I'm still reminded of the brilliant and witty comment by Thomas Henry Huxley, in response (and frustration) to Alfred Russel Wallace's forays into spiritualism:

"Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a 'medium' hired at a guinea a seance."

NEW ON-LINE ASTRONOMY EDUCATION JOURNAL/MAGAZINE ANNOUNCED

An international team of astronomers and educators is starting an on-line journal and magazine on space science education. Called "Astronomy Education Review" (AER), the new publication showcases educational research, innovation, resources, opportunities, and opinion.

Its web address is: http://aer.noao.edu, where more information is available about the journal's goals. There are also guidelines for submitting contributions, and some articles that will be part of the first official issue. Articles are posted on line as soon as they are accepted, and then assembled into "issues" at regular intervals.

Astronomy is taught from elementary school through college, and is one of the most popular topics in museums and the media. NASA also has an extensive program for education and outreach. Yet astronomy has remained the only major science field with no vehicle to help educators communicate.

AER is initially being published with support from the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and has been endorsed by both the American Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (the two main professional organizations involved with astronomy education.) Its Board of Editors and Council of Advisors has been drawn from a wide cross-section of astronomy educators at all levels.

Articles, news announcements, suggestions, or avid readers for the journal are most welcome.

Andrew Fraknoi
Astronomy Department, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
Tel (Mon - Thu): 650-949-7288
Tel (Fri): 415-337-1100 x 120
FAX: 415-337-5205
E-mail: fraknoiandrew@fhda.edu

LATEST ISSUE OF SKEPTIC MAGAZINE
For those of you not already subscribing to Skeptic magazine I would encourage you to go to www.skeptic.com and check it out. It's a "hot" issue, if you will, in that we've jumped into the great environmental debate on global warming, overpopulation, biodiversity and species extinction, etc.

The issue includes:
--an excerpt from E. O. Wilson's latest book, The Future of Life
--an excerpt from Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist
--a critique of Lomborg by environmental scientists David Pimentel

Plus:
--nine crazy ideas in science
--the wit and wisdom of skeptics
--Randi on John Edward and Sylvia Browne
--spooky 9/11 numbers

And:
Evolutionary Psychology Pro and Con

We deeply appreciate your support and depend on your membership/subscription.

I hope you will join and subscribe today.

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

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - April 2, 2002

EPA SAYS COASTAL WATERS STILL POLLUTED
from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - Despite improvements in water clarity over the last two decades, America's coastal waters, including the Great Lakes, continue to have serious pollution and ecological problems, according to an Environmental Protection Agency study released yesterday.

Overall, the study found that, while 56 percent of American coastal waters are considered clean enough to support plant and animal life and for human uses, about 34 percent are in too poor condition to support aquatic life and 33 percent are considered unacceptable for human use.

The report comes as scientists continue to puzzle over a 100-mile-long, oxygen-eating "black blob," possibly made up of microscopic algae, that mysteriously appeared off Key West, Fla., last month and is now dissipating.

A similar but unrelated "dead zone" off the mouth of the Mississippi River has been a source of worry for several years.

The new EPA study found water clarity good in the Great Lakes, the Northeast coastal waters running from Virginia to Maine and along the West Coast, but only fair in the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeastern shoreline.

Fish contamination was at a high level in the Great Lakes, the Northeast, and the Gulf of Mexico, while the West was rated ''fair'' and the Southeast, "good" in this area of concern.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/092/nation/EPA_says_coastal_waters_still_polluted+.shtml

POLL SUGGESTS INSOMNIA ROSE AFTER SEPT. 11
from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 apparently disrupted the nation's sleep. In a new survey, conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 69 percent of respondents said they experienced some insomnia in the days after the attacks, up from 51 percent a year earlier.

"That was certainly true for at least the few days following Sept. 11," said James K. Walsh, president of the foundation and a sleep researcher at St. Luke's Hospital Sleep Medicine & Research Center in Chesterfield, Mo.

The attacks also seemed to have longer-lasting effects, Walsh said. The survey suggested a generalized increase in sleeplessness since Sept. 11 - from 51 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2001.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/092/nation/Poll_suggests_insomnia_rose_after_Sept_11+.shtml

SLEEP HABITS LEAVE AMERICANS TUBBY
New poll finds social problems linked to tiredness.
from The San Francisco Chronicle

A new poll on sleep habits suggests that millions of Americans are in a bad mood, short-tempered and prone to overeat because they are tired.

The National Sleep Foundation Poll, released today, finds that people say they're much or somewhat more likely to make mistakes, get impatient or aggravated when waiting, or get upset with their children or others when they haven't gotten enough sleep.

One fourth said they were more likely to eat more than usual on days when they didn't get enough sleep, with slightly more women than men reporting this was common.

The poll establishes a link between how Americans sleep and "their overall behavior, mood and performance," said Richard Gelula, the foundation's executive director. "It shows 'you are how you sleep.' And it indicates that some of the problems that we face as a society, from road rage to obesity, may be linked to lack of sleep or poor sleep."

The foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization researches sleep problems. It has conducted a poll on sleep habits each year since 1998, part of a springtime sleep-awareness campaign tied to the return of daylight- savings time, which begins Sunday.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/04/02/MN105414.DTL

DEATH BLOWS
Many Dying Patients Are Subjected to a Violent Procedure That Almost Never Saves Their Lives. The Treatment? CPR
from The Washington Post

She was a spry 84. Although her heart and kidneys were failing, she still enjoyed the opera and her ritual morning newspaper and coffee. This woman told her daughter that when her time came, she wanted to die without extraordinary measures, but her physician never asked her about her attitude toward death.

When she was hospitalized for heart failure and later found in bed without a pulse, the "code team" -- which included me, a resident -- was called in to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There were no do-not-attempt-resuscitation (DNAR) orders in her chart.

We immediately stripped her and she lay naked in front of us. I thrust down on her chest repeatedly. With each stroke, her frail ribs snapped under my weight. Someone else prodded her neck and groin, jabbing needles into her to gain IV access. A tube was jammed down her throat and blood oozed from her mouth. We all stood back and watched as the defibrillator sent electrical shocks ripping through her. We kept this up for 30 minutes. She was then declared "officially" dead.

Upon learning her mother had died, the woman's daughter, who had not witnessed the death scene, expressed relief. The older woman had accepted death as the end of her discomfort, she had told her daughter. But her doctors -- I among them -- may have prolonged her suffering. We certainly denied her the dignity and peace that the medical profession, at its best, can help to confer on the dying.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48559-2002Apr1.html

HOPING AN IMPANT CHIPS IN FOR PATIENT SAFETY
Tag could tell doctors name, medical history.
from The Boston Globe

BOCA RATON, Fla. - His neck is fused to his spine at a slightly downward angle, making it painful for Jeff Jacobs to look straight ahead without leaning back. Jacobs takes up to 10 medications a day for other ailments, and he has nearly died several times. One of his family's biggest worries is that he might not be able to speak for himself in a medical emergency.

Jacobs, his wife, Leslie, and their 14-year-old son, Derek, could become the nation's first family to be fitted with a device that could ease those fears.

Called VeriChip, it is awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The computer chip, about the size of a grain of rice, can be implanted in a patient's body, probably in the arm, and scanned for personal and medical information.

Similar technology has been used in the past few years to identify millions of dogs and cats in the event they are lost or stolen.

Its maker, Applied Digital Solutions in Palm Beach County, says the chip can provide instant access to a patient's medical records, which is especially valuable in emergencies or in situations in which the patient is unconscious and unable to provide a medical history or information on allergies to medications.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/092/nation/Hoping_an_implant_chips_in_for_patient_safety+.shtml

RELAX TO CONCEIVE?
It's Well Known That Infertility Causes Stress.
Some Believe the Reverse May Also Be True.
from The Washington Post

The five women who have gathered for Barbara Blitzer's workshop on a recent Thursday night are trying to make their bodies a little warmer. They're seated in a circle of chairs and couches in her cramped Chevy Chase office, their eyes closed and tiny thermometers taped to finger pads.

Blitzer, a social worker who specializes in infertility problems, guides them through a meditation - "My hands are heavy and warm. I am at peace," she chants slowly. "My hands are heavy and warm. . . ."

Jaws unclench, shoulders soften against pillows and - if Blitzer's exercise is working - heartbeats slow. It's the relaxation response, she explains, where blood vessels dilate and the hands and feet warm with the increased blood flow.

Indeed, when she stops and asks her group to look at their thermometers, one woman's skin temperature (subject to much more variation than body temperature) has risen 13 degrees. Success. Partly.

The ultimate goal for these women is not to increase their blood flow, but to have a child. The hope tonight is that they'll learn how they might help the process along.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48557-2002Apr1.html

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Breaking news: NTS to remain open

Contrary to the workings of an April 1st prankster, the NTS will remain open for the foreseeable future.

The notice of the NTS' demise was posted in the Skeptical News section of the NTS Web site by a person or persons unknown late Monday, the first of April. The posting claimed that due to a sharp downturn in belief in the paranormal and other silly superstitions, the venerable North Texas Skeptics was closing its doors after fifteen years in operation.

The posting claimed that brilliantly convincing arguments by prominent NTS members had convinced young Earth creationists, homeopaths, and phony spiritualists of the folly of their ways. As a result of the loss of its principal source of business, the NTS was reported to be laying off scores of highly paid staffers and closing its plush offices in Dallas.

"We knew it was a hoax immediately" reported NTS Secretary John Blanton when he was reached by e-mail. "The very idea that all this foolishness would disappear just overnight is absurd." As proof of the continuing gullibility of people of all stripes, Mr. Blanton related how he, himself, was completely taken in during the day.

"I was driving home from work, listening to the news on NPR. The announcer was telling how the Bush Administration was proposing to extend Medicare coverage to people's pets. Everything would be covered: Basic medicine, grooming, even boarding. There was little opposition anywhere. Top government leaders were just trying to figure out how to come up with the funding to cover the $378 trillion annual cost."

"I was fuming, ready to storm up to my computer and dash off a scathing letter to the editor" Mr. Blanton related by e-mail. "If this weren't April first I would think this was some kind of joke" he concluded.

Mr. Blanton, who even as a child never believed in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, is noted as one of the most skeptical people in southeast Denton County.


Monday, April 01, 2002

NTS shuts down operations

Citing a dramatic fall off in belief in the paranormal and other forms of superstition, The North Texas Skeptics has reluctantly decided to cease operations as of the close of business today.

Interviewed at his office in a downtown Dallas high rise, NTS President Curtis Severns commented on the dramatic turn of events. "It appears we are a victim of our own success" he said. "Like last week I was at the MIOS creationist meeting talking to creationism guru Don Patton. He told me 'Well, I've heard enough. From what you say, this new Earth stuff is all wet. I'm going to tell my people the real facts tonight, and we'll see what comes from that.' That's not all" Curtis continued. He mentioned other instances that brought about the calamitous downfall of the NTS.

Right in the middle of one of the broadcasts of his highly rated "Crossing Over" show, spiritualist John Edward suddenly stood up and announced it would be the final episode. He cited a letter he had received from NTS VP Danny Barnett that clearly explained the futility of trying to contact the dead. "It made so much sense that I don't see how we can possible go on with this charade" Edward told his stunned audience. At press time Mr. Edward still has not announced what, if any, television offerings he has in mind for the future.

Citing detailed explanations of some basics of chemistry that they received from Mr. Barnett, a number of prominent advocates of homeopathy have recently announced they will abandon further futile attempts to obtain positive results from their research. "I don't know what I was thinking" homeopathy pioneer Jacques Benveniste stated in an announcement from his laboratory in the Paris suburbs. "Send medical properties of water by e-mail? I must have had rocks in my head." He announced he will join the race for mayor of Paris once he has completed the shutdown of his lab and paid off his current work force.

In the mean time, expensive office furniture can be seen being carried out of the once thriving NTS head offices. Former NTS office workers have been noted phoning up friends and relatives at Enron corporation to inquire about possbile job openings.

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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - April 1, 2002

A HOLLOW VICTORY FOR OLD-GROWTH CAMP

Major Northwest timber company has pledged to end logging of old forests. But many such tracts are already on the chopping block. from The Los Angeles Times

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- This is America's timber country. The rolling green carpets that sweep into the mountains are home both to 28 million acres of commercial forest and to the largest stand of old-growth timber in the world.

Most people here in Douglas County have never thought twice about cutting a few trees--not surprising in a place where unemployment is at 11 percent and a third of the jobs left are linked to the forest.

But while the demand for new logging continues to be heard in timber towns across the Pacific Northwest, it appears there is substantial public support for setting aside the stands of huge, old trees that have all but disappeared except for on the lush, rain-fed slopes of the western Cascades.

When asked recently whether they favored an end to logging in old-growth forests on public lands, 63 percent of residents in resource-dependent areas such as Douglas County said yes. So did 70 percent of those in Oregon and Washington overall.

And in what could be an important shift by the timber industry, Boise Cascade Corp., now known simply as Boise, announced last month that it would end all logging on large stands of old-growth forest. The company, the largest purchaser of federal timber in the country, cited the dwindling availability of old trees, mostly due to environmental controls.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-040102log.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dtodays%2Dtimes

'Atlantic Salmon' A Fishy Tale
CHILEAN INDUSTRY CRITICIZED FOR POLLUTION, SNEAKY LABELING
from The San Francisco Chronicle

CHIDHUAPI ISLAND, Chile -- Maria Mansilla remembers when sea lions and dolphins swam outside her front yard. Today, Mansilla says her aquatic visitors have been replaced by plastic bags of dead, smelly fish produced by a nearby salmon company ironically called Aguas Claras, or "Clear Waters."

"The sea lions have been killed and the dolphins don't return because they are intelligent," said Mansilla, in her early 60s, who has lived on the serene Chidhuapi channel for more than five decades. "They know this place is neither clean nor safe."

Her complaint echoes a growing dissatisfaction here and abroad over the practices of many of the approximately 60 national and foreign salmon companies operating in Chile, which has become the world's second largest exporter of farmed salmon after Norway and provider of nearly half the salmon consumed in the United States. Most of the Chilean salmon eaten by Americans are fillets marketed under the fanciful title "Atlantic salmon."

Sea lions that prey on salmon pens are often killed by company employees, critics charge. And a report by the Terram Foundation, a sustainable development think tank in Santiago, says 75 percent of fish feed used at Chilean salmon farms and tons of feces wind up in the waters below offshore pens, depleting oxygen necessary for the survival of surrounding marine life.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/04/01/MN185582.DTL

SHUTTLE LAUNCH TO HELP SPACE STATION GROW
from The Houston Chronicle

Still facing an uncertain future, the over-budget international space station is poised for a new growth spurt.

NASA plans to launch the shuttle Atlantis from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday with the $600 million, 44-foot-long centerpiece of the station's future structural backbone. The high-tech beam of steel and aluminum will form the foundation for the station's future expansion, including how many astronauts it houses and how much scientific research they conduct.

As they are linked over the next two years, the backbone's nine segments will stretch longer than a football field. Electrical power, cooling, guidance and computer data system lines will be laced throughout to form the station's central nervous system.

Outstretched solar arrays on either end of the 356-foot-long beam will gather sunlight and convert the radiance into electricity for the life support needs of up to seven resident astronauts and future scientific experiments.

The station's 16-nation partnership hopes to use the weightlessness aboard the 240-mile-high space station for a range of medical, biology and physics experiments. The findings, researchers believe, could pave the way for human exploration of Mars and other deep space destinations as well as new medicines and commercial products of value on Earth.

The installation of the 13 1/2-ton boom segment will require four long spacewalks by the Atlantis crew.

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/front/1327891

AN EARLY MELTING HURTS SEALS, HUNTERS IN CANADA
from The Boston Globe

MONTREAL -- The early disappearance of ice in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence, which some scientists believe is linked to global warming, is wreaking havoc on harp seals - which give birth on the floes - and causing economic hardship for hard-pressed fishermen who depend on the controversial spring hunt.

Hundreds of drowned seal pups have already washed up on the shores of Newfoundland after their mothers gave birth in open water, apparently unable to find ice. The final death toll of pups may be in the hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, the club-wielding fishermen who normally take to the ice in a hunt that has drawn international criticism since the 1970s are remaining in port, with no icebound seals to harvest for fur, vitamin-rich oils, and, lately, sex organs for the Asian aphrodisiac trade.

Environmentalists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a Massachusetts-based group that for three decades has campaigned to save the seals, believe this year's near-absence of ice floes in birthing regions of the gulf may cause a catastrophic loss of newborns. Harp seals give birth on the floes, and pups need at least 12 days on the ice before they complete nursing and can take to the sea on their own.

At this time of year, ice packs normally stretch from Quebec's Magdalen Islands south to Prince Edward Island. By late March, the floes should be teeming with hundreds of thousands of seal mothers and their pups.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/091/nation/An_early_melting_hurts_seals_hunters_in_Canada+.shtml

SEX DISEASES CALLED UNREPORTED
From The Miami Herald

ATLANTA (AP) -- A three-state study of sexually-transmitted diseases found up to 36 percent of gonorrhea cases and up to 22 percent of chlamydia cases were not reported to public health officials, as required by state law.

The government wants to see improvement in the figures because better, faster reporting of sexually transmitted diseases helps health departments quickly identify and control outbreaks.

Some doctors may be withholding case reports because of concerns about confidentiality and other data may be getting lost in paperwork mixups, say analysts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which led the study, released Thursday.

"These doctors, they are just busy in their daily work, treating patients," said Guoyu Tao, a CDC health scientist. "They may not have time, or they may just forget."

The CDC conducted the study with managed-care companies in Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota, examining gonorrhea and chlamydia cases from 1995 to 1999. The study found that health departments were notified of 78 percent to 98 percent of chlamydia cases and 64 percent to 80 percent of gonorrhea cases.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/health/2957018.htm

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

Sigma Xi Homepage
http://www.sigmaxi.org

Media Resource Service
http://www.mediaresource.org

American Scientist magazine
http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

'Creationism' in schools attacked

Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1903000/1903807.stm

Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online at the NUT conference in Bournemouth

Religious fundamentalism should not be allowed to interfere with science lessons, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman has warned.

Addressing the National Union of Teachers' conference in Bournemouth, Phil Willis launched a stinging attack on the government's plans to extend faith schools.

And he highlighted the dispute over Emmanuel College in Gateshead where it has been claimed the Biblical creation story has been given preference over the theory of evolution.

"We must not stand by and see our children become the fodder for the extreme views of religious fundamentalists or their wealthy backers," he said.

Extremism

Mr Willis challenged Ofsted inspectors to "root out such practices and not ignore or encourage them".

And he called on the government to review Ofsted to find why "extreme fundamentalist views" had not been identified in the inspection of Emmanuel College.

While defending the contribution of church schools, he said that this should not be allowed to compromise the content of education.

"It is unacceptable to allow creationism to be taught as superior when teaching science in state schools. It makes a mockery of scientific knowledge," said Mr Willis.

And he warned that the government's plans to attract financial backers for city academies would risk the further introduction of "fundamentalist beliefs on creationism".

"The current debate about creationism is no longer academic, it goes to the very heart of the government's policy on diversity and its love of private partnership," he said.

The combination of "religious segregation and privately sponsored academies" was a "dangerous cocktail", he said.

Mr Willis's speech, which drew a standing ovation, also called for improved pay for teachers, reduced workload and an increase in London allowances.

Jesus or Jacques?

[The Scotsman]
Fri 29 Mar 2002

http://news.scotsman.com/features.cfm?id=338412002

Kath Gourlay

Thanks to the reputation of the man it is said to have covered, there is always likely to be controversy over the origins of the Turin Shroud. The "negative" image of the bearded face will forever be associated with the popular image of Jesus Christ. Radio-carbon dating identified the cloth as medieval more than a decade ago, but, desperate not to lose the Shroud's religious significance as one of the world's most potent relics, many people continue to challenge this scientific evidence.

One of the most recent explanations of the Shroud's history, however, does not question the findings. The claimants agree that the fabric, with its curiously imprinted image, is medieval. Where they differ from all the previous research, however, is over the identity of the Shroud's former occupant, and their conclusions are bound to provoke heated debate.

snopes: the TV series?

http://www.snopes2.com/info/tv.htm

The pilot episode of the Snopes TV series is finished! We hope to have a full-blown trailer or at least a video clip from it up on the site within the next week so you can have a look at it for yourself, but for now just trust us when we say it's fabulous. It's flashy, funny, playful, informative, and sometimes a bit scary. You're sure to be delighted with the show, so help us bring it to air by telling your neighbors and your friends (especially if they're programming directors for television networks).

John Edward Cartoon by Scott Kurtz

http://www.pvponline.com/archive/2002/pvp20020401.gif


Sunday, March 31, 2002

Oldest-known Solar Eclipse Recorded in Stone

http://www.astronomy.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/000/806newea.asp

Using everyday astronomy software, an archaeoastronomer pins a date on an ancient solar eclipse.

by Vanessa Thomas

In the Irish countryside, large mounds called cairns mark the burial sites of the country's prehistoric neolithic people. Scientists have come to realize that these structures were constructed in relation to astronomical events and mark specific times of the year such as solstices and equinoxes — much like to the famous Stonehenge in England. However, archaeologists remain puzzled over mysterious geometric shapes carved in stone at these megalithic sites.

NO-WHCCAMP website

A Little Known WHITE HOUSE COMMISSION Seeks to Dismantle the Nation's Healthcare"

The newest threat to the nation's public health is not a virus. It is the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP), also known as the "Gordon Commission" after its chair.

Created in the final year of the Clinton Administration at the behest of advocates for offbeat medical methods and composed primarily of such advocates, the Final Report of WHCCAMP was issued Monday, March 25th.

Health activists and defenders of evidence-based medicine are deeply concerned about the recommendations this Commission has made to President Bush, Congress and the states.

Described as "Washington's Best-Kept Secret," WHCCAMP was comprised of a largely fringe membership that seeks to overthrow science-based medicine in order to promote their own metaphysical CAM practices and agendas. The Commission is urging across-the-board government promotion of scientifically-unvalidated "voodoo medicine." Touting CAM as a solution to America's healthcare crisis, the Commission seeks to promote so-called "affordable" CAM care for the under-and uninsured. Such policies could rather result in a disastrous "medical apartheid" for the nation's poor and elderly, plus threaten much of the country with substandard care.

A complete website has been set up by consumer activists, providing general background info, articles and extensive bios of Commission Members:

http://www.no-whccamp.org/

Courtesy of: Citizens for Science in Medicine

MEG Scalar Energy Device Patented - Production Starts Next Year

From Bill Morgan
wmorgan@nycap.rr.com
3-28-2

http://www.rense.com/general21/free.htm

A patent was granted on March 26, 2002 for "The Motionless Magnetic Generator," MEG) US Patent 6,362,718, which is likely to become the first commercially available free energy device in history in about one year from now. The machine will provide free electricity from the vacuum, for the life of the device, which should be a very long life since it has no moving parts. You can see a picture of scientist Jean Louis Naudin's MEG replication model at:

http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/meg.htm

Phillip Johnson and aids

Here are some links:

http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/pjurls02.html

Blair adviser sent to settle school creationism row

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/31/ncre31.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/31/ixhome.html

By Francis Elliott, Deputy Political Editor
(Filed: 31/03/2002)

TONY BLAIR is brokering a secret compromise deal with an evangelical Christian businessman to allow the promotion of creationism in state-funded schools.

The Prime Minister has despatched one of his most senior lieutenants to defuse the growing row over whether children should be taught that God created the world in six days in science lessons.

Andrew Adonis, the head of the Number 10 policy unit, has been called in to negotiate with Sir Peter Vardy, the car dealer who helps fund the school at the centre of the dispute, Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead.

Mr Adonis is expected to reassure Sir Peter, who put £2 million into the school and has offered to fund five more, that the Government will not intervene to prevent it teaching creationism.

He is, however, hoping to make it clear that the Government has no plans to downgrade lessons on the theory of evolution to make way for the creationist message. Teachers at the school have been encouraged to promote the literal truth of the Bible's creation story as a "superior" theory of the origins of the universe.

The stance has infuriated some leading scientists, who are calling for the school to be re-inspected by Ofsted. City technology colleges are independent but charge no fees because they are funded by the Government as well as the private sector. They are allowed more freedom than other state-funded schools but must follow the basic national curriculum which includes teaching evolution.

Sir Peter, who is chairman of the school's board of governors, has insisted that the school has not broken the rules and that it encourages children to make up their own minds.

Ministers, however, fear that the controversy will add fuel to a backbench revolt over the Government's proposals for more "faith schools". MPs and peers opposed to legislation enabling an expansion of state-funded religious education institutions say that the case highlights its dangers.

Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, hopes that a compromise can be reached before the Bill returns to the Commons after the Easter recess. Privately, officials admit that the handling of the affair has been taken out of their hands by Mr Blair.

"This is something that Downing Street and Andrew Adonis are getting involved in. We are reluctant to intervene publicly," said one senior figure in the Department for Education and Skills.

Mr Blair has been careful not to criticise the school in public. Challenged in the Commons recently, he said that reports that it was teaching creationism had been "exaggerated" and praised its exam result record.

The basis for a compromise was laid last week when Mike Tomlinson, the head of Ofsted, wrote to the school inviting it to "clarify" its position. It is thought that Mr Adonis is seeking to help the school frame a reply that will end the controversy.

The determination of fundamental Christians to spread the creationist message through the new city acadamies has been underlined by an article by the Gateshead school's former head teacher, John Burn, however.

In Faith in Education magazine, Mr Burn, who is chief education officer for the Vardy Foundation, the charitable body set up by Sir Peter, wrote: "There are opportunities for biblical Christians to influence all the compulsory requirements in schools. Have we the courage to contend for this?"


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