NTS LogoSkeptical News for 2 July 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Rats blamed for mysterious cattle mutilations


Posted July 1 2002, 5:04 PM EDT

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Recent mutilations of cattle and horses in the Argentine countryside were the work of rodents, scientists said on Monday, not ritualistic slayings by extraterrestrials or vampires as some farmers feared.

Argentina's national food and animal health inspection service Senasa sent its own ``X-Files'' scientists to the remote plains to look into the deaths of farm animals found mutilated and drained of blood.

Frightened farmers claimed to have seen bright lights and UFOs in the area where the deaths occurred.



Palaeoanthropology and archaeology are fascinating, vibrant and multi-disciplinary areas of research. There is everything from isotopic laboratory work to down-and-dirty hands-on excavation. The discipline has grown tremendously since the time of Darwin and continues to yield new important revelations with each passing year. It is disturbing, therefore, when individuals and organisations seek to undermine the very basis of the fossil record in a non-scientific and arbitrary manner, based upon their personal religious beliefs. Equally disturbing is the record sales encountered by such books. Recently a new variant of creationism has arisen to challenge evolution: Hindu creationism as advanced by its most prominent proponents Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson, who are the authors of one of the most prominent anti-palaeoanthropological works in recent years is "Forbidden Archeology", and its shortened version "The Hidden History of the Human Race". "Forbidden Archeology" and "The Hidden History of the Human Race", since 1993, grossed sales figures of 200 000 300 000 and their influence around the world is immense.

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 July 2, 2002

from The New York Times

On the isle of Mer, a rugged landspit in the Torres Straits near Australia that could fit easily inside Central Park, some 430 traditional foragers called the Meriam subsist by grace of the sea.

At low tide, young and old alike rush out to the reef. Women hurriedly gather up shellfish like conchs, clams and cowries, breaking open the shells to extract the meat and so keep their burdens bearable. Men aim bamboo spears tipped with iron to lance up snappers, sea perch, cod and squid; or they toss out baited hand lines to yank in needlefish, perch, tuna and mackerel. Boys and girls some of them barely old enough to walk gather, spear and fish by hand with equal zeal.

Shellfish collecting is a physically demanding but relatively simple task, and the surest way to guarantee a meal. Spearfishing and hand-line casting, by contrast, are high-skill enterprises, which require detailed knowledge of the nature and behavior of each type of prey, robust powers of concentration and great dexterity in casting and jabbing. The best and most admired spearfisher on the island, the Meriam concur, is a 48-year-old man named Walter Cowley, who impales his quarry maybe half the time.

Yet as Dr. Douglas Bird and Dr. Rebecca Bliege Bird, anthropologists at the University of Maine in Orono, discovered in their studies of Meriam life, the proudest spearmen on the island are just barely better than . . . the children.


from The New York Times

It sounds like a great concept for a new toy: a laser-powered paper airplane.

But scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have bigger ideas in mind, like tiny, unpiloted airplanes powered by laser beams from the ground that can endlessly observe volcanoes or monitor climate. In the longer term, they say, laser beams from satellites or high-altitude balloons may perhaps propel planes at several times the speed of sound at high altitudes where the air is too thin for jet engines to operate.

In the meantime, they have a laser-powered paper airplane.

In the June 10 issue of Applied Physics Letters, the scientists describe their folded plane, with a wingspan of about two inches and a weight of less than a hundredth of an ounce. At the back of the planes, they attached small aluminum targets to bounce the laser light.


from UPI

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA planned to launch a science probe Wednesday that will make close-up surveys of some of the oldest and most mysterious objects in the solar system - comets.

These icy bodies may have delivered water for Earth's atmosphere and oceans, as well as carbon molecules to seed life. Yet only two comets have been studied by passing spacecraft and fewer than 10 have been the subject of detailed investigations using ground-based telescopes.

With the launch of the Comet Nucleus Tour, NASA plans to expand scientists' toehold on comets. CONTOUR is expected to fly as close as 62 miles to take highly detailed pictures and collect chemical data on at least two visitors from the solar system's outer banks.

"Humankind has looked at comets for centuries, and yet we know amazingly little about them," said Colleen Hartman, who leads NASA's solar system exploration programs.


from The Associated Press

PARKFIELD, Calif. (AP) -- In order to watch earthquakes up close, scientists are drilling a 1.4-mile deep hole into the San Andreas fault and rigging the area with instruments to better understand what happens when stressed out rocks snap and trigger a tremor.

It's the first of two planned wells, the second of which will be drilled directly into the fault zone where small, almost imperceptible earthquakes regularly pop off.

The goal is to understand the physics of earthquakes better -- data that could bolster or discount prediction theories, said Mark Zoback, a geophysicist at Stanford University and a project leader.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A substantial number of congressional employees may have experienced long-term health problems linked to the handling of irradiated mail, including headaches, burning eyes and nausea, according to a report being made public Tuesday.

"We believe these symptoms are not insignificant, both in terms of the number of complaints and in the effect on employee health and work performance," the general counsel of the Office of Compliance said in the report.

The congressional office cautioned that the study had not established a definitive cause of the broad range of symptoms reported, and it did not have enough information to judge whether there is a serious health risk. It recommended further studies and precautionary steps such as limiting the time employees spend handling mail.



VIENNA, Austria - A new method that allows fertility doctors to select genetically healthy sperm raises the possibility they will soon be able to routinely pick good sperm, giving them a better chance of success in creating test tube babies.

Chromosome defects in sperm are more common in infertile men, but are hard to identify. Most fertility clinics select which sperm to inject into the egg by checking their shape and the way they move.

"This is the first time there is a simple, noninvasive technique that can be of practical use to weed out sperm with the wrong number of chromosomes," said Arne Sunde, an embryo scientist from Trondheim University in Norway. "The technique itself is so easy that it lends itself to routine work, so we can introduce it as an integral part of a fertility service."

"This mimics nature. I can't foresee any negative effects; only positive effects," said Sunde, who was not connected with the research.


from Newsday

Two years ago, writing in a top clinical cancer journal, a renowned researcher examined one of the biggest conundrums in medicine: the stark difference in death rates between black and white women with breast cancer. It is a difference that in recent years has gotten worse.

Though more white women than black are diagnosed with the disease each year, government mortality data through 2000, the most recent year for complete statistics, show fewer black women reach the five-year survival rate than their white counterparts. The death rate for blacks has been rising by about 2 percent a year for the past several years even as it has been declining for whites. An estimated 31.4 black women treated for breast cancer die per every 100,000 cases.

The death rate has been rising since the 1970s, and no one knows why.

Though there are plenty of theories, many clues remain elusive, doctors say.


from The Chicago Tribune

Millions of women at high risk for breast cancer should consider taking prescription drugs that can prevent some cases of the feared disease, even though the medicine may give them other serious medical problems, a prestigious federal panel recommended Monday.

It was the second official recommendation on breast cancer in four months. Like the earlier one, on mammography screening, the statement made it clear that women can no longer rely on doctors to give them simple, one-size-fits- all advice in this area. Instead, they have to perform a complex and highly individualized risk-benefit analysis before deciding what to do.

The decision will not be easy: Studies indicate that while taking a drug cuts the risk of breast cancer in half for some women, it also increases the risk of uterine cancer, stroke and blood clots.


from The Chicago Tribune

LOS ANGELES -- They kept washing ashore, hundreds of them. The huge but emaciated bodies of gray whales floated lifeless into Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay, and drifted onto beaches from Alaska to Baja California.

The putrid carcasses became such a nuisance in 1999 and 2000 that beach communities took to towing the 35-ton cadavers out to sea or burying them with backhoes. Eskimo whalers reported harpooning "stinky" whales that appeared to be rotting alive, too smelly even for dogs to eat.

Although the die-off has stopped as mysteriously as it began, the most recent tally shows the gray whale population has plunged by more than one- third, falling from an estimated peak of 26,635 whales in 1998 to 17,414 this spring--the lowest in nearly two decades.


from The Washington Post

SPRING ISLAND, Md. -- It is an inhospitable spit of land lost in the shimmering waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Flounder-flat and less than a mile long, Spring Island is a lonely place bristling with waist-high grass and pocked with cakey deposits of dirt.

For the colony of pelicans who visit each summer, however, the sandy isle is prime beachfront property: private, predator-free, and surrounded by a vast stretch of water teeming with fish.

It's no surprise, then, that like their human cousins who flock to the beaches on the weekend, the pelicans have kept returning to build their nests on Spring Island for the past 15 years. Their greater numbers in the Chesapeake are also a sign that the big water birds best known for the roomy pouches beneath their beaks are making a comeback after the popular pesticide DDT decimated them along the Eastern seaboard.


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Monday, July 01, 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 July 1, 2002

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 30 The Bush administration has designated 33 toxic waste sites in 18 states for cuts in financing under the Superfund cleanup program, according to a new report to Congress by the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The cuts, imposed because the cleanup fund is hundreds of millions of dollars short of the amount needed to keep the program on schedule, mean that work is likely to grind to a halt on some of the most seriously polluted sites in the country, confronting the surrounding communities with new uncertainty over when the work will resume, how quickly it will proceed and who will pay for it.

Among the sites that for now would receive less money in some cases, none are a manufacturing plant in Edison, N.J., where the herbicide Agent Orange was produced, several chemical plants in Florida and two old mines in Montana. The report to Congress is the first public listing by the environmental agency of where it intends to cut Superfund spending. It was provided to The New York Times by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who oppose the cuts.


from The Washington Post

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has been weakened and demoralized by tensions with Bush administration officials in Washington, according to a number of current and former officials at the nation's top public health agency.

The low morale is causing deep concern among public health experts around the country that the problems will hinder the CDC at a crucial moment -- when the agency should be leading the nation's effort to counter bioterrorism and other health threats.

The tensions stem from a variety of factors, including fallout from widespread criticism of how federal health officials handled last fall's anthrax attacks, the absence of a CDC director since March, efforts by the new administration to change approaches to controversial issues such as sex education and HIV prevention, and a campaign to exert more control over the CDC from Washington, health experts said.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Halabja, Iraq -- Omar Ali Mohammed has terminal skin cancer. His wife has a chronic eye problem, and their young nephew has a nasty growth jutting out of his neck.

Doctors believe all three suffer from the aftereffects of the largest chemical attack on a civilian population in history -- the assault on this Kurdish town 14 years ago ordered by Saddam Hussein.

As President Bush continues his campaign to topple the Iraqi strongman, he often refers to the 1988 poison gas attack here as an example of Hussein's willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. Bush has said, "He even gassed his own people."

In 1987, Hussein intensified his fight against ethnic Kurds for their support of Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, bulldozing some 4,000 villages and using a combination of nerve agents, mustard gas and possibly biological weapons on several towns. The 4 million Kurds living in northern Iraq have a different culture and language from Iraqi Arabs and have fought for independence for decades.


from The Wall Street Journal

If American affluence is the envy of much of the rest of the world, there is a steep price to pay in aspiring to it: obesity.

On every continent of the globe, even including regions where malnutrition is rife, the number of people who are either overweight or obese is rising at an alarming clip. The major culprit: the same combination of high- calorie diets and sedentary behavior that fuels the epidemic of fat in the U.S.

"There is no country in the world where obesity is not increasing," says Stephan Rossner, an obesity expert at Huddinge University Hospital in Stockholm and president of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "Even in (developing) countries we thought were immune (such as Zimbabwe and Gambia), the epidemic is coming on very fast. The frightening thing is that so far nobody has succeeded to stop it."


from The Washington Post

It was the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti, about 2,500 years ago, who first described the optical phenomenon he called a "collecting place." Light passing through a tiny hole in the wall of a darkened room would cast a full-color, upside-down image of what was outside on the opposite wall.

But it was not until 1826 that a French tinkerer, inventor and engineer named Joseph Nicephore Niepce figured out how to record the image and fix it permanently on a flat surface. When he did it for the first time, he called it a "retina." Today we call it photography.

Last week, scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles announced they had figured out how Niepce made the rather pedestrian "heliograph" of a French farmyard, entitled "Poin de Vue du Gras," but known more familiarly today as "The First Photograph."

"Niepce left some scattered notes, talking about different processes he was testing," said Getty senior scientist Dusan Stulik, who led the project. "But even though people had talked about it, they didn't really have any idea how he did it."


from The Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The chestnut sapling planted on this grassy hillside doesn't look like much - just a spindly stem bearing a handful of twigs and leaves that seem entirely too big for such a small plant.

Researchers hope it is the start of a chestnut grove that will help restore a species all but eliminated from the continent over the last century.

Most of the trees are expected to eventually succumb to the blight that has killed much of the rest of their kind. But from the survivors could come the stock for eventually repopulating Eastern forests with American chestnuts.

"In this age, it would be like taking out all of the oaks, then going 100 years into the future and trying to describe an oak to people and trying to restore the oak population," said Kim C. Steiner, a professor of forest ecology and director of The Arboretum at Penn State University.


North Carolina Lawmakers Take Look at Portions of University Grant Money
from The (Raleigh, NC) News & Observer

N.C. State University wanted to recruit a rising star in fungal genomics from Clemson University three years ago and knew he wouldn't come cheap. But where would the money come from?

It made sense, university officials figured, to use some of its governmental funds intended to support the indirect costs of research such as utilities, administration and debt service on labs.

So NCSU invested $1 million to outfit a lab and to hire assistants for Ralph Dean. Since then, NCSU says, Dean has generated ten times that amount in federal and private grants, much of it to find ways to prevent a common fungal disease from destroying one of the world's most prevalent food sources -- rice. "If it wasn't for that money, I wouldn't be here," Dean said. "And if I hadn't been here, we wouldn't have attracted more than $10 million in grants in the last two years, and that's the bottom line."

Dean is one of the researchers university leaders tout as they fight now to protect the $120 million in overhead receipts that UNC schools receive annually with research grants, mostly from the federal government.


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Scotland - Aliens' Favorite Holiday Destination


June 24, 2002 8:08 am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - Want to see a flying saucer? Then come to Scotland.

The country -- better known as the home of legendary Loch Ness monster -- has the highest concentration of UFO sightings on the planet, according to figures released Monday.

Around 300 "Unidentified Flying Objects" are spotted in Scotland each year, the most per square kilometer and per head of population of anywhere in the world, figures compiled by Scotland's official tourist body found.

VisitScotland said 0.004 UFOs were spotted for every square kilometer of Scotland -- a rate four times as high as in France or Italy, this planet's other UFO hotspots. The 2,000 UFOs are spotted every year in the United States represent just 0.0002 sightings per square kilometer.

"This confirms that Scotland is the nearest thing there is to the Costa del Sol for aliens," a VisitScotland spokesman said, referring to the tourist mecca of southern Spain, which attracts tens of thousands of holidaymakers every year.

There was one UFO sighting per 17,000 inhabitants in Scotland compared to one per 61,200 in Canada, and one per 136,450 in the United States.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Pledging allegiance to fundamentalism


David Corn - WorkingForChange

06.28.02 - A Christian socialist who turned his back on religion. That's the guy whose handiwork politicians of both parties and religious right leaders rushed to defend this past week.

Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister in upstate New York who sermonized against the materialism of the Gilded Age and who resigned from his church after businessmen cut off funding because of his socialist activities and lectures, wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. Now his words, composed for a magazine-sponsored school program celebrating the quadricentennial of Columbus Day, are treated as a sacred writ. Holy irony!

By proclamation of Governor George W. Bush, 10 June 2000 was 'Jesus Day' in Texas.

Status: True.

Examples: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]


Chemtrails and chronic mononucleosis/chronic fatigue syndrome

New chemtrails theory just might make you sick

Written By: Jim Marrs

chemtrails A report from a Canadian research foundation concluded that the much discussed, but little publicized Chemtrails, may be an attempt to hide a sickening military secret.

Professor Donald Scott, president of the Common Cause Medical Research Foundation, claimed that Chemtrails are a belated attempt by U.S. military and intelligence chieftains to stop the spread of a debilitating disease first concocted in the early 1980s.

According to Scott s account, the military began developing diseases in the 1970s which were infectious but not contagious. In other words, an ailment which could be spread to enemy troops but would not pass into other populations.

One such disease was based on a zoonosis, a disease which can be transmitted to humans by animals, in this case brucellosis. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease usually found in cattle, which can cause undulant fever in humans.

By manipulating this disease, researchers were able to design a disabling bacteria which disappeared following infection. Troops could be infected yet exhibit no signs of the bacteria when examined by a doctor.

In the early 1980s, secret government labs worked to produce a brucellosis pathogen which could disable enemy troops without the risk of infecting friendly forces. This pathogen reportedly was based on brucellosis bacteria in a crystalline form first developed by researchers in 1945.

According to Scott s report, such a bacteria was tested during the summer of 1984 at Tahoe-Truckee High School in California, where individual rooms were fitted with an independent recycling air supply. A teacher s lounge was designated as the infection target. Seven of eight teachers assigned to this room became very ill within months.

The high school was only one of several locations where the specially designed pathogens were tested, some distributed by aerosol sprays and others by the use contaminated mosquitoes.

Scott reported that one hundred million mosquitoes a month were bred at the Dominion Parasite Laboratory in Belleville, Ontario, during the 1980s, then tested by both Canadian and U.S. military authorities after being infected with brucellosis.

Some observers believe the viral epidemic reported around New York City in recent years may have been the result of these infected mosquitoes.

The testing of unsuspecting victims was conducted by both the military and CIA, according to Scott, and monitored by the National Institutes of Health as well as the Center for Disease Control.

Encouraged by what they felt was a successful test, military leaders reportedly passed the brucellosis bio agent to none other than Saddam Hussein, who in the mid-1980s was fighting a protracted war against Iran at the behest of the CIA.

George Bush In 1986, with the approval of Vice-President George Bush, Saddam received shipments of both brucella abortus, biotypes 3 and 9, and brucella melitensis, biotypes 1 and 3.

After Saddam obtained a stockpile of the brucellosis, a terrible discovery was made - these designer bacteria mutated and became contagious.

Saddam Hussein According to Scott s report, Saddam used this pathogen on American troops during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, resulting in the illness referred to as Gulf War Syndrome. More than 100,000 Gulf War vets now suffer from this syndrome, which causes chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, profuse sweating even at rest, joint and muscle pain, insomnia, nausea, and damage to major organs.

Much of this information may be found in a 1994 report by Senator Donald W. Riegle, Jr., titled, "U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and Their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War."

Troops initially were told that no such infection existed and that the problem was mostly in their mind. Slowly, over the years, authorities were forced to admit that something had triggered severe illness in many Gulf War veterans.

By then, a variant of the brucellosis had spread to the civilian population. Many people began suffering from general debilitation and tiredness.

When it became know that the contagion was spreading into the general population, top officials with the National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control, as well as the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Resources began a program of misrepresentation of the disease to mask their role in its origin. The illness was claimed to be connected to the Epstein-Barr virus and was labeled "Chronic Mononucleosis."

This has now become known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Like the veterans before them, victims of this ailment were told it was merely a psychological condition.

One victim, Dr. Martin Lerner of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, told his peers in the American Society of Microbiology that his bout with this mysterious disease left his heart damaged. Dr. Lerner and others suspected that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is caused by viral infection.

Top-level officials, concerned both with the spread of the contagion and with the risk that their role in its origin would become publicly known, moved to counteract the pathogen. This program may explain the mysterious Chemtrails which have been noted over major population centers during the past couple of years.

As explained by Scott, "We have learned . . . that a patent was issued in 1996 for an aerosol vaccination process which would permit the vaccination of wildlife and domestic herds by spraying them or their disease vectors (birds) from the air. . . .

"We have noted that many of the sightings of Chemtrails are over migratory bird flight paths. We are currently preparing a report on this subject for release in January 2001.

"The Chemtrails program may well be a belated effort by the U.S. and Canadian governments to get the brucellosis genie back in its bottle."

To learn more about who may be behind nefarious activities such as Chemtrails, read Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects The Trilateral Commission, The Freemasons and The Great Pyramid by Jim Marrs, now available from finer bookstores everywhere and from JimMarrs.com. Read Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs, for an in-depth look at UFOs, available at this Web site. Also Jim Marrs book on the U. S. Army s remote viewing program, Psi Spies, which was suppressed in 1995, is now available online right here at AlienZoo. Order yours today.

See also http://www.eaglefoundation.net/3rd%20conference.htm

The Spectre Inspectors


When it's a question of spectral orbs -- or ectoplasm, or cold spots, or plain old ordinary ghosts -- who are you going to call? Why, Bay Area Paranormal Investigations, of course.

As darkness falls on a desolate corner of the Presidio, our three-car caravan rolls to a stop alongside a cluster of long-deserted military buildings, the windows barred, boarded, or broken, the doors plastered with asbestos warnings and graffiti. Fog has begun to roll in off the Golden Gate Bridge, accompanied by the sporadic wail of a foghorn. There's even a full moon hovering above the clouds.

Despite the dark-and-stormy setting, I know that this is the real world, that I'm not going to become one of those unsuspecting idiots whose curiosity about a run-down farmhouse leads to doom at the start of an X-Files episode. Still, I double-check the batteries in my flashlight before easing out of the car into the evening mist, where I join Scott Mosbaugh and Tina McGarty on a road snaking through the compound. As McGarty loops the strap of a camcorder around her neck, Mosbaugh readies a digital camera and sizes up the abandoned three-story building in front of us, the name "Julia" mysteriously spray-painted in pink across the plywood door.

Then, in four matter-of-fact words far more chilling than the offshore breeze buffeting the weeds, Mosbaugh explains why he thinks this will be a likely place to find ghosts.

"This was the sanitarium."

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Get them water, they will call you a God.

Farmer quenches devotees' thirst; becomes God himself Sanjay Sharma in Bhopal (India)


About 180 kms. from here stands a temple where, along with the Gods and Goddesses, picture of a farmer has been put up as gesture for his kindness shown to the devotees at the cost of his crops.

The people visiting the newly constructed temple of Balaji in Betul district of the state however feel surprised though more surprising is the story behind such a gratitude of the temple trust towards the poor farmer.

Last month when the entire state was reeling under heat waves and drought-like conditions, the devotees thronging the temple in question were also put to great trouble due to non-availability of potable drinking water.

The temple management employed all their resources to arrange for the drinking water for the devotees but could not succeed.

Somehow the poor farmer, Ramnath Verma, with a meagre five acre irrigated land came to know of the problem the devotees and the temple trust were faced with. Verma who had some water in store to irrigate the land immediately came forward for help and supplied the water stored to quench the thirst of the devotees without bothering about his crop - the only source of livelihood for the year for his family.

The temple trust and the devotees too reciprocated and as a gesture to the poor farmer put up his photograph inside the temple - home to the Gods.

"This has been done with the consent of the temple trust as a gratitude to the farmer who didn't bother about his crops and supplied water, meant for irrigation, to quench the thirst of the devotees", said industrialist Sam Verma who got the temple constructed almost a year ago.

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense


June 17, 2002
Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up
By John Rennie

When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution's truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that battle has been won everywhere--except in the public imagination.

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as "intelligent design" to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a "wedge" for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Paranormal: Chinese Scientists to Head for Suspected ET Relics


Posted on Thursday, June 20 @ 07:56:06 PDT by Administrator

MoonSeeker writes "DELINGHA (QINGHAI), June 19 (Xinhuanet) -- A group of nine Chinese scientists will go to west China's Qinghai Province this month to closely examine the relics thought by some to have been left by extraterrestrial beings (ET).

It will be the first time scientists seriously study the mysterious site near Delingha City in the depths of the Qaidam Basin, according to government sources with the Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where Delingha is located.

The site, known by local people as "the ET relics", is on MountBaigong about 40 kilometers to the southwest of Delingha City.

On the north of the mountain are twin lakes dubbed as the "lover Lakes", one with fresh water and the other with salty water.

The so-called ET relics structure is located on the south bank of the salty lake. It looks like a pyramid and is between 50 to 60meters high.

At the front of the pyramid are three caves with triangular openings. The cave in the middle is the biggest, with its floor standing two meters above the ground and its top eight meters above the ground.

This cave is about six meters in depth. Inside there is a half-pipe about 40 centimeters in diameter tilting from the top to the inner end of the cave. Another pipe of the same diameter goes intothe earth with only its top visible above the ground.

Above the cave are a dozen pipes of various diameters which runinto the mountain.

All the pipes are red brownish, the same color as that of surrounding rocks.

The two smaller caves have collapsed and are inaccessible.

Scattered about the caves and on the bank of the salty lake area large number of rusty scraps, pipes of various diameters and strangely shaped stones. Some of the pipes run into the lake.

According to Qin Jianwen, head of the publicity department of the Delingha government, the scraps were once taken to a local smeltery for analysis.

The result shows that they are made up of 30 percent ferric oxide with a large amount of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide. Eight percent of the content could not be identified.

"The large content of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide is a result of long interaction between iron and sandstone, which meansthe pipes must be very old," said Liu Shaolin, the engineer who did the analysis.

"This result has made the site even more mysterious," Qin said."Nature is harsh here. There are no residents let alone modern industry in the area, only a few migrant herdsmen to the north of the mountain."

Someone has suggested that the site might have been a launch tower left by ET.

The area is high in altitude, with thin and transparent air. Itis an ideal place to practice astronomy, Qin said.

In fact, the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academyof Sciences has a large radio telescope just 70 kilometers from the site.

Yang Ji, a research fellow at the observatory, said the hypothesis of ET relics is understandable and worth of looking into.

"But scientific means must be employed to prove whether or not it is true," he added. Enditem


Disney Unveils Initial Design for Hong Kong Theme Park


Jun 27, 2002

The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) - The Disney theme park being built here will look like other Disneylands, including Sleeping Beauty's castle and a main thoroughfare depicting America at the turn of the 20th century.

But there is one difference: The Walt Disney Co. said it is consulting a feng shui master as it builds the park in Hong Kong. It is scheduled to open in 2006.



Fall 2001 Draft
Executive Summary
Friday, January 11, 2002

This analysis was produced from discussions and notes of a 33-member focus group convened on December 17, 2001 by the Ohio Academy of Science. The focus group reflected the Academy's membership and included persons employed as university professors and administrators, industrial scientists and R&D managers, and elementary, middle school and high school science teachers. Our analysis is intended to prompt further discussion and to provide direction and guidance from the scientific community to those who must finish the Science Education Standards by the adoption deadline of December 2002.

"Healing Mud from Spaceships"


by Kathy Doore

An advertisement from the Chilca Healing Lagoons poses the question - "Do you believe in UFO's?"

Within the lagoons of Chilca can be found a wonderful mud whose molecular structure is unique on earth. A number of medical doctors and scientists attribute these unexplainable healing properties to the constant fly over of UFO's!

The tiny coastal village of Chilca is renowned for its Mud and UFO's

Reached by a 45-minute drive south from Lima [Peru] along the Pan American Highway, Chilca is located between the sacred " Temple City of Pachacamac" and the mysterious " Nazca Lines."

Famous for its healing lagoons, miracle mud, and flying saucers said to infuse the ponds with their "healing properties," the municipality eagerly await their extra-terrestrial visitors with a sign that reads, "You Are Welcome," not necessarily referring to the tourists.

During the summer holiday season the entire village transforms into a spa. For this reason, restaurants and lodges are plentiful and never lack in patrons. The economy is sustained by the healing mud, sightings of UFO's, and an industry of brick making.

Fountain of Youth?

The serenity of the parched desert punctuated by an aquamarine coastline and the peculiar coloration of the lagoons, laden with restorative minerals, give the area its mystical quality.

The lagoons are said to cure everything from acne to rheumatism and boast numerous cures. Faith in the treatment has given way to a curious enigma as people arrive sick and in a short while depart restored. The nutrient rich mud is applied topically as a natural peel acting to revitalize the cells of the skin and eliminate toxins. After thoroughly muddying oneself, the patron retires to lie in the sun, and bake until done. The secret of the cure is in letting the mud dry very, very well. Several treatments are recommended for best results.

'Nessie spotted' in Cornwall

[includes frame of videotape]

Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK

A distant relative of Scotland's famous Loch Ness Monster could be lurking in the waters off the coast of Cornwall, it has been revealed.

Video footage of a creature swimming in the sea off Gerran's Bay has been captured by local man John Holmes and has confounded experts.

The 49-year-old from Sticker had been filming his wife swimming in the sea when he spotted what he described as a "snake-like" creature.

On Thursday he told BBC Radio Cornwall: "I was filming my wife and had climbed on a rock to admire the view across the bay and I thought I heard a splash.

"A bizarre movement caught my attention about 250 metres off shore and this thing appeared to be standing about one metre above sea level."

Mr Holmes thought he was looking at the fin of a shark or a killer whale at first.

"I then saw a snake-like head and neck which appeared to be raised out of the water. I was so shocked by what I saw that I almost fell off the rock.

"I screamed to my wife and she climbed out of the water. I only saw it in the water for a brief amount of time."

'Living fossil'

The video was taken in August 1999 but has only just been released by Mr Holmes because he feared he would be ridiculed.

Video expert Tim Farrow, of TJF Productions in St Austell, has studied the footage with a forensic scientist and has confirmed that it is "100% genuine".

"This footage has not been doctored in any way," he said.

"The images are genuine and the video is genuine. It shows an animal type object in the sea.

'Zoological discovery'

"I don't know what it is but I have never seen anything like this before. There has to be an explanation but at this moment in time, I don't have one."

Mr Holmes, who worked for the National History Museum in London for 19 years, has his own theory.

"I have gone through all the text books to try and work out what this may have been and my theory is that it could be a living fossil.

"It appeared bird-like at times but was very uncharacteristic of any diving birds.

"I really do think there is some sort of zoological discovery around the coast of Cornwall."

Friday, June 28, 2002



For your enjoyment, here's Sitchin...

In March 1925 the Tennessee legislature outlawed the teaching of any doctrine denying the divine creation of Man as taught by the Bible. In July of that same year, John T. Scopes, a high school teacher, was brought to trial for teaching Evolution in violation of the state law. The ensuing Scopes Trial (or, deridedly, the "Monkey TriaI") drew worldwide attention to the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between Creationism (the old fashioned belief in the biblical account) and Evolution (based on Darwin's findings of Natural Selection).

John Scopes was found guilty and was fined $100; the Tennessee law was repealed in 1967; but the debate has not ended: Is Man, Homo sapiens, solely the product of a long process of natural selection ("Evolution"), or the result of a divine decision, a deliberate act by a Creator ("Creationism")?

The Evolutionists cannot fathom how the other side can ignore the overwhelming evidence for life's beginnings billions of years ago and claim that it is all the result of six days of creation; the Creationists, pointing out that a complex watch required a watchmaker, cannot see how the sudden appearance of Homo sapiens as the most complex life form can deny the Hand of God.



Just when you thought you had seen all the kooks...

copyright 1999,2000,2001, 2002
by Clifford E Carnicom



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 June 28, 2002

from The Boston Globe

An international scientific team yesterday announced that two toddlers with so-called ''bubble boy'' syndrome were cured using gene therapy, the most effective reported application of the promising but controversy-plagued treatment to date.

A one-time infusion with DNA to fix a genetic defect revitalized the children's almost nonexistent immune systems, allowing them to emerge from their clinically sterilized homes - their bubbles - to crawl, walk, and interact freely with the world around them, the researchers reported. Two years later, both remain healthy.

The groundbreaking work unfolded in Jerusalem, when a Jewish doctor risked his career to attempt the highly experimental procedure on the first patient, an Arab infant, even as political turmoil raged around him.

''This is a complete cure. The child is completely cured,'' said Dr. Shimon Slavin, chairman of the bone marrow transplantation department at Hadassah- Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, and an author of the paper describing the success, which appears in this week's edition of the journal Science.


from The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, the former Fort Detrick biodefense researcher whose Frederick apartment was searched Tuesday by the FBI, commissioned a 1999 study that described a fictional terrorist attack in which an envelope containing weapons-grade anthrax is opened in an office.

The study, written by a veteran of the old U.S. bioweapons program, was submitted to Hatfill and a colleague at Science Applications International Corp., the McLean, Va., defense contractor where he then worked.

It discusses the danger of anthrax spores spreading through the air and the requirements for decontamination after various kinds of attacks. The author, William C. Patrick III, describes placing 2.5 grams of Bacillus globigii, an anthrax simulant, in a standard business envelope - slightly more than the estimated amount of anthrax in each of the letters that killed five people last fall.

The study, portions of which were read to The Sun by a person who has a copy, illustrates the central paradox of the FBI's nine-month quest for the anthrax mailer: The perpetrator could be a respected American scientist in the biodefense field, where he acquired the skills he then used to kill.


from The Washington Post

The FBI said yesterday it is focusing on about 30 U.S.-based biological warfare experts in its investigation of last year's anthrax attacks, and has searched the homes of more than two dozen in recent months -- always with the owner's consent.

The FBI said that former Army researcher Steven J. Hatfill, whose Frederick apartment was searched Tuesday, was on the floating short list of "persons of interest," but noted both publicly and in private meetings last week that Hatfill is not a suspect in the case.

Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), confirmed that Hatfill was a full- time SAIC employee in 1999 when he and collaborator Joseph Soukup commissioned a report investigating the consequences of a hypothetical anthrax attack by mail.


from The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Two scientists accused of stealing trade secrets from Harvard Medical School posted $250,000 bail and were expected to be released from jail.

Jiangyu Zhu and Koyoko Kimbara were charged in Boston last week with theft of trade secrets, conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Zhu, a Chinese national, and Kimbara, a Japanese national, were accused of sending newly discovered genes to a Japanese company in 1999 when they both worked at Harvard. The company produced antibodies based on the information.



A chemical produced in the cooking of starchy foods such as potato chips and french fries poses a significant but still undetermined risk to consumers, a panel of experts concluded yesterday.

Members of the committee, convened in Geneva by the United Nations' World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, said the scientific evidence to date convinced them unanimously that the chemical, known as acrylamide, was a "major concern," and called on food processors to reduce levels of the compound. But the panel members also said there was not enough information available to make recommendations about which foods consumers should eat or avoid.

"After reviewing all the available data, we have concluded that the new findings constitute a serious problem," Dieter Arnold of Germany's Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers, who chaired the three-day meeting, said in a statement. "But our current limited knowledge does not allow us to answer all the questions which have been asked by consumers, regulators and other interested parties."


from The Associated Press

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) -- Scientists digging south of Denver say they have uncovered evidence of a lush and vibrant rainforest that emerged surprisingly soon after the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The fossils of more than 100 kinds of towering conifer trees, huge ferns and blooming flowers challenge scientists' long-held assumption that a desolate Earth took about 10 million years to recover from the catastrophe and sprouted only a few dreary plant varieties for a long time.

Instead, the finding suggests that plant life -- at least at this now-dry prairie along Interstate 25 -- was flourishing as early as 1.4 million years after the impact. Some of the tree fossils measure 6 feet in diameter.

``It not only recovered, it went crazy,'' said Kirk Johnson, paleontology curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He reported the findings in the latest issue of the journal Science.



SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Cat feces may be responsible for recent sea otter deaths, according to a new study.

Some otters' deaths have been traced to toxoplasma contamination found in freshwater runoff that may be coming from cat feces that's been flushed down toilets, scientists from the University of California, Davis found.

Cats are the only animals known to excrete the resilient eggs laid by toxoplasma parasites, which can cause fatal brain infections. The researchers believe freshwater runoff may be transporting the cat feces from fields and yards after storms or as a result of landscape irrigation.


from The Boston Globe

The country's top medical agency couldn't be clearer: full-body scans, it warns on its Web site, are unproven and possibly harmful. Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts' largest hospital network, tells doctors to use them only in unusual cases. And insurance companies won't even consider covering them.

So Boston's medical community was stunned when a group of Harvard doctors decided to sell full-body scans as a way of detecting disease - and advertise the super-fast high-powered X-rays on the radio.

Until now, the full-body scan craze that began in California has been the province of entrepreneurs, not academic physicians. The Harvard doctors - the radiology department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center - have embraced a procedure considered suspect by many physicians but popular with consumers, underscoring one of the biggest divides in medicine and signaling that full-body scans may be more than a fad.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Jack O'Neill had a merry glint in his one eye as the first of the 23 adventurous fourth-graders marched up the steps to board his 65-foot catamaran,

Team O'Neill. They were all about to embark on a voyage of discovery, and it would be the same for O'Neill and his crew. As many as 17 of the 23 students from Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto had never been on a boat, much less on a sleek sailboat heading out of Santa Cruz Harbor into the arms of the open ocean.

On this day in early June, O'Neill was overseeing his O'Neill Sea Odyssey. It's a floating classroom aboard that provides school kids with hands-on learning, a chance to get up close and personal with marine life and a lesson in the importance of preserving their habitats.

Several students spotted a harbor seal looking for a handout near the boat and sounded the alarm -- a half-dozen more students immediately crowded to the rail for a look.


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Bush Criticizes Ruling on Pledge, Promises to Appoint Judges Who Would Rule Differently

Jun 27, 2002

The Associated Press

KANANASKIS, Alberta (AP) - President Bush on Thursday called a federal appeals court ruling that challenged the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance "out of step with the traditions and history of America" and promised to appoint judges who affirm God's role in the public square.

"America is a nation ... that values our relationship with an Almighty," Bush told reporters as he began a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit of world industrial powers.

"The declaration of God in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't violate rights. As a matter of fact, it's a confirmation of the fact that we received our rights from God, as proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence."

The president said the country needs "commonsense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God."

"Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench," he said.

Bush has accused Democrats in the Senate of stalling his judicial nominees.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Wednesday that the use of the words "under God" in the pledge violates the Constitution's clause barring establishment of religion. The ruling, if allowed to stand, would bar schoolchildren from reciting the pledge in the nine Western states covered by the court.

Bush, who attends church on a semi-regular basis and whose political base is rooted deeply the Christian conservative movement, said God "is obviously a very important part of my life" and of life in America.

"That's why the ruling of the courts was out of step with the traditions and history of America," Bush said.

The president said his first conversation with Putin concerned their faiths, suggesting it was a bonding experience.

"There is a universal God in my opinion and the first conversation I ever had with Vladimir Putin was about God," Bush said. "It was a way - we'd never met each other - and the first discussion we had was about our personal beliefs."

Putin did not comment on the ruling.

AP-ES-06-27-02 1132EDT

This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAXSQTSY2D.html

The Spirits Move Them

From dallasobserver.com
Originally published by Dallas Observer Jun 27, 2002
2002 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

Followers of Cao Dai, a Vietnamese sect with frail tendrils in Dallas, say their time has come to spread the word. Just ask Victor Hugo.
By Mark Stuertz

In many respects, Son Nguyen is a typical practitioner of Cao Dai, a Vietnamese religion that bubbled up from the spirit world in 1926. His voice is gentle but firm. He is dignified, yet relaxed. He wears a bright white tunic and a pleated black headdress. He is a refugee.

What isn't so typical is how easily Nguyen seems to have absorbed American culture and mannerisms. While a little halting, his English is fluent. He has a typical family life. He drives a Honda. He has a good job. But he doesn't attribute his success to the kinds of things most Americans might imagine.

Hawking takes top book prize


Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK

Professor Stephen Hawking has won one of the world's most prestigious prizes for popular science writing - the Aventis Prize for Science Books.

The world-famous physicist's publication - The Universe In A Nutshell - was honoured with the 10,000 prize at a gala dinner at the London Science Museum on Tuesday.

The work is a glossy and well-illustrated beginner's guide to cosmology: black holes, quantum theory, inflation, time travel, string theory and the rest.

It is described as a sequel to the astonishing (though difficult to read) bestseller, A Brief History Of Time, which shot the professor to international stardom when it was released in 1988.

"I didn't expect to win this prize," Professor Hawking said after accepting the prize. "After all, my previous book didn't win any prizes, despite selling millions. But I am very pleased to have had better luck this time.

"Science writing really can have an impact on how we live. Wherever I go all around the world, people want to know more. This has helped raise the profile of science."

Long run

Chairman of the Aventis judges, Dr Raj Persaud, a psychiatrist and consultant at the Maudsley Hospital, said of Hawking's new publication: "This book made a real effort to enliven its subject, through readable text and clear illustrations.

"It had the production values of a real book of the 21st Century. It is the current state of cosmology from the perspective of a leading practitioner who has done so much to popularise the field."

Brief History spent more than four years in the London Sunday Times' bestseller list - a record for any book.

However, it has often been said that many of the people who bought the book - there are thought to be about nine million copies in print globally - never managed to read it through from cover to cover because of the difficult concepts it contained.

'Extraordinary mind'

Nutshell uses all the latest graphical techniques to try to make those concepts come alive.

"Even if you don't understand the entire book, you'll still gain so much from a story told by an extraordinary mind," Dr Persaud told BBC News Online.

Stephen Hawking is the current Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.

To mark his 60th birthday this year, the university hosted a celebratory symposium. It was addressed by Professor Hawking himself, his collaborator Sir Roger Penrose, and the English Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees.

Young readers

The 10,000 Aventis prize for the best science book for children under 14 went to Richard Walker for the Dorling Kindersley Guide To The Human Body.

The chairman of the judges for the junior prize, Dr John Ashworth, had high praise for the DK publication.

"I think this book should be in every doctor's surgery as well as every school library."

Mr Walker said the secret to good writing for children "was a matter of attempting to identify with what they understand already, putting things into context".

"You have to try to find the child in yourself - to think what interested you when you were a child. This is easier for me to do because I have also been a teacher."

Thursday, June 27, 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

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Today's Headlines June 27, 2002

from The Washington Post

A major new study offers reassuring news on breast cancer for the 80 percent of U.S. women born after 1945 who have ever taken birth control pills: Past or present use of oral contraceptives does not increase a woman's breast cancer risk.

That conclusion held true whether women in the study had taken the pills as teenagers or adults, whether they took birth control pills that were high or low in estrogen, whether they took them for months or years, whether they were white or black, and even whether they had a family history of breast cancer.

Because an earlier analysis of many smaller studies had suggested a possible small increase in breast cancer risk among users of oral contraceptives, the large government-funded study was designed to lay the question to rest -- and for once, experts said, a study seems to have nearly succeeded in doing just that.


from The New York Times

Ten years after the federal government set out to clean up a mammography industry awash in scandal, many women are still getting inaccurate examinations at clinics bearing the federal seal of approval.

The federal mammography standards have eliminated many of the most egregious abuses and have made the breast X-rays much easier to read. But an examination by The New York Times has found that they have largely failed to remedy what many experts say is the biggest problem of all: the skill of the doctors who interpret those X-ray films.

For the last year or so, scientists have been engaged in a highly technical, and high-profile, debate about how many lives mammography screening can save. But The Times found that many doctors, and their clinics, are compromising whatever precise value mammography has.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

An Argentine ice-breaking ship set off for Antarctica on Tuesday to help rescue a supply ship that has been trapped by an ice shelf in horrible weather for more than two weeks.

The Almirante Irizar, operated by the Argentine navy and considered one of the toughest icebreakers in South America, is expected to arrive in about 10 days at the ice shelf, located close to the South Pole.

Once it arrives after a 5,000-mile voyage, the ship will try to bust its way through the ice shelf and free the German supply ship Magdalena Oldendorff, carrying 79 Russian scientists and a crew of 28.

But the extreme polar conditions do not bode well for the rescue attempt. It is the dead of winter in Antarctica, and rescuers must deal with strongs winds, rough seas, temperatures that drop well below zero and only two to three hours of daylight.


from The Washington Post

(note: this is a very long story. read it all the way through by clicking on the successive page numbers at the bottom of each page.)

Late last fall, Detective Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View, Calif., police department began investigating a suspicious pattern of surveillance against Silicon Valley computers. From the Middle East and South Asia, unknown browsers were exploring the digital systems used to manage Bay Area utilities and government offices. Hsiung, a specialist in high-technology crime, alerted the FBI's San Francisco computer intrusion squad.

Working with experts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the FBI traced trails of a broader reconnaissance. A forensic summary of the investigation, prepared in the Defense Department, said the bureau found "multiple casings of sites" nationwide. Routed through telecommunications switches in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan, the visitors studied emergency telephone systems, electrical generation and transmission, water storage and distribution, nuclear power plants and gas facilities.

Some of the probes suggested planning for a conventional attack, U.S. officials said. But others homed in on a class of digital devices that allow remote control of services such as fire dispatch and of equipment such as pipelines. More information about those devices -- and how to program them -- turned up on al Qaeda computers seized this year, according to law enforcement and national security officials.


from The New York Times

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia The ports are quiet in the remote Russian island of Sakhalin, just north of Japan. Fishing boats return home empty. Most canneries stopped operating years ago.

But further out in the waters off the narrow, green island off Russia's eastern coast, boats jockey for position to catch the region's valuable crabs and fish. The catches are destined for Japan, avoiding Russian ports, taxes and fishing quotas.

Vitaly Gamov, a career military man and commander in Russia's border guards, came here in November 2000 to fight that illegal fishing. His mission cost him his life.


from The Boston Globe

According to the coordinates in his official logbook, one New England fisherman recently found an active codfishing ground in the rolling hills of Vermont. Another said he caught fish near the horse track in Saratoga, N.Y. Dozens of fishermen report they've never taken a single fish over their daily limit.

Such reports - clearly false - are bedeviling the government's fishery managers, who rely on fishermen to tell them how many fish they are catching, and where. The detailed logbooks that fishermen take on each voyage record the number of fish caught, where they were caught, and how many are thrown back. Since they were introduced in 1994, the logbooks have been a prime source of information for the regulators who enact short-term fishery closures - and, increasingly, fishermen play games with the system.

"Of course we lie," said one longtime Gloucester fisherman who declined to be named. "We used to tell the truth, but they saw where we are fishing and closed those areas. And if we told them how many fish we throw overboard - fish they force us to throw overboard - they'll use that against us too."


from Newsday

The problem with eavesdropping on huge sperm whales is that the animals too quickly guess what you're up to.

In order to attach a small package of instruments to the whale's back, using suction cups, Mark Johnson must deftly sneak up and poke the whale with a long pole, then gently back away, getting the small, rubberized boat out of range - fast.

"It's not that easy to put a tag on" a moving sperm whale, said Johnson, a research engineer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. "You're dealing with the largest brain on the planet, and they learn very quickly what you're doing."


from The San Francisco Chronicle

If the only thing needed to jolt your inner Dr. Frankenstein to life is the right lab equipment, here's some good news from UC Berkeley.

The campus has the vintage stuff and is going to sell it at auction.

Recovered from the dusty attic of the physics department are tall glass tubes filled with mystery gases, piles of electrical gadgets dating back to when Thomas Edison was in his prime, finely crafted brass and wood devices from when science took aesthetic pride in its instruments, and many items whose purpose has been lost in the crypt of time.

"I have no idea what these are," said stumped emeritus physics Professor Howard Shugart, who has spent half a century on campus and was UC's ace-in- the- hole for unlocking the secrets of the long-slumbering laboratory remains. "It's brass. They're small, like ring-stands. They're all numbered, though."


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Copyright American Atheists, Inc. All rights reserved.



Washington solons hti the steps of Capitol Hill to recite the "God" pledge: issue a litmus test in coming elections? Constitutional amendment looms.

Web Posted: June 26, 2002

Federal lawmakers gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol this afternoon to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and show solidarity with calls to fight a court decision striking down the phrase "under God."

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S.Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stunned the nation by declaring for the first time that recitation of the pledge in public schools violated the separation of church and state. The decision affects schoolchildren in at least nine Western states under the court's jurisdiction. They are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The ruling may not take effect immediately, though, since judges did make provisions for an appeal.

The court noted that the phrase "under God" did not appear in the original pledge -- and thus constituted government endorsement of sectarian, monotheistic religion. Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Alfred T. Goodwin opined:

"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion."

On the internet, news sites and discussion boards lit up within minutes of the ruling. Talk shows and other programs, especially on cable media, moved the story to the top of the news cycle as pundits and politicians weighed in. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) described the decision as "just nuts," and Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr raved against the judicial system, and called for the confirmation of more judges who might be hostile to such a ruling.

monthly special In the Senate, lawmakers were engaged in heated debate over a defense appropriation, but suddenly interrupted their agenda to work on an impromptu resolution condemning the Ninth Circuit ruling. Some declared that they would push for a constitutional amendment authorizing the religious slogan if the Supreme Court did not reverse the decision striking "under God" from the pledge.

President Bush was in Canada for an economic summit, but White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "The president's reaction was that this ruling is ridiculous."

Many cited cases where religious slogans and symbols are tolerated in government venues. Fleischer declared, "The Supreme Court itself begins each of its session with the phrase 'God save the United States and this honorable court. The Declaration of Independence refers to God or to the Creator four different times. Congress begins each session of the Congress each day with a prayer, and of course our currency says, 'In God We Trust."

"The view of the White House is that this was a wrong decision and the Department of Justice is now evaluating how to seek redress."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), a former vice presidential candidate who is considered a front-runner for the Democratic White House nod in 2004, jumped on the ruling, and said that he would support a constitutional amendment. "There may have been a more senseless, ridiculous decision issued by a court at some time, but I don't remember it," Lieberman declared.

"What's next?" asked a flustered Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. "Will our courts, in their zeal to abolish all religious faith from public arenas, outlaw 'God Bless America' too? The great strength of the United States is that we are and will continue to be, despite the liberal court's decision, one nation under God."

Sen. John Warner (Republican-Virginia) said that lawmakers "shouldn't wait" for the Supreme Court to take action. "Why don't we go ahead and formulate this (constitutional) amendment, put it together, have it in place, presumably with all 100 United States senators?"

"Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves," declared Sen. Kit Bond, Missouri Republican. "This is the worst kind of political correctness run amok. What's next? Will the courts now strip 'so help me God' from the pledge taken from new presidents?"


For many separationists, today's ruling is long overdue after more than half-a-century of laws, rulings and public policy decisions which endorse, promote and encourage religion.

"They (critics of the ruling) just don't get it," said Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. "This call is right on the money. And a lot of the practices which people are pointing too, like religious slogans on money or invoking a deity in court, need to be re-examined, too."

The case was brought by Sacramento, California Atheist Michael Newdow, whose daughter attends a public elementary school. State law and school district rules require that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited at the beginning of each school day. A teacher usually leads the class in the program.

But the version of the pledge used in California and elsewhere is not the original rendition. On June 22, 1942, Congress first codified the words as:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

On June 14, 1954, Congress amended the public statues to insert "under God" after the word "Nation."

The Ninth Circuit ruling notes that the legislative history of this Act "shows that the 'under God' language was not meant to sit passively in the federal code unbeknownst to the public; rather, the sponsors of the amendment knew about and capitalized on the state laws and school district rules that mandate recitation of the Pledge."

Indeed, noted the court, the sponsor of the House measure, Rep. Louis C. Rabault, testified that "the children of our land, in the daily recitation of the pledge in school, will be daily impressed with a true understanding of our way of life and its origins."

"The mere enactment of the 1954 Act," said the Ninth Circuit, "constitutes a religious recitation policy that interferes with (plaintiff) Newdow's right to direct the religious education of his daughter..."

Other pertinent quotes:

Citing the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor --

"The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person's standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions ... The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the community."

Reference was also made to the so-called "Lemon Test," formulated in the historic LEMON v. KURTZMAN decision of 1971. LEMON provides a litmus test of any government action to see if it conforms with the First Amendment. It states:

"First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion...; finally, the statute must not foster 'an excessive government entanglement with religion...' "

O'Connor noted, and the Ninth Circuit agreed that:

"At a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise to act in a way which establishes a state religion or religious faith, or tends to do so..."

"In the context of the Pledge, the statement that the United States is a nation 'under God' is an endorsement of religion. It is a profession of a religious belief, namely, a belief in monotheism. The recitation that ours is a nation 'under God' is not a mere acknowledgment that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase 'one nation under God' in the context of the Pledge is normative. To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead, it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice and -- since 1954 --monotheism..."

"Although the defendants argue that the religious content of 'one nation under God' is minimal, to an atheist or a believer in certain non-Judeo-Christian religions or philosophies, it may reasonably appear to be an attempt to enforce a 'religious orthodoxy' of monotheism, and is therefore impermissible."

The coercive effect of this policy is particularly pronounced in the school setting given the age and impressionability of schoolchildren, and their understanding that they are required to adhere to the norms set by their school, their teacher and their fellow students."

The court noted that inclusion of "under God" had little do with civic religion or class order. Indeed, its origins show a religious purpose.

"President Eisenhower, during the Act's signing ceremony, stated: 'From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.' (100 Cong. Rec. 8618 (1954)."

The government, in defending the religionized pledge, insisted that any religious component in the recitation and ritual was minimized by looking at the practice "as a whole," and even manifested a secular purpose of "solemnizing public occasions" or expressing optimism in the future, or encouraging "what is worth of appreciation in society." These arguments appear continually in defense of questionable public religious expression -- from display of the Ten Commandments to prayer in schools or at government meetings. The Ninth Circuit rejected this ruse, citing the WALLACE v. JAFFREE Supreme Court ruling which struck down an Alabama law mandating a moment of silent prayer:

"The flaw in defendants' argument is that it looks at the text of the Pledge 'as a whole,' and glosses over the 1954 Act. The problem with this approach is apparent when one considers the Court's analysis in WALLACE. There, the Court struck down Alabama's statute mandating a moment of silence for meditation or voluntary prayer' not because the final version 'as a whole' lacked a primary secular purpose, but because the state legislature had amended the statute specifically, and solely to add the words 'voluntary prayer.' "

"The legislative history of the 1954 Act reveals that the Acts SOLE purpose was to advance religion, in order to differentiate the United States from nations under communist rule."

Justices added:

"In language that attempts to prevent future constitutional challenges, the sponsors of the 1954 Act expressly disclaimed a religious purpose. 'This is not an act establishing a religion ... A distinction must be made between the existence of a religion as an institution and a belief in the sovereignty of God..."

"This alleged distinction is irrelevant for constitutional purposes. The Act's affirmation of a "belief in the sovereignty of God,' and its recognition of 'the guidance of God' are endorsements by the government of religious belief. The Establishment Clause is not limited to 'religion as an institution'..."


Even in the immediate hours following the announcement of today's ruling, it has become evident that American society is entering a new round in the "culture war" debate over the status of religion in the public square. Critics of the Ninth Circuit decision are already comparing it to earlier court actions which abolished coercive prayer in public schools (ABINGTON TOWNSHIP v. SCHEMPP, MURRAY v. CURLETT, ENGEL v. VITALE), and continue to invoke the words 'under God' as a toxin to rampant social ills. Others are framing the new debate over the NEWDOW ruling in terms of the events of September 11, 2001. There, political and religious figures suggested -- like Rev. Jerry Falwell and televangelist Pat Robertson -- that the Islamic radical attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center were the responsibility of those individuals and groups advocating rampant secularism, feminism, homosexuality and a "turning away from God." Those supporting Falwell's position will likely find support for their view of events in the Newdow ruling.


It will be interesting to see if ANY federal Senator or Congressional Representative dares to oppose a constitutional amendment codifying the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. We can expect political hopefuls -- both currently in and out of office -- to seize this issue as a "bully platform" in courting voters.

The NEWDOW decisions also suggests that the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, has created a legacy of muddled and confusing decisions regarding the separation of church and state. It is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain that students should not be compelled to pray or recite a religious pledge, while at the same time mandate that a religious slogan ("In God We Trust") serve as the national motto, or that taxpayers be forced to subsidize faith-based social services, or that government ceremonies and meetings include prayer and other religious exercise. The notion that activities such as public prayer-- especially when performed by adults -- is, somehow, less constitutionally suspect than requiring similar acts by young children -- requires a legal stretch, and likely a misinterpretation of the First Amendment.

Help Us Grow

The Amazing Airship of 1896

by James L. Cambias


It appeared first in Sacramento, California, on the night of November 17, 1896 a strange light in the rainy night sky. On that first night it was seen by dozens of people. Most saw only a light. Others made out a dark cigar shape behind the light. The most detailed description came from a streetcar motorman named Lowery, who said he saw a flying machine propelled by two men working bicycle pedals.

When the story hit the papers the next day, it caused a storm of controversy. The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Call paid lavish attention to the affair, and sent reporters to interview witnesses. By contrast, the San Francisco Chronicle pooh-poohed the whole notion. After a few days, the story died down.

But on November 22, the "mystery airship" came back. It passed over Sacramento and appeared over Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose as well. During the next few days the airship was sighted all over California. The peak night was November 25, when it appeared in eleven places around the state, including Auburn, Chico, Fresno, Hayward, Napa, Oakland, Pasadena, Petaluma, Sacramento, San Lorenzo and Visalia.

From the beginning, the phenomenon was referred to as the "airship." Though it was almost always seen at night, witnesses claimed they could see a vague shape behind the bright light. They spoke of cigar-shaped gasbags, flapping wings, and great wheels like those of a paddle steamer. A few said they heard voices, either in American accents or unknown tongues.

"Tom Sawyer Abroad" by Mark Twain

"Solving the Great Airship Mystery" (focus on the Texas sightings)

"The Mystery Airship of 1896"

"Airship Sightings of 1896"

"Airship Sighting Periodical Index"

"The Airship Files" (Airship Mystery Online Database)

Ghostbuster believes Dracula's ghost is haunting theme park site

From Ananova at


A ghostbuster claims the spirit of Count Dracula is haunting the proposed site of a theme park to be built in his name.

Damian Ioan Cusleaga was asked to investigate after terrified tourists reported seeing the vampire's ghost wandering through the streets.

He believes Dracula has appeared to try and stop plans to create a Dracula theme park in the area from going ahead.

The Dracula Park is to be built in Sighisoara - the hometown of 15th century Prince Vlad the Impaler who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula novel.

The paranormal investigator said that there was definitely "some activity" in the area and he has set up video cameras to try to capture the ghost on film.

"If I find that the reports are correct and it is Dracula who has been terrorising people in Sighisoara then I intend to link up the cameras to the internet so that the world can see his ghost for themselves," he said.

He said the ghost could well be responsible for the regular nighttime destruction of shops in the city's historical centre

Appearantly this is a common way for ghosts to express their anger.

The Romanian now intends to concentrate his efforts on the proposed site of the theme park to give himself the best chance of capturing something on film.

Story filed: 14:09 Wednesday 26th June 2002

Religious preaching makes these books unfit for use in public schools


William J. Bennetta

When we examine the textbooks that major publishers try to sell to public schools, we sometimes find fraudulent passages that function as instruments of religious indoctrination: Religious myths are depicted as accounts of real people and events, religious superstitions are depicted as matters of fact, and the origins of religious writings are obscured or are wrapped in outright lies.

These passages of religious propaganda have been devised by individuals or groups that seek to use the public schools for spreading their own sectarian doctrines and for recruiting converts. In various cases, publishers evidently have accepted material from religious pressure groups and have put the material into textbooks, even though it is laden with blatant preaching, miracle-mongering and fake "history." I assume that the textbook-publishers have required the pressure groups to pay for this service, but I am not aware of any instance in which a publisher has admitted to collecting a fee for disseminating religious stuff.

Because the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbids the erection of any official religion by any agency of government, it is illegal for public schools to deliver instruction that has been "tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma." (See the decision issued by the Supreme Court of the United States in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).) Public-school educators must bear this restriction in mind, not only when they design curricula but also when they adopt textbooks. If a textbook subjects students to sectarian indoctrination, the use of that book in a public school will run afoul of basic constitutional principles and will invite lawsuits.

Here are is a list of some recent and current textbooks in which I have found substantial loads of sectarian propaganda, clearly intended to indoctrinate students. In my judgment, the religious preaching in these books renders them unfit for use in public schools. To learn about the propaganda that appears in any individual book, click on the colored symbol beside the book's title.

CA School District Forces 7th Graders to 'become Muslims' for Three Weeks -- Federal Lawsuit Filed


Wed, Jun 26, 2002

(ANN ARBOR, MI) According to a federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Monday, 7th grade Christian students across California were forced to pretend they were Muslims for three weeks, praying in the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful, chanting Praise to Allah, picking a Muslim name from a list to replace their own name and to stage their own Jihad via a dice game.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national, public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, representing parents and four children, filed the lawsuit against the Byron Union School District and various school officials to stop the use of the "Islam Simulation" materials in the Byron/Excelsior Public School in Byron, California.

At issue is a three-week segment of the seventh grade "World History" class using the textbook "Across the Centuries" published by Houghton Mifflin and supplemented by Islam simulation materials. Students were told that "you and your classmates will become Muslims." To receive points toward their overall grade, students were encouraged to dress as Muslims and to use such phrases in their speech as "Allah Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great". Students were required to memorize Muslim prayers, fulfill the Five Pillars of Faith and fast during lunch period to simulate fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

While portraying Islam in a positive light, "Across the Centuries" used by schools throughout the nation, " portrays Christians as intolerant persecutors of Jews and non-Christians. Houghton Mifflin and the publishers of the Simulation materials acknowledge they were influenced by various Muslim organizations.

Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, commented, "parents with children in this course were totally caught off guard and had no idea what their children were being taught."

Said Thompson, "This is unbelievable. While public schools prohibit Christian students from reading the Bible, praying, displaying the Ten Commandments, and even mentioning the word "God", students in California are being indoctrinated into the religion of Islam. Public schools would never tolerate teaching Christianity in this way. Just imagine the ACLU's outcry if students were told that they had to pray the Lords Prayer, memorize the Ten Commandments, use such phrases as 'Jesus is the Messiah,' and fast during Lent."

According to Thompson, "Although it is constitutional for public schools to have an instructional program about comparative religion or teach about religion and utilize religious books such as the Bible in courses about our history and culture, the Byron Union School District crossed way over the constitutional line when it coerced impressionable twelve year olds to engage in particular religious rituals and worship, simulated or not."

The Thomas More Law Center defends the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through litigation, education, and related activities. The Law Center provides its services at no charge, and depends on individual donations, foundations, and corporations for financial support. The IRS recognizes the Law Center as a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible. You may contact the Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit its website at www.thomasmore.org.

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