NTS LogoSkeptical News for 17 July 2002

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Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – July 17, 2002

from The Washington Post

The orders arrive by fax and e-mail 24 hours a day from pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and academic scientists. And every day at Integrated DNA Technologies, an army of machines responds by producing hundreds of batches of microscopic merchandise: custom-designed snippets of genetic material.

Until recently the Coralville, Iowa, company prospered in quiet anonymity, spewing out for scientists round the world various made-to-order pieces of DNA, the molecular code upon which so much biotechnology research depends today.

But last week's announcement that scientists in New York had used the company's mail-order molecules to make polioviruses from scratch has prompted questions about whether the DNA synthesis industry deserves closer scrutiny, and whether strategies for preventing the proliferation of biological weapons need to be rethought.


from United Press International

ARGONNE, Ill. - A group of Department of Energy scientists say they were shunted to a new department where they were given little or no work so that the DOE could meet its diversity goals.

In a suit pending in federal court in Chicago, the scientists charge they were victims of reverse discrimination and cite as proof 26 of 29 promotions going to women or minorities in a four-year period that ended in 1993.

"I think they started out with good intentions, trying to redress an imbalance, but now if you're a white male, your chances of promotion are virtually nil," geologist John Kasprowicz, who said he was paid $95,000 a year to do virtually nothing for nearly two years, told the Chicago Sun- Times. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

The seven employees participating in the suit are seeking back pay, promotions and $300,000 each in damages. A trial is expected to begin later this year.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Chemotherapy offers no benefit for post-menopausal women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes, a new study finds. Researchers say in such women, after surgery, the estrogen- blocking drug tamoxifen by itself protects against the disease.

The finding could mean thousands of American women diagnosed each year could avoid the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

The study also found that for post-menopausal women whose breast cancer was not hormone sensitive, chemotherapy followed by tamoxifen offered the best hope of disease-free survival.

"We're hoping this study will question the routine use of chemotherapy in the ER-positive (estrogen sensitive) group," said Richard D. Gelber, a biostatistician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and one of dozens of co-authors. "This is the largest study ever concentrating on this population."


from The Boston Globe

In a new assault on the practice of long-term hormone use, a National Cancer Institute study published today found that women who took estrogen were more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those not on the hormone.

The finding marks another setback for hormone replacement therapy, with pills once hailed for their youth-preserving quality now implicated as a cause of potentially fatal illness.

The new study tracked thousands of women for nearly two decades. For women who took estrogen for four years or less, the risk of developing ovarian cancer, a particularly lethal form, was slight. That risk soared the longer a woman took the medicine: Women on estrogen for 20 years or beyond were three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not take the pills.

The report in today's Journal of the American Medical Association comes one week after federal authorities halted another study of hormone replacement therapy after research showed that the pills were doing more harm than good, even causing conditions the medicine was once believed to prevent, including heart disease. That study looked at women who took a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin.


from The Associated Press

CHICAGO - Beta blockers, drugs widely recommended for heart patients but vastly underused, are less likely than previously thought to cause depression, fatigue and sexual dysfunction, a study suggests.

Some doctors and patients may have shunned the lifesaving drugs because of the supposed side effects, but the new study should encourage wider use of beta blockers, the researchers said.

The researchers reviewed 15 studies involving more than 35,000 patients and found that the three symptoms are fairly common in heart disease patients regardless of whether they take beta blockers or not.

The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.


from The Boston Globe

Smart Drug

A drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease may well improve memory for those not stricken with the disease. While there's been a lot of controversy over whether various so-called ''smart drugs'' can really increase the intelligence of normal, healthy people, Jerome Yesavage and his colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California found that pilots ranging in age from 30 to 70 were significantly better at recalling, one month after the fact, what they had learned during 75-minute simulator sessions, provided they took the drug donepezil. Donepezil increases the available levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the formation of memories.

ref.: Neurology, July 9, 2002.

(Click on link below for more science briefs...)


from The New York Times

BOSTON — It is stronger than steel and far sharper than a pin. It shoots electrons and draws away heat. It can become the thinnest of wires and, potentially, electronic devices almost as minuscule as molecules.

In the last decade, the cylindrical molecule of carbon known as a nanotube has become a do-all wonder substance, touted for future use in everything from X-ray machines to paint. Nanotubes are already sprinkled in more than half of lithium ion batteries: their ability to carry electricity hastens recharging, and they act like tiny springs to hold apart the sheets of graphite in the battery, extending its lifetime.

More than 200 scientists attended a Nanotube 2002 conference here from July 6 to July 11 to learn about some of the latest news. Nanotubes glow in infrared light. They can be welded together. They can be used for fluorescent lights.


from The New York Times

POLEBRIDGE, Mont. — The paved road, such as it is, peters out here at the last outpost of commercial civilization, a log cabin saloon and barely stocked general store. From here a heavily washboarded gravel road slices through thick pine and spruce forest along the North Fork of the Flathead River, a forgotten corner near Glacier National Park and the Canadian border.

Grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, pine martens, cougars, lynx and 11 other species of predator roam and prey to their hearts' content here. Biologists say it is America's wildest valley.

While the density of predators is part of what makes this valley wild, it is also the fact that carnivores behave the way they would naturally, across a range of different habitats and elevations, rather than having to bend their ways to accommodate and avoid civilization.


'Science Musings' from The Boston Globe

"If God did create the world by a word, the word would have been hydrogen," said the astronomer Harlow Shapley.

It was Shapley who discovered the shape and size of the Milky Way Galaxy. "Universe thousand times bigger, Harvard astronomer discovers," read the headline in the Boston Sunday Advertiser on May 29, 1921. And that turned out to be just the tip of the cosmic iceberg. Within a decade of Shapley's discovery, astronomers recognized that the Milky Way is just one galaxy among billions.

And what are all those galaxies made of? Hydrogen, mostly.

In fact, the universe consists today of about 90 percent hydrogen, 9 percent helium, and smidgens of everything else. And that's pretty much the way it's been since the beginning, except for the smidgens, which were cooked up later in stars and splattered into space when stars blew up. When God spoke his mythic creative word, it was exclusively hydrogen and helium that appeared out of the primal fire.


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Salt Lake Police Put Psychics On Hold

By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret News staff writer

The future looks a bit dim for Utah's psychic community, which has been trying in vain to get Salt Lake police to pay attention to its visions and predictions in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case.

Last week, Chief Rick Dinse acknowledged that "we've got psychics coming out of our ears" but said that none of these volunteer psychics has actually been consulted by police.

"I'm kind of upset they haven't given the psychics more play," complains a local psychic known simply as Tracey.

"I personally know of seven psychics who have provided information, and it's similar information," says Tracey, who owns the School of Medium Arts and Predictive Science in Murray. Some of the information was turned over to police as audio tapes of clairvoyant visions, she says.

A Salt Lake City bookstore owner who employs two women as on-site clairvoyants said the FBI did consult the pair in the Smart kidnapping.

The women told Golden Braid manager Joel LaSalle that they were questioned by the FBI early on in the investigation and that one of them was called back for a second interview. The psychics declined interviews with the Deseret News.

The FBI denied contacting the two women. "We're not interviewing psychics, there's no way," says FBI spokesman Kevin Eaton, adding that the bureau has received hundreds of calls from psychics around the country offering to help solve the case.

It's typical for police to get calls from psychics in high-profile cases, especially child abduction cases, but Salt Lake police don't solicit such information, said Capt. Scott Atkinson. All leads are given a "1" to "3" ranking, with "1" being the most credible, he said. The psychic leads are generally given a "3."

"I think (police) are listening to some of the stuff but won't admit it," says Tracey, adding that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frowns on the work of psychics.

Old-timers confirm that the department has used paranormal help in the past, including the case of Joseph Paul Franklin, who was eventually tracked down and convicted of killing two joggers near Liberty Park in 1980. Although police knew Franklin was driving a green Camaro, a psychic was able to accurately describe the car's black and white checked seat covers and a cigarette burn on the right arm rest.

"When your leads peter out, you use what you can," says one former police official.

In other parts of the country, police departments and private detectives sometimes use psychics. Cyd, a psychic based in Littleton, Colo., who appears weekly on a Salt Lake radio station, says she has helped in investigations by the FBI, the KGB, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and police departments in Los Angeles, Denver and Orlando.

Two days after Elizabeth's abduction at gunpoint from her Federal Heights bedroom, the Golden Braid bookstore invited nine psychics to its Salt Lake store and "sequestered" them for several hours so they could independently record their impressions about the case.

Later, the bookstore's two staff psychics asked the nine sequestered psychics to keep "a few of the real critical details that 85 percent of them came up with confidential," LaSalle says. These details involved the site where Elizabeth had been taken.

"I will tell you that there were crews of volunteers sent to the three different sites after the meeting," including a site near Henefer, but nothing was found. "We were told by one psychic that we'd know if we were headed in the right direction because there would be an unusual animal that crossed the road, something that looks like a beaver but it's not a beaver, it's like a huge chipmunk. We were getting ready to leave, getting frustrated, and then one of those things hopped across the road and we were freaked out."

Some of the nine psychics gathered by Golden Braid also came up with a name and "it wasn't Bret Michael Edmunds." Most of the psychics felt the name began with a "G" or "J" sound, LaSalle says.

"A bunch of us got a white truck," says a psychic known as Margaret Ruth about the images of the nine psychics that Friday night. "Two or three people pulled a dark sedan." Some got both the truck and the car.

Some of the psychics that night felt the abductor is a loner, some thought the kidnapping was the work of a group. "One hundred percent could see trees and a cabin, shacky place," said Margaret Ruth, a weekly psychic on X-96 radio.

LaSalle says he turned all the information over to the police.

Cyd, who uses no last name, is an on-air psychic for 107.5 "The End" radio, on the Chunga and Mister morning show. She describes the perpetrator as a man who is about 5-foot 8-inches, between 25 and 28 years old, with dark hair and eyes, short legs, a 32-inch waist and a "saggy butt." She says he has a soft demeanor, is a sexual predator, may work for a computer company, is "geeky," and has been living with his mother off and on. His name begins with "a J - Jay or Jason or something similar." She also said that she "saw" something made out of wrought iron.

Cyd says she has helped find 17 of the 17 missing persons she has been hired to find in other states. "She's been eerily dead-on with a lot of predictions she's made for some of us who work at the station," says 107.5's Mister.

According to Cyd, several listeners have followed up on her "reading" of the Elizabeth Smart case, and four separate listeners came up with the same first and last name of a person that may be the perpetrator. Cyd said she faxed the information to the police.

Listener Christine Green also came up with a name after hearing Cyd's description - a man named Jason who used to work with a friend of hers at a computer-related company. Green says she drove to the man's address, an apartment house that included a wrought iron balcony.

"I can't go to the police with this," she says. "They'll look at me like I'm crazy."

Cancel Buffy and Angel


To: Joss Whedon and the writers and producers of Mutant Enemy Productions and the Executives of the WB and UPN

Anyone who has watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or its spin-off "Angel" will tell you what a well written and well directed television show it is with very high production value and talented actors. However after the events of September, 11, America has been thrown into the realm of prophecy fore Jesus Christ, king of kings and son of God, will soon walk the Earth again. Because of this we ,who have created this petition, believe that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spin-off "Angel" must be cancelled immediately or it will draw the wrath of Jesus upon us with the show's endorsement of the use of magic and its philosophy of demon worship. From the very depths of our hearts and souls, we beg the staff of Mutant Enemy Productions and the WB and UPN networks to stop the show for the sake of posterity before our Lord scorches the land with plagues like the Land of Egypt.


The Undersigned

Church's beliefs in spotlight


Group backs punishment but decries abuse allegations

By Jonathan Osborne


Thursday, July 11, 2002

An Austin pastor and his twin brother, who are charged with beating an 11-year-old nearly to death, belong to a church that advertises itself as "independent-fundamentalist" and "Old Fashion."

Capitol City Baptist Church members stick placards with Bible verses in their yards. They knock on neighborhood doors, looking for converts, and are affiliated with other independent Christian organizations, including SWAT Team for Christ, a national street evangelist group.

The church pastor -- and the father of the two defendants -- said he doesn't allow corporal punishment. But the church preaches strict adherence to the King James version of the Bible, which includes passages on corporal punishment.

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child," a verse from Proverbs says. "But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

Other versions of the Bible contain similar passages. But such beliefs, and what police allege is the 22-year-old brothers' overzealous adherence to that philosophy, have put a national spotlight on the roughly 300-member South Austin church near Ben White Boulevard and South First Street.

Joshua Thompson, a pastor who oversees a separate Spanish-speaking congregation that meets at the church, is accused of beating Louie Guerrero for 1 1/2 hours with a tree branch because the child misbehaved during a Bible class. Police say Caleb Thompson, Joshua Thompson's brother, who helps their father minister the main congregation, restrained Louie during the lashing.

Louie, who underwent a blood transfusion and suffered kidney failure as a result of his injuries, is expected to recover.

The brothers, who each face a felony charge of injury to a child, were released on $25,000 bail Wednesday evening. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

"I have not talked to my sons about this," their father, Pastor Hank Thompson, said Wednesday. "Almost everything I teach is to love your children and how to train your children. If I believed my son did what you guys are saying, I would have turned him in myself."

Members of the church gathered Wednesday night for a regularly scheduled service.

"Jesus, what a friend for sinners," about 50 congregants sang at the beginning of their service inside the brightly lit sanctuary.

Before the service, at least one member said he's leaving the congregation because of the abuse allegations.

"It's sounds just awful, and there is no reason for it," said Howard Bennett, who has lived across the street from the church for 50 years and recently began attending services there.

"I knew the boys who they say were involved really well and can't believe they did it," he said. "I just can't go back there because I don't want to be part of that mess. It's just too much."

Other church members said the incident is being blown out of proportion. Parishioner Jimmy Vath said he's standing by the brothers.

"It definitely has made it more difficult for us to practice our faith," Vath said as a woman drove by the church, honking and shouting, "Shame on you," out the car window.

The Rev. David Beatty Sr., pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New Braunfels, said his church also accepts only the King James version of the Bible and adheres strictly to its passages on corporal punishment

"We believe in it," Beatty said. "That's what the Bible teaches."

But Beatty, who also runs the church's school, said children are not physically disciplined, despite a written policy that endorses spanking.

"My feeling is whenever a child gets to the point where he needs a spanking, that's up to the parents to do that," he said.

Corporal punishment within a church has drawn the attention of law enforcement before in other parts of the country. In January, a pastor and 10 members of an Atlanta church were indicted on charges of child abuse for allegedly beating two boys during services.

Jeff Adams, a researcher for the State Bar of Texas' Center for Legal History, said he met several leaders of Capitol City Baptist Church while doing missionary work in San Luis Potos, San Luis Potos, not far from Mexico City.

"I'm kind of moderately evangelical, and I kind of noticed a lot of backward attitudes," Adams said. "They were really strong disciplinarians."

The elder Thompson said he has an "absolutely no corporal punishment" policy at his church. "I don't let anybody in that church touch any kid for any reason," he said.

David Muralt, one of the church's Sunday school teachers for 10 years, said he's been told never to spank a child.

"I have not witnessed anyone disciplined corporally at this church," Muralt said.

The boy said he was taken from the church and beaten at Caleb Thompson's home.

Joshua Thompson's Spanish-speaking congregation, which uses the same building as Capitol City Baptist Church, is separate, and Hank Thompson said he doesn't know what goes on there. If his sons disciplined Louie, the elder Thompson said, "I believe they would have used a small switch. Anything any bigger than that is dangerous."

Bruce Willenzik has lived less than 300 yards from Capitol City for 20 years.

"They seem to keep to themselves," Willenzik said. "Except when they come around in groups, beating on doors, trying to convince you that they have the way and to join the church."

In June, the congregants engaged in an argument with a transvestite while sermonizing to revelers on Sixth Street, according to a SWAT Team for Christ online newsletter. On New Year's Eve, they had 91 members on the street.

"We sang the Lord's songs in contrast to the world's music," street preacher Gerald Sutek wrote in the newsletter. "The enemies of the Lord knew they were whipped, and a few were captured by our Captain."

josborne@statesman.com; 445-3605

Contributors: American-Statesman staff writers Claire Osborn, David Hafetz, Eileen Flynn and Iliana Limóm contributed to this report.


Volume 7, Number 29
July 16, 2002
Editor: Joseph Trainor


Jerusalem had another paranormal incident at the Old City's Wailing Wall. The incident occurred on the Sabbath last week, approximately two weeks after the first mysterious Fortean flow of water first appeared.

On Saturday, July 6, 2002, a remote TV camera picked up images of "orbs seen on the corner to the right of the Wailing Wall. They seemed to have facial features almost like a ghost," reported investigator Charlotte LeFevre, "I believe these are not sunspots because the first and the last frames (of the video) are 20 minutes apart, and the lights are the same. Notice the difference in shadows which also would have affected the location of a sunspot."

The orbs were described as "sharp and distinct. Note also that the light pole nearby is not even on as it is already morning. The orbs were next to the women's (prayer) area in front of the Wall." Both Charlotte LeFevre and Philip Lipson of the Seattle UFO/Paranormal Group have a video clip of the phenomenon available at this website: http://www.aish.com/wallcam/

On Saturday, June 29, 2002, a trickle of water appeared on the Wailing Wall about 4 meters (13 feet) above ground level. (See UFO Roundup, volume 7, number 28 for July 9, 2002, "Strange phenomenon appears in Jerusalem," page 7.)

Some paranormal researchers theorize that these manifestations may be a portent relating to Tisha B'Av (Hebrew for The Ninth of Av), also known as July 17, which is the date of significant and often disastrous events in Jewish history. (See Filer's Files #28 for 2002. Many thanks to George A. Filer for allowing UFO Roundup to quote from his original news story.) (Editor's Comment: Strictly speaking, this one sounds more like a ghost manifestation than a UFO. First the Wall begins spewing water. Then the faces of long-dead patriarchs appear. Will some tragedy happen in Jerusalem? We'll find out tomorrow--July 17--the Ninth of Av. And, as always, I wonder about these so-called "portents." Are they the legitimate article? Or is this just the Paranormal Scare of the Month?)

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Hospitals get alternative


Acupuncture, massage, and even herbs pop up in mainstream medical settings

By Jodi Schneider

PARK RIDGE, ILL.–The elderly woman, suffering from chronic pain, lies down on the examining table and braces herself for what's to come. "My witch doctor," she affectionately calls Sang Xi Zhou, the acupuncturist who over the next few minutes gently jabs the patient's arms, legs, and back with tiny needles. At first she winces at the sting, but then she lies back and relaxes, even closing her eyes, as the weekly treatment works its "magic."

The patient acknowledges she was hesitant to try acupuncture, fearing the needles. "It was just that the pain got to be so bad, I was sitting up crying all night, that I figured: How much worse could this be?" she says. Now, she looks forward to her visits. "I couldn't come last week, and the pain was back. This works."

Put alternative medicine back in its box


The failings of contemporary medical practice are best confronted from the rational basis of scientific medicine, not by a retreat into the mystical traditions of alternative health.

The inadequacies of modern medicine are all too readily apparent. A patient with multiple sclerosis recently told me that, though she had been attending neurology clinics for nearly 20 years, she had yet to receive an effective treatment for any of her symptoms. Another patient, who has had a recurrence of cancer only shortly after completing an arduous programme of surgery and radiotherapy, wondered whether he might have been better off if he had opted to forgo treatment from the outset.

Both also described encounters with doctors who were brusque and unsympathetic, as well as with hospital systems that were bureaucratic and incompetent.

Yet both these patients have also rejected alternative medical treatments, despite receiving numerous recommendations to try acupuncture, homeopathy or herbal remedies as well as more exotic therapies. As one put it, 'just because orthodox medicine doesn't work is no reason to resort to witchcraft'.

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 16, 2002

from Newsday

Barcelona, Spain -- Ten years ago, it might have been possible to apply straightforward, relatively inexpensive approaches to controlling AIDS. Not anymore.

Today the scale of the epidemic is so immense that scientists find themselves scrambling to imagine what will come next. Political leaders are at pains to imagine where the money to treat and prevent HIV infection worldwide will come from.

The weeklong International Conference on AIDS here was an often bewildering, noisy scene in which all parties craned to hear words of encouragement. But the words they heard were largely grim, and speakers issued challenges rather than solutions. Regardless, the closing speaker called the future "simple."

Dr. Joep Lange of the Netherlands, new president of the International AIDS Societies that sponsors these biennial meetings, said the simple solution is treatment for all, no matter how remote or war-torn their home.


from The Washington Post

The Navy won approval yesterday to deploy two ships that use controversial low-frequency sonar to detect faraway submarines, despite continuing questions about whether the system's loud blasts will injure whales and other ocean mammals.

The ruling by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants the Navy an exemption from federal rules that guard marine mammals from incidental injury. The agency concluded that protective measures required of the Navy will ensure that the effects of the sonar will be "negligible" and will not undermine the long-term health of whales and other ocean mammals.

However, the five-year authorization requires the Navy to investigate unanswered questions regarding how the low-frequency sonar affects whale behavior, and whether it can silence the songs of large whales in particular. It also forbids the Navy from using the system when ocean mammals are within 1.1 nautical miles, since the force of the noise can damage their hearing and disrupt their activities within that range.


from The Associated Press

HANSON ISLAND, British Columbia (AP) -- The orphan killer whale who strayed into central Puget Sound near Seattle -- 340 miles from her native waters here -- sometimes swam near other whales Monday and sometimes kept her distance.

After being released off this remote Canadian island Sunday afternoon, the 2-year-old orca tagged along early Monday within a half-mile of eight whales belonging to A-clan, to whom she is related. The whales had answered her cries Sunday and entered the small bay where she'd been penned less than 24 hours before her release.

The orphan orca, named A-73 for her birth order in the whale community, had not yet intermingled with the other whales, but was staying within vocal range, said John Ford, a whale expert with Canada's Department of Fisheries.


from The Christian Science Monitor

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – It's a sultry day on the gritty industrial fringe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, and as pedestrians stroll by, none of them even bother to glance at a dome that looks like a city water tank.

It's not. But if the public mistakes a nuclear reactor for a water tank, that's fine with John Bernard, director of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory. Less attention is better. He knows, however, that neither he nor federal authorities can assume a terrorist is so inattentive.

So Dr. Bernard, a beefy man with close-cropped hair, has studied a theoretical airliner crash into the MIT containment dome, a feat that would require great flying skills, given that the structure is only a few stories tall. An engine might get through the shell, the study showed.

Bernard has also examined a hypothetical truck-bomb explosion. "The truck- bomb scenario is more likely, more realistic," he says. "But honestly, with two feet of steel-reinforced concrete, even that isn't going to bother us."


from The Washington Post

Since the mid-1990s, scientists have been trying to figure out what has been causing frogs around the United States and Canada to become deformed. Little progress has been made in sorting out which deformities result from infections by a tiny, aquatic parasite and which, if any, are being caused by wetland contamination from chemicals that might threaten other life forms, including people.

Now, research suggests that for at least some outbreaks, both factors could be involved -- and acting in concert.

The findings come from Joseph Kiesecker of Pennsylvania State University, the same researcher who last year linked amphibian declines in the western United States to global warming. Kiesecker tested whether agricultural pesticides -- a prime suspect in malformation -- make developing frogs more susceptible to infection by a parasite known as a trematode. Previous experiments have shown that a parasite, which uses frogs as "intermediate hosts" in a complex life cycle, causes leg deformities in developing tadpoles by tunneling under their skin and becoming encysted, usually at the base of their growing hind legs.


from The New York Times

On its way back from the Pacific island of Tinian, where it had delivered the uranium core for the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58 and sent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea. It was one of the worst disasters in American naval history; only 317 of its nearly 1,200 crew members survived.

Now experts at Southwest Texas State University have given that tragic story a startling new twist.

It was the moon, they say, that sank the Indianapolis. Or anyway, they write in the July issue of Sky & Telescope, it was the moon that made the sinking possible.

Using astronomical computer programs, records and weather reports, as well as the known coordinates and running speeds of the ship and the submarine that sank it, the authors determined that when the I-58 surfaced, it was perfectly aligned, west to east, with the cruiser. And, they said, a three- quarter moon had just emerged from behind the clouds.


from The New York Times

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Dr. Ralph C. Merkle is celebrated as an inventor of the encryption technology that allows secure transactions over the Internet. But that was a long time ago. These days, he is better known as a leading theorist of molecular nanotechnology, the still unperfected art of building machines that are little bigger than atoms.

On a recent morning in a hotel auditorium in Palo Alto, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, Dr. Merkle addressed a singular mixture of scientists and engineers, venture capitalists, economists, students of policy and even a poet or two.

All were members of the Foresight Institute, an organization founded on the belief that nanotechnology will transform almost every facet of human existence by giving people mastery over matter.


from US News & World Report

Maybe Ben Franklin was wrong in declaring the only sure things are death and taxes. Maybe it's just taxes. Such hope is why some people wind up deep- frozen soon after death, with orders to keep them on ice until ways arrive to revive and heal them. Ideally they'll awaken centuries or millenniums hence to technologies able to restore youth and replace body parts.

Called cryonic suspension, this far-out stratagem for cheating death has wandered on the scientific fringe for decades. Its latest rush of publicity came last week as the family of baseball legend Ted Williams erupted in argument over whether one son should be able to turn his dad, revered as Teddy Ballgame, into Teddy Snowball. So far, baseball's greatest hitter, dead July 5 at 83, appears bound for head-down repose in a liquid-nitrogen- cooled cylinder at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., awaiting the day when he can play a few more innings.

By one estimate, more than 100 people–or in some cases just their heads– have been frozen since the first cryonic procedure in 1967. The practice continues to draw enough credentialed adherents to avoid rank crackpotism. Ralph Merkle of the Foresight Institute in Northern California, a high- profile advocate of nanotechnology and an Alcor director, thinks that in the future, tiny medical robots "should be able to go through a body literally molecule by molecule, undoing damage." Merkle has arranged to have his own head frozen after death. Alcor's other notable advisers include artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and cloning researcher Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass.


from Newsday

Physicist Brandon Brown's research prey is not the quark or some other fancifully named critter from the subatomic zoo. He is fascinated instead by sharks and their ability to find prey by sensing minute changes in electrical fields as they roam the depths.

The electrical sensitivity of sharks, their so-called "sixth sense," has been well documented. Sharks have small porelike canals that pepper their snouts, heads and lower jaws. The canals, called ampullae of Lorenzini (after the Italian anatomist who first described them in 1678) can detect and process weak electrical currents at short range.

Brown, of the University of San Francisco, has been particularly interested in the function of the relatively stiff gel that fills the vase-shaped canals. In theory, the gel could be there simply to help maintain the shape of the canals or to prevent infection in an otherwise vulnerable structure.

But writing in the June issue of the journal Physical Review E, Brown and his colleagues argue that the gel may serve an important role in the shark's electrosensory system.


from The Boston Globe

MACUGNAGA, Italy - The people of this Alpine resort village long ago learned to cope with the floods that sometimes accompany the melting snow in the spring. But nothing prepared them for the catastrophic flood threat they now face - a glacier rapidly melting from unusually warm temperatures.

For the past two weeks, as many as 300 officials and volunteers have been struggling under a state of emergency to prevent a gigantic glacier-fed lake from breaking through the giant ice wall that confines it. If they fail, a devastating wall of water, carrying chunks of glacier and mountainside, would crash down this verdant valley.

Known technically as a "glacier lake outburst flood," or GLOF, it's an event previously seen only in the Himalayas where the slopes of the mountains are steeper. But scientists say the threat is both real, and a warning of things to come if the global-warming trend continues.


from The Boston Globe

At about 2:30 on a moonless morning in the Solomon Islands, Lieutenant John F. Kennedy was at the helm of PT 109 when a lookout shouted, "Ship at 2 o'clock!" The Japanese destroyer Amagiri was bearing down at about 45 miles per hour. And Kennedy thought: "This is how it feels to be killed."

It is an often-told war story with no surprise ending, because everyone knows that JFK did not die seconds later when the 109 exploded. He's the man who became famous years later when a youngster asked how he became a war hero. "It was involuntary," President Kennedy answered. "They sank my boat."

They "sank" it until last week, that is, when Robert Ballard and the National Geographic Society, armed with supporting photographs, announced that the Navy has come as close as it's likely to come to confirming that the morsel of hull 1,200 feet deep that Ballard found in May belongs to the PT 109.

Thanks to Ballard, PT 109 has resurfaced, albeit in legend form. Ballard has assured the Kennedy family that, out of respect for the two sailors who died in the collision, only photographs were taken from the wreckage. But, as one veteran PT captain put it the other day, the Ballard find and his photographs will be sufficient to "keep the story alive forever."


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An email from Ryan and Jacob


posted July 01, 2002 at 09:49 am PT

I just got an odd piece of email full text

The email, sent by a person named Otello Danism (anagram?) starts out thusly: "There is something extremely wrong with every single person in this world. They seem to be part of a pointless simulation." The email then goes on to say that everyone in the world is a fake...except for the author of the email and a friend (Ryan and Jacob) and details a way to get in touch with them by searching for certain combinations of words on certain search engines.

A bit of research reveals that other folks have gotten similar emails:

In Search for Perfection...


In Pursuit of a Purpose...
Stage 1: Communication.

I seek to communicate in a unique way only. No standard chitchat and pretenses, no aimless discussions of the common topics. I will only accept perfection in everything I do. I do not tolerate what doesn't follow reason and logic; I do not accept others' views, beliefs, and religions unless they are the most logical. If that is not something you can handle then you will not want to communicate with me, just as I will have no reason to communicate with you.

I chose you by random, and along with many others. Unless you truly feel there is a reason we should communicate, unless you are willing to devote effort and attention to our communication, and unless you will dedicate your life to the pursuit of finding life's purpose, don't even bother responding back.

To save both of us some time, I'll voice some concrete examples. First of all, if you believe in god, Jesus or any other religious junk, don't bother replying. Secondly, if you want to "chill out", "take it easy", or "enjoy life", then go ahead and waste your life doing that, there will be no point in writing back to me. And finally, if you have strong ties to this world, pointless goals you already set for yourself (like getting married, having a family, getting a certain job, writing a symphony, painting, or whatever), or things that you are tied to just because you "want them" or "like them" and can never see yourself giving them up or looking beyond them, then this will also lead nowhere.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – July 15, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Berkeley -- Officials at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have concluded that a sensational but false claim about the discovery of two new elements was based on fraudulent research, the second case of scientific misconduct revealed by the federal energy lab in three years.

Originally hailed as a "stunning discovery" into the structure of the atomic nucleus, the finding was retracted by Lawrence Berkeley lab last year after independent scientists were unable to duplicate the results. Lab officials then undertook an investigation.

Lab Director Charles V. Shank acknowledged in a speech to employees last month that the false claim was "a result of fabricated research data and scientific misconduct by one individual," according to a summary of his remarks in a lab newsletter.

"There is nothing more important for a laboratory than scientific integrity, " Shank reportedly told employees. "Only with such integrity will the public, which funds our work, have confidence in us." In this case, he said, "the most elementary checks and data archiving were not done."


from Newsday

Barcelona, Spain - British researchers have discovered an Achilles heel of the AIDS virus that scientists are hailing as one of the most significant pieces of good news to come from the laboratory front in the battle against AIDS in several years.

The finding concerns an obscure gene in HIV, an equally mysterious and poorly understood gene in human DNA and a way to suppress the ability of the virus to reproduce and infect cells. Taken together, the findings, which will appear in this week's issue of the British journal Nature, offer hope for both vaccine and drug makers.

For more than a decade Dr. Michael Malim, of St. Thomas' School of Medicine, Kings College London, has been studying an odd gene in HIV that has been dubbed vif. The role of the gene isn't understood, but when viruses lack it, or have a defective form of it, they are unable to infect other human cells. Lacking vif, a virus may replicate, but its progeny are unable to exit the cell of their birth, and thus are unable to infect other cells.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

El Nino, the 800-pound gorilla of the global climate, is once again starting to shake the bars of its cage.

Will it break out and wreak global havoc, like its predecessor of the winter of 1997-98, which deluged and submerged much of Northern California? Or will this coming winter's El Nino be only a "weak to moderate" one?

The latter, in all likelihood, according to forecasters at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who announced Thursday that El Nino is back in business. But they aren't sure how much trouble it will cause, or where -- and they admit as much.

The reasons for their uncertainty shed light on the inherent limits of all weather forecasting -- indeed, on the frustration of forecasting all "complex systems," as scientists call them.


from The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- In a surprising blockbuster merger that would expand the reach of the world's largest drug company, Pfizer Inc. has agreed to buy rival Pharmacia Corp. for $60 billion in stock.

The deal announced Monday would create a company that produces many of the common prescription drugs found in medicine cabinets around the world. It comes as drug companies are under enormous pressure to keep costs low even as they search for new drugs and face competition from cheaper generic versions of their older ones.

Already the world's biggest drug company before the deal, Pfizer's products include Viagra (anti-impotence), Lipitor (cholesterol) and Zoloft (depression), while Pharmacia's major drug is the arthritis medication Celebrex.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Studying the genes active in early stage lung cancers may help identify which patients are at greatest risk of dying, allowing their doctors to prescribe more aggressive treatment, researchers report.

A team led by Dr. David G. Beer at the University of Michigan found that by studying which of about 50 genes in an early stage tumor are more or less active, it could predict which patients are more likely to relapse within five years.

With that information, doctors would know which patients should get additional treatment, perhaps adding radiation or chemotherapy to the standard of surgery, Beer said.

The study is in Monday's online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.


Week In Review from The New York Times

The impossible isn't what it used to be.

Not so long ago, the realms of science fact and science fiction seemed worlds apart, two swirling spheres orbiting each other around the galaxy.

But lately, news flashes from the front lines of science suggest a bewildering telepathic collision between fact and fantasy. In Australia, researchers in quantum optics say they have "teleported" a radio-signal message in a laser beam, using the same kind of principles that enabled Scotty to beam up Captain Kirk. In rural Quebec, images of H. G. Wells's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" have alighted upon genetically altered goats whose milk contains a gene from the golden-orb weaving spider, enabling goats to produce milk containing superstrong spider silk. Meanwhile, two young British researchers invented a "tooth phone" — a microvibrator and low-frequency receiver that can be implanted into one's tooth, raising the possibility of a James Bond dental experience while undergoing root canal. All this and "cc" — the cloned cat produced earlier this year by Texas scientists — too.


Book Review from The New York Times

Once an obscure ape dwelling in remotest Zaire, the bonobo surged to celebrity in the mid-1990's on a groundswell of liberal sentiment. Here was a primate tailor-made for the age of political correctness: vegetarian, peace-loving, female-dominant, with an outsize libido and an open-door policy when it came to sex. (Male, female, night, day -- almost anything would do.) Moreover, 98 percent of its genes were ours too, making the bonobo not a freak of nature but a next of kin -- like us, only better.

''The very model of a modern liberated woman,'' one scientist exulted. ''Every program in women's studies should include a little excursion into the world of the bonobo,'' urged another, comparing the apes' largely conflict-free lives to the ''make love, not war'' ethos of 1960's hippies. Conservatives were left to grumble that the bonobo society was too P.C. to be true, bearing a suspicious resemblance to -- as one disgruntled male commentator put it -- life on the campus of Brown University.

He was onto something. As Marlene Zuk demonstrates in her fascinating and persuasive new book, ''Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex From Animals,'' the tendency to hold up animals as role models -- to see in their behavior inspiration or vindication for our own -- is as rampant in science as the common cold, and considerably more debilitating. ''The lens of our own self-interest not only frequently distorts what we see when we look at other animals,'' she writes. ''It also in important ways determines what we do not see, what we are blind to.'' Most of what we know about bonobos we've learned in the last 20 years, Zuk notes, ''after the feminist revolution in anthropology.'' Had we focused on them earlier, she speculates, they might have been seen as more violent and warlike, ''simply because the paradigm of the day emphasized male aggression, which the bonobos do possess.''


Commentary from The San Francisco Chronicle

A recent advertisement by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America depicts a scientist "looking for specific genes that trigger disease." The ad promises that "when those genes are identified, it will lead to more effective medicines to treat the disease at its source."

But what if, once those genes are identified, the scientist discovers that future research is blocked because a handful of companies hold patents on those genes?

A government patent grants an inventor the sole right to make, use or sell an invention for a certain period of time. America's patent laws date back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who correctly predicted that protecting inventions was the best way to spur new scientific discoveries. But how would they have felt about a few companies owning the rights to the human genome? Would they have considered the simple isolation and identification of genes that have existed in nature for millions of years to be "inventions"?


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UFO Information Center


Welcome to the Official website for George A. Filer


This file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Bryant Stavely.
Excerpt from the World Island Review, January 1992.


Radiation still so intense, the area is highly dangerous

A heavy layer of radioactive ash in Rajasthan, India, covers a three-square mile area, ten miles west of Jodhpur. Scientists are investigating the site, where a housing development was being built.

For some time it has been established that there is a very high rate of birth defects and cancer in the area under construction. The levels of radiation there have registered so high on investigators' gauges that the Indian government has now cordoned off the region. Scientists have unearthed an ancient city where evidence shows an atomic blast dating back thousands of years, from 8,000 to 12,000 years, destroyed most of the buildings and probably a half-million people. One researcher estimates that the nuclear bomb used was about the size of the ones dropped on Japan in 1945.

The Mahabharata clearly describes a catastrophic blast that rocked the continent. "A single projectile charged with all the power in the Universe...An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor...it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.



Another attack on evolution. It's hard to figure out where the author is heading with this Web site.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

OBJECTIVE: Christian Ministries


Evolutionism Propaganda:

The subject of Evolutionism's use of propaganda to spread its false doctrines is a broad one that would require many pages to deal with in full. That they resort to propaganda is just evidence that they have no honest arguments in favor of their position. The paucity of pro-Evolutionistic arguments has been widely documented and I won't go into it here.

What I would like to discuss are some prominent and current instances of Evolutionism propaganda: The PBS's series Evolution, the use of subliminal Evolutionism, and Evolutionism's place in the computing industry.

PBS's "Evolution":

PBS (supposedly the "Public Broadcasting Company" although one has to wonder which public they serve with all the anti-Christian junk they put on) is currently airing a new series called simply Evolution. This series (running for eight nights, at two hours a night) is nothing but a commercial for Secular Humanistic pseudo-science.

Thus far, the first episode (called "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" -- at least they are honest in the title) was a melodramatization of Charles Darwin's life. Darwin is portrayed as a sympathetic character who is attacked by ignorant Christians for his "revolutionary thought" which he is shown likening to "confessing a murder" (again, another slip of honesty). All those who historically questioned and pointed out flaws in Darwin's ideas are portrayed as villains: Richard Owen, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Captain Robert Fitzroy of the HMS Beagle -- all are made into unrecognizable cartoons whose only purpose is to act as foils for the noble Darwin and his crusade against Christianity. Even God himself is turned into a villain; at one point in the episode they had the audacity to blame Him for killing Darwin's daughter!

Interspersed with the costume drama were talking heads explaining to us why Evolutionism is the One True Way. These included some doctors and biologists -- one of whom openly expressed the religious nature of his belief in Evolutionism -- whose names I can't remember as they were unnotable persons in the scientific community. Daniel Dennet, a philosopher who wrote a polemic also called Darwin's Dangerous Idea, was on hand to tell us in no uncertain terms that Darwin's ideas excluded the need for God. Needless to say Stephen Jay Gould made an appearance, although he did thankfully refrain from talking about baseball this time.

The episode also included "real life examples" of Evolutionism to try and convince us that it is a real science. One of these was -- and I am not making this up -- a primatologist who taught some chimpanzees to "count". Supposedly this proves that we are a monkey's uncle. Another example used was AIDS. They argued that AIDS is constantly evolving and if it weren't for Darwin we wouldn't understand why and thus would be helpless in treating the disease (they conveniently neglect to point out that Darwinistic propaganda equating us with animals might have helped to spread the disease in the first place). This is a common false argument made by Evolutionists; the random variations of AIDS is not the same as the transmutation of species that Darwin wrote about and that is the basis of Secular Humanism. All those little changes aside, AIDS is still AIDS. Show us AIDS evolving into a cat -- which is essentially the Evolutionistic position of common ancestry for all lifeforms -- and then you'll have something worth noting.

Remember, this was all in only the first episode! We still have seven more to go -- or fourteen more hours of this (PBS doesn't even allow us commercial breaks to help us regain our sanity!). One can only imagine what other nonsense will be presented in the rest of this propaganda tour de force. But you can be certain that I for one won't be sporting a PBS tote bag any time soon.

Subliminal Propaganda:

Besides the direct assault on reason and faith that the PBS series represents, Evolutionism propagandists often times try to sneak their false doctrine into popular culture via oblique references whose constant reiteration is designed to inculcate acceptance of their unacceptable message. As noted German Evolutionist Joseph Goebbels was fond of saying, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it. Ardent Atheistic Darwinist Richard Dawkins even wrote a book1 about how to spread ideology as a type of "biological weapon" using jingles and pop-culture.

Some of the most popular vehicles for this subliminal propaganda are children's television shows, books, and toys. By getting their ideas into the minds of the young, they hope to be able to do the most damage to traditional values and belief. Shows like Pokemon, which features animals "evolving" into new forms, and movies like Jurassic Park provide a continuous cultural fog of Evolutionism that is impossible for innocent children to escape from.

Apple Macintosh:

However, these propagandists aren't just targeting the young. Take for example Apple Computers, makers of the popular Macintosh line of computers. The real operating system hiding under the newest version of the Macintosh operating system (MacOS X) is called... Darwin! That's right, new Macs are based on Darwinism! While they currently don't advertise this fact to consumers, it is well known among the computer elite, who are mostly Atheists and Pagans. Furthermore, the Darwin OS is released under an "Open Source" license, which is just another name for Communism. They try to hide all of this under a facade of shiny, "lickable" buttons, but the truth has finally come out: Apple Computers promote Godless Darwinism and Communism.

But is this really such a shock? Lets look for a moment at Apple Computers. Founded by long haired hippies, this company has consistently supported 60's counter-cultural "values"2. But there are even darker undertones to this company than most are aware of. Consider the name of the company and its logo: an apple with a bite taken out of it. This is clearly a reference to the Fall, when Adam and Eve were tempted with an apple3 by the serpent. It is now Apple Computers offering us temptation, thereby aligning themselves with the forces of darkness4.

This company is well known for its cult-like following. It isn't much of a stretch to say that it is a cult. Consider co-founder and leader Steve Jobs' constant exhortation through advertising (i.e. mind control) that its followers should "think different". We have to ask ourselves: "think different than whom or what?" The disturbing answer is that they want us to think different than our Christian upbringing, to reject all the values that we have been taught and to heed not the message of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Given the now obvious anti-Christian and cultish nature of Apple Computers, is it any wonder that they have decided to base their newest operating system on Darwinism? This just reaffirms the position that Darwinism is an inherently anti-Christian philosophy spread through propaganda and subliminal trickery, not a science as its brainwashed followers would have us believe.

AustinParaTimes #3 - July 4th Issue!

Greetings & Happy July 4th Weekend!

Austin Para Times is proud to announce the release of it's third issue! It is an explosive ParaPolitical issue just in time for the July 4th holiday. We look forward to hearing what people think of this exciting new edition...


* Letter From The Publisher - Russell Dowden (2012 Media)

* "The Beast of Gevaudan" - Brotherhood of the Wolf Reviewed by James Scott Bankston

* "Minority Report & the Mainstream MindSlip" The ParaPolitics of PKD by Sara Aronson

* "AusTex Anomalous" An APT Guide to Para Texas by Jackson Valient & Yogini Bare

* UpComing Para Events Schedule

* "Mind Control, Mickey Mouse & Biotechnology" by Warren "Shag" Matthews

* "Bill Hicks: UFO Contactee" by Greg Bishop

* "World Bank or World Government?" by Wendy McElroy

* Austin Para Times Interviews: PARA ACAC Producer: Chris Athanas by Warren "Shag" Matthews

* PARA ACAC Television Show Schedule

* "The Beast System" - 666 by Mack White

* Alex Jones Interviews Dr. Steve Pieczenik - Part 1

* "How Stupid Do They Think We Are?" The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives by Zbigniew K. Brzezinski Reviewed by Michael C. Ruppert

* Space Travelers & the Genesis of Human Form and Phenomenal World by Joan D'Arc Reviewed by Jaye C. Beldo

* "Shockingly Close To Mocking" Shockingly Close to the Truth : Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist by Jim Moseley with Karl Pflock Reviewed by Kenn Thomas

* Sex & Rockets - The Occult World of Jack Parsons by John Carter w/intro by Robert Anton Wilson Reviewed by Adam Gorightly

* EFF Analysis Of The Provisions Of The USA PATRIOT Act That Relate To Online Activities (EFF.org)

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Man accused of blasphemy stoned to death in Pakistan


Hundreds of villagers on Friday stoned to death a man accused of blasphemy near Chak Jhumra town of Punjab province, Pakistan.

Zahid Shah, 40, was dragged out of his home in the presence of his wife and brother and beaten with iron rods and sticks. When he fell unconscious, Shah was dragged to the village square where the local religious leader, Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, ordered the mob to stone him, according to a report in the daily Dawn.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Flying saucers on the rise again ?


by Rashomi Silva

Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), commonly called 'flying saucers', are in the news again. Several UFO sightings have been reported from various parts of Sri Lanka over the last few weeks.

"These sightings have been confirmed by a group of keen observers," said Prof. Chandana Jayaratne of the University of Colombo, who has been investigating reports of such sightings, told a press conference held in the Colombo University.

One of the observers, Sanjeeva Bandara, has even written books on UFOs.

"More than 100 villagers have seen the UFO," an observer said. "In general we cannot consider these stories as being fabricated. We camped near the Parakrama Samudra on June 15. We didn't see anything on our first day but on the second day around 11.30 pm we saw a blue-white light.

"The light beam is so unlike any of other light beam we have seen before. The light beams rotated, suddenly disappeared and reappeared a few seconds later from a place 300-400m away from the place it was initially. A few seconds later it again disappeared.

"We camped near the Parakrama Samudraya. Dense jungle stretched out to the far end and the light beam came from the jungle. Therefore, we could not go out to investigate. Out of our preliminary investigations it turned out to be an object capable of emitting 'V' shaped beam of light of intense illumination.

"The villagers including an Advanced Level student told us the flying object is capable of moving at a very high velocity and when it is travelling at a lower height it made a sound similar to a sound made by a bee. And it could change its direction to avoid colliding with trees. For three consecutive days we observed the same UFO," the observers.

`Miracle cars' turn out to be a mirage of deceit


The Kansas City Star

"Miracle cars" hot line

The word spread through churches and social networks from Houston to San Diego; from Billings, Mont., to Atlanta; from Kansas City to Memphis, Tenn.

A rich man had died and had wanted to reward others who had faith in God. His estate would sell you a high-end vehicle at dirt-cheap prices. Want a 1998 Ford 150 pickup for $1,000? A 1999 Jeep Cherokee for $1,500? A 1999 Ford Expedition for $2,000?

People around the country paid more than $19.4 million for these and other vehicles. But it was too good to be true. The "miracle cars" didn't exist. Now four persons are accused of operating a scam that swindled hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans.

"I feel stupid for having been duped," said an angry Mark Grissom of Atlanta. Grissom said that he is out $10,500 and that he innocently recruited a score of his friends and family members.

Last year, Missourians began providing details about the vehicle deals to the state attorney general's office, which referred the matter to the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City. Soon the investigation involved agents from the Internal Revenue Service and the Postal Inspection Service, and agencies in California and Tennessee.

Rapid-Fill Communion Wine Dispenser


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Goin' After the Creationists

The latest Bob the Angry Flower strip:

Friday, July 12, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – July 12, 2002

from The Washington Post

Researchers in New York have created infectious polioviruses from ordinary, inert chemicals they obtained from a scientific mail-order house, marking the first time a functional virus has been made from scratch and raising a host of new scientific and ethical concerns.

The laboratory-synthesized viruses are virtually identical to the naturally occurring viruses that cause polio, a paralyzing neurological disease. The new viruses proliferated in test tubes and caused polio when injected into mice, according to a report published yesterday.

A massive vaccination program sponsored by the World Health Organization aims to rid the world of polio by 2005 and has already eliminated the disease from all but a few countries. But the new work indicates that polio and perhaps other viral ailments -- including some with bioterror potential such as smallpox -- can be manufactured from raw materials and so may never be eliminated with total assurance.


More on Polio
from The New York Times

...Experts agree that the research — or the synthesis of any pathogen — does not violate the 1972 treaty banning germ weapons, which gives wide latitude to all kinds of defensive research.

Stephen S. Morse, director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at Columbia University and a former official of the defense agency, said there was nothing nefarious about the Pentagon sponsoring such research. "Hopefully, this will help people to be realistic about assessing future threats," he said.

Some scientists criticized the work. "I think it's inflammatory without scientific justification," said Dr. J. Craig Venter, who sequenced the human genome and is trying to synthesize micro-organisms for uses like cleaning the environment. "To purposely make a synthetic human pathogen is irresponsible."

Dr. Steven Block, a Stanford University expert on the applications of biotechnology to biowarfare, called the work a stunt. He played down any threat caused by synthetic viruses. "This is not the route to new kinds of terrific genetically engineered bioterror," he said.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A panel of space experts proposed a new 10-year program of unmanned missions to explore the solar system Thursday and gave its highest priority to a long-distance venture the Bush administration has already eliminated from the NASA budget.

The scientists said the flights are vital to advancing knowledge of how life developed in the solar system, how planets were formed and whether life exists beyond Earth, or ever did.

If all 20 missions on the panel's list are ultimately approved and succeed, the 10-year cost could run to $14 billion.

"Solar system exploration is the grand human endeavor that seeks to discover the nature and origin of the system of planets in which we live," said Michael Belton, chairman of the panel and a veteran planetary astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson.


from The Associated Press

BOSTON - Despite worrisome new findings about long-term use of hormone pills, a year or two on estrogen may still make sense for millions of women hoping to ease hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

Several doctors said Wednesday that the benefits almost certainly outweigh the risks, especially if women stop taking the pills as soon as they can.

"We should not go into a panic and stop using estrogens altogether. They are very effective," said Dr. Isaac Schiff of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Schiff heads a task force of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that will draw up new guidelines for hormone use following the landmark study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Washington -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein blasted President Bush's bioethics panel for proposing a four-year moratorium on cloning for biomedical research, saying the recommendation could lead to "early and painful deaths" by blocking scientists from pioneering treatments for a range of diseases.

But opponents of cloning also were disappointed that the president's Council on Bioethics did not endorse a permanent ban on using cloned human embryos for research purposes, as proposed by Bush and passed by the House last year.

The recommendations contained in the panel's 1,108-page report, released Thursday, reflected the sharp divisions among scientists, ethicists and the American public over the contentious issue of cloning human cells to develop potentially life-saving medical treatments -- and the difficulty Bush and lawmakers will have in finding a compromise.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush's decision to withdraw from an international climate treaty last year will, in the long run, save billions of dollars and millions of jobs, his top environmental adviser told a Senate panel Thursday.

"The Kyoto Protocol would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and caused the loss of up to 4.9 million jobs, risking the welfare of the American people and American workers," said James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Connaughton and Bush's senior advisers for science and economic matters also presented White House views on climate change Thursday before Democratic senators in charge of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the administration must move beyond mere "rhetoric" in setting goals for long-term cuts in emissions of heat- trapping greenhouse gases blamed by many scientists for global warming.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The El Nino weather phenomenon, which caused damage worldwide in 1997-98, has returned, government climate experts said Thursday.

This El Nino will be milder than the last one, but could begin affecting weather in the United States in the fall, according to climatologist Vernon Kousky of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

"This time around, El Nino will not be as powerful as the 1997-98 event, but we'll track it closely for any change in its projected strength," said Kousky. Once it matures, he said, El Nino should maintain a weak-to- moderate strength.


from The Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A deadly seal virus is sweeping across the seas of northern Europe and is threatening to match the devastating epidemic of 14 years ago that wiped out half the seal population in those waters, said an international study released Thursday.

Scientific tests on the carcasses confirm the phocine distemper virus, which does not affect humans, has infected seal communities in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, said the study published in the journal Science.

Populations had barely recovered from the 1988 disaster when the first seal victims were discovered in May. The disease spreads rapidly because seals travel hundreds of miles within a few days, and researchers said they found the identical virus in widely separated regions.


from The New York Times

CORNING, N.Y. — People in other cities may all be reading the same book, but here they are living the same life. And what a charmed life it is: free from nagging, threatening, blaming, criticizing, complaining, bribing — and full of loving, encouraging, accepting and negotiating.

At least that's the theory, "choice theory" to be exact: the framework for a happier existence as outlined by William Glasser, a psychiatrist in California and author of some 20 books whose beliefs about human nature have improbably taken root here.

Five years ago, Dr. Glasser spoke to a group of teachers in Corning and offered the idea of creating a "quality community" based on his ideas. (There are already nine Glasser "quality schools" around the country, from Charlottesville, Va., to Boulder, Colo.)

Corning chose, and in a social experiment that might be utopian or Orwellian, depending on your point of view, Dr. Glasser's theories have seeped into many corners of this city of 12,000, tucked into a corner of the Finger Lakes region.


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Bailey's Prairie Light

Science Frontiers, No. 142, Jul-Aug, 2002, p. 4


Usually we rely upon the current science literature for these digests appearing in *Science Frontiers*. But on rare occasions, someone will send in a personal observation that *must* be added to the files.

The file-of-the-moment is GLN1 or Low-Level Nocturnal Lights. The well-known Marfa and Brown Mountain lights are in this category, but they are usually seen at a distance and can easily be written off as the headlights of far-off automobiles. Some GLN1 lights, however, involve close encounters. The Tri-State or Hornet Light is an example of this variety. So is Bailey's Prairie Light.

We have at hand a lengthy, detailed description of an encounter with this particular light from J.H. Hall, Jr.; and it contains some fascinating features.

Located a few miles west of Angleton, Texas, south of Houston, Bailey's Prairie Light was a well-known, permanent feature of the area 32 years ago when Hall and his family hunted it down on their way home from a day at a Texas beach.

In most respects it is a typical "spooklight," but its remarkable interactions with Hall's inquisitive family spark the interest of the anomalist.

As described by Hall, Bailey's Prairie Light was a fairly bright, yellow spheroid varying between a soccer ball and basketball in size. Its surface brightness was low, most of the light originating from slowly moving internal filaments. Its height varied between 3 and 5 feet above the ground. It was not intelligent or inquisitive, as some spooklights are claimed to be. In fact, it would not tolerate close human approach--- anything closer than about 4 feet caused it to move to a new, more distant position.

Hall's children deemed the light a "fun thing."

Mark "ran through" the light several times and it went out and "popped up" around 30 to 100 feet away, always in the same direction.

Then Dawn "ran through" it from another direction. Same result.

The light was cold, no sensation of heat was felt when the children ran through it. However, each "run through" and subsequent position change dimmed it. If not harassed, the light returned to what seemed to be its optimum location. Hall opined that this position was probably the focus of energy of some sort.

After playing with Bailey's Prairie Light for an hour or so, Hall's children became bored, and the family resumed their trip home, stopping for a Dairy Queen on the way.

(Hall, John H., Jr.; personal communication, March 19, 2002.)

Comment. For accounts of many other spooklights see GLN1 in our *Remarkable Luminous Phenomena in Nature*.

Science Frontiers is a bimonthly collection of digests of scientific anomalies in the current literature. Published by the Sourcebook Project; P.O. Box 107; Glen Arm, MD 21057. Annual subscription: $8.00.


Books, Creationism and Scriptural Geology

Thoemmes Press is an independent publishing company based in Bristol, UK, specialising in reprinting primary source materials on the theme, History of Ideas, for the international library market.

We have a large publishing list in science and evolutionary works, of which, Creationism and Scriptural Geology is our newest title due to be published in September 2002 (due in the USA December 2002) which I feel may be of interest to you.

Our website offers a free encyclopedia on key figures from the History of Ideas, a free portrait gallery, a free monthly e-newsletter and online book introductions and essays. To access these services please visit

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 10, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Washington -- The Senate, ending two decades of fierce debate on a project that already has cost $7 billion, approved building a nuclear waste burial site at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert, over the strong objections of the state's leaders and concerns about the safety of shipping high-level radioactive waste across the country.

The Senate's 60-39 vote Tuesday evening brought the nation one step closer to the goal of President Bush and the nuclear industry of moving much of the radioactive material now stored at 131 power plants and military sites in 39 states into a single, national dump.

But supporters of the dump still face numerous legal and regulatory hurdles before they can start construction at the site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 17 miles from the California border.


from The Associated Press

Washington - President George W. Bush's nominee for surgeon general appeared headed for confirmation in the Senate after defending his medical record and ability to work with others.

Dr. Richard Carmona, an Arizona trauma surgeon and deputy sheriff, promised yesterday to use his experiences in health and law enforcement to help the nation prepare for bioterrorist threats.

"We really need to shift the paradigm to a society of prevention rather than one that waits for its citizens to become sick," he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.


from The New York Times

The announcement yesterday that a hormone replacement regimen taken by six million American women did more harm than good was met with puzzlement and disbelief by women and their doctors across the country.

A rigorous study found that the drugs, a combination of estrogen and progestin, caused small increases in breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Those risks outweighed the drugs' benefits — a small decrease in hip fractures and a decrease in colorectal cancer. Many of the 16,000 women in the study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, opened letters yesterday telling them to stop the drugs. In light of the findings, the study had come to a halt.

Hearing the news, some said the findings had persuaded them.

"I may have taken my last pill this morning," said Dr. Deborah Bublitz, a pediatrician in Littleton, Colo.


from The Associated Press

In what may be the most startling fossil find in decades, scientists in central Africa say they have unearthed the oldest trace of a pre-human ancestor -- a remarkably intact skull of a previously unknown species that walked upright as far back as 7 million years ago.

The thick-browed, flat-faced specimen was found in Chad, 1,500 miles west of earlier pre-human discoveries in east Africa. The skull's age, physical appearance and location challenge basic beliefs about the evolution of humankind's earliest ancestors.

Scientists gave the skull the nickname, Toumai, or "hope of life" in Africa's Goran language.

It was uncovered a year ago by a 40-person research team led by French paleontologists in a remote, wind-scoured stretch of desert dunes, but since was kept from public view. Details were to be published Thursday in the journal Nature. The researchers were to make their first public comments Wednesday in N' Djamena, the capital of Chad.


from The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - With the jab of a needle, volunteers are being injected with a smallpox vaccine as part of government-sponsored experiments that come amid heightened fear of biological terrorism.

About 330 volunteers will be inoculated with diluted doses of the vaccine over the next two weeks at four sites across the nation. On Monday, the Oakland Medical Center began vaccinating 50 volunteers.

Researchers will test two vaccines. One, known as Dryvax, was made 20 years ago and consists of 15 million doses. The other is more than 70 million doses that Aventis Pasteur Inc. donated to the government, which now must determine whether the vaccines are still useable.



SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A company growing corn spliced with a herpes-fighting human gene received broad and exclusive commercial rights to "molecular pharming" technology when its academic partner was granted a patent.

Several biotechnology companies and research labs are racing to develop ways to grow drugs in crops such as corn, tobacco and rice by splicing human genes that produce disease-fighting proteins in the plants' DNA.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted The Scripps Research Institute a patent that appears to give the La Jolla research lab and exclusive control to some of the most promising proteins -- called antibodies -- grown in all plants.


from The New York Times

A panel investigating possible scientific fraud at Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs has broadened the range and scope of its inquiry to include at least four papers on novel superconductivity experiments.

Editors at Nature, the journal that published the papers, were told of the decision on June 24. "Bell Labs called and alerted us the three superconductivity ones were also subject to the investigation," said Karl Ziemelis, an editor at Nature.

The panel is also examining at least one superconductivity article in the journal Science.

In May, Bell Labs set up the independent panel, led by Dr. Malcolm R. Beasley, a professor of applied physics at Stanford University, after outside scientists had noticed that identical graphs had appeared in several Bell Labs papers, even though they supposedly described different experiments.


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The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/space_elevator_020327-1.html By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 07:00 am ET
27 March 2002

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO -- Make way for the ultimate high-rise project: the space elevator. Long viewed as science fiction "imagineering", researchers are gathering momentum in their pursuit to propel this uplifting concept into actuality.

Still, the mental picture needed to grasp the elevator to space idea…well, you can't be weak of mind.

Forget the roar of rocketry and those bone jarring liftoffs, the elevator would be a smooth 62,000-mile (100,000-kilometer) ride up a long cable. Payloads can shimmy up the Earth-to-space cable, experiencing no large launch forces, slowly climbing from one atmosphere to a vacuum.

Is the Universe older than expected?

Posted: July 10, 2002


An analysis of 13.5 thousand million-year-old X-rays, captured by ESA's XMM-Newton satellite, has shown that either the Universe may be older than astronomers had thought or that mysterious, undiscovered 'iron factories' litter the early Universe.

Artist's impression of the new 'unified model' for the different kinds of quasar activity. Photo: MPA/MPE

ESA's Norbert Schartel and colleagues from the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik,Germany, found more iron than anyone thought possible in the extremely distant celestial object, APM 8279+5255. The object is a quasar, that is, a young galaxy containing an incredibly bright central region, caused by gas falling into a giant black hole.

APM 8279+5255 is 13.5 thousand million light years away. Scientists know this because they have estimated a property of its light known as the red shift, which is caused by the expansion of the Universe stretching the wavelengths of light emitted by the celestial object. XMM-Newton's data showed that iron was three times more abundant in the quasar than in our Solar System.

Italian police shutter sacrilegious Web sites


The Associated Press The Associated Press Thursday, July 11, 2002

ROME Italian police have closed down five U.S.-based Web sites that had been blaspheming Catholicism with a combination of pornographic pictures and offensive statements about the Madonna.

Investigators first learned about the sites, with names that translate into phrases including "Pig Madonna" and "Blasphemy" in 2000.

"At these addresses, the mention of God and the Madonna, besides being preceded by strongly vulgar language, was tied to explicit images of sex," the police said Tuesday.

Blasphemy is illegal in Italy and although cursing has been decriminalized, publishing or broadcasting sacrilegious material can be prosecuted, the police said.



LONDON (FTMW) - Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, has applied to patent a device that its patent application suggests could counter any risk of brain tumours from electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones. The application filed by the company in the U.S. first in 1998 said it had been suggested that continuous exposure to radio frequency irradiation could lead "to a development of malignant tumour". It application said the invention would reduce the irradiation of the user, "especially the brain and the nerve tissues".

Did you know that mobile phone manufacturers, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola own over 25 PATENTS designed to protect users from Radio Frequency Radiation emitted by handsets. In an application filed by Nokia with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington D.C., it states "it has been suggested that" extended exposure to radio frequency radiation could lead " to a development of malignant tumors". The above statements are taken from The Times of London. Why not protect yourself and your loved ones?

Thousands of scientists are now warning manufacturers, the media, and governments of health dangers caused by electromagnetic waves from cell phones. Soon the Cellular Communications Industry Association will start publishing the amount of radiation that enters your head when using various wireless phones. Soon Cell manufacturers will be required to put warning labels on cell phones. This is already required in many countries.

ABC's 20/20 News (May 26, 2000) took the five most popular phones sold in the US and tested them at a highly respected German laboratory. Four out of the five phones tested were above the SAR limit. One thing is for certain, similar to the case of cigarette smoking, it will take several tests and many years before the effects of radio frequency radiation on the human body are known.

A Fossil Unearthed in Africa Pushes Back Human Origins

July 11, 2002

French scientists digging in Central Africa have uncovered a skull, virtually complete and almost seven million years old, that belonged to an individual about the size of a chimpanzee. It is, they say, the earliest known member of the human family, by perhaps as much as a million years.

The discovery, described in today's issue of the journal Nature, is being hailed as the most important fossil discovery in decades. Surprised by the age, complexity and geography of the fossils, paleoanthropologists spoke of the find as a critical and perhaps revolutionary turning point in the study of human origins.

The scientists said it was too early to know whether the skull represented a species on a direct ancestral line to humans. In fact, the fossils - a cranium, two lower jaw fragments and several teeth - suggest an evolutionary complexity and diversity in human origins that seem to defy description by the simplified family trees of the past.


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