NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 October 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

White House staffers gather for Bible study Voluntary meetings embrace president's emphasis on faith


October 14, 2002
By Judy Keen USA TODAY

WASHINGTON -- President Bush talks openly and proudly about his active spiritual faith. In another, less well known sign of the religious devotion that permeates the administration, some White House staffers have been meeting weekly at hour-long prayer and Bible study sessions.

Bush aides organized the sessions before his inauguration. One group meets during the lunch hour on Tuesdays, another on Thursdays. Attendance is voluntary and, although the lessons are Christian in nature, non-Christians are welcome.



Below I post a little something I wrote in response to creationists who want equal time in public school science classes. I post it again, modified a bit from the original version I wrote several years ago, in response to two stories, one a letter from a reader about Phillip Johnson and the other an AP story about creationism in Ohio. I will go along with this equal time proposal if my own equal time provisio were presented at all churches, temples, and mosques when discussing the creation.


Phillip Johnson came to speak at our church, Grace Presbyterian, in Houston last Sunday and I must say, attending his speech was the biggest waste of time I've experienced in membership in the church. He talked an hour and never said anything about the theory of intelligent design or the theory of evolution. All he talked about was Phillip Johnson and the proponents of the theory of evolution.

That figures, since Johnson isn't a biologist or a scientist of any kind. He is a retired law professor. As every lawyer knows, "When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law's against you, argue the facts.

And when the facts and the law are against you, abuse the opposing counsel." So that's what he did. I came away from his speech knowing no more about the concept of

intelligent design than I did before. That was enough to satisfy his audience at Grace Presbyterian Church, who weren't there to learn anything so much as to have their prejudices reinforced.

Ohio Plan Would Teach Evolution Debate


COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 14 (AP) A committee of the Ohio Board of Education recommended today that science classes in the state emphasize both evolution and the debate over its validity.

The committee left it up to individual school districts to decide whether to include in the debate the concept of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is guided by a higher intelligence.

The guidelines for the science curriculum simply put into writing what many school districts already do. The current guidelines do not even mention evolution.

Conservative groups, some of which had tried and failed to get biblical creation taught in the public schools, had argued that students should learn about intelligent design. Critics of intelligent design said it was creationism in disguise.


By Minister Michael Shermer*

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.

This morning we are going to talk about the creation of the universe and the origins of life on Earth. According to the Bible, Genesis 1:1-3: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Now, it is important for us to understand that no one was actually present at the creation so we don't really know what happened. Genesis 1:1-3 is only a theory, and as such cannot be treated as fact and is really nothing more than an educated guess. It is only fair that we remember that there are other theories of the creation that deserve equal time. For example:

Some Sumerians and Babylonians, Gilbert Islanders, Koreans, and Greeks believed that the world was created from the parts of a slain monster.

Some Zuni Indians, Cook Islanders, and Tahitians have a theory that the world was created by the interaction (read "sex") of primordial parents.

Some Japanese, Samoan, Persian, Chinese, and Hindu cultures have a theory that the world was generated from an egg.

Some Mayan and Egyptian cultures have a theory that the world was created by the spoken edict (command) of a god. Oh, come to think of it, the Hebrews have this same theory.

Some Burmese and Icelandic cultures have a theory that the world was created out of the sea.

And, of course, there is that dogma being foisted upon us by the liberal media and left leaning academics, the theory of evolution. But remember, it is only a theory.

As for the origins of human life, that is spelled out in Genesis 1:27: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Of course, not only was no one present to witness this act (except for Adam and Eve after they were created), it should be pointed out that this theory has a counter theory in Genesis 2:7, where "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In this theory Adam is all alone without a mate, so in Genesis 2:21-22 "the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."

Since everyone here was blessed by the almighty with a brain that thinks, I will allow you to decide which theory is the correct theory of the creation of humans: Genesis 1 or Genesis 2. Weigh the evidence and decide for yourselves. You be the judge.

Oh, there is one other minor wrinkle in the story. Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel. Now, Cain--as firstborns are wont to do to their laterborn siblings who might cut into their limited parental resources--slew him.

That left Adam, Eve, and Cain as the only humans on the entire Earth. But in Genesis 4:17 we read that "Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch."

Now, I don't mean to burden you with more of the liberal media's fascination with smut and porn, but I think as created beings endowed with intelligence and critical thinking skills blessed to us by the good Lord, it might be reasonable to ask just who it was that Cain "knew." Unless Adam was blessed with both types of reproductive organs, or Cain was capable of parthenogenesis, then we are left with the theory that Cain "knew" his mother.

But that's just a theory, and as we all know, theories are just wild guesses and should not be taken seriously. Let us pray instead . . . . amen.

*I actually am a minister in the Universal Life Church, someone anyone can do on line (just download the form and fill it out). It is legal and binding and I have actually performed three wedding ceremonies as a minister!

Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@AOL.COM

Ohio Plan Would Teach Evolution Debate
New York Times
Associated Press


COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 14 (AP) - A committee of the Ohio Board of Education recommended today that science classes in the state emphasize both evolution and the debate over its validity.

The committee left it up to individual school districts to decide whether to include in the debate the concept of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is guided by a higher intelligence.

Two Arrested After Raid On NJ Home Uncovers Stolen Remains, Temple
by Jeff Rossen


"In a disturbing case, a father and son were arrested in Newark, accused of robbing graves. The two men say they were taking bodies from cemeteries to conduct religious ceremonies."

Rationalists Doubt Mother Teresa's Miracle


"A group of Indian rationalists challenged Tuesday a miracle attributed to Mother Teresa that has put her on the path to sainthood and called for a government inquiry into whether it took place."

Spider webs float through Santa Cruz
Associated Press


"Long, floating spider webs are bobbing through the skies of Santa Cruz this week, confusing some community members concerned about biological weapons, UFOs and other phenomena."

In Cuban Depths, Atlantis or Anomaly?
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post


"The images appear slowly on the video screen, like ghosts from the ocean floor. The videotape, made by an unmanned submarine, shows massive stones in oddly symmetrical square and pyramid shapes in the deep-sea darkness."

Where Do Tarot Cards Come From?
By Brendan I. Koerner


"The sniper who's terrorizing Greater Washington, D.C., left a taunting tarot cardâ€"inscribed "Dear Policeman, I am God"â€"near the scene of one shooting. Where do tarot cards come from?"

The 9-11 Lottery Coincidence
By John Allen Paulos


"Everything's connected: the attacks on America last year, the New York State lottery, the collapse of WorldCom, the Bush Administration's proposed war against Iraq, the death of quarterback Johnny Unitas, and many other private events. To top this off, Arthur C. Clarke anticipated some of these incidents decades ago."

Hugh Ross
The 700 Club


"Hugh has been stargazing since he was a young boy, and by the age of 17, he had become director of observations for the Royal Astronomical Society in Canada. As an astronomer, Hugh has logged thousands of observation time and has learned that science can and does address the possibility of life’s existence elsewhere in the universe. In the mid-'70s, Hugh was assigned the task of processing UFO reports at CalTech. At the same time, Hugh began an intense study of the Bible. "Secular society is gullible about the possibility that extraterrestrial life exists without having scientific evidence to prove it," says Hugh. "The motivation for this book is the need to communicate clear, satisfying explanations from scientific, theological, philosophical, and political standpoints.""

Jesus and the FDA


"A quiet battle is raging over the Bush Administration's plan to appoint a scantily credentialed doctor, whose writings include a book titled As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, to head an influential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on women's health policy. Sources tell Time that the agency's choice for the advisory panel is Dr. W. David Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist who also wrote, with his wife Linda, Stress and the Woman's Body, which puts "an emphasis on the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life" and recommends specific Scripture readings and prayers for such ailments as headaches and premenstrual syndrome. Though his resume describes Hager as a University of Kentucky professor, a university official says Hager's appointment is part time and voluntary and involves working with interns at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital, not the university itself. In his private practice, two sources familiar with it say, Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. Hager did not return several calls for comment."

Defense witnesses take stand in Einhorn trial
By Jacqueline Soteropoulos
Philadelphia Inquirer


"The initial witnesses presented in defense of accused murderer Ira Einhorn provided jurors with intimate portraits of Einhorn's involvement in the paranormal and of his many paramours."

Flu shot guidance renews old fears
St. Petersburg Times


"Last month, for the first time, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged parents to have their young children vaccinated against the flu."

Therapeutic massage helps hospital patients
By Bill Scanlon
Rocky Mountain News


"As a folk guitarist twangs to his right and a masseuse kneads his left foot, a glassy contentment washes over Randy Sindelir's eyes."

Space Center & Me
Houston Press


"Every clique has an "out" group that insiders make fun of. For stoners, it's kickers; for kickers, it's hipsters. When I was a research assistant during my brief stint as an astrophysics major, our whipping boys of choice were the UFO believers and perpetuators of the theory that aliens built the pyramids. Our views of these "pseudoscientists" varied from mild amusement to fear their wackiness could bring about the end of civilization."

Nasdaq Down, Psychic Readings Up
By Ned Randolph


"Aeion pulled a card from his tarot card deck. "The Four of Swords -- it's shown itself again," he said with a sigh. "I feel like there's a two-month period you're waiting for.""

Aspen psychics battle over business
Boulder Daily Camera


A woman who makes her living as a psychic here is in a legal battle she said she saw coming. Nancy Marks is suing to stop another woman from using the name "Aspen Psychic." She said she foresaw the trouble.

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Science In the News

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

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 – October 15, 2002

from The New York Times

In some ways, the pivotal figure in the research misconduct case at Bell Labs was not Dr. J. Hendrik Schön, the scientist fired last month for fabricating and manipulating data, but Dr. Bertram Batlogg, the man who hired him in 1998.

An investigatory panel cleared Dr. Batlogg, and all other co-authors, of knowledge of the deception. But without Dr. Batlogg's imprimatur, the remarkable findings in superconductivity and organic electronics, now discredited, would have been scrutinized more skeptically sooner.

Dr. Schön in 1998 was unknown, a newly minted Ph.D. from the University of Konstanz in Germany. Dr. Batlogg was prominent for work on high-temperature superconductors and had a reputation of being smart and meticulous.


from The New York Times

It's often said that the greatest thrill in science is to be first to observe a new phenomenon of nature. For nuclear physicists that means being present at the creation of an element, glimpsing for an instant a new kind of matter.

But science's most painful experience is having to withdraw a claim of discovery — because of an honest mistake or, far worse, deliberate fakery.

For an exhilarating few months in 1999, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's nuclear science division thought it had done something many believed impossible, synthesizing the heaviest atom yet, called element 118. They could barely believe it themselves.


from The New York Times

Sometime, perhaps about 50 million years ago, farming was invented. Not by human beings of course, but by ants, termites and beetles, each of which developed forms of fungi gardening.

Previous studies have tracked the molecular evolution of ants and beetles. The tools used, statistical analyses of genetic variation, are the same ones that have produced the claim, widely but not completely accepted, that human beings are all descended from a single female ancestor in Africa — called Eve, of course — about 150,000 years ago.

Researchers have found Eves and Adams among the ants and beetles as well. Farming appears to have evolved only once among the ants, suggesting one founding pair, although the descendant farmers have domesticated new varieties of fungi several times. In contrast, farming appears to have evolved at least seven different times among the beetles.

Now a European research group has turned its attention to fungus-farming termites, which have been less well studied. What they have found is an out- of-Africa story in which termites and fungi joined together once and have not separated since. It was, apparently, the beginning of a beautiful symbiosis.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The genetic quirk that makes red hair red may also make carrot-tops harder to knock out -- in the operating room, that is.

A new study suggests people with naturally red hair need about 20 percent more anesthesia than patients with other hair colors.

It's a small study that will need confirmation. But it marks the first time scientists have linked a visible genetic trait to anesthesia doses, said Dr. Daniel Sessler of the University of Louisville, whose study will be presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Inadequate doses of general anesthesia can allow people to recall surgery, or even wake up during it, problems that occur in 1 percent of cases, Sessler said.


from The Associated Press

CHICAGO - Duct tape, the all-purpose household fix-it with hundreds of uses, can also remove warts.

Researchers say over-the-hardware-counter duct tape is a more effective, less painful alternative to liquid nitrogen, which is used to freeze warts.

The study was reported in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

In the study, patients wore duct tape over their warts for six days. Then they removed the tape, soaked the area in water and used an emery board or pumice stone to scrape the spot. The tape was reapplied the next morning. The treatment continued for a maximum of two months or until the wart went away.

The duct tape irritated the warts, and that apparently caused an immune system reaction that attacked the growths, said researcher Dr. Dean "Rick" Focht III of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.


from United Press International

BETHESDA, Md. - Nanotechnology is a term just beginning to receive public attention, but the top researchers and communicators in the scientific discipline already have awards to strive for and the latest group of winners was named Sunday at a conference.

The Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes, announced at the 10th Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, are given in honor of Richard Feynman, the physicist who sparked interest in manipulating atoms and molecules at the nanometer scale in 1959, during a presentation titled, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom."

A nanometer is to an inch what an inch is to 400 miles.

Chad Mirkin, a professor of chemistry and director of Northwestern University's Institute for Nanotechnology in Evanston, Ill., won the Feynman Experimental Nanotechnology Prize for his work in using nanoparticles of gold and silver to accurately detect a handful of DNA molecules much more rapidly than current medical tests.


from Newsday

No one knows where Edward Jenner sat to write his landmark scientific report, whether in a quiet meadow under the leafy umbrella of a tree, or by the glow of lamplight late at night.

While such minutiae is forever lost to history, these facts remain immutable: When the English physician's blockbuster report, penned with a quill, appeared in 1798, the world was rocked by his discovery. Jenner had found a way to prevent smallpox and thus ushered in the long-running era of the vaccine.

Though it would take 151 years to eradicate the disease in the United States and 31 more before the scourge was stamped out globally, one thing was impressively clear: The vaccine, as crude as it was, had stood the test of time. Indeed, the World Health Organization was able to mount an unprecedented campaign in 1967 to eradicate the disease, using Jenner's invention, which got its start from his observations of milk maids. Jenner noticed that milkers had indisputable immunity to smallpox.

Now, federal health officials have retrained a spotlight on the smallpox vaccine, a live-virus inoculation delivered with a needle that lost usefulness during the era of bell-bottom pants and moon shots.


from Newsday

With several hundred colleagues and well-wishers on hand to celebrate his Nobel Prize in physics and his 88th birthday, retired Brookhaven National Laboratory chemist Raymond Davis Jr. made a triumphant homecoming yesterday to the lab where he spent most of his research career.

Davis was visiting relatives in Vermont when the award was announced last week, so lab officials decided a proper fete was in order for the research pioneer who spent 36 years at the Upton lab. Colleagues and lab officials repeatedly described Davis as a tenacious and gifted experimentalist who opened up an entirely new field of physics by discovering tiny particles called neutrinos that are emitted during the sun's nuclear reactions.

"Ray Davis' work, I think, represents the best that physics, in particular, and science in general can offer," said Peter Paul, the interim Brookhaven director. "Namely, the vision of one person and his or her mind, way ahead of the rest of the world, doing the impossible, and succeeding."

In an interview with Newsday before the celebration, Davis said he felt "total surprise" at hearing he had won the Nobel Prize, which he shared with two other researchers. His wife, Anna, said the news came unexpectedly early Tuesday from a nephew in St. Paul, Minn., who had heard about the award on National Public Radio.


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Monday, October 14, 2002

Common Parasite Overturns Traditional Beliefs About The Evolution And Role Of Hemoglobin


Date: Posted 10/5/1999

DURHAM, N.C. -- Science's understanding of the evolution and role of hemoglobin, considered one of the most studied and best-understood molecules in nature, is being rewritten with the help of a common intestinal parasite that infects more than 1 billion people worldwide.

A team led by Dr. Jonathan Stamler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Duke University Medical Center, believes that the hemoglobin molecule found in the gut of Ascaris lumbriocoides is a remnant of a crucial evolutionary junction in which anaerobic life forms, like bacteria, separated from newly emerging aerobic organisms, such as humans. The worm, in short, reveals that hemoglobin evolved first and foremost to handle the molecule nitric oxide (NO) rather than oxygen, as scientists thought, and tells the tale of when hemoglobin ceased being a "consumer" of oxygen and became a "carrier" of oxygen, Stamler said.

In a report published in the Sept. 30 issue of the journal Nature, Stamler and collaborators from Washington University in St. Louis provide biochemical proof to support this conclusion. They show that the worm actually consumes oxygen -- which it finds toxic -- with the help of NO. The discovery may yield new therapies for diseases such as cancer, in which starving tumors of oxygen is a major therapeutic focus, the researchers said.

Besra's husband says doctors cured her, not Mother Teresa


Press Trust of India

New York, October 14: The husband of Monica Besra who was reportedly cured miraculously by Mother Teresa, has said his wife was cured by doctors and not by miracle, a report has said.

"It is much ado about nothing," he told the Time magazine. "My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle." Peeved with the attention his now famous wife was getting, he wants to be left in peace.

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 – October 14, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

For generations, at least since the discovery of Pluto in 1930, schoolchildren could find their way around the solar system reasonably well just by memorizing nine names: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Now, the trip is a lot more challenging. A new view of our celestial neighborhood has emerged from recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and sophisticated surveys of regions of space once thought to be empty.

Besides the familiar list of planets, now there's Texas-size Ceres and 40, 000 or so other asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Toss in a few centaurs - - a class of icy minor planets, not quite asteroids and not quite comets -- such as Chiron and Pholus, out between Jupiter and Neptune.

Some of the most intriguing newfound objects reside in a vast region of space beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt, an icy debris field that holds the raw stuff of comets.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

The University of California at San Francisco will show off a dream come true Thursday when it invites about 200 Bay Area biotech executives to tour the first building of its new Mission Bay campus.

The tour is designed to help Catellus Development Corp., which owns Mission Bay, persuade biotech and drug firms to build offices around UCSF's new campus.

So far it has been tough going for Catellus, which ran a two-decade campaign to develop this 303-acre slice of San Francisco -- only to get the political green light just as the bottom fell out of the commercial real estate market.

Now, UCSF and Catellus hope that, in a few months, as 900 structural chemists, molecular biologists and cell scientists begin moving into Mission Bay, biotech firms will want to open shop across from one of the world's premier biomedical universities.


from The Washington Post

Synesthesia is an unusual phenomenon whereby people experience different senses blending into one another. Some synesthetes experience individual words in particular colors. Others experience smells when exposed to shapes or hear sounds inside tastes.

While most experts do not consider it a disorder -- synesthetes are usually glad to have the ability, and it sharply improves their memory -- research into synesthesia is teaching scientists important lessons about the normal brain, perhaps even about aspects of creativity.

"Synesthesia is seven times more common among artists, novelists and poets," said Vilayanur Ramachandran, a neurologist at the University of California at San Diego, who is researching the phenomenon. "What do artists have in common? They have the ability to link seemingly unconnected domains."


from The Washington Post

ILULISSAT, Greenland -- The iceberg was at his back. Suddenly it began moving like a monster that was waking up. Aqqaluk Lynge, hunting for seal on an ice sheet nearby, looked up in alarm, knowing that these floating mountains off the coast of Greenland, for all their frozen beauty, are ruthless and deadly.

So he decided to get moving, he recounted recently. But the engine on his motorboat wouldn't start.

Lynge has a special reverence for Greenland's icebergs. A member of the Inughuit native people, he's out on the water often and says the icebergs have become more numerous and more dangerous in recent years, a change he attributes to warming of the global climate.

Icebergs are tongues of glaciers that have broken off and fallen into the sea. That process is called "calving," and it is often announced by a loud hiss of ice crackling and air exploding from ancient ice. Soon after, an iceberg is born and sent into the sea.


Commentary from The New York Times

NOBEL fans have stopped being surprised when, come October, they learn who has won the prize for literature. Often it's someone hopelessly obscure (quick — name your favorite work by Kenzaburo Oe, Wislawa Szymborska or this year's laureate, Imre Kertesz). Or the winner is so well known — Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison — that literary snobs can think of a dozen more deserving writers.

The Nobel Prizes for peace (typically given more for good intentions than results) and for economics (more of an art than a science) can seem equally quixotic. By contrast, the prizes for physics, chemistry and medicine have a pleasing inevitability to them, as shown last week when widely recognized accomplishments in astrophysics, protein chemistry and molecular genetics were honored.

Science, unlike the arts, is conducted according to universally accepted standards. Experts can agree on what makes a good theory or experiment in a way they never could for a novel or a poem.

But that's the easy part. Trying to decide who instead of just what deserves recognition opens the door to the same kind of speculation and subjectivity that surrounds Britain's contentious Booker Prize for the year's best novel.


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Bush's Science Advisers Drawing Criticism

October 10, 2002

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 - The Bush administration's choice of science advisers on matters varying from reproductive medicine to lead poisoning in children is drawing criticism from some Democrats in Congress, who complain that the advisers are being selected for their ideology and ties to industry rather than their scientific expertise.

At issue is how Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, and his staff are reconstituting the expert committees that advise Mr. Thompson and the agencies under his control. The experts are influential in shaping federal policy.

In a particularly controversial case, the Food and Drug Administration has asked an obstetrician-gynecologist who strongly opposes abortions to serve on the panel that reviews reproductive health drugs. The doctor, Dr. W. David Hager, teaches at the University of Kentucky and has written popular books asserting the healing power of faith in Jesus.


Astronomers Discover Wake of Planet Around Nearby Star


Thursday, October 10, 2002

An international team of astronomers today report the discovery of a huge distorted disk of cold dust surrounding Fomalhaut - one of the brightest stars in the sky. The most likely cause of the distortion is the gravitational influence of a Saturn-like planet at a large distance from the star tugging on the disk. This provides some of the strongest evidence so far that Solar Systems similar in size, or even bigger than our own, are likely to exist.

Candid Statements and Unpleasant Truths


Editor's Introduction -- Where do textbooks come from? More specifically, where do biology textbooks come from? And why are they the way they are? Some candid answers to those questions appear in Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation's Schools, a report prepared by the National Research Council and published by the National Academy Press (Washington, DC).

Here are excerpts from the report. They conclude with the most important of the National Research Council's four recommendations: Educators should have access to science-book reviews prepared by scientists -- in other words, by the only people who can reasonably and reliably be expected to know about the subject matter. Moreover, the NRC says, the advice of scientists should be enlisted during the adoption of science textbooks by local school districts.

Zippy's abductions

From Zippy the Pinhead at


Sunday, October 13, 2002

Oy McVeigh


February 21–28, 2002

pretzel logic

by Howard Altman

At least once a week since I first wrote about him some seven years ago, I get an e-mail or phone call about my old friend SOLLOG, the porn purveyor cum psycho psychic who claims to have predicted every disaster, ecological and man-made, since about 1995.

Sex and Death
The awful existential significance of cellular suicide.

Jim Holt
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2002, at 12:52 PM PT

Monday, three biologists won a Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on how healthy cells can deliberately kill themselves. Cellular suicide was first discovered in the early 1970s. Scientists dubbed it apoptosis (AP-o-TOE-sis), a Greek word meaning "falling away," as in petals from a flower or leaves from a tree. Most of us do not worry inordinately about apoptosis. A few brain cells self-destructing here, a few lung cells or muscle cells self-destructing there—what's the difference? We go on living just fine. But, though it may not be obvious from today's news stories about the Nobel Prize, cellular suicide has an awful existential significance. It is the link between sex and death.

For the first billion years after life appeared on Earth, death was a contingent thing. The single-celled organisms that existed back then were essentially immortal. They reproduced over and over again by fission. Given protection from predators and enough food, they never died.

Only when sex entered the picture did death become inescapable. Living things that reproduce sexually have two kinds of cells: germ cells, which are involved in reproduction, and somatic cells, which aren't. The cells in our muscles and brains and hearts and lungs and just about everywhere else are somatic. The DNA in them directs the cell's day-to-day functioning. Over time this somatic DNA accumulates errors in the form of mutations—errors which make it not just irrelevant, but harmful. That is why every somatic cell has embedded in it a self-destruct program—a "death gene." After a certain predetermined span, the cell stops dividing and commits suicide, chewing up its bad DNA in the process.

The DNA in germ cells, by contrast, is destined for the next generation. These cells, which make sperm and ova, have lots of DNA-repair enzymes that prevent the buildup of dangerous mutations. Once enough copies of the germ-cell DNA get out into the world through sex, the somatic cells—which form the structures that make intercourse possible—become just so much excess baggage.

The division of labor between somatic and germ cells is eminently reasonable from the DNA's point of view. From our point of view, it is terrible. Our gonads aside, we are agglomerations of somatic cells. Our brains—the seat of our consciousness, of our selves—are made up of components intent on committing suicide as they become genetic garbage. Even if we evade disease and accident, senescence is sure to set in as more and more of our cells undergo programmed self-extinction. When enough of them die in our critical organs, so do we. As one biologist has put it, "Sex can save our germ cells, but it cannot save us."

One of the three scientists who shared yesterday's Nobel Prize was honored for identifying a death gene that may control cellular suicide in humans. What if this gene could somehow be switched off? Mightn't that be a first step toward bodily immortality? In fact, this seems to be precisely how a certain rather creepy form of immortality was conferred on one Henrietta Lacks of Baltimore. In 1951, Lacks, a mother of four then just entering her 30s, was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital with cervical cancer. A piece of her tumor was removed and, as it happens, passed on by the pathologist to a researcher who was trying to grow human tissue in vitro.

The cells from Henrietta Lacks—labeled HeLa—were astonishing. Unlike other human cell lines, which would grow for a while and then peter out, HeLa proliferated nonstop and consumed food voraciously. They seemed to have no senescence clock, no suicide program. Since this made them perfect for studying human cell biology, they were distributed to researchers all over the world. They were even sent into orbit aboard the Discover 17 satellite.

Once introduced into a lab, HeLa cells were so vigorous that they crowded out the other human cell lines. In the mid-'60s, it was discovered, to the horror of medical researchers, that hundreds of published scientific papers supposedly describing how certain heart cells or liver cells behaved were actually about HeLa. Since then the exponential growth of HeLa cells has continued apace. Somehow—scientists are still not sure how—their "death genes" have been deactivated. The number of them around the world today (and in space!) defies comprehension. Each contains a genetic blueprint for constructing Henrietta Lacks—who died in the hospital back in 1951.

This is not the sort of deathlessness anyone desires. We want the immortality of a god, not of a tumor.

In 1929 James Thurber and E.B. White posed a deep question: Is sex necessary? Seven decades later, the answer remains shrouded in mystery. But thanks to the work of yesterday's Nobel laureates and others, we have gained some understanding of a related question: Is death necessary? The answer appears to be yes—because of sex.

Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2072092

HAUNTED by spirits
Ghost hunters search for spooks ... and explanations


The Olympian, Olympia Washington Saturday, October 5, 2002

Keith Age, 39, founder of the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society, has spent 20 years investigating the paranormal but says he's never seen a ghost. Gannett News Service THOMAS NORD GANNETT NEWS SERVICE It's just not fair. Troy Taylor has only seen one ghost -- as best he can tell -- and he wasn't at all interested in busting it. But you know the media. So lazy.

"You get tired of every article coming out saying, 'He ain't afraid of no ghost,' " says Taylor. "Or how many times can they say, 'Who you gonna call?' "

Taylor's singular sighting occurred during the summer of 2001. As one of the nation's leading explorers of the paranormal, Taylor had been drawn to a barn in northern Indiana that the locals claim is haunted.

The vast majority of the time, that's going to mean strange sounds, doors slamming or inexplicable chills. If Casper were to show up on Jay Leno, then there wouldn't be much "para" left in paranormal.

"We're not looking for ghosts," explains Taylor, seeming to contradict his very reason for being. "We're looking for a natural explanation for what you're seeing or hearing. Ninety percent of the cases we've investigated don't turn out to be ghosts."

Skepticism is a requirement, but it's pretty hard to resist the lure of a haunted barn when you're the president of the American Ghost Society and have written 25 books on the subject.

"We sat in that barn for hours. It was pitch black and hot as blazes," he recalls. "Through the locked door of the barn comes this white light -- glaringly white, brighter than any flashlight than I have ever seen -- and it's about a foot wide by 31/2 feet tall. It lit up everything inside the barn."

Then it got really spooky.

"It started moving from one end of the barn to the other," he says. "It went through the solid walls of the horse stalls at the speed of a quick walk. The whole thing took about 20 seconds." Naturally, he took lots of pictures?

"That's how the story ends," he says, embarrassed. "No pictures! After 20 years of being a ghost hunter, I sat there with my mouth open and watched it go by."

He doesn't much care whether you believe this story or not. He's long past that point.

"I don't worry too much about that," he says from his home in Alton, Ill. "You don't have to believe in it for it to be something that I will continue to investigate and pursue. I'm looking more for evidence for myself than for others. I don't have an agenda."

What he does have is a successful career as an authority on the paranormal, which simply means anything that science can't explain.

'Everybody's got their opinions'

In addition to his own books -- the latest, "Confessions of a Ghost Hunter," is due out this month -- his Whitechapel Press publishes several other authors in the genre. Meanwhile, Taylor's bookstore, The History & Hauntings Book Co., is a mecca for kindred spirits.

A hunter of ghosts since his late teens, 35-year-old Taylor says interest in spooks, specters and other spiritual what-not is greater than ever. He thinks it might have something to do with society's increasing fascination with the unexplained -- reflected in such shows as "The X-Files" -- and an increasing tolerance for the bizarre and eccentric.

"If you told someone in the 1960s that you believe in ghosts, think of what they would have said about you," says Keith Age, founder of the Louisville (Ky.) Ghost Hunters Society. "You wouldn't have gone around telling people that."

Like Taylor, Age says it helps when you just don't care what the nonbelievers think.

"Everybody's got their opinions," he says. "That's never going to change." Age, 39, has been investigating the unexplained for 20 years. As if to bolster his bona fides, he says he has never seen a ghost. And like Taylor, this isn't "Scooby-Doo" here. Age isn't trying to rid your life of spooks -- that's your problem. All he's looking for is evidence.

He's seen strange things, like shadows that dance in the corner of his eye, and felt cold spots in homes that should be as warm as toast. He even dated a girl whose family claimed their home was inhabited by spirits. "But have I ever seen a ghost? Never," he says. "I've seen strange things, but I've never seen a ghost. Some people claim they have seen one, but, to quote one of our members, 'Until I see Satan tap-dancing on the table with the top hat ...' "

It might seem ironic, but Age says a hardcore ghost hunter is more skeptical than most people. "I've never said any place is 'haunted' -- that's a word I will not use," he says. "Now as far as paranormal activity, there is a lot of it up there."

Not being an exact or even widely recognized science, paranormal investigation doesn't have much in the way of tools. Hunters such as Age invest in devices that measure electromagnetic energy on the belief that spirits generate energy that can be measured, and in fancy thermometers that can pinpoint the temperature variations in a room, another supposed indicator of ghostly activity. A good camera is a must, for ghosts are sometimes spotted on the film after evading the naked eye.

Age scoffs at those who think this is all about Ouija boards and seances. "I'm probably the most skeptical person there is," claims Age. "It takes a lot to convince me. Not everything is paranormal. A lot of times there is a reason for something."

Ghosts, says Taylor, don't always hang out in spooky old asylums and American Indian burial grounds. That, he says, is simply society's mythmakers and yarn-spinners at work. The reality is more complicated.

"You'd be surprised," he says. "I get people who will contact me about ghost sightings in brand new homes in brand new subdivisions. I hear about strange things happening in pizza places, airports, shopping malls. On the other hand, just because somebody died violently somewhere doesn't mean that their spirit is hanging around there."

Nor does Taylor seem too keen on folks whose minds might be a little too open. "I hear people saying all the time that ghosts are everywhere," he says. "Well, they're not. Because if they were, they would be a lot easier to find."

Tell us your spooky stories
Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had an inexplicably spooky experience? Have you ever had an encounter with something that you -- honestly -- thought was a ghost or band of ghosts?
We want to hear your stories. Write about your experience in 100 words or less, and it might be published in the print or online edition of The Olympian. Write Sarah Jackson at sajackso@olympia.gannett.com or Sarah
Jackson, P.O. Box 1219, Olympia, WA 98507-1219, with your story. Call 360-704-6871 with questions.

Scientists clash over skull


Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK

The war of words over the significance of an ancient skull known as Toumai resurfaced on Wednesday.

The fossil specimen was described as possibly the most important find of its kind in living memory when it was first presented to the media in July.

French palaeontologist Michel Brunet, who unearthed Toumai in Chad, said it represented the earliest known hominid, or pre-human ancestor, yet found - it is almost seven million years old.

But some researchers voiced scepticism at the time and they have now gone into print with their criticism.

Skull find sparks controversy

Brigette Senut, Milford Wolpoff, Martin Pickford and others argue in the journal Nature that the skull is not on the human branch of the evolutionary tree at all.

Instead, they say, the specimen (formally classified as Sahelanthropus tchadensis) is probably that of an early gorilla or a chimpanzee, or a species that has since become extinct.

Walking upright

They put very different interpretations on the skull's features to that of Brunet. Its short face and small canines are female characteristics and are not conclusive evidence that S. tchadensis was a hominid, they believe.

"I don't see how you can tell what it is," Wolpoff, a University of Michigan anthropologist, said. "But it is not human."

Researchers find 'astonishing' skull

His team focus in particular on the "scarring" on the skull left by neck muscles which can indicate how the spine related to the head, giving clues as to whether the creature could have walked upright.

"In looking at the scars, they told us quite clearly that this animal did not habitually walk erect," Wolpoff said. "It did not have human posture, therefore it is not human."

What the experts say

Michel Brunet, of the University of Poitiers, has hit back at the criticism, and is clearly irritated by the comments of his detractors.

He accuses them of being "flippant", saying their statements are a "curious" attempt to "undermine... (and) misrepresent" his findings.

Peer review

Brunet says Wolpoff and colleagues provide no evidence that the skull is that of an ape, "nor have they disproved any derived feature that this species shares with later hominids".

This area of science is known to be fiercely competitive, with each new discovery received with cool scepticism by the rival research groups who are all digging in different parts of Africa.

In January last year, it was Senut and Pickford who had to face the doubters when they announced the discovery of Kenyan fossils - a piece of jaw, teeth, a fingertip, an arm, and a sturdy leg bone - they said came from a six-million-year-old hominid (Orrorin tugenensis).

It is the journals and the process of peer review that have to try to balance various claims and counter claims and steer the science towards a clearer understanding of the origins of the human race.

Chris Stringer, a hominids expert at London's Natural History Museum, told the BBC on Wednesday that whatever the truth about Sahelanthropus, it was still a find of great importance.

Patchy state

He said Toumai was the only relatively complete skull so far discovered from a time that has produced very few specimens.

And it was because of this "fossil gap" that he cautioned all researchers not to make grand claims for any find.

Humanity in my hands

"In my opinion, it is still too early to say where either Sahelanthropus or Orrorin lie in relation to our evolutionary line.

"The ancestors of the gorilla and chimpanzees remain to be recognised or found from six million years ago, no doubt along with parallel side-branches that probably also existed at that time.

He added: "It is dangerous to assume that the present distinctive features of gorillas, chimpanzees or humans would necessarily have been present at the beginnings of their evolution, or were unique to their line only.

"In my opinion, it is premature to push the claims too far for any fossils to be the earliest members of the human family in the present patchy state of our knowledge."

And Mark Collard, an anthropologist from University College London, was of the same opinion.

"At this point in time I don't think there is any reason to accept either team's hypothesis," he told the BBC.

"We can be confident that the specimen is a member of Hominoidea (the group formed by hominids and apes), but at the moment we cannot say whether [Toumai] is a hominid or an ape with any certainty at all."

Sahlins, colleagues rescue pamphlet press, revive it as Prickly Paradigm Press


By Josh Schonwald
News Office

Since the 1950s, when he began studying cannibalism and culture in the Fiji Islands, Marshall Sahlins has made a career of unconventional thinking. His ethnographic work in New Guinea, Fiji and Hawaii has sparked vigorous debate about the way anthropologists think about culture. But now, after more than 40 years of challenging orthodoxy in academia, the iconoclastic anthropologist has an additional career.

Earlier this year, Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Anthropology, became executive publisher of Prickly Paradigm Press, a small press that specializes in unconventional polemics and whose medium is also unconventional–the pamphlet. A slim, 80-page or less, 10,000- to 20,000-word volume, a pamphlet can almost fit in a breast pocket.

Bush is backwards


Inside the Beltway
John McCaslin

President Bush has trouble getting people to listen to him because the Oval Office suffers from poor "feng shui," the ancient Chinese art of placement so that the environment is in harmony with nature. For starters, he needs to place an elephant next to his telephone - not a real one, but a figurine, preferably a green one, lying on its side so that it appears dead.

Or so Sara Schroerlucke, an Internal Revenue Service official and a feng shui expert, informs the Federal Paper in a most intriguing interview.

"The elephant who puts his ear to the ground hears for miles and miles," she explains to contributing writer A.B. Stoddard.

So what other Oval Office redecorating should Mr. Bush undertake to improve his performance as president?

"Unfortunately, for the nation's boss, and his predecessors, the president sits with his back to the window, robbing him of essential 'chi,' or energy, which diminishes support for administration policy," the story goes.

Mrs. Schroerlucke, who had spent most of her 22-year federal career at the Pentagon before joining the IRS, recommends that Mr. Bush "reposition his desk with his back against the wall."

Once properly seated, the president should then "surround himself with symbols of strength, compassion, motivation and wisdom."

There are also "too many doors" in the Oval Office, she adds, providing multiple "escapes" for chi.

As for Mrs. Schroerlucke's credentials, she chairs the Washington chapter of the International Feng Shui Guild. Ironically, she used to work in the southwest portion of the Pentagon, which was rammed by terrorist hijackers on September 11. Several of her friends were killed.

For that reason, she hesitates to discuss the tragedy, but says many federal buildings have poor feng shui, particularly the Pentagon because of its five-sided design - five being the worst energy number and one representing misfortune.


LOS ANGELES — Q&A interview transcripts and journals document events usually equated with the 'supernatural' or 'miraculous' at http://testament.org

The free, noncommercial website evolved after Mark Russell Bell researched 'talking poltergeists' throughout history--including the Bell Witch of 19th Century Tennessee, the 1839 Mary Jobson case, and the 20th Century Isle of Man case--for an unpublished book. Bell then traveled to rural Oklahoma to interview a contemporary family experiencing the talking poltergeist phenomena. Initial interviews at the website feature Centrahoma's Bell/Mc Wethy family relating their interaction with a variety of spirit voices, including aliens.

Among the events experienced by Mark Russell Bell in Oklahoma were materialization of coins and other objects, spirit laughter and groaning, and insect phenomena. Upon returning to his native Los Angeles, Bell was shocked as the phenomena continued and escalated. He stopped working as a publicity writer for Paramount Pictures, the film studio with the familiar mountain logo, as he began transcribing the tapes. He discovered that interview microcassettes contained Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)/spirit messages and unattributed sounds. Bell soon began to realize the greater implications of what on the surface were a succession of events long associated with the 'paranormal.'

He comments, "After my trip, the range of my experiences throughout my life enabled me to find parallels between the account of the Angelic Force called 'Michael' by the family in Oklahoma with what has been recorded about the Angel Who spoke to Moses in the Mount, was mentioned as an 'angelical spirit' in the Nostradamus 1555 letter to his son, used Edgar Cayce as a channel, was referred to as 'The Mahatmas' by THE SECRET DOCTRINE author Madame Blavatsky, communicated via the Ouija Board to inspire the MESSAGES FROM MICHAEL books, and was glimpsed in a near death experience by Dr. George Ritchie as described in his book RETURN FROM TOMORROW."

Photographs at the testament.org website document spirits and apparitions, bushes that went up in flames behind Bell's condo, a bigfoot, and entities at a window that some believe to be aliens. The book TESTAMENT's publication date is January 9, 1997 and the first portion of the follow-up book NEW TESTAMENT, found exclusively on the Internet, was published on July 20, 1997. The ISBN is 0-9654916-0-9 and the Library of Congress Catalog Number is 96-71184. Bell has guested on such radio shows as "The Edge of Reality," "Night Search" and "Mysteries of the Mind."

At Paramount, Mark Russell Bell contributed to publicity campaigns for more than 100 films, including "Ghost," several "Star Trek" films, "Scrooged," "Dead Again," a reissue of "The Ten Commandments," "The Butcher's Wife," "Fatal Attraction," "The Godfather Part III," "Forrest Gump," "Braveheart," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "We're No Angels."

Bell says that after his experiences he perceives watching movies or television shows as distractions to the real and important work Spirit calls us to do: helping other members of our human & animal family and stopping the destruction of the Earth's eco-system.

"Angelic Guidance manifesting in the life of an entertainment industry publicity writer is a metaphor reminding us that we each are part of a divine process as we create from our subconscious and shared Superconscious mind," states Bell, whose lineage chart reveals ties with film directors Alfred Hitchcock ("Rebecca," "Family Plot") and Ken Russell ("Tommy," "Altered States").

The bell synchronicity in his life culminated when he found physical proof that he had lived a previous life as Bel-Marduk, also known as Egypt's Amun-Ra or Edgar Cayce's Ra-Ta (Sun-Earth) the priest. Visiting an antique store several blocks from his home in Echo Park, Bell found an Egyptian pendant with a profile of his exact likeness. In 1932 Edgar Cayce channeled the message that Ra-Ta would return to the world in 1998. That year, people discovered Bell via the Internet.

The connection between Bel-Marduk and Ra is a subject of the work of Zecharia Sitchin. In Sitchin's book THE COSMIC CODE, ancient texts are cited concerning Marduk's emergence from the Great Pyramid. Sitchin identifies these texts on pages 59/84 as "precursors of the New Testament tale of the death, entombment and resurrection of Jesus. Sentenced to exile, Ra/Marduk became Amen-Ra, the unseen god. . . . scholars seriously debated at the turn of this century whether his story was a prototype of the story of Christ."

As Bell observes in "Publishing Information" at http://testament.org — "Reading TESTAMENT illuminates the lost knowledge of the relationships of man and the carnal world with those changes that fade or fall away in their various effect, making plain the interpretation of death. The reader's consciousness is expanded; thus the 'uncovering' of the Hall of Records. . . . Spirit has made my life an open book so that others can expand their consciousness."

Forging the Pharaoh's name?


by Martin Stower

Above the so-called King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid is a series of five compartments:

Their function seems to be to protect the roof of the King's Chamber from the pressure exerted by the overlying core masonry. The first of these `relieving chambers' was discovered by Nathaniel Davison in 1765. The narrow passage from the top of the Grand Gallery to Davison's Chamber already existed; its origin is unknown.

The four remaining compartments were discovered by Colonel Howard Vyse, and his assistants, in 1837; the diagram includes the names he assigned to them. Having a purely structural function, they had been sealed since the pyramid was built, and were reached only by tunnelling; this was done by hired quarrymen, using gunpowder.

Inside the chambers, on undressed limestone surfaces, were quarry marks or mason's marks, painted in red ochre. The marks include royal names, written in cursive hieroglyphics; one of these names is `Khufu':

Zecharia Sitchin - a writer in the `Ancient Astronaut' genre - is by no means the first to see the problem these marks pose for `alternative' accounts of the Great Pyramid. They show that the pyramid was built by Ancient Egyptians, for the Pharaoh Khufu. It was not built by aliens . . .

This is the real logic of Sitchin's position: the quarry marks refute his pet theory; to save that theory, he has to discredit the quarry marks.

Sitchin's second book, The Stairway to Heaven, was published in 1980 by St. Martin's Press. In a chapter entitled Forging the Pharaoh's Name he set out the `perfect' solution to his problem: the quarry marks were forged by J. R. Hill, one of the Colonel's assistants.

Battery powered by leftover food


Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK

Scientists in Bristol have developed a battery which generates electricity from organic waste. The battery, or microbial fuel cell (MFC), costs just #10 to make and in the future, could allow leftovers from Sunday lunch to top up the power supply of a household.

Although MCFs have been developed in the past, they have always been inefficient and expensive.

But technologists at the University of the West of England in Bristol have come up with the cheap, organic battery.

'Raw materials'

Team leader Chris Melhuish told New Scientist magazine said that although the new MCFs run on sugar cubes, the team aims to move on to carrot power.

"It has to be able to use raw materials, rather than giving it refined fuel."

Inside the battery, which is the size of a personal CD player, a colony of E.coli bacteria produce enzymes which break down carbohydrates and release hydrogen.

Chemical reactions inside the cell strip electrons from the hydrogen atoms to produce a voltage that can power a circuit.

Scientists say 50 grammes of sugar would keep a 40-watt light bulb lit for eight hours.

Science in search of the low rumble


Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK

The study of low frequency sound is giving science new perspectives on the natural world as well as helping to develop novel weapons technologies. Julian Trick reports.

Sound waves so low in frequency that the human ear cannot detect them may be behind ghostly sightings and haunted buildings.

Human ears detect sounds in the frequency range of about 20 to 20,000 Hertz, or cycles per second. Anything below 20 Hz is defined as infrasound, which although not heard, is experienced in the form of pure vibrations.

The discovery that infrasonic waves are present in a number of allegedly haunted houses in the UK has prompted scientists to investigate the effect of the waves on human emotions.

The audience at an experimental piano recital, where the music was laced with bursts of infrasound, were asked to record their mood at particular times during the concert.

Some people reported feelings of calmness and euphoria when the infrasonic pipes were switched on. However, others were unable to detect any change in mood.

Nutrition Researcher Frank Hu: Fat Quality More Important Than Quantity


Frank Hu, research associate in the Department of Nutrition, has been receiving a lot of attention lately from the popular media. The reason for this attention is that he has been lead author of a number of studies that have produced good news about a popular and necessary activity: eating

Specifically, his work has examined the relationship between diet and heart disease. In November, 1998, Hu reported in the British Medical Journal that eating nuts reduced the risk of coronary heart disease in women. In April, his paper in the Journal of the American Medical Society showed that there was no link between moderate egg consumption and heart disease. Most recently, in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, his analysis demonstrates that linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in some vegetable oils and salad dressing products, may protect against fatal heart attacks.

Famous Psychic Warns Where Sniper To Hit Next!


[Insight into the workings of a phony psychic.]

Map shows PATTERN to Sniper's Hits Written By D.E. Alexander 24 7 News Net 24 7 News Net - The Alternative News Wire Join our emailing list http://www.247news.net/freeupdates.shtml 24 7 News Net - The Alternative News Wire October 10th, 2002 Update October 11th, 2002 - SNIPER STRIKES WHERE PSYCHIC WARNED On October 4th I did an interview with a person I have written a couple of books on. He is a world famous psychic named Sollog. His site is http://www.Sollog.com We casually discussed the news that day about the Rockville Maryland Sniper. He said the locations formed a satanic cross. He sent me a map that day via email. It is below. The first five murders do form an upside down cross. The next day a victim was killed in DC, which extended the

Since that conversation several more shootings have been connected to the serial sniper. A woman was struck in Virginia as was a 13 year old boy in Bowie Maryland. Another murder was connected to the sniper in Manassas Virginia.

Sollog has bought to my attention many aspects of these shootings that prove what he told me the date the shootings started was accurate. The sniper is doing things to show a religious aspect to these terrible events. These are some of the religious connections in the serial sniper shootings to religion. Most of the shootings took place in MARYland the name of Jesus' mother was Mary. The rest took place in VIRGINia, as in VIRGIN MARY.

No shootings took place on Sunday, a day of rest for God in Christian beliefs.

The first six murders form a perfect cross in MARYland.

The first five murders formed a satanic upside down cross.

The Tarot card left at the Bowie shooting scene was the 13 or card of Death. 13 were at the last supper.

The sniper claimed, "I AM GOD" on his Tarot calling card.

Anther noteworthy aspect of these shootings is that most of the victims were minorities.

The leaving behind of a playing card is a well known message of special ops soldiers. Either the Ace of Spades or the Death Card (Grim Reaper) of a Tarot deck are left behind by US Military Snipers.

Sollog says another cross is forming from the locations chosen by the shooter. The most likely new locations where the sniper will strike according to Sollog are locations that will form crosses with previous locations. Sollog says these are the most likely new locations the shooter will choose.

St. Charles area in Maryland, it forms a cross with Manassas, Bowie and Rockville.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross5.jpg

The toll booth area of Rt. 301 at the state border of Virginia and Maryland. This road is significant since it has 13 in it. It forms a cross with Fredericksburg, Manassas and Bowie. Look for a rest area near the toll both as the target.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross.jpg

Leonardtown and St. Marys City in Maryland are also possibilities for future shootings since these areas form a cross with Manassas, Fredericksburg and Bowie.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross2.jpg

Less likely but possible areas to be hit by the sniper are Richmond Virginia and Frederick Maryland if the sniper is working on a new cross formation with Manassas as the key intersection point.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross4.jpg

Frederick Maryland when connected to Manassas and Bowie forms an equilateral triangle with the original cross in the center of it. Consider it a Holy Frame in the mind of the sniper. Father, Sun and Spirit. The trinity.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/cross-triangle.jpg

Frederick Maryland when connected to Manassas, Bowie and Sandy Point Virginia forms an double cross with the original Rockville cross.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross6.jpg

The Rockville Cross when connected to Sandy Point Virginia, Manassas and Bowie forms another double cross with the Rockville cross at the head.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross3.jpg

To any law enforcement agencies that read this. Sollog is UNDER GROUND due to death threats the US Government has made on his life. He is one of the most investigated people in the history of the FBI due to his public warnings of events like 911 and the Oklahoma City bombing before they occurred. If you wish to have Sollog help you then have a copy of a FULL PARDON issued to Sollog by President George W. Bush (email a copy of it to this site or his site). Sollog has been harassed with FALSE ARRESTS in the past and unless the President issues him a FULL PARDON he will remain UNDER GROUND. It is time for the US Government to acknowledge Sollog is here to help them and stop harassing him!

Join our emailing list http://www.247news.net/freeupdates.shtml

As I mentioned above, I've written a couple of books about Sollog they are below as well as links to his web site http://www.Sollog.com

Sollog was heavily investigated by the FBI for his accurate 911 warning. The book I wrote about the Sollog 911

Warning is at http://www.1ebooks.com/911 The book I wrote about The Prophecies of Sollog is at http://www.1ebooks.com/prophecies A book about The Prophecies of Sollog written by Sollog is at http://www.1ebooks.com/propheciessollog Sollog's site is http://www.sollog.com Sollog has authored over 30 books. You can download FREE SAMPLES at Sollog's Book Site http://www.1ebooks.com/sollog. Get a personal reading by Sollog by going to this site Sollog's Readings. You can discuss Sollog and this article at Sollog's Forum http://www.sollog.com Sollog's radio show is http://www.theeend.com Join our emailing list http://www.247news.net/freeupdates.shtml

Update October 11th, 2002

Massaponax was the scene today of the eight MURDER and tenth DC Sniper Victim!

Massaponax is at the head of the CROSS SYMBOL on a map where the famous psychic Sollog warned the sniper was most likely to strike again. The map with a line going through the Massaponax area to make a CROSS is above.

I just finished an amazing interview with Sollog about this new Sniper hit. What he revealed to me will absolutely amaze you.

I asked Sollog what he thought of the location chosen by the sniper today. He said, "The sniper is using location names, locations and even the names of the establishments to give a message to everyone. These are absolutely religiously motivated sacrifices. The sniper is hitting locations as I told you earlier that form Christian

Crosses on maps. I told you about the Manassas, Fredericksburg and Bowie Cross and gave you a map of it. In satanic sacrifices you must KILL AN OFFERING. The fact the sniper went back to the Fredericksburg area to KILL shows he is performing a satanic sacrifice. The Manassas, Bowie and Fredericksburg cross is a satanic cross, it is an upside down cross on a map of VIRGINia and MARYland. Virgin Mary is the name the sniper is spelling by choosing VIRGINia and MARYland.

Today he chose MASSapONAX or Black MASS ON A X.

The X is a CROSS.

Why did he choose MASS today in the key location?


His locations are carefully chosen to give this message. EXXON is a clue also, X ON is the phonetic spelling of EXXON. So we have phonetically X ON MASS ON A X. Again the X is a Cross. In fact in ancient times X simply meant Christ or Christian Church. The substitution of an X for Christ is seen today in the use of Xtian for Christian. Some satanic groups also use an X when they mean Christ.

The last location before today was in Manassas. It was a SUNOCO station. The location and establishment chosen by the sniper spells SUNOco MANassas. SUN O MAN is the hidden meaning of the last hit. SUN O MAN = SON OF MAN or Jesus.

The police and FBI are not equipped to profile this serial sniper. They can use all the roadblocks they want. He probably uses a disguise when he shoots. His cars probably have hidden departments that he can put his weapons and disguises in. He can drive right by a roadblock and no one will find a weapon. If reports are true of two people being involved, one is most likely a woman who is disguised as a man. After the shooting is done the two men flee and then one becomes a woman. So the police look for two males and just pass the sniper through a road block since the car has a man and a woman in it.

The sniper will be going back to an area aligned to Bowie to complete the sacrificial satanic cross I warned you off the other day. He has to offer a sacrifice or actual MURDER at the four points of the cross to make his black magic work. The sniper missed near Fredericksburg and Bowie, so these areas have to have new shootings. Today's killing in Massaponax is a redo of the Michaels in Fredericksburg area miss. This sniper should not strike on a Sunday due to it being a religious Holy Day in my opinion. He may very well respect the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday as well. Last week there were no shootings on Saturday and Sunday." So there you have it, Sollog hit the location of this recent shooting right on. It was on the main cross that he had warned us about the other day.

This is the cross with the Fredericksburg area in it that we had on this site since the other day.

See Map http://www.247news.net/2002/newcross.jpg

Anyone can see the sniper hit a location he struck near before, in order to redo his mistake where a victim survived.

The sniper needs to redo his other miss with a killing near Bowie and then he has to strike where Sollog warned, near the state line of Maryland and Virginia near Route 301 to finish his satanic cross. Maybe the authorities can have that area covered with police so the sniper can be caught to end this terrible event.

The way Sollog was able to connect the locations not only to a map forming a cross but to also show the locations and establishments are hidden phonetic phrases tied to religion is truly AMAZING.

Sollog's site is http://www.sollog.com

Sollog has authored over 30 books. You can download FREE SAMPLES at Sollog's Book Site http://www.1ebooks.com/sollog.

Get a personal reading by Sollog by going to this site Sollog's Readings.

You can discuss Sollog and this article at Sollog's Forum http://www.sollog.com

Sollog's radio show is http://www.theeend.com

Archaeologists are puzzled who is the foundling: an extraterrestrial or just a retarded child


16:50 2002-10-12

A messenger of a highly developed civilization of Alfa Centaurus, with head in a space helmet shape – in this way this odd creature looks in an archive film. It was found in 1996 in a small settlement of Chelyabinsk Region. Regional newspapers published photographs of one more strange, for them, individual. Diguci Masao, producer of the Japanese TV company Asahi TV offered 200 thousand dollars to the person who could sell him the 21-cm mummy.

"If even we did not have this dwarf, we should have invent it," – newspapers read. The Asahi journalists even came to the settlement to shot a film about the dwarf. However, nothing particular was told to the Japanese. Tamara Prosfirina who is said to have found the creature and even called it Alesha soon got to a mental hospital and later died in strange circumstances. In the film, only fragments of her description could be heard. The woman explains that she found the creature while going through forest during the storm. Where is the creature (or, as others call it, the mummy of an embryo) now, is unknown. New articles about the "extraterrestrial" appear only as new versions of old descriptions, while accumulating new details. In particular, journalists report that the mysterious creature lived with the woman about a month and ate exclusively yoghurt and caramel.

While in the city of Yekaterinburg, hot discussions are being lead whether to give over or not to give over the mummy to the foreigners. Leading forensic experts of Ural Region, who examined the tsar remains, said that now that mummy or whatever it may be should be at first examined and only afterwards to be given of not to the Japanese.

"It was found on Russian soil, so it should belong to Russia. Though, of course, nothing should be concealed in science. And if the extraterrestrial theory is proved, the facts and the mummy should be the property of the whole humanity," – expert Vladimir Kroptov supposes. Now, regional customs officials are also searching for the extraterrestrial. They say they will not allow smuggling the mummy abroad. If it is necessary, they are ready to sent the mummy's description to all posts. Most of sensible people in Ural Region are of opinion that the customs officials have been fallen a prey to advertising campaign of the Japanese.

Specialists of Anthropology Institute are sceptical about the case of the extraterrestrial. The chief of anthropology reconstruction laboratory, Tatyana Balueva said that Alesha might be a very small, probably, not born child. "The creature's arms and legs look like human extremities, while its skull is not completely formed. It could be a sick child, having a serious pathology. It is most likely a human being," – Tatyana Balueva states.

Russian UFO Portal

Translated by Vera Solovieva

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Smart People Believe Weird Things (and especially about bicycles).


Phil Holman

Rarely does anyone weigh facts before deciding what to believe
By Michael Shermer

In April 1999, when I was on a lecture tour for my book Why People Believe Weird Things, the psychologist Robert Sternberg attended my presentation at Yale University. His response to the lecture was both enlightening and troubling. It is certainly entertaining to hear about other people's weird beliefs, Sternberg reflected, because we are confident that we would never be so foolish. But why do smart people fall for such things? Sternberg's challenge led to a second edition of my book, with a new chapter expounding on my answer to his question: Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.

Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational explanation, regardless of what we previously believed. Most of us, most of the time, come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning. Rather, such variables as genetic predisposition, parental predilection, sibling influence, peer pressure, educational experience and life impressions all shape the personality preferences that, in conjunction with numerous social and cultural influences, lead us to our beliefs. We then sort through the body of data and select those that most confirm what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that do not.

This phenomenon, called the confirmation bias, helps to explain the findings published in the National Science Foundation's biennial report (April 2002) on the state of science understanding: 30 percent of adult Americans believe that UFOs are space vehicles from other civilizations; 60 percent believe in ESP; 40 percent think that astrology is scientific; 32 percent believe in lucky numbers; 70 percent accept magnetic therapy as scientific; and 88 percent accept alternative medicine.

Education by itself is no paranormal prophylactic. Although belief in ESP decreased from 65 percent among high school graduates to 60 percent among college graduates, and belief in magnetic therapy dropped from 71 percent among high school graduates to 55 percent among college graduates, that still leaves more than half fully endorsing such claims! And for embracing alternative medicine, the percentages actually increase, from 89 percent for high school grads to 92 percent for college grads.

We can glean a deeper cause of this problem in another statistic: 70 percent of Americans still do not understand the scientific process, defined in the study as comprehending probability, the experimental method and hypothesis testing. One solution is more and better science education, as indicated by the fact that 53 percent of Americans with a high level of science education (nine or more high school and college science/math courses) understand the scientific process, compared with 38 percent of those with a middle-level science education (six to eight such courses) and 17 percent with a low level (five or fewer courses).

The key here is teaching how science works, not just what science has discovered. We recently published an article in Skeptic (Vol. 9, No. 3) revealing the results of a study that found no correlation between science knowledge (facts about the world) and paranormal beliefs. The authors, W. Richard Walker, Steven J. Hoekstra and Rodney J. Vogl, concluded: "Students that scored well on these [science knowledge] tests were no more or less skeptical of pseudoscientific claims than students that scored very poorly. Apparently, the students were not able to apply their scientific knowledge to evaluate these pseudoscientific claims. We suggest that this inability stems in part from the way that science is traditionally presented to students: Students are taught what to think but not how to think."

To attenuate these paranormal belief statistics, we need to teach that science is not a database of unconnected factoids but a set of methods designed to describe and interpret phenomena, past or present, aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation.

For those lacking a fundamental comprehension of how science works, the siren song of pseudoscience becomes too alluring to resist, no matter how smart you are.

Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com) and author of In Darwin's Shadow and Why People Believe Weird Things, just reissued.

Crisis At CUFOS


The continued existence of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) is in question. By "continued existence" I mean that CUFOS as it has existed since 1973, when Dr. Hynek and Sherman J. Larsen created it, may fold within the next few weeks.

That was the issue discussed at length in the board meeting I attended in Chicago last Saturday (October 5). Revenue has been down significantly, and soon it will no longer be possible to keep the office - with its extensive files and resources, a world-class collection - open. Already discussions have opened with a university which has expressed interest in the materials.

CUFOS' principal revenue source is International UFO Reporter (IUR), published four times a year for $25. IUR is often described as the best UFO magazine in the English language, with its emphasis on sober research and analysis. Like most (possibly all) other UFO journals, however, our subscription base has eroded over the years, a victim of the Internet and other forces beyond our control.

Without a substantial number of new subscriptions and renewals to IUR, CUFOS will be reduced to a kind of skeletal state, at worst surviving only as an website with occasional articles and reviews under the IUR title. The archives, with their convenient central location in Chicago, have been used by ufologists from all over the world, but they will no longer be available at their old address.

Allen Hynek started CUFOS as a scientific clearing house for reliable UFO data. He died in 1986, but those of us who survived him have done our best to keep his mission alive. We're now turning to you to make it possible to continue.

If you haven't seen IUR lately, here are the tables of contents for the past two issues:

Spring 2002:
UFO/Vehicle _Very_ Close Encounters by Mark Rodeghier
Angel Hair: An Australian Perspective by Keith Basterfield
Was There a Second Estimate of the Situation? by Michael Hall
The Trivialist by Jerome Clark
The 1952 Nash/Fortenberry Sighting Revisited by Thomas Tulien

Summer 2002
What's Convincing About UFOs?, by Michael D. Swords
Media Bias and UFOs by Haiko Lietz
Do Nuclear Facilities Attract UFOs? by Donald A. Johnson
Interpreting the Ramey Memo by James Houran & Kevin D. Randle
Cold Case Ufology by Jenny Randles
Abductees and the Paranormal by Mark Rodeghier

Subscriptions are available for $25 (US) or $30 (non-US) from:
CUFOS, 2457 West Peterson Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60659

Please help us. We need you.

Jerry Clark
CUFOS officer
IUR co-editor

Bureaucrat's Math Makes Dizzy Dozen


The menu at the Coffee Garden at 900 East and 900 South in Salt Lake City has included a scrumptious selection of quiche for about 10 years.

The recipe calls for four fresh eggs for each quiche.

A Salt Lake County Health Department inspector paid a visit recently and pointed out that research by the Food and Drug Administration indicates that one in four eggs carries salmonella bacterium, so restaurants should never use more than three eggs when preparing quiche.

The manager on duty wondered aloud if simply throwing out three eggs from each dozen and using the remaining nine in four-egg-quiches would serve the same purpose.

The inspector wasn't sure, but she said she would research it.

Survey of Scientists Supports Evolution, Rejects "Intelligent Design"

A survey of Ohio university scientists shows that they overwhelmingly view "intelligent design" as a religious, not a scientific, concept. The survey was conducted by faculty at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Cincinnati, and results were announced at a press conference on October 10. Professor Joseph Koonce, Chair of the Department of Biology at Case Western, issued the following statement:

Many claims have been made in recent months as to what Ohio scientists think about intelligent design "theory." However, until now, no data existed on this issue. My colleagues and I set about to collect the data so that the public may gain an accurate impression of what Ohio's scientists think. The results are gratifying and unequivocal.

Nine out of ten Ohio scientists from Ohio public, private (including both secular and religious) universities say that intelligent design is primarily a religious view and is simply not part of science.

We designed and conducted this survey with the Internet Public Opinion Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati. We sent out email messages around the state to faculty in departments of astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, physics and other natural sciences, inviting them to answer a set of questions and to give their thoughts about the evolution-intelligent design debate. The survey ran between September 26 and October 9.

Prior to polling the scientists, the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati included questions on the September Ohio Poll (conducted September 4 through 15, 2002) asking the general public to respond to two questions about intelligent design. Like the scientists, a clear majority of Ohio residents found intelligent design to be religious, and not a scientific view.

Next Monday and Tuesday the Ohio Board of Education will vote on whether to include intelligent design or other forms of anti-evolutionism in the new K-12 science standards. Intelligent design advocates claim life is too complex to have developed without the intervention of a supernatural being or force, and they claim their view is scientific. Clearly Ohio's citizens are not convinced that this argument should be taught as science.

I want to make clear that I am a religious person myself. As a Roman Catholic, I do believe in God and in concurrence with teachings of the Catholic Church, I have never found these beliefs in conflict with Evolutionary Theory. Science addresses the nature of the physical universe, not the supernatural or the eternal. Like me, 84% of my colleagues also report that they find evolutionary theory compatible with belief in God. I wish this would lay to rest the destructive notion that science and religion are at war in America. There is no such inherent conflict. Science and religion can promote and enhance each other without having to pretend we know less than we actually do about how the world is constructed and how it functions.

Most all of Ohio's science professors (92%) thought "Ohio high school students should be tested on their understanding of the basic principles of the theory of evolution in order to graduate." When asked if such students should also be tested on their knowledge of the concept of "Intelligent Design" in order to graduate, 90% said "no." Only 2% said that intelligent design was strongly supported by scientific evidence.

The survey also explored scientists' views on antievolutionism beyond the intelligent design movement. Some critics of evolution claim evidence against the theory of evolution has caused it to fall out of favor among scientists. This is clearly not the case in Ohio where the vast majority (93%) of science professors said they were not aware of "any scientifically valid evidence or an alternate scientific theory that challenges the fundamental principles of the theory of evolution."

We are extremely pleased with the response. Nearly 500 scientists responded, a rate of 31%. The survey had an error of plus or minus 4.5 percent. Equally pleasing was the outpouring of gratitude for providing the opportunity to express their concern with the erosion of scientific literacy in the developing K-12 standards for Ohio.

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609
510-601-7203 Ext. 308
510-601-7204 (fax)

'The Blank Slate': The Evolutionary War

October 13, 2002

John Watson, the founder in the 1920's of behavioristic psychology, boasted that if he were given an infant at random, he could train him ''to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.'' His dismissal of anything inborn but a few raw feelings harked back to the philosophical empiricism of John Locke, who denied that the human mind came equipped with innate ideas; mind was a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which experience of the world would write messages. Watson's kind of behaviorism, amended by B. F. Skinner, dominated American psychology in the first half of the 20th century. The scientific community's reaction to the racism of the Nazis reinforced the doctrine; and events during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam years cautioned even evolutionary biologists about supposing that humans had been subjected to the kinds of forces that mold animal mind and behavior.

The logic of evolutionary theory, however, seemed inexorable. Humans are, after all, animals. No magic moment occurs when souls rain down on waiting primate bodies to wash away all signs of brute origin. In the 70's, E. O. Wilson developed this logic with the support of a wide range of animal studies and anthropological reports about societies still following traditional ways. On this foundation, he constructed sociobiology, which sought to explain basic human social behaviors and mental traits largely as preprogrammed products of evolutionary history. Mating preferences, emotional patterns, intelligence, even religious convictions became scientifically explicable.

Robert J. Richards teaches history and philosophy of science at the University of Chicago.


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