NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 February 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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In the News

Today's Headlines - February 19, 2003

SHUTTLE PIECES LOST OVER CALIFORNIA
from Newsday

Washington - The space shuttle Columbia was shedding pieces as it approached California, a member of the board investigating the accident said yesterday.

The comment by James Hallock, chief of the Department of Transportation's aviation safety division, confirmed what some videos seemed to suggest.

"We have been poring over the films," Hallock said. "From the timing I've seen right now, it does look like things were beginning to come from the shuttle as it approached right about California" on its re-entry path, Hallock said.

Hallock, a member of a board subgroup looking into technical details of the Columbia accident, said some of the early pieces may have burned up in the atmosphere. To find something far back along the re-entry path, Hallock said, it may need to be "a pretty substantial piece of the shuttle itself." So far, no confirmed debris has been found more than a few miles west of Fort Worth, Texas.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsshut193137072feb19,0,4736891.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

NASA FACES LOOMING ENGINEER SHORTAGE
from The Christian Science Monitor

HOUSTON – Ron Theis still remembers sitting in his boss's office explaining why he was leaving NASA after just two years: Excessive bureaucracy, low pay, and unmotivated co-workers were among his many frustrations.

His boss, well aware of NASA's need to recruit and keep young engineers, pleaded with the recent college grad to stay - even offering to help him find work anywhere in the space agency.

"There were some really interesting projects," Mr. Theis says. "I knew it would be fantastic [at first]. Then the same stuff would grind me back down again."

Theis is now a software engineer in the private sector, and his departure from NASA represents a looming crisis for the space agency. A General Accounting Office report last year found that NASA has three times as many engineers aged 60 and over as it has 30 and under - and a quarter of its nearly 19,000 employees will be eligible for retirement in five years.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0218/p17s02-lehl.html

DATING OF AUSTRALIAN REMAINS BACKS THEORY OF EARLY MIGRATION OF HUMANS
from The New York Times

New dates from an important archaeological site in Australia have removed a serious challenge to a theory about the origin of modern humans.

The site is Lake Mungo, in southeastern Australia, which holds the remains of an adult man who was sprinkled with copious amounts of red ocher in a burial ritual common among early humans. The grave is testimony to the remarkable journey taken by the first modern people to leave the ancestral human birthplace in Africa.

But the Lake Mungo grave has also posed a problem. Dated in 1998 as being 62,000 years old, it was hard to reconcile with the fact that the first modern humans did not reach Europe, which is much closer to Africa, until about 40,000 years ago.

It also challenged a view held by some archaeologists and geneticists that modern humans acquired the ability to move out of Africa only 50,000 years ago.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/19/science/19HUMA.html

RESEARCHERS VOICE NEW THEORIES ON THE ANASAZI
from Scripps Howard News Service

DENVER - The well-preserved villages of the Anasazi and other native peoples who lived in what is now the high desert of the U.S. Southwest more than a thousand years ago suggest that the canyon cities were suddenly abandoned.

But new evidence presented by researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Monday indicates that occupation of many of the ancient pueblos was an on-again, off-again thing over the centuries.

"There's been an erroneous impression that all or most of the pre-Hispanic archaeological sites were occupied for relatively short periods of time," said Linda Cordell, director of the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder.

"The pre-Hispanic farmers did not disappear, rather, they moved and maintained their life ways by frequently shifting around this vast desert and mountain landscape," said Arizona State University researcher Michelle Hegmon, who studies sites in the Mimbres region of southwestern New Mexico.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/770069p-5542371c.html

ALLERGIES ON MINDS OF FOOD MODIFIERS
from Scripps Howard News Service

DENVER - Foods made with genetically modified ingredients have penetrated most aisles of the supermarket in the past few years. For the most part, the genetic modification to corn, soybeans and potatoes has been to protect plants from pests and bump up yields.

Now, scientists are looking at gene changes to foods with the aim of protecting people who are allergic to certain products, and at keeping animals and people from getting sick.

One food scientist, Samuel Lehrer of Tulane University in New Orleans, reported to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that he has identified a major component of the shrimp allergen, including the portion of the molecule that binds with a human antibody called immunoglobulin E. The reaction that results from this binding causes itchiness around the eyes, throat, skin and mouth.

"We're working to understand the proteins behind food allergens so that foods can be made better, healthier, and so that we have a more accurate system to predict allergens that might be introduced with genetic modifications," Lehrer said.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/769640p-5540171c.html

BRINGING SCIENCE COMMUNICATION INTO POLICY
commentary from SciDevNet

Science communication has become a major factor in the formulation of policy on science-related issues, not just a commentary on the way such issues are addressed.

One of the most significant images in UK debates over the past 20 years about the relationship between science and society was a photograph taken in May 1990 of Britain's then agriculture minister, John Gummer, feeding a hamburger to his somewhat bemused and reluctant daughter, Cordelia.

The country was at the time in the midst of its crisis over so-called Mad Cow Disease, but the government — prompted by the farming industry — was insisting that there was no way that the disease could pass to humans. The photograph encapsulated the headlines that went with it, indicating that a government minister was so confident about this position that, even as a responsible parent, he was prepared to feed British beef to his daughter.

The rest, as they say, is history. It was not long before Gummer, and indeed the whole of the British government, had to eat its words — almost literally — and admit that they had got it wrong; BSE indeed can pass into the food chain, with tragic consequences. Furthermore this particular picture has come to haunt Gummer — who ironically has a good record as an effective defender of the environment — the Conservative party and government public relations officers ever since.

http://www.scidev.net/archives/editorial/comment52.html

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Gravity wave detector all set

Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 01:24 GMT

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2774163.stm

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News Online science staff in Denver

The hunt is well and truly joined.

Scientists report here that one of the greatest observatories ever constructed works as expected and is now ready to go for goal.

The Ligo facility, built at a cost of nearly $300m, is trying to detect gravity waves, the ripples created in the fabric of space-time that occur every time a star explodes or black holes collide.

If it succeeds, scientists will not only confirm cherished theories, they will also have a new window on the Universe that will enable them to probe the nature of the cosmos right back to the beginning of time itself.

Fifth closest star discovered

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor
Astronomers have discovered one of the closest stars to our Sun, and they say that more undetected close neighbours may be lurking in our vicinity.

The new star was found because its relatively swift motion across the sky was picked up by automated sky surveys.

It ranks as the third closest star system and the fifth closest star to our Sun.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/2776229.stm Published: 2003/02/18 14:25:29

Richard Holloway finds Richard Dawkins insisting that nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent, in his collection of essays, A Devil's Chaplain

http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/scienceandnature/0,6121,894941,00.html

Science and nature
A callous world

Saturday February 15, 2003
The Guardian

A Devil's Chaplain & Other Selected Essays
by Richard Dawkins
320pp, Weidenfeld, £16.99

Richard Dawkins's new book, which is a punchy collection of articles, reflections, polemics, book reviews, forewords, tributes and elegies delivered over the past 25 years, takes its title from a letter Darwin sent to his friend Hooker in 1856: "What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature."

In a frequently quoted letter to Asa Gray, written four years later in 1860, Darwin makes the same point more specifically: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living body of caterpillars." Dawkins reminds us here that Darwin's Ichneumonidae sting their prey not to kill but to paralyse, so their larvae can feed on fresh (live) meat.

In an earlier book, River out of Eden, Dawkins drew the chilly Darwinian moral for us: "Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous - indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose."

The fascinating thing to notice here is that, while Dawkins has assumed the role of devil's chaplain with great courage and considerable panache, Darwin explicitly rejected it. Writing to his son in 1880, Darwin said that though he was a strong advocate of free thought on all subjects, it appeared to him that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produced hardly any effect on public opinion.

He went on: "Freedom of thought is best promoted by gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science." There is, in other words, a distinct temperamental difference between Dawkins and his great hero. To use an ecclesiastical taxonomy, Darwin's atheism is classically Anglican, while Dawkins's is classically Evangelical.

A friend of mine once remarked that he liked Anglicanism, because it didn't interfere with your religion or politics, whereas Evangelicalism couldn't leave anyone alone and meddled endlessly in people's lives. If Darwin was a non-interventionist atheist, Dawkins is a great believer in the pre-emptive strike. He is not content to let good science gradually erode bad religion, he wants a regime change right now, which is why he has been dropping his bombs and firing his missiles for the past 25 years. And in the process of his various campaigns, there has been a lot of collateral damage.

I suspect that this is why lots of people don't like Richard Dawkins. I interviewed him for a television programme at his home a few years ago. Before I went to meet him I was warned by people in Oxford that I would find him arrogant and humourless. A picture was painted of an atheist Roundhead, a scientific Puritan who couldn't leave people alone to find their own way of coping with life. The implication was that he had been damaged as a child by Christianity and was out to get his revenge.

The man I met was nothing like that. He was charming, witty and accessible. Sure, there was an intensity there, but it was the intensity of someone who has made an important discovery that he wants to share with as many people as possible, the way we all like to share with our friends the excitement of that great new movie we went to last night.

What Dawkins has discovered is more than Darwin's great insight into the processes of natural selection, though Darwin is its greatest exemplar. What really excites him is the beauty of the scientific method as a way of testing for truth and exposing fraudulence. Unlike TS Eliot, who wrote that humankind cannot bear too much reality, Dawkins wants us to get real about the nature of the universe in which our brief lives are set, because reality is liberating.

In his foreword to Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations, John Diamond's book about his struggle with cancer, he contrasts the testable honesty of orthodox medicine with the dishonest quackery of alternative medicine. Was Diamond's courageous rejection of the siren songs of alternative therapies a bigoted refusal to contemplate alternative views of the world? No, he replies: "...scientific medicine is defined as the set of practices which submit themselves to the ordeal of being tested. Alternative medicine is defined as that set of practices which cannot be tested, refuse to be tested or consistently fail tests. If a healing technique is demonstrated to have curative properties in properly controlled double-blind trials, it ceases to be alternative. It simply, as Diamond explains, becomes medicine."

He goes on to suggest a series of double-blind trials for alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, but does not expect the alternative medicine profiteers to rush into the trap. And it is the billions of pounds of profit accrued by the alternative medicine industry that really ignites his moral passion against quackery and all its works.

So the real object of Dawkins's grand Darwinian wrath is not the small person, who comforts herself against the cold winds of reality with the threadbare blanket of religion and the placebos of phony medicine, it is the powerful institutions that exploit her understandable human frailty and give her the stones of illusion instead of the bread of truth.

We have to define Dawkins, therefore, as a moral crusader, a prophet of science as a better way of understanding ourselves than the delusions of religion, whether orthodox or new age. And it is a tragic vision he offers us. The goal of life is life itself. There is no final purpose, no end other than entropy and the end of all endings. But there is deep refreshment to be had "from standing up full-face into the keen wind of understanding". As a recovering Christian, I want to say amen to that, as well as adding a few final notes and quibbles.

Like him, I hate all the baseball stuff in Stephen Jay Gould, but I am glad to read here of the regard and affection they had for each other. And I think it's a mistake totally to write off psychoanalysis. Is it not possible to interpret Freud as having done for the human psyche what Darwin did for the natural world? And might this also provide us with a way of affirming some of the great insights that religion has brought to humanity, while discarding its more preposterous claims? If religion is the narrative of our childhood; and if it is true that the events of our childhood mark us for life; is it not worth continuing to explore religion for what it can still teach us about the archaeology of our own souls?

But these are quibbles. This is the best book of sermons I have read for years. So please go on preaching to us, Reverend Dawkins, and don't mind the things they throw at you. After all, prophets always get stoned.

Richard Holloway's On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable is published by Canongate

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

With an Evolutionary Milestone, the Race for Survival Began

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/18/science/18HEAD.html?ex=1046658388&ei=1&en=a2ad7788c6eff6b1

February 18, 2003

By YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE

More than three billion years ago, when the earth was still a lonesome ball with no habitation, life made its first appearance on the planet in the form of single-celled organisms.

From these evolved more complex manifestations of life: multicelled organisms like algae that floated about in the seas; then wormlike, soft-bodied creatures with a more elaborate organization of cells; and finally, millions of years later, animals like flies and reptiles that had well-defined heads.

Scientists studying this gigantic, densely branched tree of evolution believe that the appearance of the head was a major milestone in the history of animal life. It marked the beginning of active feeding and predatory behavior, setting off a survival race that accelerated the pace of evolution.

Through genetic studies on some of the oldest living species on the planet, researchers are now piecing together an account of this evolutionary watershed.

Alien abduction stories brought down to earth

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/02/18/waa18.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/02/18/ixnewstop.html

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent, in Denver
(Filed: 18/02/2003)

People who believe that they were abducted by aliens are victims of a sleep disorder, an American study suggests. The disorder may also account for visitations by angels, demons and vampires.

A personality profile of "abducted" people showed that almost all suffered from sleep paralysis, a condition in which terrifying sensations and sinister figures from the world of dreams intrude upon the waking brain. They suffered symptoms of post traumatic stress similar to those of Vietnam veterans.

According to some polls, tens of thousands of Americans claim to have encountered aliens, a phenomenon explored in Steven Spielberg's television series Taken.

Dr Richard McNally, a psychologist at Harvard University, studied 10 adults who claimed to have been kidnapped by extra-terrestrials. Most were firm believers in tarot cards and astral projection and were prone to fantasy. But, significantly, they had all suffered episodes of sleep paralysis.

During REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, the body is unable to move. About 30 per cent of people suffer from sleep paralysis, from which they wake up and are partially conscious of being paralysed.

Five per cent of people also experience waking hallucinations. Sufferers can see figures in the room, flashing lights, experience feelings of levitation or simply a sinister presence. Eight of the 10 people who thought they had been abducted had consulted "experts" in recovered memory to find out more about their experiences.

During these sessions they began to recollect more details. Many studies have shown that attempts to recover supposedly lost memories can plant false memories.

Dr McNally said: "When you piece together the New Age beliefs, the hallucinations, the fantasy proneness and get a little help from the memory recovery folks, you have yourself an alien abduction."

Psychologists have argued that sleep paralysis and hallucinations can explain many paranormal phenomenon.

"In Newfoundland, it's called being visited by the Old Hag," said Dr McNally. "In southern United States, it's being ridden by the witch. In Europe in the Middle Ages, it's the incubus and succubus. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, it's space aliens."

The volunteers were also asked to write an account of their abduction and then listen to a 30-second tape of their memories while their heart rates and perspiration levels were monitored.

"Heart rate and skin conductance responses were at least as great in alien abductees when they heard memories of being abducted and molested by aliens as people with genuine traumatic events."

The gene that maketh man?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2772241.stm

Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 00:31 GMT

US scientists have identified a gene which they say could explain why humans are unique.

It seems to have arisen between 21 and 33 million years ago, when primates were becoming more human-like.

The gene emerged about the time the path that led to humans, chimps, orangutans and gorillas was splitting off from that of old and new world monkeys.

The gene could have duplicated itself, creating many new ones specific to humans, according to researchers at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Genetic clues

Science has long sought to explain why we are different from our closest animal cousins - the primates.

Our findings have potential implications for understanding genetic differences between humans and other primates

Dr Daniel Haber

Knowledge of the human DNA sequence gained by the Human Genome Project allows the question to be explored by comparing stretches of DNA.

The newly-discovered gene, known as Tre2, is found in very few mammals apart from humans and their closest relatives.

It is absent from more primitive primates such as the lemur, but is found in higher primates such as gorillas, chimps and orangutans.

Ascent of humans

The gene seems to have emerged when two other genes fused together during the evolution of higher primates.

Half of it is similar to an ancient gene found in many animals, while the rest has much in common with a gene confined to human-like primates.

Its sudden appearance relatively late in the history of the animal kingdom could have been the trigger for the evolution of humankind, although so far this is only a theory.

The products of the gene are found mainly in the testes, so the researchers think that it may be linked to human reproduction.

"Our findings have potential implications for understanding genetic differences between humans and other primates," says team leader Dr Daniel Haber.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fortune-teller fight

"On a wintry evening last December, Boston police came to The Psychic Eye, a downtown fortune-telling parlor run by a young woman who goes by the name Mitchell. She was ticketed and ordered to appear before the city's licensing board. Her offense: claiming to divine the future without a license."

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/049/metro/Fortune_teller_fight+.shtml

Scientists spread the word on evils of pseudoscience

Rocky Mountain News

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/technology/article/0,1299,DRMN_49_1752310,00.html

By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
February 18, 2003

Scientists must be the evangelists against the well-financed effort to undermine science education, especially evolution, a physics professor said Monday.

Scientists have become society's bad guys, as portrayed in the television series The X-Files where the truth is out there and don't trust anyone, said Lawrence Krauss, a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Krauss, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said religious dogma and pseudoscientific nonsense have marginalized science at the highest levels of government and the schools.

For example, after the Columbine High School shootings, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay suggested the tragedy occurred because evolution was taught and children learned they were "nothing but glorified apes," Krauss said.

Other signs that pseudoscience is replacing real science are studies that show most school children believe in astrology and 63 percent of all adults are unaware that dinosaurs died before the first humans walked the earth, he said.

"Part of science is that you submit conclusions to your peers based on experiments, and if it doesn't work, you throw it away," he said. "Science is far more interesting than pseudoscience."

Well-financed religious groups are attacking schools that teach science, especially those that teach evolution, he said.

In Ohio and Georgia, groups want "intelligent design" taught, claiming that creationism must be included in science classes for fairness, he said.

Krauss said he searched scientific journals and found 115,000 references to evolution and 80 for intelligent design. However, all but 11 of the articles on intelligent design referred to engineering, he said.

"To these people, evolution is atheism. In their minds, if you believe in evolution you believe that there is no God," he said.

The threat is worse outside the schools with the Bush administration advocating the "Star Wars" missile system which had a success rate of only 41 percent in test trials - despite scientific arguments that the system will fail, Krauss said.

"The current administration is blurring the line between church and state while consistently ignoring the virtually unanimous recommendations of the science community on matters of science," said Krauss in a talk titled: "Scientific Ignorance as a Way of Life."

frazierd@RockyMountainNews.com or (303) 892-5308

Copyright 2003, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

Bangladeshis flock to 'weeping Virgin'

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2775461.stm

Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 12:15 GMT

By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Thousands of people in the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong are flocking to a Roman Catholic church where tears are reported to have been seen on a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Many of those visiting the church are Muslims, eager to see what some locals believe is a sign of the Virgin's dismay over the recent outbreak of violence in the country and elsewhere in the world.

Roman Catholic believers say it is the first time in Bangladesh that tears have been seen on a statue of the Virgin Mary.

In a country which is overwhelmingly Muslim, it is unusual for a symbol of the Christian faith to attract much interest.

But so many people are gathering outside the Chittagong church that police have been deployed to ensure law and order is maintained.

'Inquisitive'

Muslims are queuing to see the statue even though the Koran warns believers against showing an interest in religious idols.

Roman Catholics in Chittagong say that most people are queuing up to see the statue because they are inquisitive.

Around 90% of Bangladesh's 130 million population is Muslim.

In Chittagong, the second-largest city in the country, there are only around 8,000 Christians in a city of over four million people.

Many churchgoers claim the cause of the Virgin Mary's tears is recent outbreaks of violence in Bangladesh.

They point out that she has had a lot to be upset about in the last week alone.

On Monday, five people were gunned down in local election violence in the south-western district of Jhenida and, before that, there were a series of bomb explosions in the northern town of Dinajpur.

Scientists have already said that one possible explanation for the tears is the fact that the marble statue is kept in a glass case, which could lead to condensation appearing on the Virgin Mary's face.

More earthquake pseudoscience

From: Stan Schwarz

This is just out today:

http://www.geoforecaster.com/

This site claims to be able to forecast earthquake activity. The guy behind it is apparently a Ph.D. in geophysics from a reputable program, but is otherwise considered to be a bit of a loon. It's making for interesting talks around the water cooler in the office today. The basic feeling is that they are just doing the usual things that predictors do. They are casting a wide net, and then giving themselves partial credit by fudging the predictions after the fact.

For instance, they make predictions with a radius of 80km. If they predict a 4 in that circle, if a 3 or a 2 occurs inside that circle they claim partial credit. If you look at the 'Recent Earthquakes' map [http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/recenteqs/latest.htm], it's hard to draw an 80km radius circle and not have a M2 earthquake inside it.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – February 18, 2003

DANGERS OF GAUGING SPACE SAFETY
from The Washington Post

In 1995, NASA's first comprehensive assessment of the risks of flying the space shuttle pegged the probability of catastrophic failure at one in every 145 flights. Three years later, after a series of safety upgrades, new calculations improved the odds to one in every 245 flights.

But the disintegration of Columbia over Texas on Feb. 1 was the second shuttle loss in 112 flights, a frequency of failure that is raising questions about how useful NASA's safety assessments have been in its decisions on whether, and when, to send people into space.

For years critics have attacked the agency's risk analyses, with some accusing NASA of painting overly rosy pictures in an effort to prop up public support and others saying the analyses have been hobbled by inadequate budgets. Predictably, NASA came under a renewed round of such criticism this past week.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18244-2003Feb16.html

USING GENETIC TESTS, ASHKENAZI JEWS VANQUISH A DISEASE
from The New York Times

A number of years ago, five families in Brooklyn who had had babies with a devastating disease decided to try what was then nearly unthinkable: to eliminate a terrible genetic disease from the planet.

The disease is Tay-Sachs, a progressive, relentless neurological disorder that afflicts mostly babies, leaving them mentally impaired, blind, deaf and unable to swallow. There is no treatment, and most children with the disease die by 5.

The families raised money and, working with geneticists, began a program that focused on a specific population, Ashkenazi Jews, who are most at risk of harboring the Tay-Sachs gene. The geneticists offered screening to see whether family members carried the gene.

Thirty years later, Tay-Sachs is virtually gone, its incidence slashed more than 95 percent. The disease is now so rare that most doctors have never seen a case.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/18/science/18DISE.html

WITH AN EVOLUTIONARY MILESTONE, THE RACE FOR SURVIVAL BEGAN
from The New York Times

More than three billion years ago, when the earth was still a lonesome ball with no habitation, life made its first appearance on the planet in the form of single-celled organisms.

From these evolved more complex manifestations of life: multicelled organisms like algae that floated about in the seas; then wormlike, soft- bodied creatures with a more elaborate organization of cells; and finally, millions of years later, animals like flies and reptiles that had well- defined heads.

Scientists studying this gigantic, densely branched tree of evolution believe that the appearance of the head was a major milestone in the history of animal life. It marked the beginning of active feeding and predatory behavior, setting off a survival race that accelerated the pace of evolution.

Through genetic studies on some of the oldest living species on the planet, researchers are now piecing together an account of this evolutionary watershed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/18/science/18HEAD.html

COMPUTERS HELP MAKE FORECASTING MORE PRECISE
from Newsday

Folks who've just finished hefting snow off sidewalks and driveways may be pleased to learn that the art of weather forecasting is becoming more and more of a science.

Of course, knowing that won't make the shovel any lighter. But perhaps there's solace in knowing that forecasts seem to be providing storm warnings with a higher degree of accuracy these days, so at least stocking up on ice-melt crystals turns out to have been time and money well spent.

The most significant improvement in forecasting has come from advances in computers, the sheer number-crunching power, which allow forecasters to make finer and finer analyses of what the atmosphere is doing.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsfore183135374feb18,0,2063695.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

SCIENCE NOTEBOOK
compiled by The Washington Post

The Leanings of a Smooch

When lovers exchanged kisses on Valentine's Day, chances are they did it with their heads cocked to the right.

And this tendency to turn one's head to the right for a smooch appears to start long before the first date. In fact, it may start in the womb, says Onur Guentuerkuen of the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.

Guentuerkuen predicted the propensity for right-sided kissing because developing babies tend to turn their heads to the right during the final weeks of gestation and the first six months of life. Guentuerkuen wanted to see if this tendency persisted into adulthood, affecting behavior later in life.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11333-2003Feb15.html

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God and Presidents

Bush Invokes Religion, but Past Presidents' Beliefs Also Controversial

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/Politics/presidents_religion030217.html

Analysis
By Gregg Easterbrook

Feb. 17 — As Presidents' Day of 2003 arrives, many in the United States are either pleased or upset that President Bush continues to lean heavily on religious symbolism in speaking about the anti-terror war and many other matters.

But if George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were alive today — or Thomas Jefferson, for that matter — their spiritual beliefs would be far more controversial than Bush's, and not just because times change.

'The Hand of Providence'

What did these great former presidents believe? Let's start with the first president.

When Washington ran for president, a few opponents tried to sully him as irreligious because he rarely attended services — though he was a vestryman in an Episcopal church in Alexandria, Va.

Supporters answered that the Alexandria church was a two-hour horse ride each way from the general's beloved Mount Vernon, and therefore Washington usually held private vespers at home.

That Washington was a believer can be found in statements such as this, from a 1778 letter about the revolution: "The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith."

Imagine the reaction if any contemporary president declared that anyone who lacks faith is "worse than an infidel," especially since as used by Washington, infidel meant Muslim.

Convinced "the Hand of providence" was guiding the establishment of the United States, Washington joined many of the founders in believing God was forming the new country partly so that people could realize a genuine, freely chosen worship of Jesus, impossible in the entrenched denominational wars of Europe.

To Washington, like many of the founders, civilization and Christianity were the same; it was just that in the Old World, the faith had become corrupted by politics. Without "our blessed religion," Washington said in his farewell address, "we can never hope to be a happy nation."

When Washington negotiated with Indians regarding bringing their children into school systems — one of his pet causes — he did so partly owing to his belief that Christianity was essential to full humanity.

"You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ," Washington once told a gathering of Delaware elders. "These will make you a greater and happier people."

Imagine an American president today who advised minority group members that they must embrace Christ to become "greater and happier."

Deism

Yet though Washington's assumption of America as a Christian nation would seem right-wing by today's standard, much of his theology would seem left-wing. Though historians dispute the details, Washington was probably a "deist" — a believer that nature, not revelation or church doctrine, was the proof of God.

Deism was the intellectual theology of Washington's day, best expressed in Thomas Paine's 1794 book, The Age of Reason, which argued that clerics were spewing mumbo-jumbo, and no one can be sure if the Bible is historically accurate, but we can be absolutely certain nature is so grand and intricate it must be the work of a Creator.

A favorite volume of many founders, The Age of Reason was seen by the Anglican, Catholic, Congregational and Episcopal hierarchies of the day as a direct attack, since the book asserted that the rational person could ignore organized religion and come to his or her own conclusions about God. It would be as if, today, an American president were to declare that priests, rabbis, and ministers were mainly bureaucrats, scripture was a muddle, and each individual should arrive at his or her own spiritual beliefs through private meditation.

This is more or less what George Washington thought, and a reason he preferred vespers in rustic Mount Vernon to that Alexandria pew.

Washington and the Freemasons

And what of Washington's membership in the Masons? Today, Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that mainly raises money for charity, but then it had a hushed, secretive connotation. The goofy, internal lingo of Masonic temples, such as "the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite" or the "Grand Encampment of Knights Templar," was whispered about as evidence of conspiracy.

Masonry, which originated in Anglican England, was during Washington's time often anti-Catholic (In the 19th century, Masonry sometimes was anti-Semitic, which would not stop the Nazis of the 1930s from denouncing many German Jews as secret servants of the Freemasons).

The Masons are not a religion — their only spiritual requirement is that members accept the existence of a supreme being — but at various points in history have been viewed as attempting to usurp or circumvent established faiths.

Even today, people don't know what to make of Washington's Masonic ties. The largest privately built monument in the nation's Capitol area — the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, a huge pseudo-Egyptian spire that dominates the skyline for airplanes approaching Reagan National Airport — is routinely absent from tourist agendas, as if it were something about the father of our country better left unmentioned.

It's fun to consider the delightful negative ads a modern political consultant might be able to generate off candidate Washington's Masonic ties. Secret society! Clandestine rites! What really goes on in that Supreme Council?

Minister Mocking

Now to Lincoln. When he first ran for Congress in 1840, Lincoln was derided by opponents for not belonging to a church. Indeed, Abe was not a member of any church, and was sufficiently skeptical of organized religion that on his drinking nights, he entertained friends by doing a stand-up parody routine about a pompous, hypercritical minister.

In 1858, Lincoln began using scripture language in public speaking — especially his popular "House Divided" speech, which extensively quoted Matthew. Northern abolitionists so embraced the "House Divided" speech that they began calling Lincoln the "new John the Baptist," playing on the fact that both shared an eccentric appearance and intense speaking style.

But being called the new John the Baptist did not seem to bring Lincoln to faith. Even after his election as president in 1860, he told friends he remained an agnostic, quoting scripture mainly because it was so powerful. His initial view of the Civil War was not religious, either. Though many northern churches from the outset called the war God's vengeance against slavery, Lincoln would tell Horace Greeley early on, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union," not abolish slavery.

All this changed in winter of 1862, when Lincoln's adored little son Willie died of typhoid fever in the White House, father weeping uncontrollably in the next room. Mary Lincoln was driven to mysticism by the loss; soon she would be consulting mediums, trying to communicate with Willie on the other side.

Lincoln turned to the Rev. Phineas Gurley of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located a few blocks from the White House. Gurley and the president began going on long walks.

During one of the walks, Lincoln converted to Christianity, accepting Jesus as his personal savior. Though he never formally joined any denomination, Lincoln started attending Gurley's church twice a week and studying scripture avidly.

Bible's 'Reason and … Faith'

When Joshua Speed, the Springfield store proprietor who was Lincoln's best friend during his carefree days, expressed surprise in 1864 to encounter Abe reading the Bible, Lincoln counseled him somberly, "Take all that you can of this book upon reason and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier man."

While this was happening, the course of the Civil War turned horrific. Lincoln was stunned by the bloodshed at Antietam in September 1862, where twice as many men died on a single day as had died in the entire War of 1812. Worse, Antietam was inconclusive, ensuring the carnage would go on.

Lincoln began to adopt the radical religious view that the conflict was not meant to end quickly because the Civil War was God's retribution against the United States for holding slaves. That is, God actually wanted huge numbers of Americans to die, paying for the nation's sins.

Imagine President Bush saying that he believed the divine wanted Americans to die in terrorism attacks as retribution for times when Americans deliberately killed the innocent, such as the bombing of Dresden. Yet Lincoln said as much: "In the present Civil War it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party. God wills the contest and wills that it shall not end yet."

In 1863, Lincoln declared a National Fast Day, saying, "We know that, by divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world." The war, he went on, was "a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins."

Lincoln's increasingly fatalistic view was summed in his second inaugural address, in words that now line the Lincoln Memorial in Washington: that God wills the Civil War to continue "until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with another drawn with the sword."

As his views became more religious, increasingly Lincoln focused on the centrality of ending slavery, which today is seen as a civil rights issue but then was seen by most abolitionists first as a spiritual issue, because slave-holding was an abomination before God.

The mainly faith-affiliated abolition movement rallied to Lincoln intensively in the 1864 election, which many initially believed Lincoln would lose to Democratic candidate George McClellan, who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln's reelection was based on nearly unanimous religious support. As Lincoln biographer David Donald has written, "The support the President received [in 1864] from religious groups was overwhelming. There probably never was an election in all our history into which the religion element entered so largely, and nearly all on one side."

When Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, many ministers preached sermons comparing him to Jesus, and many newspaper editorials said the same. Surely, he was the only American president ever spoken of in such terms.

Bible Cutting and Pasting

And since the topic is Presidents' Day, why not throw in Jefferson? He also was a deist, his famous declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," meaning that the principles of freedom could be proclaimed from nature, not from either human or divine law. And though Jefferson revered Jesus, saying Christ's teachings were "the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught," he rejected the miracle accounts of the gospels.

Jefferson wrote a short book, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, that anticipated modern revisionism by presenting Christ as a beautiful mortal sage about whom supernatural talk was invented mythology. The normally daring Virginian declined to publish this work during his lifetime, showing it to friends but leaving instructions that the volume not be printed until after his death.

Suffice it to say, an American president today might not venture to write a book rejecting the divinity of Jesus.

In fact, Jefferson did most of his work on The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (which remains in press under the title The Jefferson Bible) while sitting in the old White House. Late into the night, he sat pouring over the gospels with a razor and glue pot, physically splicing out miracle references and pasting together a non-supernatural account of Christ.

If, today, a president sat up late at night cutting passages out of the Bible, the right would go ballistic, claiming sacrilege, while the left would be disgusted that a president would take religion so seriously as to be tormented by a thirst to find a version of faith he could believe.

Compared with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, Bush's religious beliefs seem quite conventional.

Copyright 2003 Beliefnet. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

UPDATING THE GANZFELD DATABASE: A VICTIM OF ITS OWN SUCCESS?

By Daryl J. Bem, John Palmer, and Rich ard S. Broughton

Updating_Ganzfeld.pdf
and
http://comp9.psych.cornell.edu/dbem/Updating_Ganzfeld.pdf

ABSTRACT: The existence of psi—anomalous processes of information transfer such as telepathy or clairvoyance—continues to be controversial. Earlier meta-analyses of studies using the ganzfeld procedure appeared to provide replicable evidence for psi (D. J. Bem & C. Honorton, 1994), but a follow-up meta-analysis of 30 more recent ganzfeld studies did not (J. Milton & R. Wiseman, 1999). When 10 new studies published after the Milton–Wiseman cut off date are added to their database, the over all ganzfeld effect again becomes significant, but the mean effect size is still smaller than those from the original studies. Ratings of all 40 studies by 3 independent raters reveal that the effect size achieved by a replication is significantly correlated with the degree to which it adhered to the standard ganzfeld protocol. Standard replications yield significant effect sizes comparable with those obtained in the past.

Utah Bill Fails to Pass Committee

*** AT NEWS ***

CONTENTS:
1.) Tie Vote for HB5 in Committee
2.) Press Reports on Vote
2.) Satire
3.) Urge Senators to Take Action Today!

1.) TIE VOTE FOR HB5

We are sad to report that HB5 in Utah failed to muster a majority of the Business/Labor Committee in the State Senate. Despite two hours of testimony and debate which clearly showed the abusive nature of restraint in therapy, and holding therapy in particular, as well as the unanimous opinion of every mental-health professional group in Utah, the Committee voted 4-4 on the bill to ban the practices.

That may not be the end of the matter, though! The object now is to get the rest of the Senate to bring the bill directly to the floor. The bill should never have been assigned to the Business committee (instead of the Health Committee), which was done because its arch-foe chairs the Business Committee. Another senator chairing this particular meeting said supporters of HB5 hadn't made the case that holding therapy is abuse!

We are making a full-court press on Monday. Emails to senators expressing shock and disgust over Friday's actions would be helpful. They need to hear that the nation is watching this bill and that Friday's vote was a horrible, horrible mistake and they need to take steps now to resurrect HB5 now.

2.) PRESS REPORTS

http://www.sltrib.com/2003/feb/02152003/utah/29712.asp
"Bill to Outlaw Controversial Therapy Halted"
BY JACOB SANTINI
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

Rep. Mike Thompson's two-year campaign to prohibit coercive restraint therapy, implicated in the deaths of two Utah children in recent years, suffered probable defeat Friday in the Senate...

http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,455031812,00.html
"Holding-therapy fight ends in tentative draw"
Senator predicts the standoff may be short-lived
By James Thalman, Deseret News

The country's most controversial child behavior therapy can continue unimpeded at least for now...

http://www.harktheherald.com/article.php?sid=73977&mode=thread&order=0
"Bill banning holding therapy fails in committee"
LEAH ELISON Herald , Feb. 15, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- The mood at the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Development Committee meeting was intense Friday as parents, patients and doctors offered contradictory testimony regarding the effectiveness of holding therapies...

3.) UTAH SATIRE

"Holding Patterns: Legislators spare no rods," by D.P. Sorensen
http://www.slweekly.com/editorial/2003/deep_2003-02-13.cfm#
The brouhaha over so-called "holding therapy" in which unruly children are immobilized until they learn to obey authority and follow orders, continues in the state Legislature...

4.) ASK SENATORS TO REVIVE HB5, OR JUST COMPLAIN:

jevans@utahsenate.org, pjulander@utahsenate.org, gdavis@utahsenate.org, parent@utahsenate.org, emayne@utahsenate.org, mwaddoups@utahsenate.org, khale@utahsenate.org, cwalker@utahsenate.org, amansell@utahsenate.org, dcbuttars@utahsenate.org, hstephenson@utahsenate.org, rallen@utahsenate.org, bwright@utahsenate.org, cbramble@utahsenate.org, pknudson@utahsenate.org, dthomas@utahsenate.org, dgladwell@utahsenate.org, sjenkins@utahsenate.org, dsteele@utahsenate.org, gbell@utahsenate.org, deastman@utahsenate.org, lblackha@utahsenate.org, lhillyard@utahsenate.org, bevans@utahsenate.org, mdmitrich@utahsenate.org, thatch@utahsenate.org, bhickman@utahsenate.org

[*AT NEWS* sends the latest news to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with the most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of newly formed *Advocates for Children in Therapy.* For more information on Attachment Therapy, go to http://www.kidscomefirst.info ]

Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
Corresponding Secretary
Loveland, CO
(970)667-7313
rosa@ezlink.com

Alien 'abductees' show real symptoms

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2003/denver_2003/2769875.stm

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News Online science staff in Denver

People who claim to have been kidnapped by aliens have a tendency to believe in fantasies and suffer disturbing experiences in their sleep, scientists have found. But the researchers say "abductees" also believe in their experiences so deeply that they display real stress symptoms similar to those of traumatised battlefield veterans.

The latest research on the "taken" phenomenon was unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.

"This underscores the power of emotional belief," Professor Richard McNally, from Harvard University, told the BBC.

I've had several encounters with alien craft and I've had an alien implant removed from my body

'Abductee'

"If you genuinely believe you've been traumatised and recall these memories, you'll show the same psycho-physiologic emotional reactions as people who really have been traumatised."

A group of abductees told the BBC about their experiences on Saturday. One of them said: "I've had several encounters with alien craft and I've had an alien implant removed from my body."

New-age beliefs

It was typical of the stories they all had to relate. It is thought there are about four million Americans who believe they have been abducted by extraterrestrials.

Scientists believe this clearly is not true, so why do abductees believe they have been taken?

Professor McNally has found that many of them share personality traits and sleep disorders.

"Most of them had pre-existing new-age beliefs - they were into bio-energetic therapies, past lives, astral projection, tarot cards, and so on," he said.

"Second, they have episodes of apparent sleep paralysis accompanied by hallucinations."

Lab experiments

These frightening experiences usually prompted the individuals to visit therapists, who would frequently suggest alien abduction as a cause - an explanation which the abductees readily accepted, he said.

Professor McNally has come up with a rational explanation of alien abduction experiences which was endorsed by other psychologists in Denver. He said the individuals conformed to a "common recipe".

But the researcher stressed that many of the people really did believe what they were saying.

In laboratory experiments, individuals were asked to relate their experiences. These stories were played back to them and their physical responses recorded.

"When a Vietnam vet has his experiences played back to him in the lab of some combat event, his heart rate goes up and you see an increase in sweating. If you don't have post-traumatic stress disorder, you don't react that way.

"The heart-rate responses and sweating responses were at least as great in the alien abductees when they heard their memories of being taken and molested by space aliens and subjected to experiments as those of people with genuine traumatic events."

Did the Swiss build Stonehenge?

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Stonehenge, the renowned and mysterious ancient monument seen as a symbol of Britain, may actually be a marvel of Swiss -- or even German -- engineering.

Archeologists studying the remains of a wealthy archer found in a 4,000-year-old grave exhumed last year near the renowned landmark said Monday he was originally from the Alps region, probably modern-day Switzerland, Austria or Germany.

"He would have been a very important person in the Stonehenge area and it is fascinating to think that someone from abroad -- probably modern-day Switzerland -- could have played an important part in the construction of the site," said archeologist Andrew Fitzpatrick in a statement.

The so-called "Amesbury Archer" was found in a grave in southern England about three miles from the landmark, buried with 100 items, including gold earrings, copper knives and pottery.

Researchers hailed the find -- from about 2,300 B.C. and the oldest known grave in Britain -- as one of the richest early Bronze Age sites in Europe.

He was dubbed "The King of Stonehenge" because of the lavish items found in his grave, including some of the earliest gold objects ever found in Britain.

Tests on the enamel of his teeth revealed he was born and grew up in the Alps region.

"Different ratios of oxygen isotopes form on teeth in different parts of the world and the ratio found on these teeth prove they were from somebody from the Alps region," said Tony Trueman from Wessex Archeology.

"It is important proof that culture imported from the continent helped bring Britain out of the Stone Age," he said.

Built between 3,000 and 1,600 B.C., Stonehenge is a ring of 20-ton stones on Salisbury Plain that draws armies of tourists each year.

Celebrations at the site during the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere -- attract thousands of revelers, including Druids who believe Stonehenge was a sacred temple.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/02/11/britain.stonehenge.reut/index.html


Monday, February 17, 2003

SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT BREAKTHROUGH IN HISTORY

http://www.rumormillnews.com/cgi-bin/forum.cgi?read=28531 Rumor Mill News Reading Room Forum

Posted By: billym
Date: Monday, 10 February 2003, 1:04 a.m.

Here are some more excerpts from Dr. Stephen Greer's recent announcement of a working free-energy device which taps hundreds of watts of energy from the vacuum of space (zero point) and converts it to 110 AC current.

Interviewed on George Noory's Coast to Coast radio program, Greer thrilled listeners with the tale of having just gone to see the inventor and observe the device for himself. He said you could pick it up in one hand.

Dr. Greer said "This is the most astounding material object I've ever seen in my life. And that's saying something." He likened it to a "Holy Grail type of device." Greer had formed a group called Space Energy Access Systems with the purpose was identifying and testing new technologies to tap the inexhaustible energy of the time domain. As scalar scientist Tom Bearden has said, "Time is compressed energy", by the factor of lightspeed squared, and the "Holy Grail" is a device to convert the energy of time-waves down into the ordinary transverse EM 3-space waves. Such a device pours out electricity for free, forever. Although this seems to break 2nd-law conservation of energy, Bearden says that it does not break this law because this energy is conserved in the higher dimension, the 4th dimension of time.

Greer announced that such a device has been found.

The inventor's name is being withheld for his own security and protection. In the thuggish world in which we now live there are quite a number of very powerful corporations which would use any means necessary to suppress this free-energy device. In fact we are on the verge of mass slaughter in order to get more oil.

Dr. Greer said security was the reason why he wanted to make the announcement immediately, and to a very wide audience.

"The reason I am speaking about this at this very early stage of its discovery is that the millions of people listening tonight are our protection. Those of you who are listening to this should tell everyone they know that this is coming down the path. It is our intention to protect this system, get it tested, get it perfected, get it out to the public and terminate the need for gas and oil and coal and start an entirely new sustainable civilization on this planet, that is long overdue. It could have happened probably fifty years ago or more. But it's now time for us to do it as a people.

"If the testing and development of this holds up, it will be the single most important scientific breakthrough in the history - the recorded history - of the human race, and that is not an overstatement."

Greer has experience with gaining some security via wide public announcement in his other endeavor, "The Disclosure Project," which has been working make the government to disclose top-secret knowledge on UFOS and free energy systems. The secrets are held in the layrinthine compartmentalized secret agencies and rogue military-industrial black projects. He got hundreds of ex-military officers to annouce they were ready to testify, if given immunity by congress, about these secret things. Propulsion systems, anti-gravity, reverse engineered spacecraft, and free energy. Above all, free energy. This rogue group has withheld from mankind all the abundance of Creation.

Greer wants everyone in on it from the start, so that if he turns up dead, or "suicided," or "disappeared" to look at the obvious culprits.

DESCRIPTION OF DEVICE

"Let me describe what I saw, if you have a moment.

"It's not very big at all. I picked it up - you can pick it up with one hand. Took it out actually on a sidewalk. This device gathered, very passively, less than one watt of power from the environment - I won't say how it was done, I'm not allowed to at this point - and the machine started up. It generated hundreds of watts of power in usable form. We hooked this up ourselves, so there was no mystery about it. We even selected the things to hook up to this thing. It ran a 300-watt light bulb, a 100-watt light bulb, a stereo and an oscillating fan with an electric motor, all at the same time with literally no artificial manmade input of power. So, this is of course an extraordinary scientific breakthrough. The inventor certainly deserves to get the next Nobel prize, or the one that would be awarded after this is fully tested by the scientific community, if indeed what we see holds up.

"There were no hidden power sources. And this is something obviously which could put in every home, in every car and every industry and would enable the world to leave the era of want and war and enter an era of abundance and peace for as long as we want to create it. … We have heard of these things coming and going in the time of Tesla, in the time of Floyd Sweet, in the time of T. Henry Moray, and others, but to actually stand in the presence of a man who could build such a circuit and see it run was amazing. If I had to go to my grave tomorrow, at least I would know that such a thing is possible, which shines an enormous ray of hope into the world of humanity as we apparently march off to the next oil war."

SPACE ENERGY ACCESS SYSTEMS (SEAS)

http://www.seaspower.com/

SEAS will now rebuild the machine from scratch, "a more robust model," which should only take a few months.

"It will then be tested at least three independent government and university labs which we have already pre-selected for their honesty and cooperation, and when all those ducks are lined up and we are certain of what we have, it will then be massively disclosed to the world in what has to be regarded as one of the most important scientific announcements in our time.

"Well, this is why I'm talking to you. …I wanted to be very very clear that this information got out as soon as possible because I have to tell you that this is the sort of thing that people have unfortunately in the past been absorbed into operations where these technologies have been suppressed. People have been murdered, people have been imprisoned, people have had these things bought out only to sit on the black shelf at a major corporation.

MARCH IN THE STREETS FOR FREE ENERGY

"That is not a conspiracy theory. We can prove this in a court of law that this has happened over and over again. And the reason that we are moving quickly to let the world know that this exists is that the ultimate shield against that happening is two things: Number one - my absolute assurance that I will take a bullet before I will let this be suppressed, and number two - that there is no amount of money, that you cannot put enough zeros after a one, to buy us out and keep this thing from getting out to the public.

"In addition to that, the public needs to understand if anything is to happen to this project that is a suppressive effort, that they should absolutely, if they have to, march in the streets to see that it is released again. There is no time for this nonsense, where these sorts of inventions have been suppressed and where humanity has been left basically in a state of downward spiral of poverty and pollution and what have you. We simply have to reverse that trend."

Asked how soon such devices could be rolling off the line Greer felt it could as soon as 2004, but admitted it might take a couple years longer. But whenever it happens all of humanity enters a new era, one with literally mind-boggling possibilities.

Greer expained the new-physics principles which allows such an inexhaustible abundance of free energy:

"Well, as I understand it, if you look at the space around us - not outer space, just the space in the room where you're sitting -that space and the structure of space and the fundamental level at which matter and energy exists is fluxing out of some very potent field of energy. That's in some type of homeostasis. And what these technologies do is that they perturb the homeostasis enough to tap into that baseline energy or that energy that's in the quantum vacuum, some would call it, that's around us. Matter and energy are fluxing in and out of this field and can tap into it. It's almost like pulling energy out of a reservoir of energy that's there all the time but isn't in a form that can actually be used. What these systems do is tap into that energy and in the case of the device that we saw, actually converts it into usable, controlled energy on demand, …

"There's such an enormous body of information on this. There's a new book that Dr. Tom Bearden has put out that's almost encyclopedic."

http://www.cheniere.org/books/efv/index.htm

"But our goal is to be able to do this at least in a generation one stable, usable system, certainly within a year to year and a half. I would like to think sooner, but knowing how things happen in the world, I think it could very well be that long or a bit longer. I would caution we don't want to take too much longer. We are going to be very aggressively capitalizing this, putting the funds into this, so that this can be done and we can collapse timeframes.

"Frankly, Tom Bearden and I were discussing this just before we were meeting the staff of the Senate Environment committee. He said that if these new technologies don't begin to roll off of the conveyor belt like sausages by around the first quarter of 2004 - given the fact that the biosphere is being so strained, given the geopolitical tensions, we may simply just be out of time. So, I think it's a stroke before midnight and we really need to make this project succeed."

This new device is now the second such venture moving quickly toward production within 2 or 3 years. While our foolish and stupid and greedy leaders stand poised to murder tens of thousands of innocent people in a great oil piracy here stands a device to make oil obsolete. Being oilmen, they don't want to even hear of such a thing. Being stupid, their announced policy on energy is to get more oil out of the earth and burn it. They advocate continued destruction of the atmosphere. Being greedy, they will stop at nothing.

What if the 100 billion dollars they are planning on spending for their war, that money was plunged into a full all-out effort to develop free energy for benefit of humanity? Decentralize our power system, for security. Non-polluting power, and a boon to the third world nations. The atmosphere would gradually be cleansed, and everyone could breath fresh air. Scalar healing systems, time-reversing the cells, would keep everyone healthy for very low cost.

I am hoping to see some new signs popping up at the coming mass-demonstrations which say "Release Free Energy Secrets," or "WE WANT THE MEG," or "DISCLOSE SCALAR WEAPONS!" In a way such a protest would be on a more fundemental level of things than a protest against a war, since disclosure of free energy would end all future oil wars forever! Oil might become a dollar a barrel. Gasoline would no longer be needed. Nothing to fight over.

Greer imagines all electrical devices would someday contain their own power souce.

"This type of power system eventually could be in every appliance so that every appliance wouldn't even need to be plugged in. Eventually you could have construction so homes wouldn't even have wiring. Every lamp and every appliance could have its own power source. This thing is efficient and miniaturizable, if there is such a word - so that you could do this and you would be able to have everything that is made have its own power source and it would completely change the way architecture and construction takes place… but our goal is to be able to do this at least in a generation one stable, usable system, certainly within a year to year and a half. "

With the advent of free energy the oil companies will topple, and release their terrifying and ruthless grip on our government and our human destiny. Because I believe these new discoveries can make possible an earthly paradise we have only begun to imagine. The oil corporations and energy cartels are not going to take this lightly. But the whole world is now rising up against their war, for the theft of oil, and the world will rise up against their suppression of the truth about free energy.

Researchers Find It's Easy to Plant False Memories in Minds of Some People

Feb 16, 2003

By Joseph B. Verrengia
The Associated Press

http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGACSMJL9CD.html

DENVER (AP) - Remember that wonderful day when Bugs Bunny hugged you at Disneyland? A study presented Sunday shows just how easy it can be to induce false memories in the minds of some people.

More than a third of subjects in the study recalled that theme-park moment - impossible because Bugs is not a Disney character - after a researcher planted the false memory.

Other research, of people who believed they were abducted by space aliens, shows that even false memories can be as intensely felt as those of real-life victims of war and other violence.

The research demonstrates that police interrogators and people investigating sexual-abuse allegations must be careful not to plant suggestions into their subjects, said University of California-Irvine psychologist Elizabeth Loftus. She presented preliminary results of recent false memory experiments Sunday at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Loftus said some people may be so suggestible that they could be convinced they were responsible for crimes they didn't commit. In interviews, "much of what goes on - unwittingly - is contamination," she said.

The news media's power of suggestion also can leave a false impression, Loftus said.

"During the Washington sniper attacks, everyone reported seeing a white van," she said. "Where did it come from? The whole country was seeing white vans."

A key, researchers said, is to add elements of touch, taste, sound and smell to the story.

In the Bugs Bunny study, Loftus talked with subjects about their childhoods and asked not only whether they saw someone dressed up as the character, but also whether they hugged his furry body and stroked his velvety ears.

In subsequent interviews, 36 percent of the subjects recalled the cartoon rabbit.

In another study, Loftus suggested frog-kissing incidents that 15 percent of the group later recalled.

"It is sensory details that people use to distinguish their memories," said Loftus, who has conducted false memories experiments on 20,000 subjects over 25 years. "If you imbue the story with them, you'll disrupt this memory process. It's almost a recipe to get people to remember things that aren't true."

In other research presented Sunday, Harvard University psychologist Richard McNally tested 10 people who said they had been abducted, physically examined and sexually molested by space aliens.

Researchers tape-recorded the subjects talking about their memories.

When the recordings were played back later, the purported abductees perspired and their heart rates jumped.

McNally said three of the 10 subjects showed physical reactions "at least as great" as people suffering post traumatic stress disorder from war, crime, rape and other violent incidents.

"This underscores the power of emotional belief," McNally said.

AP-ES-02-16-03 1750EST

From Psychology Today

http://www.carleton.ca/~whovdest/psychology.today.html

Sherry A. Quirk

Letter from Sherry A. Quirk of the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness

to

John P. Coleman, Publisher, and Hara E. Marano, Editor, of Psychology Today.
49 East 21st. St. 11th Floor New York, NY 10010
May 3, 1996

Dear Ms. Marano and Mr. Coleman:

Sloppy journalism and sloppy science share certain common denominators: the writer/researcher extrapolates beyond the parameters of the findings, draws "telling" conclusions from apples and oranges comparisons, and ignores all evidence which does not fit into the narrow vessel created by its prejudices. Jill Niemark's article on Elizabeth Loftus, Ph. D., together with her follow-up note "Dispatch from the Memory War" incorporate these failings.

Ms. Niemark begins her first article "The Diva of Disclosure" with the question of what is at the core of this "war over memory" in which Loftus is in the center, but then barely goes into any of the interesting materials which would have lent some substance and light to this statement. Instead she presents a sort of "Elizabeth Loftus at home" vignette. Dr. Loftus may indeed be as warm and personable as she is portrayed, but a journal dealing with psychology could have at least gone into some of the detail of the controversies about memory, traumatic amnesia and the long-term effects of sexual abuse. Balance is sorely needed for this one-sided paean of praise for Loftus and her work.

The vaunted "Lost in the Mall" study had about twenty participants; four or five of these were open to the suggested "false memory" from a trusted family member. These children came to accept what the family member suggested rather than their own recollections or lack thereof and gradually fleshed out the story with plausible elements. This would seem to demonstrate that older, trusted family members are capable of exerting influence over a child's mind, as does indeed happen when the abuser tells the child "this is normal, you are crazy/a liar, you asked for it, I am doing this because I love you, you won't remember this, etc." However, juxtaposed with the following statement that Loftus has performed "studies on over twenty thousand subjects," Ms. Niemark creates the impression that "false memories" have successfully been implanted at the rate of up to 25% in thousands of individuals. This is grossly misleading, and I am sure that even Dr. Loftus herself would not claim this.

The main body of Dr. Loftus' work is on eye-witness recollection. She has been able to reliably demonstrate that details of a memory may be altered in the course of recollection, depending on the questions asked by the interviewer. She has never claimed to demonstrate that the recollection of the actual incident was altered, nor has she ever claimed to have created memories of abuse in individuals who never had such memories. He work is with ordinary memory, and as such is worthy of respect. To say that ordinary memory and memory involving traumatic experiences are similar is an apples and oranges comparison and merely leads us into a cul de sac. If anything, Dr. Loftus' work suggests that the public should be highly skeptical of accounts involving commonplace events.

Although Ms. Niemark has not seen any of the complaints filed by Ms. Crook and Ms. Hoult, she writes as if she is perfectly aware of the entire contents of these complaints and assures us that they are "baseless". She deems Hoult's and Crooks filing of complaints with the APA as a "bizarre coincidence" given that they live on opposite sides of the country. If that is bizarre, what are the chances that Loftus' resignation from the APA at just this critical moment is just another coincidence?

Ms. Niemark appears to equate Ms. Hoult's and Ms. Crook's efforts to assure that their private stories are accurately transmitted to the public with a "misguided feminist cause of other women as victims." Why should they _not_ care whether their personal lives are reported as accurately as possible? And when is a sexually abused child _not_ a victim? Does Ms. Niemark believe that there is some sort of cut-off date where the effects of having been sexually abused somehow magically dissipate? The path that a child victim of abuse must travel in achieving adulthood and beyond involves a process of discovery and change, and at times, terrible moments of recognition. It seems that Ms. Niemark (and others with her mind set)--not Lynn Crook or Jennifer Hoult--likes to use the label of "victim" to refer to these women. I wonder if she is aware of the subtle note of contempt which seeps from her words?

I can only describe as incredibly naive Ms. Niemark's suggestion that women "should revere" Dr. Loftus. Elizabeth Loftus has made her life work available to those who would convince the scientific and lay community that women's recollections are fragile and faulty at best, that even eye- witness accounts may be false, and that women are so prey to suggestion that even a therapist's question "Were you abused as a child?" may cause full-blown hallucinations of abuse to emerge. Her expert witness testimony for the defense of accused pedophiles, murderers and serial rapists (who were sometimes later convicted) offers no evidence of her concern for the plight of women who have struggled to adulthood after surviving sexual abuse, which more than one writer and psychiatrist has called "soul murder."

If there is anger towards Dr. Elizabeth Loftus from survivors of sexual abuse, it is because she has allowed her achievements to be used as the facade of "scientific truth" behind which accused and convicted perpetrators of sexual abuse are all too happy to hide. She uses the words "science" and "scientist" as if they confer some sort of infallibility on her and her work. The fact that she shrugs off her own sexual abuse, saying, "It's not that big a deal," underscores the rubric made popular by FMS supporters that typical survivors are pitiful whiners who can't wait to blame all their problems on their abuse. Furthermore, her unashamed self-comparison to Oscar Schindler is particularly embarrassing when one considers that Schindler died in poverty and unrecognized.

And which "recovered memory convictions" have been overturned? George Franklin has not been set free, as Ms. Niemark reported. The contents of his house search by the police indicated that he is a continuing danger to the community: child pornography, child-sized sexual paraphernalia, letters, clippings, and advertisements were found which made his interest in sex with children very clear. Franklin has been granted a new trial, but it was stated explicitly that the issue of "recovered memories" was not in dispute, rather other aspects of the evidence, such as Franklin's silence in the face of Eileen Franklin Lipsker's request that he admit the murder.

The figure of "800 lawsuits" on file is from the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which has actually said that 800 lawsuits have been filed or are in preparation. The vast majority of these lawsuits are never tried; they are either settled or are dismissed. A recent Lexis search by the American Prosecutors Research Institute turned up just over 50 suits which had achieved appellate status. If the estimate of 38 to 50 million adult survivors of sexual abuse is correct, even if we halved that to 14 to 25 million, these 800 suits are the proverbial drop in the bucket, not the vast epidemic which the False Memory Syndrome Foundation trumpets throughout this country and abroad.

I trust also that you will correct the mistaken perception that Richard Ofshe, Ph.D., a sociologist at the U. of California at Berkeley, was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Conversations with the Pulitzer Prize Office at the University of Columbia (with a confirming fax) as well as with The Point Reyes Light Newspaper in Marin County have made it quite clear that it was the newspaper which received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after it published a series of articles about Synanon. Those who would like to honor Dr. Ofshe should rather say that he contributed to The Point Reyes Light Newspaper's work which received the Pulitzer Prize.

Those of us who are actually following the flow of public debate note that while the purveyors of "False Memory Syndrome" are still trying to drum up interest in the "epidemic" of "false accusations", the public's attention now is being drawn to the acutely real epidemic of child abuse (and sexual abuse), the long-term effects of abuse, and our collective failure to respond adequately either to the victims or the perpetrators.

May I suggest that perhaps Jill Niemark and Psychology Today might choose to follow through on her assertion that "all sides need to be heard": let your readers hear about the 19 (at least) recent research projects or studies (including that of Loftus and Fullilove) which demonstrate "traumatic amnesia" in a significant percentage of sexual abuse/trauma victims. I very much look forward to seeing this theme explored in depth in the pages of Psychology Today.

Sincerely yours,

Sherry A. Quirk, Esq.

President and Counsel American Coalition for Abuse Awareness

cc:

Lynn Crook

Jennifer Hoult

Jill Niemark

Science Journals Cutting Bioterror Data

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=624&u=/ap/20030216/ap_on_sc/scientists_bioterrorism&printer=1

Sun Feb 16, 9:09 AM ET

By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA, AP Science Writer

DENVER - Editors of the world's leading scientific journals announced Saturday they would delete details from published studies that might help terrorists make biological weapons.

The editors, joined by several prominent scientists, said they would not censor scientific data or adopt a top-secret classification system similar to that used by the military and government intelligence agencies.

But they said scientists working in the post-Sept. 11 world must face the dismaying paradox that many of their impressive breakthroughs can be used for sinister purposes.

The new editing methods will be voluntary and will differ among the 32 publications and scientific associations that agreed to the effort. Those include the journals Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites) and The Lancet.

Most major advancements — from decoding the human genome (news - web sites) to the cloning of Dolly the sheep — are revealed to the world through those journals.

The new policy emerged from a Jan. 9 meeting at the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites), where researchers and journal editors reviewed potentially sensitive studies. They unveiled their agreement at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (news - web sites).

Proponents acknowledged they are walking a "very fine line" in trying to protect the public without chilling research. Few, if any, of the thousands of research papers reviewed annually for publication would be rejected outright, they said. Papers would still contain sufficient details to allow other scientists to independently duplicate experiments — a vital step in validating discoveries.

"We do live in different times now," said Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society of Microbiology and a leader of the biosecurity review movement. "The information we possess has the potential for misuse. We will take the appropriate steps to protect the public."

Indeed, it has never been easier to tweak a microbe's genes to create a deadlier, drug-resistant superbug for a germ bomb or hijack aerosol technology meant for convenient spray vaccines to make anthrax spores float through the air.

Journal editors said they were establishing their own expert panels to review papers that contain alarming information, and would work with the authors to make specific changes and "tone them down."

Most journals rarely face such questions. Atlas said journals published by the microbiololgy association found only two research papers in that past year that raised eyebrows, and both were published after the authors agreed to changes.

One of the excised details demonstrated how a microbe could be modified so it could kill 1 million people instead of 10,000. "It was something that was best not told," Atlas said. He declined to identify the microbe.

Atlas said spotting risky research is not black and white. "You know it when you see it," he said.

It's a daunting task. Not only does the review cover obvious subjects such as smallpox and toxic chemicals, but it also includes a wide array of related scientific disciplines that could affect their diagnosis and containment.

"There could be a paper on the rate of speed of a particular infection," said Science editor Donald Kennedy, formerly president of Stanford University. "It could be of tremendous value in immunization and quarantine strategies. But it could also be of tremendous value to someone trying to evade those strategies."

Others worry that security measures could hamper breakthroughs in basic science and engineering. Even humanitarian research projects, such as eradicating tuberculosis, might have to pass a security litmus test.

"Someone working with virulence factors might make a more virulent microbe," said Karl Simpson, a French biotechnology consultant. "But working with those same virulence factors might go a long way toward saving some of the 50 million people who die of infectious diseases each year."
--
MWJPowers
miwijopo@bcpl.net
www.bcpl.net/~miwijopo
"Oh how I realised how I wanted time,
Put into perspective, tried so hard to find,
Just for one moment, thought I'd found my way.
Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away."
- Joy Division "Twenty-Four Hours"

Evolution theory bonds scientists named Steve

http://www.sanmateocountytimes.com/Stories/0,1413,87~11268~1184578,00.html

San Mateo County Times

By Jill Tucker
STAFF WRITER

Sunday, February 16, 2003 - Nobel Prize winner and Stanford University physicist Steven Chu believes we all came from the same ancestor that stepped out of the primordial ooze a few billion years ago.

All of us. Poodles and people. Wasps and wombats.

Steve Beckendorf, a University of California, Berkeley, genetics professor, supports that theory too. As do UC Berkeley environmental scientist Steve Beissinger and applied physics professor Steven Block.

That makes four Steves who support evolution, and there are apparently 221 other scientists who agree -- all of them named Steve.

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Oakland-based National Center for Science Education trotted out the long list of evolution-minded Steves today at the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.

The so-called Project Steve takes satirical aim at creationists who use similar lists of scientists to lend credence to their belief in a theistic model of creation, which does include a common ancestry.

"Creationists are fond of amassing lists of Ph.D.s who deny evolution to try to give the false impression that evolution is somehow on the verge of being rejected by the scientific community," said Eugenia Scott, executive director of the Oakland-based center. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

While Project Steve, which includes Stephanies too, takes a humorous jab at creationists, local participating scientists said it represents a serious defense of what they say is a fundamental principle of science.

Saying the theory of evolution is a theory in crisis is like saying the theory of gravity is a theory in crisis, Scott said.

"Theories are explanations, not guesses," she added.

Nonetheless, several states including Ohio and Kansas, and school districts across the country have sought to include creationist ideas in public school science instruction.

'Hard to take'

"Legitimate scientists find (creationism) hard to take seriously," Block said.

"And yet I think we need to take it seriously because the general public is being buffaloed by these people."

Creationists believe the universe and life were created suddenly and that man and apes have separate ancestry.

Some creationists, for example, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible -- including the idea that Earth is about 10,000 years old. That would mean dinosaurs and humans existed simultaneously and carbon dating is dead wrong.

Other challengers of evolution and natural selection, including those who support "intelligent design," say life is too complicated to simply have evolved randomly. The idea is called irreducible complexity.

Take a flagellum, which is like an outboard motor that some bacteria use to swim. It includes parts similar to a propeller, drive shaft and motor. How, intelligent design advocates ask, could something so intricate evolve randomly and over time? They argue half a flagellum would have been worthless.

Or take DNA, said Bruce Wood, public relations officer for the Institute for Creation Research in Santee.

"It's incomprehensible how chaotic processes could come up with a unique system like (DNA)," he said.

"There's no evolutionist that's ever existed that can come up with a mechanism of how life came up from dead chemicals."

And yet, the 225 Steves and the thousands of other scientists support the National Center for Science Education's statement that evolution is a "well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry."

"You see so much that tells you that evolution has actually happened," UC Berkeley professor Beckendorf said. "There's just so many demonstrations."

Almost breathlessly, Beckendorf launched into a discussion about the development of eyes. The gene that makes a fly's eye also makes a human eye. While the final product is different, the basic mechanism is the same.

"You can see these tracks of things that are doing the same thing over 500 million years and in completely different groups of animals really all the way from a fly to a person and everything in between," he added.

Polar opposite beliefs

While creationists and evolutionists are polar opposites in their beliefs, religion and evolution are not necessarily irreconcilable. Not all those who believe in a higher being or the Bible are opponents of evolution.

So-called theistic evolutionists believe both science and their religion. The idea is to find a way to blend them, said Ted Peters, professor of theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley.

Though often ignored in the evolution-creation debates, theistic evolutionists compose a large segment of the population, Peters added.

"It's definitely possible and actually advisable that a Christian both revere what the Bible says and affirm the science of evolutionary biology," said Peters, who is also affiliated with the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union.

"For us, we want to take seriously the science of evolution and in some cases celebrate the science of evolution and show how at minimum it is compatible with a Christian understanding of God's creation."

Contact Jill Tucker at jtucker-@angnewspapers.com

US cable channel to screen Diana seance

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_747889.html?menu=news.royals

A US cable TV company is to screen a 90 minute seance in which psychics will try to contact Princess Diana.

The Spirit of Diana, hosted by former Avengers star Patrick Macnee, will cost viewers £9 and will be shown on March 9.

The programme includes live seances and interviews with Mohamed al-Fayed, and author Andrew Morton.

Psychic, Oonagh Shanley-Toffolo, said: "Princess Diana asked me to tell the world about the real Princess Diana, and not the person portrayed to the world."

Shanley-Toffolo is described by the programme's makers, Associated International Television, as England's "premier healer and spiritual intimate of the Princess".

She is a former nun, and was the Duke of Windsor's private nurse just before he died.

The programme will be filmed in London, with the live seance featuring psychics "who had regular and sometimes daily contact with the Princess," according to AIT.

The psychics include Shanley-Toffolo, Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, Patricia Bankins and Penny Thornton.

Paul Sharratt, who is directing the special, said: "People will discover a whole new side of the great lady and the seances may provide yet more revelations about her and the royal entourage."

Story filed: 12:03 Thursday 6th February 2003

Romanian may have died of spontaneous combustion

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_747482.html?menu=news.scienceanddiscov

An 85-year-old man who appears to have died from spontaneous self-combustion has been buried in his back garden.

Police are refusing to issue a death certificate because his head was burnt to the size of an orange, but his body and clothes were unmarked.

Alexei Rusnac from Dej, western Romania, was found by his daughter sitting next to his fireplace.

Investigators say no one can explain why more than 80 per cent of the man's head melted and why his shirt and clothes did not have any trace of burning whatsoever.

Several doctors said it was possible the man suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, fell into the fireplace and his head set on fire.

But the theory is not endorsed by police forensic experts who say a human body can burn only at a temperature of 250C which is impossible to reach in a fireplace.

They say this might be the first case of unexplained spontaneous self-combustion investigated in Romania, but they are refusing to issue a death certificate without a known cause of death.

Story filed: 10:39 Wednesday 5th February 2003


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