NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 March 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, March 06, 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.

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In the News

Today's Headlines - March 6, 2003

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - After months of delay, the Bush administration is proposing a compensation fund for people injured by the smallpox vaccine, trying to plug the most prominent hole in its inoculation program. The proposal, which Congress would have to approve, is based on a similar compensation package now available to police officers and firefighters injured on the job.

Under the plan, the government would pay $262,100 for each person who dies or is permanently and totally disabled by the vaccine. Those less severely injured could receive up to $50,000 plus medical expenses.

The vaccine, effective in preventing the transmission of the highly contagious disease, carries rare but serious risks, including death. Smallpox was declared eradicated globally in 1980, but there is fear it could return in an act of bioterrorism.


from The Washington Post

Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small and the director of the National Zoo agreed yesterday to an independent review of animal deaths as well as unannounced visits by federal inspectors to ease concerns about animal care and other problems at the renowned facility.

The outside scrutiny was proposed yesterday by members of a congressional oversight committee, whose chairman said he has asked the National Academy of Sciences to investigate recent animal deaths in which human error might have played a part. The lawmakers also said they want the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which makes unannounced inspections at other zoos, to begin a similar practice at the National Zoo.

Small was testifying before the House Administration Committee in the wake of a series of recent animal deaths, including the accidental poisonings of two red pandas. He said he would welcome the review by outside experts as well as surprise inspections.


from The New York Times

NEW ORLEANS, March 5 — The independent panel investigating the loss of the space shuttle Columbia is scrutinizing NASA's relationships with its contractors to see whether work standards laid out in contracts and supervision of quality control are strict enough, a member of the panel said.

The examination goes far beyond the immediate inquiry into the breakup of the Columbia on Feb. 1 and could result in wide-ranging changes in the way the National Aeronautics and Space Administration works with its contractors.

The panel member, Brig. Gen. Duane W. Deal of the Air Force, said in an interview on Tuesday night that investigators wanted to determine whether NASA's oversight of inspections was adequate, since it had turned over more inspection duties to its contractors in recent years.

In addition, General Deal said, investigators will look at hundreds of contracts with private companies to see whether they make high-enough demands.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Taking a daily dose of aspirin can cut the risk of developing growths in the colon that may turn cancerous, according to two new studies published today.

It's welcome news for the many Americans already taking aspirin and similar analgesic drugs for headaches, arthritis or to protect against heart disease. But doctors stopped short of recommending that everyone take the drug because of concerns about the risks of long-term aspirin therapy.

Scientists have earlier noted that people who regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, are less likely to get colon cancer. But these are the first studies in which subjects were assigned either aspirin or a placebo and then followed for a year or more.

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with 150,000 new cases diagnosed annually.


from The New York Times

CALL it crazy, but Monica Nicolescu has taken a robot under her wing. At a robotics laboratory at the University of Southern California, she puts the two-wheeled machine through its paces, leading it through a maze of short plastic pillars to an orange box on the floor. It follows her around the lab, observing and reproducing her every step.

Through this high-tech game of monkey-see, monkey-do, Ms. Nicolescu and her colleagues train robots to perform simple jobs like picking up the box. But their goal, and that of other robotics researchers, is to build robots that will be capable of doing not only tasks they have been programmed for, but new and more complicated ones as well.

Despite advances in artificial intelligence, sensors and mechanical devices, researchers are still a long way from realizing the guiding vision of robotics: machines that can move and work like humans, learn new tasks with little or no training, and react with sensitivity to the changing moods of their mortal masters.

Instead, most robots remain human-dependent machines that can perform only specialized tasks, like welding parts in a factory, searching through the rubble of a collapsed building or vacuuming a living room. Few display what could be considered sensitivity to people, and those that do tend to be toys, like Sony's Aibo pet, that serve only to entertain.


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Public prayer fanatics borrow page from enemy's script


March 5, 2003

The Bush administration has been dealt a setback in its campaign to allow prayer in our public schools. The full 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has voted 15-9 to back the 2-1 vote by its earlier panel finding the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because of the words ''under God.''

The pledge, written in 1892, had those words added to it in 1954, during the Eisenhower administration, and I remember a nun in our Catholic school telling us we had to say it because it was the law--but it was wrong, because it violated the principle of separating church and state.

We started every day with classroom prayer at St. Mary's School, of course, but Sister Rosanne said there was a difference between voluntary prayer in a private religious school and prayer in a school paid for by every taxpayer--a distinction so obvious that Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are forced to willfully ignore it.

Ashcroft said after the ruling that his Justice Department will ''spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag''--a misrepresentation so blatant that it functions as a lie. The pledge remains intact and unchallenged. The court said nothing about pledging allegiance to the flag. It spoke only of the words ''under God''--which amounted, the court said, to an endorsement of religion.

This is really an argument between two kinds of prayer--vertical and horizontal. I don't have the slightest problem with vertical prayer. It is horizontal prayer that frightens me. Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven. It need not be spoken aloud, because God is a spirit and has no ears. Horizontal prayer must always be audible, because its purpose is not to be heard by God, but to be heard by fellow men standing within earshot.

To choose an example from football, when my team needs a field goal to win and I think, ''Please, dear God, let them make it!''--that is vertical prayer. When, before the game, a group of fans joins hands and ''voluntarily'' recites the Lord's Prayer--that is horizontal prayer. It serves one of two purposes: to encourage me to join them, or to make me feel excluded.

Although some of the horizontal devout are sincere, others use this prayer as a device of recruitment or intimidation. If you are conspicuous in your refusal to go along, they may even turn and pray while holding you directly in their sights.

This simple insight about two kinds of prayer, which is beyond theological question, should bring a dead halt to the obsession with prayer in public places. It doesn't, because the purpose of its supporters is political, not spiritual. Their faith is like Dial soap: Now that they use it, they wish everyone would. I grew up in an America where people of good breeding did not impose their religious convictions upon those they did not know very well. Now those manners have been discarded.

Our attorney general, John Ashcroft, is theoretically responsible for enforcing the separation of church and state. He violates his oath of office daily by getting down on his knees in his government office every morning and welcoming federal employees to join him in ''voluntary'' prayer on carpets paid for by the taxpayers.

His brand of religion is specifically fundamentalist evangelical. As his eyes lift from beneath lowered lids to take informal attendance, would he be gladdened to see a Muslim, a Catholic, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Baha'i, a Unitarian, a Scientologist, all accompanied by the chants of Hare Krishnas?

Under Bush we have had a great deal of horizontal prayer, in which we evoke the deity at political events to send the sideways message that our enemies had better look out, because God is on our side. This week's Newsweek cover story reports that the Bush presidency ''is the most resolutely 'faith-based' in modern times.''

Because our enemies are for the most part more enthusiastic about horizontal prayer than we are, and see absolutely no difference between church and state--indeed, want to make them the same--it is alarming to reflect that they may be having more success bringing us around to their point of view than we are at sticking to our own traditional American beliefs about freedom of religion. When Ashcroft and his enemies both begin their days with displays of their godliness, do we feel safer after they rise from their devotions?

Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

Macnee defends seance


5 March 2003

Actor Patrick Macnee has defended his decision to host a TV seance in which psychics try to contact the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The former Avengers star will front The Spirit of Diana when it is screened in the US this weekend on a pay-per-view station for £10.

Commentators on both sides of the Atlantic claim the show is a sick stunt. Macnee, 81, said: 'The press hounded Diana for most of her life so I refuse to listen to them. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.'

Exeter's UFO kid dead at 55


Exeter, NH Sunday, March 2, 2003
Portsmouth Herald

By Colleen Lent

The death of longtime Seacoast resident Norman Muscarello, 55, this past week undoubtedly rekindled discussions of his UFO sighting on Sept. 3, 1965, which made national headlines.

One can almost hear excerpts of conversations around the dinner table or coffee shop counter.

"Isn't he the kid who was chased by the space ship down by Dining's Farm?" or "There was a book about him by some reporter" or "Muscarello is the `Close Encounters' guy."

The account of Norman's teen-age real-life experience was akin to a scene from a Steven Spielberg or George Lucas film. It soon became fodder for several articles by John G. Fuller, appearing in Reader's Digest, Look and True, before it was developed into the book "Incident at Exeter" by the same author.

Though Norman is best known in the Granite State as the extraterrestrial guy, his younger brother Thomas Muscarello of Exeter remembers him as an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things to help his mother and siblings during challenging times.

While juggling funeral arrangements and the management of his business, Auto Details in Exeter, this past week, Thomas took some time to talk about his brother, recalling vignettes of his life dating back to his adolescent years, the infamous UFO sighting, and three tours in Vietnam. Providing details of past events, some dating back more than 40 years, wasn't easy for Thomas. However, the essence of his brother's character is something Thomas said he'll never forget.

N.H. case called `flagship' in UFO abduction annals


Portsmouth, NH Sunday, March 2, 2003
Portsmouth Herald

By Richard Fabrizio

PORTSMOUTH - We are not alone.

Betty Hill sits in her living room next to a bust of one of the little green men who abducted her and her late husband Barney more than 40 years ago.

"Junior," as she calls the bust, is tattered and aged - particularly from a fall from a podium during one of her talks in St. Louis years ago. But Betty's story remains an intact and startling glimpse inside America's fascination with UFOs and aliens.

The Hills' story was documented in John Fuller's best-selling book "Interrupted Journey." Fuller learned of the Hills while researching his book "Incident in Exeter," about Norman Muscarello, who saw a UFO in Exeter in 1965. (See related story.)

Muscarello, an Exeter resident, passed away this past week. Betty said she didn't know him well, but was sorry to hear of his death. The pair were kindred members of a galactic club.

"Interrupted Journey" became a made-for-TV movie in 1975. James Earl Jones played Barney and Betty was played by Estelle Parsons. Film critic Leonard Maltin rated the film as above-average and called it "absorbing" and "fact-based." He did say it lacked action though.

Barney passed away in 1969. Betty, who turns 84 in June, has told their story across the world: from the Soviet Union to England to the United States and Canada. The tale remains something out of this world.

The Hills were returning from vacation in Canada on Sept. 19, 1961. They headed toward Portsmouth on Highway 3 through Lancaster in the state's western panhandle. They saw a moving light in the sky as they approached Indian Head.

Barney stopped the car but left the engine running and got out to look at the object with binoculars. He saw "5 to 11 figures moving behind a double row of windows" of some kind of craft.

As the object closed, Barney ran back to the car exclaiming, "They are going to capture us!" The couple fled in the car at breakneck speed. Betty said the object moved directly over the car and they heard a loud noise - like the sound of a tuning fork - and then they were drowsy.

They awoke some two hours later and found themselves driving near Ashland, about 35 miles south of Indian Head and about a 30-minute drive from Lancaster. Betty said they continued their drive, feeling uneasy and unsure.

The Hills reported their experience to officials at Pease Air Force Base the day after. They were later interviewed by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

Soon after, Betty began having nightmares about that night. A group of "men" stood in the middle of the road and stopped their car. Betty and Barney were taken aboard a disk-shaped craft and examined through hair and skin samples.

Betty says the aliens did not all look alike. They were 4½- to 5-feet tall. "I'm not too accurate on their height, but they're rugged. They're not skinny guys."

Anxiety led the Hills to seek help from Dr. Benjamin Simon, a Boston psychiatrist who specialized in treating amnesia through hypnotherapy. Simon's help revealed many details of their encounter that matched each other's closely as well as Betty's nightmares.

Betty no longer struggles to deal with her abduction.

"No, no, no," she said in her State Street home. "Actually, when I was on board the craft I recognized the importance of what was happening. I said to the leader, `I know you're not from this planet. Where are you from?'"

Through Dr. Simon's treatment, Betty drew a "star map" showing her alien abductors' origin. An astronomical investigation years later produced a controversial match between her map and a cluster of previously unknown stars near two stars called Zeta Reticuli.

John Schuessler, international director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), said Betty started the abduction phenomena.

"Others may say they were abducted before, but she popularized it," Schuessler said. "I have a lot of respect for Betty."

Schuessler said the Hills' willingness to go to Dr. Simon and outside the UFO Network, brought credibility.

Dr. Simon's professional opinion of the Hills' abduction was that it was a product of their collective imaginations. He concluded "people do not necessarily tell the factual truth while they are under hypnosis - all they tell is what they believe to be the truth."

Schuessler said Dr. Simon's conclusion doesn't mean the abduction didn't happen. "A lot of people didn't want to believe Betty, wanted to believe it couldn't be true. But she has never wavered on her story."

The Hills' story was closely scrutinized. Betty was given a lie detector test by F. Lee Bailey on live national television. One question was: Is it true that you were shown a star map while you were on board a UFO in the White Mountains on Sept. 19, 1961? Another asked: Is this a hoax in any way?

Betty said at one point Bailey asked if she would tell a lie so they could get a reading. Her belief in the abduction remains total today.

"If they don't believe it, then I don't know who they are," she said. "I go to the grocery store and people come up to me and tell me their sightings. Around here, it's difficult to find someone who hasn't had at least one sighting or knows someone in their family who has."

Through March 2001, there have been 143 UFO sightings reported over the years in Rockingham County, by far the most in the state's counties. Seacoast sightings were reported over the years in Barrington, Durham, East Kingston, Exeter, Greenland, Hampton, Newfields, North Hampton, Portsmouth, Seabrook and Stratham.

New Hampshire MUFON reports three recent sightings around the state including a Fremont man who saw a white orb of light on Jan. 16, 2002. The others were in Pittsburg in 2002 and in Colebrook in 2000.

Peter Geremia, director of New Hampshire MUFON, said the notion of the state being a hotbed of UFO activity is a perception.

"We've had times when we had many more sightings than others, but so have many other places around the world," said Geremia, a resident of Rye. "It's all about where and when the phenomenon starts."

But Geremia says New Hampshire has a rich history of UFO sightings going back to Fuller's books on Muscarello and the Hills.

"The books by Fuller probably helped make our cases a little more famous than some of the other ones," he said. "I generally say the Hill case is the flagship of abduction research cases."

Betty quite seriously says her last sighting was during the Portsmouth Christmas Parade this past January when a craft with three red lights on top hovered over her neighborhood.

"I assumed they were watching the Christmas parade. Even now they're out here flying over Great Bay. Basically they follow the rivers."

Senator, His Son Get Boosts From Makers of Ephedra


Orrin Hatch has kept regulators at bay and benefited via campaign donations. Lobbyists linked to his son have received $2 million.

By Chuck Neubauer, Judy Pasternak and Richard T. Cooper
Times Staff Writers

March 5, 2003

WASHINGTON -- For more than a decade, the dietary supplements industry has counted on Sen. Orrin G. Hatch to fend off tighter regulation of products such as ephedra, the controversial stimulant linked to more than 80 deaths — most recently a young Baltimore Orioles baseball player.

Among other things, the Utah Republican co-wrote the 1994 law that lets supplement makers sell products without the scientific premarket safety testing required for drugs and other food additives. That law has proved a major obstacle to federal control of ephedra.

For its part, the supplements industry has not only showered the senator with campaign money but also paid almost $2 million in lobbying fees to firms that employed his son Scott.

From 1998 to 2001, while Scott Hatch worked for a lobbying firm with close ties to his father, clients in the diet supplements industry paid the company more than $1.96 million, more than $1 million of it from clients involved with ephedra.

Since Scott Hatch opened his own lobbying firm last year in partnership with two of his father's close associates, the firm has received at least $30,000 in retainers from a supplements industry trade group and a major manufacturer of ephedra. Both clients came from the old firm.

Sen. Hatch said the new firm, Walker, Martin & Hatch, was formed with his personal encouragement. He said he sees no conflict of interest in championing issues that benefit his son's clients. Neither Senate rules nor federal laws forbid relatives from lobbying members of Congress.

"I would have no qualms talking to Scott" about his clients, Hatch said in an interview. "I wouldn't do anything for him that wasn't right."

The debt owed to the senator by the makers of diet supplements comes close to being unique. Supplements, like prescription drugs, belong to a relatively small category of products for which federal laws and regulations are the defining factor in a whole industry's business equation.

And since at least 1992, Sen. Hatch — along with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), co-author of the 1994 law — has played a decisive role in helping the industry fend off restrictive oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.

Indeed, the Hatch-Harkin act defined dietary supplements as a special category outside drugs and other food additives, and did so in a way that has helped supplements mushroom into what the Nutrition Business Journal says is an industry with $17.7 billion in annual U.S. sales. Many of the companies are based in Utah, which describes itself as "the Silicon Valley of the supplements industry."

Before the 1994 legislation, the FDA would classify supplements as either food additives or drugs on a case-by-case basis. It had taken at least four supplements off the market because they had not been proved safe.

The Hatch-Harkin law shifted the burden of proof, requiring the FDA to make the case that each supplement was unsafe — and preventing the agency from holding the product off the market until tests were completed.

On Friday, federal officials reopened consideration of steps to increase regulation of ephedra — including a warning label pointing to the possible risk of heart attack, stroke and death, as well as a ban on advertising that suggests ephedra could enhance physical or athletic performance.

The FDA also raised the question of whether it had sufficient authority to regulate diet supplements effectively.

Based on an Asian herb called ma huang, ephedra is sold as an aid to bodybuilding, enhanced physical performance and weight loss. Sometimes called "legalized speed" because of its power as a stimulant, ephedra has been widely used by athletes, despite reports linking it to heart attacks, strokes and other severe medical problems.

Most recently, it has been cited as a possible contributing factor in the death of 23-year-old Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler on Feb. 17. It was also reported as a possible factor in the training camp death of Minnesota Vikings football player Korey Stringer in 2001.

In all, ephedra has been cited as a possible factor in more than 80 deaths nationwide, a contention the supplements industry vigorously disputes.

Yet the history of efforts to rein in ephedra — which is stringently regulated by the FDA when used in prescription and over-the-counter medicines — illustrates how difficult that is to do, given the terms of the Hatch-Harkin law.

On Friday, as the government announced its proposed new crackdown, Sen. Hatch issued a statement chiding the FDA for being slow to act against a known hazard.

"It has been obvious to even the most casual observer that problems exist," his statement said, calling the FDA's action "long overdue."

"As one of the lead authors of the law governing the regulation of dietary supplements, I have long been concerned that the agency was not seriously enforcing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act," Hatch added, referring to the law commonly known as the Hatch-Harkin act.

In 1999, however, when the FDA was trying to reduce the recommended dosage of ephedra in response to accumulating evidence of health risks, Hatch was in the vanguard of industry supporters who challenged the agency. He was joined by Harkin, who sits on the Senate subcommittee that controls FDA budget appropriations.

In a letter to the FDA, the two senators questioned the scientific basis for the agency's proposal to reduce the recommended single dosage to 8 milligrams. Some states allowed as much as 25 milligrams.

The FDA said then it had received more than a dozen reports of possible ephedra-related problems, ranging from heart attacks and arrhythmia to strokes, psychotic episodes, dizziness and skin rashes.

It also relied on studies and advice from a range of experts, the agency said.

Hatch and Harkin questioned whether the number of problems reported were sufficient to warrant action, when measured against the billions of doses consumed by users of products containing ephedra.

The pair also decried the incomplete nature of some of the incident reports, which came from users, doctors and other sources.

The kind of detailed scientific data Hatch and Harkin were insisting on is routinely compiled during premarket tests and clinical trials conducted before prescription medicines are allowed on the market.

In the face of those challenges and a lobbying blitz by the industry, the FDA backed down.

At the time, Hatch's son worked for Parry and Romani Associates Inc., the lobbying firm headed by the late Tom Parry, a former senior aide to Sen. Hatch.

Before being hired at Parry and Romani, Scott Hatch, now 41, had finished college and worked as a government clerk in Washington. At Parry and Romani, he worked his way up to lobbyist.

Among others, Parry and Romani had been hired by New York-based Twin Laboratories Inc., a manufacturer of products containing ephedra, to lobby Congress and the FDA "regarding ephedra products."

The firm had also been hired by the National Nutritional Foods Assn., a major trade group representing the diet supplements industry, to lobby on supplement regulation, including ephedra.

Last year, Scott Hatch opened his own lobbying firm with Jack Martin, a veteran of Sen. Hatch's Senate staff and a former diet supplements lobbyist at Parry Romani. Laird Walker, another longtime associate of the senator, became the third partner.

One of the first clients to sign up was the National Nutritional Foods Assn., which paid the fledgling firm $20,000 through the first half of 2002.

The foods association particularly asked the firm to lobby on behalf of ephedra and other supplement issues. The firm lobbied the Senate, the House, the executive office of the president and the FDA on the organization's behalf.

Kim Smith, the association's legislative director, said the Walker Martin Hatch firm was hired because of Martin, not because Scott Hatch was the senator's son.

Twin Laboratories, called Twinlab on its labels, also left Parry and Romani to sign up with the new firm last year. The firm was paid $10,000 for three months of work on ephedra and other issues.

Twinlab was one of 24 companies that received a warning letter from the FDA last week on their products containing ephedra. Those include its Diet Fuel, Ultimate Diet Fuel and Energy Fuel.

Several months ago, as the controversy grew, the company decided to stop making ephedra products.

The payments from Twinlab were reported on the firm's lobbying disclosure forms, covering the first six months of 2002.

It is not known what further payments may have been made because year-end reports have not been released.

Scott Hatch said he does not lobby his father directly, leaving that to his partners. Martin said he has handled the dietary supplement account.

The firm is being paid to monitor regulatory and legislative activity that might affect ephedra and other supplement issues, he said.

Sen. Hatch said in an interview that he has met frequently with Martin to discuss dietary supplements.

"Jack Martin worked with the FDA and has been very active in the dietary supplements area. And of course, I am the author of the dietary supplement authorization act," he said. "Naturally, he has been in and out of the office on those issues. Quite a bit."

Industry payments to Scott Hatch and his partners represent only part of the supplements industry's total lobbying budget.

Hatch may be the foremost defender of the diet supplements industry in Congress.

"I have taken dietary supplements almost my entire adult life and can attest to the benefits they provide," he wrote in his memoirs.

He has received nearly $137,000 in campaign contributions from the supplements industry over the last decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It based its figures on government reports.

In addition to the contributions to the senator and lobbying fees to his son's firms, the supplements industry has given Sen. Hatch its Congressional Champion award and a lifetime achievement citation.

Harkin, another regular supplements user, received $119,242 from the supplements industry from 1993 to 2002.

Thai mystics predict war start date


After thumbing charts and calculating planetary positions, Thailand's top mystics settled on April 8 as the last possible date for the launch of a U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Mars, the planet symbolizing war, is at its closest point to earth in 76,000 years that day so war is inevitable, four top Thai astrologers said Wednesday.

But war could start as soon as the end of March because Uranus was in Aquarius, Pinyo Phongcharoen, president of the 6,000-member National Astrological Association of Thailand, told Reuters Television.

"The United States will win the war but it won't be as short as they expect. It will drag on for months and months," he said.

"At the end of this year Saddam Hussein will be squeezed and toppled by the people closest to him. But it's unclear whether he will die."

Pinyo, who correctly predicted the 1997 Asian economic crisis but failed to see the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, said the economic fallout would be huge.

But the war would be followed by a long period of peace with Jupiter entering the orbit of Uranus, Pinyo said.

03/05/2003 10:02

Church hires a psychologist who doubts repressed memories


A controversial psychologist who has authored studies challenging repressed memories of sexual abuse is expected to present testimony for the Archdiocese of Boston when the first civil lawsuits against church officials go to trial.


Great Arctic melt natural, study suggests


Canadian Press

Ottawa - Data compiled from the journals of early Arctic explorers casts doubt on the assumption that recent thinning of Arctic ice is the result of human-induced climate change. A Norwegian study using the explorers' ancient log books suggests that dramatic shrinkage of sea ice, widely cited as evidence for global warming in recent years, has occurred before.

That doesn't necessarily prove that recent disappearance of sea ice is natural, but raises the possibility that it could be, researchers say. Adventurers of the 1700s, who took meticulous notes on their voyages, encountered ice conditions similar to those seen today, researcher Chad Dick said in an interview from Norway.

"If you go back to the early 1700s you find that sea ice extent was about the same then as it is now," said Mr. Dick of the Arctic Climate Systems Study, an international research program. In Canada there has been alarm at reduced ice cover in Hudson Bay which is causing problems for polar bears.

There's also been debate about disappearing ice in the Northwest Passage, which could result in challenges to Canadian sovereignty over the passage.

US cable channel to screen Diana seance


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."


Wednesday, March 05, 2003

God, Satan and the Media

March 4, 2003

Claims that the news media form a vast liberal conspiracy strike me as utterly unconvincing, but there's one area where accusations of institutional bias have merit: nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans.

That's the proportion who described themselves in a Gallup poll in December as evangelical or born-again Christians. Evangelicals have moved from the fringe to the mainstream, and that is particularly evident in this administration. It's impossible to understand President Bush without acknowledging the centrality of his faith. Indeed, there may be an element of messianic vision in the plan to invade Iraq and "remake" the Middle East.

Robert Fogel of the University of Chicago argues that America is now experiencing a fourth Great Awakening, like the religious revivals that have periodically swept America in the last 300 years. Yet offhand, I can't think of a single evangelical working for a major news organization.

Evangelicals are increasingly important in every aspect of American culture. Among the best-selling books in America are Tim LaHaye's Christian "left behind" series about the apocalypse; about 50 million copies have been sold. One of America's most prominent television personalities is Benny Hinn, watched in 190 countries, but few of us have heard of him because he is an evangelist.

President Bush has said that he doesn't believe in evolution (he thinks the jury is still out). President Ronald Reagan felt the same way, and such views are typically American. A new Gallup poll shows that 48 percent of Americans believe in creationism, and only 28 percent in evolution (most of the rest aren't sure or lean toward creationism). According to recent Gallup Tuesday briefings, Americans are more than twice as likely to believe in the devil (68 percent) as in evolution.

In its approach to evangelicals, the national news media are generally reflective of the educated elite, particularly in the Northeast. It's expected at New York dinner parties to link crime to deprived childhoods - conversation would stop abruptly if someone mentioned Satan.

I tend to disagree with evangelicals on almost everything, and I see no problem with aggressively pointing out the dismal consequences of this increasing religious influence. For example, evangelicals' discomfort with condoms and sex education has led the administration to policies that are likely to lead to more people dying of AIDS at home and abroad, not to mention more pregnancies and abortions.

But liberal critiques sometimes seem not just filled with outrage at evangelical-backed policies, which is fair, but also to have a sneering tone about conservative Christianity itself. Such mockery of religious faith is inexcusable. And liberals sometimes show more intellectual curiosity about the religion of Afghanistan than that of Alabama, and more interest in reading the Upanishads than in reading the Book of Revelation.

I care about this issue partly because I grew up near Yamhill, Ore., which has 790 people and five churches. My science teacher at Yamhill Grade School taught that evolution was false, and a high school girlfriend attended a church where people spoke in tongues (contrary to stereotypes, she was an ace student, smarter than many people fluent in more conventional tongues, like French and Spanish). In the evangelical tinge to its faith, Yamhill is emblematic of a huge chunk of Middle America that we in the Northeast are out of tune with.

Moreover, it is increasingly not just Middle America, but Middle World. As Professor Philip Jenkins notes in a new book, fundamentalist Christianity is racing through the developing world. The number of African Christians has soared over the last century, to 360 million from 10 million, and the boom is not among tweedy Presbyterians but among charismatic Pentecostalists.

One of the deepest divides in America today is the gulf of mutual suspicion that separates evangelicals from secular society, and policy battles over abortion and judicial appointments will aggravate these tensions further in coming months. Both sides need to reach out, drop the contempt and display some of the inclusive wisdom of Einstein, who wrote in his memoir: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."


Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines - March 5, 2003

from The Washington Post

The world's limited reserves of clean, fresh water are shrinking fast, posing a serious threat to public health, political stability and the environment, according to a massive analysis released yesterday by the United Nations.

The 600-page report, the most comprehensive assessment of the planet's most essential natural resource, predicts that as many as 7 billion people in 60 countries could face water scarcity by 2050. In just 20 years, the report predicts, the average supply of water per person worldwide will have dropped by one-third, affecting almost every nation and especially those already on the economic edge.

"Of all the social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth," said Koichiro Matsuura, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the lead agency among the 23 U.N. groups that collaborated in the report's creation.

Mismanagement, global warming and population growth have caused the crisis, the report says. Solutions are within reach, but because of political "inertia," it says, "the future for many parts of the world looks bleak."


from The New York Times

Even though oil companies have greatly improved practices in the Arctic, three decades of drilling along Alaska's North Slope have produced a steady accumulation of harmful environmental and social effects that will probably grow as exploration expands, a panel of experts has concluded.

Some of the problems could last for centuries, the experts said in a report yesterday, both because environmental damage does not heal easily in the area's harsh climate and because it is uneconomical to remove structures or restore damaged areas once drilling is over.

The report, produced by the National Research Council, was immediately hailed by opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which lies east of established oil fields and is the only part of America's only stretch of Arctic coastline that for now is off limits to drilling. Advocates of drilling called it biased. Administration officials said improved techniques would lessen the environmental impact of future drilling.

The council, the research arm of the National Academies, an independent advisory body on science, produced the report at the request of Republican lawmakers supporting oil drilling in the Arctic refuge.


A report brief prepared by the study's authors is available in PDF via the NAS Web site: http://books.nap.edu/html/north_slope/reportbrief.pdf

from The New York Times

HOUSTON, March 4 — The growing accumulation of wreckage of the space shuttle Columbia has yet to yield a coherent picture of what caused it to break up on re-entry a month ago, investigators said today.

Four members of the independent panel investigating the accident told reporters at a wide-ranging briefing here that aluminum and stainless steel from the skeleton of the shuttle's left wing had melted and then resolidified inside the wing's leading edge.

But as with much of the debris, the investigators said they were not sure whether the intense heat had come from hot plasma gases that penetrated a hole in the wing, or just from the heat of re-entry.

In Washington, Sean O'Keefe, NASA's administrator, suggested that reporters were overstating the importance of a series of e-mail messages, released by the agency last week, in which lower-level engineers warned during the Columbia's flight that damage to its left wing could have catastrophic consequences.


from The Washington Post

Human error may have contributed to the deaths of at least six rare animals within the past three years at the National Zoo and its research facility in Virginia, in addition to those of two red pandas accidentally poisoned by pesticide and two zebras killed by hypothermia and malnutrition, according to interviews and zoo records.

The evidence of a link between human error and additional deaths at the world-renowned institution contradicts public statements by zoo officials -- including Director Lucy H. Spelman -- that pointed to the zoo's increasingly geriatric animal population as the major cause of animal losses.

Some animal rights advocates said the deaths raise questions about whether the zoo is plagued by systemwide weaknesses. A congressional committee has summoned Spelman and other officials for an oversight hearing today.


from The (Raleigh, NC) News and Observer

When a federal official, two technicians, a physics professor and a lawyer turned up last week at Duke University to reclaim two valuable lasers, Duke sent the whole crowd packing.

So goes the latest tussle in a battle between the university and a former physics professor who built the highly specialized lasers and wants them shipped to Honolulu. "It is astonishing that Duke is still trying to delay that transfer after all these years, when it is absolutely clear that Duke has no legitimate claim," said Randall Roden, a Raleigh lawyer representing John Madey, the former Duke physicist.

Madey and fellow researchers at the University of Hawaii have landed a $50 million grant to conduct defense-related research using free-electron lasers. They want to use equipment Madey left in Durham to get the job done.

But Duke insists it owns the devices, which Madey says are worth about $6 million and which are essential in experiments developing eye or brain surgery techniques and detectors of nuclear and chemical weapons.


from The Associated Press

TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) -- A plan by a Texas company to send a spacecraft sailing to the stars on the gentle push of the sun's rays has caught the interest of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is exploring the technology for use closer to home.

Team Encounter wants to test a spacecraft with a solar sail by late 2004, sending it into Earth orbit with messages and photographs tucked aboard by paying customers.

Once in space, the craft would unfurl an enormous, gossamer sail to catch the sun's rays, harnessing the gentle -- but constant and cumulative -- pressure of particles of light to propel it through space.

The sail would be made of Mylar, coated with aluminum and chromium. It would be 76 times thinner than a human hair and cover a football field-size area -- but able to fit in a package the size of a bread box.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The state of Texas has pledged $10 million for research on sequencing the genetic makeup of cattle, the National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday. Another $15 million is needed to secure the project.

The Cow Genome Project - touted as having possible benefits for biology and agriculture - will cost $50 million total.

The National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the NIH, plans to pay half the cost if $25 million is raised. With the Texas pledge, that leaves $15 million. Texas would pay out the money over three years.

The sequencing - essentially documenting each of the billion pairs of genes in cattle DNA - will be done by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Texas A&M University. Researchers are hoping the money can be raised in time to start the sequencing in September.


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DNA Junk or Not?

March 4, 2003

Q. How do scientists know that there aren't sections of junk DNA - the introns between genes - that have some biological function?

A. For years, more and more research has, in fact, suggested that introns are not junk but influence how genes work. Though they are discarded when a gene's directions for making a protein are read from the exons and carried out, introns do have active roles.

For one recent example, scientists have found that changes in just two genetic letters, one in each of two introns, determine whether a gene that causes lactose intolerance after weaning is switched on or off.

Also, certain so-called junk DNA sequences persist in many organisms over thousands or even millions of years, suggesting that they are essential to these organisms.

Other possible functions for introns include enhancing or damping the level of gene activity; shaping the folded arrangement of chromosomes within the cell nucleus; and providing reservoirs of change that allow DNA to be shuffled and rearranged in novel patterns that may eventually contribute to evolution, or conversely acting as a buffer against interloping DNA sequences that might cause a change too quickly.


Magazine claims more Jackson weirdness, including voodoo hexes


Last modified: 08:15 PM CST on Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Associated Press

NEW YORK – Michael Jackson paid a witch doctor to place a curse on DreamWorks partners David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, and wears a prosthetic tip on his nose, claims an article in Vanity Fair magazine.

Titled "Losing His Grip," the article also includes an interview with an unnamed California prosecutor who investigated child molestation allegations against the pop star. The prosecutor said Jackson befriended young boys "and as soon as they started sprouting whiskers – whoosh – they were out the door."

Jackson denied allegations that he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy in 1993. He reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the teen and was never charged.

A representative for Jackson had no comment Tuesday.

The Vanity Fair article adds to the media frenzy surrounding the 44-year-old singer. In February, ABC broadcast the highly rated British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson," in which Jackson was interviewed by journalist Martin Bashir; NBC's "Dateline" did a two-hour special on the singer; and Fox broadcast behind-the-scenes footage of Bashir's interview, allowing Jackson to strike back after he found Bashir's documentary unflattering.

Jackson allegedly paid a witch doctor $150,000 in 2000 to put a hex on several Hollywood figures. Spielberg was allegedly included because he did not allow him to star as Peter Pan in "Hook." He blamed Geffen for sabotaging his career, the magazine said.

Both Spielberg and Geffen are partners in the DreamWorks entertainment company, which includes a movie studio and a record company.

The article also claims that Jackson wears a prothesis for the tip of his nose because of a lack of cartilage due to excessive plastic surgery.

The magazine appears on newsstands beginning this week.

MIT physicist knocks anti-missile system

Professor keeps blowing whistle on Pentagon pet
Keay Davidson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, March 3, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle


Palo Alto -- Twelve years ago as the Gulf War raged, news media extolled the alleged wonders of the Patriot anti-missile system. Television showed videotapes of Patriot interceptors that soared skyward and blew Scuds to smithereens.

One skeptic, though, looked closely at the videotapes. He was MIT physicist Theodore A. Postol, and he made headlines with a startling conclusion: There was no evidence that a single Patriot ever hit its target. He said so publicly,

drawing fire from the Patriot's manufacturer and the U.S. Army.

He won a measure of vindication in the late 1990s, when Defense Secretary William Cohen acknowledged that the original Patriots didn't work nearly as well as billed.

Since then, a more advanced generation of Patriots has been developed; they are now being deployed by the Israelis and by U.S. forces in the Middle East.

And Postol is on the warpath again. Currently on sabbatical at Stanford, the 56-year-old physicist claims that his home institution, MIT, has aided a private corporation's coverup of a potentially dangerous assumption of anti- missile research: that the system will work.

Seeking to Shed Fat, She Lost Her Liver


March 4, 2003

The capsules, recommended by a friend, sounded wonderful: they were supposed to increase metabolism to help the body burn off fat.

"It was like you're doing aerobic exercise while you're just sitting there," said Jennifer Rosenthal, 28, a truck dispatcher and the mother of a 4-year-old in Long Beach, Calif.

The capsules, sold over the Internet at $39.95 for a bottle of 90, had just one ingredient, usnic acid, a chemical found in certain species of lichen plants. The chemical is not approved for any medical use, but the label on the bottle said it would make the body burn calories "at an accelerated rate."

In early October, Ms. Rosenthal began swallowing four 125-milligram capsules a day, half the maximum dose recommended on the label. She took them for two weeks, skipped two weeks as the label directed, and then started again. She was not overweight; she just wanted to stay in shape. She took the capsules for a total of 17 days.

By Nov. 8, Ms. Rosenthal was in a coma, connected to a respirator and a web of tubes, her skin a dusky yellow.

Her liver had failed, and her swift decline put her at the top of the waiting list for a transplant at the University of California at Los Angeles. On Nov. 12, a liver became available from a cadaver.

There's a gut feeling about this whole intuition thing


By Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY

Intuition is being touted by a phalanx of popular writers, counselors and workshop leaders who tell clients to harness their inner wisdom and unlock the powers of their unconscious minds when making decisions.

"Intuition is hot," social psychologist and researcher David Myers says. "There is an explosion of research on how unconscious, automatic, out-of-sight thinking guides our lives." There are courses on "intuitive learning, healing, investing, selling and managing." Intuition, he says, is "an effortless, immediate, unreasoned (not thought about) sense of truth." It is a good thing: It feeds creativity, expertise and spirituality, he says.

"Scientists, writers and artists have all marveled at the outcroppings of their unconscious, intuitive minds. In times of relaxation, creative insights and impulses often appear like Web site pop-up ads."

Everyone makes use of information that seems to bubble up from the subconscious, from presidents on down, he says. Intuition shapes what we fear, our impressions of people, what politicians do in times of crisis, what hunches gamblers play, what decisions are made by those hiring applicants for jobs.

But there is a definite downside to going with one's gut, Myers says in Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. "Smart thinkers will also want to check their intuitions against available evidence. Our gut intuitions are terrific at some things, such as instantly reading emotions in others' faces, but not so good at others, such as guessing about the stock market, assessing risks and predicting football outcomes."

Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College in Holland, Mich., says intuition could be a poor servant for many reasons.

A hunch might be the result of overconfidence in our own abilities or knowledge, a faulty or reconstructed memory of the past, hindsight that convinces us we "knew it all along" when we did not, misjudging the intensity of our emotions or reactions to events, or mispredicting our own behavior.

Myers marshals the latest research to document when everyday intuition can be wrong, ranging from judgments made in courtrooms to hunches played in the stock market.

One of the most enduring intuitive myths he uses research to debunk is that of the "hot hand" in basketball. Coaches often believe that because a player has sunk several baskets, he will make the next one. Statistically that is simply not true, he says.

Intuition has the endorsement of many heavyweights. Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung called it one of the four ways people function, along with feeling, thinking and sensing. Psychologist Marcia Emery, author of three books on intuition, calls it "the deepest wisdom of the human soul."

But many urge caution. "Intuition makes people feel more powerful, more effective," says Stuart Vyse, a psychologist at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. "But it has been shown over and over again that gut reactions are not accurate. It is a mistake to base a decision on a gut feeling."

Myers says he and other researchers are not trying to destroy intuition. He applauds its "unbidden insights and inspirations." He aims instead, he says "to fortify our intuition, to sharpen our thinking and to deepen our wisdom."

Tuesday, March 04, 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.

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Today's Headlines - March 4, 2003

from The Washington Post

Children are much more likely than adults to get cancer from exposure to certain chemicals, according to a new risk assessment strategy proposed yesterday by the federal government.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a final draft of new guidelines for evaluating the dangers posed by pesticides and other cancer-causing chemicals that officials said would be more accurate than current methods.

The guidelines would consider a variety of new factors when deciding safe levels of exposure, such as how a substance causes cancer. If implemented, they would be used to evaluate any new chemicals that come into use and to reevaluate others that are already in use.

As part of the new guidelines, the EPA for the first time proposed that regulators assume that children are more vulnerable to the cancer-causing effects of chemicals that can cause genetic damage.


from The Associated Press

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) -- A moment of invention aboard space shuttle Columbia as it orbited Earth transformed science into something more for aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Paul Ronney.

He is determined to complete the combustion experiments the astronauts were doing on his behalf. "This is their legacy," he says.

The University of Southern California professor is one of the few scientists who will be able to finish the work begun on Columbia because enough data was downlinked to Earth.

Ronney recalled how astronaut David Brown enthusiastically watched tiny flame balls dance inside a combustion chamber aboard the shuttle when he decided to humanize the experiment.


from The Associated Press

Mosquitoes have a well-deserved reputation as a nuisance, feeding on the blood of innocent passers-by, biting so aggressively they're sometimes caricatured as the state bird.

But as more than 600 scientists, government officials and others from around the world gather in Minneapolis this week, their mission to control the pesky little insects is more important than ever.

It's the 69th annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association - a six-day event that has taken on a higher profile due to the spread of the West Nile virus and the concern that mosquitoes could be used in a bioterrorism attack.

Last year alone, the United States recorded more than 4,000 cases of West Nile and 256 deaths from it. The mosquito-borne virus causes fevers and aches and can lead to potentially fatal swelling of the brain.


from The New York Times

AMUNDSEN-SCOTT SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica — The "polies," as they call themselves, are getting a new home.

Residents of the South Pole — astronomers, chemists, technicians, cooks, construction workers — are carrying their possessions 100 yards across snow and ice, bidding farewell to the windowless geodesic dome that has served for three decades as a symbol of polar exploration.

On March 4, they begin taking up residence in a huge enclosure on stilts that resembles an economy motel, complete with windows. When the new station is finished in four years, the dome will be chopped into pieces and shipped to aluminum scrap yards.

Everyone who works here knows it is time to replace the old station. The dome was built to house just 33 people. Scientific research at the pole has become so important that the National Science Foundation, which oversees polar programs, has committed $133 million to build the new station, which can house, feed, entertain and otherwise support 200 scientists and other workers.


from The New York Times

Humans have gazed at the Moon in wonder since ancient times, but what Dr. Leon Stuart observed one night in 1953 was more wonderful than what anyone had seen before or since.

Looking through his eight-inch telescope at his home near Tulsa, Okla., Dr. Stuart, a radiologist by profession but an astronomer by avocation, saw and photographed a bright flash on the Moon's surface.

Dr. Stuart was certain that he had witnessed a small asteroid hitting the Moon, the flash being the fireball from the event. An amateur astronomy journal published his photograph and report, and it has remained a curiosity over the years. While some scientists thought his explanation plausible, others were convinced that he saw an optical aberration or a much closer object, like a meteorite in Earth's atmosphere (or, embarrassingly, an airplane passing overhead).

Now new research shows that Dr. Stuart's flash on the Moon was no flash in the pan. An astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, poring over high-resolution lunar photographs, has found a fresh crater in the precise area where Dr. Stuart saw his flash.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Palo Alto -- Twelve years ago as the Gulf War raged, news media extolled the alleged wonders of the Patriot anti-missile system. Television showed videotapes of Patriot interceptors that soared skyward and blew Scuds to smithereens.

One skeptic, though, looked closely at the videotapes. He was MIT physicist Theodore A. Postol, and he made headlines with a startling conclusion: There was no evidence that a single Patriot ever hit its target. He said so publicly, drawing fire from the Patriot's manufacturer and the U.S. Army.

He won a measure of vindication in the late 1990s, when Defense Secretary William Cohen acknowledged that the original Patriots didn't work nearly as well as billed.

Since then, a more advanced generation of Patriots has been developed; they are now being deployed by the Israelis and by U.S. forces in the Middle East.


from Newsday

Since age 13, Ellen Berty has had to worry about having food in her pocket - just in case she was stuck somewhere and her blood sugar levels were precariously off-balance. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Berty, 54, defied the odds of serious complications from diabetes until about three years ago. Without warning, she would fall into unconsciousness, her body suffering a severe hypoglycemic reaction.

But the preschool educator from Arlington, Va., no longer worries about blackouts or emergency food supplies or, for that matter, the multiple daily injections of insulin that kept her alive for the past 40 years. She is one of a fraction of diabetic patients in the United States who have received an experimental islet cell transplant that - at least for now - has stopped her illness.

"Am I still a diabetic?" Berty asks. "Well, I haven't needed insulin for 20 months, and my average blood sugar is normal. It's been fantastic. I'd do it again in a flash."

With islet cell transplants, scientists inject hundreds of thousands of the cells (culled from the pancreas of a donor cadaver) through a vein into the liver. The cells then produce insulin, which carries out its job of regulating blood glucose.


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All the Queen's Relatives

March 4, 2003

It's rampant in Hollywood. Corporate titans and labor bosses have been accused of it. Presidents and other politicians have been known to engage in it.

But humans are not alone in their natural desire to help out the next of kin. Even ants, it seems, are nepotists.

Scientists at the University of Helsinki studied Formica fusca, a common ant species and one that is polygynous, meaning its colonies have more than one queen. Using 10 two-queen colonies, the researchers did genetic analysis of queens, workers, eggs and pupae in each colony to see how related they were.

Workers ants, indulging their evolutionary self-interest in seeing their genes passed on, would favor those offspring of the queen that were closer relatives, the researchers predicted.

That proved to be the case. At the egg stage, there was no real correlation between worker-queen relatedness and the proportion of eggs related to one queen or the other. But at the pupal stage - after the larvae had been fed and cared for by the workers - there was a larger share of offspring related to the queen that the workers were more closely related to. The workers had somehow been able to recognize their close kin, and had neglected the others.

The researchers, who reported their work in the current issue of Nature, said that evidence of such nepotism in insects was rare. Only the honeybee Apis mellifera had previously shown to exhibit similar behavior.


Hundreds flock to see weeping picture of Jesus


Hundreds of people have flocked to a church in India to witness a painting of Jesus "weeping tears of blood".

The picture belongs to a 14-year-old girl from the village of Ambora-Camurlim in South Goa who first saw it weeping in her bedroom cupboard.

Her family alerted the parish priest who transferred the portrait to the village church.

Since then locals have queued up at the church to take a look at the portrait.

Church spokesman Father Olavo Pereira told the Deccan Chronicle: "The church cannot simply exploit the situation, we have to be careful and verify it before we take a decision.

"Visions are generally subjective and need more careful examination. The world-famous pilgrimage sites of Fatima and Lourdes in France, where similar visions appeared, took years before being officially recognised."

White witches casting spells for peace


A hundred white witches are casting spells to try and stop a war with Iraq during a month-long congress in Romania.

The International Congress of White Witches is being held in Bucharest where 25 Romanian witches and 75 from other countries are meeting to cast spells.

The witches say top of their agenda at the conference is the prevention of war in Iraq.

They will also be casting spells to prevent earthquakes and dealing with evil spirits, daily newspaper Independentul reports.

State officials warn firm marketing Internet earthquake forecasts


(03-01) 18:17 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A San Francisco Bay firm selling earthquake forecasts over the Internet has received a warning from state regulators amid criticism from quake experts the service is a sham.

For as little as $9.95 a month, subscribers to the online service receive notices about upcoming earthquakes from around the world.

Recent forecasts included one giving a 40 percent probability of a magnitude-2 to-3.2 earthquake last week in the Los Angeles area.

The area experiences about 1,000 quakes a year, making such a forecast a near-sure thing. There have been several magnitude-2 quakes within the last week inside the 50-mile perimeter geoForecaster Inc. uses to score the validity of its forecasts.

The forecasts did not include the swarm of quakes that struck Big Bear, much less a larger quake that hit China, said Bill Ellsworth, scientist in charge of earthquake studies at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. The two were the only quakes during the week to cause injuries or damage.

"Those of us charged with this matter are skeptical of any of their claims," Ellsworth said. "Their methods, which they have not made fully public, should be subject to independent review."

Responding to complaints lodged by scientists, the state Board for Geologists and Geophysicists sent a letter to geoForecaster, saying the firm appears to be practicing geology in California without a license, a misdemeanor subject to a $2,500 fine.

Michael Kozuch, the firm's chief executive, said the company would look "carefully" at the letter.

"If we need to, we will do everything we can to abide by the regulation. We want to be good corporate citizens like everyone else," Kozuch said.

University of California, Los Angeles geophysicist John Vidale said he reviewed the Web site.

"I haven't seen anything to indicate they can predict earthquakes," Vidale said.

Dramatic Announcement at Austin APS March 5, 2003]

From: Jack Sarfatti sarfatti@pacbell.net


is an update of the slides of my talk in Austin, Texas on Wednesday March 5, 2003 at the American Physical Society: "Apocalypse Here-Now? In The Heart of Dark Matter".

The NASA WMAP data shows the existence of exotic cosmic torsion vacuum fields that account for ~ 95% of the "stuff" of the universe. Local control of these exotic vacuum fields are of profound importance to the immediate future and survival of life in the universe.

BTW This work was stimulated by recent communications with several Russian physicists from Moscow working on torsion fields including Vladimir Poponin and Gennady Shipov from the ISSO American-Russian Collaboration on "UFO Physics" 1999 - 2000 and "Professor Konkretny" (an alias).

Thanks to Gary Bekkum and Art Wagner for alerting me to several key papers by Lev Okun, Max Tegmark (in USA) and G. E. Volovik (Landau Institute, Moscow).

More information in books "Destiny Matrix" and "Space-Time and Beyond II" at http://www.1stbooks.com

Monday, March 03, 2003

Deepak wants to be a shield


Guru would join Pope in front of bombs
By Michael Lollar
February 27, 2003

Deepak Chopra, the doctor who is bringing his brand of East-meets-West philosophy to Memphis, proposed Wednesday that the Pope, the Dalai Lama and himself serve as human shields to avoid bombing in Iraq and to rid the world of Saddam Hussein.

"There are creative solutions no matter what the problem is," said Chopra, the Indian-born physician and spiritualist who has become one of the world's best-selling authors as a proponent of holistic health and healing.

Chopra, an endocrinologist, blends Western medicine with Eastern mysticism and has sold more than 10 million books through the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, Calif. He has become like a Western counterpart to Tibet's Dalai Lama, and a secular humanist with the kind of influence wielded in the religious world by evangelist Billy Graham. A Time magazine story in December called Chopra "arguably the world's most influential guru."

In his upcoming Memphis appearance (7:30 p.m. April 9 at the Orpheum), Chopra said he "will be talking in general about the evolution of consciousness."

As part of the concept, Chopra said even the most difficult problems can be solved by moving to a "higher level. If you go to the same level on which the problem was created then you can't (resolve it)."

In Iraq, Chopra said the "situation is really out of hand in the sense that everybody has become very self-righteous and committed to a violent solution. The creative solution now would be to get the Pope, the Dalai Lama, celebrities and a few who have a voice all over the world to sit and act as human shields so we can avoid a lot of death and destruction. I would love to go with them.

"If we bombed Baghdad tonight and thousands of children died, most people would be unaffected. But if the Pope was there we wouldn't do it. Isn't that funny?"

Chopra said he would hope to be joined by heads of state and "tens of thousands of people" from around the world as part of a human-shield movement. Once the threat of bombing subsided, he said the same peace contingent could turn its attention to "a total disarming of Saddam Hussein." The Iraqi leader should have no further say, but be given "asylum and a safe haven," Chopra said.

The human shield movement is a growing phenomenon with Iraq welcoming volunteers and putting them up in a dormlike facility in a Baghdad hotel. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned that those serving as human shields in Iraq will be treated as war criminals. As of last week, more than 130 volunteers, including about 18 Americans, had arrived in Baghdad to act as shields - some at specific sites such as the Baghdad South Power Plant.

The Dalai Lama's offices in the West are in London and could not be reached last night. In Memphis, Msgr. Peter Buchignani, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, said he doubts the ailing Pope would become a human shield. "I certainly respect the idea, and, of course, I can't speak for the Pope, but, personally, I don't see that as a solution." Buchignani said the Catholic Church's position now is that a unilateral declaration of war against Iraq is not justified and should only be a last resort.

On his Web site (http://www.chopra.com), Chopra mentions a new Global Strategic Alliance for the New Humanity, where international issues from saving rain forests to war can be addressed. Groups ranging from orphanages to environmentalists are being organized under the alliance to serve as what Chopra calls "peace cells. Even in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel they have peace cells. You and I know more about what Winona Ryder stole from that stupid shop than what these people are doing in the world."

In Memphis, one of Chopra's former students, philanthropist Gayle Rose, once worked as president of Chopra Companies. Rose said she met Chopra in 1988 while being treated for heart ar rhythmia. She spent a week with Chopra in Boston before he moved to California. "The first thing he said to me is something I will never forget. He said, 'Gayle, are you happy?' "

Focusing on Chopra's mind-body techniques, including meditation, Rose said she eventually was able to give up 580 milligrams a day of heart medication. Her doctors told her the heart disorder "disappeared as mysteriously as it came."

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Science In the News

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In the News

Today's Headlines - March 3, 2003

from The Washington Post

A Tale of the Tape, Warts and All

Aside from possibly helping protect people from terrorist attacks, duct tape -- the once lowly stalwart of home repair -- apparently has another unappreciated use: wart removal.

Doctors at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., tested duct tape in a study of 51 patients ages 3 to 22 whose warts were to be removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.

Instead, half the patients had their warts covered with duct tape continuously for six days, then uncovered, soaked in water, left uncovered for 12 hours and then covered again. This was repeated until the wart disappeared.


from San Antonio Express-News

Humans have been looking for ways to extend their lives since the days of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who, as legend has it, journeyed to what now is Florida in the early 1500s, looking for a mythical fountain of youth.

De Leon never found those magical waters that could cure sickness and restore youth. But in the five centuries since his explorations, science and medicine have done much to unravel the mysteries of contagious or chronic diseases that used to kill people early in life.

Now, as life expectancy approaches 80 years in developed nations, a growing number of researchers are probing inside the cell to identify the very mechanics of aging itself.

They are finding genes that seem strongly related to the signs of aging. These are more than just genes for wrinkles and gray hair, but genes that can help explain why people are more likely to develop cancer, osteoporosis or Alzheimer's disease as they get older.


from The New York Times

HONOLULU, March 2 — Murderous, google-eyed crustaceans with barbed spears and razor-switchblade appendages that can shred fish and flesh to ribbons have been captured in the shallow waters off Waikiki. Big ones. Salami-sized. The biggest ever recorded in Hawaii.

Panic, however, has not set in.

That is because these creatures, burrowing predators called mantis shrimp, have turned up not on Waikiki Beach, the stretch of white sand and blue-green surf that remains as dreamy and safe as ever, but in the Ala Wai Canal, a smelly, silty drainage basin behind Waikiki that tourists shun and many locals deride as one step up from a sewer.

The news that the jumbo stomatopods (not shrimp, technically) were thriving in waters that regularly give canoe paddlers infections and parasitic rashes caused much wonderment when it was reported recently in The Honolulu Advertiser.


from The New York Times

It is probably premature to declare Botox the penicillin of the 21st century, but the deadly poison turned wrinkle remover is being put to some startling new uses.

In studies around the world, botulinum toxin is being tested — often with encouraging results — as a treatment for stroke paralysis, migraine headaches, facial tics, stuttering, lower back pain, incontinence, writer's cramp, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow.

Scientists are testing its ability to treat morbid obesity by weakening the muscle that lets food out of the stomach, to prevent ulcers by weakening the muscles that force gastric acids into the esophagus and to calm spasms in vaginal muscles that make sex painful. Botox is rescuing newborns with clubfoot from surgery and giving patients with spastic vocal cords back their voices.

Some trials are nearly ready for submission to the federal Food and Drug Administration; others are small and preliminary. But the toxin "has enormous potential" for relaxing muscles and treating some pain, including headaches, said Dr. Robert B. Daroff, the former editor in chief of Neurology magazine, who said he does not use botulinum toxin in his Cleveland neurology practice but became a believer after seeing migraine patients improve.


from The Chicago Tribune

NEW ORLEANS -- The Formosan subterranean termite is smaller than a house fly, but the insects live and work in colonies of millions, enabling them to bring down historic wooden structures in the famous French Quarter, eat through phone lines and destroy the oak trees that keep locals cool during the summers.

The insects, natives of China, are the most voracious termites in the world, and New Orleans has more trouble with them than any other place in the United States.

Louisiana officials estimate the termites cost the economy of the New Orleans area $300 million a year, driving up the cost of home insurance and construction, and terrifying people during the spring, when they swarm across the sky like a dark cloud.

Now, as the termites expand their range to the north and west, other parts of the country are looking to New Orleans for guidance on how to control the infestation.


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Scientists reject abortion, breast cancer link Prior studies' data flawed, group says


By Judy Peres
Tribune staff reporter

February 27, 2003

BETHESDA, Md. -- Contradicting a belief widely promoted by abortion opponents, top scientific experts concluded Wednesday that there is no link between ending a pregnancy and developing breast cancer.

Some 100 epidemiologists, clinicians and basic scientists, convened by the Bush administration's cancer czar to review the evidence, quickly agreed that a woman who terminates her pregnancy does not face a higher risk of the devastating disease later in life.

Although some early, smaller studies had found an increased risk, larger and better-designed studies found none, they said.

Malcolm Pike, a researcher who did one of the early studies that showed a link, said it is now clear the research was fundamentally flawed.

"There's really strong evidence that there is no association" between abortion and breast cancer risk, said Pike, an epidemiologist from the University of Southern California.

The idea that abortion increases a woman's chances of developing breast cancer has been adopted by many anti-abortion groups. Recently, such groups have promoted "informed consent" laws that would require women to be told of the medical risks--including the supposed risk of breast cancer--before terminating a pregnancy.

The National Cancer Institute convened the scientists this week in a charged political atmosphere. Last summer a fact sheet on the topic of abortion and cancer was removed from the institute's Web site after it drew fire from conservatives.

That document said the best studies showed "no association between abortion and breast cancer."

Since November, the Web site has said: "Some studies have reported statistically significant evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had abortions, while others have merely suggested an increased risk. Other studies have found no increase in risk."

Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, appointed by President Bush to head the cancer agency last year, never used the word "abortion" as he convened the participants in the institute's Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer workshop.

Von Eschenbach noted that the old fact sheet had drawn "queries and challenges regarding the scientific data and its interpretation."

"I know it is difficult at times to separate science from emotion," he said, adding, "You are here to present and discuss the scientific data. ... I charge you with putting all else aside for the next 48 hours."

The researchers agreed, with almost no debate, that most early studies of the relationship between abortion and breast cancer were compromised by a systematic error known as recall bias. Experts now say that many of the healthy women in the studies were likely to have lied about having had abortions, whereas those with breast cancer--desperate for any explanation--were somewhat more likely to reply honestly.

In retrospect, Pike said, "we were all remiss, especially me. That data is worthless."

Early investigators also were misled by research on laboratory animals that seemed to show an increased breast cancer risk following an interrupted pregnancy, Pike said. A full-term pregnancy does help protect against the cancer, researchers agree. But animals whose pregnancies were aborted had the same risk as those that never got pregnant at all.

Other findings in their final statement, to be presented Monday to the institute's board of scientific advisers, included:

- Giving birth to a full-term baby at an early age lowers a woman's lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, as does long-term breast-feeding. But the risk goes up for at least several years following the birth before it declines.

- A woman who waits until age 33 to have her first baby has the same risk of breast cancer as one who has no children.

- Women who have been pregnant have lower levels of certain hormones, including estrogen and prolactin.

But scientists also said it is not clear how pregnancy and lactation reduce the risk of breast cancer. They called for more research in both animals and humans to find out how pregnancy changes the breast to influence the formation of tumors.

"If we can find out how it works," said Pike, "we stand a chance of figuring out how to get the same [protective] effect" as a woman would receive by going through a full-term pregnancy.

The only dissenter among the scientists was Joel Brind, a City University of New York biochemist who has been the main promoter in the scientific community of the idea that abortions may cause breast cancer.

Epidemiologists at the meeting politely dismissed his objections, but Brind gave no indication he planned to end his fight.

"Abortion is not a benign procedure," he said in an interview. "If I didn't think there was good, hard evidence, I wouldn't be making a pariah of myself."

Brind insisted women need to be informed of the risks of abortion, which he said include breast cancer, psychological consequences and premature delivery in subsequent pregnancies.

The cancer institute said it would post the report for public comment after the advisers review it. The Web site's November posting remained unchanged Wednesday.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Friend fears dead man's faith did him in


By Joseph Barrios

A friend of James W. Killeen, the man found decomposing in his South Side home while his wife and others prayed for his resurrection, said Friday it was Killeen's faith that may have led him to be "sucked away" from their church and to his eventual death.

Killeen, 50, was found dead Jan. 23 at his home on the 5800 block of South Hillerman Drive. Killeen worked for several years with Union Pacific, supervising repairs to locomotives and other railroad equipment.

Killeen may have died in early January, police said. An exact cause of death has not been determined.

But his wife and other members of his group did not report the death. Killeen was kept on a bed in his home, rotting, while his wife, Eleanor, and others spent weeks praying for him to be "healed."

Stan Adair Bennett, listed on an Arizona Corporation Commission filing as a director of the World Ministries group, conducted prayers over Killeen's body at the home, according to police reports.

Buddy Martinez, Killeen's co-worker and friend, said he became worried about Killeen even before Christmas. The two men used to attend the same church on the South Side. Martinez started to worry about Killeen and his wife after they started missing services.

Killeen told Martinez that his new ministry owned property near Sahuarita and that during the apocalypse, it was a safe haven that "God wouldn't touch."

"That threw up red flags for me," Martinez said Friday. "I know that God doesn't work like that. He loved the Lord. I know this."

Martinez said he thinks Killeen was "deceived" by World Ministries, and that it may have contributed to his eventual death.

Martinez said Killeen suffered from diabetes and may have had other health problems.

Martinez, other co-workers and Killeen's brother, Christopher, called the home to check on his welfare. They were told that James Killeen was on a 40-day fast and was not to be bothered, Martinez said.

Christopher Killeen flew to Tucson from Rhode Island in January because he was worried his brother was being held in his own home against his will, according to police reports.

Christopher Killeen told police his brother was involved with a "cult," according to a police report. He told officers that his brother told him he was "going to be resurrected by the 'cult' leader." That was the last time he would hear from his brother, sometime around Christmas Day.

Two officers went to the home to check on Killeen on Jan. 23. One of the officers said that when he arrived, he could smell "death." Police were led inside the home, where they found Killeen wrapped in blankets and in plastic. One detective described Killeen as being in an "advanced state of decomposition" although police found no obvious signs of foul play.

On the headboard above Killeen were "numerous air freshener cans that were designed to cover odors or make the air smell nice," according to reports.

Both Eleanor Killeen and Bennett were "unavailable" for comment Friday night, according to a man at Killeen's home who identified himself as "Fernando."

Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay, who was called to the scene, said there were no initial signs to indicate criminal charges should be filed, but said he is waiting to see autopsy reports before making a decision.

"When the autopsy report comes in, I'd like to review it. There were no obvious signs of any traumatic death or anything that night and the medical examiner was there as well," Unklesbay said.

Unklesbay said there are circumstances in which a person can be charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report a death. It would be up to the City Attorney's Office to determine whether those charges will be filed.

According to court records, James W. Killeen and Eleanor C. Killeen applied for a marriage license Aug. 5, 2002. They were married Aug. 9 by a justice of the peace.

'Freedom Evolves': Evolution Explains It All for You



In the last several years the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett has published two very large, interesting and influential books. The first, ''Consciousness Explained'' (1991), aimed to account for all the phenomena of consciousness within the general theoretical framework set by current physics. It failed, of course, and came to be affectionately known as ''Consciousness Ignored.'' But it was a very fertile and valuable piece of work. The second, ''Darwin's Dangerous Idea'' (1995), set out to make the case for the theory of evolution even more irresistible than it already is, and it was right on target: vivid, ingenious and illuminating, if sometimes huffy and overpolemical.

Greek police seize hippy Jesus book

From Ananova at


A book portraying Jesus as a hippy, Jimi Hendrix as his pal and the Last Supper as a drinking binge has been seized from bookstores by police in Greece.

Australian women to dance naked for rain

From Ananova at


More than 450 Australian women are to dance naked to try to make it rain.

The rain dance will be performed in drought-stricken Ouyen, north-west Victoria, reports ABC News Online.

It was organised by local women after they found out a similar attempt was followed by rain in Nepal.

The women will be taken by bus to a secret location where they will strip off and dance, with locals manning the boundaries of the paddock to keep peeping Toms away.

Organiser Helen Healy says last week's rain was probably caused by women practising.

"Some of the women have been practising and we asked them to stop but they got a really good drenching down in Ouyen, and although it couldn't by any means be called a drought breaker it was really welcome," she said.

Story filed: 11:16 Friday 28th February 2003

KGB Unveils UFO Secrets?


2003.02.27/15:51 The last issues of the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (February 5-12) published a series of five articles under a loud headline "KGB Unveiled UFO Secrets". These publications are based upon materials of a so-called "blue file" that the KGB once compiled concerning activity of Russian ufologists. However, the newspaper unveiled no secrets at all: the publications mentioned just several instances when UFOs were registered over Soviet military objects. What do these KGB documents testify to? Do extraterrestrials actually exist? Or, is it possible that the truth is more prosaic? Researcher from the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk Pavel Poluyan tells about it.

Let's Liquidate UFO!

I saw a UFO for the first time on April 26, 1989: there was a large luminous ball flying over the Kama river. In fact, it was a thin air stratum around the ball that was glowing: some part of the ionized gas was blown away by an onrushing flow, and a short flickering track remained behind the apparatus. The case was called later "UFO over Perm" and was described in the press many times as lots of witnesses saw the phenomenon.

It took me several years to outline a practical scheme explaining the phenomenon I saw. As it turned out, everything could be explained even without fantastic hypotheses, but with non-typical aerodynamic effects. The effects are perfectly known more or less now; at least nobody recalls antigravitation when sees the flight of a disk-shaped baby plane designed by the Saratov EKIP concern. How does it fly without wings and propellers? When my article on principles of UFO flights was published in Komsomolskaya Pravda on November 1, 1995, the editorial staff illustrated the text with the picture of the "UFO" produced in Saratov, the baby plane I've already mentioned.

Later, the TV station Afontovo in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk produced a video where the story that I narrated was supplied with shooting done in the laboratory of superlight aircrafts in the Siberian aerospace academy and in the laboratory of the strong magnetic field in the Krasnoyarsk Physics Institute. In 2001, I brought my materials to the editorial office of the popular Russian newspaper Top Secret, but instead of a publication I met with a strange man. Some man found me in Krasnoyarsk and asked different questions in exchange for generous financing. He wanted to know whether I knew of what material a UFO body is done, if it can land on water; what is more, the man wanted to find out with what scientists I cooperated when I wrote my materials. After that I understood perfectly well that my surmises concerning secret apparatuses designed in the USA (and later in the Soviet Union as well) corresponded the reality, and that I must expound my version in detail. This is how my book Liquidation of UFO appeared; now it is available on many Internet websites.

You may ask why the KGB left me alone and allowed to publish my works. The problem is that I guessed the scheme of the first UFO, those that the USA tested at the end of the 1940s – beginning of the 1950s. Modern models are more complicated, I learnt it from emails from readers who were somehow connected with design and production of such aircrafts.

The recent publications in Komsomolskaya Pravda has come in handy. My opinion is that it's high time for the KGB to "unveil the UFO secret" so that people could learn the truth from Russia, as it cannot be obtained from American mystifiers.

Some romantic readers may say that what I'm going to tell is just one of the versions. However, what you are going to read right now is the truth. But first of all we must separate real "flying objects" from other unidentified phenomena, as such cases were actually observed as well.

A group of ionospheric UFOs can be singled out from the unidentified phenomena: these are many-colored lights zigzagging the sky at an unbelievably high speed. These are not objects in fact, but ionospheric spots of reflected light that appear as a result of gas glowing in the spot where two radar rays with definite characteristics cross. Synchronized moving of the rays produces the spots of reflected light that cross the sky at any speed and along any trajectory. Such experiments on modification of the ionospheric environment draw attention of the community.

Another group of UFO phenomena is made up by those that psychologist Cal Jung described. The fact is that a visual picture produced by the brain is exactly a picture. In other words, it is not transported from the retina into our consciousness, but appears as a result of procession of the information that the brain receives. Sometimes some alien images can intrude into this picture, just exactly the way when some uninvited banner comes up on your computer monitor when you surf the Internet. For example, when a child sees a dwarf going out of a wardrobe, he actually SEES the dwarf, as his brain cannot yet protect the visual picture from other signals.

The same can be observed with adults: the brain work is disturbed under the influence of high-frequency radiation, and strange objects interfere into the visual picture. It is no wonder that visions of this kind occur when people see "flying objects": unlike pilots in a shielded cockpit, accidental witnesses are no protected from microwave radiation from these aircrafts.

And now let's speak about real "UFOs". I hope that readers will be able to identify the following kinds of apparatuses with those that are described in the "blue file": counterintelligence agents collected only actual facts and knew perfectly well what kind of objects were flying over our military objects.

We all remember an old newsreel on aviation history where some strange apparatus, something like a huge umbrella with an engine and a pilot, was demonstrated together with antiquated biplanes and gliders. The "umbrella" twitched up and down; when it went down, the apparatus took off and when the umbrella moved up, the aircraft got back to the surface. The umbrella plane was tested by inventor Chance Vought in America in 1911. This very flying device was the ancestor of "flying discs". The first flying discs used the same scheme but on a higher technological level. The very form of the first flying discs is flat from below, prominent and streamline on the top; it means that it was very important for these objects to be oriented down with its surface with a higher head resistance. This only fact is enough to understand that such discs rest upon the air.

As founder of the Russian aircraft construction Zhukovsky said, there is rest everywhere in the air. The umbrella plane from the old newsreel is certainly very funny, but do you think that practical Americans spent money on construction of the craft just for fun? Certainly not. The principle of flight based on formation of compression under the vibrating surface is not worse than that used in traditional planes where the lift (the difference of pressures) arises at the expense of asymmetrical streamline of a wing with the oncoming air. In 1911, there were no technologies to use the principle of flight to the maximum.

During WWII German aviation engineers employed this principle. But they managed to create only models of one meter long; however, those "UFOs" scared American and English pilots very much when glowing balls appeared right before their bombers.

At the end of the 1940s, the first flying discs resembling telephone dynamic speakers appeared: their huge membranes vibrated at a supersonic speed, and a streamline top part consisting of two spherical segments guaranteed the difference of the drag from above and from the bottom. A thin metal membrane was set vibrating with a system of impulse electromagnets (later Russian engineers employed this technology in electropulse anti-icers, on the wings of Il-86 planes for instance).

What is the essence of the aerodynamic effect?

As long as a flying disc doesn't throw out anything like rockets do, there will be no lift. This can be a ring whirl, as it doesn't draw the disc back. The disc must be delayed on the whirl just for a couple of microseconds because another whirl is formed within this period. Air rejection gives rise to reactive force, a disc takes off, and a whirl that appears under the disc prevents the disc from drawing in until another whirl is formed. The time between these whirls is insignificant. The whirl draws in much air in the revolving, consequently, a disc can give it a bigger impulse within the period when a whirl is being formed, and it itself then moves higher.

However, the first flying discs had many defects. First of all, the push surface couldn't resist and broke that further caused catastrophes. It was this "elastic foil" that US Air Force Captain Jesse Marcell found on a farmer's field; this case gave rise to the sensation about the Roswell incident in July 1947. Second, the disc was unsteady: it fell sideways as it slipped off the whirls. Third, flying discs with impulse electromagnets were heavy, with high power imputs and couldn't cover long distances (as one correspondent told me, Americans had to deliver their flying discs to the Soviet shores in submarines). Certainly, this kind of aircrafts was improved, but another generation of apparatuses appeared by that time; their airframes were not shaken with electromagnetic field. It was made of piezoceramics and vibration appeared as a result of the piezoelectric effect. Apparatuses of this generation were no longer in a disc shape, they were balls, ellipses and other volumetric figures surrounded with a halo of ionized gas.

Finally, the third generation of flying discs consists of dark objects in which only small zones, whirl activators, are glowing. The light goes downwards when the disc is to take off, to the side when it is to move sideways or the light shines in the form of a pointed bracket at manoeuvres. The zone of whirl activation appears in any part of the airframe consisting of cell contacts. Uneven cells are joined together (this is the base), and voltage is sent to the other cells through a regulating switchboard. The airframe is monolithic and doesn't vibrate, but the adjoining air is artificially ionized, and current impulses that slip by at a megahertz frequency made it expand. The principle of thermal sources of sound is known rather well, but it wasn't effectively used in other scientific fields.

Now I would like to say about "a mysterious material ray" that flying discs emit. Ufologists say that with the help of this ray extraterrestrials take people on board their aircrafts. The situation is more prosaic in fact: molecules are centrifuged and separated in the whirl zone, moisture is frozen out of the air in the cooled area and as a result of it small crystals form. The light emitted by the activation zone is shining on the crystals. Thus, a UFO 50 meters high described in the article in Komsomolskaya Pravda of February 11 is not an object itself, but the area consisted of whirls that it illuminated. The glowing zone stops where the lowest whirl loses the energy as it expanses and ceases to freeze crystals.

When the Soviet borders grew weaker as a result of perestroika, American spy UFOs flooded the sky over Russia. Unfortunately, they were not only collecting information. In December 1989, policemen in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk saw that several dark flying discs were trying to experiment on electric mains going to the Krasnoyarsk aluminum plant. However, we should also feel for Americans as they have been fooled with extraterrestrial fairy tales all this time, and the misinformation was spread intentionally. I tried to demonstrate how it is done on the example of the book UFO FBI CONNECTION. The Secret History of the Government`s Cover-Up by Bruce Maccabee, Ph.D. however, when a part of my book was published in English, the author emailed to me to express his disagreement.

So, the childish fantasy about extraterrestrial beings is currently being turned into a real spy novel. I would like to add that the disclosures I've done were not inspired and financed by the FSB; they are the result of my private, years-long research. I used my personal finance for the researches.

It is certainly very sad to give up the myth about extraterrestrials. But it's time to grow older and say good-bye to fairy tales. I am not a confirmed sceptic rationalist.

Be sure, dear readers, there are more interesting things in the world than extraterrestrial beings, immortality of the soul and its post mortem fate. And those who have been spreading lies in the information sphere and fooling the humanity for 55 years already must remember this.

Pavel Poluyan Krasnoyarsk
Special for PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://science.pravda.ru/science/2003/6/20/57/7475_ufo.html

Saturday, March 01, 2003



by John A. Henderson, M.D.



Throughout history, man has worshipped many gods and deities. Each of these represented the values and culture of the society. So who will God be in the new millennium? Author John A. Henderson M.D. believes it is time for God.com. This new God does away with many of the constraints and outgrown traits of gods in the past. Henderson asserts that man has become too sophisticated and intelligent and is therefore not as reliant on traditional religion. By examining the role of religion in society, "God.com: A Deity for the New Millennium" evaluates the reasons people believe as they do and how this can fit into modern life. Fascinating, informative, and innovative, God.com looks at religion in a whole new light.

Dorrance Publishing Company has this to say about the book: "These words serve as a clarion call for God.com: A Deity for the New Millennium. Your book calls upon Mankind to strip away the last vestiges of intolerance, fascism, and bigotry that has been foisted upon it by the organized religion. "God.com" singles out a fanatical class of human beings, reserving special criticism for the Roman Catholic Church and the authors of the Bible. "God.com" is an authentic celebration of the primacy of man and is designed to appeal to adult audiences, particularly atheists, agnostics, and those who are interested in general theological reading."

Though controversial, this book is a must read for all thinking people. Buy it for friends and for enemies.


John A. Henderson is a physician and lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife, Ruth. The couple shares three children: Robert, Christine, and Jeanne. The themes found in God.com: A Deity for the New Millenium are something Henderson has considered most of his life before finally deciding to put them onto paper.

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity


Alan D. Sokal
Department of Physics
New York University
4 Washington Place
New York, NY 10003 USA
Telephone: (212) 998-7729
Fax: (212) 995-4016

November 28, 1994
revised May 13, 1995

Note: This article was published in Social Text #46/47, pp. 217-252 (spring/summer 1996).

Biographical Information: The author is a Professor of Physics at New York University. He has lectured widely in Europe and Latin America, including at the Università di Roma ``La Sapienza'' and, during the Sandinista government, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. He is co-author with Roberto Fernández and Jürg Fröhlich of Random Walks, Critical Phenomena, and Triviality in Quantum Field Theory (Springer, 1992).

Bible school has beastly 666 excised



Associated Press

VANCLEVE, Ky. -- After months of asking for a new telephone number, a conservative Bible college has finally been able to drop the 666 prefix that many recognized as the biblical mark of the beast.

"We're just elated that the number has been changed," said Rob Roy MacGregor, vice president of business affairs for Kentucky Mountain Bible College. "It was like we had this scarlet letter attached to us."

Mr. MacGregor said the college was now removing the troublesome number from printed material, including the college's official letterhead.

The 666 prefix had been the only one available in this eastern Kentucky town since telephone service arrived. But the need for more phone lines in largely rural Breathitt County forced telephone companies to add numbers.

The nondenominational Christian college had been trying to get the number changed since a 693 prefix was added.

"We were glad we could finally get a number that the school is happy with," said Kaye Davis, general counsel for Access Point, a North Carolina-based telephone company that serves the college.

In the biblical book of Revelation, 666, the mark of the beast, is stamped into people's foreheads or right hands during the last days. Those who receive the mark, according to Scripture, are damned.

Christian radio host tells listeners to abandon church

Associated Press

OAKLAND -- An influential Christian radio host, best known for his failed predictions of the second coming of Christ, has run into more derision and criticism for telling listeners to abandon church.

Harold Camping says his Bible studies have revealed that what he calls "the church age" has ended. He has told his worldwide radio audience that Satan has taken over all churches.

For the past two years, Camping has been teaching that God wants people to worship privately in their homes instead -- with no leaders, no baptism and no communion.

"The Bible says God is not saving people any longer in the churches," Camping said in a recent interview at Family Radio's headquarters in Oakland. "They're being saved outside the churches."

Critics call the idea heretical, and say the self-described Bible expert doesn't know what he's talking about. Some evangelical Christian leaders complain that his call is hurting their churches.

"He's in critical locations in the United States and the rest of the world. He has a large listening audience," said David Clark, who tracks Christian fringe groups. "He's got pastors all over the United States in an uproar. He's gone over the edge this time."

Camping, 81, parted ways several years ago with the conservative, evangelical Christian Reformed Church in which he grew up. Retired from his own construction business, he serves full time as the unpaid president of Family Radio, which he helped start in 1958.

The network grew and gained international attention in 1994 with Camping's well-publicized prediction that the world would end that September. Since then, he has made several more apocalyptic predictions.

Christ never came -- but the radio network has thrived.

From its base, a modest reddish-brown building sandwiched between a burger joint and an auto parts store on a road to the Oakland airport, the network has built a broad and powerful reach.

Its signal is broadcast or relayed on more than 150 stations and translators in the United States. It airs in several major metropolitan areas, on the Internet and in Europe, Africa and Asia. It reaches mainland China from a station in Taiwan and is building a station to reach much of Southeast Asia. It also has expanded into television.

Its signature show -- "Open Forum" -- features Camping answering called-in questions, often rambling about obscure Biblical and religious references in his slow, deep voice. He repeatedly refers to Matthew 24, the Bible passage that speaks of how wars and other trials will precede Jesus' second coming.

The Sept. 11 attacks were "a diversion from what the real terror is," he said. "When Christ comes, there will be no more mercy, no more Gospel, no more salvation. ... God always follows through."

Devoted callers ask Camping -- who graduated with a civil engineering degree in 1942 from the University of California, Berkeley -- what the Bible says about everything from homosexuality to home schooling to financial planning.

He also hears from his share of skeptics.

"I understand you had some misunderstandings a couple of years ago. My only question is -- should people follow you now?" asked one recent caller.

It's not clear how many listeners are tuning in. Camping says he doesn't know. But donations, one measure of the network's effectiveness at reaching people, totaled more than $12 million in 2000, according to documents the nonprofit filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Camping this month released a book, "The End of the Church Age and After," one of many he has written but the first devoted to his new beliefs about the church.

Church leaders have complained that Camping's teachings are costing them parishioners. Some are so angry that they have held special meetings to discuss Camping.

Many affected congregations are tiny, and the departure of just a few people can have a devastating impact, said Dave Rastetter, 35, a deacon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio, and the man behind www.familyradioiswrong.com -- an anti-Camping Web site.

Rastetter used to enjoy listening to Camping and stuck with him despite his failed predictions.

But in 2000, he says, Camping became obsessed with teaching about Satan. At first, Camping said most churches were bad. Rastetter finally broke away when the radio host declared all churches bad, no exceptions.

Rastetter believes Camping was "trying to save face" after his predictions had failed to materialize.

Clark, who calls Camping "an authoritarian spiritual meathead," says the talk-show host keeps a tight rein on the radio network and refuses to answer his critics, who say they can find no trace of his teachings in the Bible.

"I believe he can be destructive to churches and individual lives. His worldview is nonnegotiable," Clark says.

Camping calls all the criticism "character assassination" but says he is not surprised that church leaders aren't embracing a teaching that, if true, would lead to their churches' dismantling.

Of his critics, he says, "I worry about their standing with the Lord."

As for the second coming of Christ, Camping predicts it's not far away.

"Most of the people living in the world today will be here when Christ comes."

This time, he said, he won't predict the date.

On the Net:


The Dare Island Enigma


The new cryptofiction novel
by Blake Templeton.

This book is an exciting thriller about cryptozoology. The author, Blake Templeton, founds this work of cryptofiction upon scientific fact and research in order to tell a story and give revolutionary new ideas about the history of evolution.

Two boys find a living globster on a beach, and then later snap a Polaroid of another unknown species. They send the photo to a renowned cryptozoologist, Jasper Callison, who with the help of his new friends, attempts to solve the mystery of The Dare Island Enigma.

This web site explores this novel in depth, as well as giving factual data about cryptozoology, globsters, punctuated equilibrium, and the Gaia Hypothesis in general.

Advanced Ancient Technologies Discovered

["Pure Crap" alert!! Ed.]


As the National Geographic live special from inside the Great Pyramid, revealed to a worldwide audience onSeptember 17, state-of-the-art engineering tools can now demonstrate what many Egyptologists have denied for years.

The builders of the Great Pyramid were masters of precision engineering well beyond today's most advanced capabilities.

Unlike most so-called 'experts,' though, Christopher Dunn, tool design engineer, and author of "The Giza Power Plant", was not surprised by the recent revelations from the Great Pyramid. Indeed, when the NG special showed what lay behind "Gantenbrink's Door" at the top of the southern shaft from the Queen's chamber, Dunn was able to say, "I told you so." Moreover, when, a few days later, Egyptian Director of Antiquities Zahi Hawass and the NG crew sent their robotic camera up the northern shaft, on the opposite side of the Queen's chamber, and discovered a matching counterpart to Gantenbrink's door with two similar metal fittings, Dunn found even stronger validation of predictions he had made years earlier.

Ghost-fully yours


Feb 26 2003 12:16:00:000PM

A grieving Chinese couple are offering $120 000 to try to find a man who will marry their dead daughter.

Hong Kong - A grieving Chinese couple are offering $120 000 (about R960 000)to try to find a man who will marry their dead daughter, a news report said on Wednesday. The couple from Tianjin have placed a newspaper advertisement seeking a groom aged 25 to 35 to legally marry their daughter, who died on February 11 at the age of 28.

The successful applicant will go through a marriage ceremony at which personal belongings of the woman will represent the bride, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported. He will then receive the money - a fortune in rural China -and an apartment from his parents-in-law, provided he stays faithful to his "ghost bride".

The woman's mother, a restaurant owner, said she had dreamt of her daughter after her death and realised she was lonely without a husband in the spirit world, the newspaper said.

"Ghost marriages" for young people who die unmarried are an ancient Chinese custom which was curbed after the Communists came to power in 1949, but which have revived in rural areas in recent years.

Despite the fortune on offer, only five applicants came forward in the first few days after the advertisement was placed. - Sapa-DPA

Court affirms Pledge ruling


A divided federal appeals court let stand Friday a blockbuster ruling declaring the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, setting the stage for a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both the Bush administration and the Sacramento County school district, where the case arose, had asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to set aside the controversial 2-1 ruling by a court panel last June and refer the case to an 11-judge panel for a rehearing. But after months of wrangling, a divided appellate court denied the request.

At least nine of the appellate court's 24 judges voted for a rehearing, and six signed an angry opinion, saying both Friday's decision and the original ruling "confers a favored status on atheism in our public life."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement implying that the Bush administration would appeal to the Supreme Court. The Justice Department "will spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag," he said.

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Mace Baker, Ph.D.
Sea Dragons

Dr. Baker taught for over 20 years in the public school system. He earned his B.A. from Biola University, and his doctorate from Pacific International University. He has engaged in Creation research for more than 20 years and conducts seminars in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, England, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Russia and the Philippines.

Sea dragons have traditionally been perceived as purely mythological, however, since the discovery of the fossils of various marine reptiles, it has become obvious that the sea monsters referred to by ancient and medieval mariners were really the sea dragons that paleontologists now refer to as Ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, etc. The fossils represent the sea monsters that were buried in Noah’s flood. The stories or legends represent those that survived the flood and lived for two or three thousand years after.

This presentation will focus on the great aspects of intelligent design as seen in these amazing reptiles. It will further show strong support for a global flood as various unique deposits are highlighted; (which are not being produced by local floods) namely limestone, chalk, and diatomaceous earth.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, March 4th, 7:30 PM

Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)

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