NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 March 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, March 14, 2003

Scientists: Mars Radiation Would Pose Serious Risk to Astronauts

By Andrew Bridges

The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has confirmed suspicions that the radiation on Mars is so intense that it could endanger astronauts sent to explore the Red Planet, scientists said Thursday.

The high radiation levels measured by the unmanned probe also suggest that any extraterrestrial life that might call Mars home would have little chance of surviving unless it were shielded beneath the planet's dusty, cold surface, said Cary Zeitlin of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute in Houston.

"It would have to be pretty robust against all kinds of environmental horrors," said Zeitlin, one of the scientists working on the project.

The conclusions stemmed from new data released by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory from the first year of scientific results from the $300 million mission.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAWVAYB9DD.html




Thursday, March 13, 2003

When hype undermines hope

Realistic interpretation of recent claims by researchers about the prevention of HIV/AIDS requires 'informed scepticism' about the public statements of scientists.

When scientific results get distorted in the press, it is often journalists - or their headline writers - who get the blame. Indeed, scientists often base their reluctance to speak to journalists on fear that their work, and particularly the uncertainties that surround it, may be misunderstood. But this concern can mask an equally damaging tendency for which scientists are themselves partly to blame, namely a desire to exaggerate the significance of their research specifically to pursue a particular agenda through attracting press attention.

In many cases, the results can easily be shrugged of, and are at most irritating. But in other instances the attention can be damaging, as it may lead to shifts in social behaviour that are not justifiable on the basis of the facts alone. In some cases, of course, as in the reluctance of British consumers in the early 1990s to eat home-grown beef out of fears of contamination with Mad Cow Disease, this shift may be sensible; hence public enthusiasm for what is known as the "precautionary principle". In others, however, it may be dangerous.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.scidev.net/archives/editorial/comment55.html

Scientists Find Extrasolar Planet With Atmosphere Much Like Jupiter

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

 

   The Hubble Space Telescope has detected an extensive atmosphere of hydrogen enveloping and escaping from a newfound planet of a distant star, scientists      reported yesterday.

The discovery comes as no surprise, astronomers say, but is important nonetheless as apparent confirmation that the extrasolar planets observed so far not only are much like the solar system's Jupiter in size but also are similarly huge gaseous bodies.

In an announcement by the European Space Agency and NASA, a French-led research team said three separate observations by the Hubble telescope in 2001 revealed a hot and puffed-up hydrogen atmosphere surrounding a planet orbiting the star HD 209458, in the constellation Pegasus 150 light-years from Earth. Details are described in today's issue of the journal Nature.

The most astonishing aspect, said the team leader, Dr. Alfred Vidal-Madjar of the Astrophysics Institute of Paris, is that the planet is so close to the searing heat of its parent star that the dense atmosphere reaches temperatures of about 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is boiling off and evaporating at a rate of perhaps 10,000 tons a second. The escaping hydrogen was detected extending across 125,000 miles, trailing the planet like a comet's tail.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/13/science/13PLAN.html

PATIENT DEATH PROMPTS REVIEW OF VA'S HUMAN RESEARCH EFFORT

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - At least one patient died recently as a result of a medical error in a study at a Veteran Affairs hospital, prompting a review of the agency's entire human research effort, according to a memo released Wednesday.

The memo, signed by two deputy undersecretaries for health and dated March 6, called for an intensive 90-day review at all VA medical centers of procedures used to monitor human research. Current projects will continue and patients will still be enrolled in new ones, the memo said.

The memo referred to the death "of one or more patients at one site," but did not describe the human experiments or offer any details.

VA spokeswoman Karen Fedele said the agency would not comment further, citing an investigation by the VA's inspector general.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/804332p-5727348c.html

SHUTTLE TEAM SOUGHT SATELLITE ASSESSMENT OF LIFTOFF DAMAGE

 from The New York Times

Two or three days after the space shuttle Columbia's liftoff, a group of NASA engineers asked the shuttle program manager to request the aid of United States spy satellites in determining the extent of debris damage to the shuttle's left wing, but the manager declined to do so, a senior NASA official said yesterday.

The official said the satellites would "absolutely" have helped the engineers measure any damage to the wing's protective heat tiles from debris slamming into them about 81 seconds after liftoff on Jan. 16.

He said Lambert Austin, an engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston, had asked Ron D. Dittemore, the shuttle program manager, in a group meeting to obtain satellite images to help gauge the damage. Mr. Dittemore turned down the request, even though Mr. Austin was also speaking for several other engineers, the official said.

Mr. Austin and his colleagues were disappointed, the official said, especially because they believed Mr. Dittemore did not have the technical knowledge of imagery to determine whether the images would have been helpful.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/13/national/nationalspecial/13SHUT.html




Wednesday Mar 12, 2003

ITC to investigate paranormal shows

Matt Wells, media correspondent

Monday March 10, 2003

The Guardian

 

Tonight's coverage by a satellite TV channel of an attempt to raise the spirit of Princess Diana has prompted television regulators to launch an investigation into the proliferation of programmes about the paranormal.

Living TV will show a US programme about an attempt by a psychic to talk to the late princess. But a live seance, conducted in the presence of Mohamed Al Fayed and Andrew Morton, will be cut.

Despite the independent television commission's code prohibiting the broadcast of seances and exorcisms "except in the context of a legitimate investigation", programmes about the paranormal have become increasingly popular.

Living TV screens a number of shows under the Paranormal Living brand, including Charmed, a drama about three sisters' double lives as witches.

An ITC spokesman said: "We are keeping a weather eye on this type of programming, monitoring trends in the same way that we monitor other programme areas, with a view to reporting to the commission later in the spring."

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,911009,00.html

Scientists Find Human Footprints From More Than 300,000 Years Ago

By Rick Callahan

Associated Press Writer

Scientists in Italy have discovered 350,000-year-old tracks that may be the oldest known footprints made by Stone Age man.

The prints were made by three early, upright-walking humans as they descended the treacherous side of a volcano - perhaps to escape an eruption, researchers reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Other scientists said that while the prints appear well-preserved, they add little to knowledge about human evolution, since footprints of far older human ancestors have been found. But they said the tracks are still a sobering testament to long-ago journeys across a harsh terrain.

One of the footprint trails zigzags to find the safest path down the steep incline. Another includes handprints someone left as he steadied himself in a precarious spot, only to slide a short ways down the slope.

"You're looking at an event that happened 350,000 years ago - someone made an imprint on a surface, walking in a way you'd expect to see someone in these same conditions walk today," said Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist at Kent State University who was not involved in the research. "It adds another cog in the connect between ourselves and our ancestors."

Who left the 56 footprints is not clear. But their discoverers suggest either late Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis - two early human species found in Europe during the Paleolithic era, also known as the Stone Age. The tracks were dated between 325,000 and 385,000 years old.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGA3QZ0O7DD.html

Direst of Predictions For War in Iraq End-Time Interpreters See Biblical Prophecies Being Fulfilled

By Bill Broadway

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 8, 2003; Page B09

Ever since Jesus said that only God knows the hour or day of the Second Coming, preachers and self-appointed doomsayers have been trying to predict when it will happen -- and watching the sun rise on another generation. Even those who chastise date-setters nearly always say, "God's final judgment is coming soon, probably in our lifetime, so get ready."

In recent weeks, the prophetic interpreters have been citing a new reason they believe the end is coming: the impending U.S. war with Iraq. Anxious discussions have arisen on prophecy Web sites, in Bible study groups and churches, and at such gatherings as last month's 20th International Prophecy Conference in Tampa. Its title: "Shaking of Nations: Living in Perilous Times."

Many see evidence of Iraq's significance in end-time scenarios in key passages of the apocalyptic book of Revelation. Chapter 16, which includes the only mention of Armageddon in the Bible, carries a direct reference to the Euphrates River, which runs through modern-day Iraq.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58894-2003Mar7.html

Call to honour space aliens

A bill has been put forward in the United States to designate a day to honour space aliens. Dan Foley, a Republican from Roswell, New Mexico, the area where some say aliens landed, proposed an "Extra-terrestrial Culture Day" every second Thursday in February.

Mr Foley asked for the bill "in recognition of the many visitations, sightings, unexplained mysteries and technological advances... of alien beings" in New Mexico.

The legislation aims to "enhance relationships among all the citizens of the cosmos, known and unknown," he added.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2841455.stm




Tuesday Mar 11, 2003

The Bible Code

To the Editor:

I am the author of "Bible Code II: The Countdown," mentioned by Bill Keller in his March 8 column.

My Pentagon briefing about the Bible Code took place on Feb. 21 and was attended by top military intelligence officials.

Both American and Israeli intelligence are now using the Bible Code to hunt for Osama bin Laden. What possible loss is there in that?

Why do United States and Israeli intelligence take the code seriously? Not, as Mr. Keller writes, because "we're all a little too desperate these days," but because the Bible Code keeps coming true.

We have a real enemy to find and fight, the one who attacked us: Osama bin Laden. Discouraging top American intelligence officials from checking out information that might lead to the Qaeda leader is bad for our country.

We are in a war that must be won.

MICHAEL DROSNIN

New York, March 9, 2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/11/opinion/L11DROS.html

An orb by any other name: Debate over what constitutes a planet is far from settled

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | 26 February 2003

BERKELEY - Ask any kid how many planets are in our solar system, and you'll get a firm answer: nine.

But knock on a few doors in Berkeley's astronomy department, and you'll hear, amid the hemming and hawing, a whole range of numbers.

Professor Gibor Basri, who plans soon to propose a formal definition of aplanet to the international body that names astronomical objects, argues that there are at least 14 planets, and perhaps as many as 20. To the well-known list of nine he adds several large asteroids and more distant objects from the rocky swarm called the Kuiper Belt circling beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Professor Imke de Pater and Assistant Professor Eugene Chiang, on the other hand, toss out Pluto without a backward glance. It's just a big rock,  they say, a former member of the Kuiper Belt, puppy-dogging Neptune around the solar system.

 Not so fast, says Professor Alex Filippenko. The International  Astronomical Union (IAU), which rules onnames for astronomical bodies, has officially said that Pluto remains a planet, at least for the time being. Thus, officially, there are nine. He cavils a bit, however, making it clear to his students that Pluto is "more fundamentally a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), though an unusually large one."

Professor Geoffrey Marcy and research astronomer Debra Fischer, both "planet  hunters" within the department, also  prefer to keep the number at nine, noting that the sun, though it probably had 12 or 14 planets in the past, will in five billion years probably lose Mercury and Pluto, bringing the count down to seven.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/02/26_planet.shtml

Jury still out on GM food's effects

By Chet Raymo, 3/11/2003

Last summer, I bought a prepackaged chocolate cake in a European   supermarket. The wrapper proclaimed prominently: NO GM INGREDIENTS. GM,   of course, stands for ''genetically modified.''

Then I turned the package over and read the ingredients. I recognized   flour, salt and water. The rest were a long list of artificial flavors,   colorings, stabilizers and preservatives that read like the shelf list   of a chemistry lab. Yum!

I'm not suggesting that all those chemicals with unrecognizable names   might be harmful to my health. But then again, there is no evidence   that GM foods are harmful either. The uproar of popular feeling that   has turned Europe into an essentially GM-free zone is based more upon   emotion than hard fact.

Environmental organizations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth   have whipped up a political frenzy against genetically engineered food,   demonizing big agribusinesses, such as Monsanto, for releasing monsters   upon the world. The protesters with their ''Frankenfoods'' placards   surely mean well. One only wishes they were able to cite in their favor   something more than vague possibilities of disaster.

Americans, meanwhile, are barely aware of the controversy. Why the   difference between Europe and the United States? I suspect the reason   is this: Europeans love their food and traditionally buy it fresh off   the shelves every day; Americans go to market once a week and are used   to eating processed junk that's laced with God-knows-what. For many   Europeans, GM foods are one more element of American cultural   imperialism.

For the rest of the story click on the following link.


http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/070/science/Jury_still_out_on_GM_food_s_effectsP.shtml




Monday, March 10, 2003

Albany Times Union

Martyrs' shrine awaits miracle

First published: Monday, March 10, 2003

The priests at Our Lady of Martyrs' Shrine in Auriesville are waiting for a miracle.

That's what it will take to get the blessed martyr herself, Kateri Tekakwitha, made a saint by the Vatican, say those who run the popular shrine that sits above the Mohawk River six miles west of Amsterdam.

If the Vatican hears of a sick person who prays to the martyr and is cured -- such a cure must be investigated by Vatican doctors to make sure medical science is not the reason -- the Pope might make her a saint, said the Rev. John Marzolf, a Jesuit priest who is director of the shrine.

"There have been none confirmed yet," he said. "That's what we're waiting for -- a miracle."

Since October 2000, the 118-year-old shrine's fund-raising efforts have brought in half a million dollars, which has been used to repair the huge, circular church that is the center of the property. The money has also paid for repaving and maintenance at the sweeping, tree-lined property.

The shrine was built in memory of three French missionaries, now sainted, who were killed by Mohawk Indians in the 1600s. In 1930, it was expanded, including its centerpiece: a 6,500-person circular church called the Coliseum, modeled after the place in Rome where ancient Christians were killed for their beliefs.

The site of the Coliseum also is the birthplace of Tekakwitha, the American Indian for whom the site is named. Orphaned at a young age after her parents were killed by disease, she was raised by an uncle but listened to the teachings of local missionaries. For her beliefs, she was forced to leave the Mohawk tribe for a Christian Indian colony in Canada. She died in 1680, in her early 20s. Soon after, her own people began calling her "The Lily of the Mohawks."


http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=113917&category=REGION&newsdate=3/10/2003

Bible Nut Advises Defense Dept.

Is It Good for the Jews?

By BILL KELLER

Two weeks ago, a group of senior intelligence officials in the Defense Department sat for an hour listening to a briefing by a writer who claims - I am not making this up - that messages encoded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament provide clues to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. One of the officials told me that they had agreed to meet the writer, Michael Drosnin, author of a Nostradamus-style best seller, without understanding that he was promoting Biblical prophecy. Still, rather than shoo him away, they listened politely as he consumed several man-hours of valuable intelligence-crunching time. Apparently he has given similar briefings to top officials of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

Maybe we're all a little too desperate these days for a simple formula to explain how our safe world came unhinged. That, as much as anything, may explain one of the more enduring conspiracy theories of the moment, the notion that we are about to send a quarter of a million American soldiers to war for the sake of Israel.

This idea has received only fleeting attention in the mainstream discussion of our looming invasion of Iraq, and it would not deserve more except for three things: (1) The idea that this war is about Israel is persistent and more widely held than you may think. (2) It has interesting ripples in our domestic politics. (3) It has, like many dubious theories, sprouted from a seed of truth. Israel is part of the story. And why shouldn't it be?

The conspiracy theory appears in several variations, ranging from malignant to merely cynical, but it goes something like this: A cadre of pro-Zionist zealots within the Bush administration and among its media chorus (the "amen corner," as the isolationist Pat Buchanan crudely called them last time we threatened Iraq) has long schemed to make the Middle East safer for Israel by uprooting the hostile regime of Saddam Hussein. They have finally succeeded, the theory goes, in pushing their agenda up to the desk of a gullible president.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/08/opinion/08KELL.html

Female Anatomy Inspired Stonehenge?

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

 Feb. 28, 2003 -The design of Stonehenge, the   4,800-year-old monument in southwestern England, was based on   female sexual anatomy, according to a paper in the current Journal   of the Royal Society of Medicine.

  The theory could explain why the ancients constructed Stonehenge   and similar monuments throughout the United Kingdom.

  Anthony Perks, a professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology   at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, and a doctor at   the university's Women's Hospital, first thought of Stonehenge's   connection to women after noticing how some of the stones were   smooth, while others were left rough.

  "It must have taken enormous effort to smooth the stones," Perks,   co-author of the journal paper, told Discovery News.


http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20030224/stonehenge.html


Sunday, March 09, 2003

UFO programme 'panic' gripped ministry

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2826133.stm

By Dominic

Saturday, March 08, 2003


BBC News Online at the Public Record Office

The truth may be out there but in 1972 the Ministry of Defence was agonising about a televised debate on UFOs, fearing it would encourage the British public to believe in little men from outer space. Documents released at the Public Record Office reveal official anxiety as to what would happen if the Royal Air Force took part in a BBC programme about unidentified flying objects.

On one hand they feared they would fuel UFO hysteria - but on the other hand they feared conspiracy theorists would have a field day if they refused to take part in the show.

When an official did give an interview to the BBC, it just sparked more controversy - with one letter writer requesting to meet the government's expert in languages from outer space.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, there was a huge growth in sightings of apparently unidentifiable flying objects, many of them near to RAF bases.

In 1971, the BBC's current affairs programme Man Alive decided to investigate sightings over Banbury, Oxfordshire, and asked the Ministry of Defence for assistance.

Mr Davis could well be the target for cranks and fanatics and others who profess to believe in 'little men from outer space' Air Commodore Brothers, Ministry of Defence This was not such a straightforward request as it would seem.

Air Commodore Anthony Davis found himself nominated as the ministry's official UFOs spokesman - though his colleagues had deep concerns as to the whether he should take part in the programme at all.

"We do not know who will be in the audience," wrote Air Commodore Brothers.

"Mr Davis could well be the target for cranks and fanatics and others who profess to believe in 'little men from outer space'."

"Unless you have any other thoughts on the matter we propose to tell the BBC that we are only prepared for Mr Davis to take part in a filmed interview."

Ministerial rethink

David Filkin, the programme's producer, urged the ministry to think again and he won round the top brass.

"On balance, it would be better to do this and face up to the possible difficulties of dealing with a hostile audience of cranks and fanatics rather than the alternative risk of leaving the field to the fanatics and giving the impression that we are afraid to stand up to questions," concluded officials. Having decided to take part, the ministry was so determined to quash UFO rumours, officials arranged for RAF Lightnings and one US Air Force Phantom to be filmed flying in formations that they said were the basis for the rumours.

"Good colour film taken [by the BBC] at dusk should show the fire-cones of their jet effluxes in re-heat, apparently hovering and then moving sharply away, as often described in UFO sightings," Air Commodore Davis told the ministry.

"On UFOs, I found both the producer and interviewer apparently fully in sympathy with the MOD point of view; they have probably had their fill of the cranky ufologists whom they have already interviewed at length."

The man from the ministry came away satisfied that the MOD has quashed the rumours for good - not least after his successful performance during the subsequent studio discussion.

Do you speak Uranian?

Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case and the letters kept coming in to the ministry - including one from a Mr Creighton of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.

Like many UFO enthusiasts, Mr Creighton thought the programme was a seminal moment in the battle to prove the existence of extraterrestrials. "It was not only epoch-making for its treatment of the subject but that the star performer of the evening was a gentlemen who, if my memory is not at fault, holds a government certificate of proficiency in the more exotic branches of xenoglossy and speaks fluent Uranian or Plutonian," he wrote.

Mr Creighton said he and other enthusiasts desperately wanted this official to appear as a guest-speaker at UFO clubs around the country.

"I have made several unsuccessful attempts to locate him - could you be so good as to put me in touch with him or indicate how he may be contacted?"

Unfortunately for Mr Creighton, the men from the ministry denied they had a chap conversant in alien languages.

"This department has no knowledge of the person you mention," came the terse reply.

"I can only suggest that the staff of the BBC programme may be able to assist you."

Truth and Fiction

From: Peter Bowditch

From last week's update to The Millenium Project

http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles

Last Saturday evening, I gave a talk about pseudomedicine (http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/altmedicine2.htm), and one of the pieces of dangerous quackery I featured was Hulda Clark's disgraceful and disgusting suggestion that by using her treatment methods it was possible for Type 1 diabetics to virtually eliminate the need for insulin. In these people the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, which produce insulin, are destroyed. The only treatment available for this condition has been frequent insulin injections, although in rare cases a transplant of a pancreas and kidney have effected a cure. Clark's fantasy includes the preposterous statement that 50% of the islets can regenerate. This is simply a lie - once the islets have been replaced by scar tissue, there is no possibility of recovery.

The next day was the 50th anniversary of the publication of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. This was a case of real scientists making a real discovery which transformed what we knew about how the body worked and opened the way for a revolution in the understanding of diseases and their prevention and treatment.

These two seemingly unrelated matters were brought together for me on Wednesday, when I went for a tour through The Millennium Institute at Westmead Hospital. (This is the place that gets a share of donations made to the RatbagsDotCom sites.) In the foyer is a map of the human genome, and the first laboratory we visited contained machines for sequencing genes. These machines are used by researchers throughout the institute in their work on cancer, viruses and other research areas.

The breadth of what has become possible in just fifty years in real medicine highlights the vacuousness of what passes for research in pseudomedicine, where nothing new or useful has been found for centuries and where science is just a dirty word.

The next event really highlighted the difference between medicine and the alternative. We were addressed by a scientist working on techniques to transplant just the islets into diabetics, rather than the complete pancreas. So far, only four successful transplants have been performed, two at Westmead and two by their collaborators in the USA. (The transplant team at Westmead have done about 140 full-pancreas transplants.) The new method requires much less dramatic surgery, has shorter recovery time, requires less anti-rejection medication for the life of the patient, and holds out the possibility of a single donor pancreas being able to be used for multiple recipients. It's early days yet, but this has the potential to transform the lives of many people whose only choice up to now has been between many injections each day and death.

There could be no starker contrast between medicine and quackery than comparing these scientists, with their cautious optimism and rigorous research, with charlatans like Clark who unashamedly lie about having all the answers right now.

Ending the 'Memory Wars' does not redeem the victims
Witch-trial zealotry has given way to sound psychiatry - after vast damage was done

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/booksmags/bal-bk.memory02mar02,0,705079.story?coll=bal%2Dsociety%2Dutility

By Paul McHugh
Special To The Sun
Originally published March 2, 2003

The Memory Wars are over. The voices of sanity in psychiatric practice won. But while the wars lasted - from the mid-1980s until the end of the 1990s - they did much damage to innocent people and to the public standing of psychotherapy.

The wars turned on a bizarre psychiatric opinion: that a child when sexually abused by a trusted parent or teacher could "repress" and forget the experience even while it was happening. These "repressed memories" could then produce unexplained mental depression later in life unless a therapist drew them forth with such procedures as hypnosis.

Zealous therapists encouraged thousands of patients to accuse their elderly parents of sexually abusing them years before and to confront them with lawsuits. Simultaneously - again based on the idea of "repression" - teachers in nursery schools were accused of abusing their little charges. These latter cases received much media attention.

The wars are ending for several reasons. The memories reported by many patients became absurd. Satanic cults were imagined, and even alien abduction. Many psychiatrists were rebuked for malpractice - sometimes professionally, sometimes in civil court. And most importantly, patients after discharge gradually began to doubt their memories, recanting their accusations and rejoining their parents.

As the wars wind down, three books together give a full picture of these events. One describes in vivid detail just how vicious the battles were and how the falsely accused were mistreated by the judicial system. The second explains just how false evidence and misdirected testimony were produced, leading to the erroneous convictions and false memories. The third brilliantly explains just how our minds are built so as to develop beliefs that go beyond evidence - and how in most other circumstances this feature is advantageous.

The valiant Dorothy Rabinowitz, now an editor of The Wall Street Journal, has pulled together her experience reporting on a series of court cases - primary among them that of the Amiraults, a scandalous miscarriage of justice in the Massachusetts courts - in a gripping book entitled No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times (Free Press, 288 pages, $25).

Rabinowitz began to scrutinize these affairs with the notorious Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey. Michaels, a young woman of good character, became a suspect when one of the 4-year olds she taught in a day-care center made an innocent statement to a doctor that she measured his temperature.

The family and a nurse assumed Michaels used a rectal probe (actually, she used a forehead plastic strip) and launched a campaign to investigate her as a child abuser. They consulted "experts" and drew other families into the campaign so that within weeks Michaels was accused of sexually molesting and terrorizing dozens of children in the foulest of ways, all in the few hours she worked with them in an open classroom.

Although many children denied the abuse and those who ultimately accused her produced implausible narratives - one claimed she turned him briefly into a mouse - the prosecution depended on the testimony of the "experts" who claimed that even the emphatic denials of some children were all proof of the abuse. Denials, they said, were typical symptoms of the "child abuse accommodation syndrome." The jury believed this, and Michaels was sentenced to 47 years in prison.

Rabinowitz ultimately watched as the judges of the New Jersey appeals court excoriated the prosecutors (asking them whether they were "trying to bamboozle the court") and, after she had spent five years in prison, acquitted Michaels. But Rabinowitz learned the perversions of justice driven by these beliefs, became a scourge of "experts" who were misdirecting the courts and eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting.

In this book, she documents common themes in the sex abuse cases. She describes how belief in "recovered" memories is crucial and how the children were turned into accusers by the "expert" true believers and prosecutors. The same credulity toward child testimony, the same pressures to accuse, the same blindness to misattributions found in the Salem witch trials of 1692 came into play in U.S. courts in the 1990s and were led by distinguished American lawyers (Janet Reno, for one).

Stephen J. Ceci and Maggie Bruck in their book Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony (American Psychological Association, 336 pages, $24.95) describe more fully the methods employed to produce false memories and to generate false accusations from children.

Here they note interviewer bias at the heart of the investigations. Then they describe the grim effects of repeated questioning on children and how this process induces their false accusations. The repeated questions were always sweetened by prompting the children to give answers the interviewers wanted.

Ceci and Bruck show how the interrogators of the children misused "anatomically" correct dolls to get indictments. Repeatedly they show from case records just how often common sense was flouted by investigators, prosecutors, judges and juries. Their recommendations and admonitions about interviewing children and bringing justice to the courts fortunately are now becoming standard throughout the country. Their work helped end this scourge.

The third book was also written as the Memory Wars were winding down. It spots a silver lining in their black clouds. Profiting from his close study of the several notorious cases of false-memory generation and mistaken child-abuse accusations, Daniel Schacter, the chairman of the department of psychology at Harvard, produced The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (Houghton Mifflin Company, 270 pages, $25).

In this readable account of how our memories can be distorted by misattribution, bias, suggestibility and persistence (as in these false memory cases), he asks how such vulnerabilities to untruth can be part of our natural mental faculties. These faculties, after all, emerged with evolution and must have some survival value. They surely cannot have evolved to make us false witnesses.

Schacter argues convincingly that these seeming flaws - drawing opinions without all the evidence - actually help us to live effectively. They encourage us to develop reasonable opinions about a complicated world without knowing all the facts. This capacity brings us confidence for action.

Schacter's idea actually explains much about psychotherapy even as it reveals how the champions of "repressed memory" therapy went wrong.

Much of psychotherapy rests on suggestion. It moves beyond what could be considered historical truth to evoke a narrative of hope and confidence in the patient. Indeed, successful psychotherapists help patients re-order their beliefs about their world so as to see how they have more control than they imagine. They let the patient see the gist of their life experiences as positive (despite many negative details). They agree with the mayor of Baltimore - we must "believe," but in ourselves and our capacity for responsibility and fulfillment.

Psychotherapy goes awry - and went radically awry during the Memory Wars - if the message of the therapist is, "Those others did you in." Invalidism, anger and isolation result. Psychotherapy goes well when you, the patient, are helped to appreciate that ultimately you're in charge of your future (just as to a degree you were in charge of your past).

The Memory Wars are over. Rehabilitation for many of its victims proceeds. We have learned something very deep - not just about how the human mind can be tricked and misled (useful as that is) - but how it has the powers to find confidence and energy in facing the future.

Dr. Paul McHugh is distinguished service professor of psychiatry and former psychiatrist-in-chief of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. He is a member of the Presidential Council on Bioethics. With Dr. Phillip R. Slavney, he wrote The Perspectives of Psychiatry, a medical school text.

Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun


Saturday, March 08, 2003

Ten Commandments challenge awaits ruling

http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/rel_war/10cs_down.htm

http://mike.reed.org/archives/journal/March02/031902.html

The Associated Press

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The challenge involving a deposed Ten Commandments display at the Rutherford County Courthouse has been delayed until a federal appeals court rules on a nearly identical case from Kentucky.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols of Nashville granted a defense request to take no further action in the Tennessee lawsuit pending a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling expected later this year, said Erik Stanley, an attorney for the county.

Echols issued a preliminary injunction in June that ordered Rutherford County to remove the display. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which filed the lawsuit, had asked Echols to make his order permanent.

But the Liberty Counsel, a Florida religious civil liberties group that is representing the county for free, successfully argued for the delay because the appellate decision will guide its defense, Stanley told the Daily News Journal.

The county commission posted the Ten Commandments in April with the Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Preamble of the Tennessee Constitution.

Echols decided the posting was unconstitutional because the commission's intent was entirely religious. Commission votes made after the posting that declared a historical reason were a "sham," the judge said.

The Kentucky case involves appeals by Harlan, Pulaski and McCreary counties of a trial court decision that required they remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings.

Long-Time Enemy of Judicial Branch Lashes Out in Reaction to Pledge Decision

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Kevin Christopher
Phone: 716 636 7571 x 218
E-mail: kchristopher@centerforinquiry.net

Amherst, N.Y. (March 7, 2003) - Yesterday's Washington Times featured a story by staff writer Stephan Dinan, who quotes House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's threats to punish the Judicial Branch for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals February 28th decision regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. The Appeal Court declined to review or overturn its June 2002 ruling banning the Pledge of Allegiance because the words "under God" constitute an endorsement of religion and therefore violate the separation of church and state ( see http://click.topica.com/maaaUmhaaWvTPbapQ3Ge/ ).

"Congress for so long has been lax in standing up for the Constitution," the Texas Republican told reporters, according to the Times story. "There are ways to express ourselves - for instance, we could limit the jurisdiction of the judicial branch. Article III, Section 2 [ of the Constitution: see http://click.topica.com/maaaUmhaaWvTbbapQ3Ge/ ] allows us to do that. I think that would be a very good idea to send a message to the judiciary they ought to keep their hands off the Pledge of Allegiance," he said.

"If Mr. DeLay seeks to restrict or limit judicial power, this would radically alter the Constitution and be further evidence that the United States is in danger of becoming a theocracy," said Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism, in reaction to DeLay's comments. "Both the House and the Bush administration seem determined to break down the wall of separation between Church and State." Kurtz also noted that the words "under God" were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. "We believe that the Constitution needs defense today and any effort by Mr. Delay to limit the power of the judiciary would be an unfortunate assault on our constitutional system."

"House Majority Leader Tom Delay's call for legislative interference in the judicial process regarding the Pledge is un-American. It demonstrates abysmal ignorance on the part of an elected official, especially a Congressional leader," said Ed Buckner, executive director for the Council for Secular Humanism. "Delay either understands the crucial principles of judicial review established by Marbury v. Madison, 1803, and is ignoring them for emotionally-charged political pandering, or he is too ill-educated to be a Congressman and should resign."

DeLay has a long history of attacking the Judicial Branch. In a speech delivered at an oversight hearing on "Judicial Misconduct and Discipline" on May 15, 1997, DeLay suggested the use of impeachment as a weapon to punish judges whose decisions were politically unacceptable. "America's founders believed that impeachment was a legitimate tool, to be used in cases of extra-constitutional judicial decision-making," claimed DeLay. "The founders even suggested that impeachment could be used as a political tool."

No love is lost between Delay and the Judicial Branch. In January 2001 Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg gave a speech to an audience at the University of Melbourne Law School. Her speech, available at http://www.unimelb.edu.au/ExtRels/majorations/ginsberg.pdf, who suggested that DeLay's penchant for judge bashing is merely an extension of his previous career as an exterminator. "Mr. DeLay, who is not a lawyer but, I'm told, an exterminator by profession, placed on his list of judicial pests a district court judge in San Antonio, Texas, who held up certification of the election of two Republican victors in races for county sheriff and county commissioner. The judge had issued a stay pending state court resolution of a charge that absentee ballots were counted from persons whose only tie to the election district had been temporary residence on a military base located in the district. Once the state court held the ballots valid, the federal judge promptly vacated the stay order."

The Council for Secular Humanism is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization which promotes rational inquiry, secular values and human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council supports a wide range of programs to meet the needs of people who find meaning and value in life without a belief in God. The Council publishes the quarterly journal Free Inquiry. The Council's official web site is www.secularhumanism.org. Press inquiries should be directed to Kevin Christopher at (716) 636-7571 ext. 218.

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Is It Good for the Jews?

March 8, 2003
By BILL KELLER

Two weeks ago, a group of senior intelligence officials in the Defense Department sat for an hour listening to a briefing by a writer who claims - I am not making this up - that messages encoded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament provide clues to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. One of the officials told me that they had agreed to meet the writer, Michael Drosnin, author of a Nostradamus-style best seller, without understanding that he was promoting Biblical prophecy. Still, rather than shoo him away, they listened politely as he consumed several man-hours of valuable intelligence-crunching time. Apparently he has given similar briefings to top officials of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/08/opinion/08KELL.html?ex=1048128231&ei=1&en=9d0e13055eaa720a

Is Hussein Owner of Crashed UFO?

http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/31/42821.html

13:47 2003-01-31

"An UFO-related incident that occurred four years ago poses a troubling question whether any kind of cooperation is possible between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and extraterrestrials," UFOlogist Joseph Trainor declared in his review UFO Roundup (issue 51 of December 17, 2002). "On December 16, 1998, during Operation Desert Fox against Iraq, a video clip aired on CNN showed a UFO hovering over Baghdad; it moved away to avoid a stream of tracer anti-aircraft fire. At that time we all thought it was another UFO sighting, although captured on videotape. But now, ufologists think it was much more than a mere incident."

Jack Sarfatti reported that Friday evening, December 6, 2002 "someone called the Art Bell radio show, claimed his connection with the military and informed that a UFO crashed in Iraq several years ago. The USA is currently searching for any pretext to invade Iraq. In fact, the USA is motivated by the greatest fear that Saddam will reverse-engineer the crashed alien spacecraft."

It is allegedly said that the craft crashed during the Gulf War (1990-1991), or more recently (probably in December 1998). This became some kind of Iraq's Rosewell. The USA is currently reverse-engineering the Rosewell craft and fears that Saddam's scientists may become even more successful than Americans in this or that sphere. It was said that these researches may give Iraq a considerable advance and even make it a leading super power.

UFO Roungup's Arab journalists failed either to confirm or to deny these rumors. Aiasha al-Hatabi replied to Joseph Trainor that "he heard nothing about a UFO crash in Iraq." In the words of Mohammed Daud al-Hayyat, "there are talks about extraterrestrials in Iraq, but nothing is said about any crash. It is rumored at a market in Sulaimaniya, to the south of Zarzi, that aliens are Saddam's guests. Where do they stay then? People mention some underground base. But Saddam has a palace in this valley, an old stronghold Qalaat-e-Julundi. Earlier it belonged to the royal family. After the revolution, the government took possession of the fortress, and now, like every palace in Iraq it is "a summer residence" of Saddam Hussein. The fortress is mentioned here for a very simple reason: it is practically impossible to penetrate into it. The citadel stands on a hill surrounded with vertical precipices on three sides; the precipices plunge down to the Little Zab river. It is said that Saddam lets aliens stay there."

Mohammed Hajj al-Amdar said on the basis of strange stories coming out of that valley: "Saddam gave the aliens sanctuary, so that they couldn't be captured by Americans. Nobody can reach the citadel Qalaat-e-Julundi at night. They say that the aliens created "watchdogs" for Saddam. The aliens took ordinary desert scorpions and used their bio-engineering to grow the scorpions to giant size. Scorpions of a cow-size! They are wonderful watchdogs: they blend in with the desert, swiftly and silently move on their warm-blooded prey for a decisive attack. Luckless intruders hear just some strange sound from behind stones, then a pincer crushes their necks, another pincer crushes their legs; then the victims is slammed to the ground and beaten with a barbed tail six or seven times. Death comes almost immediately."

Joseph Trainor came to a conclusion that something strange is actually happening in the valley of the Little Zab river, but it is not clear what exactly. It is not ruled out that Saddam intentionally spreads these rumors so that to scare people away from some important military object located in the old fortress of Qalaat-e-Julundi.

Nevertheless, it is not the only information about a UFO crash in that area. Many years ago, on June 20, 1993, an information was published on FIDOnet's MUFONET BBS NETWORK, it was a letter of some Steve from Britain. He openly warned: "The following information was published in Amateur Radio Packet BBS on June 13 by some short-wave transmitter for spreading all over the world. I know nothing about the man who published the information, I also cannot say whether his information is true. The man reported that some aircraft was found after it was brought down by F-16 over Saudi Arabia during raids in Baghdad."

The information itself said: "A high-ranking source admitted that US Air Force's F-16 brought down a UFO over Saudi Arabia during the Operation Desert Storm, and five countries are trying to conceal information about this fact. I don't know details, but it was some plane unknown to me. Saudis who were with me at that moment, were scared so much that they asked American, British and French investigators to come to the crash site immediately."

Colonel Petrokov said that at that moment he was on a visit to Er Riyadh, where together with a Russian group he managed to examine the crashed aircraft before American troops participating in Desert Storm came to the crash site. He said: "The aircraft was round and made of some material that I never saw myself. About one third of the craft was torn out by blasts of American missiles. Saudis didn't let us touch anything, but we managed to see appliances, mechanisms and other things that bewildered us absolutely." Inscriptions on the control panel and on the scales were in some unknown language.

"It was a relatively small craft, of approximately 15 feet in diameter. It had three chairs, probably for crew members, but they were so small as if meant for children. To all appearance, space aliens were just about three feet tall. However, it seems incredible that there were no dead bodies at the crash site; what is more, nothing that might look like an engine was found there as well. Probably American missiles hit the engine immediately and destroyed it. Later, operators of Saudi radar stations told me that no ejection or falling of some subjects out of the craft was registered. Searching helicopters surveyed the desert, but the pilots failed to find any surviving crew member close to the crash site.

At the radar station Petrokov learnt that the target identified as a UFO emerged "from nowhere" when four F-16 headed for Baghdad. One of the American planes broke the line and directed toward the UFO. The alien craft started moving south-west, away from the American plane, and the latter pursued it. When the F-16 was three miles away from the object, the craft fired at it but missed. Then the American plane fired a missile at the UFO. A horrifying sound followed and the spacecraft dropped on the ground. Petrokov says that when American investigators came to the crash site, he and his people were ordered to leave the area for Er Riyadh. The colonel says, it is highly likely that Americans didn't want others see some other things that were in the crash site in addition to the round shape of the craft made of some unknown material and the fact that no aliens survived after the crash.

In Petrokov's words, people from his team managed to take pictures of the site, and neither Saudis nor Americans noticed it. But the next day the team was ordered to bring the pictures to Russian authorities. "American military engineers gathered all wreckage and removed them for further study in the USA."

This story seems to be absolutely unlikely. As we see, the source of the information is just a Russian colonel, some Petrokov. If no additional information follows in connection with the case, it may be still considered just doubtful anonymous rumors.

Based on materials of UFO navigator

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://science.pravda.ru/science/2003/6/79/304/6375_ufologia.html

DI'S GHOST CENSORED

http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/31786.htm

By MICHAEL STARR

March 8, 2003 -- VIEWERS in the U.S. will be able to see tomorrow's pay- per-view séance to contact the spirit of Princess Diana - but it's been banned in England.

Over in the U.K., where the PPV event airs Monday, the séance segments will be snipped - with "scholarly types" weighing in on the censored parts.

And producers of "The Spirit of Diana," as the PPV is being billed, are crying foul.

"We were originally told that cable outlets [in England] could broadcast seances that were off-limits to regular over-the-air broadcasters like the BBC," said executive producer Paul Sharratt.

"The sudden banning of a key element of the show is a bit distressing."

The PPV event airs here tomorrow at 8 p.m. via satellite on IN DEMAND, then airs Monday in the U.K. on Living TV - which will telecast everything but the actual séance that will try to contact Diana's spirit.

"Legally, no broadcaster in the U.K. could transmit seances of this nature," says Living TV spokesman Richard Woolfe.

That's just as well with the people who run Althorp, Diana's ancestral home and the place where she's buried. Althorp spokesman David Fawkes has branded the séance "contemptible."

Instead, the British version of "The Spirit of Diana" will feature a panel of scholars discussing the banned séance.

British psychics Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker will conduct the seances, along with Louise-Reid-Carr, Diana's personal assistant.

The whole shebang is being hosted by former "Avengers" star Patrick Macnee.

Diana was killed in a Paris car crash in September 1997 along with Dodi al-Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul.

Police cast off briefs as witchcraft joins man hunt

Irish Independent via Daily Telegraph | March 8, 2003 | Margaret Wilson

http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=28&si=931735&issue_id=8869

CLAIMS that the Zambian police removed their underpants in order to search more effectively for a fugitive are the latest bizarre revelation in a dispute about the role of witchcraft in the capture of Zambia's most wanted man.

Katele Kalumba, former foreign minister, vanished three months ago after his arrest was ordered on charges of plundering the nation's resources. Despite the best efforts of the police and reported sightings from as far as Belgium, he was living undetected in a tent on his farm in north-western Zambia.

Police say witchcraft lay at the heart of his elusiveness and they displayed an assortment of "magical objects" found in his tent when they finally caught up with him.

Black arts, and the fear of them, bubble just below the surface of life in Zambia. Police have been accused of resorting to the services of a witchdoctor to find their man.

Mr Kalumba (50) disappeared when Zambia's national task force investigating corruption demanded he answer questions relating to the disappearance of €18.75m for military equipment and other sums.

Police say he used two witchdoctors to achieve his invisibility and eavesdropped on them with the aid of a wooden fetish doll. They also said he used the screen of his solar-powered laptop computer.

"He confirmed he was able to see what was going on through this traditional computer," said police spokesman Brenda Muntemba.

As it happened, Mr Kalumba voluntarily showed himself to the team that came searching again after a tip-off from a local man. He emerged from behind a shrub too small to hide a man, said the police, adding that he wore charms around his neck and waist.

Now behind bars in Lusaka awaiting trial, Kalumba has denied the use of witchcraft, saying the objects were 'planted' on him.

Police said the case was plagued with strange troubles. Police vehicles would unpredictably run out of fuel or develop mechanical failure; heavy rain would fall from clear skies at key moments.

Accusations that police removed their underpants to make the search more effective would be interpreted in Zambia as a sure sign of witchery: Black magic is best practised naked.

But police remained adamant that, apart from the lack of underpants, it was a conventional operation.


Friday, March 07, 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 7, 2003

STUDY OF ANTARCTIC POINTS TO RISING SEA LEVELS
from The New York Times

New evidence from a rapidly warming part of Antarctica suggests that ice can flow into the sea much more readily than had been predicted, perhaps leading to an accelerated rise in sea levels from global warming.

Many polar and ice experts said the new study, to be published today in the journal Science, suggested that seas might rise as much as several yards over the next several centuries. They called that prospect a slow-motion disaster, the cost of which - in lost shorelines, salt in water supplies, and damaged ecosystems - would be borne by many future generations.

The new analysis focuses on the recent breakup of one of the floating ice shelves fringing the 1,000-mile Antarctic Peninsula after decades of warming temperatures there. The loss of the coastal shelves caused a "drastic" speedup of the seaward flow of inland glaciers, the researchers say.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/07/science/07WARM.html

NASA OFFICIAL WARNS OF AGING WORKFORCE
from The Washington Post

NASA's top official told Congress yesterday that the space agency needs more tools to recruit and retain talented employees as it struggles to cope with a coming wave of retirements and a shrinking pool of science and engineering graduates.

Sean O'Keefe, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, played down concerns that his agency cannot manage its contract workforce or that privatization of many NASA jobs has made it harder for the government to attract top performers.

O'Keefe, appearing before a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee panel, called NASA's personnel situation "alarming." He noted that 25 percent of its science and engineering workforce will be eligible to retire within five years.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54181-2003Mar6.html

U.S. AND EUROPE IN FUEL CELL PACT
from The New York Times

As part of the Bush administration's recent high-profile push to develop hydrogen as the fuel of the future, the Energy Department and the European Union agreed yesterday to start a cooperative effort aimed at bringing hydrogen-powered cars and electricity generated from fuel cells to market over the next two decades.

But important differences emerged in their approaches to the energy technology, largely driven by a much greater urgency in Europe than in the United States to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases scientists say contribute to global warming. The European Union, for instance, plans to derive significant quantities of hydrogen from water using renewable energy sources, while the Bush administration is focusing on experimental coal technology.

More significant, the European Union has set aggressive goals, including a plan to replace 20 percent of the fuel now used to run vehicles with alternative energy sources by 2020, while the Bush administration has not. The European Union also plans to develop the hydrogen technology while trying to reduce gasoline consumption now by sharply tightening vehicle fuel efficiency standards, an effort that has stagnated for more than a decade in the United States.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/07/business/worldbusiness/07ENER.html

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT WARNS BIOTECH COMPANIES OF INCREASED INSPECTIONS
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Agriculture Department will increase food contamination inspections of crops that have been genetically engineered to make medicine.

Inspectors will visit all test fields at least five times, from pre-planting until after the harvest, to monitor the crops, and will visit the sites twice in the off-season.

"We will have government inspectors on site at every critical event of every field test," Cindy Smith, acting deputy administrator for the department's biotech regulation services, said Thursday.

Inspectors will also check equipment, such as tractors.

Increased inspections are part of new permit guidelines for farmers and biotech companies growing pharmaceutical or industrial crops.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/03/06/national1747EST0782.DTL

CLIMATE EXPERTS SAY EL NINO IS WEAKENING
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The El Nino that has helped bring unusual weather to parts of the country is weakening, federal climate experts said Thursday.

El Nino, an unusual warming of parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, occurs every few years and can affect weather worldwide.

When an El Nino occurs, it alters the flow of upper air currents that help steer weather patterns. The change favors warmer-than-normal temperatures across the northern tier of the United States and southern and southeastern Alaska; drier-than-normal conditions in the northern Rockies, Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions; wetter-than-normal conditions in states along the U.S. southern tier; and cooler than normal in South Carolina, Georgia and states bordering the Gulf coast.

http://www.newsday.com/news/science/wire/sns-ap-el-nino,0,3050446.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dscience%2Dheadlines

SOUTH AFRICAN 'SWAT' TEAM TO SAVE ENDANGERED MOLLUSK
from The Christian Science Monitor

HERMANUS, SOUTH AFRICA - This picturesque seaside town is a popular holiday destination, famous for the whales that return each year to give birth. But on a stroll down the main strip, Sipho Tubu gives a tour most visitors never see.

"See that man," he says, gesturing toward a shiny new 4x4 vehicle passing by. "He's one of the major buyers." Poachers or buyers, he confides, own most of the restaurants and buildings here. Mr. Tubu should know. He's one of them.

Hermanus is one of dozens of small towns along South Africa's southern coast battling a massive poaching crisis, led by international crime syndicates cooperating with local gangs. Their quarry? Not ivory, animal pelts, or any of the resources traditionally taken from this vast continent. It is abalone, an ocean mollusk destined for the tables of Asian gourmets. There it is fried, added to soups, or covered with savory sauces.

Poaching has brought drugs, guns, and gangs into previously safe communities. Local youth are leaving school to poach. And authorities say some of the abalone is being traded for drugs like heroin.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0306/p09s01-woaf.html

YOUR NAME IN THE STARS ... OR MAYBE NOT
Commentary from The Christian Science Monitor

Astronomers are terrible at names. It seems like every name we come up with, whether for the mind-blowingly huge and complex structures in the heavens, or our own telescopes, is either a statement of the obvious or a criminally boring catalog number.

Take our own solar system. There's a titanic storm system on Jupiter so large that three Earths would be engulfed in its shrieking winds. It has been blowing out of control for at least 400 years (since we humans invented the first telescope to see it). What did we call this dramatic, celestial wonder? The Great Red Spot.

Or what about the similar Earth-sized storm on Neptune, which, with winds clocked at almost 2,000 miles per hour, has the most violent weather ever observed? That would be the Great Dark Spot.

Under construction in Chile is a new observatory with four telescopes, each 25 feet across, that will be able to be combined into a single, giant instrument, enabling astronomers to see the first building blocks of galaxies billions of light years away, as well as pick out new planets orbiting other stars. This wonder has been christened the VLT, which stands for - I kid you not - the Very Large Telescope.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0306/p25s01-stss.html

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Skeptics, believers and fence sitters

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/showcase/chi-0303040307mar04.story

LETTER FROM COOGEE BEACH

The perceived image of the Madonna on a fence at a cliff in Australia has drawn thousands of visitors and set off speculation of a divine act, writes Uli Schmetzer.

Uli Schmetzer, on assignment recently for the Tribune in Australia

March 4, 2003

COOGEE BEACH, Australia -- Ever since the Madonna's image appeared above this Sydney beach a little over a month ago, Coogee has become a battleground for those who believe and those who insist the apparition is an illusion.

Significantly, the image on a fence post appeared only a few yards from the memorial being built for the Coogee Dolphins, the five local rugby players killed in the Bali bomb attack. The five were among the 90 Australians who died in the inferno late last year.

For many of the thousands of people who have flocked to the site, the apparition is a sign of divine intervention in troubled times, when a looming war and terrorist threats have unnerved people.

One believer, Tess Nerona of Kensington, said she was saved by the Virgin Mary when she tried to commit suicide by throwing herself off the cliff at the same spot eight years ago. A voice told her not to do it, she said.

For skeptics, it is evidence of mass paranoia, caused by constant terrorism alerts and exploited by commercial interests.

No doubt Coogee cash registers have benefited from the crowds. Up to 5,000 have come almost daily at 3 p.m. to wait for another sighting of the miracle on the fence post.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the faithful waited on the cliff near the fence that was built to prevent a plunge into the foaming breakers.

One group mumbled passages from the Bible. Baptized converts called upon sinners to repent and predicted the Last Judgment is imminent.

But not everyone is as reverent. In early February, vandals smashed the wooden fence post on which Mary's profile was said to have flickered.

The fence quickly was mended by municipal workers, but vandals painted the fence black the next night. The workers promptly painted the fence white again. Vandals also have urinated on the fence and chained a toilet to it.

Randwick Mayor Dominic Sullivan is furious with the vandals, and two security men with walkie-talkies now patrol the area.

"These low dogs also tried to smash people's hopes and beliefs," he said.

Sullivan pledged to guard the fence but added, "We cannot promise any miracles."

The holy image has not appeared since the vandals' act.

No one in Coogee Beach is certain who first saw the apparition, but local amateur photographer Len Strezovski captured the image. He has been selling copies of a grainy photo he took of the apparition that has been dubbed "The Lady of the Holy Fence Post."

The photos, with written pleas for acts of divine grace, adorn the post now, along with a small silver cross. Bouquets of foil-wrapped flowers are deposited daily at the site. A municipal garbage collector tosses out the dead flowers to make space for fresh ones.

A Sydney columnist has wondered how long it will take before the local council decides "to declare the area a sacred site, charge admission and set up concession stalls."

Local resident Alan Wilton complained that crowds and their cars have turned his idyllic beachfront area into a parking lot. He scoffs at the so-called photographic evidence.

Michele Wade of Coogee says she has seen the apparition on the post but said that grief for the rugby players may have influenced her own and other people's eyesight.

Scientists explain the phenomenon as a combination of light and imagination.

"What you see in an image is not always the reality of what's there. The brain puts an interpretation on the image," said Geoff Smith of the Department of Applied Physics at Sydney's University of Technology.

Imagination or not, thousands wait for their own glimpse of the miracle.

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

Articles of Note

Thanks to Joe Littrell

For More Stories Visit: http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/5256940.htm

FSU pushes chiropractic school despite budget woes
By Melanie Yeager
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/democrat/news/local/5290711.htm

"Despite a dismal projected budget for higher education, Florida State University continues to pursue state money to start a chiropractic school."

Analysis Shows More Study Needed for Homeopathy
By Alison McCook
Reuters

http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=2319202

"A review of the scientific literature reveals that the jury is still out regarding the benefits of the alternative medicine homeopathy, researchers said Monday."

Ending the 'Memory Wars' does not redeem the victims
By Paul McHugh
Baltimore Sun

http://www.sunspot.net/features/booksmags/bal-bk.memory02mar02,0,705079.story

"The Memory Wars are over. The voices of sanity in psychiatric practice won. But while the wars lasted - from the mid-1980s until the end of the 1990s - they did much damage to innocent people and to the public standing of psychotherapy."

Ah, for a Cool Sip of Liquid Yoga
By MIREYA NAVARRO
New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/02/fashion/02ELIX.html

""STICK your tongue out," Karen Eldar, a herbalist in a white lab coat, tells a customer. "Is your skin dry? How about your eyes?""

Lawsuit revisits a Bellevue family's demise
by Noel Brady
King County Journal

http://www.kingcountyjournal.com/sited/story/html/123122

"At a small church near downtown Issaquah, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor urged his secretary, Terry Rose, to join a counseling circle of more than a dozen women."

Scientologists establish missions in their back yard
By ROBERT FARLEY
St. Petersburg Times

http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/01/TampaBay/Scientologists_establ.shtml

"Sandwiched between a nail salon and a hairdressing and body wax boutique, one of the newest tenants in the smart-looking Belleair Bazaar strip center sports a simple red awning."

Magazine: Michael Jackson Put 'Curse' on Spielberg
Reuters

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030304/people_nm/people_jackson_dc_9

"Embattled pop star Michael Jackson wears a prosthetic nose and once paid $150,000 for a "voodoo curse" to kill director Steven Spielberg despite being deep in debt, Vanity Fair magazine reported on Monday."

JACKO'S VOODOO CURSES
By BILL HOFFMANN
New York Post

http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/69939.htm

"Just when you thought Wacko Jacko could not get any more bizarre, a new report says Michael Jackson hired an African voodoo chief to put a death curse on Steven Spielberg and David Geffen."

Skeptics, believers and fence sitters
by Uli Schmetzer
Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/showcase/chi-0303040307mar04.story

"Ever since the Madonna's image appeared above this Sydney beach a little over a month ago, Coogee has become a battleground for those who believe and those who insist the apparition is an illusion."

Colon Cleansing Herbal Med Causes Heart Poisoning
By Charnicia E. Huggins
Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=2307557

"A woman who used an herbal medicine described as an "internal cleansing" agent was hospitalized shortly afterwards when she began experiencing symptoms of heart poisoning, including vomiting, weakness and a slowed heart rate, according to a report released this week."

State officials warn firm marketing Internet earthquake forecasts
Associated Press

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2003/03/01/state2117EST0143.DTL

"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."

Pulling The Wool Off Your Eyes
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
HARTFORD COURANT

http://www.ctnow.com/entertainment/stage/hc-skeptics.artmar02,0,667289.story

"Scientific skeptics are a beleaguered crowd, a devoted guild of mostly male obsessives who debunk claims of clairvoyance, spoon-bending and other impossibilities and who work to protect scientific inquiry from creationism and other irrational threats."

Statue tears vegetable oil, church probe finds
By Carmelo Amalfi
The West Australian

http://www.thewest.com.au/20030227/news/perth/tw-news-perth-home-sto89568.html

"A CATHOLIC Church inquiry into Rockingham's weeping Virgin Mary statue found the fibreglass figurine was shedding vegetable oil tears."

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science
By ROBERT L. PARK
Chronicle of Higher Education

http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i21/21b02001.htm

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is investing close to a million dollars in an obscure Russian scientist's antigravity machine, although it has failed every test and would violate the most fundamental laws of nature. The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator, which is supposed to snatch free energy from a vacuum. And major power companies have sunk tens of millions of dollars into a scheme to produce energy by putting hydrogen atoms into a state below their ground state, a feat equivalent to mounting an expedition to explore the region south of the South Pole."

'Woman-power' pyramid dubbed an immoral scam
Cambridge News

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/news.asp?sec=1&id=516014

"A GET-rich-quick scam which promises women a £24,000 return on a £3,000 investment has been branded "immoral"."

Scam hits sellers over Net
By David Flaum
Memphis Commercial Appeal

http://www.gomemphis.com/mca/business/article/0,1426,MCA_440_1779756,00.html

"By now, most people have received or heard about "Nigerian letters," those missives by mail, fax and E-mail from government officials or their widows or bankers in all sorts of countries, offering you a huge chunk of cash if you will only help them get money out of the country."

Does aromatherapy work or is it snake oil?
By Cheryl Powell
Akron Beacon Journal

http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/5256940.htm

"These days, aromatherapy is more than sniffing pleasing smells."

AlienResistance.org

RESISTANCE is FERTILE

http://www.alienresistance.org/

Re: How to Stop Alien Abduction, UFOs & The Bible, Genesis 6, The Nephilim, The Book of Enoch, UFO Cults, 1947 Roswell UFO Crash, UFO News

The Bible contains relevant information about what many believe to be a recent phenomenon, that neither most modern churches, nor most modern ufologists, are well informed about.

Of those that are, many are simply not comfortable with teaching on the subject. Others intentionally repress the information they do have - often for financial gain, to avoid controversy, or to advance an agenda.

In other words, they're back...
The Bible teaches that certain angelic beings routinely abducted human women during the days of Noah, both before the great flood "…and also afterward…" (Genesis 6:1-4).

They are referred to in ancient Jewish texts (Genesis, Job, Daniel, Enoch, Jasher, Jubilees) as "sons of God" and as "Watchers" - non-human parents of the hybrid Nephilim (giants).

During this time period, Eve's seed was polluted by Satan's seed (Gen 3:15).

The offspring - "…heroes of old, mighty men of renown" (Gen 6:4) - form the basis for much world mythology.

Jesus prophesied "as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be..." at His return (Matthew 24:37).

They are not demons however, in the classic Christian understanding of the term. Demons do not have bodies, but seek to inhabit others. These angelic "hosts of heaven" (Gen 2:1, Ephesians 6:12) are much more powerful, more dangerous entities. They violate the laws of man through kidnapping, sexual assault and mental torture, and the laws of God as well, through fornication with humans (2 Peter 2:4,5; Jude 6).

They usually claim that they are here to help us (2 Corinthians 11:14-15), but as in ages past, delude or intimidate humanity into worshipping them as a "superior race" (Romans 1:21-25).

As before, they seek to "mingle with the seed of men" (Daniel 2:43 KJV) and to turn humanity away from the worship of the true God - often claiming to be our creators and/or spirit-guides.

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel… let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)

The Biblical accounts of angelic hosts are today grossly misinterpreted, both by sincere researchers and UFO cult leaders alike (2 Peter 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Despite the claims of today's New Age prophets, teachers and evangelists, abductions can be terminated - both in progress and as a life pattern. However, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms …"

Crystal homeopathy

http://www.newscientist.com/opinion/opfeedback.jsp;jsessionid=PBBPCACDJCDC?id=ns238499

CRYSTAL homeopathy combines the principles of homeopathic medicine with the healing power of crystals. That's the claim made in www.the-crystal-chamber.net, a site offering very special crystals for sale. These crystals, while they were forming in caves over thousands of years, have picked up minute, homeopathic quantities of substances that will benefit you through their influence on your aura.

Does this sound like complete garbage to you? A Feedback reader who we shall call Gareth Thomas thought it did, so he posted a "provocative enquiry" at www.ukpagan.com, a site where believers in all things mystical gather to discuss matters of common interest. Using the pseudonym "disturber", he challenged believers in such therapies to convince him that they had any effect whatsoever other than providing vague emotional satisfaction. He singled out the claims made for crystal homeopathy as being "transparent balderdash".

The response from ukpagan devotees was immediate and irate. Some were so rude the forum's moderators had to remove the posts. All insisted on the validity of their beliefs, some even referring to theoretical physics to support them. None questioned the claims of crystal homeopathy.

Thomas persisted. He copied the full crystal homeopathy text from the Crystal Chamber site into ukpagan and criticised it sentence by sentence, declaring it a cynical, scientifically groundless scam. Still, no one agreed. Yet more people wrote heated posts defending crystal homeopathy and branding Thomas a cynic.

What none of them knew was that Thomas had created the Crystal Chamber site himself and that "crystal homeopathy" was his own invention. Depressed by the abundance of absurd claims for quack alternative therapies, he had set up the site as a credulity experiment.

He continued to have fun with it, posing for a while on ukpagan under a new pseudonym as the Crystal Chamber's proprietor and enlisting enthusiastic support for his site. One "crystal expert" even offered to help him run the business.

But all good things have to end. If you now click on the top left corner of www.the-crystal-chamber.net, you get a statement that begins: "Nothing in this site makes any sense. It was all made up in a few hours to test susceptibility and gullibility." And Thomas has posted a final message on ukpagan explaining that the site and all his previous messages have been hoaxes.

Meanwhile, no wallets have been harmed by his experiment. He has torn up the cheques sent to him by people who wanted to buy his crystals and refunded credit card sales.

His one regret now that it's all over is that he resisted the temptation to claim on his website that his crystals had been "mined by elves".


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