NTS LogoSkeptical News for 28 April 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Monday, April 28, 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 - April 28, 2003

NASA'S NUCLEAR-FUELED ODDSMAKING
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Despite the shuttle Columbia disaster and anti-nuclear activists' protests, NASA plans to continue launching nuclear-powered robots and rockets into space.

Next month, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will launch two Delta II rockets carrying plutonium-heated "rover" vehicles to Mars. And it is pursing a long-term effort, called Project Prometheus, to develop nuclear techniques for high-speed travel to the darkest, coldest corners of the solar system.

NASA says the probability of a life-threatening nuclear accident -- one that would eject cancer-causing bits of plutonium into the atmosphere -- is extremely low. But skeptics doubt that such probabilities can be realistically calculated.

The debate over nuclear space launches is a case study of a larger phenomenon: the growing use of "probabilistic risk assessments," or PRAs, to estimate technological risks.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/28/MN291475.DTL

BACK TO EDEN: RESTORING THE MARSHES OF IRAQ
from The Washington Post

Now that the war in Iraq has come to an abrupt end, a team of scientists will soon be heading to southern Iraq to determine whether a desert twice the size of Rhode Island can be turned back into the primeval marshland it once was -- before Saddam Hussein drained it.

The marshlands of Mesopotamia, at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, have long been revered both for their unusual wetland ecology and for the 5,000-year-old culture of the Madan, or "Marsh Arabs."

The marshlands may have been the inspiration for the biblical Garden of Eden, and the Madan are thought to descend from the Sumerians, who established humankind's first civilization.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39733-2003Apr25.html

SCIENCE IN BRIEF
from The Chicago Tribune

French Physicists Offer Theory for Song of the Sands
Singing sand has been reported by hikers and explorers in at least 30 deserts worldwide, including the Gobi, Sahara and in California's Death Valley National Park. But until now its source has been a mystery.

Light Bursts in Outer Space are Linked to 'Cosmic Rays'
When astronauts see flashes of light, they're not just suffering from space jet lag. Physicists now say the mysterious flashes are produced by high-energy particles called cosmic rays.

Poor Maternal Nutrition May Cause Premature Birth
Poor maternal nutrition just before conception and during early pregnancy might be a primary cause of premature birth, according to researchers who studied undernourished sheep.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/bal-te.medbriefs28apr28,1,6980257.story

The Rorschach Test

April 27, 2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/27/magazine/27CRASH.html
http://www.biopsychology.com/index.php?descType=always

By DIRK OLIN

Last month, a quartet of academics published ''What's Wrong With the Rorschach?'' -- attacking a test administered to more than a million people worldwide each year. According to recent surveys by the American Psychological Association, 82 percent of its members ''occasionally'' and 43 percent ''frequently'' use the test, in which subjects speculate about five colored and five black-and-white inkblots. Test-givers in turn interpret the answers to diagnose mental illness, predict violent behavior and reveal suppressed trauma. Their conclusions are applied to everything from child-custody disputes to parole reviews. According to James M. Wood, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso and one author of the book, tarot cards would work almost as well.

Wood and his colleagues level basic criticisms against the inkblot test's foundations. They say it lacks accurate norms to serve as benchmarks for comparing healthy and sick patients. Reliability is also at issue, because many scores are determined by test-givers' subjective interpretations. And last, they contend that virtually none of the scores are scientifically valid, because they neither measure what they claim nor can be consistently correlated with other tests or diagnoses. The Rorschachers simply harbor a ''romantic'' devotion to the test's efficacy, Wood says, one based on ''an uncritical, even gullible, acceptance of ridiculous claims that the Rorschach is like a medical test, a sort of brain scan.''

In the few years since the critics first began making their arguments, a sometimes visceral academic firefight has broken out. Rorschachers have hired a lobbyist, and one of the test's historic champions has been joined by younger acolytes in churning out hotly disputed studies in its defense. Irving B. Weiner, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the University of South Florida (and formerly the part-time paid ''advocacy coordinator'' for test defenders) replies that Wood & Company are being irresponsibly provocative: ''A small handful of people are saying negative things, as opposed to a large international group of practitioners getting good results from it. The test had its critics 50 years ago, too, and there was less systematic and empirical support before its renaissance in the 70's. But the criticism has spurred even more research supporting it in the last few years.'' Maybe not enough to save Cary Stayner, the murderer of three tourists near Yosemite National Park. To bolster his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Stayner's defense team late last year called an eminent psychologist to testify that Stayner's responses to the Rorschach test that she had given him had yielded the highest score possible on the test's ''psychotic index.'' But in the end, Stayner was adjudged sane and sentenced to die.

Change Your Life, Boost Your Aura

By WILLIAM NORWICH

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/27/magazine/27STYLE.html?pagewanted=print&position=

I thought I heard good news; you, too? Futurism is the big trend coming down the fashion pike.

Could it be that Hedi Slimane has added petite propellers to his confections so that we can rise above the traffic and get anywhere from here on time? Has Oscar de la Renta concocted a little black dress that goes from office to enchanted evening with the press of a silk button?

Alas, the futurism that people are talking about is but a rehash of some nostalgic Barbarella looks a la Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne. But it is 2003! Where is the future of fashion?

A colleague suggested I consult Carmen Harra, the fashion community's favorite psychic, or ''metaphysical intuitive,'' the job title she prefers. In her new book, ''Everyday Karma'' -- which includes her 10-step program for recognizing your karma, resolving it and envisioning a new reality for yourself -- Carmen claims that her predictions are 93 percent accurate. She cites numerous examples, including having predicted that Al Gore would be elected president but never take office.

Scotland Pulls Plug On Nessie Cam

Hi I am Nora Jones: you may have heard of me, I was the first person to get a picture of The Lochness monster from a live web cam. They have decided to stop transmitting images from the loch and I was wondering if you could help me by spreading the news. I also have made a petition to make Scotland on line bring it back. The story is below along with a link to the petition.

After 4 years of giving people all over the world a chance to visit Lochness with out having to leave the house, Scotland on Line has pulled the plug on their live web cam.

http://www.petitiononline.com/2brnot2b/petition.html

I am personally outraged, and somewhat confused at their decision. I am not just anybody, because of that sites existance I got to live my dream. I was the first person to ever get a picture of the Lochness monster off of a live web cam. I do not understand why they would take down the camera after all the publicity, and awards that Scotland On Line has received from it. The technology of having the "Live Streaming Web Cam" On Lochness paved the way for people all over the world to begin search for clues and possibly find the long awaited answer into the mystery of The Lochness monster. Without the Camera the possibility of proving Nessies existance is back to nil.

There were many articles about the great opportunity Scotland On Line has brought to Science and how that camera heightened the possibility of discovering the Enigma that has had us wondering since 1933.

The Camera was unintrusive it didn't hurt the wildlife(Gas an oil from boats) or disturb the peace(loud outboard motors) on the Loch and it zoomed in at certain hotspots where Nessie has been sighted throughout the history of the Witness sightings. Now unless you go to Scotland, have a high powered Camera and get lucky to be close enough to the creature there is no way anyone is going to get a picture.

There are many articles about my pictures as well as Gavin Joth (my dear friend who won the William Hill Award), and Andrew Whyley who got the first underwater images of what could possibly be Nessie from the live web cam on the Scotland on Line site. In each case after Scotland on line got the publicity for each of these events they disappeared from our lives as well as the Press's. Scotland On Line never supported any of us during the time that they were online or during the time that they received all the publicity from us.

Just as Nessie is everyday, we were used as a means to make money and now after all the hype and hits their site gets because of us and Nessie their explanation is they must move on to other things.

A web cam is a low maintenance thing :what would it hurt for them to leave it running? My only thought since my involvement with this site has been that they do not want for the truth to be discovered.

They didn't expect any of us to get such good pictures , they changed the views several times after each of our pictures were made public and many nights when there was a lot of activity the server would go down.

The only reason I can come up with to take down the web cam that is viable to me is for the past 3 years they have had their people watching the images and if Nessie was getting active or if she would happen to surface they would loop a similar image in that didn't have any activity and keep the images of Nessie from coming into public view. The camera has either gotten to expensive to maintain because of having to pay all these people to baby sit. Nessie is so active they cant catch every image and someone might get a really good picture, good enough to prove her existance, or someone has bought them out and closed down the Camera.

If I am wrong why not keep the web cam running to prove me wrong?

All I ever wanted was to prove these creatures existence to save them from extinction. That is all nothing more and these people are keeping that from happening .. what they are saying is she is real and we don't want you people to know the truth.

Scotland On Line suggested that I go to Cam vista and watch the loch. The difference between Scotland On Line's and all the other web cams: Scotland On Line is a Live streaming web cam the images move on a 2 sec delay which made it very close to being there and with the zoom in the naked eye could see across miles easily.

The Other Web cams on Lochness are not "Live Streaming" they are still shots and it is like looking at a painting.

Please Help Us Save Nessie By saving the live web cam at Scotland on line.

Thank You
Nora R. Jones


Sunday, April 27, 2003

Articles of Note

Thanks to Joe Littrell, Dave Thomas, Greg Martinez, Mikey Brass, Paul Kurtz

Debate will make a mockery of truth
By Caitlin Hall
Arizona Daily Wildcat

http://wildcat.arizona.edu/papers/96/140/03_2.html

"There are essentially two types of proselytizers: those who argue with reason and those who argue with deceit. The former persuade with logic and sound premises, which they air openly and honestly. The latter persuade with trickery and misrepresentation, and attempt to undermine opposing arguments rather than seek affirmation of their own. It is this second species, the vulture of intellect, that will descend upon the McKale Center on May 10."

SEDUCTIONS OF PSEUDOARCHAEOLOGY: PSEUDOSCIENCE IN CYBERSPACE
BY KRISTIN M. ROMEY
Archaeology

http://www.archaeology.org/found.php?page=/0305/etc/web.html

"Like so many others of his generation, John Wall was bitten hard by the Egyptology bug following a visit to the landmark Tutankhamun exhibit that toured the world's museums in the 1970s. A resident of southern England and an electrical engineer by trade, Wall was soon taking trips along the Nile and reading voraciously on the subject, dismissing the occasional "alternative" publications and television shows as "pyramidiocy." That is, until he plugged into the World Wide Web."

Meteor caused Lesotho 'poltergeist'
By David Ambrose
BBC Focus On Africa

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2911269.stm

"An outbreak of ghost activity that struck Lesotho last year has been found to have been the result of a spectacular meteor shower."

Little behind Clonaid, files reveal
By Raja Mishra
Boston Globe

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/113/metro/Little_behind_Clonaid_files_reveal+.shtml

"The fringe scientific group Clonaid, which earned international notoriety last year by claiming to have cloned a human baby, has no address, no board of directors, and only two employees, according to sealed court documents obtained by the Globe. Yet the group is pushing forward with plans to charge dozens of prospective cloning patients up to $200,000 apiece for its services."

Placebo prince
The Telegraph [UK]

http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/04/20/dl2002.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/04/20/ixopinion.html

"The Prince of Wales is said to be delighted that the Government has agreed to spend 1.3 million on research into the effectiveness of alternative medicine, particularly homeopathy. Scientists, however, suggest that the money is being wasted."

Complementary therapy research boost
BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2956973.stm

"The government is to pump more than a million pounds into research projects involving alternative medicine, it was announced on Monday."

In Southern Maryland, finding relief that stings
By Stephanie Desmon
Baltimore Sun

http://www.sunspot.net/news/health/bal-md.bees21apr21,0,2039609.story?coll=bal-health-utility

"By the time the grandfather clock strikes 12, Pat Wagner's modest living room is already filled with visitors - they're strangers really, whose faith and ailments have brought them into the world of the woman they'll come to call the bee lady."

HIV/Aids: How Far Can Traditional Healers Go?
by Godwin Haruna
This Day [Lagos]

http://allafrica.com/stories/200304210923.html

"Located on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway at Okokomaiko, a Lagos suburb, the four-storey White House, is very popular among residents. Ask anybody walking along the street in the environs, he easily directs the unwary visitor to the White House. The uninitiated may not easily decipher the reason behind the popularity of the house, but the unwary visitor probes further undaunted."

High marks on evolution instruction upset Fair
By Ron Barnett
Greenville News

http://greenvilleonline.com/news/2003/04/15/200304154775.htm

"Seventy-eight years after the famous Scopes "monkey trial," Charles Darwin is stirring up trouble again."

Bigfoot lore's deep imprint lures believers
By Eric Bailey
LOS ANGELES TIMES

"http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/news/5676307.htm

"Here on the doorstep of the Pacific Northwest, trees grow tall and mystery runs deep. For generations, the dark gorges have yielded lumber, and a legend."

Saddam's safety: Tall tales run rampant
By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service

http://www.knoxstudio.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=IRAQ-WHEREISHE-04-24-03&cat=II

"A psychic in the Philippines says Saddam Hussein is still alive and lurking somewhere in the bowels of Baghdad."

Man beheads 'witch', takes head to police
Indo-Asian News Service

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_237547,000900030001.htm

"A tribal man in West Bengal beheaded a woman after dubbing her a witch and then calmly walked into a police station carrying her severed head."

Feds Warn Consumers About Silver Supplements
WMAQ

http://www.nbc5.com/money/2122661/detail.html

"Target 5's Lisa Parker reported on a "silver" supplement that is said to be able to heal everything from a simple scrape to cancer. Silver remedies, widely used before antibiotics, are now making a big comeback on the Internet. While there are different kinds of supplements, Parker said, the claims are the same."

Who needs proof?
by MICHAEL MCATEER
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1035781080058

"With the tantalizing, eye-catching headline, "Evidence of Jesus Written in Stone," the prestigious Biblical Archaeological Review heralded its world exclusive on the discovery of the now famous "James" ossuary on the front cover of its November-December issue."

Self-confessed cannibal goes on trial in Java
Agence France-Presse

http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/asia/story/0,4386,185274,00.html

"A farmer who has reportedly confessed to eating human flesh in a bid to obtain supernatural powers has gone on trial in Central Java province."

Mexican villagers stone 'witch' to death
Associated Press

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/americas/04/14/mexico.witchs.ap/

"An angry crowd stoned to death an Indian man accused of practicing witchcraft in a southern Mexico town with a long tradition of religious violence."

"Colossal Squid" Revives Legends of Sea Monsters
by James Owen
National Geographic News

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/04/0423_030423_seamonsters.html

"Last month fishermen in the icy Ross Sea encountered a deep-sea giant."

Is handwriting analysis legit science?
The Straight Dope

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/030418.html

"What's the Straight Dope on handwriting analysis? I know that handwriting experts' testimony can be accepted in court, so there must be something to it. But I have a hard time believing that a smart criminal wouldn't be able to change his writing to avoid detection. On a related issue, can an "expert" really tell something about your personality from your handwriting (e.g., that loops in your g's and y's indicate a high sex drive)? If that were true, it would seem that one's handwriting would change from day to day, which it doesn't."

HK squashes SARS smoking 'cure'
CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/04/18/china.sars.smoking/

"As the SARS virus spreads in Hong Kong and China, remedies and rumors about how to avoid contracting the disease are on the increase."

Fellowship finances townhouse where 6 congressmen live
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
Associated Press

http://www.tennessean.com/government/archives/03/04/31786118.shtml?Element_ID=31786118

"Six members of Congress live in a million-dollar Capitol Hill townhouse that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show."

For More Stories Visit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/skepticsearch/

Most ancient DNA ever?

BBC NEWS
By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online science reporter
The oldest ever DNA has been found preserved in ice in Siberia.

The record-breaking samples are from plants which lived there 400,000 years ago.

The genetic material is probably three or four times older than any other ancient DNA found on the planet.

Soil frozen into the ice has also yielded fragments of DNA of large prehistoric animals, including the woolly mammoth, reindeer and musk ox.

The ice cores from which the DNA was extracted have been dated to between 300,000 and 400,000 years old.

Thomas Gilbert of the Ancient Biomolecules Centre at the University of Oxford helped check the samples.

He said: "We believe it is the oldest DNA to date. Other people have made similar claims but nobody else has been able to replicate the findings."

Snapshot of diversity

Various claims have been made for the oldest ever DNA including that extracted from ancient bacteria and even dinosaur bones.

The reports have proved controversial, however, because of the possibility samples could have been contaminated by traces of modern DNA.

The researchers, led by Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, have tried to avoid any dispute in this case by getting researchers in other laboratories to verify their work.

Their analysis, published in the online edition of the journal Science, shows the DNA comes from at least 19 different plant families.

DNA sequences from large plant-eating mammals, such as the mammoth, bison and horse, were also found.

The approach gives archaeologists a new window into the past, creating a vivid picture of plant and animal diversity at the time.

Mr Gilbert said: "(The DNA) is incredibly old, which shows that DNA can be preserved that far back.

"It's a whole new technique that gives you a snapshot of past plant and animal diversity in one sample rather than by sifting through hundreds of bones."

The DNA has been broken into tiny pieces, so there is little chance of bringing any of the species back from the dead.

"Cloning is in our view impossible at this stage. You'd need the whole DNA and you would have to constuct a primitive cell to put the DNA in," added Mr Gilbert.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/2949629.stm

Published: 2003/04/17 23:28:50

BBC MMIII

Birds, flowers found to evolve for each other

Beaks, foliage change to ease pollination
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Friday, April 25, 2003
2003 San Francisco Chronicle

URL:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/25/MN233097.DTL

Two biologists studying the lives of hummingbirds and flowers on Caribbean islands have discovered a remarkable example of animals and plants that evolve to meet each other's needs.

The beaks of the birds have developed in size and shape so that they pollinate the flowers more effectively, while the flowers have developed in color and shape to fit the evolving bird beaks more easily, the scientists find.

It's a case of co-evolution, biologists say, a confirming example of what Charles Darwin first noticed during his famed voyage aboard the Beagle.

Much of Darwin's research focused on evolution through sexual selection -- the competition among males to attract females, or among females to attract males, with the winners passing on the fittest genes to their progeny.

In contrast, this new area of research focuses on a kind of ecological evolution, in which two dependent species influence the evolution of the other.

"It's the most convincing evidence for this kind of evolution that I've ever seen," said W. John Kress, a botanist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington. "The only thing better would be if I could live for a million years and watch it actually happen."

Kress and Ethan Temeles, an ornithologist at Amherst College in Massachusetts, are reporting on their groundbreaking research today in the journal Science.

Robert Colwell, an eminent evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut who was not connected with the research, said: "This is one of those pieces of evidence that gives me the chills, it's so cool. It's a beautiful piece of work."

The two species of plants that Kress studied on the islands of St. Lucia and Dominica in the Lesser Antilles are called Heliconia, often known to Bay Area growers of tropical flowers as "parrot's beaks" and "lobster claws."

The hummingbirds are known as purple-throated caribs and are the only pollinators of the Heliconia plants there. The beaks of the male hummingbird are short and virtually straight, while the beaks of the smaller females are 30 percent longer than the males and twice as sharply curved.

The Heliconia, in turn, grow in two distinct forms. In one, the leaflike growths called bracts that surround their blossoms and hold rainwater infused with nectar are brilliant red. In the other, the brachts have evolved to be green or yellow-green.

At the same time, the two varieties of Heliconia have evolved different shapes. One fits the short straight bills that the male hummingbirds use to feed, while also pollinating the flowers more effectively -- a maneuver that assures their reproduction.

As for the female hummingbirds, their long curved beaks have evolved to fit easily into the deep, curved shape of the other Heliconia form, while the bracts of that plant have evolved so the females earn a good meal as they pollinate.

"Feeding preferences," the scientists conclude, "have driven their co- adaptation."

The significance of those findings is underscored by a review paper in the same issue of Science titled "Darwin's Hummingbirds" by Douglas Altshuler of the California Institute of Technology and Christopher James Clark of UC Berkeley, who specialize in the mechanics of hummingbird flight.

"Hummingbird and Heliconia engage in a coevolutionary dance," they write, "with flower shape evolving in response to hummingbird bills, and bill shape evolving in response to flower shape."

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com.

Man thought wearing lingerie made shoplifting undetectable

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_774089.html?menu=news.quirkies

A Chinese man caught shoplifting while wearing women's underwear told police he believed the lingerie made his crimes undetectable. The 26-year-old said he was very superstitious. He had heard that if he wore women's underwear, his shoplifting would go undetected.

The man, from Luocheng, was caught stealing women's clothing from a store in Kiuzhou.

He was found to be wearing the lingerie when officers strip-searched him, says China's Xinhua news agency.

Global warming is not so hot:

http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/04.24/01-weather.html

1003 was worse, researchers find

By William J. Cromie
Gazette Staff

The heat and droughts of 2001 and 2002, and the unending winter of 2002-2003 in the Northeast have people wondering what on Earth is happening to the weather. Is there anything natural about such variability?

To answer that question, researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) - right in the heart of New England's bad weather - took a look at how things have changed in the past 1,000 years. They looked at studies of changes in glaciers, corals, stalagmites, and fossils. They checked investigations of cores drilled out of ice caps and sediments lying on the bottom of lakes, rivers, and seas. They examined research on pollen, tree rings, tree lines, and junk left over from old cultures and colonies. Their conclusion: We are not living either in the warmest years of the past millennium nor in a time with the most extreme weather.


Saturday, April 26, 2003

'Protecting America's Health': The Making of the F.D.A.

April 27, 2003 By SHERWIN B. NULAND

Crisis after crisis after crisis. Since its establishment in 1906 as the federal government's first internal agency for the protection of individual citizens, the Food and Drug Administration has survived episodes of scandal, poor leadership, underfunding, undermanning and vigorous attempts to emasculate it. But no threat so far has been more menacing than the carefully orchestrated campaign waged by the New Right in the mid-1990's, Newt Gingrich at the helm. In six months of government hearings, debate and committee meetings that began on May 1, 1996, the agency's commissioner, David Kessler, stern Congressional faces arrayed before him and a ''blue-suited battalion'' of industrial lobbyists glaring at his back, marshaled evidence that beat back ''reforms'' that would have allowed drug companies to regulate themselves. Philip J. Hilts's account of that time is the climactic moment of his engrossing new book.

''Protecting America's Health'' is a thoroughly documented history of a century of federal food and drug regulation. Hilts, a former science writer for The Times and the author of ''Smokescreen: The Truth Behind the Tobacco Industry Cover-Up,'' writes both with a historian's attention to piecemeal dissection and analysis and with the flourish and vividness of an experienced journalist aware of the drama inherent in the story he is telling. That story begins in the late 19th century, with the gradual realization by the initially conservative Theodore Roosevelt that the self-sufficiency and competitive spirit he championed are negated when the rules are unfair. As president, he brought two seemingly opposing viewpoints into concordance, as Hilts puts it, by ''establishing the principle that it was now the job of government not just to champion commerce but also to intervene when it got out of hand.'' The result was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the establishment of a regulatory agency that was to become the F.D.A.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/27/books/review/27NULANDT.html?ex=1052364953&ei=1&en=6d06d255d655bfad

Hominid fossils show their age

BBC NEWS
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Australopithecus fossils from caves in South Africa may have been buried about 4 million years ago, as much as 1 million years earlier than previously thought.

Australopithecus is an important hominid - human ancestor - that demonstrates the transition from ape-like features to human ones. Its kind were first discovered in East Africa and lived about four million years ago.

Researchers used a technique that measured the decay of radioactive isotopes formed when the fossil was on the surface, but which declined when it was buried.

The new dates make the South African fossils as old as similar specimens found in East Africa, forcing a revision of how far scientists believe Australopithecus ranged.

Radioactive decay

The fossils were from the caves and quarries at Sterkfontein, 50 km northwest of Johannesburg, that are some of the richest hominid fossil sites in the world.

About 500 specimens have been recovered there since the 1936 discovery of the first adult Australopithecus.

The fossils are encased in a calcified accumulation of rock and surface soil that formed as debris dropped into the cave from the roof.

Finding a date for the age of the fossils has been problematical as different techniques have yielded conflicting results.

The latest dating technique involves measuring the decay of certain radioactive isotopes in the cave sediments.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say they looked for so-called cosmogenic isotopes that form when sediment is bombarded by cosmic rays at the Earth's surface.

Later, when the rocks are buried, production of the isotopes ceases. Measuring their slow decay then indicates how much time has passed since the rock lay near the surface.

This method makes it possible to date specimens found in caves, which usually lack easily dated volcanic or sedimentary deposits.

The results indicate that the Sterkfontein fossils are of a similar age to similar specimens found in East Africa, and are consequently some of the earliest examples of hominids.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/2973083.stm

Published: 2003/04/24 18:49:40

BBC MMIII

A healthy Skepticism is a good thing.

John Lindsay is not far from being right however. His idea of a rectangular wall my be slightly incorrect, because space images show the wall to meander over a larger area than John imagined and to include more like 30 square miles (estimated), with many locations of population visible. Even under the present city of Rockwall. The wall is, in some places three and four walls that appear to have been enlarged as population or danger increased.

If you are serious investigators rather than merely skeptics, you will examine these space shots yourselves and look between the houses and in the open common areas and parks of Rockwall, and you will see the remains of ancient buildings. They are buried, worn down and really only visible as areas of moisture deprivation due to subsurface hardness or rock foundations, typical of Roman era buildings to be found all over England and Celtic remains all over Ireland, which are only visible from the air and best at certain times of the year and under certain crop configurations. Standing crops show underdeveloped stalks over walls and this only shows up in aerial photos taken with low sun angles.

There is more information coming out of Rockwall via space imagery, in particular, the recent discovery by myself, of an ancient cemetery. Discussions with the land owners are in progress at this time so this new information will have to remain in the realm of imagination for you until I can get some permission to do a limited excavation. Remain skeptical.

More later.

Get a good computer & monitor that will show extreme detail, and blow up these one-meter resolution shots and look for yourself. Best to look in and around the city of Rockwall, and then in the open parks and commons and undeveloped lots. The ancient city will emerge for you.

Here is the main USGS website, and in fact the photo of Rockwall, you will need. Just zoom in to the highest resolution and enjoy:

http://terraserver.microsoft.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=14&x=230&y=1139&z=14&w=2

Also I include two photos [1, 2] of the 1949 Sander excavation near the town of Rockwall. Will you continue to claim that these walls are of a natural formation?

Sincerely

Dave Deal

James Ossuary: Who needs proof?

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1035781080058

Who needs proof? There is very little historical evidence of Jesus, but in an age in which science and skepticism encourage us to look for proof.

MICHAEL MCATEER SPECIAL TO THE STAR

With the tantalizing, eye-catching headline, "Evidence of Jesus Written in Stone," the prestigious Biblical Archaeological Review heralded its world exclusive on the discovery of the now famous "James" ossuary on the front cover of its November-December issue.

Could this small limestone bone box with the Aramaic inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" incised on its side, be the first tangible extra-biblical proof of Jesus' existence as the Review headline implies? Or is it a hoax, a pious fake as some experts suggest?

For ardent Christians such as U.S. conservative Protestant scholar Ben Witherington, the ossuary's inscription provides "historical confirmation of Gospel accounts" and is welcome news in a skeptical age that demands evidence before belief.

While the James ossuary may not convey any totally new information to believers, Witherington writes in the recently published The Brother Of Jesus, it does seem to supply further confirmation that the Bible is speaking of real historical figures and events "despite the skepticism about its historical truth that has emerged from many directions in our times."

Both Witherington and Hershel Shanks, the Review's editor-in-chief and co-author of The Brother Of Jesus, are convinced that the ossuary's inscription is authentic and that most scholars agree with them.

John Kloppenborg, professor of religion at the University of Toronto, is one scholar who does not agree and dismisses as "bluster" the blanket assertion that most scholars do.

As a historian of early Christianity and an epigraphist (the study of inscriptions), Kloppenborg is willing to accept the authenticity of the ossuary as a first-century bone box. His problem, shared by many other scholars he says, is with the inscription.

"It probably depends on which circles you travel in," he said in an interview. "If you travel in evangelical (Christian) circles, I would imagine lots think it's great and probably authentic. But in the circle I move in I have yet to meet anyone who thought the inscription authentic."

And even if it were authentic what would it tell you? "That James, Jesus' brother, had bones, and that he died? We sort of guessed that already. In that sense it does not tell us an awful lot."

As other scholars have argued, verification of the ossuary's inscription would not advance what we know about Jesus of Nazareth, revered by millions as their Saviour and Lord. It would not prove the ossuary's three names were the James, Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament. Nor would it prove that the man revered by millions as the Son of God was divine and a miracle worker.

As John Crossan, a renowned U.S. biblical scholar and author, points out, there is a distinction between fact and faith. "You can't make faith into history."

If authentic, the ossuary's inscription would provide the first archaeological link to Christianity's central figure and to the early Christian movement of the New Testament. The ossuary of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who, according to biblical accounts, turned over Jesus to the Romans and an inscription on a monument that mentions Pontius Pilate, are the only known archaeological finds that mention biblical characters.

Almost all of the little we know of Jesus' life is contained in the four Gospels, written decades after his death by his followers. Non-Christian references to Jesus are so meagre as to be almost non-existent, says John Meier, a Catholic University of America biblical scholar and a former president of the Catholic Biblical Association.

"From the viewpoint of the Jewish and pagan literature of the century following Jesus' death he was at most a `blip' on the radar screen," says Meier. If seen at all it was on the periphery of their vision.

Peter Wyatt, United Church minister and principal of Emmanuel College, says that, if authentic the ossuary's inscription could provide extra-biblical evidence that Jesus, James and Joseph were indeed flesh-and-blood figures and lend support to the "historicity of the biblical witness" to Jesus.

"In a world of critical thinking, and certainly for many people to have empirical anchors to justify or to give depth to Christian claims is important," Wyatt says.

Despite the worldwide attention the ossuary has attracted, Wyatt says the ossuary has not prompted any great debate among his own colleagues. For many people, he suggests, "the tremor of excitement, such as it is," is in having an artifact in your hand that dates from the first century and that raises questions about the world's most populous religion.

For example, if the biblical James and Jesus were blood brothers, what are the theological implications for the Roman Catholics' firmly held belief in Mary's perpetual virginity?

Most Christians of whatever denomination hold that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy that a virgin would conceive a child. The theological disputes, which still divide Protestants and Roman Catholics, arise out of different interpretations of "brother."

Wyatt says there are clear references in the New Testament to James being the brother of Jesus, hence the general Protestant position that Mary was a virgin before Jesus was born but that afterwards she and Joseph had natural children.

"Protestants would have no difficulty with that," Wyatt said in an interview. "The ideal of womanhood in the history of Protestantism has been a married woman raising a family.

"So our sense that Mary would have had sexual relations with Joseph to produce other children would not diminish her role as one of the pre-eminent people of faith in the Bible."

Mary's virginity is preserved in the Eastern Orthodox Christian belief that James was the son of Joseph by a previous marriage and therefore Jesus' stepbrother. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church, interpreting "brother" to mean cousin or kin, holds that James was not Jesus' biological brother. This view not only preserves Mary's perpetual virginity from her own conception to the end of her earthly life but also suggests that Joseph, too, was a perpetual virgin.

Challenging the Roman Catholic position, Witherington argues that the inscription on the recently discovered ossuary proves that the Catholic interpretation is full of holes.

In The Brother Of Jesus, Witherington writes: "Since the consensus of the best experts on Aramaic inscriptions and writing of the first century A.D. is that the ossuary of James is authentic, then it seems that the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church about Mary, Joseph and the brothers and sisters of Mary is wrong."

Of course, there is no conclusive evidence that can prove, or disprove, that Mary was a perpetual virgin, says Bishop Miklos Hazy, retired dean of the theology faculty at Saint Augustine's Seminary. "We don't have absolute proof about that and anybody can interpret whatever he or she wants," he said in an interview.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Albert Schweitzer, doctor, humanitarian and missionary, said Jesus brought a mighty spiritual force to the world. "This fact can neither be shaken nor confirmed by any historical discovery," he said. "It is the solid foundation of Christianity."

Scott Lewis, Jesuit priest and assistant professor of New Testament at Regis College, would likely agree.

Lewis believes Jesus lived. Not even the wildest skeptic would deny that, he says. For Lewis, it is not so much proving this or that. The proof of Jesus' message is how it is lived out.


Friday, April 25, 2003

Debate will make a mockery of truth

http://wildcat.arizona.edu/papers/96/140/03_2.html

Illustration by Cody Angell By Caitlin Hall Arizona Daily Wildcat Thursday
April 24, 2003

There are essentially two types of proselytizers: those who argue with reason and those who argue with deceit. The former persuade with logic and sound premises, which they air openly and honestly. The latter persuade with trickery and misrepresentation, and attempt to undermine opposing arguments rather than seek affirmation of their own. It is this second species, the vulture of intellect, that will descend upon the McKale Center on May 10.

It is no small wonder that the event taking place that night a debate on the topic of creation vs. evolution is taking place on a university campus at all. Given the overwhelming evidence in favor of the theory of evolution tens of thousands of studies from fields as diverse as physics, chemistry, botany, ecology, zoology, physiology, biochemistry, virology, paleontology and microbiology the academic community is generally wary of giving footing to the anti-reason, anti-science crusade that masquerades as "scientific" creationism. Illustration by Cody Angell

It was precisely that fear of inadvertently condoning a view that holds no academic legitimacy that kept many professors from responding to the wanted ad for the debate that ran on the back page of the Wildcat on Valentine's Day. The ad, run by the Calvary Chapel of Tucson in coordination with the Creation Research Society, compared the theory of evolution, unrefuted by 150 years of scientific research, to Hans Christian Anderson's story "The Emperor's New Clothes" and charged that there was "zero real evidence" to support the "'faith' of evolution."

Given the clear bias of the event's organizers, it's no wonder that no professors volunteered for several weeks. The church was eventually contacted, however, by one willing participant: James McGaha, an astronomer and adjunct faculty member of Pima Community College. At first, the church accepted his offer, but weeks later reneged, citing a problem with McGaha's "attitude."

More likely, organizers realized they'd bitten off more than they could chew or more accurately, more than their ringer, world-renowned creation "scientist" Dwayne Gish, could chew. McGaha had made a hobby of studying the formulaic and skewed debating tactics of Gish, who is a faculty member at the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. Caitlin Hall columnist

If transcripts of old debates are any indication, those tactics play out something like this: Gish sets up the debate by saying one must believe either in creation or evolution, but not in both. He then unleashes a torrent of contrived, disputed and ultimately false "refutations" of evolution based on faulty pseudo-science, any one of which could be easily rebutted to a lay audience, given enough time. The problem is that Gish refuses to budge from a debate format that allows more than 15 minutes for rebuttal. Thus, the audience leaves with the impression that evolution has been critically damaged, and by extension, feels that creationism has been vilified.

However, McGaha's debate savvy is only part of the story. Overlooking a tenacious, avowed atheist with detailed knowledge of the "evidence" to be presented by Gish, the event organizers replaced him with someone who better fit their needs: UA professor Peter Sherman.

Sherman, who teaches ecology at the Arizona International College, feels that creationism and evolution are simply two "alternative world views" and is not eager to foist his beliefs on others. He explained that, since he didn't have very much formal training in the science of evolution, he would not try to present scientific evidence for it, but would instead argue that "evolution by natural selection has an elegant, simple logic at its core." Furthermore, according to Sherman, he signed up for the event under the assumption that it would take the form of a discussion, rather than a debate.

Sherman provided another boon for the agenda of the Calvary Chapel and what would become the official campus sponsors of the event, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes: He was a university professor. That fact allowed the FCA to approach Steve Kozachik, the assistant director of athletics, facilities and event operations for UA, as a university club sponsoring an event with a university professor. Consequently, the club was able to book McKale Center which would have otherwise cost in the range of thousands of dollars to rent without having to pay a rental fee.

Having the event at McKale inevitably drew in other campus organizations as well. Two concessions stands will be operated by the Student Union Memorial Center, advertising has already begun via the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership and university clubs have been approached to help run and promote the event.

Let's take stock of the situation: The debate that will take place at McKale in two weeks is of no significant academic value. It is, for all intents and purposes, a topic that continues to be debated only by religious fundamentalists and people ignorant of any understanding of evolution. The debate that will take place at McKale in two weeks is of no significant academic value.

Having such an event on campus gives it an air of legitimacy that it does not deserve, and belittles true science by setting it on par with nothing more than wishful thinking.

Regardless, this event will take place on campus, in no less than the most visible venue imaginable, and will be advertised aggressively by the same people who advertise legitimate academic discussions. It will take place between the world's foremost advocate of "scientific" creationism a man who has dedicated his life to repeating this exact debate, in this exact format, year after year, in university after university and who has every intention of presenting "scientific evidence" against evolution and a man who intends to argue for a purely scientific theory from the standpoint of philosophy and aesthetics and who is loath to press his point too insistently, lest he offend those with differing views.

In short, this debate has been engineered to make a mockery of evolution. It will, barring some unforeseen miracle, be a massacre not because true scientific evidence does not weigh absolutely convincingly in favor of evolution, but because the deck has been manipulatively pre-stacked so far on the side of creationism that evidence, truth and science will be irrelevant to the outcome. It is unfortunate that, through naivete and luck, such religious demagoguery found a home on campus, the last place where it should ever take place.

Back to the two methods of proselytization: reason and deceit. It is troubling that the organizers of this event have invariably employed the latter in their drive to convert. More alarming, though, is the fact that they have been able to do so with such dexterity and ease that they have alienated science from its natural alliance with the former, forcing it to barter with irrationality and thus stripping it of its greatest tool.

When that happens, as it has been set up to happen in this debate, science inevitably falls silent because unlike "scientific" creationists, scientists can't argue from a place of insane hatred of evidence, method and logic.

Science In the News

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines April 25, 2003

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BIRDS, FLOWERS FOUND TO EVOLVE FOR EACH OTHER
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Two biologists studying the lives of hummingbirds and flowers on Caribbean islands have discovered a remarkable example of animals and plants that evolve to meet each other's needs.

The beaks of the birds have developed in size and shape so that they pollinate the flowers more effectively, while the flowers have developed in color and shape to fit the evolving bird beaks more easily, the scientists find.

It's a case of co-evolution, biologists say, a confirming example of what Charles Darwin first noticed during his famed voyage aboard the Beagle.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/25/MN233097.DTL

'IF THE VIRUS DOESN'T KILL YOU, FEAR MIGHT'
from The Los Angeles Times

BEIJING -- The week before China finally confessed the truth about the extent of the deadly pneumonia-like outbreak within its borders, some students in elite universities were already staring the epidemic in the eye.

"There was total chaos. It felt like the end of the world," said Luo Yan, a 20-year-old engineering student who lived in the dorm where many of the 60 SARS cases were reported at Northern Jiaotong University, the hardest-hit campus in the capital. "If the virus doesn't kill you, fear might."

Severe acute respiratory syndrome has led to panic and quarantines in this country where the virus originated. Major institutions have been forced to close as public life has ground to a halt. Face masks and other special precautions have become a way of life.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-chisars25apr25,1,7929055.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dtodays%2Dtimes

HOMINID FOSSILS SHOW THEIR AGE
from BBC

Australopithecus fossils from caves in South Africa may have been buried about 4 million years ago, as much as 1 million years earlier than previously thought.

Australopithecus is an important hominid - human ancestor - that demonstrates the transition from ape-like features to human ones. Its kind were first discovered in East Africa and lived about four million years ago.

Researchers used a technique that measured the decay of radioactive isotopes formed when the fossil was on the surface, but which declined when it was buried.

The new dates make the South African fossils as old as similar specimens found in East Africa, forcing a revision of how far scientists believe Australopithecus ranged.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2973083.stm

UN: IRAQ FACING ENVIRONMENTAL TROUBLE
from The Chicago Tribune

Efforts to rebuild Iraq must contend with severe pollution and other environmental problems, the results of more than two decades of war, international sanctions and mismanagement by Saddam Hussein, environmental groups said.

"Many environmental problems in Iraq are so alarming that an immediate assessment and a cleanup plan are needed urgently," said Pekka Haavisto, chairman of a preliminary study by the U.N. Environmental Program.

Environmentalists acknowledged the three-week war that toppled Saddam's regime did not trigger the natural catastrophe envisioned by many, including burning oil fields, demolition of dams and the use of chemical and biological weapons.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-iraq-environment,1,6804776.story

SHUTTLE BREAKUP THEORY REMAINS ELUSIVE
from The New York Times

HOUSTON, April 24 Investigators from the independent board analyzing the breakup of the shuttle Columbia said today that they had as yet no working hypothesis of exactly what caused the accident, despite agreement on its broad outlines.

Board members were briefed for more than three hours this morning by about three dozen members of NASA's investigation team. The session produced consensus that debris fell from the Columbia's external tank 81 seconds after liftoff and hit the shuttle's left wing less than a second later and that on re-entry a breach in the left wing allowed in hot gas that destroyed the shuttle.

But investigators on the panel, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, say they have not conclusively linked the debris strike with the left wing damage.

"We know there was an impact," one investigator said. "Heat got into a breach."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/25/national/nationalspecial/25SHUT.html

FBI LABORATORY MOVES TO NEW HOME
from The Washington Post

The FBI's new $130 million laboratory complex, wrapped in ribbons of glass and topped with stylized smokestacks, looks something like a cruise ship as it rises out of the Northern Virginia countryside.

FBI leaders hope that the Quantico facility -- which celebrates its grand opening today -- will carry the bureau's forensic abilities into the coming century, while riding out the lingering controversy over the quality and reliability of its work.

With nearly 500,000 square feet of space and $25 million worth of new equipment, the building has been in the works for seven years, allowing the bureau's 650 lab employees to move out of cramped and aging quarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington. At the new facility, lab rooms are separated from regular office space by corridors and independent venting systems, ensuring that scientific analysis will be conducted in a sterile environment, officials said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34755-2003Apr24.html

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Potential anti-evolution legislation in Louisiana

Dear friends & supporters,

The Louisiana House of Representatives is considering a bill, HB 1782, that Aprohibits any branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of state government or of any political subdivision from knowingly printing or distributing material that contains information that is false or fraudulent."

The language is similar to that of a bill defeated in Arkansas in 2001, HB 2548, that contained similar language, but went further by listing many standard creationist claims. Well-known creationist Kent Hovind testified as an "expert" for that bill, and it was noted that the bill contained claims listed in a notorious anti-evolution comic book by Jack Chick.

The Louisiana bill, HB 1782, makes none of the specific claims as the Arkansas legislation did. For the complete text of the bill, see: http://www.legis.state.la.us/, and search for HB1782.

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609
510-601-7203 Ext. 308
510-601-7204 (fax)
800-290-6006
evans@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Boss allegedly fired worker for 'unconfessed sins'

http://www.modbee.com/24hour/weird/story/856608p-5998537c.html

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A woman with bipolar disorder is suing her former boss for religious harassment, claiming he blamed her disorder on unconfessed sins and fired her because it was "God's will." Michelle Subwick, 35, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Palm Beach Circuit Court against Mark Kielar, president of WJMK Television Productions. She is asking for back pay, damages and attorney fees.

Joe Curley, an attorney for Kielar, declined immediate comment Wednesday.

Subwick, who is a Christian, claims Kielar told her her disorder resulted from Satan infiltrating her life. He advised her to pray daily with him, but she was fired when she stopped the sessions, the lawsuit claims.

Kielar was sued in January by a former producer who alleged she was fired because she complained that the company put scriptures inside paycheck envelopes. The company claims that Rozanne Sonneborn was fired last year because of the sluggish economy.

WJMK produces secular programs for cable television.


Thursday, April 24, 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 April 24, 2003

SIGN UP TODAY for "Science in the News Weekly," an e-newsletter produced by Sigma Xi's Public Understanding of Science programs area in conjunction with "American Scientist Online." The newsletter will provide a digest of the week's top stories

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A CLEAN AIR ACT 'SUCCESS STORY': CARBON MONOXIDE
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON While government officials, environmentalists and public health advocates were grousing about smog and soot, the Clean Air Act quietly all but won the war against carbon monoxide, according to a prestigious panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

When federal standards were set for carbon monoxide, one of the most dangerous air pollutants, in 1971, 90% of the monitors around the country registered violations.

Today, air monitors in only a few places still show violations. And even in those hot spots, the period when the standard is exceeded has shrunk to only a day or two a year, according to the report released Wednesday by the academy's National Research Council.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-na-pollute24apr24,1,5453357.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

MOSQUITO DISEASE COULD HELP SLOW SPREAD OF WEST NILE
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A disease that kills mosquitoes could be one way to slow the spread of West Nile virus, the Agriculture Department says.

Jim Becnel, a scientist with the department's Agricultural Research Service, said Wednesday that he and a team of researchers have come up with a new method to kill mosquitoes by infecting them with an illness called baculovirus. It works only on mosquitoes.

"It's kind of a killer for a killer," he said.

The department wants companies to make mosquito-killing sprays from baculovirus and put them on the market. They believe it could kill mosquitoes potentially carrying West Nile virus, an illness that killed 284 people and sickened 4,156 in the United States last year.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/865307p-6045104c.html

LITTLE BEHIND CLONAID, FILES REVEAL
from The Boston Globe

The fringe scientific group Clonaid, which earned international notoriety last year by claiming to have cloned a human baby, has no address, no board of directors, and only two employees, according to sealed court documents obtained by the Globe. Yet the group is pushing forward with plans to charge dozens of prospective cloning patients up to $200,000 apiece for its services.

The picture that emerges from the documents, as well as from interviews with Clonaid's tiny staff, is of a disorganized, amateurish effort that nonetheless has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and has plans to gross even more.

Clonaid asserts it has continued work at full speed, allegedly cloning its fifth baby recently, though no proof has been offered.

And the Raelian sect has seen its dues-paying membership swell by 10 percent because of all the publicity, according to its founder.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/113/metro/Little_behind_Clonaid_files_reveal+.shtml

THE EYES AND EARS OF WAR
from The Los Angeles Times

Stretched across a wall at the U.S. Air Force's Combined Air Operations Center near the Persian Gulf is a shimmering, ever-changing display, showing the location of every aircraft above Iraq.

Throughout the war, commanders at the operations center used the map to reroute bombers the moment targets emerged whether they were Saddam Hussein sightings or Iraqi missile launches. In a matter of minutes not hours or days as in past wars commanders identified targets and then sent out orders to bomb.

This compression of time, known in the military as "shortening the kill chain," was possible for just one reason: satellite information. Flowing through a network of electronic eyes and ears above Earth, information bathed the battlefield, sending location data to GPS units in tanks, messages to sturdy portable computers with the troops and satellite images to weather stations set up on the dusty front lines.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-spacewar24apr24,1,94410.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

COASTAL LOUISIANA GETS THAT SINKING FEELING
from The Christian Science Monitor

Nowhere in the world is a coastal region losing losing wetlands and protective barrier islands faster than Louisiana. The region is sinking as layers of river-borne muck hundreds of feet thick shift under their own weight.

Now, state, local, and federal officials are pulling together a $14 billion plan to slow the losses, in what would rank as the most ambitious wetlands restoration effort in history. As they do, scientists are raising new questions about how quickly the subsidence is occurring. It's a question whose answer could determine the shape of the political debate over the direction the program takes, or perhaps whether it moves forward at all.

"There's a lot riding on this," says Jeff Williams, a researcher with the US Geological Survey's coastal and marine geology program at Woods Hole, Mass. "Has Louisiana passed some sort of threshold beyond which it's not possible to restore the coast or maintain the conditions we have?"

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0424/p02s01-usgn.html

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE EXHAUST-FREE CAR
from The Christian Science Monitor

WARREN, MICH. Christine Sloane is accustomed to being surrounded by digital sketches of cars shaped like junebugs and SUVs one imagines Buck Rogers driving on Mars.

As a senior engineer at General Motors, Ms. Sloane is supposed to think about cars of the future. Specifically, she's trying to create a new generation of automobiles that are pollution free - and, in effect, render internal-combustion engines obsolete.

The vehicles are powered by mixing hydrogen (compressed under high pressure or in liquid form) with oxygen to generate a positive charge - a spark - that runs an electric motor.

It's gee-whiz stuff. Yet when Sloane is sitting at the dinner table with her college-aged sons, she hears a familiar refrain: "They say, 'Mom, would you please stop talking about fuel cells again,' " Sloane relates with a playful smirk. "They don't want to hear about 'the hydrogen economy' or 'hybrids' or anything else that we're moving toward. They want to hear about now."

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0421/p03s01-usgn.html

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Classes on ancient practice to be held at Veterans Building

http://www.trivalleyherald.com/Stories/0,1413,86%257E10669%257E1268110,00.html?search=filter

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 - 3:23:40 AM PST

By Matt Carter, STAFF WRITER

PLEASANTON -- As war with Iraq heightens fears of terrorist attacks, Pleasanton veterans groups think they've found a way to address the threat: the ancient practice of dowsing.

Skeptics scoff at dowsers' claims that they can locate water, tunnels, pipes -- even missing people and pets -- guided by nothing but a stick or rod and their intuition.

Nonetheless, local vets have invited a Virginia man to teach an introductory course in dowsing next month at the Veterans Memorial Building in Pleasanton.

"Discover how dowsing techniques could be used to support homeland security ... by military, law enforcement, fire prevention, National Guard, mil- Frank said. "My attitude is that in the world of homeland security, you have to be more open-minded in looking for solutions. You can't wait for the FBI and police to come up with solutions when you have the bad guys living among us."

Some dowsers claim to be able to find water, oil or treasure under the earth by walking with a forked dowsing rod or stick.

When the dowser is over the "target," the rod supposedly points down. So-called map dowsers use a pendulum over maps, books or other media, and claim they can locate people or glean other information this way.

"One thing someone suggested is that if this works, could you identify a potential terrorist while he's in the airport?" Frank said. "Maybe the same technique could be used to find a dangerous bag among thousands in an airport. Who knows? Don't shoot the messenger, if you're not comfortable with the message."

Matacia's visit is sponsored by the Air Force Association Chapter 120, American Legion Posts 237 and 333, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298.

"I think it's got its merits," said Rene LaVigne, commander of American Legion Post 237, of the practice of dowsing. "In fact, our government is using it. It's been using it for years. They just don't make a big deal out of it, because it's not scientifically provable."

Although one German study in the late 1980s claimed to have found proof that some field dowsers achieved measurable results, critics said the test couldn't be independently reproduced.

Other tests, skeptics say, have shown that those who claim to have dowsing skills are no better at ferreting out hidden objects than if sites were selected at random.

One outspoken skeptic of dowsing and other paranormal claims is James Randi, the founder of a Florida-based educational foundation that promises to award $1 million to anyone who can prove they possess such powers in an independent test.

About 85 percent of those who try and fail to claim the money are self-professed dowsers, Randi said. He said "hundreds" of would-be dowsers have taken the tests because they have convinced themselves of their abilities.

"You are actually moving the stick yourself, and are not conscious of it," Randi said of dowsing.

Once best-known as a magician and escape artist, "The Amazing Randi" founded the James Randi Education Foundation in 1996 to promote critical thinking about paranormal claims.

Randi said those attending Matacia's course in Pleasanton "might have more entertainment by shredding their money into confetti and throwing it at the next wedding they attend. They will learn nothing from it."

Matacia, who claims to have trained U.S. Marines to find enemy tunnels during the Vietnam War, did not return calls Monday from the Herald. But he does seem to have a following among those who believe dowsing is real.

The author of two books on dowsing including "Finding Treasure Auras," Matacia is scheduled to teach a class at the annual convention of the American Society of Dowsers Inc. in June.

Those attending the Lyndonville, Vt., dowsing convention will pay $95 to study with Matacia. In Pleasanton, a more modest $10 donation is requested.

"This man can't lecture on anything else -- tap dancing, poetry, manufacturing umbrellas -- there's nothing else he can claim to be an expert on," Randi said.

"It gives them an importance they normally wouldn't have. The problem is people will spend their time and money for nothing."

To Randi, a potentially more serious problem is that some people will become obsessed with mastering a skill that's a construct of the imagination.

"This can destroy people emotionally, because they take the lessons, they see (the instructor) do it, and when they are not able to do it, they think, 'I must be a fool,'" Randi said. "In some cases they devote the rest of their lives to it. It's a delusion."

Veterans groups have wide discretion over who they invite to speak at the city-owned building, said Pleasanton Parks and Community Services Director Jim Wolfe.

"Unless there is going to be damage to the building, there are free speech issues," Wolfe said. "If they are not doing anything unsafe, immoral or illegal, we try not to be too possessive about what they can and cannot do."

Many people believe in dowsing because they have seen or heard of it being used to find underground water or pipes. Frank said he has relatives in Colorado who found water with the help of a dowser.

"I know for a fact that oil companies use dowsers to find oil," Frank said. "A lot of people don't realize that. And mining companies use them to find minerals like gold and silver."

Randi said dowsers find water because it's present just about everywhere on Earth, if wells are drilled deeply enough. But anecdotal instances of dowsers finding water don't prove the validity of the method, he said. In double-blind tests, dowsers don't turn up water, oil or minerals more often than expected if sites were selected at random, Randi said.

Dowsing isn't the only unconventional technique Frank has offered to veterans in the fight against terrorism.

Two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Frank brought a retired Army officer, David A. Morehouse, to Pleasanton for a seminar on "remote viewing."

In his 1996 book "Psychic Warrior," Morehouse said he was forced out of the Army and harassed by the CIA after he decided to go public with details about remote viewing -- a secret military program, he said, that employed psychics to spy on faraway people, places and events.

Frank said that as a result of the November, 2001 seminar in Pleasanton, a half-dozen local veterans have gone through five levels of training with Morehouse. Frank said Morehouse did not charge the veterans for the instruction, and that some of those veterans are now helping families gather information on loved ones missing in action in other wars.

Two or three people are particularly good at it, Frank said.

Louis Matacia will teach a course on dowsing from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Pleasanton Veterans Memorial Building, 301 Main St., Pleasanton. Call (925) 846-1970.

DOJ drops Dini inquiry; NCSE Grand Canyon trip

Dear Friends of NCSE,

On April 22, the Department of Justice announced that it was closing its inquiry into complaints of religious discrimination by Texas Tech student Micah Spradling against biology professor Michael Dini. For the DOJ press release, see:
http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2003/April/03_crt_247.htm

While I've got your attention, I wanted to remind you to make your plans to accompany NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott and NCSE's own postdoctoral scholar, paleontologist Alan Gishlick, in the third wonderful NCSE trip down the Grand Canyon. The standard scientific view of the history of the Canyon will be provided by Gish, who is a trained geologist with several trips to the Canyon under his belt. The creationist view will be presented by Scott, who has never had a geology class in her life but who is confident that this will be no impediment to her presenting the creationist perspective on the Canyon.

The excursion is all-inclusive from Las Vegas, with travel between the Canyon and the Las Vegas airport provided by the outfitter. Participants provide their own sleeping bags and tents (or they can be rented from the outfitter). This will be an 8-day motorized trip from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead.

Dates: August 16-24, 2003
Cost: $1995 (members); $2200 (nonmembers)

Make your reservations now! A $500 deposit by May 15 will reserve your space, with $1495 (members) / $1700 (nonmembers) due by June 15.

For more information, call us at 1-800-290-6006, e-mail ncse@ncseweb.org, or write us at 420 40th Street, Suite 2, Oakland, CA 94609-2509.

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x 305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines April 23, 2003

MEDICAL JOURNAL ASSAILS COMPANY FOR HALTING DRUG TRIAL
from The Los Angeles Times

In a highly unusual action, the Journal of the American Medical Assn. is publishing incomplete results today from an aborted drug trial, along with a scathing editorial blasting the drug's manufacturer for halting the trial.

The massive trial enrolled 16,602 patients in 15 countries in a five-year effort to determine whether the anti-hypertension drug verapamil is better than less expensive diuretics and other drugs. But Pharmacia Corp., which manufactures verapamil under the trade name Covera, ended the study two years early before researchers could determine whether the drug provided any benefit.

The company broke a covenant with volunteers in the trial, who "were not only deprived of personal benefit but also the social benefit of genuine scientific contributions," wrote the co-authors of the editorial, Dr. Bruce Psaty of the University of Washington and Dr. Drummond Rennie, a deputy JAMA editor.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-drugs23apr23,1,3770068.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

VIRUS IS MUTATING RAPIDLY, GENETIC SEQUENCING IN CHINA INDICATES
from The Washington Post

BEIJING, April 22 -- Chinese scientists have deciphered the genetic code of a number of samples of the SARS virus and say their research could provide important clues as to whether the microbe will weaken or increase in severity over time.

Yang Huanming, one of China's best-known geneticists, said the work has shown significant differences between virus samples from patients in Guangzhou and in Beijing, indicating that the virus is mutating rapidly.

Yang's Beijing Genomics Institute has sequenced SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, in a joint project with the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. He said samples already sequenced in the United States and Canada were similar to the Guangzhou samples because the American and Canadian samples came from people who caught the disease in southern China. But when researchers did sequencing of samples collected in Beijing, about 1,200 miles to the north, they detected significant differences from the southern strain.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17363-2003Apr22.html

A BREEDING GROUND?
from Newsday

Guangzhou, China - Here, at the epicenter of the disease known as SARS, dinner can be bought live at a "wet market."

World Health Organization officials are trying to determine whether there have been unusual die-offs of the sorts of wild animals consumed at dinner tables here - whether it's possible that a species was harboring the virus now known to be potentially fatal to humans. Science has long recognized zoonosis - animal-to-human disease spread - and that possibility is under study in the SARS outbreak. But the range of animal possibilities is vast - beyond even those arrayed in markets such as Chau Tau.

"This is very different from the United States, where you buy meat frozen or prepared" and have a limited choice of meats, explained Dr. Yuen Kwok- yung, a microbiologist at Hong Kong University. "In Chinese - Cantonese, really - this list is enormous. More than 40 species, at least. And the markets are right there, with live animals. So zoonosis is quite common in this sort of area."

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hssars233249970apr23,0,18311.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

CLOSE TO SHUTTLE CRASH THEORY
from The New York Times

HOUSTON, April 22 The chairman of the board investigating the breakup of the shuttle Columbia said today that the panel was moving into a new phase and planned to develop a working hypothesis for the accident and refine it to fit the available evidence.

After weeks of insisting that nearly nothing has been ruled out, board members are now clearly focused on foam from the shuttle's external tank that struck and apparently damaged the leading edge of one wing on launching. A piece of the leading edge floated away on the second day in flight, and on re-entry hot gas entered the wing and destroyed the orbiter.

After 11 weeks of investigation, a milestone will come on Thursday, said Adm. Harold W. Gehman, who is chairman of the inquiry board, when his group meets with NASA officials to share theories about the chain of events that destroyed the shuttle. They will also begin the arduous process of ironing out what additional analysis is needed to establish a picture of what happened in as much detail as possible.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/23/national/nationalspecial/23SHUT.html

SENATOR URGES OPEN BIDDING FOR LOS ALAMOS
from The San Francisco Chronicle

In what could prove a critical blow to the University of California's efforts to cling to its longtime contract to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory, an influential member of Congress said Tuesday that the contract should be opened to competition because of a mounting scandal.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., suggested that a string of embarrassing management failures -- involving everything from the lab's procurement system to its handling of plutonium -- have undermined confidence in how UC runs one of the nation's most sensitive nuclear weapons design facilities.

Domenici, in a speech at Los Alamos, said he has told Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham that for the first time there should be competitive bidding when UC's current contract ends in September 2005.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/04/23/MN290389.DTL

Kenyans charmed by snake

A snake said to have mythical powers has been attracting large crowds to Kenyan village.

The 14-feet long python which the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper calls Omweri, is being protected by youths eager to keep excited visitors away.

The paper reported that students from neighbouring schools abandoned classes on Monday to take a look at the python described by villagers as "a fortune bringer".

Mrs Benta Otieno, on whose compound the snake is said to be living, says it has a daily diet of a loaf of bread, two hens, frogs and plenty of water.

Chased away

Local police were said to have been sent away when they came to investigate.

The villagers in Nyakach District are insisting on looking after the python themselves.

The snake is currently brooding on four big eggs and this is causing both anxiety and excitement.

Claims that visitors are being charged to see the snake have been denied by one villager.

He told the Daily Nation: "We only collect voluntary fees. From this money we buy food to feed the snake."

As regards its special powers, it would seem the python, which first appeared a fortnight ago, has indeed brought some good fortune to the villagers.

Especially to traders who have been making a profit from selling water, snacks and porridge to visitors.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/2840033.stm

Published: 2003/03/11 15:43:30

BBC MMIII

Martyrs' shrine awaits miracle

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

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."

During the fund-raising program, supporters had hoped the Pope might recognize Tekekwitha as a saint. They thought it might happen last year during World Youth Day in Toronto, when more than 300,000 people from around the world came to hear the Pope speak.

Despite the intervention of Canadian bishops, the Pope declined to make Tekekwitha a saint at that time.

The shrine usually attracts around 35,000 people a year.

It opens the first Sunday in May and closes the last Sunday in October.

-- Alan Wechsler


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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

In the News

Today's Headlines - April 21, 2003

STEM CELL STRIDES TEST BUSH POLICY
from The Washington Post

A series of important advances have boosted the potential of human embryonic stem cells to treat heart disease, spinal cord injuries and other ailments, but researchers say they are unable to take advantage of the new techniques under a two-year-old administration policy that requires federally supported scientists to use older colonies of stem cells.

Now pressure is building from scientists, patient advocates and members of Congress to loosen the embryo-protecting restrictions imposed by President Bush, with some on Capitol Hill saying they want to take up the issue next month.

Stem cells obtained from 5-day-old human embryos can morph into all kinds of human tissues and appear capable of regenerating ailing organs. But while newer and safer versions of the cells have recently been created, the policy imposed by Bush in August 2001 puts those cells off-limits to any scientist whose work is supported with federal money.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7107-2003Apr21.html

QUAKE SCIENTISTS PREDICT BIG ONE IN BAY AREA LIKELY BY 2032
from The San Francisco Chronicle

In the most detailed investigation ever made of earthquake hazards throughout the Bay Area, scientists warned Monday that at least one severely damaging and deadly quake is very likely here within less than 30 years.

That warning came amid new scientific estimates of the danger levels along the region's hazardous seismic faults.

According to the study, there is a 62 percent probability of a major quake with a magnitude greater than 6.7 striking the region before the year 2032.

There is a more than 80 percent likelihood that a smaller but still very damaging temblor of magnitude 6 to 6.6 will strike here during that time period, the scientists agreed.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/04/22/MN259188.DTL

ARSENIC'S SUBTLER MENACE
from Newsday

In addition to arsenic's reputation for toxic nastiness, new research suggests that even minuscule doses disrupt the way hormones work, scientists report.

The findings are important and timely, since government agencies have squabbled recently over how much arsenic to allow in drinking water and how much damage it may do. The new work indicates that even small doses, if experienced long-term, may be dangerous in unexpected ways.

"Arsenic is an agent of considerable public health concern in the United States and worldwide," said toxicologist Joshua Hamilton. The elemental metal is already known to be outright poisonous; in small, continual doses it seems to cause cancer, and in even smaller amounts - taken constantly - seems to disrupt hormone function. Now, Hamilton said, "it's very clear that arsenic is a potent endocrine disrupter," interfering with hormone activity in the body.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-dsspdn3248156apr22,0,27511.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

NAMING A VIRUS NO EXACT SCIENCE
from The Baltimore Sun

West Nile virus got its name from the district in Uganda where it was first identified. Epstein-Barr virus received its moniker from the researchers who initially described it. Arenavirus was so dubbed for its grainy look: The Latin word "arena" means sand.

The new coronavirus responsible for the worldwide outbreak of SARS has yet to be officially named.

But some researchers have already weighed in. They want to honor Carlo Urbani, the World Health Organization physician who died of the illness and was among the first to identify it.

http://www.sunspot.net/news/nationworld/bal-te.name21apr21.story

A RIVER DIVERTED, THE SEA RUSHES IN
from The New York Times

KHARO, Pakistan Abbas Baloch gazed ruefully at a wide, shallow bay of the Arabian Sea. "This used to be our land," he said. "And now it's covered by the sea."

When Mr. Baloch was born, 38 years ago, this watery expanse was at the center of his family's estate on the Indus River delta. But after decades of dam and canal projects upstream, his farmland has largely been swallowed.

The dams and canals were built in India and other parts of Pakistan to provide irrigation and power. But little thought was given to the consequences downstream.

Here at the mouth of the Indus, the river has dried up and sea water has rushed in to replace its flows, inundating 2,000 acres of the Baloch family's land. (The family has received no compensation, said Mr. Baloch, who is now trying to make a living in the overcrowded business of coastal fishing.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/22/science/earth/22RIVE.html

3,000 AMATEURS OFFER NASA PHOTOS OF COLUMBIA'S DEMISE
from The New York Times

HOUSTON, April 19 Dan McNew thought he had shot the home movie of a lifetime. He had aimed his digital video camera at the shuttle Columbia as it returned to earth on Feb. 1; living near Dallas, in the path of the returning shuttle, he had caught the sight on video several times before.

When he viewed the images in light of the shuttle's loss, he thought he might have captured a crucial moment. He read about the shuttle's yawing spin before breakup and sent an e-mail message to a reporter.

"That description matches perfectly with what I caught on video that morning," he wrote. He had zoomed in on the shuttle as it hurtled by and captured it flying sideways, he wrote, adding, "I believe I am the only one who has a clear close-up video of this event."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/22/science/space/22NASA.html

Humanist talks about counseling in the military

http://www.amarillonet.com/stories/041003/new_humanisttalks.shtml

On the Road: Joe Beck stands with his dog in front of his recreational vehicle at a RV park in Amarillo. Beck, a secular humanist social worker from New York state, is traveling through the country trying to change the way those in the military are counseled.
Don Munsch

Humanist talks about counseling in the military
By DON MUNSCH

dmunsch@amarillonet.com

No atheists in foxholes? Don't tell that to Joe Beck.

Beck wants people to know that nonreligious members of the military - such as secular humanists, atheists and agnostics - should be treated with the same consideration as those with religious beliefs in terms of their counseling treatment.

Beck, a secular humanist and certified social worker from Hamburg, N.Y., rolled through Amarillo on Monday in his recreational vehicle to raise awareness of the issue of equality for non-religious military members.

Beck said he's wary of chaplains who say they would not impose their beliefs on others, regardless of the setting. He said chaplains tell him they provide services to everybody, regardless of their religious beliefs, but Beck said he thinks their spiritual beliefs obligate them to try to care for people's spirits and souls.

"Some religious people will say, 'Why do those atheists need anything - they don't believe in anything,"' he said. "Well, No. 1, we believe in a lot of things. We share most of the values with our Christian and other religious brothers and sisters."

Chaplain Paul Worley, deputy division chaplain of the Fourth Marine Division who's based in New Orleans, said in a telephone interview that nonreligious members of the military don't have to see a chaplain. He said if they need counseling they can request someone from the medical department to talk about their concerns. Also, chaplains are capable of talking to military personnel without broaching the subject of religion.

"I've never felt the obligation to press my religious beliefs on anybody," Worley said. "I let them take the lead. If they don't want to talk about (religion), we don't."

Beck said he wants to see equality.

"My goal is to make certain that the non-religious members of the military and other Americans receive services on a par with their religious counterparts," Beck said. "We don't want special services - we'd like equal services."

Threat Alert Jesus

http://www.witchfondler.com/threatalertjesus.html

"The Adaptable Human Body: Transhumanism and Bioethics in the 21st Century"

June 27-29, 2003
Yale University, New Haven, CT USA

http://www.transhumanism.org/tv/2003usa/

What will the body be like in 50 years? How will changes to our bodies change our lived experience? How will we adapt the body to our needs and to the environments in which we live? Will we have conquered sickness, aging and death for all or only for the lucky few? Will people migrate to silicon, build superbodies, or both, or neither? This conference, the first Transvision conference to be sponsored by the World Transhumanist Association in North America, will explore the future of the body from the transhumanist perspective. TV03USA is co-sponsored by the Yale Interdisciplinary Bioethics Program's Working Group on Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology and Transhumanism.

Transhumanism advocates the individual's right to use technology to enhance the body. This conference will begin the discussion between the transhumanist movement and the communities with which transhumanists have rarely been in dialogue: professional bioethicists, anti-technology activists, disability and transgender activists, and critical social theorists of science and technology.

Hawking is Steve #300

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Project Steve continues apace, with the 305th Steve coming on board today. Like their predecessors, the 85 Steves to join since the initial announcement of Project Steve are a distinguished group whose public support for evolution education we are honored to be able to announce.

The 300th signatory to NCSE's Project Steve shares a unique distinction with Stephen Jay Gould: that of appearing on The Simpsons. I refer, of course, to Steve #300, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, Stephen W. Hawking.

For the current list of Steves as well as links to the media coverage -- recent articles have appeared in Scientific American, American Scientist, and the Geological Society's Media Monitor -- please see http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=18.

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x 305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org


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