NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 May 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Cattle mutilations spur memories from '70s, '80s outbreaks


BY MARGARET REIST / Lincoln Journal Star

Mike Benes has been in the cattle business all his life, lives on a farm just a pasture away from his dad's place.

And he's never seen anything like what happened two weeks ago, no more than 100 yards from his house near Valparaiso.

He's heard about such things over the years -- cattle lying dead in a field, organs removed with surgical precision.

In fact, in the late 1970s and '80s cattle mutilations became a social phenomenon of sorts. Law enforcement agencies in dozens of states, including Nebraska, were inundated with such reports.

There were federally funded investigations and theories varying from satanic cults to animal predators to aliens.

But Benes had never seen it. Certainly not in the rolling green hills where he raises a small but quality breeding stock.

"We've lived here 17 years on this place,'' he said. "This is the first time we've had any problems or anything with our livestock.''

But what Benes found on a Saturday morning on his way to do chores -- and then again the next day despite a spring snowstorm that blanketed the farmland -- is a problem. A very strange one.

On April 5, Benes walked out of his house and saw one of his 50 Simmental cows dead in the pasture. There was another about 100 yards away, and about 300 yards from the house, a dead calf.

"I saw the calf right away because the other cows were all around it,'' he said.

The calf's testicles and scrotum had been removed. Benes said meat from its hindquarters was gone as well.

"There was no blood in the pasture,'' Benes said.

A teat on one of the 1,200-pound cows had been cut off. But it appears the culprits couldn't get to the teat of the other cow because of the way the animal fell, Benes said.

Initially, Benes thought the animals had probably been poisoned. But his veterinarian showed him the injuries and did an autopsy that showed something even more odd. It appears the cows had been electrocuted.

To make matters worse, Benes found another dead cow on April 7. This one also had been electrocuted, one teat left hanging, not completely cut off. Somebody had come back, Benes said, in the middle of a spring snowstorm to kill the third cow.

This time, the culprits left footprints but little other evidence, said Saunders County Sheriff Chuck Lacey Sr. and Nebraska State Patrol Investigator Jay Petersen.

"It's kind of mind-boggling,'' said Benes. "It's not the monetary value of the cows. Of course it's a concern but it's nothing compared to the violation of our property that we felt when these people came in while we were sleeping and stalked our cows around a 10-acre pasture."

Nobody in the family has gotten a full night's sleep since, he said.

Benes estimated the loss at about $6,000, but said that's conservative. The cows were going to replace older breeding cows, he said. And the calf was genetically bred to be a good seed stock bull.

"It was sad they had to take him,'' Benes said. "He was real tame, he was one that would come up to you.''

The calf, Petersen said, was knocked out rather than electrocuted, but the insides of the cows' mouths appeared to be burnt, as did their meat and muscle. He sent tissue samples to a veterinarian with the animal sciences diagnostic lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Among the puzzling questions is how were the animals electrocuted. Benes is confident investigators will find out, and he's put up an undisclosed amount of reward money to help in the process.

The reward, which the Saunders County Crime Stoppers and local cattle associations have also contributed to, is one of the larger rewards. Lacey declined to name the amount but said it was large "and growing.''

Petersen said he's tracking down similar incidents, such as one that occurred in 1994 within five miles of the Benes place. In that case, news reports said, the cow may have been electrocuted. Its lips, teats and anus had been removed.

Lacey said his father was the Johnson County Sheriff in the 1970s and remembers deputies getting similar reports.

"They were talking aliens back then,'' he said.

Back then, reports of such mutilations kept law enforcement officers busy.

Steve Stanec, executive director of the Nebraska Brand Committee, found a 3-inch stack of files in storage on the subject. The brand committee is in charge of brand inspections in the western two-thirds of Nebraska and investigates livestock crimes.

"In the last 20 years it's been very infrequent,'' he said of such reports. "In the late '70s, early '80s, it was a hot issue.''

In 1975, the governor of Colorado called the killings "one of the great outrages in the history of Western cattle industry'' and ordered a statewide investigation.

But Stanec said reports eventually determined that most of the mutilations could be attributed to predators that could make precision-like cuts and would be drawn to the soft tissue often found missing. An ex-FBIagent issued a 297-page report in 1980 saying that, with a few exceptions, the deaths and wounds were of natural origins.

But there are those who find mutilations mysterious. Petersen has gotten calls this month from a Las Vegas pathologist and a woman who has written books on the subject.

Colm Kelleher, administrator of the National Institute for Discovery Science in Las Vegas, said the institute has studied cattle mutilations for seven years, although none from Nebraska. Scientists there concluded that a sharp instrument, not predators, was responsible in some cases. Scientists also have found evidence of a chemical that could be a sedative.

"Our research has kind of convinced us that (some cases) cannot be explained just by predators. You really have to get to the stage where coyotes are packing scalpels,'' Kelleher said.

But the scientists haven't drawn any conclusions about who's committing the crimes. And it appears the rash of mutilations in the '70s and '80s went unsolved.

"We have absolutely no idea who's doing it,'' Kelleher said.

As for the latest incident, Benes put up money for a reward because he thinks it is important the culprits be found and prosecuted.

"This kind of killing and mutilation, ... it's been going on for years in Nebraska off and on, and it's tragic to any cow-calf operation,'' he said. "There's just no value to it in my mind.''

Investigators say they don't have suspects yet but they're going on the assumption the culprit is of the earthly variety.

"I ain't got no answer but I know it's not aliens because aliens don't leave tracks,'' Lacey said.

Reach Margaret Reist at 473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com

Copyright © 2003, Lincoln Journal Star. All rights reserved.
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Many Mysterious Images and Objects are Seen in the WTC Smoke.


Crosses are Seen Standing in the Ruins after the WTC Towers Collapse.
Images and Crosses
Editor's Comments

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was working at my home office. After being informed of the first terrorist attack on the Trade Center towers I turned on the television and watched the horror unfold. I was shocked at the unimaginable destruction, and overwhelming loss of life. It was a tragedy beyond belief.

As I watched that morning, I noticed a series of eerie faces in the billowing smoke. These images appeared to morph in the seemingly never-ending pillars of ugly black smoke. I made a mental note of these surreal apparitions, and I mentioned it to my wife. I did not discuss these sightings again. After all, I tend to see images in clouds. However the images I see in clouds are always pleasant images, usually animals.

In assembling the archives for this site, I viewed thousands of images and newspaper covers. Again, I noticed the eerie faces in the still images of the smoke of the burning towers. They seemed to be present in not just one, but several of the burning tower images. Further research provided additional information and seemed to confirm what I was seeing.

Ashcroft says faith, not military, undergirds American power


Capitol Hill-AP -- Attorney General John Ashcroft says President Bush commands America's armed forces, but "understands that it is faith and prayer that are the sources of this nation's strength."

Ashcroft told a National Day of Prayer gathering on Capitol Hill that Americans pray because they believe that "God operates in the affairs of men."

But Missouri Senator Jim Talent said the chief benefit of prayer isn't getting what we ask so much as just getting to know God.

An organizer of the event asked God to make the United States a righteous example as Iraqis struggle to establish their own democracy.

Wandering Cult Befuddles Japan


Posted on Sat, May. 03, 2003

Associated Press

YAMATO, Japan - For years, they have traveled the back roads of Japan in an all-white caravan, swathing their camps in white fabric. They say they are protecting a sick prophet from an invisible enemy, and the world from Armageddon.

Most Japanese had never heard of the Pana Wave Laboratory cult until it rolled into this rural community in western Japan last week, transforming a secluded mountain road into a clinical white cocoon.

But as a police standoff began and pictures of the strange camp began dominating the television news, something seemed eerily familiar to many Japanese.

"The first thing I thought was, it's another Aum Shinrikyo," said farmer Kanichi Sakai, standing at a police barricade near the group's camp. "It was so unreal I had to come see for myself."

The weeklong standoff was resolved with little more than a show of force and the issuing of parking tickets. But it riveted Japan, and served as a reminder that cults like Aum, which set up strongholds in the countryside and carried out a deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways in 1995, continue to thrive.

The timing of the standoff was almost as spooky as the white-draped landscapes.

Just days before, prosecutors closed their case against Aum's guru, Shoko Asahara, who allegedly ordered the subway gassing to provoke an apocalypse he predicted only his followers would survive. He faces the death penalty for the attack, which killed 12 and left thousands sick.

No link between Aum and Pana Wave is suspected, and the standoff was nonviolent.

But before ordering a crackdown, even the chief of Japan's National Police Agency was quoted as saying the cult - with its doomsday doctrine, claims of persecution and mysterious leader - "resembles Aum in its early days."

Police broke up the camp Thursday when about 300 officers, some in riot gear, moved in and warned an estimated 30 cultists to leave or face arrest for obstructing traffic.

The dozen-or-so vehicles left, then stopped for the night along a rural highway 12 miles away.

It was unclear where they were headed.

The caravan, believed to carry the group's ailing guru, has moved around western Japan since 1994. Before arriving here, about 160 miles west of Tokyo, it spent almost eight months on a desolate stretch of road in a neighboring state.

The cult says it seeks refuge from deadly electromagnetic waves generated by power lines and controlled by "left-wing elements." It believes white fabric helps neutralize the waves.

"It's impossible to get away from the effects of these weapons completely," spokesman Mitsumoto Kikuchi told dozens of reporters who converged on the caravan this week. "What we're doing is looking for the safest possible environment, one far away from power lines."

According to cult watchers and media reports quoting police sources, Pana Wave was founded under a different name around 1977 by Yuko Chino, a self-proclaimed prophet who preaches a blend of Christianity, Buddhism and New Age doctrines.

The group reportedly owns property in several rural areas and once claimed several thousand members. Estimates of its membership range from several hundred to 1,200.

Pana Wave says attacks by electromagnetic waves have left Chino - who is believed to be in the most heavily guarded van in the caravan - with terminal cancer.

Her death, according to cult literature, would deprive humanity of its only hope for salvation.

Chino has prophesied that a 10th planet approaching Earth will bring massive earthquakes, giant tidal waves and other "cataclysmic" changes as early as this summer.

"This is a cult in its terminal phase," said lawyer Taro Takimoto, part of a national network advising cult victims. "Its delusions are getting deeper and it appears less concerned about run-ins with the outside world."

Police nationwide are strengthening surveillance.

But critics say the initial reluctance to crack down may send the wrong message to other fringe groups. Experts have long blamed inaction for emboldening Aum.

"The only word for it is negligence," said Masaki Kido, a lawyer who has represented victims of the subway gas attack.

Christian fundamentalists behind new U.S. satellite TV for Iraq

From: Paul W Harrison


The U.S. government this week launched its Arabic language satellite TV news station for Muslim Iraq.

It is being produced in a studio -- Grace Digital Media -- controlled by fundamentalist Christians who are rabidly pro-Israel.

That's Grace as in "by the Grace of God."

Grace Digital Media is controlled by a fundamentalist Christian millionaire, Cheryl Reagan, who last year wrested control of Federal News Service, a transcription news service, from its former owner, Cortes Randell.

Randell says he met Reagan at a prayer meeting, brought her in as an investor in Federal News Service, and then she forced him out of his own company.

Grace Digital Media and Federal News Service are housed in a downtown Washington, D.C. office building, along with Grace News Network.

When you call the number for Grace News Network, you get a person answering "Grace Digital Media/Federal News Service."

According to its web site, Grace News Network is "dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's presence in the world today."

"Grace News Network will be reporting the current secular news, along with aggressive proclamations that will 'change the news' to reflect the Kingdom of God and its purposes," GNN proclaims.

Grace News Network proclaims that it will be a "unique tool in the Lord's ministry plan for the world."

"Grace News Network provides networking links and portals to various ministries and news services that will be of benefit to every Christian believer and seeker of truth," according to the company's mission statement.

The CEO of Grace News Network is Thorne Auchter.

Grace News Network has produced a documentary movie titled "Israel: Divine Destiny" which it showed at the National Press Club in September 2002.

The film is about "Israel's destiny and the United States' role in that destiny," according to Grace News Network.

Grace News said that it could not make a copy of the film available to us at this time, since it is now undergoing post-production editing. Nor could it provide a transcript.

The mainstream media has documented strong and growing ties between right-wing Republican Christian fundamentalists and right-wing Sharonist Israeli expansionists.

This alliance is personified in Ralph Reed's "Stand Up for Israel," a group formed to "mobilize Christians and other people of faith to support the State of Israel."

Ulsi a possible remedy for SARS: Expert


PTI[ SUNDAY, APRIL 27, 2003 02:10:07 PM ]

MUMBAI: The sacred 'tulsi' plant, especially the 'ram tulsi', could be a possible effective remedy for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to Dr Mirza Anwar Baig, Director, Aarish Academy and Alternative Research Centre here.

In homoeopathy, a Brazilian tulsi is being used, which is similar to Ram tulsi in action in the correction of symptoms close to SARS, Baig told PTI here today.

The Brazilian tulsi ‘Viola Odorata', a specific homeoepathic remedy has been used in a typical case where symptoms are like SARS on the respiratory system (both upper and lower) and distress and oppression of chest, Baig, a practising naturopath, said.

Another Brazilian tulsi Ipecacuanha which is similar to the wild Indian Krishna tulsi also has wide range therapeutic use but Ram Tulsi, according to him, would be more effective in SARS like symptoms.

In India, there are four tulsi varieties -- Ram tulsi, Seeta tulsi, Krishna and Radhe tulsi. These have also been shown as medicinally effective, having wider range of therapeutic uses, Baig said.

Tulsi, which is traditionally used in puja, is known to be effective presummer and cold season protector, he added. He further said, despite many advances in the scientific understanding of infectious diseases, influenza remains an enigma, present form of it -- SARS.

SARS usually begins two to seven days following contact with an affected person and in most cases, the manifestation is a fever with flu-like symptoms over a period of a week. The SARS patient may develop dry cough and rash and may die due to fulminating pneumonia.

Heaven's Gate still alive and kicking?

From: Paul W Harrison

Religioustolerance.org reports the following:

'A couple of the surviving members of the [Heaven's Gate] group who did not "leave" have been maintaining their web site at http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/ and distributing materials and information that the group left behind. During the 1980's the group made over 500 audio tapes of their secluded classroom teachings. They also made 11 video tapes and wrote a large anthology of their teachings. The survivors have digitized over 200 hours of those audio tapes, and about 20 hours of Video material and stored the entire archive on three CD-ROM's which can be played on a computer using the RealPlayer technology. They feel it is important to offer this world a permanent record of this groups activities. They are making the CD's themselves available at no charge, asking only that the shipping charges be covered by the recipient. Email rep@heavensgate.com with your postal address to receive the material.' Sender: Paul W Harrison, TESL interEnglish (Finland)

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Research proves the existence of a 'sixth sense'


Scottish academics find proof of mediums' ability to use extrasensory perception
By Karin Goodwin

Scottish academics claim to have found scientific proof of a 'sixth sense' after completing radical experiments which seek to establish how spiritual mediums obtain information supposedly transmitted from beyond the grave.

The controversial research, led by a University of Glasgow professor, appears to discount the common assumption that mediums are merely picking up signals from body language, or relying on guesswork and prior knowledge.

The findings come as a res urgence of interest in seances has been noted nationally by experts, with an increase in spiritualist church attendances and meetings and a spate of television programmes involving alleged psychics.

Head researcher, Professor Archie Roy, said: 'There is no doubt from the work we have done that mediums can obtain information using more than the five normal senses.

'The results so far have been assessed with hard maths and statistics. We believe that we have disproved the idea that all mediums are able to do is make general statements.

'Until recently parapsychology was quite disinterested in spontaneous work with mediums. Now there seems to be a different attitude. You can do a lot of very good work with mediums as long as you are patient, spend a lot of time and are not too confrontational.'

Professor Roy's experiments, said to be the most conclusive to date, used scientific techniques such as double blind testing in which the medium and the recipients, or audience, were placed in separate rooms.

Communication was established using a microphone and the identities of all involved kept under wraps. Now Roy wants to conduct further research to discover how the positive results of the last experience could be explained.

He said: 'We now have to move beyond these findings. One theory is that the medium can access information in other people's minds but how does the medium do this? This research will have to be followed up by all sorts of investigation.'

His work has already sparked fierce debate in the academic community. Yet even doubters have admitted his methodology seems sound, though many believe it will need to be replicated if it is to regarded as authoritative.

According to Gordon Smith, a medium involved in the experiments that spanned over four years, although some of his work can be explained by normal phenomenon the research proves he is also using senses that we don't understand.

He said: 'Basically you are using a heightened sense. It is just like radio waves. If there is an emotional tie with the person you want to contact a medium can pick up the signals.

'A lot of scientists would argue that I am downloading the information from somewhere and I wouldn't argue with that. There's not always a spirit contact. If you were very emotional you'd give off a lot of feeling and I would be able to pick up the fact that you were going through a crisis time.

'However with a lot of the work I've done with Archie Roy I can't even see the audience and so I can't fall back on body language.

'When you are working with the scientific community you can't make general statements -- it is totally different from the way you might see people on TV just trawling for information with general statements like 'I can feel someone over here has lost someone'.'

Despite widespread scepticism regarding the claims of mediums, seance attendances have rocketed. The Spiritualist National Union now has some 20,000 members and estimates regular attendances of around three times that number at over 300 churches in the UK.

While they believe some of the interest has been sparked by television series such as Living TV's ghost-hunting show, Most Haunted, and high-profile stunts such as the supposed Princess Diana seance, they also point to social factors.

John Weir, Scottish chairman of the SNU, said: 'There has certainly been an upsurge in interest. Young people particularly are looking from something different that is not being given to them elsewhere. Spiritualists are answering a need in the community.

'The only person who can really know if it is genuine is the one who gets a message. When that happens it is certainly a wonderful experience and it can be really uplifting for someone going through grief. People are mostly in need of comfort.'

Yet many have warned against the exploitative techniques used by some mediums.

Though unscrupulous spiritualists can be prosecuted under the Fraudulent Mediums Act, brought in after the second world war to stop psychics claiming contacts with dead soldiers, the industry is not officially regulated.

Dr Richard Wiseman, psychology professor, at Hertfordshire university said: 'Whether a medium is genuine or not, they may still make you feel better about your loss and no harm is done.

'However there is the danger that they can be exploitative. The concept of bereavement counselling is about reaching closure. But a medium can work to keep that link open and if you start to become dependent on that medium that's where it can become dangerous.'

'The Seashell on the Mountaintop': He Revised the History of the Earth

April 27, 2003

Every year about this time, gardeners and farmers reckon that the ground has thawed enough to put in the new year's crop. And, just as surely, there will be new stones to toss away from beneath the discs of plows and rototillers. Didn't we toss away all those stones last year? And the year before?

You could swear, if you didn't know better, that the stones must grow all winter in the ground like potatoes, or that they fall from the sky when no one is looking, maybe during the new moon. But how do you know better? Today geologists tell us that much of Long Island is just a mound of glacial debris, so we should expect to keep turning up stones as we sift the soil. But there were no accepted theories of the earth or its properties until the 1800's, and it wasn't until the 1970's that plate tectonics was sufficiently accepted to be included in textbooks. During the Renaissance and well into the Enlightenment, it was just as reasonable to accept that stones grew or fell to earth. Confirmation by experimentation was admired, but seldom practiced.


Debate over evolution might be heard again in halls of state government


Posted Thursday, May 1, 2003 - 7:13 pm

By Ron Barnett


For the education establishment, and for all but a small group of scientists, the debate over evolution was put to rest a long time ago.

But the case will be heard again in the halls of state government this fall, if the South Carolina House of Representatives approves a bill just adopted by the Senate.

The bill calls for creating a 19-member committee that would hear testimony from top scientists and report to the General Assembly on "whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools."

"I think it would be a great opportunity to hear from national experts on both sides of the issue," said Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, who put forward the idea. "I think it would be a great exercise."

He said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools. Scientists who espouse Intelligent Design question whether random mutation and natural selection — the cornerstone's of Darwin's theory of evolution — can account for the complexity of life.

The public school system's top science educator said such a debate would make South Carolina a national laughingstock.

"Intelligent Design is not science, it's creationism masquerading under a different name," said Linda Sinclair, science consultant for state Department of Education. "It doesn't belong in the science curriculum. It belongs in a religion class."

More than 100 scientists from around the country have signed "a scientific dissent from Darwinism" stating that "careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be discouraged." They hail from institutions ranging from Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of South Carolina.

To show how small a minority those scientists are, the National Center for Science Education put out a statement debunking Intelligent Design that was signed by 200 scientists — all of whose first name is "Steve."

Curt Ballard, chairman of the science department at Easley High School, said his classes discuss the biblical account of creation in studying origins of life, but without going into "conjecture and personal beliefs."

"The bottom line is, I'm a certified teacher in science in South Carolina, not a certified theologian," he said. "I think it's a little scarier to think that we teachers are supposed to start teaching some religious view."

Fair backed off a previous amendment he had hoped to attach to the bill which would have required all science textbooks in the public schools to have a statement informing students that, "The cause or causes of life are not scientifically verifiable. Therefore, empirical science cannot provide data about the beginning of life."

Forming a "Science Standards Committee" appointed by the governor, the Legislature and state education officials, he said, was a compromise he put together after sensing that his colleagues in the Senate weren't comfortable putting a disclaimer in textbooks. Members of the committee would receive no pay or compensation for their expenses.

Friday, May 02, 2003

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Dennis Swift, Ph.D.

Secrets Of The Pyramids
Pharaohs And Past Civilizations

Dr. Swift, of Portland, Oregon, is a research associate of our Dr. Don Patton. The two have conducted creation research around the world. Tuesday evening Dr. Swift will probe the past and reveal amazing new discoveries that demonstrate the Egyptians had a high technology. Egyptians performed brain surgeries, 4,600 years ago, erected megalithic monuments that modern man cannot duplicate. Dr. Swift will bring actual Egyptian artifacts that show the Egyptians used incredible high speed devices to cut and shape 200 ton stones. In this presentation you will also see the pyramids of China, and other astonishing megalithic monuments that contradict evolutionary dogma.

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

Tuesday, May 6th, 7:30 PM

See http://www.creationism.org/swift/

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – May 2, 2003

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from The New York Times

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have taken stem cell research in a novel direction, showing how the cells can be converted in the laboratory into egg cells like those produced in the ovary. The work has some theologians reconsidering their ideas about the nature of life.

Use of such eggs might make therapeutic cloning - the idea of repairing patients' tissues by cloning their own body cells - ethically more acceptable to those who object to it. Further, the unfertilized eggs seem capable of developing parthenogenetically, or without the help of sperm, into embryos.

The research was by a team from Penn including Dr. Karin Hübner, Dr. Hans R. Schöler, and researchers elsewhere. They report in today's issue of Science that they developed a way to generate unfertilized eggs, known as oocytes, from mouse embryonic stem cells. They have not tried the same experiment with human embryonic stem cells, but the two species are generally very similar at the stem cell level.


from The Christian Science Monitor

SAN FRANCISCO – When the "Big One" strikes, seismologist Richard Allen likes to think that southern California will be prepared. Today, he will announce that scientists are ready to create the most sophisticated earthquake-warning system in the country's history.

If implemented, the system would transform the way everyone from factory workers to freeway commuters responds to damaging temblors. Power plants would be able to shut off before the shaking starts. Trains could slow down. School children could take cover.

There is, however, one important asterisk: The alerts would go out only seconds before a quake hit.

After decades of study dedicated to predicting earthquakes days or months ahead of time, such an achievement might seem inconsequential. After all, three seconds is hardly enough time to get out of a chair. But in a time of interconnected networks and "smart buildings" that can instantly counteract fault shifts with computer-controlled hydraulics, even a few seconds could dramatically improve public safety.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Aging brains may be sharpened and, in effect, made young again briefly by increasing levels of a neurochemical called GABA, a study suggests.

University of Utah researchers found that GABA appears to help extremely old rhesus monkeys focus their vision and thinking processes by silencing the interfering static from other neurons.

GABA screens out stray brain signals that may make thinking and seeing difficult in older brains, said Audie Leventhal, of the University of Utah School of Medicine.

"It eliminates the garbage signals," said Leventhal, an author of the study published today in the journal Science.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

The academic quality and reputation of UC Berkeley's "crown jewel" physics department have declined and need "immediate and significant" action to halt the damage, a confidential report says.

The report was prepared at the university's request by a six-member team of highly regarded outside physicists who visited the department in March.

According to the team's report, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle, the department's future is clouded by departures of promising younger faculty, inadequate office and lab space, "the dysfunctional computer system on campus" and other problems.


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At a Town Meeting, Cosmologists Debate - Well, Everything

April 29, 2003

Brandishing a big microphone and even bigger questions, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson bounded nimbly about a stage in the American Museum of Natural History the other night, playing a sort of Jerry Springer of science.

Dr. Tyson, who introduced himself as the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium, had invited five "distinguished" cosmologists into his lair for a roasting disguised as a debate about the Big Bang. It was part of series in honor of the late and prolific author Isaac Asimov (540 books written or edited). What turned out to be at issue was less the Big Bang than cosmologists' pretensions that they now know something about the universe, a subject about which "the public feels some sense of ownership," Dr. Tyson said.


National Day of Reason Celebrated as Alternative to National Day of Prayer

(Washington, DC) Today the American Humanist Association (AHA) and the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) held an event at the National Press Club announcing the National Day of Reason (NDR) an alternative to the National Day of Prayer. Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty, said, "Whereas the government-sanctioned sectarianism inherent in the National Day of Prayer is unduly exclusionary, celebrating reason is universal. All religious and non-religious people recognize the value of reason."

Simultaneous NDR events are taking place in over a dozen locations across the country. The website listed 45 national and local group endorsements along with hundreds of individual endorsers from 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Steven Goldberg, a WASH board member, said, "Today we stand against the constitutional abuse given credence by the White House in the form of the National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Reason is a thoughtful alternative to government-sponsored religious activities, and the NDR events show what many Americans are doing to oppose the church-state alliance the Bush administration is forcing upon the country."

Tony Hileman, executive director of the AHA, called on others to join in this effort, "On behalf of all the groups involved, we ask people to stand together with us to support reason, religious freedom, and our constitutional right to keep the government out of our private religious or philosophic beliefs."


The National Day of Reason (www.nationaldayofreason.org) celebrates reason - a concept all Americans can support - and raises public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

Russian woman speaks languages from 'past lives'


A Russian woman who claims to be able to speak 120 languages says many of them are from her previous lives.

Linguists claim to have identified that she speaks 16th century English,Chinese, Persian, Egyptian, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Korean and Swahili, reports Komsomol'skaya Pravda.

Tatti Valo, 23, from the south Russian town of Anapa said: "They're just languages I remember from my past lives. They just came to me one day ten years ago in a mathematics class at school.

"In a split second I just forgot Russian. I couldn't speak a single word in Russian but I shocked the teacher and my classmates by speaking languages they didn't know."

Story filed: 09:45 Thursday 1st May 2003

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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In the News

Today's Headlines - May 1, 2003

from The Los Angeles Times

Citing "systemic management failures" by the University of California, the U.S. Energy Department announced Wednesday that it will for the first time hold an open competition for the contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory when the university's current deal expires in 2005.

But Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he has decided not to break UC's contract immediately, because it could cause significant disruption at the nation's premier nuclear weapons design center. Also, he said the university has taken "vigorous action" since December to correct its management and business failings.

The decision follows months of allegations and revelations of theft, fraud, security lapses and lax oversight at the New Mexico laboratory, which UC has managed — without competition — since the dawn of the nuclear age.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Should a university be producing nuclear bombs?

The University of California scored a major success Wednesday in fighting off calls for the termination of its long-held contract to run the Los Alamos National Laboratory because of a management scandal. The contract will be put up for bid when it expires in September 2005, and the university has been told it is welcome to compete.

But that compromise, which the university fought for ferociously, has forced it to confront troubling questions about what role, if any, a research university should play in designing, producing and maintaining the most destructive weapons ever created -- the stock in trade of Los Alamos and the other weapons lab UC runs, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


from The Washington Post

Scientists have found thousands of worms alive in an experiment container that was aboard the space shuttle Columbia when it broke apart over Texas on Feb. 1.

The population of worms known as C. elegans, each only slightly bigger than a pinhead, survived the violent, high-velocity reentry and an impact with the ground of at least 120 mph, NASA officials and scientists said yesterday.

Five of six metal containers that held the worms were picked up in Texas weeks ago but had remained closed while they were processed by accident investigators at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham said.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Two nearly identical sequences of the SARS virus genetic structure have been reviewed and authenticated by experts and are being rushed into print by Science, one of the world's leading scientific journals.

The publication of the virus genome should help researchers find drugs to treat the deadly respiratory illness and to develop a vaccine to prevent the infection.

A team of Canadians first sequenced a strain of the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, using specimens taken from a patient in Toronto, journal officials said Thursday.


from The New York Times

Scientists have decoded the genome of the anthrax bacterium and found that it closely resembles that of a common soil bacterium.

The finding, published today in the journal Nature, is expected to help scientists pinpoint the genetic machinery that makes anthrax so deadly and devise therapies against it.

The type of anthrax that was decoded is known as the Ames strain, a particularly deadly form that has long been studied in biological weapons laboratories and was used in the anthrax mailings.


from The New York Times

LAS CRUCES, N.M., April 26 — It is science-fair season, and the competition is fearsome, as Chris Lemke, a ninth grader, found out after his microbiology project won first place in his Texas school district, catapulting him up to the regionals.

Chris had collected germ samples from a toilet, cultured them in petri dishes and charted the results on a four-foot-high corrugated board. It was nothing spectacular, but seemed a perfectly respectable project. Science fairs have changed, however. When Chris carried his display into the regional fair in Fort Worth last month, he knew immediately that he was out of his league.

"Kids had boards that were monsters, nine feet tall, and the judges were real stuck-up," he said. One judge laughed out loud at his display. "And it was not a fun laugh. I wanted to take my board and beat him over the head."

Chris's mother added: "We were overwhelmed. We hadn't realized that science fairs had gotten so professional."


from The Christian Science Monitor

DAYALPUR, INDIA – Molly Ninan is about the last person on earth you'd expect to have a handheld computer. A field nurse in this rural Indian village, she sets out on foot every day to monitor the basic medical needs of roughly 7,000 residents of an area rife with poverty and illiteracy.

But in this hamlet 25 miles south of New Delhi, Ms. Ninan is using state-of-the-art technology to track patient medical histories, immunization and natal-care needs, and education and literacy levels. As she does, she joins a major government undertaking to develop useful technologies for common people in India's countryside which could serve as models for the whole developing world.

"With India's very large population, whatever digital divide [remedies] are established here as a success could become models for the rest of the world, and the developing world in particular," says R.R. Shah, the secretary of India's Information Technology Ministry.


A collection of comics, parodies and cartoons on the paranormal.


Let's face it - it's easy to make fun of the paranormal. Ghosts, Bigfoot, the hollow earth, psychics... the paranormal is filled with a lot of pretty goofy ideas. And although we usually take them pretty seriously around here, it's important sometimes not to take them too seriously.

The Skinny on Fats


by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormonelike substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.

Politically Correct Nutrition is based on the assumption that we should reduce our intake of fats, particularly saturated fats from animal sources. Fats from animal sources also contain cholesterol, presented as the twin villain of the civilized diet.

See also:

Magnets cure stroke:

Pesticides in food causes polio:

World Violence caused by environmental contaminants:

Dental mercury in fillings is poisonous:

Soft Drinks cause violence:

Cultists fearing microwave attack whitewash roadside


GIFU -- Some 40 members of a bizarre cult have taken over a 200-meter stretch of road in Gifu Prefecture, covering up crash barriers and roadside trees with huge white cloths, it was learned Tuesday.

Officials of Hachiman and Yamato, the two central Japan towns that manage the Omami road, have urged members of the Fukui-based cult, the "Panawave Laboratory," to move out but they have refused to comply.

"One of us fell ill while we were heading to Yamanashi Prefecture (so we can't move)," one of the cultists, who are dressed in all white and wear surgical masks, said as their reason for occupying the road since last Friday.

A fleet of 13 white vehicles is parked alongside the Omami road as of Saturday afternoon. Since then, motorists who want to drive along the occupied 200-meter stretch are being stopped by Panawave members before they are allowed to go through.

Hundreds of newsmen have gathered at the scene but the cultists, who claim to be studying environmental damage triggered by electromagnetic waves, would not let them through. Occasionally some television news crewmembers were violently pushed away by cult members who argue that their TV cameras were emitting microwaves.

Local residents are understandably concerned.

"You don't normally see many cars on this road. This lot is freaky. I want them to get out of here," a local farmer said. Some residents have put up signs that read, "Get out now!"

Cultist held a news conference Saturday after police calmed down both parties. "A senior member suffers from terminal cancer after she came under a microwave attack from communist guerrillas," a cult spokesman said. They added that they are wandering around Japan in search of a place without electric pylons, which emit electromagnetic waves and badly affect the woman's health.

Panawave was reportedly formed in the late 1970s and has an official membership of around 3,000, although the real number is believed to be considerably lower.

The group claims that electromagnetic waves are causing catastrophic environmental destruction, including a rise in temperature. The damages caused by the waves will ultimately result in the end of the earth, according to the cult.

They also allege that scalar wave attacks are being carried out by communist terrorists who have dispersed around the world following the break up of the Soviet Union.

Panawave members always wear white garments saying that they protect them from the ill-effects of electromagnetic waves. They have previously been in trouble with authorities for blocking traffic and covering road signs, signals and trees with white cloths.

The cult is also believed to be sponsoring a group that tried to net Tama-chan the bearded seal who lived in a Yokohama river in March.

The animal rights group, the Tama-chan wo Omou Kai (Consideration for Tama-chan Society), built a tiny pool in a mountainous village in Yamanashi Prefecture with the cult's money and reportedly planned to keep the seal until they could transfer it back to arctic seas.

(Compiled from Mainichi and wire reports, April 29, 2003)

Operation Clambake webmaster honored

On May 18, the 2003 Leipzig Human Rights Award will be given to Andreas Heldal-Lund, a Norwegian freethinker who has worked to expose the Church of Scientology with his Operation Clambake web site at www.xenu.net. The award ceremony is to be held in Leipzig, the home of a large human rights movement in what used to be East Germany. It is hosted by a citizen's committee composed of Europeans and Americans of diverse beliefs who support "human rights and religious freedom in the USA."

Over the years, Scientology representatives have used a variety of not-so-subtle methods to suppress information at Heldal-Lund's Operation Clambake site. Their contrived efforts have not infrequently backfired. Last year, for instance, the lawsuit-happy Church invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to have Google remove "Clambake" links from its base index. To the relief of free-speech advocates, however, the widely acclaimed search engine found a way not to totally give in to the litigious sect.

In his approach to Scientology, Heldal-Lund operates on the principle that people have a right to know what to expect -- prior to handing over increasingly exorbitant amounts of money in exchange for unproven claims. Therefore, he created and maintains a web site that has appeared on national television and is known throughout the world for documenting and counteracting practices ranging from unethical sales to potential human rights abuses, especially with regards to children. In return, Scientology has grimly made its presence known both to Heldal-Lund and his ISPs over the site's six years of existence. Through it all, Heldal-Lund has unflinchingly demonstrated that Scientology conceals important features of its doctrines that would, if they were known, keep people from acting rashly, a benefit that is generalized to other areas.

The award committee is also concerned about a timely message, "the European-American friendship for which we have all been working so hard in the past decades." In this regard, they "are concerned about the attacks by the Scientology organization on the lives and human dignity of not only its own members, but also of its critics" on both side of the Atlantic

The official award site, including how to get registered in the Tabula Gratulatoria, which is presented to the recipient along with a beautifully scripted Award certificate

Suggested background sites:

look for post by Dave Touretzky, Subject: latest Scientology snow job

"The Clam FAQ", http://www.xenu.net/clam_faq.html


Volume 56 Number 3, May/June 2003


In the Hall of Ma'at, fed-up archaeology buffs fight back.


ike 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. "In the late 1990s I acquired a reasonably fast Internet connection and looked for sites on Egypt," recalls Wall. "On various message boards and discussion lists I found out just how pervasive alternative history was. Even as an amateur, I saw that it was seriously wrong and based on, at best, ignorance or, at worst, deceit." What galled Wall even more was the tone in which alternative history was presented and discussed on myriad websites and electronic discussion groups that had sprung up on the Internet. "[Pseudoarchaeological] perpetrators and their followers seemed to deal with each and every objection by abusing the questioner, twisting facts, or invoking an Egyptological conspiracy that would make Watergate look insignificant," says Wall, who claims to be particularly proud of having been labeled a "sniveling, insinuating little worm" by one preeminent pseudoarchaeological author during an online discussion.

Katherine Reece, an accountant and business manager from Clanton, Alabama, was once a "true alternative believer" who frequently posted messages on many of the same websites Wall encountered. Ironically, it was through these cyber exchanges that she was first exposed to "mainstream" archaeologists such as Garrett Fagan and amateur buffs like Wall who actively refuted alternative histories. "But almost more importantly, I saw how [pseudoarchaeological] authors themselves dealt, or didn't deal, with questions from the general public," says Reece. "People who asked questions were labeled disingenuous and worse. I wondered why [pseudoarchaeological proponents] insulted the questioners rather than answer their questions."

By 2001, Wall, Reece, and Fagan, along with South African archaeologist Michael Brass and British biochemist Duncan Edlin--all regular dissenters in pseudoarchaeological cyber forums--had had enough. "Through our online experiences, we learned that many people were unfamiliar with or lacked access to information with which they could make comparisons between alternative history books and mainstream titles and journals," says Reece. "There also seemed to be a need for a guide to direct readers toward a better understanding of history and archaeology, since most readers of alternative books were not professional archaeologists or historians." In June of that year, their website, In the Hall of Ma'at (www.thehallofmaat.com), went online.

The website takes its name from Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian principle of justice and balance, and according to its homepage aims to "provide a well-reasoned case for the mainstream version of ancient history." Its primary features are a collection of articles dealing with such topics as the weathering of the Sphinx and the age of Antarctic ice, as well as a lively message board where, according to site owner Reece, "the mainstream proponents, the numerologists, the conspiracy theorists, the fence sitters, and all the others commingle and share thoughts on history."

What makes the story behind Ma'at so compelling is that its day-to-day operation relies almost entirely upon a group of archaeology nonspecialists. Along with Reece and Wall, Ma'at's directors include geologist Paul Heinrich of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and site administrator Don Holeman, an Enfield, Connecticut-based computer engineer. Like Reece, Holeman was under the spell of pseudoarchaeology until he visited an alleged Massachusetts "monolith with indecipherable hieroglyphs" described in von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods. It turned out to be a weathered boulder bearing a commemorative plaque that identified it as a Portuguese monument. "The Portuguese inscription was barely discernable, but my disappointment was not," Holeman recalls. Fagan and Edlin are no longer regular contributors to the site but continue to support it; archaeologist Brass, author of the 2002 creation-debunking book The Antiquity of Man, is still involved with the site.

While there are websites dedicated to refuting specific pseudoarchaeological topics, such as ancient space travel or evidence for creationism, Ma'at attempts to be a clearinghouse for all topics. The message board gets up to three hundred posts a day, with ancient Egypt the most popular subject, followed by Precolumbian America. In its first year of operation, thousands of people visited Ma'at, and the website recently moved to a larger server to accommodate increasing bandwidth demands. As the popularity of Ma'at demonstrates, the hunger for reliable archaeological information and reasoned historical discussion is out there. How to explain, then, the pervasiveness of pseudoarchaeology on the web? According to the people at Ma'at, professional archaeologists and historians need to get more involved.

Heinrich became an active pseudoarchaeology debunker after watching the 1996 television program The Mysterious Origins of Man. "As a geologist, I found the inability of the producers to distinguish between natural concretions and man-made objects, their naive acceptance of theories such as Earth Crustal Displacement, which was refuted by geologists long ago, and numerous other flaws in the program to be so obvious that, given the show's popularity, I felt someone needed to take the time to point them out." Since then, Heinrich has shared his expertise with the Ma'at community and addressed more specific issues of geology and pseudoscience on his own website, The Wild Side of Pseudoarchaeology Page.

Heinrich wishes more archaeologists would follow his example. "Archaeologists obviously need to take the time to respond, in a polite and understandable fashion, to the more popular and persistent web pages and other media promoting alternative histories. Instead of just dismissing them offhand, such responses need to explain the specific logical and factual flaws in the arguments made by many alternative 'historians' and 'archaeologists.' Moreover, they have to make sure the public not only better understand what archaeology is and how it is done, but also the significance of such research to their own lives."

The Internet is often heralded as the great democratizer, providing a relatively inexpensive medium for the seamless exchange of ideas and information around the globe. Challenging the scientific "establishment," a favored role for pseudoarchaeologists, now requires little more than a theory and an Internet connection. Still, the people supporting In the Hall of Ma'at are optimistic that this frontierless new cyber world will finally provide the opportunity for scientific reason to triumph over pseudoscientific speculation. "I still have my copy of Chariots of the Gods," adds Holleman, "which I keep as a reminder that sometimes even fifty cents is too much money for a book."

The pseudoarchaeological top five:

A pro-creationist website that seeks to prove, among other things, the presence of dinosaurs in the Bible and the fallacy of carbon-14 dating.

"Independent researcher" Alan Alford pushes the idea that ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Mesopotamian religions were "exploded planet cults" and have something to teach us regarding "eternal life in the other world."

Official website for Canadian couple Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, authors of When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis and The Atlantis Blueprint.

www.sitchin.com According to ancient astronaut proponent Zecharia Sitchin, the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah derives from a nuclear attack in 2024 B.C. that wiped out "a spaceport in the Sinai Peninsula."

Preeminent pseudoarchaeologist Graham Hancock often makes personal appearances on the site's message boards and offers up exclusive articles to further his theories.

And some of the websites that refute them:

Along with FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) regarding the veracity of biological and physical evolution, this site offers FRAs (Frequently Rebutted Assertions) that often surface in creationist arguments.

A Brown University biology professor's fight against the "intelligent design" arguments of creationism.

Paul Heinrich's case against "alternative geology," including the impossibility of pole shifts and the artifact "from an advanced ancient race" that happens to be a spark plug.

An excellent collection of links to sites that dispute pseudoarchaeological theories.

Ma'atian Michael Brass keeps the public up to date with the latest research in paleoanthropology and hominid evolution.

Wednesday, April 30, 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 30, 2003

"Regarding Media" from The Los Angeles Times

As it turns out, medical news is a lot like a medicine: Too much can be as serious a problem as too little — and the wrong sort can be downright harmful.

That's the persuasive case made by Caltech President David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning virologist, who this week took the U.S. media to task for what he sees as its alarmist coverage of the international effort to contain severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

"Restaurants sit empty in Chinatowns. Parents keep children home from school in Toronto. Asian hotels and airlines reel at dramatic drops in bookings," he wrote in Monday's Wall Street Journal. "Just as the media recently gave us a new and particularly intimate experience of war, we're now getting a new and particularly fearsome experience of a public health crisis with SARS — in which a media-transmitted epidemic of concern for personal safety outpaces the risk to public health from the actual virus."


from The Washington Post

The government has launched a broad effort to develop vaccines and drugs against the SARS virus, an attempt to be prepared if the disease now causing panic and social unrest in China turns into a worldwide pandemic that threatens the United States.

Top government scientists said they are moving rapidly on multiple fronts to jump-start treatment and prevention research, particularly on vaccines. Experience with related diseases in domestic animals suggests a vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome may be possible, and scientists outside the government said that strong federal leadership could conceivably produce one in as little as a year, although two to three years is more likely.

These efforts by the National Institutes of Health come as many private companies have been hesitant to invest in SARS research, not certain whether the disease will be a lasting phenomenon. The NIH is rapidly negotiating agreements and awarding grants to propel research in public and private laboratories around the nation.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Move over, stock analysts. The latest group of professionals facing demands for full disclosure of their financial interests is cancer researchers.

Prompted by growing concerns about the integrity of clinical research, the prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology will now require scientists who present research at ASCO's huge annual conferences or publish their data in its scientific journals to report almost any financial tie with drug companies or other industry sponsors.

That covers a lot of ground, not only in the world of cancer research, where ASCO hosts thousands of presenters and has 20,000 members, but also in the drug industry, where early leaks of ASCO data can move stock prices.


from The Winston-Salem (NC) Journal

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have developed a colony of cancer-resistant mice that they hope will lead to development of a cancer treatment for humans.

The mice, which have been bred over a period of four years, are able to resist developing tumors when cancer cells are injected into them. As they age, their resistance weakens, and a tumor does develop when cancer cells are injected, but the tumor disappears within a day or two, the researchers say.

"It may be caused by a change in just one gene. That surprised all of us, that maybe if we find this one gene and how it works, it will be a good tool for humans," said Dr. Zheng Cui, an associate professor of pathology at Wake and lead scientist of the study.

The results will be published in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as other journals in coming weeks. Cui, his collaborator, Dr. Mark Willingham, and eight other Wake scientists are co-authors of the paper.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

With all signs pointing toward the end of the University of California's exclusive 60-year charge to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, possibly as early as today, the next caretaker faces the daunting task of leading a weapons laboratory already struggling with unsettling changes.

Sixty years ago, J. Robert Oppenheimer assembled a handful of physicists on New Mexico's high desert and created not just the first atomic bomb but a new realm of science, along with a laboratory to advance it, Los Alamos. The scientists were nearly all under 30, among the finest of their day, and they filled their lab with a sense that, with these terrible new weapons, they were shaping the future of mankind.

Today, Los Alamos is a $2.2 billion-a-year behemoth, with 7,500 UC employees and 3,200 contract workers and dozens of activities, from weapons to medical research. A major concern is parking.


from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Everything that goes up must come down, including a 3,086-pound Dutch-Italian satellite that splashed into the Pacific Ocean seven years after being sent into space.

The BeppoSAX satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere around 2:57 p.m. PDT Tuesday, mission member Giovanni Mussoni said by phone from Rome.

It fell in the equatorial Pacific with the debris closest to land splashing down about 186 miles northwest of the Galapagos Islands.


from UPI

NAPLES, Italy (UPI) -- Men working at highway tollbooths were found to have reduced sperm function because of their exposure to vehicle emissions, a new European study released late Tuesday showed.

Researchers at the University of Naples in Naples, Italy studied 85 young and middle-aged men who worked in highway tollbooths and compared them to 85 men of the same age living in the same area, but who held other kinds of jobs. The toll both workers were exposed to vehicle gasses an average of six hours a day. Blood and sperm samples were collected from all the study participants.

Testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone -- all critical in proper sperm function -- were found to be within normal range in both groups of men, researchers report in the May issue of Human Reproduction.

However, the tollgate workers showed a greater concentration of inactive sperm with sperm movement being significantly lower when compared to the men who did not work in tollbooths.


from The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 — An unusually high number of sea otter deaths this month off the California coast has state and federal wildlife officials worried that the sea otter population, in decline since the mid-1990's, may be experiencing troubles more serious than previously thought.

Six dead sea otters have washed ashore in the last several days, bringing to 45 the number of dead or stranded otters in California in April. That is more than double the average number for the month in the last decade, the officials said.

"We have had other times when mortality was high, but we attributed it to various things, and it tapered off," said Greg Sanders, the southern sea otter recovery coordinator for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. "But at this point we are breaking all previous records and we have not found a pattern."


The truth about lying: Course explores history of deception

Stanford Report, April 23, 2003



Ladies and gentlemen, with nothing up his sleeve, Michael John Gorman ripped up a white envelope containing a dollar bill and made the money reappear inside an orange. Sliced open, the fruit revealed a tightly furled but fully restored bill bearing the same serial number as the one Gorman had torn to pieces.

All told, it was a fairly convincing act of deception.

Gorman, a lecturer in the program in Science, Technology and Society, is co-teaching what has got to be the coolest course being offered this quarter -- Deception: Perspectives from Science, Technology and Art -- with magician Persi Diaconis, the Mary V. Sunseri Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, who holds appointments in the departments of Mathematics and Statistics.

Recall sparks alternative medicine alert

April 28 2003


Australians were today warned to avoid taking all herbal and vitamin preparations - including cod liver oil, vitamin C, and garlic pills - following the largest recall of medicines in the nation's history.

Federal parliamentary secretary for health Trish Worth said several thousand products may potentially be withdrawn following the six- month suspension of Pan Pharmaceutical's licence.

Pan Pharmaceuticals, Australia's largest contract manufacturer of complementary pharmaceuticals, has had its licence suspended following a series of safety and quality breaches.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) also ordered the urgent recall of 219 products manufactured and supplied in Australia by the company.

In a statement, the TGA said the breaches included substitution of ingredients, manipulation of test results and substandard manufacturing processes.

The TGA's principal medical adviser Dr John McEwen said "people ... should avoid taking complementary or vitamin products" until more information became available over the next few days.

Pan Pharmaceuticals represents 70 per cent of the Australian complementary pharmaceutical market and is the largest manufacturer of medicines such as herbal, vitamin, mineral and nutritional supplements.

It also manufactures some over-the-counter medicines including pain relievers and cold and flu preparations.

In January, an anti-travel sickness tablet Travacalm made by Pan Pharmaceuticals for another company was recalled.

Forty batches of the tablets were responsible for 19 people being hospitalised and 68 others experienced potentially life-threatening adverse reactions.


Thickening plots [altmed recall in OZ]

From: Terry W. Colvin

The news about the Pan products recall is quite big. The government is now suggesting that no-one really is in any danger, but don't take any of these tablets just in case (read : we're not going to make sure people get refunds for these hideously overpriced substances but please don't try to sue us if anything goes wrong).

Meanwhile, as I predicted, the conspiracy theories are starting to appear. Last night the bloke who heads the association representing complementary medicine suppliers was making not so veiled suggestions that the whole thing is a plot by the pharmaceutical companies to taint the image of complementary medicine in the public eye. Ths of course is not helped by members of the pharmaceutical industry saying that this was what they were saying all along and people didn't really need complementary medicines anyway. Just wait for the next issues of Nexus and New Dawn to hit the shelves.

The representative also suggested that the reason why Pan failed all the tests was that the scientific tests used to test the purity of their products weren't appropriate for complementary medicines and that his organisation has alway called for their own style of testing (probably involving crystals or something). Mind you, "their own style of testing" was exactly what Pan were doing. In addition to their own style of testing, allegations are now surfacing that the management of Pan bullied their workers into keeping dodgy practices secret, which kind of tempers worries that thousands will lose their jobs because of this recall.

Finally, on the subject of management, it has also been revealed that the CEO of Pan was suspended for three months in the 70s for selling paracetamol products with a distinct lack of paracetamol, and then the company was fined in the 90s for selling evening primrose oil before it was approved.

useful urls from the newslimited papers below :

Banned Drugs Still on the shelves

Drug maker defends record

Nightmare just beginning for Pan

Parents sue over travel pill
(info on the hallucinations for Tom R.)

Non-Pan firms reassuer customers

Staff bullied to save on costs

Pan boss suspended before


Tuesday, April 29, 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 29, 2003

from The Washington Post

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) may be less dangerous to children than to teenagers and adults, Chinese researchers reported yesterday.

A study involving the first 10 children treated for SARS in Hong Kong found that they experienced milder symptoms than adults or teenagers, were sick for less time, appeared less likely to spread the disease and were not nearly as likely to die of the new lung infection.

"Compared with adults and teenagers, SARS seems to have a less aggressive clinical course in younger children," Tai Kai Fok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong wrote in a paper posted on the Internet yesterday by the Lancet, a medical journal.


from The Boston Globe

It all started with the fruit bats, the ones with a weakness for mango and a reputation for nasty table manners.

It ended with 1.1 million pigs slaughtered, 105 humans dead, and the discovery of a new peril to mankind.

When the curtain rose on Nipah virus in 1998, it was a drama in three acts, spotlighting performances from bats, pigs, and humans in a story as old as the first microbes to spread disease and misery on Earth. Somehow the virus catapulted from one species to another and then a third, with profoundly varying health consequences.

Now, disease detectives hot on the trail of the coronavirus implicated in the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, are increasingly suspicious that a similar phenomenon unfolded with that disease, which appeared out of nowhere one autumn day last year on the lower lip of China. They're looking at everything from primates to the exotic reptiles that wind up on dinner tables in southern China as potential routes of transmission for the virus to humans.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Washington -- In the latest blow to the University of California, a government report released Monday found that Los Alamos National Laboratory failed to track hundreds of laptop computers, raising questions about protections for classified information at the nuclear weapons design lab.

The report by the Department of Energy's inspector general found that managers at the lab run by UC failed to tag 70 percent of the laptops with bar codes, as required under Los Alamos' own rules. The lab also did not properly account for several laptops containing classified data, although investigators found no evidence that government secrets were compromised.

After end-of-the-year inventory reviews determined that 22 laptops were missing in 2000 and 2001, lab managers simply dropped the computers from their property list without trying to locate them, the report found.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Birds that migrate seem to have better long-term memories than ones that don't find their way back to the same place year after year.

In what they say may be the first scientific evidence that memory duration is related to migration, a team of German researchers tested the idea and reported their results for Tuesday's online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The memories of garden warblers, which migrate, were tested against the closely related Sardinian warblers, which do not, by Claudia Mettke-Hofmann and Eberhard Gwinner of the Max Planck Research Center for Ornithology in Andechs, Germany.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The health benefits of sharply cutting calories may occur after periodic fasting, even if the fast does not result in eating less overall, a new report indicates.

Scientists are now planning a study to see if fasting, which seems to benefit mice, will also be good for people too.

Benefits ranging from longer life to less stress and greater sensitivity to insulin have been reported in recent studies of severe reductions in diet.

But mice that were fed only every other day, but were allowed to gorge themselves on the days they ate, had similar health benefits to ones on a diet reduced by 40 percent of normal food intake, a team of researchers reports in Tuesday's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


from The Boston Globe

Catching fish using cyanide is easy. All you do is crush a few tablets of sodium cyanide, mix them up with some water in a plastic bottle, go find your fish and squirt. With a little care, the mixture will stun the fish without killing it. Thousands of Philippine fishermen are doing it every day - and selling the live fish to the restaurants of Hong Kong and southern China. It is one of the most lucrative international fish businesses on the planet, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Hong Kong gourmands alone eat 20,000 tons of live fish caught on the coral reefs of Southeast Asia each year. They say Philippine fish are the best and will pay up to $200 to pick a live coral trout or grouper from a tank and have it killed and cooked to order. The Philippine fisherman might get $20 of this, five to 10 times the price he'd get for a dead fish.

But the environmental toll is horrendous. The lingering cyanide in the water kills the living coral and the algae on which fish among the coral feed. Biologist Sam Mamauag of the International Marinelife Alliance in Manila estimated that every fish caught this way destroys a square meter of reef.


from The New York Times

In a rite of spring nearly as old as the Nebraska sandhills, greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse gather before dawn on their respective dancing grounds at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in the north-central part of the state.

While females watch, the males lower their heads, raise their tails, spread their wings, inflate colorful air sacs on their necks and stamp their feet while making hollow cooing or moaning sounds. The basic purpose of this elaborate display is to attract a mate.

Indeed, the dancing ground, or lek, is the avian equivalent of a singles bar, said Dr. Robert Gibson, a behavioral ecologist and professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska. But Dr. Gibson, who has studied lekking behavior around the world, is convinced there is more going on.


from The New York Times

A huge scaly serpent, usually with the wings of a bat or bird. Four or two or no legs. Breathes fire or poisonous fumes. May talk, but won't take guff from mere mortals. Sometimes has a vulnerable underbelly (good luck, Siegfried!) and sometimes is solid armor plate. May guard a treasure. May diet on virgins, or anything that crosses its path, halitosis-barbecued.

Sound familiar? Of course. For everyone from Perseus of Jaffa to Harry of Hogwarts, it's a dragon.

Now scholars drawing on primitive art, fossilized bones and ancient legends are struggling to explain how cultures that had no contact with one another constructed mythical creatures so remarkably similar. And why did dragons persist so long?


New Information Revealed In The Elizabeth Smart Investigation


By Jeff Lucas
April 4, 2003

New media reports and photographs of a recently found campsite verify that one of the shelters used by Elizabeth Smart's kidnappers to hide her was "cut into a hillside." The elaborate and sturdy structure is twenty-four feet long and part dugout, part lean-to. A report states that the roof slopes at a forty-five degree angle and is seven foot tall at its tallest point, and one foot at its lowest point.

Last August PSI TECH's President Joni Dourif and CEO Dane Spotts traveled to "This Is The Place Park" in Utah to meet Dave Smart. The monument at the park site had been determined by PSI TECH through Technical Remote Viewing® to be the nearest unique landmark to Elizabeth's present location.

It is now known that the park property was within several miles of the area where Elizabeth was being held, and that the direction of her location, northeast, was the same direction from the monument indicated in our August 22, 2002 Summary Report.

Prior to Joni and Dane's arrival in Utah last August, a member of the K9 search team informed PSI TECH that an Indian Burial Vault located within the park property closely matched many of the Technical Remote Viewing sketches.

While the K9 team searched this area, a scent dog which had been trained to specifically look for Elizabeth's scent, became agitated near the site of the vault, and wanted to enter it. At that time we insisted that the site be searched, to rule it out as a possibility.

The vault structure, like the hide-out utilized by Elizabeth's abductors, was also cut into a hillside, with its entrance sloped at an approximate 45 degree angle.

As can be seen from the TRV sketches shown to the right, (Fig. C, D, and E) the data closely matched the shelter shown in the photographs (Fig. A and B) and described in the latest news reports. The Deseret News on Wednesday reported the following:

"Farther down the hill to the south is another contraption that looks like a second cooking area. A burner-like device is set up under a rusted 55-gallon drum with five apparent flues made with plastic piping sticking out the top."

That device, made from a drum, appears to be depicted in Fig. C., directly below the sloped structure. The target remote viewed in the blind by the viewer who produced the Fig. C sketch was "Elizabeth Smart / Abductor(s) / Present Location" and was worked on July 9, 2002.

The Deseret News also reported on Wednesday that investigators found the knife used to kidnap Elizabeth at this campsite.

During analysis the viewer who produced the Fig. C. sketch wrote the following on July 9, 2002: "A male with a knife is sad, lonely, frustrated, concentrating, waiting for things to blow over."

In Fig. D, the blind target that was worked was also "Elizabeth Smart / Abductor(s) / Present Location." This sketch, produced on July 2, 2002, also depicts a sloped structure. The viewer's data written on the sketch includes the following: "Enclosed, shelter, hard, sloped, gritty, outside, bad place."

The blind target worked in the sketch shown as Fig. E was "Elizabeth Smart / Present Location." This sketch also depicts a sloped structure in a hill side and was produced on August 20, 2002.

The most difficult part of working targets involving "unknown" locations, is during analysis where we have consistent and accurate data produced by many remote viewers which accurately depicts the location, but we have to then determine exactly where, in many miles of homogenous terrain, the feature is.

We accomplish this by looking for "markers" which are nearby significant geological features or landmarks, and then compare the information to maps and descriptions of sites. In this case, that landmark was identified as "This Is The Place Monument" which is located just a few miles away from the area where Elizabeth was being held captive. Click here to view a map of the area.

Special thanks to everyone who is participating in this post-project analysis for their continued valued assistance, by sending in articles, photographs, links and data comparisons. And as promised we will keep our readers updated on this project as developments unfold.


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 634 April 23, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

SHOCKING COLOR EFFECTS. A photonic crystal is a lattice of structures (sometimes an arrangement of rods or a solid filled with a pattern of holes) with a periodic alteration in the index of refraction. In such a material waves with only a select band of frequencies may propagate successfully. Other frequencies are forbidden. What happens, though, when a shock wave moves through the lattice, momentarily compressing or expanding the characteristic spacings? A new "computational experiment" (detailed computer simulation) provides an intriguing answer. Evan J. Reed, Marin Soljacic, and John Joannopoulos at MIT determine that a light beam moving in a shock-modified photonic crystal will undergo two unexpected changes: a Doppler shifting hundreds or even 10,000 times bigger than usual and a bandwidth narrowing. There are plenty of phenomena that can broaden a signal's bandwidth but none yet known that would narrow the bandwidth of an arbitrary signal in this way (and by factors of 4 or more). As for the Doppler shift (a change in the frequency of the light owing to its reflection from a moving target), the light reflecting from the shock wave can be "up converted" (e.g., turned from red light into green light) with an efficiency that should match or exceed the up conversions achieved with nonlinear optical materials. Furthermore, the shock conversion process is tunable and independent of light intensity.

According to Evan Reed (evan@mit.edu, 617-253-5482) the MIT research should generate great surprise and interest among those who work with photonic crystals. The next step will be to implement the computational results in the laboratory with samples and actual shock waves, although for the sake of eventual commercial applications (frequency conversion and signal modulation) future modifications in photonic crystals will not have to be initiated with guns or laser pulses but with less destructive acousto-optic effects. The photonic-crystal modulations might even be actuated with some kind of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) device. (Reed et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; website http://ab-initio.mit.edu )

FEMTOGRAM MASS DETECTION has been achieved with cantilever oscillators at Oak Ridge National Lab. Once set to vibrating at MHz frequencies with a diode laser, the tiny cantilevers (tiny slivers of silicon as small as 2 microns long and 50 nm thick) are exposed to an atmosphere of small particles or molecules. Depending on how the cantilever is coated, some of the particles will be absorbed onto the surface of the cantilever, altering its resonance frequency in a measurable way. In a recent test the vapor used was an acidic substance, which was absorbed with a mass change that was noticeable at the 5 fg mass scale. Other subject particles, such as DNA, proteins, cells, or trace amounts of various chemical contaminants, should be detectable by this process. The experiment was carried out at ambient conditions, with no vacuum or cryogenic temperatures. According to Panos Datskos of Oak Ridge (pgd@ornl.gov, 865-574-6205) the mass sensitivity of the device can be sharpened to the molecular level if the resonance frequency can be raised from about 2 MHz at present up to 50 MHz. (Lavrik and Datskos, Applied Physics Letters, 21 April; figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/184.htm; website at www.ornl.mnl.gov )

BECs UNDERGO BRAGG EXPLOSION. Bose Einstein condensates (BEC) provide a versatile testbed for looking at quantum phenomena. And maybe cosmology too. In their calculations, physicists at the University of Nottingham first load an alkali BEC into an optical lattice, a honeycomb of laser light which holds atoms in a 3D gridwork. (For another recent BEC-in-a-lattice story, see www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2003/split/626-1.html ) Then they jar the cloud of atoms, setting the BEC into motion, and have it scatter from the same "crystal" of light beams. Instead of x rays undergoing Bragg scattering from crystallized protein, the BEC waves scatter from a crystal of light. But as it threads through the optical lattice, the pattern of Bragg reflections can create traveling zones (essentially self-perpetuating solitons and local whirlpools, or vortices) where atoms in the condensate are actually excluded (see figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/185.htm ). These solitons can in turn destabilize the BEC, causing it to explode outward. The Nottingham researchers have been trying to model this explosion using a nonlinear Schrodinger equation, a modified version of the equation that governs electron waves inside atoms. According to Mark Fromhold (mark.fromhold@nottingham.ac.uk, 44-0115-9515192), similar equations are being used in the statistical study of galaxy distribution. (See for example, Scott et al., Physical Review Letters, 21 Mar 2003)

Dinner Prayer at Virginia Military Institute Ruled Unconstitutional


The Associated Press
Published: Apr 28, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - In an important victory for First Amendment groups, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that the traditional prayers said before evening meals at the Virginia Military Institute are unconstitutional.

The decision upholds a lower court ruling and emphasizes that the extraordinary obedience demanded of VMI cadets doesn't give them the freedom to choose not to participate in what's been called a non-denominational, voluntary dinner prayer. "In establishing its supper prayer, VMI has done precisely what the First Amendment forbids," a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously. "Put simply, VMI's supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors," Judge Robert B. King wrote in the opinion. First Amendment groups hailed the ruling.

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