NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 June 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, June 25, 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.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - June 25, 2003

SHUTTLE BOARD DETERMINES LIKELY SITE OF FATAL DAMAGE
from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 24 The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today located within inches the spot on the shuttle's left wing that was damaged by foam on liftoff on Jan. 16 and said the wing came apart at that point 16 days later in the shuttle's re-entry from space.

The spot, the board said, was on the eighth of 22 panels on the leading edge of the wing, probably on its lower side.

Two board members described the evidence for fatal damage at Panel 8 as "compelling."

"We've been trying to line up all the Swiss cheese holes," one board member, Roger E. Tetrault, said, elaborating on the evidence. "I think those holes have lined up pretty good."
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/25/national/nationalspecial/25SHUT.html

U.S. AND OTHER COUNTRIES OUTLINE PROGRAM TO CURB CARBON EMISSIONS
from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 24 An array of industrialized and developing countries agreed today on the outline of a cooperative research program aimed at capturing and storing carbon dioxide, the main smokestack emission linked to global warming.

The agreement came halfway through a three-day conference in McLean, Va., organized by the Bush administration, which has argued for more than a year that a technological breakthrough will be needed to stabilize levels of so-called greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

A buildup of those gases has been blamed by many scientists for most of a 50-year warming trend that could raise sea levels and disrupt climate patterns if emissions are not reduced. Most industrialized countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a binding treaty that would require reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. It awaits ratification by Russia to take effect.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/25/international/25CARB.html

STUDY: NO EVIDENCE ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS CAUSE BREAST CANCER
from Newsday

A Long Island-based study, the largest and most sophisticated of its kind, has found no evidence that electromagnetic fields from household wiring, appliances and power lines cause breast cancer.

The long-awaited results of the $2.5-million study, first authorized in 1993, are yet another major disappointment for a determined group of local women whose activism persuaded Congress 10 years ago to earmark $30 million for a series of studies known as the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project.

"We collected a huge amount of data and we turned it upside down and looked at it from every possible angle, and we didn't see anything" to link electric fields to breast cancer, said the study's chief author, Dr. M. Cristina Leske, a professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital.
http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-liemf253345369jun25,0,1446507.story

1,000 PACK THEATER FOR PUBLIC DEBATE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY
from The Sacramento Bee

An eclectic crowd of nearly 1,000 filled the Crest Theater Monday night for the only public debate in conjunction with this week's international agriculture conference at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The spirited but mostly civil event attracted approximately as many people as the U.S. government-sponsored invitation-only meetings of agriculture ministers and showed the depth of public interest in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Adorned by piercings, body art, bandannas and anti-GMO signs, the crowd provided a stark contrast to the dark suits down the street.

Attendees paid $5 and put up with a heavy police presence outside the theater to listen to six panelists with widely divergent views about biotechnology.
http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/agriculture/story/6912738p-7862174c.html

AT BIO 2003, THE LATEST TWIST ON DNA
from The Washington Post

You know you're at a biotech convention by the names in the Exhibit Hall: Cangene, Cytovax, Dyax. Avidex, Alizyme, AstraZeneca. Biolex should not be confused with Biomax or BioMed or Biomedex or Biomira or BioNova. In the future, there will be special drugs that make it easier to keep these things straight.

There are also exhibits from places that want to attract biotech business. Manitoba, which sounds like medication but is a province of Canada, has brought along a large stuffed polar bear, a nice display item so long as no one tries to bring it back to life. New Hampshire's exhibit stars a Segway, the gyroscopically blessed scooter that is manufactured in the Granite State. A quick test drive confirms that it would be perfect for commuting from one end of the 345,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall to the other.

BIO 2003 is a rather glittery convention, quite 21st-century, and it's taking full advantage of the new Washington Convention Center. But it's also a bit enigmatic, as conventions go, for the crucial products themselves, the biotech whatevers, are never seen. No one hands you exotic proteins at the booths. There are no experimental drug freebies, darn the luck. Instead these wonderful products are merely alluded to. They are alleged to be in the pipeline. They await government approval. They are somewhere far away, in the Land of Promising Developments. In the meantime, please take this ballpoint pen with the company logo . . .
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28525-2003Jun24.html

AFTER YEARS OF FAILURE, A CODE FOR CURES?
from The Washington Post

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Last October, a researcher named Patrick Iversen, who works at a biotechnology company here, pulled genetic information about a virus off the Internet and started designing a drug to attack it. He tapped into computers in Bethesda to be sure his drug wouldn't be likely to cause side effects. Satisfied, he handed a piece of paper to his staff that same day, and a week later an underling handed back a box containing some vials of white powder.

If all goes according to plan, a doctor or nurse will draw some of that drug into a needle this year, perhaps in a big hospital in a mosquito-plagued city like Cleveland or Chicago, and inject it into a person suffering from West Nile fever. From an idea in one man's head to an injection, nine or 10 months later, the drug will have followed one of the fastest development cycles in pharmaceutical history.

Iversen was able to build his drug so quickly because he relied on something called antisense technology, which is the specialty of his company, AVI BioPharma Inc., a money-losing biotechnology outfit with headquarters in Portland and main laboratories here. For nearly two decades, antisense has been one of the most seductive technologies in science -- but one attended by practical problems and numerous test failures.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24486-2003Jun23.html

Science Friction

The growing--and dangerous--divide between scientists and the GOP.

By Nicholas Thompson

Not long ago, President Bush asked a federal agency for evidence to support a course of action that many believe he had already chosen to take on a matter of grave national importance that had divided the country. When the government experts didn't provide the information the president was looking for, the White House sent them back to hunt for more. The agency returned with additional raw and highly qualified information, which the president ran with, announcing his historic decision on national television. Yet the evidence soon turned out to be illusory, and the entire policy was called into question.

Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you say? Actually, the above scenario describes Bush's decision-making process on the issue of stem cell research. In August 2001, Bush was trying to resolve an issue he called "one of the most profound of our time." Biologists had discovered the potential of human embryonic stem cells--unspecialized cells that researchers can, in theory, induce to develop into virtually any type of human tissue. Medical researchers marveled at the possibility of producing treatments for medical conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and spinal cord injuries; religious conservatives quivered at the fact that these cells are derived from human embryos, either created in a laboratory or discarded from fertility clinics. Weighing those concerns, Bush announced that he would allow federal funding for research on 60-plus stem cell lines already taken from embryos, but that he would prohibit federal funding for research on new lines.

Within days, basic inquiries from reporters revealed that there were far fewer than 60 viable lines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has so far confirmed only 11 available lines. What's more, most of the existing stem cell lines had been nurtured in a growth fluid containing mouse tumor cells, making the stem cells prone to carrying infections that could highly complicate human trials. Research was already underway in the summer of 2001 to find an alternative to the mouse feeder cells--research that has since proven successful. But because these newer clean lines were developed after Bush's decision, researchers using them are ineligible for federal funding.

At the time of Bush's announcement, most scientists working in the field knew that although 60 lines might exist in some form somewhere, the number of robust and usable lines was much lower. Indeed, the NIH had published a report in July 2001 that explained the potential problems caused by the mouse feeder cells and estimated the total number of available lines at 30. Because that initial figure wasn't enough for the administration, according to Time magazine, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson asked the NIH to see if more lines "might conceivably exist." When NIH representatives met with Bush a week before his speech with an estimate of 60 lines scattered around the world in unknown condition, the White House thought it had what it wanted. In his announcement, Bush proclaimed, without qualification, that there were "more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines."

After his speech, then-White House Counselor Karen Hughes said, "This is an issue that I think almost everyone who works at the White House, the president asked them their opinion at some point or another." However, Bush didn't seek the advice of Rosina Bierbaum, then-director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Hughes claimed that Bush had consulted other top federal scientists, including former NIH director Harold Varmus. That was partly true, but the conversation with Varmus, for example, took place during a few informal minutes at a Yale graduation ceremony. Later press reports made much of Bush's conversations with bioethicists Leon Kass and Daniel Callahan. Yet neither is a practicing scientist, and both were widely known to oppose stem-cell research. Evan Snyder, director of the stem-cell program at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif., says, "I don't think science entered into Bush's decision at all."

The administration's stem-cell stand is just one of many examples in which the White House has made policies that defy widely accepted scientific opinion. In mid-June, the Bush administration edited out passages in an E.P.A. report that described scientific conerns about the potential risks from global warming, according to The New York Times. That same week, the American Medical Association announced its disagreement with restrictions that the Bush adminstration has proposed on cloning embryos for medical research. Why this administration feels unbound by the consensus of academic scientists can be gleaned, in part, from a telling anecdote in Nicholas Lemann's recent New Yorker profile of Karl Rove. When asked by Lemann to define a Democrat, Bush's chief political strategist replied, "Somebody with a doctorate." Lemann noted, "This he said with perhaps the suggestion of a smirk." Fundamentally, much of today's GOP, like Rove, seems to smirkingly equate academics, including scientists, with liberals.

UFO drives Russian fisherman to drink

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_793482.html?menu=news.quirkies

Fishermen in Russia say they have been driven to drink by a UFO that regularly passes over them.

Fishermen near Yekaterinburg, western Russia, claim to have repeatedly seen the small green UFO over the last two years.

Some locals admitted they become anxious when they see the object, described by eyewitnesses as a small green object the size of a light bulb and most recently sighted on June 20.

But local fishermen, who claim to see it more often than anyone else, say that every time it passes over them they have an almost unquenchable thirst for alcohol, Pravda.ru reported.

Story filed: 11:28 Tuesday 24th June 2003

Space impact 'saved Christianity'

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3013146.stm

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history?

About the size of a football field: The impact crater left behind A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity.

It was just before a decisive battle for control of Rome and the empire that Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky and attributed his subsequent victory to divine help from a Christian God.

Constantine went on to consolidate his grip on power and ordered that persecution of Christians cease and their religion receive official status.

Civil war

In the fourth century AD, the fragmented Roman Empire was being further torn apart by civil war. Constantine and Maxentius were bitterly fighting to be the sole emperor.

Constantine was the son of the western emperor Constantius Chlorus. When he died in 306, his father's troops proclaimed Constantine emperor.

...a most marvellous sign appeared to him from heaven... Eusebius But in Rome, the favourite was Maxentius, son of Constantius' predecessor, Maximian.

With both men claiming the title, a conference was called in AD 308 that resulted in Maxentius being named as senior emperor along with Galerius, his father-in-law. Constantine was to be a Caesar, or junior emperor.

The situation was not a stable one, however, and by 312 the two men were at war.

Constantine overran Italy and faced Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber a few kilometres from Rome. Both knew it would be a decisive battle with Constantine's forces outnumbered.

'Conquer by this'

It was then that something strange happened. Eusebius - one of the Christian Church's early historians - relates the event in his Conversion of Constantine.

"...while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvellous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person.

"...about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, and bearing the inscription 'conquer by this'.

"At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle."

Spurred on by divine intervention, Constantine's army won the day and he gave homage to the God of the Christians whom he believed had helped him.

This was a time when Christianity was struggling. Support from the most powerful man in the empire allowed the emerging religious movement to flourish.

Like a nuclear blast

But what was the celestial event that converted Constantine and altered the course of history?

Jens Ormo, a Swedish geologist, and colleagues working in Italy believe Constantine witnessed a meteoroid impact.

Drill rig: Sampling the crater The research team believes it has identified what remains of the impactor's crater.

It is the small, circular Cratere del Sirente in central Italy. It is clearly an impact crater, Ormo says, because its shape fits and it is also surrounded by numerous smaller, secondary craters, gouged out by ejected debris, as expected from impact models.

Radiocarbon dating puts the crater's formation at about the right time to have been witnessed by Constantine and there are magnetic anomalies detected around the secondary craters - possibly due to magnetic fragments from the meteorite.

According to Ormo, it would have struck the Earth with the force of a small nuclear bomb, perhaps a kiloton in yield. It would have looked like a nuclear blast, with a mushroom cloud and shockwaves.

It would have been quite an impressive sight and, if it really was what Constantine saw, could have turned the tide of the conflict.

But what would have happened if this chance event - perhaps as rare as once every few thousand years - had not occurred in Italy at that time?

Maxentius might have won the battle. Roman history would have been different and the struggling Christians might not have received state patronage.

The history of Christianity and the establishment of the popes in Rome might have been very different.


Tuesday, June 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.

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.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines June 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 provides a digest of the week's top stories from "Science in the News," and covers breaking news and feature stories from each weekend not normally covered by "Science in the News." Subscribe now by clicking here:

https://www.americanscientist.org/template/CreateEnewsSubscriber

If you have any questions about subscription or content, please email us at mediaresource@sigmaxi.org.

AGRICULTURE SECRETARY PUSHES NEW CROPS
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento -- As hundreds of protesters swarmed the state capitol beating drums and waving signs denouncing genetically modified food crops, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman convened a conference at a nearby convention center that pushed the opposite message:

Gene-spliced crops are here to stay -- and what's more, they're good for both people and the planet.

Addressing delegates from 120 countries at the federally sponsored Ministerial Conference and Expo of Agricultural Science and Technology, Veneman said high technology -- including genetically engineered food plants and livestock -- would be necessary for the world's burgeoning population to avoid famine.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/06/24/MN214278.DTL

SHARP TALK ON BIOGENETICS
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON Signaling no retreat from a trade dispute with Europe, President Bush on Monday sharply criticized European governments for boycotting genetically modified foods, saying their actions were impeding attempts to ease famine in Africa.

"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology," Bush told biotechnology executives gathered in Washington for their annual conference. "We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger."

Bush's remarks to 5,000 people at the Biotechnology Industry Organization meeting came amid a heightening of U.S. rhetoric over European Union restrictions on genetically modified foods. U.S. officials and industry leaders say the restrictions are tantamount to a ban, costing American farmers and companies hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-na-biotech24jun24235621,1,1171573.story?coll=la-news-science

CONTROVERSY PLAGUES POSITIVE EPA REPORT
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON The nation's air and drinking water have become cleaner and its dumpsites less toxic over the last decade or more, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday in a report that critics said was compromised by political interference.

"Where we have data, we tend to see either environmental improvement or that we are holding our own in the face of a growing economy and population," said Paul Gilman, the EPA's chief scientist.

Assessing up to 30 years of government efforts to clean up the environment, the draft report was overshadowed by a controversy over its global warming section.

Outgoing EPA Administrator Christie Whitman has said she deleted the discussion of global warming after White House aides sought to tone it down and she decided the result would be "pablum."
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-na-enviro24jun24235621,1,2507580.story?coll=la-news-science

2ND MARS ROVER LAUNCH DELAYED
from The Los Angeles Times

The launch of NASA's second Mars rover has been delayed until at least Saturday because of problems found in the cork insulation on the Delta II rocket that will ferry the unmanned craft into space.

"During routine inspections, they saw some cracking of that insulation. It did not appear to be adhering like it should," said George Diller, a spokesman for Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The insulation is on the rocket's first stage the bottom part of the rocket that contains an engine and large amounts of fuel. It protects that stage during launch and as the rocket hurtles through the Earth's atmosphere. The faulty insulation will be replaced and similar material elsewhere on the first stage also will be inspected, Diller said.
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-mars24jun24235621,1,7466434.story?coll=la-news-science

SENSATION OF PAIN DEPENDS ON BRAIN
from The Hartford Courant

Wimps and tough guys do seem to experience pain in different ways, brain imaging scans show.

Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center placed a heat stimulator on the legs of 17 volunteers undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging scan of their brains. The subjects were asked to rate pain intensity from the 120-degree temperature on their skin on a scale of one to 10. The responses ranged from a low of one to a high of nine.

The subjects who reported high levels of pain also had higher activation of parts of the brain associated with locating pain, assessing its intensity and processing unpleasant feelings than those who reported less pain.
http://www.ctnow.com/news/health/hc-front0624.artjun24.story

THEY EAT THEIR OWN; THE QUESTION IS WHY
from The New York Times

Birds do it. Robber flies that look like bees do it. Even chimpanzees do it.

And now researchers say that a tiny voice from near the bottom of life's evolutionary ladder is chiming in on the chorus: Let's do it. Let's eat our own.

It is time to get over the old notion that only the advanced, highly intelligent beings of this world practice cannibalism.

It has just been discovered by Harvard and Madrid researchers that even bacteria do it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/24/science/24CANN.html

THE CLOCKS THAT SHAPED EINSTEIN'S LEAP IN TIME
from The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. What does it mean, Albert Einstein asked in 1905, to say that a train arrives someplace in Paris, say at 7 o'clock?

You might not think you need to know something as deep as relativity to answer such a question. But Einstein needed to answer the question to invent his theory of relativity, the breakthrough that wrenched science into a new century and enshrined the equivalence of matter and energy.

In his last step, after a decade of pondering the mysteries of light and motion, Einstein concluded that there was no such thing as absolute time, envisioned by scientists since Newton, ticking uniformly through the cosmos. Rather there were only the times measured by individual clocks. To talk about times and measurements at different places, the clocks have to be synchronized, he said. And the way to do that is to flash light signals between them, correcting for the time it takes for the signal to travel from one clock to another.

A simple prescription. Yet when Einstein followed it, he found that clocks moving with respect to one another would not run at the same speed. The modern age was born.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/24/science/24TIME.html

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage
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Subject: [Fwd: [ncse] Two new resources at www.ncseweb.org] Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 18:42:52 -0500 From: John Blanton To: Work -- The North Texas Skeptics http://www.ntskeptics.org

[ncse] Two new resources at www.ncseweb.org

Dear Friends of NCSE,

We are pleased to announce two new resources on our web site.

First, issues 1-20 of Creation/Evolution are now available at
http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=16
Since Creation/Evolution went to issue 39 before it was merged into Reports of the NCSE, we are now halfway done! We would like to thank volunteer Tom Kerr for his help in preparing these issues for the web.

Second, Frank Sonleitner's Creation/Evolution Update 2001 is now available at
http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=3
Sonleitner reviews recent scientific advances that bear on the creationism/evolution controversy. We would like to thank volunteer Margaret Kallman for her help in preparing this document for the web.

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


Monday, June 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 June 23, 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 provides a digest of the week's top stories from "Science in the News," and covers breaking news and feature stories from each weekend not normally covered by "Science in the News." Subscribe now by clicking here:

https://www.americanscientist.org/template/CreateEnewsSubscriber

If you have any questions about subscription or content, please email us at mediaresource@sigmaxi.org.

FOR BIOTECH FIRMS, OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS ON CANCER DRUGS
from The Washington Post

After pouring billions of dollars into research over the past 27 years with scant profit to show for it, the American biotechnology industry is hot on the trail of a new class of drugs that could improve the treatment of cancer just as the baby-boom generation begins to contract it in large numbers.

A growing body of data suggests these drugs can attack cancer with far fewer side effects, and perhaps greater effectiveness, than older treatments. The drugs are the product of years of public investment in genetic research that is revealing the molecular secrets of tumors, giving scientists new ideas about how to attack them, and a quarter-century of private investment in biotechnology that is creating the tools to exploit those ideas.

About 16,000 biotech executives and scientists convene in Washington this week for their annual meeting, the first time they have come to the nation's capital since 1990, amid excitement among both cancer patients and investors about the potential of the new drugs.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21436-2003Jun22.html

BIOTECH IS HOT TOPIC AT MEETING
from The Sacramento Bee

Embracing technology in farming would help end world hunger and poverty, according to a report to be released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with this week's high-profile agricultural conference in Sacramento.

The USDA's first Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology -- one of the largest gatherings ever of world agriculture ministers -- opens today at the Convention Center. Ministers from more than 100 countries -- mostly nations with limited technology -- are expected to view a wide range of high-tech solutions to food production problems. The agenda includes drip irrigation, animal disease control, satellite imaging and -- most controversially -- genetically engineered crops, called GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Agriculture ministers from the European Union will be notable by their absence from the Sacramento conference. They say they aren't coming because of EU meetings on agriculture policy.
http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/agriculture/story/6907460p-7857015c.html

STUDIES OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS COME UNDER GROWING SCRUTINY
from The New York Times

When a California judge handed down a $12.5 million false-advertising judgment against the maker of an ephedra-based weight-loss pill late last month, he also issued what amounted to a bill of reproach against the science of dietary supplements.

The company, Cytodyne Technologies, maker of Xenadrine RFA-1, the supplement implicated in the death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher, had not just exaggerated the findings of clinical trials it commissioned, Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Styn said in ruling on a class-action suit, but had also cajoled some researchers into fudging results in published scientific articles.

The evidence, Judge Styn said, had left him no alternative but to conclude that the researchers had set out to create a study that "justified the money being spent" by Cytodyne and would ensure that they received further work from the company.

The Cytodyne case is part of a swelling tide of litigation that is raising serious questions about the way makers of ephedra and other dietary supplements use and often misuse the promise of scientific proof to market their products.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/23/national/23DIET.html

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

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Separation of Church and State

H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-Law@h-net.msu.edu (March, 2003)

Philip Hamburger. Separation of Church and State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002. 492 pages. Notes, index.
$45.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-674-00734-4.

Reviewed for H-Law by Mark D. McGarvie mmcgarvi@richmond.edu, Adjunct Professor of History, University of Richmond, and Golieb Fellow in Legal History, New York University School of Law, 2001-2002

Was the Constitution Rewritten by Anti-Catholics? A New Approach to the Church-State Controversy

In this study, Philip Hamburger, professor of law at the University of Chicago, seeks to present the history of an idea, separation of church and state, over time. He begins with a cursory examination of the drafting of the United States Constitution, and finds that there is support for neither of the assertions that the founding document separated church and state nor that its drafters intended such a separation. He contends instead that the Constitution addressed a different concern, religious liberty, and argues that the idea of separation of church and state arose only in the mid-nineteenth century, in the context of intense anti-Catholicism, as a means of both protecting Protestant freedoms and acculturating recent Catholic immigrants.

With this book, Hamburger joins a passionate debate about the meaning of religious freedom currently being waged in academic, political, and legal communities. Since the 1960s, members of the "religious right" have argued that federal law's proscriptions of governmental support of religion were intended as nothing more than a prohibition of state preference for one Christian denomination over another. From their perspective, America always was and should be a "Christian nation." Although Hamburger does not endorse this position, his book, in removing "separation of church and state" from the Constitution, provides support for the position of the religious right. This is probably an unintended consequence of his work. More likely, Hamburger hopes to resolve the academic and legal argument over the scope of federal constitutional law in this area by knocking one position--that favoring a strict separation--right out of the box. He fails to do so.

Even in the brief distillation of Hamburger's work presented above, several problems should be readily apparent. First, Hamburger limits his constitutional argument to the First Amendment. Although that amendment contains no language separating church and state, it may logically be argued that separation of church and state derives naturally from the protection of religious freedom or is necessary to secure the right listed in the First Amendment. This reading is consistent with expressions of the Founders, especially James Madison, to which Hamburger gives confusing coverage. More critical is Hamburger's failure to address more direct language in the founding document. The Federal Convention adopted the language of the prohibition on religious tests in Article VI with almost no dissent. Yet, the controversy, primarily fomented by established clergymen during the ratification controversy of 1787-1788, when the drafters' intents and their philosophical reasons for the position were clarified, led the drafters at the First Congress to craft the First Amendment, which accepted religion as a private concern, appropriately separate from public governance.

Nobody has ever claimed that the Constitution is or should be a complete document. Enforcement of the Constitution depends upon reasonable and logical interpretation. Take, for instance, the protection of privacy rights articulated by Justice William O. Douglas in his opinion for the Court in _Griswold v. Connecticut_.[1] Nowhere are such rights explicitly listed in the Constitution, but, as Justice Douglas noted, just what is protected by the protection of religious freedom if the police are free to stand outside churches on Sunday mornings checking off names of attendees? Hamburger seems unwilling to accept this significant judicial role in defining constitutional freedoms. He castigates late-nineteenth-century and twentieth-century judges for reading pervasive cultural values and beliefs into the nation's primary laws, noting with disdain (p. 446) that "[e]ven state courts were not immune to the culture of Americanism." In adopting this perspective, he seems to resent the significant role that cultural values play in judicial interpretation of the law. Moreover, by looking only to the First Amendment and later decisions regarding it, he misses the vital role played by the Contract Clause and the No Religious Tests Clause in the separation of church and state in the Early Republic.

Many specialists in legal history and the history of ideas have documented how the efforts of Jeffersonian liberals transformed American culture from a Christian communitarian society valuing social conformity into a rabidly individualistic society in which capitalistic free enterprise provided the ethics and values of social intercourse.[2] Hamburger misses the significance of this cultural transformation and its relationship to the process of disestablishment. The privatization of the churches and their removal from quasi-governmental functional responsibilities is part of this larger cultural transformation, which occurred before Andrew Jackson's presidency (1829-1837). Constitutional law played a vital role in this transformation. However, the most important constitutional provision for this purpose was not the First Amendment, but rather the Contract Clause (Art. I, sec. 10). State and federal judges restricted the scope of government action in respect of private contracts, including corporate charters. Increasingly after 1790, churches assumed the corporate form to protect their assets and their abilities to proselytize. In doing so, they implicitly assumed a "private" status distinct from public institutions, even in states which still supported religion.

Just as serious a problem is Hamburger's misunderstanding of the history of disestablishment--the process of separating church and state in the Early Republic. Establishment laws were found in eleven of the thirteen colonies before the Revolution and in a majority of the states when the Constitution was framed in 1787. Churches functioned as semi-public institutions to instill morality and moral values into the public, to care for people's souls, to educate the young, and to tend the poor and the sick. Creatures of colonial and later state law, the established churches were not directly affected by the federal Constitution, though the document did give expression to ideas and values that ultimately would prove irreconcilable with established religion. Disestablishment occurred during a period spanning more than five decades (1776-1833) and on a state-by-state basis. Disestablishment embroiled the citizenry in an emotionally intense and intellectually exciting debate over the new society's values and institutions as it redefined churches as private corporations. In these state disestablishment struggles, Hamburger could find many references to the separation of church and state and the necessity of making that separation. In the process, he would have learned from that evidence that "separation" as much as "religious freedom" was a vital concern early in the nation's history.

Hamburger not only ignores all the disestablishment battles waged in the various states, he also overlooks the debate over cultural values that those battles addressed. When examining the Early Republic, rather, he focuses on the Constitution itself and on the role of dissenters (Protestant Christians belonging to non-established churches) in securing protection for religious liberty. By focusing on dissenters, he writes the more radical non-sectarian liberals out of his history. They also certainly sought separation of church and state by the late 1700s, and many worked successfully in their own states to achieve that goal. The noted historian Sidney E. Mead argued convincingly, as long ago as 1963, that the protection of religious liberty could not have come about by the efforts of either the dissenters or the liberal humanists alone; rather, a tentative alliance between them was needed to achieve the first step of disestablishment--the Constitution's protection of religious freedom.[3] Hamburger correctly asserts that all the dissenters wanted was the freedom to practice their religion without state preference for any denomination. They never sought to divorce Christian beliefs, values, and ethics from the public institutions of the new society. But, as Mead recognized, the dissenters' actions constitute only part of the story; by premising his understanding of the Constitution (and of its framers' intent) entirely on the dissenters' attitudes and goals, Hamburger misses important historical evidence that might have compelled him to reconsider or recast his thesis.

Hamburger's primary thesis--that during the latter half of the nineteenth century anti-Catholicism spawned a reconceptualization of the meaning of religious freedom into a doctrine of separation of church and state--depends on his establishing his premise, that the Early Republic never envisioned a separation of church and state. Unfortunately for the success of Hamburger's interpretative enterprise, the fatal flaws afflicting the premise render unconvincing the proof he asserts in support of his thesis. To be sure, he does provide a good sense of the historical context for the idea of religious liberty. Even so, his use of theological and political scholarship from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries (during which era religious liberty was understood within a framing context of religious establishment) cannot stand in for the ideas and motivations of historical actors of the late eighteenth century. For this most relevant period, as noted, Hamburger relies only on the words of a few dissenters; though he mentions Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, he marginalizes them as minor players in the drafting of the Constitution. That specific point may be true, but their ideas were hardly insignificant or unrepresentative, as further research into pamphlets, newspapers, and letters of the period would show. Furthermore, James Madison, Jefferson's partner-in-arms in Virginia's protection of religious freedom, made his position on separation known in his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785).

Various state ratification debates, which raised the need for a bill of rights, referenced Jefferson by name and drew upon more radical and libertarian ideas than Hamburger acknowledges or wishes to address. Hamburger asserts further that an ideological debate between humanistic liberals and dissenters erupted only in the mid-1800s, and he subordinates the religious debates of the 1790s and early 1800s to the broader political contests pitting Federalists against Republicans. In so doing, he seems unaware that Timothy Dwight, president of Yale and a leading defender of establishment, perceived his enemies to be not the dissenting clergy who supported Jeffersonian candidates, but those secular humanists whom he castigated as liberals, Deists, agnostics, nothingarians, and infidels.[4]

Hamburger repeatedly asserts that the early Republic's laws recognizing religious freedom only limit government, not the churches (pp. 94, 107). He concludes from this claim that the people of the Early Republic never intended to separate church and state nor to remove religion from the governing of the Republic. This bold assertion ignores the most plausible explanation: that private corporate churches were not subject to legal restraint, as were governmental institutions. Hamburger misses a crucial point: that during the Early Republic, Americans transformed their churches into private corporations. In fact, in this connection, at times Hamburger fails to recognize the significance of his own text. On page 182, he writes that James Madison sought to limit all "corporations," ecclesiastical or otherwise, from accumulating property in perpetuity. He correctly notes that this aim is more a matter of property law than a reflection of Madison's distrust of churches holding property. But he then misses the more important fact: that Madison perceived churches not as semi-public institutions necessary for instilling virtue (as they were understood throughout the colonial era) but as private corporations pursuing their own agendas distinct from, perhaps even antithetical to, public governance. By ignoring this crucial point, Hamburger also misses how and why this transformation occurred. Further, he fails to see how, as private corporations, churches had to be excluded from government and removed from their colonial roles in providing education, poor relief, and community record-keeping.

Hamburger's proof of his major thesis concerning anti-Catholicism is no more convincing than that offered in support of his premise. His "anti-Catholicism" argument appears in chapter 8, with proof limited to lengthy references to New York and a more general discussion of New England. To be sure, as Hamburger shows, the historical evidence of the latter half of the nineteenth century abounds with disparaging comments aimed at Catholics, but these alone do not persuade the reader that anti-Catholicism _forced_ a reconsideration of the meaning of religious freedom. Hamburger further asserts that anti-Catholicism was so strong that it united not only Protestants of different denominations, but also racist nativists and polarized extremists, such as the Ku Klux Klan and liberal atheists. In this, Hamburger may be attempting an argument paralleling one made by Edmund S. Morgan to explain a different time and place: that antebellum white southerners defined "blackness" in such a way as to unite all non-black people, despite their great differences in wealth, attitudes, and beliefs, into a white citizenry that supported slavery.[5] And yet Morgan mounted massive proof of his historical actors' thoughts, motivations, and concerns to support his conclusion--all of which are lacking in Hamburger's study.

Hamburger asserts further that, by the 1930s, the public's new perception of religious liberty as including the separation of church and state forced itself upon a Supreme Court that acceded to the pervasive "culture of Americanism." He concludes that, in its expansive reading of the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent states from legislating in matters of religion, the Court "drew upon a context that had little connection to the Fourteenth Amendment, that was as much cultural as it was legal, and that concerned religion more than race" (p. 439). The Court's adoption of bifurcated review was probably more a matter of political and social expediency than one of well-reasoned analysis of the Constitution. Yet Hamburger's summary of the Justices' thought processes renders them mere puppets of public opinion. This view of the Justices pales by comparison with that offered in G. Edward White's _The Constitution and the New Deal_, which provides a thorough and enlightening discussion of this important and controversial period of American legal and constitutional history.[6] Once again, Hamburger's assertion that the federal courts imposed a doctrine of separation of church and state on the states in the twentieth century misses the important state-by-state process of religious disestablishment that occurred from 1776 to 1833.

Despite this book's flaws, it contains some good history. Hamburger skillfully develops the ideological debates of the late nineteenth century, which sparked conflicting proposals to amend the Constitution to clarify what constitutes religious freedom. He also offers some valuable insights, as when he notes that Thomas Jefferson had a tendency "to give words and phrases new contexts in which they acquired fresh, often polemical significance" (p. 147). He should be applauded for trying to make sense of a difficult historical problem made even more troublesome by its relevance to, and its entanglement with, current political debates.

In addition, he deserves credit for aggressively using broad descriptive terms, sometimes risking the sacrifice of historical accuracy in the details to try to further his readers' understanding of his broad arguments. To be sure, such terms as "liberals," "secularists," "Protestants," "Christians," and "nativists" describe people with widely divergent and sometimes overlapping values and beliefs. Yet Hamburger uses these terms to define attitudes of people whom he juxtaposes in opposition to one another. Ultimately, his terms do help to define groups of actors in a complex historical debate over ideas. An author should be granted leeway in trying to describe groups of historical actors who may have shared certain ideological proclivities, but were nonetheless culturally and politically diverse.

Even so, these good qualities are not enough to overcome the essential weaknesses of Hamburger's book. Its thesis fails to illuminate his subject despite nearly five hundred pages of explanatory, densely documented text. Its only value is to be found in the historical record and anecdotes it provides rather than its attempt to reconfigure a complex historical issue.

Notes

[1]. _Griswold v. Connecticut_, 379 U.S. 926 (1964).

[2]. _See_, _e.g._, Joyce Appleby, _Capitalism and a New Social Order_ (New York: New York University Press, 1984); Michael Grossberg, _Governing the Hearth_ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985); and Gordon S. Wood, _The Radicalism of the American Revolution_ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).

[3]. Sidney E. Mead, _The Lively Experiment_ (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), _passim_.

[4]. On this point, _see_ Colin Wells, _The Devil and Doctor Dwight: Satire and Theology in the Early American Republic_ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

[5]. Edmund S. Morgan, _American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia_ (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975). A similar approach for a later period may be found in C. Vann Woodward, _The Strange Career of Jim Crow_, anniversary edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[6]. G. Edward White, _The Constitution and the New Deal_ (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000).

Mark D. McGarvie is the author of One Nation Under Law: America's Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (forthcoming, 2003).

Copyright (c) 2003 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses contact the Reviews editorial staff: hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.

A major problem for Darwinism

Science Frontiers, No. 148, Jul-Aug, 2003, p. 3
http://www.science-frontiers.com
[Science Frontiers is a bimonthly collection of digests of scientific anomalies in the current literature. Published by the Sourcebook Project, P.O. Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057. Annual subscription: $8.00.]

BIOLOGY

A major problem for Neo-Darwinism is the complete lack of evidence for plant evolution in the fossil record. As a whole, the fossil evidence of prehistoric plants is actually very good, yet no convincing transitional forms have been discovered in the abundant plant fossil record. This fact has been recognized by both creationists and evolutionists as providing strong evidence for abrupt appearance theory. If macro-evolution were true, some evidence of plant evolution should exist in the abundant plant fossil record. Instead, what is found are many examples of modern plants, variations of modern plants, or extinct plants that require still more transitional forms.
(Bergman, Jerry; "The Evolution of Plants: a Major Problem for Darwinism," TJ, 16:118, 2002. TJ = Technical Journal)

Comment. As one might guess from the above abstract, *TJ* is a creationist publication. Bergman's long article is buttressed by about 100 references from the mainstream literature. The paleontological "plant problem" is no secret, but is often interred in the cemetery of anomalies.

Illinois's ancient Maginot Line

Science Frontiers, No. 148, Jul-Aug, 2003, p. 1
http://www.science-frontiers.com
[Science Frontiers is a bimonthly collection of digests of scientific anomalies in the current literature. Published by the Sourcebook Project, P.O. Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057. Annual subscription: $8.00.]

ARCHEOLOGY

Mainstream archeologists rarely mention the 100-mile-long string of stone forts and walls that stretch across southern Illinois. Between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, fortified hilltops protected an unidentified population against some very real threat. The threat had to be dire to induce men and women to drag innumerable large stones from the river bottoms to their present elevated positions.

In the latest issue of *Ancient American*, W. May elaborates on this impressive defense line. He focuses on the section called the Lewis Wall near Makanda.

The Lewis Wall bisects the top of a steep cliff, running on a linear east-west axis for 285 feet. Six feet high at its highest point, with an average thickness of five feet, the structure is a dry stone rampart containing an estimated forty thousand stones, all of them apparently conveyed by hand up the sheer incline from the dry streambed two hundred feet below. Stone cairns, or ceremonial rock piles, appear at the rear entrance. The structure was raised ingeniously by fitting together mostly flat stones chosen for moderate size and a rough although uniform fit, the same technique used in building the other walls.
Of course, many stones in the Illinois stone walls have been appropriated by European settlers. Some walls were once six to ten feet high and extended up to 600 feet. Organic material lodged in the walls yield a wide range of Precolumbian radiocarbon dates: 50, 400, and 900 A.D.

(May, Wayne; Stone Walls of Southern Illinois, Ancient American, #50, p. 3, 2003)

'Isaac Newton': Do Sit Under the Apple Tree

June 15, 2003
By OWEN GINGERICH

Of all the heroes of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the old geocentric worldview was overthrown, Galileo has been the top target of biographers. A feisty figure who in Victorian times began to be seen as a ''martyr of science'' in consequence of his run-in with the Inquisition, Galileo led a public life well adapted to novels, drama, opera and a panoply of biographies. In contrast, the scientifically far more important but very private Isaac Newton has run a distant second. The comparative lack of personal detail and the complexity of his thought have thwarted potential biographers: Richard Westfall, who in 1982 produced what comes closest to being called the ''standard'' scientific account of Newton, wrote that ''the more I have studied him, the more Newton has receded from me.''

James Gleick, whose book about chaos theory achieved critical acclaim, as did ''Genius,'' his biography of Richard Feynman, quotes Westfall in this biography of Newton, but undaunted, he accepts the challenge. By any account, even just one of Newton's several accomplishments would be enough to enroll him among the memorable scientists of all time: the optics of color, the laws of motion, universal gravitation, the general binomial theorem, the differential and the integral calculus. Can a talented but nonspecialist science writer have any hope of contributing a serious, insightful biography of such a monumental man?

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/15/books/review/15GINGERT.html?ex=1056921448&ei=1&en=5350867479169fb4

Gibson's making a film on Jesus worries some Jews.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/suncommentary/la-op-hier22jun22,1,7516321.story?coll=la-headlines-suncomment

Los Angeles Times
By Marvin Hier and Harold Brackman
June 22, 2003

Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 biblical epic, "The King of Kings" offended American Jews by portraying the Jewish people rather than the Romans as responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. DeMille dismissed criticism, insisting that "if Jesus were alive today, these Jews I speak of might crucify him again."

But whether DeMille admitted it or not, the film did fuel anti-Semitism. Consider the following note, passed between two fourth-grade girls, that found its way into the files of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise: "Martha, I found out who killed our God. The Jews did it. I went to see King of Kings. It showed how the Jews killed him."

Now comes Mel Gibson, who insists Jews and Catholics will have nothing to worry about in his new, self-financed, $25-million film, "The Passion." It's true that the final script hasn't been made available, and there is currently no release date, or even distributor, for the film. Still, there are reasons for concern.

The passion of Christ - the crucifixion and hours leading up to it - has been used by bigots, including popes and kings, to inflame anti-Semitism through the ages. A belief that Jews were responsible for crucifying the son of God led Pope Innocent III to conclude in the early 13th century that Jews should be consigned to a state of "perpetual subservience" as wanderers and fugitives, and made to wear a mark on their clothing identifying them as Jews. His pronouncement reinforced widespread anti-Semitism that led over the centuries to millions of Jews being burned at the stake and murdered in pogroms throughout Christian Europe.

Any film about such a sensitive subject would set off alarm bells. But a film by Gibson is particularly alarming. A New York Times Magazine story in March revealed that the actor's father questions many commonly accepted views of the Holocaust, including whether 6 million Jews were killed. Also revealed in the article was that Gibson himself has funded a Catholic splinter group that rejects the three popes elected since John XXIII died in 1963 and the reforms of Vatican II. Rejecting the accomplishments of Vatican II raises particular concerns for Jews, in that one of its significant achievements was the church's declaration that "the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God." It was that milestone that made possible the election of Pope John Paul II, who has done more for Catholic-Jewish relations then any of his predecessors.

Gibson, who co-wrote the script for his film, has said he relied on three sources: the New Testament and two nuns. One of the nuns, Mary of Agreda, a 17th century Spanish aristocrat, wrote of the Jews involved in Christ's death: "Although they did not die [they] were chastised with intense pains These disorders consequently upon shedding the blood of Christ descended to their posterity and even to this day continue to afflict this group with horrible impurities." The other, Anne Catherine Emmerich, was an early 19th century German stigmatic who often described Jews as having hooked noses and who told of a vision she had in which she rescued from purgatory an old Jewish woman who confessed to her that Jews strangled Christian children and used their blood in the observance of their rituals. She claimed the woman in her vision told her that this practice was kept secret so it would not interfere with the Jews' commercial intercourse with Gentiles.

Gibson should consider the political context before bringing out his film. Globally, anti-Semitism is at its highest peak since the end of World War II. Synagogues and Jewish schools have been firebombed and Jews beaten on the streets of France and Belgium. According to some recent polls, 17% of Americans (up from 12% five years ago) hold to political and economic stereotypes about Jews; 37% hold Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. On the Internet as well as in print media around the world, the new demonization of Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors is fusing with the old libel of the Jews as "Christ killers." A cartoon in the Italian newspaper La Stampa depicted an Israeli tank rolling up to a manger with little baby Jesus staring up in horror and crying out, "Do you want to kill me once more?"

Gibson's secrecy about his film stands in contrast with the handling of other controversial films. The producers of a recent drama about the young Hitler responded to criticism by soliciting input from responsible critics. They got good suggestions that made for a better film. In Gibson's case, his lawyers threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose nine-member advisory board issued a thoughtful critique of a leaked version of his script. What is interesting is that the critics were not only Jews but also leaders and scholars of the Catholic Church.

At this tinderbox moment in our new century, we need to be especially careful about a movie that has the potential to further ignite ancient hatreds. In a world where the Oberammergau Passion Play, a notoriously anti-Semitic presentation held every 10 years in Bavaria, is finally being toned down, it is ironic that we now have to be concerned about a possible revival of anti-Semitism in Hollywood.

It shouldn't need saying, but apparently it does. The Romans and their procurator, Pontius Pilate, were in control of Jerusalem at the time of Christ's execution not the Jews. Crucifixion was the preferred Roman method of punishment, not one sanctioned by Jewish law. Jesus and his followers were Jews; there was no Christianity back then. Could Jewish authorities have played a role in turning Jesus over to the Romans because they feared a revolt or because Judaism gives no credence to the notion of a divine messiah? Possibly. But, it was the Romans, not the Jews, who crucified him, as they had crucified thousands of other Jews. Yet it was the Jews alone who for 2,000 years have been held responsible, not because God wanted it that way but because bigots and anti-Semites insisted that it be that way.

Gibson is a great actor and director, but he has a responsibility to make a movie that does not contribute further to a legacy of pain and suffering. Franco Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" avoided flaming anti-Semitism. And if Gibson uses a wise head and a brave heart, his movie can do it too.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Wiesenthal Center.

New Bibliography Entry (Qigong)

From: Taner Edis edis@truman.edu

http://www.csicop.org/bib/645

Qigong: Chinese Medicine or Pseudoscience?
Lin Zixin, Yu Li, Guo Zhengyi, Shen Zhenyu, Zhang Honglin, and Zhang Tongling
http://www.prometheusbooks.com/site/catalog/book_905.html
2000, Prometheus, 155p., diagrams
conjuring, psi, quackery

Defends qigong as a traditional Chinese regime of exercise which is supposed to have many health benefits, but denounces the "external qigong" effects claimed by China's equivalents of superpsychics. The book does not give too many details, and is useful mainly as a way for skeptics to get some idea of fringe science in China. It is also difficult to get through -- it reads like a rough translation from Chinese. And the introductory chapters detailing what is supposed to be legitimate qigong are too beholden to a dubious "qi" energy explanation; it becomes difficult to tell if the authors are attacking one pseudoscience only to defend another, less egregious form. Still, as an introduction to an important type of psychic performance claim which has been very influential in the most populous country in the world, it worth looking at this book.

Please visit the rest of the bibliography at

http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/

Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer


Sunday, June 22, 2003

Sci Fi Channel Wants U.S. to Probe UFOs

By DAVID BAUDER .c The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - In an unusual step for a television network, the Sci Fi Channel is campaigning to persuade the government to be more forthcoming and aggressive in investigating UFO sightings.

Sci Fi has hired a Washington lobbyist, received support from former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, sponsored a symposium on interstellar travel and is considering a court effort to declassify documents related to a 1965 incident in Pennsylvania.

The network will premiere a documentary, ``Out of the Blue,'' Tuesday at 9 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific time zones) that methodically lays out an argument that there's something out there.

Most TV networks are reluctant to spend money for anything other than self-interest. The few public interest efforts are hardly controversial: Lifetime promoting breast cancer research, for example, or MTV's Rock the Vote campaign to encourage young people to register.

But by fighting for UFO probes, Sci Fi is wading into an area that invites not only dissent, but also ridicule.

``It's very, very tough for people to take this subject seriously,'' said Ed Rothschild, a lobbyist for the Washington firm PodestaMattoon. ``We thought the only way it was going to be seriously addressed is to have serious people talk about it, scientists.''

Rothschild won't even identify the members of Congress he's talked to about leaning on the government for more openness about UFOs. He's afraid they'll never help if their names come out and they're laughed at.

Even believers are reluctant to talk about the issue.

After hearing that former President Carter once saw a UFO, ``Out of the Blue'' filmmaker James Fox repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, asked Carter's representatives for an interview. Undaunted, Fox essentially ambushed Carter with a camera one day at a book-signing. Carter confirmed the incident but his brevity and forced smile indicated he wasn't happy to be answering.

Given the ``giggle factor'' that surrounds UFOs, Sci Fi is taking a chance with its reputation, Fox said.

``I don't think there's a risk because the questions need to be asked,'' said Thomas Vitale, Sci Fi's senior vice president of programming. ``Even somebody who is the biggest skeptic in the world ... still wants the questions answered. And who better to do it?''

The mission isn't entirely altruistic, of course. The Sci Fi Channel, which is seen in about three-quarters of the nation's TV households, polled viewers on the topic. Evidence of keen interest is also seen in the ratings.

Last November's documentary on the celebrated, suspected 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, N.M., was the highest-rated special in the network's 11-year history. It was seen by nearly 2.4 million people, or about 2 1/2 times Sci Fi's usual prime-time audience.

``Our main goal is not to find a UFO,'' Vitale said. ``The goal is finding the truth. We're expanding and exploring the blurry line between what is science fiction and what is science fact.''

Vitale wouldn't say how much Sci Fi is spending on this. The network sponsored an archaeological excavation at Roswell, will debut a public service announcement Tuesday and has two new UFO specials in the works.

It is backing an effort to get U.S. Air Force records released on a 1965 incident in Kecksburg, Pa., where some witnesses believe a UFO crashed. This may end up in court, Rothschild said.

Fox, a San Francisco-based journalist, never thought much about UFOs until a visit nine years ago to Nevada, when he and his friends watched a saucer-shaped object hover silently in the sky then dart away.

``When I got home, I was met with laughter,'' he said. ``No one believed me, even my family. I thought, if my own family doesn't believe me, who does?''

Intrigued, he began looking into other UFO incidents. He sold a 1998 documentary to the Discovery Channel and shopped ``Out of the Blue'' to the same network, but said he was told Discovery no longer buys pro-UFO films. (A Discovery spokeswoman denied this.)

So he went to Sci Fi. Fox considers 95 percent of reported UFO incidents bunk, either hoaxes or easily explained conventional phenomena. And don't count him among people who believe aliens already live among us.

But that still leaves a significant number of mysterious cases. ``Out of the Blue'' outlines several, concentrating on the most reputable of witnesses - former astronauts, military and government officials, topped off by an ex-president.

Fox's storytelling is sober, not sensational. Summing up incidents at the end of the film, Fox gives the official government explanations of what happened, and they're often more ridiculous than the sightings themselves.

``You get to a point where you can no longer dismiss each and every episode,'' he said.

Fox and Rothschild can think of several reasons why the government doesn't want to talk about UFOs:

The military doesn't want to spend time or money on something that isn't perceived as a threat.

Officials may also like the secrecy; it keeps other governments guessing about what kind of new weapon technologies might be in the works.

It could also be embarrassing, since it can expose what they don't know and the limitations of human technology.

And who wants to set off a ``War of the Worlds''-type incident?

Fox envisions the public announcement that could come with such an event: ``We don't know where they come from, we don't know what they're doing. We can't stop them if they become hostile and they can fly rings around all of our aircraft.

``Thank you, and good night.''

On the Net:

http://www.scifi.com

http://www.freedomofinfo.org

EDITOR'S NOTE - David Bauder can be reached at dbauder@ap.org

Web, Potter help Paganism

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/19/1055828440529.html

June 20 2003

Paganism and the ancient art of witchcraft are on the rise in Britain, experts said as the summer's most celebrated Pagan festival approached.

Television, the internet, environmentalism and even feminism have all played a role in the resurgence, they say.

Soaring Pagan numbers have churches worrying and calling for stricter controls on cult TV programs and films that celebrate sorcery such as Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Record attendance is expected at dawn on Saturday morning at the mystical megaliths of Stonehenge, where Pagans have celebrated the summer solstice for thousands of years.

The trend has worried some of the Protestant church's more traditional elements.

"The rise of interest in Paganism is damaging because it normalises spiritual evil by presenting it as mere fantasy and fiction," said Reverend Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance, a grouping of about 1 million Christians in Britain.

"The Evangelical Alliance calls on government and TV regulatory bodies to monitor programs which promote or glamourise Pagan issues," he told Reuters.

Thirty thousand are expected to dance in the sunrise on summer's longest day at Stonehenge, says English Heritage, which manages the site - nearly four times the number in 1990, when it reopened to the public after many years.

Scholars believe the ring of 20-tonne stones was built between 3000 and 1600BC as a sacred temple.

Many of the revellers will be there just to party, but among them will be druids, who believe in spiritual enlightenment through nature, and witches who practise Wicca - harnessing nature's power as magic.

At least 10,000 Pagan witches and 6000 Pagan druids were practising in Britain at the last estimate in 1996, said history professor Ronald Hutton at Bristol University. He too suggested the number was rising.

"Both the witches and the druids were always heavily outnumbered by what I'd call non-attached Pagans," he told Reuters. "There are perhaps 100,000 to 120,000 in Britain."

Paganism has been rising in Britain since the 1950s, Professor Hutton said. "It's a religion that meets modern needs," he added. "Traditional religions have so many prohibitions: Thou shalt not do this or that. But Paganism has a message of liberation combined with good citizenship."

He pointed to the ancient Pagan motto: "An (if) it harm none, do what you will."

Matt McCabe of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids said his order had grown from a few hundred in the late 1980s to 7000 worldwide today. Much of the growth he put down to the appeal of remote learning via the internet.

"People are very reassured by the structured learning we can offer via the Web," he said.

The 1970s environmental movement also had an impact, said Mr McCabe, with a lot of environmentalists attracted to Paganism because of its veneration of nature.

Professor Hutton said feminism in the 1980s had a similar effect, with women drawn to the female God-figure that is also worshipped. Then in the 1990s came the TV programs Buffy and Sabrina, about teenagers with supernatural powers.

"Anything that makes teenage girls feel powerful is bound to go down well," joked Mr McCabe.

Kevin Carlyon, High Priest of British White Witches said Harry Potter in recent years had continued the trend, helping create what he called "the fastest growing belief system in the world". But it was not all good, he added.

Fresh back from a trip to Scotland to lift an old hex from the Loch Ness Monster, he warned teenagers against joining witch covens too young.

"There are some bloody weird people out there," he said.

Reuters

Seeing is believing

When images of the Virgin Mary appear, the faithful flock to them

By Joseph P. Kahn, Globe Staff, 6/21/2003

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/172/living/Seeing_is_believingP.shtml

MILTON -- Where some see mineral deposits, others see divinity.

Where some simply see a clouded pane of glass, others are awed by a likeness of the Virgin Mary, gazing down upon a narrow patch of lawn that has sprouted fresh-cut flowers and votive candles this week as thousands of devout Catholics gathered outside Milton Hospital to gawk and to pray.

And where many now stare at a blue tarpaulin flapping in the breeze that obscures their view of the window, some also see red. Their frustration is another indication of how high passions have been stirred by this event, which many regard as a genuine miracle -- a sign from on high that all is not right with the world, if not with the church itself.

''It's a shame. They shouldn't cover her like that,'' said Alice Phinney of Brockton on Thursday, looking up at the hospital window and frowning at the obstructed view. ''I just love her so much.''

As for any specific message being imparted to those who come to the site, Phinney squinted in the sunshine and considered the question. ''To bring the world together, I guess,'' she said.

Her friend Charles Regas, who accompanied Phinney from Brockton, nodded. He saw something similar 50 years ago in Greece, where he was born. ''I'll never forget it,'' he said.

Regas said he'd heard the Milton apparition had been triggered by the prayers of a hospital patient facing a difficult operation. Others have offered differing explanations for the ''miracle,'' and its timing, ranging from the problems besetting the Boston Archdiocese to the merger of Milton Hospital with a hospital that may perform abortions.

Whatever interpretation is levied upon it, the image that mysteriously surfaced on a third-floor window has drawn huge crowds, prompting hospital officials to institute safety measures. A sign now states that the tarp will only be removed from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily to address ''substantial access and safety issues.''

Not even a plastic sheet can dissuade the faithful, though. With each breeze, the tarp lifts just enough to provide a tantalizing glimpse of what everyone has come to see. ''Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus!'' one man cried Thursday as the window came into full view.

Whether aware of it or not, those descending upon Milton are part of a storied history of Marian visions and visitations, dating back to 40 AD. Most famously in recent history have been reported visitations in Fatima, Portugal (1917), and Lourdes, France (1858), both of which have been authenticated by the Catholic Church. Another significant visitation occurred in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1981. It has lured an estimated 17 million pilgrims but has not yet received the church's official blessing.

More recently, in 1992, a Marlboro Township, N.J., man drew thousands to his home after claiming the Virgin Mary paid visits to him on the first Sunday of each month. During Christmas week in 1996, nearly half a million people flocked to an office building in Clearwater, Fla., where a two-story tall, rainbow-colored image of the Virgin Mary materialized.Other incidents involving natural tree formations occurred in Hartford, Conn., and Coloma, Calif. In Conyers, Ga., thousands of pilgrims gathered at the farm of Nancy Fowler, a retired nurse, to hear what they believed was a channeled message from the Virgin Mary. An image not unlike the one in Milton was sighted in a Perth Amboy, N.J., apartment building three years ago, with similar results.

The Boston Archdiocese ''has spoken cautiously'' about this latest event, notes Boston College theology professor Raymond Helmick, SJ. And properly so, he says, since condensation on a window, however moving, falls somewhat short of a verifiable miracle -- at least so far.

Church leaders ''don't want to pour cold water on it,'' says Helmeck, ''but in general the church deals rather skeptically with these things. They don't want people to be deceived. Then again, anything that adds to people's devotion is seen as a good thing.''

To University of Kansas professor Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, author of ''Encountering Mary: Visions of Mary From La Salette to Medjugorje,'' a historical analysis of Marian visitations, the interesting questions behind such phenomena are: Who first saw the image? And for what personal reasons did he or she conclude it was spiritually significant?

''I don't even go into the question of whether it's actually the Virgin Mary who's appearing,'' says Zimdars-Swartz, who hears of one or two such events per year. ''The real question is, why? It's like a Rorschach test. Someone sees a pattern of light and dark. I start by assuming that the person looking at it has a reason for seeing it as a meaningful.''

Without having been to Milton, she guesses the reasons people attach deep meaning to the current sighting include feelings of uncertainty and turmoil: concerns about the economy, the war in Iraq, and what they sense is a fraying of the country's moral fabric.

''When people get together like this, they reinforce their beliefs -- and at the same time practice their defenses against skeptics,'' Zimdars-Swartz continues. In class, she says, she shows students images like the Clearwater one, but without accompanying clues. Usually the students see nothing special, Zimdars-Swartz says. Next she'll show a slide of, say, flowers laid at the site, and the students suddenly see what fascinates everyone else.

''Bottom line is, people come to these [sites] with a perceptual filter,'' she says.

David Frankfurter, a professor of relgious studies at the University of New Hampshire, notes that while skeptics may dismiss them as being delusional, such phenomena are more popular than most people think.

''In America, the interpretations typically espouse extremely conservative messages,'' Frankfurter says. '' `The world is going to hell, and so is the church,' that sort of thing.''

Adds Frankfurter, ''Nobody worries too much that it's chemicals causing the image in the window. It has a deeper meaning to them, and that's enough.''

At the Milton hospital grounds, the wall below the window is lined with dozens of floral arrangements and other objects: photos of deceased loved ones, a letter from a US Marine officer stationed in Iraq, bottles of holy water and prescription pill vials, a plastic collection box containing scores of dollar bills. Visitors place their hands on the brick wall and bow in prayer. Others finger rosary beads and stare in silence. French and Portuguese are heard here almost as frequently as English.

For Lori Benedetto of New Hope, Pa., it is even more than that. ''A once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' she called it Thursday while visiting the site with her four young children. As the tarp flapped, she snapped pictures and said the image ''showed people there's more than war going on, that there's also something good in this world.''

Did she think mineral deposits explained what she was looking at, or was it something more?

''I've seen condensation on windows and mineral deposits before, and they don't take that form,'' said Benedetto, shaking her head. Asked how long was she planning to stay, she smiled: ''Until my kids give out.''

Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at jkahn@globe.com

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 6/21/2003. Copyright
2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Alternative Therapy Center Opens Near WTC

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/nation/6120606.htm

Posted on Thu, Jun. 19, 2003

SARA KUGLER
Associated Press

NEW YORK - Behind windows overlooking the World Trade Center site, a new office decorated in serene colors is offering free alternative therapy for those with lingering Sept. 11 trauma, including acupuncture for stress and a Chihuahua for comfort.

The alternative therapies are provided in addition to traditional one-on-one counseling sessions at the new office opened by St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center.

The staff hopes that being away from the hospital environment will help people feel more comfortable with the idea of therapy. The center - so new it has a paper sign taped to the door and no phones yet - is located on the 12th floor of a downtown office building.

Trace Rosel, a social worker with the center, said most patients have welcomed the idea of going to counseling in an office with a view of the disaster site.

"For some people, it raises the anxiety, but once they got here they felt this was safe and a way to heal," Rosel said.

The center also employs another unusual icebreaker: the unusually calm Chihuahua named El Duque, who agreeably comes when strangers call him and doesn't mind being handed from lap to lap.

"Things work differently for people - not everyone's into one-on-one counseling," Rosel said.

Dr. Spencer Eth, director of the center, said therapies that are nonverbal, like spending time with the dog and coming for an acupuncture session, help ease patients into the idea of therapy.

The center will cost about $1 million a year to operate, and is funded by government grants and private donations. Eth said workers hope the flow of funding will continue, allowing services to remain free.

Hospital counselors had been seeing such a continuous stream of patients from the ground zero area that they decided lower Manhattan needed a therapy center separate from the medical center, which is about 2 miles north of the trade center site.

"Even though it's been 20 months since the disaster, there continues to be a large, unmet need among New Yorkers who are experiencing symptoms," said Eth. "We'll be able to see people who work in the area, live in the area, schoolteachers, public safety workers when they're off-duty."

The office is staffed by several therapists from St. Vincent's, which estimates 15,000 people have sought counseling through the hospital for Sept. 11-related trauma. Now, the staff works with a few hundred regular patients, Eth said.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress include sleeplessness, anxiety, irritability, nightmares and substance abuse. One study shortly after the attacks estimated 1.5 million New Yorkers would need some type of therapy for terror-induced psychological problems.

ON THE NET

St. Vincent's: http://www.svcmc.org/portal/default.asp

Solstice revellers watch sunrise

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/hampshire/dorset/3008828.stm

More than 30,000 people gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice.

Ahead of the midsummer event police warned people not to hold any unlicensed "mass gatherings" afterwards.

English Heritage reopened the site to the public after the closures and clashes of previous years.

Astrologer Roy Gillett, who was among the crowds there to watch the sunrise just before 0500 BST, said it was important to celebrate this the longest day of the year.

He said druids were joined at the 5,000 year-old World Heritage site by anyone who wanted to "keep in touch with the flow of nature".

Revellers were delighted that the good weather allowed the sunrise to be seen over the ancient stones.

Welcome to Crank Dot Net.

http://www.crank.net/

Crank Dot Net is devoted to presenting Web sites by and about cranks, crankism, crankishness, and crankosity. All cranks, all the time.

Every day at midnight, a new Crank o' the Day is chosen!

Just click, and start navigating. For a complete list of all the categories, both alphabetical and hierarchical, see the contents. There is also a What's new page, which lists all the cranks added in the last month.

New: Azrael, stalkers, James Harris, past lives, and history!


Saturday, June 21, 2003

Savant for a Day

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/22/magazine/22SAVANT.html?pagewanted=all

June 22, 2003

By LAWRENCE OSBORNE

n a concrete basement at the University of Sydney, I sat in a chair waiting to have my brain altered by an electromagnetic pulse. My forehead was connected, by a series of electrodes, to a machine that looked something like an old-fashioned beauty-salon hair dryer and was sunnily described to me as a ''Danish-made transcranial magnetic stimulator.'' This was not just any old Danish-made transcranial magnetic stimulator, however; this was the Medtronic Mag Pro, and it was being operated by Allan Snyder, one of the world's most remarkable scientists of human cognition.

Nonetheless, the anticipation of electricity being beamed into my frontal lobes (and the consent form I had just signed) made me a bit nervous. Snyder found that amusing. ''Oh, relax now!'' he said in the thick local accent he has acquired since moving here from America. ''I've done it on myself a hundred times. This is Australia. Legally, it's far more difficult to damage people in Australia than it is in the United States.''

''Damage?'' I groaned.

''You're not going to be damaged,'' he said. ''You're going to be enhanced.''

The Medtronic was originally developed as a tool for brain surgery: by stimulating or slowing down specific regions of the brain, it allowed doctors to monitor the effects of surgery in real time. But it also produced, they noted, strange and unexpected effects on patients' mental functions: one minute they would lose the ability to speak, another minute they would speak easily but would make odd linguistic errors and so on. A number of researchers started to look into the possibilities, but one in particular intrigued Snyder: that people undergoing transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, could suddenly exhibit savant intelligence -- those isolated pockets of geniuslike mental ability that most often appear in autistic people.

CRUISE LOBBYING FOR SCIENTOLOGY FAITH-BASED INITIATIVE GRANTS?

from AMERICAN ATHEISTS NEWS
#1105 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 6/20/03

RELIGIOUS RIGHT DILEMMA: CRUISE LOBBYING FOR SCIENTOLOGY
FAITH-BASED INITIATIVE GRANTS?
Education Secretary Hosts Lunch For Celeb, Reports Of Private Meetings

It may be Pat Robertson's worst nightmare.

Will the Church of Scientology be a recipient of President Bush's "Religion Tax" largesse to operate drug-alcohol rehab clinics and other social programs based on the group's strange teachings?

The Washington Post is reporting that Scientology "cause celeb" Tom Cruise has been meeting this past week with key senior Bush administration officials at the Department of Education and even the White House. On Thursday, Secretary of Education Rod Paige reportedly hosted a lunch for the film idol, who inquired about the president's "No Child Left Behind" program that provides grants to churches and other houses of worship.

Will taxpayers now be funding Scientology-controlled groups?

Ever since Mr. Bush opened his White House Office of Faith-Based and Community initiatives three years ago, controversy has surrounded the multi-billion dollar program. Religious conservatives have supported the general idea of government funding for faith-based activities, but worry that non-mainstream and "fringe" religions including Scientology or even Islamic groups, may end up receiving money. They also voice concern that with federal dollars could come surveillance and fiscal oversight -- a practice they fear would interfere with the independence of religious groups by "Caesar."

More liberal religionists have embraced the program. They are concerned, though, that their fundamentalist brethren might use the government lucre to set programs that discriminate on the basis of religion, or involve blatant, sectarian proselytizing. Bottom line: the Bush faith-based initiative still faces an up-hill fight. The president has relied heavily on everything from Executive Orders which were used to conjure the White House office, to bureaucratic mechanisms such as re-writing federal rules on which groups may receive taxpayer money. This allows the White House to temporarily sidestep congressional oversight, as well as nagging questions regarding the separation of church and state.

All of which raises questions about fairness, and which faith-based groups qualify for government funding, and what Tom Cruise is doing mixing with policy gurus in the nation's capitol.

The prospect of Scientology or other non-mainstream religious groups profiting from the federal faith-based initiative has been a concern for leading Protestant evangelicals including Christian Coalition televangelist Pat Robertson. No sooner had Bush set up his White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives than Robertson was blasting the program on his "700 Club" television show.

"I really don't know what to do," Robertson complained. "This thing (the initiative) could be a real Pandora's box. And what seems to be such a great initiative can rise up to bite the organizations as well as the federal government."

For Robertson, the prospect of groups like the Hare Krishna Scientology, and even Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church receiving government funding to operate religion-saturated social programs was, well, profane.

"I mean, the Moonies have been proscribed, if I can use that, for brainwashing techniques, sleep deprivation and all the rest of it that goes along with their religious proselytizing," Robertson continued. "The Hare Krishnas much the same thing. And it seems appalling to me that we're going to go for somebody like that, or the Church of Scientology..."

Similar concerns were voiced by another television preacher, Rev. Jerry Falwell. He proposed that only "established" mainstream religion charities qualify for government funding. That seemed to conflict with the initiative as described by Mr. Bush, who told the audience at the WHOFBCI opening, "We welcome all religion and we do not impose any religion."

Barely a month later, AANEWS reported that the Scientology-controlled magazine "Freedom" ran a photograph of President Bush and wife Barbara at the Presidential Summit for America's Future, where the couple was flanked by John Travalota (another Scientology celeb) and Church of Scientology International Executive Karen Hollander. Word was also breaking that Scientology officials would be asking for White House funding of a church-linked program known as Applied Scholastics that incorporates the teaching of founder L. Ron Hubbard.

As for Cruise, he has emerged in Scientology press broadsides and articles as a international representative of the controversial sect. In April, he sent a check and letter of support to "Drug-Free Ambassadors" in New Zealand, a program sponsored by the COS founded by John Travolta a decade ago. In the U.S., the program operates as "Drug-Free Marshals." The group is based upon several points which include "living a drug free life," "Helping my fellow Drug-Free Marshals," and "Telling people the truth about the harmful effects of drugs."

While Robertson and Falwell have entertained notions of selective government funding for the faith-based initiative -- a prospect that would likely not pass constitutional muster since it clearly discriminates -- the Church of Scientology has maintained a somewhat staid, even professional distance from the controversy. A statement issued by COS International Vice President Janet Weiland said that the controversy over who receives the public lucre "has in some cases turned ugly," and that "The Church of Scientology does not attempt to judge or pass comment on the religion of others."

Weiland also pointed out that "Government funding of social betterment activities is nothing new," and pointed to groups like Catholic Charities, Lutheran Services of America and the YMCA which "collect billions of dollars in federal money for their charitable programs."

"The religious leaders of this country should not be climbing over the backs of their brethren in the mad scramble for government coins," continued Weiland.

As for Pat Robertson, while Scientology has been catching the flack for wanting to step up to the Treasury window, a Robertson-controlled entity known as Operation Blessing has scrambled for Caesar's gold and received a $500,000 grant thanks to the faith-based initiative.

For further information:

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith5.htm
("Religion Tax office opens as fringe groups poised to demand cash," 2/21/01)

http://www.atheists.org/faithlob.htm
(Archive of news articles about the faith-based initiative)

What Are The Alternatives to Vaccination?

[Medical Quackery at http://www.healthychild.com/database/what_are_the_alternatives_to_vaccination_.htm]

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, Lac, CCH

Let's turn this question around. What would induce me to vaccinate my children? The answer: only a completely new technology that proved to be both safe and effective. Knowing what I do about the toxicity and dangers of the current vaccines, I would not allow my child to receive them under any circumstances. What are the alternatives? Keep your child healthy, and stop being afraid of these diseases. Fear is an outmoded response to childhood infectious disease. Promote the strength of your child's immune system instead, and avoid things that can weaken it. This will prevent complications of diseases.

Here's a partial list:

Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (contained in packaged snack foods) since they promote inflammation and prevent healthy fatty acids from being incorporated into cells. Read labels of prepared foods and you will find these fats in crackers, chips, cookies, and desserts. Avoid french fries and other deep fried foods from McDonald's and the other burger palaces. The oils in these foods are rancid. Supplement your child's diet with flaxseed oil, an omega-3 fat that prevents inflammation. Put it into smoothies or mix it with rice or oatmeal, but do not cook flaxseed oil. Keep it refrigerated.

Avoid foods with added sugar, i.e. sugared breakfast cereals, sodas, cookies, and ice cream. Corn syrup is especially difficult for the body to metabolize. Corn syrup is everywhere so read the labels. Use fruit spreads instead of jam, and offer lots of fresh and dried fruits or fruit rolls. Use whole grains and whole wheat bread rather than products made with "wheat flour," which means white flour. Use organic foods whenever possible, and your child will not be eating pesticides that injure the liver.

If your child tends to get frequent colds or ear infections, give him or her a supplement of organic bovine colostrum (powdered in capsules and added to foods), one capsule twice each day.

Breastfeeding is the best protection you can provide for your child. Continue for at least twelve months or longer if possible. The longer you breastfeed, the more your child will benefit. Breast-feeding prevents infections and the complications of childhood illness.

Seek out a homeopathic practitioner or an acupuncturist familiar with treating children. He or she will provide treatments that build immune function and also help resolve acute illness quickly and easily.

Do not give antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

Decongestants and antihistamines suppress the body's immune system and add more harmful chemicals to your child's body, causing recurrent infections.

Use homeopathic medicines, vitamin A (10,000-20,000 units per day in the form of beta-carotene or mixed carotenoids), vitamin C (500-1,000 mg. per day), and echinacea (10-20 drops three times per day) to treat colds, coughs, and ear infections. Several books exist to guide you (listed below).

References for treating childhood illness:

Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child: A Practical A-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Infants and Children by Janet Zand (Avery Publishing Group, 1994)

Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines by Stephen Cummings and Dana Ullman (JP Tarcher, 1997)

Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Simple Guide for the Whole Family by Robert Ullman and Judith Reichenberg-Ullman (Prima Publishing, 1997)

Dr. Neustaedter has practiced homeopathic medicine for over twenty years, specializing in child health care. An accomplished and well-recognized author, his works include an authoritative text, Homeopathic Pediatrics, and a popular book for parents, The Vaccine Guide: Making an Informed Choice (1996), a revision of his previous book, The Immunization Decision (1990). He has contributed extensively to the journals that comprise the homeopathic medical literature. Dr. Neustaedter currently manages the Vaccine and Immunization Forum and coordinates the Vaccination content site in HealthWorld Online - http://www.healthy.net/vaccine. A licensed acupuncturist with a doctorate in Oriental Medicine, Dr. Neustaedter practices at the Classical Medicine Center in Redwood City, California (650-299-9170).

Cruise: Show Scientology the money

http://www.msnbc.com/news/921505.asp?0cv=CB20

With Ashley Pearson MSNBC

June 19 The Church of Scientology's Top Gun has been lobbying the White House. Tom Cruise has been meeting with officials from the Department of Education and lawmakers at the White House, reports the Washington Post, and a source says he believes that Cruise is hoping to get government funding for the church.

"TOM IS A big believer in the teaching tools of Scientology and has spoken in the past about how it cured his dyslexia," says alternative religion expert Rick Ross. "It looks to me like he is seeking federal funds for Scientology schools under President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative."

Ross also says that Cruise is appealing to the Bush administration to pressure some European countries to ease up on their anti-Scientology policies just as John Travolta lobbied the Clinton administration.

A Church of Scientology spokeswoman declined to comment on Cruise's visit, saying that it was the "private activity of an individual person." "Tom met at the Department of Education because he has always been passionate about education and wanted to meet the Secretary [of Education]," a spokeswoman for the actor told The Scoop. "And, in a separate meeting, he met with a few White House officials to discuss his concern about the state of human rights in the world today, especially religious intolerance in parts of Western Europe."

Did Jesus Exist?

http://www.didjesusexist.com/

Why another web site?

Many web pages present a point of view on the existence of Jesus, but they usually contain apologetics or polemic, not critical scholarship. DidJesusExist.com is dedicated to publishing articles distinguished by their attention to detail and reasoned approach.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

The Evidence for -- Ancient Atomic Warfare

http://www.nexusmagazine.com/ancatomicwar2.html

Religious texts and geological evidence suggest that several parts of the world have experienced destructive atomic blasts in ages past.

Part 2 of 2

Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 7, Number 6 (October-November 2000) or November-December 2000 in the USA only.
PO Box 30, Mapleton Qld 4560 Australia. editor@nexusmagazine.com
Telephone: +61 (0)7 5442 9280; Fax: +61 (0)7 5442 9381
From our web page at: www.nexusmagazine.com

2000 by David Hatcher Childress
Extracted from Chapter 6 of his book
Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients
Published by Adventures Unlimited Press
Box 74, Kempton, Illinois, USA
TollFree # 1-800-718-4514
Tel: 1 815 253 6390
Fax: 1 815 253 6300
Website: www.adventuresunlimited.co.nz

VITRIFIED RUINS IN CALIFORNIA'S DEATH VALLEY

It seems one local character knew how to find the place. Brandon relates that "Death Valley Scotty", an eccentric who spent millions building a castle-estate in the area, was known to go "prospecting" when funds ran low. Death Valley Scotty would check out for a few days of wandering in the nearby Grapevine Mountains, bringing back suspiciously refined-looking gold that he claimed he had prospected. Many believe that he got his gold from the stacked gold bars in the tunnel system beneath Death Valley.

Evidence of a lost civilisation in Death Valley came in a bizarre report of caves and mummies in the Hot Citizen, a Nevada paper, on August 5, 1947. The story ran as follows:

EXPEDITION REPORTS NINE-FOOT SKELETONS

A band of amateur archaeologists announced today they have discovered a lost civilization of men nine feet tall in Californian caverns. Howard E. Hill, spokesman for the expedition, said the civilization may be "the fabled lost continent of Atlantis".

The caves contain mummies of men and animals and implements of a culture 80,000 years old but "in some respects more advanced than ours," Hill said. He said the 32 caves covered a 180-square-mile area in California's Death Valley and southern Nevada.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS SKEPTICAL

"This discovery may be more important than the unveiling of King Tut's tomb," he said.

Professional archaeologists were skeptical of Hill's story. Los Angeles County Museum scientists pointed out that dinosaurs and tigers which Hill said lay side by side in the caves appeared on Earth 10,000,000 to 13,000,000 years apart.

Hill said the caves were discovered in 1931 by Dr F. Bruce Russell, Beverly Hills physician, who literally fell in while sinking a shaft for a mining claim.

"He tried for years to interest people in them," Hill said, "but nobody believed him."

Russell and several hobbyists incorporated after the war as Amazing Explorations, Inc. and started digging. Several caverns contained mummified remains of "a race of men eight to nine feet tall," Hill said. "They apparently wore a prehistoric zoot suit--a hair garment of medium length, jacket and knee-length trousers."

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 June 20, 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 provides a digest of the week's top stories from "Science in the News," and covers breaking news and feature stories from each weekend not normally covered by "Science in the News." Subscribe now by clicking here:

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$300 MILLION GENOME INSTITUTE LAUNCHED
from The Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE -- In an unprecedented collaboration, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are joining forces to launch an ambitious $300 million institute that hopes to take the mass of raw information generated by the Human Genome Project and turn it into real- world cures for disease.

With the help of a $100 million donation from Eli and Edythe L. Broad, a pair of West Coast philanthropists, the institute aims to build on the work of the Human Genome Project, which in April finished assembling the long sequence of DNA that controls every human cell. The alluring and overwhelming prospect of turning this basic science into applied medicine brought together two historic rivals, Harvard and MIT, along with the sprawling complex of Harvard hospitals and the Whitehead Institute, a renowned Cambridge-based genetics laboratory.

"In the 20th century, we treated symptoms because we didn't know the causes," said Eric Lander, who will head the new institute and is one of the leading figures in the Human Genome Project. "We are poised to create a more powerful medicine."
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/171/nation/_300m_genome_institute_launched+.shtml

EDITING FLAP OVER EPA'S REPORT ON ENVIRONMENT
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman said Thursday that she decided to omit a section on climate change from a long- awaited status report on the nation's environment because the only language the Bush administration could agree on amounted to "pablum."

The report, expected to be released Monday, will be the first comprehensive look at the quality of the nation's air, water, land and public health to be published in the agency's 30-year history. But the section on climate change will merely refer readers to government Web sites that link to documents on the subject and the administration's policy for dealing with it.

There is virtually unanimous agreement among scientists that the Earth is getting warmer. Most say the recent warming is probably due mostly to human activities, such as the use of fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas and deforestation. Burning fossil fuels produces gases, such as carbon dioxide, that can rapidly concentrate in the atmo- sphere, causing a greenhouse effect that results in rising temperatures.
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-na-climate20jun20,1,7503341.story?coll=la-news-science

ASTRONOMERS LINK GAMMA-RAY BURSTS TO SUPERNOVAS
from The New York Times

Alien space wars and antimatter comets are but two of the more exotic explanations that have been proffered in the last three decades for the flashes of high-energy radiation known as gamma-ray bursts that have appeared sporadically in the cosmic night, tantalizing and frustrating astronomers.

An only slightly more prosaic theory has taken hold among astronomers in recent years: that these violent flashes are the yowls of giant stars imploding, perhaps into black holes, the inky gravitational sinks that swallow light and all else.

Now there is evidence that those astronomers are right, at least about some of the bursts. On March 29 a gamma-ray burst was detected that went off unusually near Earth a mere two billion light-years away prompting a deluge of observations that discerned the unmistakeable hint of a supernova explosion, the cataclysm in which a massive star ends its life, in the debris of the burst.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/20/science/20GAMM.html

SPACECRAFT GIVE 'DEEPER' PICTURE OF THE ORIGIN OF GALAXIES
from The New York Times

Astronomers unveiled the first results yesterday from what they said was the most searching look yet into the origin of galaxies and how they grew.

Staring at two patches of sky, one in the north and one in the south, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory assembled a snapshot of cosmic history, the astronomers said, that reaches back to less than a billion years after the Big Bang in which the universe was born.

A billion years corresponds to about 8 percent of the age of the universe, said Dr. Mauro Giavalisco, an astronomer at the space telescope who was a leader of the survey known as the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey, or Goods. That, Dr. Giavalisco said, is "the period when galaxies and humans evolved the quickest."
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/20/science/20GALA.html

GOOD GENES COUNT, BUT NOT ONLY FACTOR IN HIGH IQ
from The Wall Street Journal

For a trait so highly heritable, intelligence has been awfully reluctant to give up its genes.

There is wide agreement that cognitive ability at least partly reflects the influence of DNA: Dozens of studies of thousands of twins have shown identical twins, who share the same genes, tend to have more-similar IQs than do other sibling pairs, and children match the IQ of their biological more than their adoptive parents.

Together, these studies imply genes account for about 50 percent of the difference in intelligence from one person to the next. That's a high enough "heritability" that you'd think genome labs would be practically spitting out genes related to intelligence.

But they're not. And therein may lie an important clue to the biology of what Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioral genetics at King's College London, calls "the most complex -- and most controversial -- of all complex traits."
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/06/20/financial0857EDT0029.DTL

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