NTS LogoSkeptical News for 21 September 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, September 21, 2003

A smashing end for Jupiter explorer

By Richard Stenger


(CNN) --A daring robotic explorer that circled Jupiter and its moons for eight years plunged into the scorching atmosphere of the giant planet on Sunday -- a fiery end to one of the most productive space missions ever.

NASA charted the collision course to prevent Galileo, a heap of metal, plutonium and gadgets the size of a sport utility vehicle, from striking Jupiter's larger moons, considered some of the most promising sites to search for life beyond Earth.

Its propellant running low and its electrical systems on the blink, Galileo nonetheless kept a handful of instruments on during the final hours, giving scientists a chance to squeeze some final observations about Jupiter's upper atmosphere from the $1.4 billion mission.

"We're still collecting scientific data. I'm really surprised we haven't gone into emergency mode," said Galileo project manager Claudia Alexander, an hour or so before impact. "This time last November, we were passing through this same zone and we got clobbered."

The craft went completely silent just before 4 p.m. EDT, having slipped behind the far side of Jupiter. Minutes later, it presumably screamed across the cloud tops on the night side of the planet, just south of the equator, speeding at more than 100,000 mph.

The searing heat in the upper atmosphere, twice that of the surface of the sun, and the dense pressure, which within minutes was more than 20 times that at Earth's sea level, likely vaporized the robot ship, according to astronomers.

For the rest of article, click on the following link:


Library catalog system owner sues book-based New York hotel

September 20, 2003, 9:29 PM EDT

DUBLIN, Ohio -- A global computer library service is seeking one heck of a fine against a New York City luxury hotel.

The Library Hotel, overlooking the New York Public Library, opened in August 2000 as an homage to the Dewey Decimal system of classifying books by topic.

Each floor is dedicated to one of 10 Dewey categories. The 60 rooms are named for specific topics, such as room 700.003 for performing arts, with appropriate books inside.

Trouble is, the classification system isn't in the public domain.

Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit organization based in this Columbus suburb, acquired the rights to Dewey Decimal in 1988 when it bought Forest Press.

The system is continually updated, with numbers assigned to more than 100,000 new works each year as soon as they are cataloged by the Library of Congress, according to the OCLC website.

Now the library group is suing the Library Hotel, accusing it of trademark infringement.

For the rest of article, click on the following link:


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Grand Canyon born on East coast

Uranium-dating reveals origin of western US sandstone.

16 September 2003


Between 150 and 300 million years ago sands covered an area of Western North America the size of the Kalahari Desert. © GettyImages

Like many of their tourist visitors, some of the rocks that make up the Grand Canyon came across North America from the East Coast, a new study reveals1.

Until now, the origin of the sands that covered approximately 350,000 square kilometers of the western United States and solidified into sandstone between 150 million and 300 million years ago has been a mystery.

"There's been no way to test hypotheses," explains geologist Bill Dickinson of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Most researchers assumed that the sands came from the now-flattened Ancestral Rocky Mountains, which stretched from southern New Mexico to northern Colorado 300 million years ago.

Now Dickinson and his Arizona colleague George Gehrels have discovered that around half of the sand was once part of the Appalachian Mountains, thousands of kilometres away. They propose that huge rivers carried the sand westwards, depositing it on an ancient shoreline in Wyoming, from whence winds blew it south into the dune fields.

Geologists are enthusiastic about the results. "I'm very pleased," says Bob Dott, emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has studied the geological history of the western US for decades. "The big question was where did all the sand come from, and this paper has been the first to document it with hard data."

For the rest of the article, click on the following link:


Indian Nostradamus


TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2003 02:23:53 AM ] LUCKNOW: It is difficult to connect Bill and Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and even Osama bin Laden to Gorakhpur. But there is a documented evidence in safe custody of the BBC World News archives to prove so.

The 'missing' link is Vimal Singh, a Supreme Court lawyer hailing from this eastern UP district. He had predicted well in advance about former US president Bill Clinton's public image being blotched because of the White House intern as well as the havoc the bearded guerrilla hiding in the caves in Kunar province of Aghanistan would wreak for the USA.

"I predicted Hillary Clinton's election and when she was elected, she sent a word of thanks through the US Secretary of State which was passed on to me by the then US Ambassador to India," he claimed proudly.

Asked about the days to come, this third oldest among three brothers and two sisters, Vimal had this say: "Mulayam will emerge as a better CM this time with a more clear vision." For the ousted CM Mayawati, "her chances of attaining power again are remote and she should be careful about accidents," Vimal said, adding that "She does not have any threat from any human being, as of now."

For the BJP, "the younger lot in the leadership like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj will revive the party which is currently on a slide... And, the coalition era at the centre and most of the states will end with Priyanka stepping into politics." Vimal also announced that a temple in Ayodhya would come up at the disputed site but not in the near future. "It will be through mutual understanding between the two communities and there is no other way out," he continued emphatically.

"It is a gift of nature which I nurture as my hobby," said Vimal talking to Times News Network at Lucknow. "There is no technique or meditation behind it ... it just comes naturally when I look at the face and forehead of someone," said the law graduate from Lucknow University. It was over seven years ago when Vimal just commented about something which his sister Sunita and mother would face in future.

As predicted, Sunita took up a job as a police officer while his mother suffered a hairline fracture injury on her leg which remained undetected for quite sometime.

Vimal's rare gift has made him the talk of the town. From the pages of local daily, Vimal soon hit the international media when the BBC World News featured him in November 1998. "Next, when I was again featured in the BBC World News in December 2000, the news reader introduced me to the camera as Nostradamus of India," Vimal concluded.


Catholic Archdiocese Files Suit, Calling Church Network a Fraud


ATLANTA, Sept. 19 — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta has filed a lawsuit accusing a network of Spanish-speaking churches of falsely claiming to be Catholic, with priests celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and offering Communion to immigrants who mistakenly think the churches are tied to the Vatican.

"These men dress as priests and conduct services that appear to be a Catholic Mass," said a lawyer for the archdiocese, David Brown. "You cannot simply set up in whatever church and call yourself Roman Catholic. That's fraud."

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, seeks an injunction against Capilla de la Fe, or Chapel of the Faith, churches, barring them from calling themselves Catholic. It is also asks for unspecified damages for donations worshipers gave in the belief that the money would go to the Catholic Church.

The suit is thought to be the first of its kind filed by the American Catholic Church, Mr. Brown said.

For the rest of article, click on the following link:


Ex-church elders get prison for bilking elderly woman

Montana Standard/May 14, 2003

By Vera Haffey

Deer Lodge -- Jehovah's Witnesses church elders who fleeced a 100-year-old Deer Lodge woman out of more than $6 million were remanded to Montana State Prison after a sentencing hearing in Powell County District Court Monday.

Darryl Willis, 64, Helena, and Dale Erickson, 54, Missoula, were sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison with four years suspended each for felony charges of conspiracy and theft; three years with one suspended for felony conspiracy, and two years with one suspended for securities fraud, also a felony. That amounts to an aggregate 25 years in prison with 10 suspended.

The two are also ordered to make $6.5 million in restitution. And, during the probationary period of their sentence, they may not control anyone's finances.

District Judge Ted Mizner said the sentence represents a "small measure of justice'' for Una Anderson, whose life savings and family ranch were lost in a befriend-and-betray scheme. The men used a complex system of trusts and interlocking companies to steal Anderson's money, lived in expensive homes, drove luxury cars and traveled extensively abroad to places like London and the Caribbean while depleting her trust fund money, according to court records.

Erickson and Willis sat calmly throughout the proceedings. Afterwards, their family members wept in a huddle in the courtroom.

For the rest of article, click on the following link:


Friday, September 19, 2003

This fall, the big screen spotlights religion

'Luther,' which debuts Sept. 26, is one of several new films that focus on religion or question institutional authority.

By Liza Bear | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

As a way of putting scandalous institutional practices into historical context, "Luther" couldn't be more timely.

The movie, about the first successful challenge to Roman Catholicism, opens Sept. 26, the latest in a string of films that are either about religion or question religious authority.

Among them are the recently released horror-fantasy "The Order," about a renegade religious cult; "The Magdalene Sisters," about abuse in asylums run by Irish-Catholics; the three-hour epic, "Gospel of St. John," which premièred at the Toronto Film Festival this month; and Mel Gibson's much-ballyhooed adaptation of Jesus's last 12 hours in "The Passion," shot in ancient Aramaic and Latin. Gibson hopes it will debut this spring.

Next month, "Sister Helen," a lively documentary about a salty 69-year-old Benedictine nun, who surmounted her own personal tragedies and ran a shelter for substance abusers in the south Bronx will be released in theaters and on HBO.

"Luther," directed by Eric Till and starring Joseph Fiennes, is a heavily scored action-adventure film about the German monk whose critique of Catholicism launched the Reformation in the early 16th century and led to the birth of Protestantism.

"In a recent Life Magazine poll about the most influential people in the last millennium, Luther came out ahead of Christopher Columbus, Galileo, and Leonardo da Vinci," says Dr. Martin Marty, coauthor of a six-volume study of militant fundamentalism and of the forthcoming Penguin biography of Luther.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Remains of Cities Found in Amazon Basin


AP Science Writer

September 19, 2003, 9:17 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Researchers working in the Amazon River basin have discovered clusters of settlements linked by wide roads and surrounded by agricultural developments.

The researchers, including some descendants of pre-Columbia tribes that lived along the Amazon, have unearthed evidence of densely settled, well-organized communities with roads, moats and bridges in the Upper Xingu part of the vast tropical region.

The findings show the Amazon was not, as was once thought, all an untouched wilderness before Columbus came to the Americas.

Michael J. Heckenberger, first author of the study appearing this week in the journal Science, said that the ancestors of the Kuikuro people in the Amazon basin had a "complex and sophisticated" civilization with a population of many thousands during the period before 1492.

"These people were not the small mobile bands or simple dispersed populations" that some earlier studies had suggested, he said.

Instead, the people demonstrated sophisticated levels of engineering, planning, cooperation and architecture in carving out of the tropical rain forest a system of interconnected villages and towns making up a widespread culture based on farming.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Psychic aims to foresee Emmy winners


Sept. 18, 2003 | LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tony Shalhoub, clear shelf space for your Emmy.

I think you're going to win as best actor in a comedy series for your neurotic performance in "Monk." More importantly, psychic Linda Georgian sees you taking home the trophy Sunday.

"I certainly know Ray Romano makes $1.8 million an episode, and obviously he's hot and would probably be the other main contender. But I got Tony," Georgian said this week, peering into the future.

And why not consult a psychic on the Emmys?

Given the unpredictability of the awards, her picks are at least as likely to be right as those of any so-called TV expert.

Last year, I scored 60 percent in my major-category picks on the Goldderby.com awards handicapping Web site, behind front-runner Ken Tucker (70 percent) of Entertainment Weekly. Georgian claims a 90 percent success rate, and she doesn't bother watching much outside of Court TV.

So how hard can this guessing game be, you ask?

Granted, "The West Wing" has won three consecutive best drama series awards. But rule changes enacted in 2000 to draw in more and younger TV academy voters have opened up the race and made it more uncertain.

Michael Chiklis of "The Shield" wasn't the only one wearing a stunned expression last year when he was honored as best actor in a drama, making FX the little channel that could field a major Emmy winner.

In a grave disservice, TV academy voters in 2002 gave "Six Feet Under" a single trophy, a directing award for series creator Alan Ball, although it arrived covered in acclaim and the most nominations.

HBO's funeral home drama leads the pack again this year, with 16 nods. But will it or its stars fare any better?

Yes, says Georgian.

Not so fast, say I, eyeing a certain hungry mob family.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Genetic Basis to Fairness, Study Hints

September 18, 2003


"It's not fair!" is a common call from the playground and, in subtler form, from more adult assemblies. It now seems that monkeys, too, have a sense of fairness, a conclusion suggesting that this feeling may be part of the genetically programmed social glue that holds primate societies together, monkeys as well as humans.

Two researchers at Emory University, Dr. Sarah F. Brosnan and Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, report today in the journal Nature that they taught female capuchin monkeys to trade pebbles for pieces of food. The capuchins were caged in pairs, so that each member of a pair could see the other. If one monkey got a grape in return for her pebble but the other only a less desired piece of cucumber, the shortchanged monkey would often refuse to hand over the pebble in exchange or might decline to eat the cucumber - both very unusual behaviors.

These refusals were often accompanied by emphatic body language, like dashing the pebble or the cucumber on the floor, Dr. Brosnan said. The expressions of exasperation were twice as common if the monkey offered a cucumber saw her companion being given a grape without even having to hand over a pebble.

The behavior suggests that the monkeys have a sense of fair treatment and respond negatively when their expectations are violated, the researchers say.

The finding bears on the question of whether the sense of fairness found in all human societies is learned from school and family or is instead an innate behavior fostered by the genes.

"The fact that we find the sense of fairness in a nonhuman primate implies it is an evolved behavior and has a good benefit," Dr. Brosnan said.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Newly Found Virus Blamed for Common Colds


Filed at 5:15 p.m. ET

CHICAGO (AP) -- Something called the metapneumovirus, discovered just two years ago, is turning out to be an exceedingly common cause of human misery, responsible for garden-variety colds in grown-ups and more severe coughing, wheezing and congestion in children.

Researchers are beginning to piece together the scope of this ubiquitous but overlooked bug, which now appears to afflict just about everybody, probably over and over.

Even though the virus seems to be rarely serious, its vast presence intrigues microbiologists, and it is one of the most talked-about topics at this week's meeting in Chicago of the American Society for Microbiology.

Experts say the metapneumovirus is almost certainly not a new bug but something that has been around for eons.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Jury Awards $2 Million To Man Fired For Missing Work

Man Missed Work To Observe Religious Holiday

POSTED: 6:35 a.m. PDT September 16, 2003 UPDATED: 8:39 a.m. PDT September 16, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles jury has awarded more than $2 million to a Muslim courier who was fired after missing three days of work for the birth of his child and a religious holiday.

Mehmood Darjee, 38, sued Laboratory Corporation of America, alleging religious discrimination and violation of the state's Family Rights Act.

Darjee was awarded $150,000 for lost wages, benefits and emotional distress, plus $2 million in punitive damages.

The Pakistani immigrant was fired in March 2001, after four years with the company.

His attorney said Darjee was fired a day after his son's birth for violating a company policy that requires two hours' notice for absences. Darjee testified his wife was unexpectedly hospitalized.

Darjee said he had already scheduled the next day off for the religious holiday of Eid, but his boss allegedly refused to allow him to take the day off.

The attorney representing Lab Corporation could not be reached for comment.


A Jewish Recount


According to reports in major news outlets, a study published last week included a startling discovery: the nation's Jewish population is shrinking. The study, the National Jewish Population Survey, found 5.2 million Jews living in the United States in 2000, a drop of 5 percent, or 300,000 people, since a similar study in 1990. What's truly startling is that the reported decline is not true. Worse still, the sponsor of the $6 million study, United Jewish Communities, knows it.

Both it and the authors have openly admitted their doubts. They have acknowledged in interviews with me that the population totals for 2000 and 1990 were reached by different methods and are not directly comparable. The survey itself also cautions readers, in a dauntingly technical appendix, that judgment calls by the researchers may have led to an undercount. When I asked the research director and project director whether the data should be construed to indicate a declining Jewish population, they flatly answered no. In addition, other survey researchers I interviewed pointed to other studies with population estimates as high as 6.7 million.

Despite all this, the two figures — 5.2 million now, 5.5 million then — are listed side by side in the survey, leaving the impression that the population has shrunk. The result, predictably, has been a rash of headlines trumpeting the illusionary decline, in turn touching off jeremiads by rabbis and moralists condemning the religious laxity behind it. Whether out of ideology, ego, incompetence or, as I suspect, a combination of all three, the respected charity has invented a crisis.

United Jewish Communities is the coordinating body for a national network of Jewish philanthropies with combined budgets of $2 billion. Its population surveys carry huge weight in shaping community policy. This is not the first time the survey has set off a false alarm. The last one, conducted in 1990 by a predecessor organization, found that 52 percent of American Jews who married between 1985 and 1990 did so outside the faith. That number was a fabrication produced by including marriages in which neither party was Jewish by anyone's definition, including the researchers.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Egypt fights toxins in 'cursed' tombs

Scientists will look for real-life scourges within pharaonic sites

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass says unexcavated tombs will be studied to see whether they contain hazardous substances such as toxic gases or disease germs.

CAIRO, Egypt, Sept. 12 — Egypt will use science to dispel the curse of the pharaohs, which popular myth blames for the deaths of those who have opened the tombs of Egypt's ancient rulers, the country's antiquties chief said.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Medical History's Oddballs Go Prime Time


The medical oddballs today who feel shunned by mainstream practitioners can take comfort, for better or worse, in a new mini-series on medical history that makes heroes of fanatical scientists of yesteryear. To say the least, they lacked tact.

Imagine the reaction to Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a surly Hungarian, who called his colleagues murderers because they refused to wash their hands between autopsies and delivering babies. He was onto something (hygiene) but lacked people skills. Dr. Semmelweis died in a mental hospital, but hand-washing eventually caught on.

Then there was Andreas Vesalius, the 16th-century Belgian considered the father of anatomy, who stole corpses from graves in Paris to prove that his teachers were all wrong about the body. He was right, but it did not go over well.

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a 17th-century Dutchman who made drapes and worked part time as a janitor, had the gall to write a letter to the Royal Society in London claiming he had made a device enabling him to see tiny animals squirming in his semen. That got him a lot of laughs. Leeuwenhoek made one of the earliest microscopes.

The story of these men and others of their ilk is the theme of a four-part series, "Mavericks, Miracles and Medicine," starting tonight on the History Channel. Each segment traces a state-of-the-art medical technology, like liver transplants or minimally invasive heart surgery, all the way back to the tales of the maverick scientists who made it all possible.

The tone is a bit hero-worship, but if the mission is to reach out to viewers who may have channel-surfed past the station, the show might interest the otherwise disinterested. The series does not get bogged down in the complexities of medical science, the context in which the discoveries were made, or the economic barriers that often ration today's medical miracles.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


New study backs up recent global warming

Nicky Lewis

12 September 2003

Source: SciDev.Net

A new study has found that the lowest layer of the Earth's atmosphere has been gradually warming up over the past 25 years, putting to rest past discrepancies and reaffirming that global warming occurred during the late 20th century.

Previous analysis of satellite measurements taken between 1978 and 2002 found no significant change in the temperature of the troposphere, which extends eight to 11 kilometres above the Earth. This contradicted temperature increases observed at ground level, as well as the predictions of climate models.

But research by US scientists has now questioned this finding – which has been used by some researchers and policy makers to cast doubts on global warming. By combining the satellite data with a temperature model that accounts for daily and seasonal cycles, they have found that the troposphere is warming up by about 0.024°C every year.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Music of the Heavens Turns Out to Sound a Lot Like a B Flat


Astronomers say they have heard the sound of a black hole singing. And what it is singing, and perhaps has been singing for more than two billion years, they say, is B flat — a B flat 57 octaves lower than middle C.

The "notes" appear as pressure waves roiling and spreading as a result of outbursts from a supermassive black hole through a hot thin gas that fills the Perseus cluster of galaxies, 250 million light-years distant. They are 30,000 light-years across and have a period of oscillation of 10 million years. By comparison, the deepest, lowest notes that humans can hear have a period of about one-twentieth of a second.

The black hole is playing "the lowest note in the universe," said Dr. Andrew Fabian, an X-ray astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy at Cambridge University in England.

Dr. Fabian was the leader on an international team that used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to detect the black hole's notes as ripples of luminosity in the X-ray glow of the cluster. The discovery, announced last week at NASA headquarters in Washington and in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, might help solve longstanding problems regarding the structure of galaxy clusters, the largest, most massive objects in the universe, and the evolution of galaxies within them, astronomers said.

Far from being "just an interesting form of black hole acoustics," as Dr. Steven Allen of the Institute of Astronomy said in a news release, the sound waves might be the key to figuring out how such clusters grow.

Black holes, as decreed by Einstein's general theory of relativity, are objects so dense that neither light nor anything else, including sound, can escape them. But long before any sort of material disappeared into a black hole, theorists have surmised, it would be accelerated to near-light speeds by the hole's gravitational field and heated to millions of degrees as it swirled in a dense doughnut around the gates of doom, sparking X-rays and shock waves and squeezing jets of energy and particles across space.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


We Got Rhythm; the Mystery Is How and Why


In lovers' songs, military marches, weddings and funerals — every occasion where a degree of emotion needs to be evoked — music is an indispensable ingredient.

Yet the ability to enjoy music has long puzzled biologists because it does nothing evident to help survival. Why, therefore, should evolution have built into the human brain this soul-stirring source of pleasure? Man's faculties for enjoying and producing music, Darwin wrote, "must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed."

Music is still a mystery, a tangle of culture and built-in skills that researchers are trying to tease apart. No one really knows why music is found in all cultures, why most known systems of music are based on the octave, why some people have absolute pitch and whether the brain handles music with special neural circuits or with ones developed for other purposes. Recent research, however, has produced a number of theories about the brain and music.

It could be that the brain perceives music with the same circuits it uses to hear and analyze human speech, and that it thrills to its cadences with centers designed to mediate other kinds of pleasure. Dr. Anne Blood and Dr. Robert J. Zatorre, of the Montreal Neurological Institute, recently took PET scans of musicians' brains while they listened to self-selected pieces of music that gave them "chills" of euphoria. The works included Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and Barber's Adagio for Strings. The music, the researchers reported, activated similar neural systems of reward and emotion as those stimulated by food, sex and addictive drugs.

If music depends on neural circuits developed for other reasons, then it is just a happy accident, regardless of evolution, that people enjoy it. This is the position taken by Dr. Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University. Music, he writes in his 1997 book "How the Mind Works," is "auditory cheesecake" — it just happens to tickle several important parts of the brain in a highly pleasurable way, as cheesecake tickles the palate. These include the language ability (with which music overlaps in several ways); the auditory cortex; the system that responds to the emotional signals in a human voice crying or cooing; and the motor control system that injects rhythm into the muscles when walking or dancing.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Other Jesus film gets less play

By Richard N. Ostling


TORONTO - Mel Gibson take note: There's another new film about the life of Jesus that also depicts Jews' involvement in the events leading to the Crucifixion. But this one has several Jewish producers and has attracted much less controversy.

While Gibson's "The Passion" won't be released for months, Jewish and Christian commentators already are debating whether its gory treatment of Jesus' death will rouse anti-Semitism. By contrast, there's no advance acrimony surrounding "The Gospel of John," which was slated to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on a symbolically chosen Sept. 11.

"John" is a Canadian-British production made for $15 million, roughly half the cost of Gibson's film. It opens in four U.S. markets Sept. 26, then 75 others through the autumn, mostly in cinemas across the southeastern Bible Belt.

Gibson's movie, which he funded, co-wrote, produced and directed, puts all the dialogue into the ancient Aramaic and Latin languages. "John" has a different oddity. The script is in English but consists entirely of John's Gospel, word for word.

Yet that verbal straitjacket doesn't sap the drama and sometimes enhances it, creating thought-provoking entertainment.

Still, thanks to Gibson's film, many will be less curious about whether "John" is a good show than how it treats first-century Jews. Answer: Just the way John's Gospel does, which raises age-old issues of fairness and literary intent.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


[Now, some News from the weird. -Ed.]


Recently we carried a powerful prayer against storms, and it is necessary this week as Hurricane Isabel, an unusually potent system, threatens to make landfall on the densely-populated East Coast. Jesus Himself showed the way when He rebuked the wind and told us to follow Him with faith. There is no doubt that with prayers we can even suspend the laws of nature.

Faith it will take. As we have stated before, we are entering the time of the great ocean storms. Odds are that Isabel will gradually weaken as it enters cooler Atlantic waters. If it makes a direct hit, it will probably be a category-three or lower.

But that is still highly dangerous. Such a hurricane could push water up the Potomac -- flooding the Jefferson Memorial -- and destroy communities anywhere from Cape Hatteras to Massachusetts. Indeed, new research indicates that in centuries past, during the Middle Ages, when there was last a period of comparable global warming, category-four and five storms slammed into places like Virginia Beach and Cape Cod -- along with the expected spots in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Monday, September 15, 2003

A monster awakens?

By Ian Gurney

Online Journal Contributing Writer

September 11, 2003—Part of America's Yellowstone National Park was closed to visitors on July 23 this year and remains closed today due to high ground temperatures and increased thermal activity in the park. National Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis said that "A portion of the Norris Geyser Basin on the west side of the park has been closed." [1]

On August 7, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that scientists were planning to set up a temporary network of seismographs, Global Positioning System receivers and thermometers to monitor increasing hydrothermal activity in the Norris Geyser Basin and gauge the risk of a hydrothermal explosion. [2]

On August 10, the Denver Post reported that Liz Morgan, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist had discovered a huge bulge underneath Yellowstone Lake that had risen 100 feet from the lake floor. The bulge is two thousand feet long and has the potential to explode at any time. Morgan was quoted as saying that "The inflated plain is a potential and serious hazard and possible precursor to a large hydrothermal explosion event." [3]

Then, on August 24th, the University of Utah Seismograph Station reported that a magnitude 4.4 earthquake occurred just 9 miles southeast of the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. USGS scientists agreed that the earthquake was "uncommon" in that it was a very shallow earthquake, occuring just 0.3 miles below the surface. [4]

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Is Buddhism Good for Your Health?


In the spring of 1992, out of the blue, the fax machine in Richard Davidson's office at the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison spit out a letter from Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Davidson, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, was making a name for himself studying the nature of positive emotion, and word of his accomplishments had made it to northern India. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists was writing to offer the minds of his monks -- in particular, their meditative prowess -- for scientific research.

Most self-respecting American neuroscientists would shrink from, if not flee, an invitation to study Buddhist meditation, viewing the topic as impossibly fuzzy and, as Davidson recently conceded, ''very flaky.'' But the Wisconsin professor, a longtime meditator himself -- he took leave from graduate school to travel through India and Sri Lanka to learn Eastern meditation practices -- leapt at the opportunity. In September 1992, he organized and embarked on an ambitious data-gathering expedition to northern India, lugging portable electrical generators, laptop computers and electroencephalographic (EEG) recording equipment into the foothills of the Himalayas. His goal was to measure a remarkable, if seemingly evanescent, entity: the neural characteristics of the Buddhist mind at work. ''These are the Olympic athletes, the gold medalists, of meditation,'' Davidson says.

The work began fitfully -- the monks initially balked at being wired -- but research into meditation has now attained a credibility unimaginable a decade ago. Over the past 10 years, a number of Buddhist monks, led by Matthieu Ricard, a French-born monk with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, have made a series of visits from northern India and other South Asian countries to Davidson's lab in Madison. Ricard and his peers have worn a Medusa-like tangle of 256-electrode EEG nets while sitting on the floor of a little booth and responding to visual stimuli. They have spent two to three hours at a time in a magnetic resonance imaging machine, trying to meditate amid the clatter and thrum of the brain-imaging machinery.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Germophobic NASA to Smash Galileo Probe Into Jupiter for Fear of Contaminating Moon

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - NASA plans to crash its $1.5 billion Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter to make sure it doesn't accidentally contaminate the planet's ice-covered moon Europa with bacteria from Earth.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Friday, September 12, 2003

Egypt Uses Science to Dispel Pharaonic Curse

Fri September 12, 2003 02:41 AM ET

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will use science to dispel the curse of the pharaohs, which popular myth blames for the deaths of those who have opened the tombs of Egypt's ancient rulers, Egypt's antiquities chief said.

Zahi Hawass told Reuters a study would examine unexcavated tombs for dangerous substances, gases or germs, to explain the curse, whose fame spread in the 1920s following the death of a British aristocrat who entered King Tutankhamun's tomb.

"At one of my excavations ... I found inscriptions telling us 'If anyone would touch my tomb he would be eaten by a crocodile, a hippo and a lion.' It doesn't mean that this will actually happen," Hawass said in an interview this week.

"Scientifically we want to ... show when the Egyptians put a curse inscription on a tomb they did not mean they could hurt anyone today who opened the tomb," he said.

Part of the study would focus on dangerous germs that may have developed over the centuries in mummified human remains, said Hawass, Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

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Mars, here we come.

Get set to watch a pair of 5-foot rovers tool across the Martian surface in January. The big cars can do big science. Dubbed Spirit and Opportunity, they are generating serious buzz, at least partly because the 6.3 billion of us left behind on Earth will be able to share the trip. NASA will fling open a trio of websites that will track the surface explorations as they unfold. Read More:


Did Earth Blow Up The Dinosaurs

Cardiff - Sep 11, 2003 New evidence supports volcanic eruption theory The extinction of the dinosaurs – thought to be caused by an asteroid impact some 65 million years ago – was more likely to have been caused by a 'mantle plume' – a huge volcanic eruption from deep within the earth's mantle, the region between the crust and the core of the earth.

This theory, already supported by a significant body of geologists and palaeontologists, is strengthened by new evidence to be presented at an international conference at Cardiff University on 11-12 September.

Research by an American earth scientist, Professor Gerta Keller and her team, suggests that a similar eruption under the Indian Ocean several million years before the extinction of the dinosaurs had a similarly devastating impact on the environment. However, at this earlier time there is no evidence of any asteroid impact.

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from The San Francisco Chronicle

Mysterious X-ray flashes in distant space that have puzzled astronomers for years have been identified by scientists at Caltech and Harvard as cosmic explosions from dying stars in two galaxies some 2.6 billion light-years away.

The stars that die in monstrous blasts brighter than 10 billion suns are known as supernovae, and the powerful gamma ray bursts they emit were only located and identified last year after a 30-year quest.

But the X-ray flashes that have been seen for the past three years remained a puzzle until astronomers gathered data on them from telescopes atop Palomar Mountain in Southern California; from giant radio telescopes in New Mexico known as the Very Large Array; and from an armada of satellites, including NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory and another called the High Energy Transient Explorer, or HETE, which is run by an international group of astronomers from the United States and seven other nations.

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from The New York Times

HOUSTON, Sept. 11 — The panel that will oversee the space shuttle's return to flight said today that it was not sure when NASA could achieve that goal but that time was not of the essence.

"To say, `All right, we can have all our work done at a particular time,' isn't quite possible yet," said Col. Richard O. Covey of the Air Force, a former astronaut who is co-chairman of the 26-member panel. It has spent recent days at the Johnson Space Center here studying the plan to return to flight.

The plan, released on Monday, called for launching the shuttle Atlantis as early as March as a demonstration flight to test safety procedures. But today, Colonel Covey echoed the words of NASA administrators and said the agency would not be "schedule driven."

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from Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept. 10 -- Workers at Kennedy Space Center are packing up the 84,000 pieces of the space shuttle Columbia for storage. But unlike wreckage from the Challenger, some remnants will be available to researchers and perhaps someday put on display in a museum.

"The overall goal . . . was to make Columbia available to do further science and research, not only by the shuttle community but other contractors, universities and scientists," said Scott Thurston, who was the vehicle manager for Columbia.

NASA has not decided whether any pieces of the shuttle will ultimately be given to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, but that institution has the right of first refusal for all excess NASA property.

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Thursday, September 11, 2003

Scientists Say Academic Freedoms Curtailed After 9/11

by Paul Elias

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Biologist Daniel Portnoy destroyed all the bubonic plague samples in his lab this year, some two decades after he first cultured them. Even though he wasn't using them on any current projects, the bureaucratic hassles of keeping the disease frozen for research simply weren't worth the effort.

Portnoy is among scientists working in sensitive scientific fields whose work has been subject to sometimes dramatic restrictions since Sept. 11, 2001.

Influential researchers and academic organizations complain that inquiry has been hindered by new anti-terrorist laws, tightened national security and stricter immigration practices.

In one telling situation, 32 scientists and editors connected to some of the most respected scientific journals have agreed to self-censor any scientific advances they think might threaten national security.

"That's a chilling example of knowing whatever you do might not get published because an editor might decide that it will look bad for (Attorney General) John Ashcroft," said Barry Bloom, dean of Harvard's School of Public Health.

One consequence of tighter immigration is to discourage promising foreign students from engaging in vital research in the United States.

Some of the estimated 550,000 foreign graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who help staff the nation's laboratories may take their brainpower to countries where visa hurdles are less rigorous.

"They're now better off looking for jobs outside the United States," said William Greenough, a professor of international medicine at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This will set us back 20 years."

An American Institute of Physics survey of universities showed that at least 20 percent of foreign students in physics admitted to U.S. schools had problems entering the country last year.

The institute expects similar figures this year. As a result, research projects are being stalled or scrubbed altogether.

"There is no evidence the visa problems are easing," said Irving Lerch, director of international affairs at the American Physical Society.

John Marburger, President Bush's science adviser, says the visa troubles for foreign scientists and students are temporary.

"That problem is being taken very seriously by the State Department," Marburger said. "Everybody wants to work to make the visa system more efficient."

Other restrictions on research, such as the journals' self-censorship and a new federal law dictating how scientists must limit access to dozens of dangerous pathogens, are more than justified, he said.

"They are reasonable responses to emerging threats," said Marburger. "They are not serious incursions into scientific inquiry."

The terrorist attacks uncovered a huge gulf between many scientists, who favor shared scientific inquiry, and national security experts, who want to keep potentially dangerous knowledge from being widely disseminated, said David Heyman, director of Science and Security Initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Academics face criminal consequences if they fail to comply with the new rules for mishandling pathogens.

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Scientists find new way to preserve blood platelets

WASHINGTON (AP) --The lives of many cancer patients are saved by the transfusion of platelets, but there is a chronic shortage of these fragile blood-clotting components because of spoilage. A new technique may double the shelf life of platelets and create a more reliable supply, researchers say.

In a study appearing in the journal Science, Harvard University researchers have demonstrated that adding a bit of sugar to isolated blood platelets can allow them to be refrigerated and usefully preserved for at least 12 days.

That more than doubles the shelf life of the current technique used, which is to store the platelets at room temperature for only five days. Because of spoilage, more than 25 percent of all platelets taken from donated blood must be discarded. Extending the shelf life of platelets would significantly improve the supply, experts say.

"If this proves out in clinical trials, this would be an important advance in transfusion medicine," said Dr. Louis M. Katz, medical director of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center in Davenport, Iowa. Katz is president of America's Blood Centers, an organization that collects about half the blood donated in the United States.

Platelets play a central role in forming blood clots, an essential action to prevent uncontrolled bleeding in the body. Platelets are made in the bone marrow and typically live 10 to 12 days in the blood stream. That means the body has to constantly make more platelets to replace those that die.

Many cancer and leukemia patients are unable to naturally replace their platelets. Aggressive chemotherapy used to treat many cancers can cause the bone marrow to shut down, leaving these patients, at least temporarily, without natural platelet replacement.

As a result, about 2 million patients a year require platelet transfusions to avoid possibly lethal, uncontrolled bleeding.

Delicate treatment

To get enough platelets for a single treatment, blood centers have to process four pints to six pints of donated blood.

Once they are separated, platelets are very fragile. If they are refrigerated, as is whole blood, the platelets undergo a chemical change that makes them the target of macrophages, one of the body's immune cells. When chilled platelets are transfused, they are engulfed and killed by the macrophages. For this reason, platelets are stored at room temperature and become useless after five days.

Room temperature storage also causes bacteria to grow in warm platelets. Refrigeration, if it was possible, would prevent this.

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Lawyer to Sue Jews for Biblical 'Plunder'

Thu September 11, 2003 10:23 AM ET

By Opheera McDoom

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian lawyer said Wednesday he was planning to sue the world's Jews for "plundering" gold during the Exodus from Pharaonic Egypt thousands of years ago, based on information in the Bible.

Nabil Hilmi, dean of the law faculty at Egypt's al-Zaqaziq University, said the legal basis for the case was under study by a group of lawyers in Egypt and Europe.

"This is serious, and should not be misread as being political against any race. We are just investigating if a debt is owed," Hilmi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The relevant passage from the Bible, Exodus 12 verses 35 to 36 reads: "The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing. ... And so they plundered the Egyptians." This translation is in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Some Jewish commentators say that while the Biblical passage may be fact, the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians and therefore had a right to claim compensation for wages.

"Hilmi's assertion that the Hebrew Bible is fact has given Israel and Jews the world over a reason to rejoice. He has opened the door for all Jews to sue Egypt for over 400 years of slavery," writer Beth Goodman told Reuters.

Tareq Zaghoul, a lawyer at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights in Cairo, said it would be difficult to prove historical fact in the passage that would stand up in court.

"This needs historical documents and evidence to back it up. It is rather far-fetched," he said.

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Huge Climate Experiment Starts Friday - All Welcome

Thu September 11, 2003 10:49 AM ET

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - A climate prediction experiment which is expected to involve two million people around the world and produce a probable forecast for the 21st century will be launched on Friday.

Anyone with a personal computer can join the project and will be expected to conduct their own unique version of Britain's Met Office climate model, simulating several decades of the Earth's climate at a time.

"Everybody gets their own model so they can do an interesting bit of research on their PC," Dr Myles Allen, of the University of Oxford, told a British Association science conference on Thursday.

The results of the experiment will be sent via the Internet. The simulations will be used to test different model versions and the results will be collated to predict the 21st century climate.

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Jesus appears as Santa in Christmas

A nativity scene featuring the baby Jesus dressed in a Santa suit and hat is the centrepiece of a new Christian advertising campaign.

The poster, featuring a traditional Old-Master-style Christmas stable scene - but with the Jesus dressed as a tiny Father Christmas - was launched by the Churches Advertising Network.

The caption to the image, which reads "Go on, ask Him for something this Christmas", has been designed to counter the materialistic excesses of the season, according to the network.

It will be accompanied by radio advertisements in which humorous words highlighting over-consumption at Christmas have been set to the tunes of four non-religious Christmas carols.

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from Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- When a black hole hums, it's in a deep B-flat, 57 octaves below middle-C and not within the hearing range of humans. This is according to scientists who used the Chandra X-ray Observatory to detect celestial "singing" in a cluster of galaxies.

Astronomers at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England, have identified and interpreted for the first time sound waves rumbling from the halo around a black hole 250 million light-years away. They found evidence of the sounds in Chandra X-ray images of the Perseus cluster, an immense grouping of galaxies held together by the gravity of a supermassive black hole.

Andy Fabian, a professor at the Institute of Astronomy, said a close study of the fine detail collected by Chandra shows ripples in the X-ray pattern that are caused by sound waves excited by the energy from the black hole.

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New Mexico Votes for Strong Science Education Standards

[from EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union]

On 28 August, the New Mexico State School Board voted unanimously to adopt science education standards which keep biological evolution as a centerpiece of scientific knowledge.The school board voted 13–0 for the standards,which were strongly endorsed by scientific and educational organizations. This defeated efforts by intelligent design creationists to insert alternate language downplaying the treatment of evolution in the curriculum. Scientists in New Mexico helped develop the standards and stayed active in defending them against the creationists.Numerous scientific organizations, including AGU, signed letters in support of the standards, and urged the school board members to cast a skeptical eye on a recent poll conducted by creationists purporting to show New Mexico scientists' support for intelligent design.When the standards are implemented, they will form the basis for annual performance requirements demanded of students from kindergarten through high school. —PETER FOLGER, Public Affairs Manager,AGU Headquarters,Washington,D.C. New Mexico Votes for Strong Science Education Standards PAGE 350

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Scientists to Probe Near Death Experiences

Wed September 10, 2003 10:03 AM ET

By Jeremy Lovell

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Scientists probing the paranormal said on Wednesday they hoped to set up a major experiment in Britain trying to find out once and for all whether the mind can step outside the body at the brink of death.

The proposed study would involve interviewing people who had survived cardiac arrest to see if they had had an out of body experience while on the operating table.

"Over the course of a year we hope this would give us 100 people who leave their bodies," neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick told reporters at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

The researchers plan to ask 25 hospitals to place special objects and pictures around their cardiac units.

Each survivor who then claimed to have an out of body experience -- where they typically hover near the ceiling watching the resuscitation process -- would be asked if they had noticed any of the objects.

"If they do notice them when the brain is not functioning then it makes the case for the mind being separate from the brain," he said.

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Saudi police say Barbie dolls a threat to morality

Wednesday, September 10, 2003 Posted: 11:36 AM EDT (1536 GMT)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's religious police have declared Barbie dolls a threat to morality, complaining that the revealing clothes of the "Jewish" toy -- already banned in the kingdom -- are offensive to Islam.

The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, as the religious police are officially known, lists the dolls on a section of its Web site devoted to items deemed offensive to the conservative Saudi interpretation of Islam.

"Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful," said a poster on the site.

The poster, plastered with pictures of Barbie in short dresses and tight pants, and with a few of her accessories, reads: "A strange request. A little girl asks her mother: Mother, I want jeans, a low-cut shirt, and a swimsuit like Barbie."

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Major anthropology find reported in India

CALCUTTA, India, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Scientists report they have found evidence of the oldest human habitation in India, dating to 2 million years, on the banks of the Subarnarekha River.

The 30-mile stretch between Ghatshila in the province of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj in Orissa has reportedly yielded tools that suggest the site could be unique in the world, with evidence of human habitation without a break from 2 million years ago to 5,000 B.C.

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Edward Teller, 'father of the H-bomb,' dies at age 95

STANFORD, California (AP) --Edward Teller, who played a key role in U.S. defense and energy policies for more than half a century and was dubbed the "father of the H-bomb" for his enthusiastic pursuit of the powerful weapon, died Tuesday, a spokesman for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory said. He was 95.

Teller died in Stanford, California, near the Hoover Institute where he served as a senior research fellow.

Teller exerted a profound influence on America's defense and energy policies, championing the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, nuclear power and the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Among honors he received were the Albert Einstein Award, the Enrico Fermi Award and the National Medal of Science.

Yet Teller also will be remembered for his role in destroying the career of his one-time boss, Robert Oppenheimer -- which alienated Teller from many of his colleagues -- and for pushing the H-bomb and the Strategic Defense Initiative on grounds that, in the opinion of critics, were sketchy or dubious.

Teller's staunch support for defense stemmed in part from two events that shaped his dark, distrustful view of world affairs -- the 1919 communist revolution in his native Hungary and the rise of Nazism while he lived in Germany in the early 1930s.

Even the end of the Cold War did not change Teller's view that the United States needed a strong defense.

"The danger for ballistic missiles in the hands of 18 different nations has increased, and will increase, unless we have a defense," he said. "If we want to have stable, peaceful conditions, defense against sudden attack by rockets is more needed than ever."

Witty and personable, with a passion for playing the piano, Teller nevertheless was a persuasive Cold Warrior who influenced presidents of both parties.

In 1939, he was one of three scientists who encouraged Einstein to alert President Franklin Roosevelt that the power of nuclear fission -- the splitting of an atom's nucleus -- could be tapped to create a devastating new weapon.

Two years later, even before the first atom bomb was completed, fellow scientist Fermi suggested that nuclear fusion -- fusing rather than splitting nuclei -- might be used for an even more destructive explosive, the hydrogen bomb. Teller quickly took to the idea.

[A large portion of text omitted.]

In the end, Teller was right about the feasibility of the H-bomb, but he repeated the same pattern of seeming to oversell technology in 1983 when he persuaded President Reagan that space-based laser weapons could provide a secure anti-missile defense.

Reagan bought the idea and proposed the multibillion-dollar Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed "Star Wars."

Computer experts raised doubts early on about the reliability of the complex software required for a Star Wars system. But even as the evidence mounted that Star Wars would cost billions more than originally expected and would take years longer to develop, Teller continued to support it.

In an interview in 2001, Teller showed his old fighting spirit, delivering the two-word endorsement -- "High time!" -- to President George W. Bush's decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia to work on a missile defense shield.

Teller's wife of 66 years, Mici, died in 2000.

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September 10, 2003

Charles E. Bennett, 92, Who Put 'In God We Trust' on Bills, Dies


WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — Charles E. Bennett, a Florida Democrat who was a champion of ethical reforms in Congress and who sponsored the legislation that put "In God We Trust" on currency, died on Sept. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 92.

Mr. Bennett spent 44 years in the House of Representatives, more than 40 of them without missing a vote on legislation.

"I'm not a brilliant person," he said in The New York Times in 1991. "I do produce some good legislation. But I've never been accused of being a genius. But I feel that being there and making the vote is my duty and responsibility."

He said he had ducked out of funerals, bolted from hospital beds and defied snowstorms to get to the Capitol for a vote. He once rolled onto the House floor in a wheelchair.

His legislation in 1955 required that the mint put "In God We Trust" on all currency; the words appeared only on coins beginning in the 1860's. The measure passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The next year, Congress made the words the national motto.

Mr. Bennett said America had to distinguish itself from other world superpowers. "In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, we should continuously look for ways to strengthen the foundations of our freedom," he said of his bill from the House floor in April 1955. "At the base of our freedom is our faith in God and the desire of Americans to live by his will and his guidance. As long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail."

Nicknamed "Mr. Clean," Mr. Bennett sponsored the legislation that created the House Ethics Committee and served as its first chairman.

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The Rush to Resume Shuttle Flights

The missing element in NASA's ambitious plan to get the space shuttles flying again next year is what the plan does not provide. It lays out a series of technical fixes and management changes that will be made before any decision is made to launch another shuttle, and it sets forth additional reforms that will be carried out in coming years as the shuttle program moves forward. Left unaddressed is the matter of just why the aging shuttles should be kept flying, and whether the program is worth the risk and the cost. That is a task that Congress and the White House must tackle before racing back to business as usual.

When the board that investigated the accident of the space shuttle Columbia issued its final report late last month, it made 29 recommendations for reforming the shuttle program, including 15 that it said must be put into effect before flights resumed. NASA's new plan, released yesterday, states unequivocally that the space agency embraces everything in the board's report and will comply with all the recommendations. Indeed, NASA has already made some key changes, like redesigning the portion of the external fuel tank from which a chunk of foam broke off and damaged the shuttle's wing. From now on, heaters will be incorporated at that point to prevent icing and thus eliminate the need for foam insulation.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Telepathy Gets Academic Seal of Approval

Mon Sep 8,10:37 AM ET

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Lund University, one of the oldest seats of learning in Scandinavia, will take a leap into the unknown by appointing northern Europe's first professor of parapsychology, hypnology and clairvoyance.

Almost 30 candidates, including a self-professed Indian medium and an American named Heaven Lord, applied for the post, financed by a donation, whose holder the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has joked will be a "Ghost Professor."

The first professor, to be appointed by Lund University Dean Goran Bexell, is expected to start work in 2004, faculty secretary Kerstin Johansson told Reuters.

Hypnology is the science of the phenomena of sleep and hypnosis.

Despite decades of experimental research and television performances by people such as spoonbending psychic Uri Geller, there is still no proof that gifts such as telepathy and the ability to see the future exist, mainstream scientists say.

"Verifying the existence of paranormal phenomena does not seem to be a promising field of science," said Sven Ove Hansson, professor of philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Scotland's Edinburgh University also have chairs in parapsychology.



September 9, 2003

Columbia University Ends Its Association With Biosphere 2


Columbia University said yesterday that it would cut all ties with Biosphere 2, casting into doubt the future of the $200 million ecology experiment that Edward P. Bass, the Texas billionaire and oil heir, built in the Arizona desert.

Martin C. Bowen, vice president of Decisions Investments Corporation, the company that owns Biosphere 2, said in a statement that it was exploring the center's future and that in the coming months it would try to determine "the most viable options for its use and operation."

The company and the university said they had settled a lawsuit that Decisions Investments brought in March against Columbia and Biosphere 2 Center Inc., the entity that ran the research center. Mr. Bass is president of Decisions Investments.

"With the settlement of this lawsuit, our relationship with Columbia is behind us," Mr. Bowen said.

The company and Columbia declined to provide further details, and each said no officials were available to comment.

It is difficult to say what kind of scientific promise the giant structure, an eight-story steel and glass terrarium, might hold. From the day in 1991 that eight men and women and 4,000 plant and animal species were sealed with great fanfare into it as part of an experiment to simulate the earth's ecology, Biosphere 2 generated fascination and skepticism. Biosphere 1 is the earth.

Critics called Biosphere 2 a "scientific crapshoot." When the human guinea pigs left the structure after two years, crops had failed, noxious gases had built up, the water had turned acidic and the site was overrun by "crazy ants" and morning glories.

But Columbia officials decided that with some modifications it might hold some promise, and its decision in 1995 to take on Biosphere 2's management seemed to confer academic legitimacy to the project.

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Monday, September 08, 2003

Soundless Music Shown to Produce Weird Sensations

Sun September 07, 2003 07:09 PM ET

By Patricia Reaney

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Mysteriously snuffed out candles, weird sensations and shivers down the spine may not be due to the presence of ghosts in haunted houses but to very low frequency sound that is inaudible to humans.

British scientists have shown in a controlled experiment that the extreme bass sound known as infrasound produces a range of bizarre effects in people including anxiety, extreme sorrow and chills -- supporting popular suggestions of a link between infrasound and strange sensations.

"Normally you can't hear it," Dr Richard Lord, an acoustic scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in England who worked on the project, said Monday.

Lord and his colleagues, who produced infrasound with a seven meter (yard) pipe and tested its impact on 750 people at a concert, said infrasound is also generated by natural phenomena.

"Some scientists have suggested that this level of sound may be present at some allegedly haunted sites and so cause people to have odd sensations that they attribute to a ghost -- our findings support these ideas," said Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in southern England.

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Dutch Court Rules That Linking Is Legal In Scientology Case

Posted by timothy on Monday September 08, @12:39AM

from the very-kind-of-them dept. touretzky writes "The Court of Appeal in The Hague today rejected all of Scientology's claims in appeal in Scientology's action against XS4ALL, Karin Spaink and ten other internet providers. As a result, Karin Spaink's website, which Scientology sought to remove from the Internet based on copyright claims, is entirely legal in the Netherlands. The court also overturned two lower court rulings, one of which said that linking to material that infringed a copyright was itself actionable. The other ruling said that ISPs that failed to act on credible notification of a copyright violation could be held liable for that. The Appeals Court felt that this was too vague a standard, and thus posed a threat to free speech. More info at ScientologyWatch.org."

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'Science cannot provide all the answers'

Why do so many scientists believe in God? Tim Radford reports

Tim Radford

Thursday September 4, 2003 The Guardian

Colin Humphreys is a dyed-in-the-wool materialist. That is, he is professor of materials science at Cambridge. He believes in the power of science to explain the nature of matter. He believes that humans - like all other living things - evolved through the action of natural selection upon random mutation. He is also a Baptist. He believes in the story of Moses, as recounted in the biblical book of Exodus. He believes in it enough to have explored Egypt and the Holy Land in search of natural or scientific explanations for the story of the burning bush, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and the manna that fell in the wilderness -and then written a book about it.

"I believe that the scientific world view can explain almost anything," he says. "But I just think there is another world view as well."

Tom McLeish is professor of polymer physics at Leeds. Supermarket plastic bags are polymers, but so are spider's silk, sheep's wool, sinew and flesh and bone. His is the intricate world of what is, and how it works, down to the molecular level. He delights in the clarity and power of science, precisely because it is questioning rather than dogmatic. "But the questions that arise, and the methods we use to ask them, can be traced back to the religious tradition in which I find myself. Doing science is part of what it means in that tradition to be human. Because we find ourselves in this puzzling, extraordinary universe of pain and beauty, we will also find ourselves able to explore it, by adopting the very successful methods of science," he says.

Russell Stannard is now emeritus professor of physics at the Open University. He is one of the atom-smashers, picking apart the properties of matter, energy, space and time, and the author of a delightful series of children's books about tough concepts such as relativity theory. He believes in the power of science. He not only believes in God, he believes in the Church of England. He, like Tom McLeish, is a lay reader. He has con tributed Thoughts for the Day to Radio 4, those morning homilies on the mysteries of existence. Does it worry him that science - his science - could be about to explain the whole story of space, time matter and energy without any need for a Creator? "No, because a starting point you can have is: why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there a world? Now I cannot see how science could ever provide an answer," he says.

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New Ten Commandments suit dismissed

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) --A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday by three residents seeking to return a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument to the lobby of the Alabama Judicial building.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said removal of the monument did not unconstitutionally establish a religion of non-theistic beliefs, as the residents claimed.

"The empty space or 'nothingness' in the rotunda of the Judicial Building is neither an endorsement of 'non-theistic belief' nor a sign of disrespect for Christianity or any other religion," Thompson said.

He said the empty space demonstrates government neutrality toward religion.

Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore had the monument moved into the judicial building two years ago, saying it represents the moral foundation of American law.

Thompson ruled the monument an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government and ordered it removed. It was eventually put in a storage room last week.

Thompson's dismissal came a day after a spokeswoman for Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said Moore had turned down Musgrove's offer to publicly display the monument for a week at the Mississippi Capitol.

"We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will override the federal court's decision," Musgrove's spokeswoman Lee Ann Mayo said.

An attorney for the Moore supporters, Jim Zeigler, said a decision has not been made on whether to appeal.

Moore was suspended pending a trial over his refusal to move the monument. The court's eight associate justices ordered it removed.

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Louis C. Lasagna dies

Pathfinder in pharmacology brought rigor to the study of drug effectiveness | By Milly Dawson

Louis C. Lasagna, MD, best known for having pioneered well controlled research on the placebo effect, died of lymphoma on August 6 at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Mass. Dr. Lasagna was dean emeritus of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University.

"The [placebo] phenomenon was known but [Lasagna's research] was a turning point for how drugs should be evaluated. He was a leading figure in establishing the efficacy of drugs," said David Stollar, acting dean of the Sackler School. "One could be seriously misled in evaluating the effectiveness of a drug without recognizing that some of the effectiveness was not reflecting the action of the drug."

Richard I. Shader, professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the Sackler School, explained that before Lasagna's studies, "people were just capitalizing on the placebo effect without trying to quantify it. Lou worked with a man named Beecher at Mass General Hospital, and they approached the placebo effect scientifically, trying to keep the psychological and the actual effects straight and to figure out why some groups of people were more responsive to placebo than others."

In 1954, Lasagna published his classic paper, "A study of the placebo response," in the American Journal of Medicine. There was little literature at that time on placebos, and he cited only a few references dating to the 1940s and 1950s.

For the rest of the article click on the following link:


Friday, September 05, 2003

Letters to the Editor: 08.30.03


URL: http://www.caller.com/ccct/letters_to_the_editor/article/0,1641,CCCT_841_2222226,00.html

August 30, 2003

Church teaching

In regard to Ida Hansen's letter of Aug. 27, I have to say that she is wrong. Teaching evolution is a science. Teaching creation is biblical. Creation shouldn't be taught in schools because there is no valid proof that creation is true. It's a belief, learn it in church.

Schools should in no way be teaching creation because they are public schools. Private church schools can teach creation and not evolution all they want and it doesn't seem to bother anyone.

My children will not be hindered in any way by not learning creation in school. They go to church, they learn it there, where it should be kept.

Belinda D. Barmore

Evolution's gap

In the running debate (decades old) between creationists and evolutionists, an important word has been dropped from the exchange. That word is "theory."

Mankind doesn't know and science cannot define our beginning, so both schools of thought rely on "theory," and recent scientific discovery makes the theory of evolution from some primordial soup so unlikely as to be virtually impossible, unless this planet is billions of years older than science thinks it is!

Mankind definitely did not evolve from any species of ape discovered so far and the theory of evolution relies heavily on that factor so creationism gets a huge boost from that detail.

Man evolves, everything evolves and that's a fact, but science has yet to prove that any creature has ever evolved from a different species. Until that "theory" can be proven, "creationism" remains as viable as any "theory" of "evolution."

To teach one and simply discount the other is completely dishonest, with no "scientific" support.

George Rusling, Sr.

Science In the News

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

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In the News

Today's Headlines - September 4, 2003

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Monterey -- The planet Mars may well have been the scene of the solar system's "second genesis," where forms of life vastly different from Earth's emerged deep beneath the Martian surface billions of years ago, a leading space scientist proposed Wednesday.

Christopher McKay, of NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, said that life on early Mars might have been based on DNA, genes and proteins unlike anything found on Earth.

If true, it would signal that life should be possible throughout the solar system in forms hitherto inconceivable to Earth-bound scientists, McKay suggested. It would mark a true revolution in what has been largely an Earth- centered view of life's unique genes and forms, he said.

from Associated Press

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- Steam wafted over Hank Heasler as he stood on a boardwalk and watched water from Steamboat Geyser shoot into the air with an attention-grabbing "WHOOSH!"

"This could be it," the park geologist said excitedly, squinting against the morning sun at the impressive spray. But Heasler had no better idea than the tourists around him as to when the world's tallest geyser would next erupt.

Unlike Old Faithful, Steamboat is anything but predictable. It's gone as few as four days and as many as 50 years between major eruptions -- noisy, powerful spectacles that can send hot water 300 feet or higher and churn out dense steam for hours.

from The New York Times

LOS ANGELES - It pales in importance when compared with the cloning of Dolly the sheep or the mapping of the human genome, but researchers from the University of Southern California are trying to deconstruct the basis of what makes humans look human. And this time Hollywood directors, not just scientists, care about the results.

Once filmmakers can understand what makes people look real and unique to one another, they will be able to recreate reality with ease, inexpensively populating movies with virtual characters - rampaging Mongol hordes, clones of movie stars performing physically impossible feats - whose appearance and actions are as lifelike as a next-door neighbor.

In fact, recreating a celluloid duplicate of Humphrey Bogart or Marilyn Monroe will soon be possible, although there is little reason to fear that some cinematic Frankenstein will produce a clone of Elvis that can convince the world he never died.

The eyes have it

ALEXANDRA GILL suspends her disbelief and tests a British scientist's theory that we really can tell when someone's watching us
Saturday, August 9, 2003

VANCOUVER -- I have the sense I'm being stared at.

"Correct," says Rupert Sheldrake, the controversial British biochemist who is, indeed, staring at my back. Then again, I'll bet at least half the patrons in this busy Vancouver café are staring curiously at both of us right now.

I am wearing a blindfold, sitting across a table from Mr. Sheldrake, with my back toward him. We are conducting a scientific experiment, one similar to the thousands conducted as research for his most recent book, The Sense Of Being Stared At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind.

Every few minutes, Mr. Sheldrake flips a coin. If the coin comes up heads, he stares at my back. If it's tails, he looks away and thinks of something else. As soon as his mind and eyes are in position, he snaps a clicker, which is my cue to guess whether he's looking at me or not.


"Looking," I say.

"Correct," replies Mr. Sheldrake, marking down my response.


"Not looking," I guess.

"No, I was looking," he answers.

If this experiment sounds somewhat eccentric, try wrapping your head around Mr. Sheldrake's theory of the seventh sense: Have you ever had the foreboding sense that something bad is about to happen -- and then it does? Or have you ever thought about a friend or family member for no apparent reason -- and that person suddenly calls you on the telephone?

"I was just thinking about you," we've probably all said at one time or another. Mr. Sheldrake, however, has made it his life mission to prove that what seems like a perceptible sense -- otherwise known as telepathy, precognition or the tingly feeling on the back of your neck when someone is staring at you -- is more than just a chance occurrence.

Based on the results of 5,000 case histories, 2,000 questionnaires, 1,500 telephone interviews and a decade of experiments involving 20,000 people, Mr. Sheldrake asserts that intuition is not paranormal, but rather a normal function drawn from our biological past.

This experiment he's performing with me is just one of many he uses to explain his theory that the mind is not confined to the brain, but extends outside the body and actually connects with other images and beings, in some sort of stretchable morphic field.

"I'm saying the mind is more than the brain, just like a magnetic field is more extensive than a magnet," explains the London-based scientist, who has a PhD in biochemistry from Cambridge University.

In his book, Mr. Sheldrake claims that morphic fields link the members of a group together in a self-organizing system and underlie the bonds that form between pets and their owners, or nursing mothers and their babies. This model explains why a flock of birds, or a pack of racing cyclists, can intuit subtle shifts in the group's movement and make fluid split-second turns without colliding into one another, he says.

Many in the science community strongly disagree, but Mr. Sheldrake says there's nothing unscientific in proposing that fields extend farther than material objects.

"Most modern technologies are based on that concept. The field of a cellphone reaches out beyond the surface of the cellphone. Our minds reach out beyond our brains."

So let's get back to our scientific experiment. "You may or may not feel the difference," Mr. Sheldrake says as I try to connect with his field and feel his eyes boring into the back of my head. I can't honestly say I feel the connection, but then again, he and I have just met.

By guessing randomly, I should answer correctly 50 per cent of the time. And because it's a statistical experiment, we would really have to do hundreds of these tests with many more people to get any meaningful results. But for the sake of demonstration, we do 20 clicks, then tally my score.

As chance would have it, Mr. Sheldrake's coin flips split his looking and not-looking tests evenly. I guessed correctly in seven of the 10 "looking" trials. And in the "not-looking" trials, I was right five out of 10 times.

Mr. Sheldrake is excited. According to his theory of the morphic field, one would expect an average higher score in the looking tests. "If we have a sense of being stared at, the typical result would be more right than wrong," he explains. Conversely, because we don't have a sense of not being stared at (unless we're exceptionally vain), we have no more than a random chance of guessing when eyes aren't trained on us, so results tend to hover around 50 per cent.

Mr. Sheldrake's theories have provoked much scorn. Sir John Maddox, a physicist and editor emeritus of the journal Nature, called his first book, A New Science of Life, "an infuriating tract," and "the best candidate for burning there has been for many years." Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, says Mr. Sheldrake "has never met a goofy idea he didn't like."

On several occasions, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the largest skeptical organization in the world, has attempted to refute his research by carrying out its own experiments.

"Their results were identical," Mr. Sheldrake says, smiling smugly. "They actually replicated the phenomenon."

Mr. Sheldrake says the skeptics, who have also questioned his various techniques of randomization, are almost evangelical in their objections. "It's like talking to creationists. They're just so narrow-minded and bigoted and stupid, really."

There was a time, however, when Mr. Sheldrake was just as narrow-minded. After completing his PhD in 1967, he remained at the school as director of studies in biochemistry and cell biology until 1973.

After that, he went to India, where he worked at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics.

He arrived there with "all the standard prejudices that come with a scientific education." But in India, he discovered that "a lot of the psychic-type phenomenon was just taken for granted -- not just by ordinary people, but by sophisticated, educated people as well. . . .

"Then I saw that . . . it doesn't undermine science to look at these things -- it enlarges science."

But in North American and Europe, there's a cultural taboo against discussing theories such as Mr. Sheldrake's. "People may experience these things privately, but they don't want to talk about it. . . .

"Whereas I think it's more rational to look at them, see what's going on and enlarge our views."

Or so to speak.

Alexandra Gill is a feature writer in The Globe and Mail's Vancouver bureau.


Psychic detectives


Hollywood, CA - January 8, 2003 - Psychics may be the hot commodity on afternoon television, but in the world of criminal investigation they can, and have, helped not only in crime solving but also in fine-tuning the gut instinct of a seasoned detective. Hosted by Court TV's Andrea Thompson, "Psychic Detectives" follows detectives and psychics as they work together to solve some of law enforcement's toughest cases. The new one-hour Court TV documentary will premiere Thursday, February 27th at 10:00 PM ET/PT announced Art Bell, Executive Vice President, Programming and Marketing.

Told from the detective's point of view, "Psychic Detectives" will re-visit crimes that a psychic helped crack. In addition, investigators and psychics will share the uncanny tips and unexplainable clues that have helped close unsolvable cases. Viewers can follow investigations as they evolve and learn some of the techniques psychics use to help police solve a crime.

Professional psychic Kay Rhea and Detective Tim McFadden from the Fresno Police Department are featured in the documentary. They have worked together for about twenty years on hundreds of cases. "When the police ask for my assistance in a case I am only a tool, like their gun or their lie detector tests," states Ms. Rhea. "I am not there to solve their case for them -- I just tell them what I see in my head and they have to do the legwork."

Police departments all over the world have been actively using psychics for over 300 years to help solve cases. They often choose to consult with psychics after they have exhausted all of the conventional policing techniques and have hit a dead end in an investigation. For many, using a psychic gives them a fresh perspective on the case when what they were doing before was not conclusive in solving the case.

"Psychic Detectives" is produced by Superfine Films for Court TV. Lisa Jackson is the Director and Producer and Stephen Miller is the Producer for Superfine Films. Robyn Hutt is Senior Executive Producer for Court TV. Ed Hersh is the Senior Vice President, Documentaries & Specials for Court TV.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

New theory on mass extinction blames sudden drop in oxygen


Researchers taking the pulse of Earth's worst mass extinction 250 million years ago say they have diagnosed the ailment that doomed most animals: altitude sickness. A drop in oxygen and a rise in carbon dioxide wiped out invertebrates that weren't biologically equipped to deal with the atmospheric change. Exactly what triggered the planet's life crises is a mystery. The extinction occurred when all Earth's land formed a supercontinent called Pangea. Most of the rocks that are 250 million years old have been recycled by the movement of crustal plates, making it challenging for scientists to study the causes of the mass extinction.

First Americans



The ancestry of the first Americans may be more complex than anthropologists thought. Researchers studied 33 ancient skulls excavated in Mexico. They say unlike other early American remains, the artifacts resemble those of people from south Asia and the southern Pacific Rim. The skulls were excavated at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. The study appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Animal auras A psychic and her client say she picks up on pets' vibes

12:28 AM PDT on Tuesday, September 2, 2003

By D.S. PEREZ / The Press-Enterprise

Dee Dee Mascetti didn't pick anything from the fly buzzing around her. But tell her your pet's name and species, she'll tell you quite a bit about it.

Mascetti, an animal psychic, said she will be at the Bow-Wow Hukilau Sept. 9 in Palm Springs, a fund-raiser to benefit Guide Dogs of the Desert and Save a Pet. She will be conducting readings for owners and pets.

"You need creative things for a fund-raiser. Animal lovers yearn to know what life is like in the animal's head," said Judy Weigle, spokeswoman for the Palm Springs event.

To test Mascetti, she had her two cats read -- and the psychic had the felines personalities right, Weigle said.

Before you pack your animal in a box, Mascetti offers one piece of advice to those headed to Palm Springs: You don't need to bring Kitty with you as she professes she can read their energy fields from a distance.

Cat interrupted

Mascetti moved to the San Jacinto area 2 1/2 years ago. Since the 1970s, she has studied and practiced various psychic pursuits, she said.

She first read an animal in '94 while doing a reading for a woman. A cat that was not in the room kept interrupting her, she said.

"You changed her food," Mascetti told the woman, referring to the cat's stomach problems.

From then on, word of mouth spread among the customer's friends that Mascetti was an animal psychic.

"I've read pets for a while. Never knew it was anything special," she said.

Mascetti said she has read cats, dogs, horses and even an iguana, privately or at parties. She gets images from the animal's energy field -- the iguana pictured itself sunning on a rock, which led her to tell its new owner the lizard missed being outside.

There's no difference between cats and dogs, she said, although one cat told her it refused to talk to her and a dog implied it missed its cat friends.

Mascetti owns no animals.

Believers and skeptics

Mascetti said opinions about what she claims to do run from disbelief and ridicule to outright support. .

One supporter is Karla Taylor, who said she had a stressed-out cat. Mascetti informed her that the cat was suffering a urinary tract problem. A trip to the vet confirmed it, said Taylor, who now lives in Washington state.

"She's good at picking up their energy and knowing their issues. She's been accurate with my cats. If you're a good psychic, you can pick up on it," said Taylor, who has consulted with Mascetti since 1995.

Taylor still calls, as the readings aren't only accurate, but they soothe both the pet and owner, she said.

Mascetti's customers reach her by phone. Mascetti has moved around Southern California over the years, and the phone doesn't interfere with energy fields of pets.

Karen Sueda, a veterinary behavioral resident at UC Davis, said animal psychics should be seen as an entertainment option for pets and pet owners and not confused with medical or psychological advice.

"The danger . . . is if it makes the owner feel better but it doesn't really fix the problem or address the animal's needs," Sueda said.

Mascetti said she advises clients to take their pets to a vet and that she shies away from giving medical advice.

As for how psychics get their information, Sueda said animal psychics are intuitive in reading an animal's body language and deducting some behaviors as they get clues.

For more information on the Bow-Wow Hukilau, call (760) 327-1391 or Judy Weigle at (760) 323-1156. Dee Dee Mascetti charges $30 for a 15-minute session and can be reached at (909) 654-0061.

Reach D.S. Perez at (909) 763-3468 or dperez@pe.com.

If you have an idea for a Townsfolk, contact Assistant Metro Editor Mark Acosta at (909) 763-3453 or macosta@pe.com. http://www.pe.com/localnews/hemet/stories/PE_NEWS_ndpsy02.58244.html

2003 Texas Bigfoot Conference guest lodging

From: Craig Woolheater-TBRC craigw@texasbigfoot.com

Several people have emailed me asking about lodging while in town for the Conference. The following places are giving discounts for the weekend of the Conference for attendees:


Also, the Inn of Jefferson is also giving discounts that weekend. Check with the manager, Melanie at (903)665-3983. Let her know that you are attending the Bigfoot Conference


There are also many other choices of places to stay in Jefferson. Check the following website for those choices:

Also, Caddo Lake State Park is less than 20 minutes away from the Conference site:

Craig Woolheater
Texas Bigfoot Research Center

Will Scientology Celebs Sign 'Spiritual' Contract?


Roger Friedman, Fox News

Tom Cruise claims to have been dyslexic before he was saved by Scientology. Let's hope that he can read the fine print in a new agreement the religious organization is demanding its members sign. The contract - called the "Agreement and General Release Regarding Spiritual Assistance" - makes it clear that the signee does not believe in psychiatry and does not want to be treated for any kind of psychiatric ailment should one befall him.

Instead, once the paper is signed, the agreement calls for the Church of Scientology to step in if there's ever a problem. The result would be total isolation and constant surveillance.

The question is: Will the stars upon whom Scientology has depended to carry its message - including Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Lisa Marie Presley and her mother, Priscilla - sign a new agreement that could potentially hand over their rights and personal freedom to the church? The wording of the agreement is shocking, to say the least. If a member of the church becomes what we might call "mentally incompetent," he automatically agrees to be placed in the care of Scientology counselors, potentially barring family, friends or anyone else from interceding, including doctors and psychiatrists.

The new agreement seems to stem from a long-simmering wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the estate of Lisa McPherson against the Church of Scientology.

It alleges that McPherson died in 1995 after being held against her will by the church for 17 days. When she died, it is claimed, her body was covered with cockroach bites and McPherson was dehydrated. By having members sign the contact agreeing to be isolated from family and medical professionals, the church apparently believes it would be immune to such lawsuits. The lawsuit, which has suffered several postponements, may come to trial in 2004.

Outspoken critics of Scientology - such as Carnegie Mellon professor Dave Touretzky, who uncovered the new agreement - claim the form is designed to protect the church from further litigation.

But will Cruise, Travolta, and others agree to the same wording that non-celebrity followers must in allowing themselves to endure something called the "Introspection Rundown?"

Calls to their spokespeople didn't help very much. Travolta and the Presleys' publicist referred my question back to the Church of Scientology.

Cruise's office didn't have an answer. An assistant in the Scientology office did tell me that she was a member of the church and had signed many different contracts. The Spiritual Assistance agreement reads in part: "I understand that the Introspection Rundown is an intensive, rigorous Religious Service that includes being isolated from all sources of potential spiritual upset, including but not limited to family members, friends or others with whom I might normally interact."

"As part of the Introspection Rundown, I specifically consent to Church members being with me 24 hours a day at the direction of my Case Supervisor, in accordance with the tenets and custom of the Scientology religion. The Case Supervisor will determine the time period in which I will remain isolated, according to the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion."

"I further specifically acknowledge that the duration of any such isolation is uncertain, determined only by my spiritual condition, but that such duration will be completely at the discretion of the Case Supervisor. I also specifically consent to the presence of Church members around the clock for whatever length of time is necessary to perform the Introspection Rundown's processes and to achieve the spiritual results of the Introspection Rundown."

(Any isolation, of course, would be preferable to watching Travolta in "Look Who's Talking.") What does this all mean? Linda Hight, spokeswoman for Scientology, told me last night that the contract is self-explanatory.

"I'm sure you know the English language," she said, "and you know what it means."

She described psychiatry as "barbaric, harmful, and fraudulent." "The contract is drawn up," Hight added, "for those who wish [to use it]."

Stupidity kills

Abortion Doctor's Killer Expects 'Reward'

September 3, 2003

Filed at 12:11 p.m. ET


STARKE, Fla. (AP) -- Paul Hill, a former minister who gunned down an abortion doctor, said he feels no remorse and suggested the state will be making him a martyr when he becomes the first person executed in the United States for anti-abortion violence.

Barring an unlikely last-minute stay, the 49-year-old former Presbyterian minister will be put to death by lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1994 murders in Pensacola of Dr. John Britton and his escort, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Herman Barrett.

Barrett's wife, June, was wounded in the shootings outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola.

Hill has not appealed.

``The sooner I am executed ... the sooner I am going to heaven,'' Hill said in a jailhouse interview. ``I expect a great reward in heaven. I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse.''

``More people should act as I have acted,'' Hill added.

Security was boosted outside the prison Wednesday, with extra sheriff's deputies, guard dogs and a sheriff's helicopter to prevent any protests from getting out of control, said Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner.

``We don't want an incident of national proportion,'' Milner said.

Abortion-rights groups worry that Hill's execution will trigger reprisals by those who share his steadfast belief that violence to stop abortion is justified. Several Florida officials connected to the case received threatening letters last week, accompanied by rifle bullets.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who was named in one of the threatening letters, said Tuesday the threats would not keep him from carrying out the law.

``I'm not going to change the deeply held views that I have on (the death penalty) because others have deeply held views that disagree,'' he said. ``I totally respect them. And they should respect what the rule of law is here in our state.''

Britton's stepdaughter has also spoken out against the death penalty, calling it ``barbaric and inhuman,'' and said Wednesday that while she doesn't support Hill, she opposes his execution.

``I've had these feelings for a long time, before he (Britton) was murdered, I've always been a proponent of nonviolence,'' Catherine Britton Fairbanks said Wednesday on NBC's ``Today'' show. ``But then when he was murdered that brought it to the forefront.

``I spent a lot of time researching the elements of Paul Hill and his group, but since then I've worked against the death penalty, opposing it whenever I get a chance to speak out against it.''

Britton Fairbanks is estranged from the rest of the Britton family, most of whom support Hill's execution.

``He is not a martyr, but a criminal,'' said Britton's daughter, Patsy Britton Coleman, 43. ``Killing innocent people to scare other people into behaving the way he believes is morally correct is something our society needs to fight against.''

Coleman, of Roseville, N.C., told The News & Observer of Raleigh her father, a family practitioner, felt strongly about giving women the option of choosing an abortion.

Some death penalty opponents have pointed to the prospect of violence as a reason to stop this execution in particular.

``We're very concerned that Paul Hill's call for violence may be picked up by any person to whom God speaks,'' said Abe Bonowitz, the head of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. ``That could be prevented. It should be.''

Hill, a father of three, has supporters who have maintained a Web site in his honor, with snapshots and ballads, but most major anti-abortion groups have repudiated him.

Some of his backers liken him to John Brown, the abolitionist hanged for his crimes. One militant anti-abortion group, Missionaries to the Unborn, likens Hill to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor from Germany who was executed after joining the plot to assassinate Hitler.

``Paul Hill is being martyred tomorrow, and that's wrong,'' said Bonowitz.

Associated Press Writer David Royse in Starke contributed to this report.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press



By Perry Stewart

The Dallas night spots owned by Jack Ruby had more sass than class. So Jack would have beamed proudly at the thought of a proper actress playing a joint named for him. It's about to happen. Dallas singer, actress and comedy writer Laura Ainsworth begins an open-ended run of her one-woman show, My Ship Has Sailed, Thursday at the Ruby Room, 3606 Greenville Ave.

The show, subtitled How To Be a Late Bloomer in a World Obsessed With Extreme Youth, is a merciless spoof of modern America's fear of the aging process. It includes The Botox Song, based on Madonna's Frozen, and O Worship Dr. Perricone, set to a Puccini melody. You get the idea.

Ainsworth's Julie Andrews-style These Are the Things That the Taliban Banned, which made the rounds in 2001, was one of the cleverest song parodies since the heyday of Tom Lehrer.

She'll be joined at the Ruby Room (which is adjacent to the Red Jacket) by pianist Brian Piper of the 'Nawlins Gumbo Kings. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call (214) 370-9917 for reservations.

Perry Stewart, (817) 390-7712

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 - September 3, 2003

from The Chicago Tribune

Imagine a Google-type search engine you could use at home to figure the best odds on the Kentucky Derby or to predict weather in your neighborhood.

The high-energy physics community that just 13 years ago made much of the world's accumulated information available on the World Wide Web is now working to make these problem-solving dreams come true.

Scientists at Fermi and Argonne National Laboratories, along with colleagues around the globe, are building the ultimate supercomputer that they envision almost anyone eventually could use to tackle tough problems now out of their reach.

It is a system called the international data grid, which would link computers in a new way to harness most of the world's number-crunching capacity, along with tons of data now off limits.

from Associated Press

Decatur, Ala.(AP)--Considering a family reunion at the beach in April 2004? A wedding in the backyard next summer? If so, worries about whether it will rain may be paramount in the decision-making process.

If two Huntsville scientists are successful in their experiments, weather forecasters may be able to see that far in the future.

The main reason Bob Oglesby and Charles Laymon are working on long-range forecasts is to help farmers and others dependent upon rain or sunshine to do advanced planning.

from The Dallas Morning News

We are not alone.

Billions upon billions of beings live, eat and die among us, unseen, unfelt, unnoticed.

These aren't extraterrestrials that have invaded Earth. These are intraintestinals, and they've invaded our guts.

The intraintestinals are microbes – mostly bacteria – that live deep inside the human intestine.

"We walk around as host to a microbial nation," says Jeffrey Gordon, a molecular biologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Mono Lake -- Brine shrimp dart in the shallows along this weirdly tower-studded lakeshore, and clouds of alkali flies darken patches of the lake's salty surface. But Richard Hoover, a onetime solar physicist, collects only a few of those mundane creatures.

He is on the hunt for stranger prey.

Glass tubes cram his pockets as he gathers samples of muck from the lake's rough and rubbled bottom. Some of the samples, he hopes, will reveal the presence of "extremophiles," microbes that inhabit some of the most bizarre environments on Earth.

An infinite variety of life forms has been found in environments that more familiar organisms can't tolerate. Hoover hopes that some of these places just might resemble the extreme environments where life may once have thrived on other worlds in our solar system.

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