NTS LogoSkeptical News for 8 October 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Science In the News

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

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - October 7, 2003

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TRIO SHARES NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS
from Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Two American citizens and a Russian won the 2003 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for theories about how matter can show bizarre behavior at extremely low temperatures.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Alexei A. Abrikosov, 75, Anthony J. Leggett, 65, and Vitaly L. Ginzburg, 87, for their work concerning two phenomena called superconductivity and superfluidity.

Abrikosov is a Russian and American citizen based at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois; Ginzburg is a Russian based at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow; and Leggett is a British and American citizen based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The $1.3 million prize money will be shared equally among the three winners.
http://snurl.com/2l4m

NOBEL FOR MRI INNOVATION TO EX-LONG ISLANDER An in-depth look at the Nobel prize in medicine
from Newsday

Washington - Paul Lauterbur, a chemist who did pioneering work on Long Island in the 1970s on the now widely used technique called magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, was awarded a share of the Nobel Prize in medicine yesterday.

Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham in England were cited by the prize committee for "seminal discoveries concerning the use of magnetic resonance to visualize different structures."

Lauterbur, 74, who had been at Stony Brook University for two decades, left the school in 1985 after the University of Illinois wooed him with the promise of more up-to-date laboratory facilities and a job for his wife as well.
http://snurl.com/2l4k

EPILEPSY DRUGS MAY CURB OBESITY
from The Washington Post

Soon after a new epilepsy drug hit the market in 1996, doctors noticed something unexpected: Patients using the anti-seizure medication suddenly began losing weight -- rapidly.

That chance observation has led to tantalizing new insights into the underlying reasons why some people overeat and have such a hard time shedding pounds, and the provocative question of whether food can be an "addiction."

When obesity specialists heard about the drug's side effect, some decided to try it for their patients. It seemed to work for many who had failed to lose weight by dieting, exercise or taking other drugs. And recent studies designed specifically to test the epilepsy drug as a weight-loss aid have found that it helps people, especially those prone to binge eating, to lose -- and keep off -- significant amounts of weight.
http://snurl.com/2l4y

FROGS, PLANTS DEVELOP DEFENSES, ATTACKS
from Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- What's the best way to keep from being eaten: Keep mustering new defenses, or create a single overwhelming one and warn potential attackers that they'll be sorry?

Both approaches seem to work, according to new research. Some plants and beetles adapt to one another by evolving new attack and defense strategies, while poisonous frogs develop bright colors to warn predators that biting them can be a fatal error.

The development of these traits is described in a pair of papers in this week's online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
http://snurl.com/2l4o

FROM HYDRA VENOM TO ANTHRAX MYTH
from The New York Times

Mighty as Hercules was, he sometimes prevailed only by means other than his own brute strength. When the need arose, the superhero of Greek mythology armed himself with biochemical weaponry, anticipating the technological innovations of modern warfare.

Up against the Many-Headed Hydra, Hercules forced the monstrous serpent from its den by shooting fiery arrows coated with pitch. After finally slaying the Hydra, he cut open the body and dipped his arrows in its poisonous venom. His quiver was never again without a supply of poison arrows.

The story of Hercules and the Hydra may be the first description in Western literature of chemical and biological weapons. Because myth often contains a kernel of historical reality, the story suggests that projectiles tipped with combustible or toxic substances must have been known early in Greek history, and widely used in combat.

It may hardly be a coincidence, for example, that the word "toxic" is derived from the ancient Greek word "toxon," meaning arrow.
http://snurl.com/2l4u

A PREGNANT MOTHER'S DIET MAY TURN THE GENES AROUND
from The New York Times

With the help of some fat yellow mice, scientists have discovered exactly how a mother's diet can permanently alter the functioning of genes in her offspring without changing the genes themselves.

The unusual strain of mouse carries a kind of trigger near the gene that determines not only the color of its coat but also its predisposition to obesity, diabetes and cancer. When pregnant mice were fed extra vitamins and supplements, the supplements interacted with the trigger in the fetal mice and shut down the gene. As a result, obese yellow mothers gave birth to standard brown baby mice that grew up lean and healthy.

Scientists have long known that what pregnant mothers eat — whether they are mice, fruit flies or humans — can profoundly affect the susceptibility of their offspring to disease. But until now they have not understood why, said Dr. Randy Jirtle, a professor of radiation oncology at Duke and senior investigator of the study, which was reported in the Aug. 1 issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
http://snurl.com/2l4w

HOT WORK, LOW TEMPERATURE
from The Washington Post

BOULDER, Colo. -- After her sophomore year at Princeton, Deborah Jin landed a summer job with the federal government, doing research at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"That summer pretty much settled things," Jin recalls now. "I think I knew from that point on that I was going to be a physicist."

And one other career choice was settled as well, although Jin said she didn't realize it back in the summer of 1988. She would pursue her research as a federal employee, working in government labs where some of the world's most advanced work in atomic physics and super-cooled, super-conducting materials is going forward.

One could say that turned out to be a wise choice. For Deborah Shiu-lan Jin, now a fellow with the National Institute of Standards and Technology here, has emerged as a major force in the world of extremely low temperature physics. She has won a string of scientific awards. On Sunday, her achievements and potential were recognized in the form of a $500,000 prize from the MacArthur Fellows Program.
http://snurl.com/2l4z

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 656 October 7, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

THE 2003 PHYSICS NOBEL PRIZE goes to Alexei A. Abrikosov (Institute for Physical Problems in Moscow and now at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago), Vitaly L. Ginzburg (Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow) and Anthony J. Leggett (University of Illinois, Urbana) The award goes for work done on systems that operate under two regimes very far from human experience: the quantum realm and the low-temperature realm. In superconductivity, a current of electrons flowing through a material undergoes a change in behavior: normally reluctant to associate with each other, the electrons at low temperature can form pairs. These pairs act like particles and are so gregarious that they can enter into a single unified quantum state. In this state the electron pairs are no longer just a current, but a "supercurrent." This supercurrent flows without dissipating energy. It flows without resistance. The practical benefit is that energy loss through dissipation can be eliminated. An additional feature is that much higher currents can flow through some superconductor materials than through normal metal wires. The price to pay for producing the weird quantum state of superconductivity in the first place is having to chill the material down to temperature close to absolute zero, which usually means about 4 K.

Practical applications of wire made from superconducting material include medical scanners (this year's Nobel for medicine rewards MRI research; here potent magnetic fields inside the scanner are usually produced with superconducting cables), levitated trains (still at an early state of deployment), and the chilling of some components in cell-phone networks.

In some superconductors (type I) magnetic fields are anathema to the superconducting state. In other superconductors (type II), magnetic fields are tolerated, and this makes possible the applications just mentioned. Abrikosov and Ginzburg are being recognized for their work in explaining how type II superconductors work.

When a sample of helium-3 atoms is chilled to very low temperature, the atoms (which like electrons in a superconductor, are "fermions," particles reluctant to associate) can pair up, and the pairs in turn may enter into a single quantum state in which (analogous to the loss-less flow of supercurrents in superconductors) the fluid will flow without losing energy via friction. Just as superconductors have no electrical resistance, so superfluids have no viscosity, and can flow freely. Leggett is being recognized for his work in explaining He-3 superfluidity. Superfluidity also appears in samples of helium-4 atoms (although the superfluid mechanism is much different than in He-3), and possibly in Bose Einstein condensates. (Some background articles: Physics Today---May 1989, Jul 95, Dec 96, Jan 98, Dec 87, May 96; Scientific American---Dec 77, Nov 60, Dec 76, Nov 88, Jun 90, Jul 82, May 66, Dec 93, Aug 94; Physics World, Feb 2000; Nature 13 Mar 97; Leggett, Review of Mod Physics, 1999; Abrikosov, PRL, 1 July 1958; Nobel website: www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/2003)

THE 2003 NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSIOLOGY/MEDICINE goes to Paul C. Lauterbur of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham for their work in developing magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. In the medical world, MRI has become a major imaging technique, but its roots lie in the most basic magnetic physics in the nuclei at the heart of every atom and molecule. Taking advantage of the fact that the body is two-thirds water, MRI obtains images of the hydrogen nuclei in water molecules inside our bodies. In the early 1970s, while working at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Lauterbur exploited the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei to yield a two-dimensional image of matter, by introducing gradients in the external magnetic field that surrounds the object to be imaged.

Shortly thereafter, Peter Mansfield helped to make MRI a practical imaging procedure, in part by coming up with mathematical methods for processing the radio waves released by hydrogen during the technique. The origins of MRI go back further, to the late 1930s, when physicist I.I. Rabi of Columbia University demonstrated that one could obtaining abundant information about lithium chloride molecules by manipulating the magnetic "spins" of the molecules' nuclei (Nobel Prize, 1944). Later, physicists E.M. Purcell (Harvard) and Felix Bloch (Stanford) developed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in hydrogen (Nobel Prize, 1952). Two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry (1991 and 2002) have been awarded for achievements in nuclear magnetic resonance. MRI has been so successful that the original technique has spawned numerous offshoots, such as functional MRI (fMRI), which measures brain activity by detecting oxygen levels in specific brain areas. MRI advances continue at a feverish pace: low-field MRI (Some background articles: Physics Today---Jun 1995, Sep 2001, Jun 92, Oct 2003; Scientific American---May 82, Oct 2001, Jan 83; Review of Mod. Physics, Jan 95)

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

Bigfoot believers gather in Jeannette

http://www.post-gazette.com/neigh_washington/20031005wabigfoot1001p6.asp

Faithful come together to discuss the legend at 5th annual convention

Sunday, October 05, 2003

By Rebekah Scott, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

They're huge and hairy and stink of sulfur, and some say several lurk in the wild places of Westmoreland County.

No one has ever captured Bigfoot, the mythical proto-human whose legend appears as far back as 5,000-year-old American Indian petroglyphs. But in the past 30 years, an inordinate number of people say they've spotted, smelled or tracked the 8-foot-tall animal within the county.

So it is only fitting that the Fifth Annual East Coast Bigfoot Conference/Expo was held last month in Jeannette. Almost 200 Bigfoot believers gathered in a dusky dance hall to hear speakers, examine hair samples and plaster footprint casts and trade stories and theories.

"I'd say half the people here are researchers and members of our group," said event organizer Terry Altman, president of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society. "The others are curiosity-seekers or just interested. Bigfoot isn't so taboo to talk about any more, not since "The X-Files" and Science Fiction Channel has brought mainstream legitimacy to all the possibilities out there."

Altman said he's been checking out local Bigfoot claims for five years. His report of Westmoreland investigations for 2003 includes:

In January in Derry Township, investigators followed the tracks of two huge hominids for more than two miles along a remote logging road, in foot-deep snow. The larger track measured 18 inches long, 9 inches wide -- a big foot, indeed.

In June, a woman in Derry Township saw a huge, apelike creature watching her as she gathered lettuce in her garden.

In July and August, in two places outside Greensburg, something large crashed through the woods near witnesses' homes. Dogs and horses panicked. Large, not-quite-human footprints were spotted along a nearby creek. In one case, strange screams and cries were heard in the night.

None of the witnesses was named, nor exact locations provided -- presumably to protect the traumatized from ridicule, and the Hairy Man from harassment by untrained, do-it-yourself "investigators."

Paul G. Johnson, a Duquesne University chemistry professor, shared Bigfoot research he collated from the early- to mid-1990s, including a county-by-county breakdown of "creature events." Allegheny County had 31, including "an 8-foot-tall black creature seen drinking from an above-ground pool in Allison Park." Washington County had 23; Armstrong, 18, and Westmoreland 155.

"I don't think there are more Bigfeet living in Westmoreland County than anywhere else," the professor said. "There are just more Bigfoot investigators here looking for him. This is not just a Pennsylvania phenomenon."

Indeed, other convention speakers outlined sightings and research from Canada, Maine, Virginia, Indiana, Florida and Washington state -- even Russia and China.

Johnson said he's spent scores of days and nights in a remote valley along the Chestnut Ridge of the Alleghenies where Bigfoot are said to roam. He's never seen anything extraordinary.

"Other people do, repeatedly," he said. "Why not me? I don't know."

There were plenty at the gathering who said yes, they'd seen something out there. Bob France, of Vandergrift, said he once saw an entire family of the creatures quietly grazing at a blueberry patch. Vince Bruno, of Kittanning, said he saw a pair of horrifying, glowing eyes one night in the deep woods of Mc Kean County.

"I don't know what it was, but there was something there," he said. "You can't understand it till you see or hear something that you just can't explain. It makes a believer out of you."

The typical Bigfoot believer, judging from the convention crowd, is a middle-aged, working-class white male in camouflage pants and a T-shirt bearing a Bigfoot portrait.

Bigfoot is not pretty, but framed "fine art" prints, paintings and drawings of him were hot items at a fund-raiser auction. Buyers snapped up dozens of DVDs, CDs, videos and books with titles like "Mothman: The Fact Behind the Legend," or "My Quest for the Yeti," or "Bigfoot Songs for the Road."

Other media have warmed to the trend, and the crowd buzzed with news of "The New Roswell: Kecksburg Exposed," a new SciFi TV cable documentary scheduled for October broadcast. It was filmed this summer in Westmoreland County.

See, the county isn't noted only for elusive apelike creatures. Everyone at the gathering knew about the acorn-shaped UFO that plummeted from the sky above tiny Kecksburg in 1965, and the spate of UFOs seen hovering around Greengate Mall 10 years later.

"The government roped off the whole place, and of course now they deny the whole thing," said Bob King, a retiree from Export. "But I was a teenager then, living in Norvelt, and me and some friends went up to Kecksburg to check it out. Something happened up there, definitely.

"And the Greengate UFOs? I took my wife and kids up there to see it the next day. We didn't see anything. But I know there's all kinds of things going on all around us. Things we cannot understand. You've got to keep an open mind in this world."

Rebekah Scott can be reached at rscott@post-gazette.com or 724-836-2655.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, PA - Oct 4, 2003

Police confirm Russian Roulette bullet was blank

http://www.ananova.com/entertainment/story/sm_826664.html?menu=

Police have confirmed the bullet loaded into Derren Brown's gun during his televised Russian roulette stunt was a blank. Three million viewers saw Brown fire a gun, said to contain a live bullet, at his temple.

But police in Jersey, where the programme took place, said the stunt was a fake.

"There was no live ammunition involved and at no time was anyone at risk," said Lenny Harper, Detective Chief Officer for the States of Jersey police.

"A prop company brought a number of props to the island and they included a quantity of blank ammunition. There is absolutely no way that the States of Jersey police would allow anybody to put themselves at risk and shoot themselves dead.

"This programme was made by a TV company very experienced in pyrotechnics, in making smoke and bullet holes appear. It was no different to film which uses special effects. This was just an illusion - the question of whether it was in dubious taste is another matter."

Brown had claimed the stunt needed to be filmed at a secret foreign location to bypass Britain's strict gun laws - but the laws in Jersey are just as strict.

Channel 4 would only say: "In making and broadcasting this programme, Channel 4 was very mindful of its responsibility to ensure the safety of all involved, and liaised with the Jersey police in advance of filming there to ensure that no offences were committed." A spokesman for Brown declined to comment but said if the illusionist had fired a blank round into his head he would have died anyway. During Sunday night's show, a volunteer apparently loaded a live bullet into the Smith and Wesson gun. Brown, 32, was seen firing a handgun containing a live bullet at his own head three times during the programme on Sunday night. He pulled the trigger twice while pointing at a nearby sandbag - and one of those shots was the live ammunition.

Story filed: 13:44 Tuesday 7th October 2003

German city 'attacked by flying saucers'

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_826302.html?menu=news.quirkies

A group of ufologists duped a German city into thinking it was about to be attacked by flying saucers.

The fleet of seven "flying saucers" that crossed the city of Heilbronn in echelon formation, was in fact just hot air balloons. The balloons, measuring 1.5 by 1.8m hovered over the city for 15 minutes.

Made of kite paper, they exuded an "unearthly, orangey-red glow", said Werner Walter, who heads the national research network on extraordinary celestial phenomena.

"It was like a Hollywood film. People were running outside, calling one another and discussing it in groups," said Mr Walter.

Thanks to the wind, the UFOs appeared to fly in formation. "They formed into a giant V, then re-formed in a straight line," he added. "From a distance, you could have sworn they had intelligent guidance. "There are things that we can't make sense of when we see them for the first time. But mostly there is a simple explanation for them."

Story filed: 11:41 Monday 6th October 2003

Sting and Trudie 'saw ghosts'

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_826287.html?menu=news.quirkies

Sting claims he has seen ghosts and has admitted being "absolutely terrified".

He told the New York Post he and wife Trudie Styler saw the ghosts of a woman and a child in their bedroom.

Sting said: "It was quite something. My wife saw it, too. At first I thought it was her with one of the kids until I reached over and I realised she was still in bed with me.

"I was absolutely terrified. I now believe those things are out there, but I have no explanation for them."

He says he believes in life after death and that there is a purpose to life, but adds: "I envy people who have an absolute certainty about it. I also worry about them."

The 52-year-old singer said: "I never thought I'd make it to this grand age. I feel healthy. I've been obsessed with death for most of my life, as I think we all are. Lately, I've lost my fear of it." Sting performs at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom on Tuesday to promote his latest album Sacred Love.

Story filed: 11:38 Monday 6th October 2003

Cell research wins Nobel Prize

http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/10/08/nobel.prizes.chemistry/index.html

Wednesday, October 8, 2003 Posted: 6:33 AM EDT (1033 GMT)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CNN) -- Two Americans have won the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry "for discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes," the Nobel Foundation announced Wednesday from its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden.

Peter Agre, a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, was cited "for the discovery of water channels" in human cells, according to the Nobel Web site.

Roderick MacKinnon, a professor of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics at The Rockefeller University in New York, received the honor "for structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels."

The Nobel site said, "This year's Prize illustrates how contemporary biochemistry reaches down to the atomic level in its quest to understand the fundamental processes of life."

Agre, 54, and MacKinnon, 47, will share equally a prize of 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.3 million.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Is there any evidence mind-reading works?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3169044.stm

By Matthew Davis
BBC News Online

Illusionist Derren Brown survived a televised game of Russian Roulette, avoiding a bullet after claiming to have read the thoughts of the person who loaded the gun. There are now claims the whole thing was a hoax... but is there any scientific basis for mind-reading?

Mind-reading is taken seriously by scientists. Not the mystical, extra-sensory perception (ESP) variety, but the study of the non-verbal signals that can say more about us than we consciously reveal.

Signs like pupil dilation, emotional arousal and altered heart rate form the basis of lie-detector tests. Even unaided by machines, the best police interrogators can reportedly tell if someone is lying in 70% of cases.

But how many people would put a gun to their head for a seven in 10 shot at survival?

Brown does not claim extra-sensory powers, but says he used a series of psychological tests to determine where the bullet was.

He asked his volunteer to count to six, using the sound of his voice to help locate the live chamber.

In earlier shows, the illusionist correctly "guessed" a credit card number and the profession of someone just by looking at their hands. He also detected when a trader was lying.

Experts say there is no way anyone could be so specific, or accurate.

Professor Chris French, of London's Goldsmith's college - a specialist in investigating paranormal beliefs and "experiences" - says mind-reading is the stuff of fantasy.

"If Derren Brown really has successfully developed techniques to discern the contents of people's minds in the way that he claims, he has single-handedly achieved more than the collective attempts of psychologists over many decades."

He says the stunt may have more in common with the "cold reading" techniques typically associated with psychics and mediums.

Here, subjects are convinced that someone has told them so much detail about their life, that they could only be reading their mind - or receiving messages from loved ones in the "afterlife".

But much of this rests on leading statements that sound specific, but are really general such as, "You have a better than average sense of humour" or "I sense lots of unused potential".

"Sitters tend to fill in the blanks themselves, but come away feeling they have been given real revelations. We call it the Barnum effect [after the circus impresario]," adds Prof French.

'Beyond science'

But there is significant research into mind-reading - especially the psychology of lying - because of its great practical implications.

Last year, Nasa bosses issued an astonishing denial to reports suggesting they were introducing mind-reading machines to catch terrorists at airports.

"Nasa does not have the capability to read minds, nor are we suggesting that would be done," said Robert Pearce, head of Nasa's Strategy and Analysis Division.

But it added: "Our scientists were asked to think outside the box with regards to ideas that could aid the nation in the war on terrorism and that's what they are doing.

"We have not approved any research in this area and because of the sensitivity of such research, we will seek independent review before we do."

'Masking a trick'

Most experts say it is beyond current scientific knowledge to consistently and reliably spot a lie, let alone read someone's innermost thoughts from behavioural clues.

One man who should know is Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, Britain's first professor of the public understanding of psychology.

Professor Wiseman started his working life as an award-winning professional magician and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle.

"Make no mistake, Derren Brown is a conjuror. He is using the idea of mind-reading to mask his trick.

"You don't not want to run the risk of blowing your brains out in your act - you need certainty. There is no certainty in mind-reading."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/magazine/3169044.stm

Published: 2003/10/07 09:50:18 GMT

© BBC MMIII

Girl's death leads to questions of belief

http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/7537359p-8449477c.html

Tulare parents, church have seen similar cases.
By Tim Sheehan
The Fresno Bee
(Published Friday, October 3, 2003, 10:41 AM)

Was the death of a Tulare girl -- whose parents, for religious reasons, opted not to seek medical care -- the will of God or the result of child abuse?

The question may seem eerily familiar after the Tulare County District Attorney's Office filed charges of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse last week against Wesley and LaRonda Hamm.

The Hamms are members of the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, a small congregation that gathers every Sunday morning in a modest building on West Gail Avenue. In March, the Hamms' 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, died in the family's home on Cochran Avenue, surrounded by family and church members.

Ten years ago, in August 1993, the death of another young member of the same church led to felony child-abuse charges against her parents and focused scrutiny on the congregation and its controversial stance on modern medicine.

On March 13, Jessica Hamm died after several days of what her parents described as flulike symptoms.

An autopsy by the Tulare County Coroner's Office reported the causes of death as cardiorespiratory failure, due to inflammation of her lungs and trachea, and sepsis, a bacterial infection.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Turner said doctors could have saved the child: "We would not have filed if there were no evidence that, but for seeking medical care, the child would have lived."

Adding to the concerns surrounding the case is information in court records that Jessica was the third of the Hamms' six children to die of illnesses at a young age.

In January 1995, Tyler Blake Hamm, 11, died in Springdale, Ark., where the family lived at the time. A coroner's report in the case, included in court documents, indicated that the boy had been sick for about two weeks and probably died from chronic diabetes complicated by flu and dehydration.

In January 1999, another son, 12-year-old Bradley Hamm, died after being ill for two weeks with fever and pneumonia at the family's home in Indiana. Published reports indicated that Bradley's death was investigated, but that prosecutors opted not to file criminal charges.

The Hamms have three other children, all daughters, ages 13, 6 and 3.

The Church of the First Born is one of several Christian fundamentalist sects that reject modern medicine.

"If they take their children to doctors, they believe they are putting their faith in man instead of in God," said Bob Bartlett, a Visalia attorney representing the Hamms in a civil case against the county's Child Welfare Services.

Bartlett said the county is trying to decide whether the couple's three remaining children should be removed from the home for their own safety.

"The crux of the [county's] case is that the Hamms have a belief system that rules out taking their children to medical providers ... and that that belief system puts the children at risk of harm," Bartlett said.

"But there are 60 families in Tulare County that belong to this church and believe this way ... and about 10,000 families nationwide," Bartlett said. "But Child Welfare Services isn't detaining any other children in that church ... except the Hamms."

So far, Bartlett said, the three daughters are still with their parents. All are in good health and, he said, a county nurse checks on them each week.

"Everyone is trying to do the right thing," he said.

According to court documents, Vernal Dukes, a member of the Tulare church's group of elders, explained to Tulare police investigators that church members "practice the teachings of the Bible" and that "they do not believe in using doctors or hospitals."

Instead, "faith healing" is used, with church elders praying over sick church members. Dukes told investigators "there are no situations where they would contact a doctor for medical treatment," and that whether the person recovers is "God's will."

The law varies from state to state over whether religious beliefs are a defense against criminal charges of child neglect for not seeking medical care for a child.

Religious beliefs are not a defense in California, Turner said.

"It's an argument, but it's not a defense," she said. "In California, parents have an obligation to provide for their children the basics of living -- food, shelter and care, including medical care."

Dukes said this week that the elders decided that they would not comment to reporters about the Hamm case.

Turner was the prosecutor in 1995, when Church of the First Born members Carol and Harold Stevens were indicted by a Tulare County grand jury on a charge of felony child abuse after their daughter Carrie, 16, died of diabetes in August 1993. Carrie decided to stop taking insulin shots because of her religion after she was baptized in the church.

Prosecutors alleged that because Carrie was younger than 18, the couple was legally responsible for Carrie's medical needs.

After a trial, a jury was deadlocked and a mistrial declared. Before a retrial could be scheduled, a plea agreement was reached in which the Stevenses pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child abuse and served three years on probation.

The felony charges could land the Hamms in prison if they are convicted. Turner said the child-abuse charge carries a penalty of up to six years in prison, while the sentence for involuntary manslaughter can be two, three or four years.

The reporter can be reached at tsheehan@fresnobee.com or 622-2410.

David Limbaugh is not a big fat idiot

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/ma20031006.shtml

Mike S. Adams

October 6, 2003

In fact, he just became my favorite conservative author (no offense, Ann Coulter). Limbaugh's new book, Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity, may be the most important book written in this country in years. Nonetheless, I am certain that most liberal commentators will personally attack Limbaugh for writing it, without giving his arguments serious consideration.

The first part of Persecution, dealing with attacks on Christianity in the public schools, certainly got my attention. As I read each well-researched chapter, I tried to imagine myself as a student in the sixth grade taking my first course in social studies. That was in1976 for me, by the way. My teacher, Mr. Hebert, had a fondness for comparing life in America with life in other countries like the Soviet Union. That was back in the good old days when a teacher could tell his students that he loved his country without losing his job. A typical lecture in Mr. Hebert's class could have sounded something like this:

"In Leningrad, a judge decreed that any student using the word 'Jesus' would be arrested and incarcerated for six months.

"In China, the courts appoint prayer monitors to ensure that no student is caught praying on school property.

"In East Germany, school officials are trained to be alert concerning any possibility of student discussion of religion and they immediately censor anything that remotely resembles religious discourse.

"In Cuba, a student organized a canned goods drive in April of last year. Determined to distribute the canned goods to the poorest citizens in Havana, he called it the 'Easter Can Drive.' Upon learning of the event, Fidel Castro forced the student to re-name the event the 'Spring Can Drive.'

"In Moscow, students were allowed to assemble at the local elementary school to sing hymns, but only after government officials re-wrote all of the hymns to exclude references to 'Jesus Christ.'

"In Czechoslovakia, an eight-year-old made valentines for her classmates, which read, 'Jesus Loves You.' Government officials confiscated them.

"In East Berlin, a sixth grader was sent home from school for carrying a Bible.

"In North Korea, students wearing 'WWJD' bracelets were ordered to remove them immediately.

"In Tehran, students were forced to pray in the name of Allah and to act out their own jihad.

"The Assistant Provost at the University of Prague has decreed that any student who believes in creationism should not attend any public university.

"A professor at a Romanian university was asked to resign her administrative position because she criticized Darwinian principles. It was feared that this criticism might cause some students to consider believing in God.

"A professor at the University of Havana had her salary cut 25% because she left copies of Christian magazines on a table in the back of her classroom after telling students they could peruse them if they so desired.

"In Yugoslavia, students can have their college education financed as long as they are not majoring in religion or attending divinity school.

"In Czechoslovakia, students are allowed to form religious groups on campus as long as they renounce their specific religious beliefs and replace them with social and political views that are officially sanctioned by the government.

And so on.

Remember, I said that a similar lecture could have occurred in Mr. Hebert's class in 1976. But such a lecture would never be heard in an American classroom today. The reason is simple: these forms of religious persecution are no longer peculiar to other nations. They are happening right here in the United States of America.

In fact, every one of the above examples is based on a real case of religious persecution, which has happened in this country. Most of these cases are only a few years old, and all of them are recounted in David Limbaugh's outstanding new book. While some of the cases arguably result from ignorance of the constitution, most are undoubtedly perpetrated intentionally in the name of liberalism.

Make no mistake about it; this country has changed a lot since 1976. And few celebrating our nation's bicentennial could have foreseen the assault on Christianity that has taken place over the last couple of decades. While a small minority in this country may have led that assault, it could not have succeeded without the acquiescence of the Christian majority.

Those who read Persecution will undoubtedly agree that there is a war being waged against Christianity in this country. Of course, those who decide to fight back will pay a price. But look at the price we have paid for remaining silent.

Mike Adams (adams_mike@hotmail) is an associate professor at UNC-Wilmington. In addition to recommending David's book, he supports his brother Rush 100%. And he no longer watches ESPN.

©2003 Mike S. Adams

Worland school board OKs teaching creationism

http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?id=1&display=rednews/2003/09/26/build/wyoming/60-worland.inc

WORLAND -- A policy that would allow theories other than evolution to be taught in Washakie County science classes has won initial approval from school board members.

District trustees rejected a second measure that would have stressed abstinence in sex education classes, not just promote contraceptive use. The policy was toned down by board member Tom Ball since being introduced last month, but was still defeated Monday night.

More than 120 people attended the board meeting, which had to be moved to the high school theater to accommodate the influx of parents, teachers and students.

The evolution measure was approved 5-2 on first reading, and must be approved two more times before becoming district policy.

Some wording was changed to allow -- not require -- teachers to discuss alternatives to Darwin's Theory of Evolution, such as creationism, and the controversies surrounding them.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises


Monday, October 06, 2003

VIVO(TM) Cluster Water product. (worthless, Ed.)

BusinessWire otcpk:TPBV WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 01, 2003

Tropical Beverage (OTCPK:TPBV) Acquires Exclusive Manufacturing Rights to VIVO, brand carried by Albertsons, SAV-ON Drug Stores, OSCO and more

Click below to go to the news
http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/031001/15320_1.html

SANTA ANA, Calif., Oct 1, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Tropical Beverage, Inc. (NQB Pink Sheets:TPBV) is pleased to report that it has signed an agreement to be the exclusive manufacturer for VIVO(TM) water. VIVO(TM) is a clustered water product that has shown to increase the absorption of water into the body. VIVO(TM) has had enormous success in Japan and is currently sold in the US at Albertsons, SAV-ON, Jewel and OSCO stores. The plans are to continue the expansion into other retail chains.

More information may be obtained about VIVO(TM) at www.csibeverages.com

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 - October 6, 2003

AMERICAN, BRITON WIN NOBEL FOR MEDICINE
from Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- American Paul C. Lauterbur and Briton Sir Peter Mansfield won the 2003 Nobel Prize for medicine Monday for discoveries leading to a technique that reveals images of the body's inner organs.

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, has become a routine method for medical diagnosis and treatment. It is used to examine almost all organs without need for surgery, but is especially valuable for detailed examination of the brain and spinal cord.

MRI can reveal whether lower back pain is is due to pressure on a nerve or spinal cord, for example. It can give surgeons a roadmap for operations, revealing the limits of a tumor. And since MRI itself does not require physically entering the body, it can replace some procedures that patients find uncomfortable.
http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ats-ap_health10oct06,0,2853755.story

ZAP OF ELECTRICITY CREATES FLUID SITUATION FOR LIQUID
from The Washington Post

With frost warnings popping up across the country, Americans are getting their seasonal reminder that when temperatures get low enough, liquids become solid.

But what if there were a way to turn a liquid into a tough solid at ordinary temperatures with a mere zap of electricity -- and then have that solid become liquid again, instantaneously, simply by shutting off the current?

Now scientists say they have created such a fluid: one that responds to an electrical field by immediately turning as tough as hard plastic and which just as quickly -- within a few thousandths of a second -- turns back into liquid when the power is turned off.

The fluid breaks new ground in the race to develop futuristic phase-changing substances like those often pictured in science fiction thrillers -- such as the morphing fluidic material that proves such an advantage to the mercurial villain, T-1000, in the movie "Terminator 2."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49172-2003Oct5.html/

SCIENCE NOTEBOOK
from Associated Press

Iceburg Disrupts Ecosystem An iceberg twice the size of Rhode Island that clogged the mouth of Antarctica's Ross Sea for months caused sea-ice to pile-up behind it and disrupted the region's fragile ecosystem for more than a year, scientists reported last week...

Explosive Detector on a Chip Government investigators currently use trained dogs or an instrument called a mass spectrometer to detect traces of explosive material on surfaces or in the air...

The Germ of a Home Design First, it was the special hand soaps. Then the germ-killing countertop cleaners. It would only be a matter of time, it seemed, before the United States would have its first full-blown antimicrobial home...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49449-2003Oct5.html

SQUID RESEARCH HELPS STUDY OF BRAINS
from Associated Press

FALMOUTH, Mass. -- The 75-foot squid boat takes a gentle turn toward a Woods Hole pier on a summer afternoon, its nets filled with an animal whose primitive nervous system holds the secrets of the human brain.

Loligo's skipper watches under a hot sky, the squid expelling jets of water as a deckhand scoops them from the boat for transport to the Marine Biological Laboratory, just a few hundred yards away.

From the time of delivery, professor George Langford knows he has a few hours, tops, to get his squid dissected so he can continue researching the mysteries of how the brain remembers, and what makes it forget when a disease such as Alzheimer's takes hold.
http://www.newsday.com/news/science/wire/sns-ap-exp-squid-and-the-brain,0,1129431.story

EVIDENCE FOR 'SIXTH SENSE' GROWING

RICHARD SADLER, SCOTSMAN - British scientists say there is convincing evidence that a significant proportion of the population possess psychic powers. The British Association for the Advancement of Science was told an increasing number of experiments support the theory of a human "sixth sense" - an ability which may have its roots in our past, when the ability to sense the presence of a predator was a matter of life or death.

The view that people are capable of paranormal feats, such as premonitions, telepathy, and out-of-body experiences, is supported by new research by the Institute of Psychiatry, which suggests the human mind may exist outside the body like an invisible magnetic field. The research is being led by Dr Peter Fenwick, a neuro-psychiatrist at London University, who has just completed a survey of heart patients claiming to have had "near-death experiences" after their hearts had stopped beating. "There is now convincing evidence to challenge the current theory that consciousness can only exist inside the brain - and if you can have consciousness without associated brain function, that is enormously important for our understanding of the mind," he said.

For his latest research, 60 patients at Southampton General Hospital's coronary care unit were interviewed after heart attacks had left them temporarily brain-dead. Seven reported near-death experiences - defined by characteristic features such as a feeling of leaving your body, going through a tunnel and entering an area of "love, bliss and consciousness."

"The significance of this is that after a cardiac arrest you lose consciousness within eight seconds; within 11 seconds the brain's rhythms become flat, and within 18 seconds there is no possibility of the brain creating a model of the world - so the brain is down," said Dr Fenwick. "Yet whenever we asked people when their near-death experiences occurred, they said it was during unconsciousness. If that's true, their experience was occurring when there was no blood flowing through the brain - and consciousness would appear to exist outside the brain."

It could be argued that their experiences occurred in the few seconds between brain functions being restored and the return of consciousness. But recent research on a patient in the United States, where traces of electrical activity in the brain were closely monitored, suggested this was not the case.

http://www.news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=609&id=999952003

A Broken Marriage And a 'Life Destroyed'

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10929-2003Sep27.html By Sandra G. Boodman and Patricia Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 28, 2003; Page A21

The patient and her psychiatrist flew from Dulles International Airport one steamy June Saturday on an impossible mission: to scour the woman's childhood home in Illinois for proof of events that never occurred.

The 36-year-old woman's therapy sessions with psychiatrist Martin H. Stein had been dominated by horrific "memories" -- that her father, a prominent lawyer who had been dead for more than a decade, was a leader of a racist satanic cult. She told Stein she had been sexually abused by him and other cult members who forced her to kill and eat a baby. She said she stood on the basement steps of her family's house and watched her father shoot numerous black men, among them a handyman who worked for the family.

None of it ever happened, the woman's family said. The Virginia Board of Medicine said Stein used hypnosis, suggestion, massage, psychiatric drugs and the trip to Illinois to evoke the memories -- all of which were uncorroborated or disproved. The handyman, for example, actually died in a hospital after a long illness.

The story of the Fairfax County homemaker -- identified as Patient C in the board's ruling suspending Stein's license -- is the most extraordinary of the 10 cases cited by the board. It highlights the life-altering influence a psychiatrist can exert over a patient and underscores the unusual nature of Stein's practice.

At the time of their 1998 trip, financed from the woman's seven-figure trust fund, Stein was involved in an intense relationship with her, which included "sexually intimate behavior," according to the board. Stein urged the woman to divorce her husband and advised her that spending the inheritance would be "therapeutic," the board found.

Their remarkable 21/2-year relationship is chronicled in a 500-page complaint the woman's ex-husband submitted to the medical board in November 1999. The complaint, which includes e-mails, medical records and other documents, became the basis for portions of the consent order Stein signed last year when he surrendered his license. It alleges, in painstaking detail, the destruction of a family and the increasingly precarious condition of a woman with a history of serious mental illness who endangered her children and sacrificed her financial security in a desperate attempt to please her doctor. The woman's two young children also are among the patients cited in the order.

The board found that Stein referred the woman to an Alexandria divorce lawyer who is his friend and diagnosed her as having eight psychiatric disorders for which he prescribed about 30 drugs. It concluded that he gave her financial advice, accepted expensive gifts from her and arranged a meeting with his sister to talk about sexual abuse. The board found that he showed the woman a videotape and discussed the treatment of another patient, identified elsewhere as Ruthann Aron, the Montgomery County politician charged with hiring a hit man to murder her husband. Stein was a key defense witness at Aron's trial.

Stein misdiagnosed Patient C's 4-year-old son and gave the boy and his 7-year-old sister powerful psychiatric drugs that had not been approved for children, the board also found.

"What happened here is that someone who went to a psychiatrist for help comes out of it with her life destroyed," said Walter, the woman's former husband, who spoke on condition that his last name not be published to protect his children's privacy. "I basically lost everything. And my kids? Well, who knows what the long-term damage might be."

Walter said his former wife, whom he sees frequently, has been cautioned by her attorney not to talk about Stein; the attorney confirmed this. In September 2001, Stein agreed to pay the woman about $200,000 to settle a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court alleging medical malpractice, sexual battery and fraud. All records in the case were sealed by a judge at the request of both parties. Walter estimates that his former wife gave Stein $200,000 to $250,000 in fees and gifts.

Walter said his former wife consulted Stein in September 1997 because she thought she might have attention deficit disorder. A few weeks after their initial meeting, Walter said, Stein summoned the couple to his office. "He told me [she] had bigger problems [than ADD] and started showing me these devices, including a battered metal baby cup, that he said were used by satanic cults."

Stories about ritual sexual abuse by satanic cults -- increasingly fantastic tales about organized devil-worshippers who abused and killed young children -- circulated in mental health and law enforcement circles beginning in the 1980s. The phenomenon had been discredited in mainstream psychiatric circles well before 1992, when a noted FBI behavioral scientist, Kenneth Lanning, issued an influential report saying that despite extensive investigation, there was no evidence of such cults.

Stein disagreed. In 1995, according to a teenage patient and her mother, he kept trying to convince the girl that her estranged father had been a cult member. The patient, now 22, said Stein threatened her with hospitalization if she did not "remember" the abuse.

In November 1997, Walter said, Stein drove Walter's wife to the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, where he had privileges. Walter said Stein told him at the hospital -- where Walter's wife spent nine days -- that Walter's nine-year marriage was over and blamed him for his wife's hospitalization. "I went home, and I didn't know what to do," Walter recalled. "I concluded that she was crazy and that I wasn't going to leave the children."

Within weeks, Walter said, his wife began spending as much time as she could with Stein. She left home at 5:30 a.m. to bring Stein coffee and bagels and returned later than 10 p.m., after she had delivered the psychiatrist's dinner.

Stein billed her $450 for two-hour therapy sessions, which were sometimes as frequent as six days per week, Walter said. The board found that he also allowed her to fill canceled appointments and rented her a room in his office for a daily rate of $100 so she could "hang out." She confided to her sister that she couldn't live without Stein and threatened to kill herself by starving. At one point, records show, the woman, who had a history of anorexia and bipolar disorder, stopped eating and lost 20 pounds. The board found that twice she took overdoses of medication Stein prescribed, yet he failed to send her to an emergency room.

Stein seemed to encourage the patient's dependence: He took her with him when he taught at George Washington University's medical school and accompanied her to doctor's appointments, sometimes going with her into the examining room, according to documents that are part of the complaint.

Six months after she started seeing Stein, a Merrill Lynch vice president handling her brokerage account questioned Stein's fees and expressed amazement at the $60,000 she had given Stein, according to a statement the woman's sister submitted as part of Walter's complaint. The broker warned her that if she did not curtail her expenses, her trust fund, which then substantially exceeded $1 million, would be exhausted in a few years.

At the same time, Walter said he and her siblings, alarmed by her condition, consulted a dozen prominent psychiatrists across the country. Most advised that they obtain a second opinion, a plan that Stein discouraged, the board found.

Stein's attentions were increasingly directed at the woman's children, especially her young son, whom the psychiatrist decided was seriously mentally ill. The medical board found that Stein misdiagnosed both children and continued to be involved in their care over Walter's written objections and in violation of a court order. On one occasion, the board found, Stein bound the boy's feet and ankles with electrical tape in front of his sister because his mother said he was "out of control."

William Stage, a child psychiatrist who treated both children for several months, said he thought at the time that "the kids and their father were okay and [their mother] was making them sick." The board found that several other child psychiatrists failed to find any evidence of the multiple problems Stein diagnosed in the boy other than depression.

In September 1999, a judge awarded both parents joint custody of the children but explicitly barred Stein from involvement in their care, an order the board found Stein violated.

In January 2000, the relationship between Stein and the patient ended abruptly, for reasons that remain unclear. About that time, Walter said, the medical board, which had received two complaints about Stein in 1999, began its investigation.

Walter said that his ex-wife has found a new therapist and that his children are being treated by a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and seem to be coping well. He said he is trying to put the ordeal, which cost him his marriage and more than $60,000, behind him.

"I lost everything," Walter said, "and I had to basically fight this by myself. Unless you force the board to act, they will protect doctors."


Sunday, October 05, 2003

Files on space aliens going to A&M

http://www.dallasnews.com/latestnews/stories/100603dntexsaucer.7125b.html

Artifacts, documents of scientist in Air Force inquiry to be displayed
08:34 PM CDT on Sunday, October 5, 2003
Associated Press

HOUSTON – The work of an investigator who dismissed the existence of flying saucers – a finding that hardly matters to UFO believers – has been turned over to Texas A&M University.

The nine boxes of material from physical scientist Roy Craig include reports of visits by space aliens, information on purported landing sites and other material relating to the UFO phenomenon.

Mr. Craig's files include correspondence, photographs, popular and scientific articles about UFOs and aliens, as well as a muffler from a gasoline-powered lawn mower, aluminum shavings and globs of metal found at sites of purported UFO landings.

The artifacts will be available for public examination at A&M's Cushing Memorial Library.

Mr. Craig was an investigator assigned to the University of Colorado's Air Force-financed Condon Project, which was released 35 years ago. The Air Force used the report in 1969 as the basis for its decision to stop monitoring reported UFO sightings.

The report, however, didn't end worldwide interest in UFOs.

A UFO museum wanted to move Mr. Craig's documents to Roswell, N.M., the city known for a purported crash of an alien craft in 1947 and featured in television's The X-Files.

"UFOs are popular things," Mr. Craig, 79, told the Houston Chronicle in a telephone interview from his home in Ignacio, Colo. "I think UFOs really have had an impact on our culture."

A UFO researcher who once visited Mr. Craig was certain that the preserved bodies of 16 space creatures removed from a flying saucer were stored at the scientist's Colorado ranch.

The visitor, who found only several dozen llamas that Mr. Craig raises commercially for the pet market, was undeterred.

If Mr. Craig wasn't hiding the bodies, why would he be at the ranch, he quoted the visitor as saying.

Mr. Craig said that when he entered the Air Force's Condon Project, he hoped to find persuasive evidence that space creatures have visited Earth.

"I was looking for physical evidence," he said. "I was hoping that it was more than just something in somebody's mind. I would like to have found a vehicle or some strange alien. But it didn't turn out that way."

Ojhas, Faith-healers have a friend in Paswan

http://sify.com/news/othernews/fullstory.php?id=13222822

By M.L. Kotru
Monday, 11 August , 2003, 16:24

Human Resources Development Minister, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, I was delighted to note earlier this week, has an in-house soulmate within his Ministry, one who obviously shares Joshi's peanchant for the ancient. Ancient not in the historical sense, which can be a mixture of good and bad, but the bizarre, the primitive, the archaic.

If Murli Manohar Joshi is hell-bent on rewriting Indian history to suit his antediluvian proclivities, his junior Minister, a Dr. Sanjay Paswan is keen to take us back to the days of the ojhas, faith-healers and the like. Dr Joshi will on a good day tells you how Indians (Hindus, he more likely would insist) had invented aeroplanes, missiles et al a few thousand years before modern man came upon these.

He will quote to you from the Ramayana and Mahabharat instances of our gods commuting by air and into space. You can only look in disbelief as this former Professor of Physics at Allahabad University waxes eloquent on the great scientific achievements of his forbears of several thousand years ago.

Dr. Sanjay Paswan, as he was quoted in exclusive interview in a well-regarded national daily, goes one better than his senior minister. He was seven years old when some ojhas came to his house and asked him to put his hand in a bowl of `piping hot' kheer. His mother objected to the suggestion but our precocious junior-Minister-to-be did the Ojha's behest and lo and behold `nothing happened'.

He did not even feel the heat of the boiling kheer let alone his hand getting burnt. And, then, there is this one from the junior minister: the ojhas asked him to walk on fire. If he succeeded he would be a `bada aadmi'. All of this, when he was just seven and if you still have any doubts about the ojhas remember Dr. Sanjay Paswan has really become a `bada aadmi- a Minister of State under the "dynamic" Murli Manohar Joshi.

Let's not be spoil-sports. You ng in years, young in spirit, Dr. Paswan's first encounter with the ojhas or the witchdoctors has obviously left a lasting impression on his mind. And a seven year- old cannot be wrong in making the assumptions he makes. For, don't forget that it was the ojha who told him of how `big' he would be if he dipped his hand in boiling hot kheer and walked on fire.

Paswan, like his peer in the Ministry, wants to pass on some of this heritage to us, ordinary Indians. The divine or supernatural powers of the ojhas cannot be allowed to go waste. So he is all set to revive "holistic and spiritual healing" which he also describes as "the spirit of ancient India".

The ojhas and the bhagats will in his scheme of things invoke all the right spirits to cure our body, mind and soul. You cannot but appreciate Paswan's concern for body, mind and soul. He would have done well, though, by leaving our minds alone, free to be manipulated by his senior Minister. After all hasn't Dr. Joshi been doing his very best to doctor our history, our value system or whatever is left of that. But this day belongs to Sanjay Paswanji, and you cannot deny him his due.

By the time this column appears Dr. Sanjay Paswan would already have organised a meeting of ojhas at Darbhanga! The ojhas, broom-stick and all, would have already made a show of their powers and Dr. Paswan must how be a contented man. A caring man that he obviously is each ojha would have received Rs.551, a token of appreciation only, not to be mistaken for repaying them for displaying their priceless powers.

Dr. Paswan is setting up a centre for holistic healing as an adjunct of his organisation "Vanchit Partishthan", also to be known as the holistic healing home.

I am not quite sure whether Dr. Paswan plans to extend the benefits of his rediscovery of this most ancient form of healing to the rest of humanity. He could for instance take a group of his ojhas to Africa and see how well or poorly they fared against the practitioners of witchcraft and faith-healing there.

He could even ask the WHO to take a good look at the possibility of ojhas being used at places that lack in practitioners of modern medicine. The advantage in using ojhas instead of doctors would be what they can do without expensive medicines. The ojha could be a faithhealer and an exorcist, rolled into one.

There is need for exorcists as well within and outside our country. Don't you remember the frequent reports of how innocent villagers in some parts of the country are forced to use lathis to kill a man or woman supposed ly possessed by evil?

The holistic healing home of Paswan's dreams should ensure that ojhas are brought into the picture in all such cases if only to save a life, may be of someone possessed for the moment by evil forces.

I am quite impressed by the Junior Minister's concern for preserving traditional healing techniques. Like, for instance, he does not believe that the roadside sellers of aphrodisiacs are quacks. Instead he believes they are the descendants of Rana Pratap, who fled into jungles and learnt all about herbs that can take care of various ailments apart from sex-related ones.

The interview to the daily mentioned by me is remarkable for yet another reason. The Junior Minister is very forthcoming not only on the issue of ojhas but also about the road-side peddlers of sex enhancing potions. He obviously has made a deep study of the subject, which induces him to take up the cause of these sellers of strength-enhancing multicolored pills and oils made of various species of lizards to rid people of their bedroom blues.

Unlike others, according to the report I have quoted from, Dr. Paswan does not believe that all these roadside sellers are quacks. In fact he is all set to prepare a national directory of all ojhas and roadside peddlers to harness their combined powers of healing. The report is revealing of Dr.Paswan's own abilities as a practitioner of holistic healing. How else could he claim that tortoise flesh can cure tuberculosis and snail's meat, asthma?

Dr. Paswan is said to have approached the Health Ministry to start a course on holistic healing. And I quote from the interview given by him: He wants this medicinal branch to get recognition. In the first phase of his operation he plans to set up holistic healing centres. This would include counselling, naturopathy, yoga, acupressure and homoeopathy. The second phase would include spiritual healing which will include cure by ojhas and bhagats and by invoking spirits.

The Minister, not surprisingly, does believe in spirits. 'What else is atma?' he asks. The Minister is set to create awareness among people about this form of healing. In fact a group of health workers may soon be making the rounds of Delhi distributing leaflets promoting the holistic healing of Paswan's dreams. He could do well to borrow a leaf from the book of an earlier generation of "sexologists" who simply pasted largish posters on the back and sides of then numerous tongas, conveying the message "Balwan bana doon kya doge". Some of these shops still exist and by all accounts are in good health too.

Dr. Paswan must include these good men in his proposed directory even if the law frowns on their achievements.

Courtesy: Free Press Journal

Joshi at home, his deputy at work with a cobra necklace

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=32146

Tantra is future science, says Minister, after he walks on fire

VARGHESE K GEORGE

PATNA, SEPTEMBER 23: His resignation on the table, Murli Manohar Joshi may already have a worthy successor in the Union HRD Ministry. Minister of State Sanjay Paswan who, after Joshi's love for Vedic mathematics and astrology, wants tantrik practices and exorcism included in school curriculum.

Two cobras coiled around his neck, still glowing from the 'walk on fire' he demonstrated before a crowd of 2,000-plus yesterday, Paswan means business. ''This is all futuristic science and hence needs promotion by the state, media and the civil society... I am saying this with conviction, not politics in mind,'' he said here today. Incidentally, like his boss, the MoS too is a student of physics, having done a Masters in it.

As a first step towards this, Paswan honoured 51 ojhas, gunis and bhagats—village exorcists, shamans and charmers or, in the minister's words, ''healers''—yesterday. Of the 51 honoured, 11 were women.

Incidentally, in Bihar and Jharkhand, dozens of women are stoned to death every year after being branded witches. But Paswan is unfazed. ''We will correct the distortions if any, but they are healers who give relief to the people. The WHO defines health as being physically fit, mentally alert and emotionally balanced. Modern doctors can only take care of your physical fitness. Traditional healers will give you mental and spiritual comfort.''

However, one person who will certainly be healed by the exercise is Paswan, who has been trying to emerge as a Dalit leader. Most of the practitioners of the craft are Dalits, and they will return to their villages and tell others about the BJP leader who danced, chanted and beat the drums with them.

Like Ambika Das, a bhagat from Makhdumpur in Nalanda district. ''We are always sought after in the villages, but hardly honoured. We are grateful to the minister,'' she says. While the bhagats propitiate the village deity, ojhas exorcise evil spirits and gunis protect one from potential evils.

However, the roles, not surprisingly, often overlap. ''We want to modernise these practices,'' says Paswan. ''Like the way Ayurveda has become internationally accepted now.''

He doesn't even approve of the word exorcists for ojhas. ''They heal broken hearts and humans. It's about spiritual enlightenment,'' Paswan says. ''I want this included in school curriculum to bring this ancient wisdom closer to modernity.''

The minister's next plan is to form a national-level forum for healers. There are plans to hold a meeting in Delhi in November, after which he hopes to start two institutes, one in Darbhanga and another in Patna to do research on these topics.

These institutes will prepare a data bank of different types of healing practitioners in Bihar, have a website and build a team of teachers for those aspiring to learn the practices.

Paswan even tries to convince you that employment opportunity is high in the field. Talk about how promotion of superstition would help the Dalits whose cause he professes to espouse and Paswan says: ''If psychosomatic studies are internationally accepted as scientific, why should we hesitate? Let there be a debate.''

Of that, he can be sure.

Scientist says UFO tales far out

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/2137114

Saucer-buster's research data material finds home at Texas A&M

By ALLAN TURNER
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

First came the UFO, a massive, saucer-shaped craft hovering low over the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 1967. Then, two days later, came the beeping -- a steady, two-beeps-to-the-second sound coming from no discernible source. Locals, some bearing rifles, flocked to the woods to hear, to puzzle, to perhaps solve the mystery.

The nighttime beeping continued for weeks. Police even thought they heard it on their radios. When the beeping began, cows and dogs grew agitated, then quiet. Even the loud-mouthed frogs shut up.

Civil defense experts prowled the woods to no avail. Bird-call experts analyzed poor-quality tapes of the sound and came up blank. Finally, at wit's end, local authorities turned to their last hope: the crack saucer-busters at the University of Colorado.

Within days, physical scientist Roy Craig, an investigator with the university's Air Force-financed Condon Project -- the nation's largest, most systematic investigation of UFOs to date -- was dispatched to the scene.

What he found was the stuff of history.

Now, for the first time, scholars and others interested in the data that led Craig and other Condon Project scientists to conclude flying saucers probably don't exist can peruse Craig's field notes at Texas A&M University's Cushing Memorial Library.

Included in nine boxes of files are Craig's investigative jottings, correspondence and photographs as well as popular and scientific articles related to alleged visits by space aliens. Also available for examination are objects -- aluminum shavings, globs of metal and a lawn mower muffler -- found at the sites of purported UFO landings.

Craig's papers join material on ranching, military, poetry and one of the nation's top science-fiction collections at the Cushing. And part of their value lies in the scientific insight they can provide students of science fiction. "If you say the Condon report is absolute foolishness, that there's nothing behind it, well we have nine boxes behind it," said Hal W. Hall, curator of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection at A&M. Thirty-five years after its release, the Condon Project report, compiled under the supervision of respected University of Colorado physicist Edward U. Condon, continues to generate controversy. In 1969, the year man first set foot on the moon, the Air Force used the report as the basis for its decision to stop monitoring reported UFO sightings.

Despite the study's thumbs down on verifiable visits by space creatures, interest in extraterrestrials, fueled by movies and other media, remains high. An Internet search for UFO-related Web sites last week turned up more than 64,000 entries. An estimated 1.5 million viewers recently tuned in to a television special on the purported 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, N.M.

"UFOs are popular things," Craig said in a telephone interview from his Ignacio, Colo., home. "I think UFOs really have had an impact on our culture. I'm not unhappy about that. I think that's fine."

Craig, 79, who was co-author of the three-volume Condon report, abides the controversy, which labels him an instrument in an egregious government cover-up, with good humor.

Once, Craig was visited by a UFO researcher who was certain the preserved bodies of 16 space creatures removed from a flying saucer said to have crashed at Aztec, N.M. -- a short distance from Ignacio -- were stored at the scientist's ranch.

All the visitor found were several dozen llamas Craig raises for the pet market. But the visitor was undaunted. " `If it weren't true, why would Roy Craig be here?' " Craig recalled. "I confirmed all of his suspicions. He wrote a 500-page book about it."

Craig is not above having fun with folks from outer space. Shortly after the university report's release, he authored a tongue-in-cheek psuedo-folk song dealing with flying saucers. Above an accompaniment of guitar and beeps and whines, a syrupy-voiced songstress intones the virtues of galactic travelers to Earth.

Craig also is author of UFOs: An Insider's View of the Official Quest for Evidence, published by University of North Texas Press.

Craig admits that he entered the Condon Project hoping to find persuasive evidence that space creatures have visited Earth. "I was looking for physical evidence," he said. "I was hoping that it was more than just something in somebody's mind. I would like to have found a vehicle or some strange alien. But it didn't turn out that way."

Although the Condon Project report is more than three decades old, Craig said he doesn't think there's a need for a new, comprehensive probe. "Not unless something different happens. The report's not really outdated. It's pretty firm," he said.

Colm Kelleher, administrator of the Las Vegas-based National Institute for Discovery Science, sharply disagreed. "I do believe the UFO phenomenon is still with us and worth an impartial investigation using scientific methodology," he said.

In some ways, Kelleher's organization is a privately funded version of the Condon Project.

In 1999, the group set up a UFO hot line, receiving more than 5,000 accounts of purported encounters with space vehicles.

"We very quickly discarded 80 to 90 percent of them as not worthy of investigation -- Vandenberg Air Force Base launches, space shuttles, Venus low on the horizon. You name it and people will report it," Kelleher said. But some of the remaining cases proved tantalizing.

"We haven't found any smoking guns," Kelleher said. "But with sufficient resources and sufficient persistence, scientific investigation will eventually yield results. It's a slow process. We think true believers and debunkers are in the same camp. Neither produces anything particularly useful. The true scientific approach is to focus on the data rather than the interpretation. We are drowning in way too much interpretation with very little data."

In his investigations, Craig encountered a wide variety of people. "They were all over the spectrum," he said. "Some were businessmen. Some of them held dependable, responsible jobs and they seemed like normal people. They generally seemed to believe what they were saying."

In the fall of 1967, Craig interviewed a man who claimed his car stopped suddenly, its radio and lights failing, as a flying saucer passed overhead early one morning as he traveled a lonely rural road.

Craig ultimately dismissed the middle-age businessman's claims, though, when scientific tests showed the auto had not been subjected to a strong magnetic field and that its chipping paint and pitted windshield could be logically explained. Craig's conclusion was buttressed by inconsistencies in the man's story.

In the summer of 1967, a 50-year-old general machine handyman and his 11-year-old son told Craig they had snapped two Polaroid photos of a spacecraft after a strange noise attracted their attention.

"They looked in the direction of the noise and saw a UFO about 60 feet in diameter some 500 feet away, moving about 30 to 40 mph at an altitude of 500-600 feet," Craig wrote later. "Mr. A snapped two pictures during the 15-20 seconds before the object departed at a speed estimated to be 2,000 mph."

Craig noted that the spacecraft in the photos strongly resembled a pot lid atop a pie plate.

Careful examination of the photos, measuring the size of the UFO's image and factoring in the degree of focus of other objects in the picture, indicated the spaceship had not been 60 feet in diameter as claimed -- but about the size of a pie plate.

Time and again Craig's hopes would rise when he learned of a promising UFO sighting, only to be dashed when he investigated. Was he ever almost convinced of the reality of UFOs?

"I don't think you could say I was ever `almost convinced' in any of these cases," Craig said. "There was always some discrepancy that just didn't add up."

In the case of the mysterious beeps, Craig said, researchers quickly dismissed the reported UFO sightings as insubstantial. But the strange noises were another matter.

Arming themselves with an array of high-tech gadgetry -- military infrared sniper scope; tape recorders; directional microphone audio detector; and cameras loaded with infrared, ultraviolet and conventional high-speed film -- Craig and his colleagues staked out the woods.

Throughout the night they heard the beeps.

"It lasted not more than 10 seconds and seemed to come from a direction different from its usual location," a clearly perplexed Craig wrote.

The next night, Craig and his team packed their gear to another wooded spot.

Nary a sound was heard.

A morning chat with the sheriff solved the mystery.

Sometime in the night, a local farmer, alarmed at the endless beeping around his house, blasted into the treetops -- and brought down an owl. Recorded calls of the elusive saw-whet owl matched perfectly the recorded mystery beeps.

The tiny owl, only 6 inches long, easily was overlooked in dense forest foliage, Craig noted in his report, allowing beep hunters "to conclude that the sound came from a point in space that was not occupied by a physical object."


Saturday, October 04, 2003

Schools should not limit origins-of-life discussions to evolution, Republican legislators say

http://www.stillwatergazette.com/story.asp?cat=NEW&story=6538

(Created 10/2/03 9:06:00 AM)

Dem. Rep. Otto disagrees, argues that educators can't 'teach personal values'

By GREG C. HUFF

News Editor

ST. PAUL — More than 78 years after the famous Scopes "monkey" trial, lawmakers and educators in Minnesota and across the country have been again debating how to teach in public schools the origin of mankind.

The debate, which pits evolutionists versus creationists, arose anew in Minnesota earlier this month after the Minnesota Education Department released accidentally two drafts of its new standards for teaching science — drafts which differed only in how they prescribe the teaching of evolution. One version included words such as "might," "may" and "possible" in language that appeared designed to question evolution's veracity.

In the controversy's aftermath, St. Croix Valley lawmakers agreed to explain their personal and political convictions regarding education and human origins.

District 52 Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, a Lutheran, said she has never advocated against teaching evolution in Minnesota public schools — she simply wants teachers to discuss creationism as well.

"I have no problem with teaching the various theories ... of origins of life. ..." She said. "But, I think there's one ... philosophy ... that says only one could be taught — and that one would be evolution. And because the scientific community has found that there are flaws in abiding by that dogma, I think it's important to teach that controversy."

Lawmakers and educators should not "censor information out of discussion because it doesn't meet within someone's dogmatic beliefs," Bachmann said further. "Something that I think sometimes people don't like to hear is that secular people can be sometimes even more dogmatic in beliefs than people who are not secular. ... In some ways, to believe in evolution is almost like a following; a cult following — if you don't believe in evolution, you're considered completely backward. That seems to me very indicative of bias as well."

Because "eminent, reasonable minds" in the scientific community disagree with the theory of evolution, Bachmann said, "I would expect that teachers would disagree, and students would disagree, and the public would, certainly."

In 12 years of Catholic school, District 56 Sen. Brian LeClair "spent time discussing both evolution and creation," he said, adding an invitation to "citizens who feel strongly about these issues" to attend one of Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke's upcoming public forums. To solicit opinions about the state's new science and social studies standards, Yecke is hosting the forums at schools throughout the state. For more information, visit the Education Department's Web site at cfl.state.mn.us/stellent/groups/public/documents/translatedcontent/pub_mde_home.jsp.

District 52B Rep. Rebecca Otto, a member of the Universal Unitarian Church in White Bear Lake, does not believe creationism should be taught in public schools.

"Public schools cannot teach personal values because they vary from family to family," said Otto, who taught 7th-grade life science and biology for five years in the Forest Lake school district, and has a master's of education degree in life and environmental science. "That piece has to happen at home. ... Belief systems like creationism can be also taught in a religion class in schools — if they offer one — in church, and at home, just as science is taught in a science class."

Lipman, among the Minnesota Legislature's few Jewish lawmakers, disagreed that "creation science" has no place in public school. Exposing students to the "tenets and outlines" of creation science, he said, is as important as teaching the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Darwin.

"To shy away from a discussion and description of the ideas of creation science because of fears of political correctness — or worse still, violating the (U.S. Constitution's) establishment clause — is to snap off key purposes of schooling at this age, and, frankly, cheats children of the opportunity to be exposed to some of the most intriguing, interesting and important ideas in the sciences today."

Otto however, cautioned that "confusing" creationism with evolution "is just an example of not understanding how science works." Such a mistake, she said, "erodes the ability of our students to attain the intellectual tools they need to compete with the rest of the world. Scientists, too, come from all religious walks of life."

Although Bachmann would not debate Otto's latter observation, she did note that "It's been scientists that have been bringing to the scientific community questions about evolution and it's scientific basis." And numerous other "scientific authors" have begun to "question the dogma surrounding evolution; because evolution has never been proven," she said, citing as one example, Michael Beehy, author of "Darwin's Black Box." Beehy, she said, is not "a person of faith, he's not a religious-oriented person in any way. He's a scientist."

Although Otto acknowledged that evolution remains a theory, she said "it's important to understand just what a scientific theory is — an explanation that is developed to explain all known scientifically verifiable evidence." A scientific theory, she said, "is subject to the most harshly demanding tests we can devise, and it must hold up." If a scientific theory fails a test, Otto explained, it is modified, or — if it fails a significant enough test — discarded.

Common to all scientific theories, Otto said, is that "they are not based on belief, but on explaining accumulated evidence, and they welcome and even encourage skepticism and all attempts to disprove them, because this is how science moves forward." The theory of evolution, she said, "has stood up to this kind of demanding scrutiny and so far it has held up."

Many people, however, confuse evolution with natural selection, Bachmann said — "And natural selection is not the same thing as evolution.

"No one that I know disagrees with natural selection — that you can take various breeds of dogs ... breed them, you get different kinds of dogs," she said. "It's just a fact of life. ... Where there's controversy is (at the question) 'Where do we say that a cell became a blade of grass, which became a starfish, which became a cat, which became a donkey, which became a human being?' There's a real lack of evidence from change from actual species to a different type of species. That's where it's difficult to prove."

Despite a recent conversation with "Talk the Walk" host Tod Freil on the Christian radio station KKMS-980 AM, Bachmann said she does not "worry about or think about (evolution) that much," and that, ultimately, her faith in God guides her in such matters.

"I look at the Scripture and I read it and I take it for what it is," she said. "I give more credence in the Scripture as being kind of a timeless word of God to mankind, and I take it for what it is. And I don't think I give as much credence to my own mind, because I see myself as being very limited and very flawed, and lacking in knowledge, and wisdom and understanding.

"So, I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I am not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. ... I'm not a deep thinker on all of this," she said further. "I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I'm not a scientist."

For some, Bachmann said, evolution and creationism can co-exist.

"There's a fellow out there that teaches that they are compatible," she said. And some professors at religious colleges, she said further, teach that "the Earth was created by an intelligent being — God, if you will — and that there are Scripture passages that say that a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is a day, and that therefore, over time, God could have created all this."

The more Bachmann examines the "universe and the natural world," she said, "the more convinced I am, personally, that this world was created by an intelligent being. I see evidence of intelligence everywhere. And if the scientific world points its finger in that direction, well, put it on the table. ...

"I read things about how carefully the world is made — that if the Earth was tilted just a fraction of a degree a certain way, or if the sun was just a little bit more beyond where it is ... life could not exist on the planet," she said further. "And you see that and you say 'How could it just be a big bang ... that (made) everything come out so perfectly, to be perfectly conducive to life on this planet. It is just impossible, to me, that it could have been created just by random time and chance."

After teaching evolution and related subjects, Otto said, she routinely encouraged her students to discuss their studies at home with their parents.

"If a family feels strongly about creationism — like Sen. Bachmann or Commissioner Yecke — then they should deal with it at that time. ..." She said. "My students' families liked the fact that I made it homework to have discussions with their child on different scientific topics and questions about beliefs and values, and I think that is the most appropriate way for it to be handled."

You may reach Greg C. Huff at (651) 796-1112 or at gchuff@pressenter.com. The
Associated Press provided background information for this article.

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Don R. Patton, Ph.D. Will Present

Textbook Battle In Austin

Dr. Patton and approximately 150 others (mostly evolutionists) testified before the State School Board on September 10th. It all began at 1:00 and finished after midnight. What really happened was not fully reported and is truly shocking. The press left after the first hour.

The implications are almost unimaginable in scope. This was a battle in the trenches that will impact our nation for years to come and it is not over yet. The final decision will not be made until November.

You can be a vital part of this decision making process! Come Tuesday night and find out what happened, what is happening and what you can do about it.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, October 7th, 7:30 PM

Scientologist's Treatments Lure Firefighters

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/04/nyregion/04DETO.html?hp

October 4, 2003
By MICHELLE O'DONNELL

For the past year, more than 140 New York City firefighters, some ailing from their work in the ruins of the World Trade Center, have walked into a seventh-floor medical clinic just two blocks from the former disaster site. Once inside, some have abandoned the medical care and emotional counseling provided to them by their own department's doctors, and all have taken up a treatment regimen devised by L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology.

The firefighters take saunas, engage in physical workouts and swallow pills — all of which together constitute what for years has been known, amid considerable dispute, as Mr. Hubbard's detoxification program, one meant to wash the body of poisons or toxins. The firefighters are not charged for their trips to the clinic, called Downtown Medical.

Of the more than 140 firefighters and 15 emergency medical workers who have undergone the program, some have told colleagues of its virtues. Others have said they were simply following the regimen in order to enjoy free saunas.

But one retired firefighter is a paid member of the clinic's advisory board, and the city's main fire union has pledged its "full support" to the clinic as it seeks government grants and other forms of financing.

"The statements I have heard from firefighters who have completed the program are truly remarkable," Stephen J. Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, wrote in a letter that is posted on the clinic's Web site. The letter adds, "The work you are doing in this regard is unique in the city, and is very welcome."

But the existence of the clinic has upset city Fire Department officials, who, among other concerns, are alarmed that the medical treatment prescribed by its doctors is being discarded by some firefighters who enroll at Downtown Medical. They say the clinic's detoxification program requires firefighters to stop using inhalers meant to help with their breathing and any medications they may be taking, like antidepressants or blood pressure pills.

The department officials, including its physicians, said they had no way of vouching for the program's practices. The exact makeup of the pills taken as part of the program, for instance, is not widely known, although they are believed to contain niacin. One clinic board member wrote a report published in a firefighting magazine that firefighters produced blue beads of sweat during the program. One city firefighter said that the man next to him in the sauna once appeared to sweat a quarter-size black substance — evidence, he said, that toxins were being drained out of his body.

"While we are aware some members of the department have availed themselves of the program, we in no way endorse it," said Deputy Commissioner Francis X. Gribbon. Dr. David Prezant, deputy chief medical officer for the department, added, "It's risky for anybody to stop any type of medication without guidance and a plan from their own treating physician."

Officials with the clinic, while acknowledging some of them are Scientologists, said the clinic is not formally affiliated with the Church of Scientology. An official at the church's office in Los Angeles said they were aware of the clinic, but described it as a secular enterprise employing Mr. Hubbard's methods.

The official in Los Angeles, Linda Simmons Hight, said many Scientologists had donated to the clinic, but "as far as it being part of the church, it isn't." Joseph Higgins, a retired firefighter who is now a paid member of the clinic's advisory board, said Tom Cruise, the actor, had paid for "quite a bit" of the treatments for rescue workers, estimated by Mr. Higgins to cost $5,000 to $6,000 apiece.

People inside and outside the department said they regarded the use of the clinic to be yet more evidence of the degree of the distress experienced by members of the force, which lost 343 men on Sept. 11.

"People are desperate to feel better," said one fire lieutenant. "As far as I can tell, they'll try anything, even off the beaten track." Another officer, who said he planned to sign up for the regimen in hope of clearing up lung congestion, said: "Right now, I'm at the point I would try a voodoo doctor."

Clinic officials, after briefly addressing issues involving the clinic, said they would not comment further about the program. But Mr. Higgins, the former firefighter, said, "It's actually a pretty awesome program."

The use of the New York clinic is not the first instance of firefighters' being persuaded to use Mr. Hubbard's methods.

In 1987, after a fire in a transformer room at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, in Shreveport, dozens of firefighters became alarmed that they had been exposed to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB's.

After repeated complaints of headaches, dizziness and rashes, the city of Shreveport contracted with a private outfit that advocated Mr. Hubbard's detoxification methods. But after the city's insurance carriers questioned the legitimacy of the treatments and their escalating cost, the city hired an independent medical doctor to investigate the regimen.

In a blistering 1988 report, Dr. Ronald E. Gots, a toxicology expert from Bethesda, Md., called the regimen "quackery," and noted that "no recognized body of toxicologists, no department of occupational medicine, nor any governmental agencies endorse or recommend such treatment." The report ended Shreveport's dealings with the program.

In an interview yesterday, Dr. Gots said of the program, "It's an unproven, scientifically bereft notion."

Keith Miller, a Downtown Medical board member, said yesterday in regard to Dr. Gots's 1988 Shreveport report that Dr. Gots was not a reputable source.

In the days after the Sept. 11 attack, Scientologists were among the representatives of many religions and religious groups moving among the rescue workers and the traumatized residents. They were even allowed to remain along with the American Red Cross after many other groups had been ordered to leave.

The Church of Scientology was founded in the 1950's by Mr. Hubbard, a science fiction writer who died in 1986. Its adherents, who number in the millions and include many Hollywood celebrities, believe that Scientology's self-help techniques and counseling sessions, known as auditing, can help people live more productive and satisfying lives. But the cost of the auditing sessions, which can run into thousands of dollars an hour, has drawn criticism, as have the church's aggressive tactics toward its critics.

The Internal Revenue Service granted the church tax-exempt status in 1993.

Officials at the Manhattan clinic said that shortly after the terrorist attack, an official with the firefighters' union contacted the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, a group that promotes the detoxification program developed by Mr. Hubbard, to request the regimen for New York firefighters.

In September 2002, the Downtown Medical clinic opened on the seventh floor of 139 Fulton Street, in a building full of homeopathic clinics. The building's lobby directory, however, does not list a clinic in that name.

In addition to Mr. Higgins, a well-known fire academy drill instructor who estimates he has trained over half the city's firefighters, another department figure, Israel Miranda, the president of the union that represents emergency medical workers, is also on the clinic's board. Mr. Miranda is also an instructor at the emergency medical workers' academy.

Stacks of of pamphlets about the program have appeared at Fort Totten, the department's training center. Department officials have tried to distance themselves from any impression that they endorse the regimen, but they say that it has been difficult.

"This is a very hard battle to win," said Dr. Prezant, who noted that firefighters do the regimen on their own time and do not have to report to the department that they are undergoing it. "It's not our job to say you can't go. All we can do is say there's no proven evidence it works."

Mr. Cassidy, of the main fire union, did not return a phone call yesterday.

A lieutenant named Rob, who refused to give his last name, stopped outside the clinic's building Thursday evening to talk about the regimen. He said that a visit included a weigh-in, a checkup with a clinic doctor and a four- or five-hour stretch in the sauna interspersed with intervals on a treadmill or stationary bike. In addition, he said, patients are given a packet of vitamins with gradually increasing doses of niacin.

The lieutenant said he had no serious medical trouble, but looked at the regimen as a way to give up drinking, and possibly sweat out any toxins he thought he might have. "The only reason I'm doing it is because I have a sinking feeling about what I took in on Sept. 11," he said.


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