NTS LogoSkeptical News for 23 December 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Humanists Host Contest


The Humanist Society of New Mexico has announced an essay contest with a $1,000 prize for 11th- and 12th-grade students across the state. Students may choose to write about one of five subjects:
1. The Impact of Human Population on Planet Earth
2. The Importance of Church-State Separation in Maintaining Personal Freedom
3. Why Intelligent Design Should or Should Not Be Taught in Science Classrooms
4. The Relationship Between Civil Liberties and Homeland Security Post 9-11
5. What Should Be the Role of Women in Politics in a Democracy?

Essays are due Jan. 15 and will be judged on originality, evidence of critical thinking, quality of writing and consistency with Humanist principles. All essays must be written in English.
For details, students should see their high school English Department Chair or check http://newmexico.humanists.net.

Copyright 2003 Albuquerque Journal

Baby's tragic death 'god's will'


11 December 2003

The parents of a Northland baby who died from a kidney infection believe their eighth child died as the result of "God's will".

Four-month-old Caleb Nathaniel Tribble died on Friday afternoon, only hours after a district health nurse had visited his rural home, near Pakotai, about 60km north-west of Whangarei.

Police are investigating the circumstances of his death.

Initial post-mortem examination results showed he died from a kidney infection.

Caleb's mother, Catherine Tribble said yesterday he was "a beautiful happy boy".

"He was the most perfect gift God can give. I don't have any regrets. I do my best. I'm just so grateful to have had four wonderful months with him," Mrs Tribble said.

"He was lent to us for a purpose. I can only say I believe he is in God's hands now. It is God's will," Mrs Tribble said.

Caleb was the sixth of her eight children to be born at their rented home, which nestles in an isolated valley, shrouded by towering pine trees.

The children take correspondence lessons at home rather than attend a local school, 10km away from the 2ha property.

Caleb's grandfather John Tribble said that, in the fortnight before his death, Caleb had suffered from a flu virus which had also infected Caleb's five sisters and two brothers.

Mr Tribble, who is a faith-healer, prayed for Caleb and felt he was improving.

"Caleb had lost a lot of weight, but on Monday he'd stopped vomiting and was chortling and laughing".

Mr Tribble said the family was committed to its faith and made a monthly pilgrimage to the Liberty Christian Church in Avondale, Auckland. The church is an evangelical healing centre, Mr Tribble said.

"We're not vegan. We're not weird. We're not extremists," Mr Tribble said.

On Wednesday last week the district health nurse had raised concerns about Caleb's weight loss, recommending that he be taken to Whangarei Hospital.

But at no stage did Catherine and David Tribble believe their baby son's condition was life-threatening.

They were happy for their child to go to hospital and had nothing against seeking medical treatment, Mr Tribble said.

The family prepared to go to Whangarei but it proved "logistically impossible", to travel the hour-long journey on the Wednesday night.

They rang the nurse, who arranged to see him on Friday.

"On Friday morning, he still hadn't put on any weight and the nurse told Cathy to keep him warm.

He was being breast fed. She put him down for a rest and went in about half an hour later and he had died in his sleep.

"It was the suddenness of it that took us by surprise," Mr Tribble said.

Mrs Tribble said during pregnancy she had not had any scans and Caleb had been healthy until his immune system was battered by the flu.

The post-mortem had since shown Caleb had been born with a birth-defect.

Mrs Tribble said that her son's urinary tract did not have a valve to stop urine returning to the kidneys.

Scientific Ignorance Dooms Democracy


Increasingly hi-tech nations need informed citizens, making scientific literacy a human right and scientific illiteracy a disability
Monday, December 22, 2003, 9:58:22 AM CT

I recently put a painting on my fridge door by my six-year old son, Lucas. In this particular composition, Lucas portrays a scientist diligently working in his "nanotechnology lab," operating what appears to be (to me anyway) a molecular assembler. When I asked Lucas if he knew what nanotechnology was, he replied, "Sure, Daddy, it's technology and robots that work at a microscopic size."

The kid's in grade one and has already picked sides in the Drexler-Smalley debate. He can also already describe the human digestive system in detail. And he knows that humans evolved from apes, that the fastest that anything can travel in the Universe is the speed of light and that hypotheses aren't set in stone—he acknowledges that the current theory of how the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago is just that, a theory. So passionate is he for science that once, at an observatory open house, he overheard an astronomy professor teaching a class and felt compelled to correct him about how many moons orbit Saturn.

In addition to his insatiable appetite for all things scientific, Lucas has the advantage of a scientifically inclined father and exposure to excellent educational programs such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Magic Schoolbus, as well as Websites such as BrainPops.

With all this, I don't have to worry that Lucas will grow up scientifically illiterate. It's good to know that he'll be able to count off facts and figures, and even more comforting to know that he'll grow up with the broader, softer skills that science teaches, namely skepticism, empiricism and a dedication to formal methodologies. In other words, through learning about science, my son is becoming a critical thinker.

But he's probably in the minority. Ignorance of how science and technology works is rampant in our society, leading to a stunningly dependent, suggestible and ill-informed populace.

We all need to know about science. Without this knowledge we are powerless, forced to live in a fog about how things work. Without it, we are utterly dependent on others to form our opinion. Without it, we cannot properly participate in society as informed, critical and responsibly opinioned citizens. Moreover, in today's hi-tech information age world, democracy cannot work without a scientifically literate society.

On my way to work each day I pass a bus shelter ad that reads, "Literacy is a Right." Well, I'd take that further and declare that today scientific literacy is a basic human right. As with the inability to read, the inability to understand science and scientific methodology is nothing less than a disability.

Embarrassing ignorance

Most of those who live in the West, particularly North Americans, are guilty of an anti-intellectual bias. Scientists are supposed to be nerds, right? And who wants to be a nerd? This sentiment, combined with a general suspicion of science and the predominance of aggressive theological and pseudoscientific memes, has resulted in much of the scientific illiteracy that now pervades our society.

It doesn't help that the educational system is in shambles and without focus, and that fatuous postmodernism and its insistence that nothing can truly be known now dominates many disciplines at most universities. Consequently, too many people wear their ignorance like a badge of honor, as if being clueless about science is something to be proud of.

Well, there's nothing noble about ignorance, and if anything scientific illiteracy should be considered downright embarrassing. A 2001 poll conducted by the National Science Foundation in the US revealed the pervasiveness of the problem. Results showed that only 48% of Americans knew that the earliest humans did not live at the same time as the dinosaurs, and that only 22% could properly define a molecule. The survey also showed that only 45% knew what DNA was and that lasers don't work by focusing sound waves, and that 48% knew that electrons were smaller than atoms.

Just as significant, only 21% of those surveyed were able to explain what it means to study something scientifically. Slightly over half understood probability, and only a third knew how an experiment is conducted.

Cognitively disabled

The trouble with ignorance is not so much what people don't know but what this causes them to believe.

There is a direct correlation between scientific illiteracy and a propensity for belief in superstitions, religion, the paranormal and pseudoscience. Those unacquainted with science also tend to be more prone to scam artists, unwise investments, fiscal schemes and bogus health and medical practices. On this last note, a number of opportunistic hucksters are beginning to take advantage of the hype created by pending life extension technologies and stem cell research, making grand promises to hopeful people that can't possibly be fulfilled; the scientifically illiterate make for easy targets.

It's safe to suggest, therefore, that those with a deficiency in scientific comprehension have underdeveloped critical thought faculties. In other words, they might as well be suffering from some kind of cognitive disorder.

A consequence of this disability is that some will be left behind. As neuroscientist Steven Pinker has noted, "As our economy comes to depend increasingly on technology, and as modern media present us with unprecedented choices—in our lifestyles, our workplaces, and our political commitments—a child who cannot master an ever-increasing body of skills and knowledge will be left farther and farther behind."

Crippling society

The late Carl Sagan similarly worried about the effects of a scientifically illiterate society. "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology," he lamented. "We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."

Indeed, scientific illiteracy cripples culture, justice, democracy and society in general. When you have misinformed individuals you get unhealthy societies.

The way the media works today, with its problematic approach to "balanced" reporting instead of accurate reporting and its propensity for sensationalism, it is guilty of much of the misinformation and frequent fear-mongering that imbues news and pop culture.

Similarly, the judicial system is not immune to the problems posed by a scientifically illiterate populace. Judges and jurors, with little background in the hard sciences, tend to be easily swayed by so-called expert witnesses who, despite taking sworn oaths, spew weak and bogus science to help lawyers defend their case.

Scientific illiteracy also has political implications, resulting in such things as the rise of the religious right in the Bush administration and the prominence of orthodox office holders at all levels of its government. A misappraisal of science has also resulted in backwards legislation in the US, Canada and Europe for stem cell research, cloning and genetically modified foods. A recent Eurobarometer poll revealed that 60% of Europeans believe that ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes while genetically engineered tomatoes do, while 50% believe that eating genetically modified fruit can cause a person's genes to become modified.

As early as the 1950s, scientist and novelist C.P. Snow was already sounding the alarm about increasingly ignorant electorates. Snow coined the term "two cultures" to refer to the growing divergence between those in society who understand science and technology sufficiently to make informed choices and those who do not.

Biologist and education critic Stephen Schneider recognizes the threat that a scientifically illiterate society poses to a functional democracy. "We all share a strong belief in democracy," he notes, "but it can only function well when the people understand the choices they need to make and are in a position to make trade-offs rationally." He believes that as issues get increasingly complex, "ignorance decouples the people from the knowledge they need to help guide policy choices that can shape our future."

Psychologist Barry L. Beyerstein agrees. He contends that it is essential for a well-functioning democracy that "we all be conversant with the basics of science so that we can cut through political rhetoric and the daily news when these issues arise."

Science fuels democracy

Like the right to vote, those living in a democracy should demand the right to scientific literacy so that they may become informed and discerning citizens. As Carl Sagan noted, "Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works." A central lesson of science, argued Sagan, is that to understand complex issues, people must try to free their minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, contradict and experiment. He strongly believed that arguments from authority were unacceptable.

Skepticism is one of the greatest tools that a person can have, and science teaches this as a matter of course. But the business of skepticism can often be dangerous. As Sagan observed, skepticism challenges established institutions. "If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of skeptical thought, they will probably not restrict their skepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials, and 35,000-year-old channelees," wrote Sagan, "Maybe they'll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they'll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?"

Science helps us to be free of gross superstition and gross injustice. "Often, superstition and injustice are imposed by the same ecclesiastical and secular authorities, working hand in glove," Sagan argued. "It is no surprise that political revolutions, skepticism about religion, and the rise of science might go together. Liberation from superstition is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for science."

Indeed, as Schneider has observed, science literacy is not just about the "facts"—knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology or economics per se. "More important for non-specialists," says Schneider, "is to understand the process of science, and how science interacts with public policy issues and gets communicated via the media."

What can be done?

All this begs the question: What can be done?

First and foremost there must to be a push for education reform. According to Pinker, most high school and college curricula have barely changed since medieval times mostly because "no one wants to be the philistine who seems to be saying that it is unimportant to learn a foreign language, or English literature, or trigonometry, or the classics." He worries about how classroom practices are set by "fads, romantic theories, slick packages, and political crusades." To alleviate the problem, Pinker believes that a scientific mindset needs to be applied to the educational process and a renewed commitment to the sciences, including the fields of economics, biology, probability and statistics.

Education reform also rests with the scientists themselves. Education critic Neal Lane, the former assistant to the US president for science and technology, has proposed the idea of the "civic scientist." "What we need," says Lane, "is the science community's leadership to educate the nation about the value of science and technology to our national well-being." Neal envisions a proactive and socially active scientific community.

We also need educational systems that are accountable—ones that respect the human right to a liberal education and high academic standards. It's preposterous that Creationism is still taught in some schools. This issue has nothing to do with freedom of religion and everything to do with one's right to be free from religion. Otherwise, schools might just as well teach that the Earth is flat and that the Moon is made out of cheese.

And finally, we all need to promote science as an attractive discipline and as a means to personal empowerment and social betterment. As science educator Nye has said to children across North America, science is cool.

And indeed it is—and more so than ever before. Today, scientists are busy discussing the possibility of infinite universes, microscopic robots that will operate in the body, cyborg and artificial citizens, plants that can clean toxic waste in the soil and a manned expedition to Mars.

While exciting, however, all these things are prone to misunderstanding and apprehension. Unless we have a populace that can fully understand and assess these and other pending issues, we risk squandering what should be wonderful opportunities for individuals and the species. We also risk creating the "two cultures" envisioned by Snow—the intellectual haves and have-nots.

The time to act is now, for those who fail to grasp the scientific issues of our time will find the future truly incomprehensible.

George Dvorsky is the deputy editor of Betterhumans and the president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association, a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the use of technology to transcend limitations of the human body. He is currently chairing the organizing committee for the World Transhumanist Association's TransVision 2004 conference. For more Dvorsky, visit his transhumanist blog, Sentient Developments. You can reach him at


Monday, December 22, 2003

Does the Herb Echinacea Work Against the Common Cold?


Dec. 19, 2003

The flu has made headlines this year because of how fast it's spreading. But there's another virus parents need to be concerned about-- the common cold.

It's one of mankind's most stubborn enemies. And parents will do anything to help their kids get over the cold, like giving them the herb echinacea. But does it work?

Lots of people swear by echinacea.

Studies from Europe suggest that taking echinacea can shorten the length of colds in adults.

Now a study has taken a closer look at children... to see if the herbal supplement would help get kids up and running faster.

In a word... the answer is no.

Like most kids, Lindsey Boone gets plenty of colds. So her parents signed her up for a clinical study to see if echinacea could help her recover faster.

Lindsey Boone, Echinacea Study Patient: "I didn't really notice any difference. It kinda seemed like it wasn't doing anything."

That pretty well sums up the findings of a new study in the journal of the American medical association.

James Taylor, M.D., University of Washington: "We couldn't find any evidence that echinacea was effective in treating colds."

As an herbal remedy, echinacea can be sold without studies documenting it's safe or effective.

To test the treatment researchers tracked 524 children, age 2 to 11, for 4 months. Whenever they got colds, half took liquid echinacea, the others a similar tasting placebo syrup.

James Taylor, M.D., University of Washington: "We found that there was no difference in both the length of cold symptoms and severity of cold symptoms in children who received either echinacea or placebo for their colds. The average length of the colds in both groups was about nine days."

And while there was no evidence echinacea helped, there was a potential downside.

James Taylor, M.D., University of Washington: "There was a slight increase in rash reported in Children who took echinacea for their colds."

As it turns out, Lindsey was taking echinacea, but she probably won't take it again.

Lindsey Boone, Echinacea Study Patient: "I don't think I'll take echinacea again because it didn't Work and it was kind of nasty tasting."

Laurie Boone, Lindsey's mother: "Lindsey did not get a rash from the Echinacea, thank goodness, but she did have long colds, about four of them during the study."

This is a good example of a new trend in medicine... putting nutritional supplements and herbal remedies to the test... to see what works and what doesn't.

This study was sponsored by the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine... which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Many Mainers use holistic arsenal to fight flu


By SELENA RICKS, Portland Press Herald Writer

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Copyright © 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.


The Centers for Disease Control recommends that babies, toddlers, caretakers, people with vulnerable immune systems, and older Americans get a flu shot this year. But many practitioners of natural health care are shunning shots for vitamins, herbs and well-balanced diets.

What is homeopathy?

A belief that substances - which in larger doses cause illness in healthy people - will provoke healing in smaller doses in patients. Remedies are in pellet or liquid form.

What is naturopathy?

Rather than quell symptoms, naturopaths address their cause while helping the body restore itself. Often it is necessary for patients to make lifestyle or dietary changes, and to resolve emotional, social and spiritual issues that may contribute to an illness.

Worried patients are phoning their doctors, heading to clinics, and basically panicking as the pernicious flu bug sends Americans to the hospital and creates a scare in Maine and across the nation.

But the Raszmanns of Portland are breathing easy.

Deb Raszmann, a 50-year-old Portland mother of three, has been practicing homeopathy and naturopathy, holistic alternatives to allopathy, or conventional medicine, for the past 20 years.

During the 1970s she began taking supplements to support her vegetarian diet, and she says her family's routine consumption of vitamins, minerals, herbs and homeopathic remedies keeps their immune systems strong enough to weather flu season.

"I personally don't have a fear around the flu at all," said Raszmann, a cellist and pianist. "If one of the kids gets the flu, big deal. They're out of school for a week and they're uncomfortable."

Raszmann is not in favor of the flu shot - in fact, after researching the components and possible side effects of childhood vaccinations, she's against all preventative shots. To the dismay of her father, an anesthesiologist, none of her children has had any vaccinations against childhood diseases.

"My kids haven't had a shot in the arm for anything," she said. "I decided I'm not going to expose my perfectly healthy children to those possible dangers. I think everyone should make their own decision, but I wish parents would do a lot more research before handing their child over to a syringe of not necessarily good things."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that babies, toddlers, their household contacts, out-of-home caretakers, people with vulnerable immune systems, and every person over age 50 get a flu shot this year.

It's clear this year's flu season is much worse than in recent years due to the strain called Fujian that has hit early and hard. Already, at least three dozen American children and teenagers have died, and some experts predict this year's flu death toll easily could surpass the annual average of 36,000.

This year's flu vaccine does not exactly match the new Fujian strain, although disease experts say it is close enough that it will provide some protection. The nation's two producers of flu vaccine have shipped their entire supply of about 80 million doses, and hundreds of thousands more are on order.

State epidemiologist Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer said the flu vaccine is an effective preventative tool, especially for those at risk of developing complications from influenza.

"For many years we've had a good match between what circulates and what's in the vaccine and good protection has been afforded," said Gensheimer. "It's certainly worth promoting, but at this point supplies are more or less depleted. Next year I would hope people would learn lessons from this year and not wait until December."

The flu vaccine is controversial in the alternative medicine community. Most flu shots use thimerosal, a preservative that contains a trace amount of organic mercury, a known neurotoxin.

The CDC asserts the amount of organic mercury in thimerosal-containing flu shots is far below the exposure level considered to be unsafe, and argues that the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.

FluMist, the inhaled vaccine made from a live virus, contains no thimerosal. FluMist is only recommended for use in healthy people ages 5 to 49.

Gensheimer said it's not clear how many Mainers have contracted the flu, but the number is in the hundreds and schools have reported outbreaks. So far, there have been no confirmed reports of the Fujian strain, or of any flu-related deaths in Maine.

"It's pretty prevalent and will continue to pick up," she said. "We're definitely in the midst of activity but not in the peak of activity. But this is not unexpected. We're on target, although the intensity and duration is impossible to predict."

Unlike colds, which are spread by direct contact, the flu is spread through the air. When an infected person sneezes, coughs or even speaks, microscopic droplets containing the virus are suspended in the air, waiting to be inhaled by the unguarded.

Those who practice homeopathy and naturopathy say there are plenty of ways to arm yourself against the flu without raiding the pharmaceuticals in your medicine cabinet.

"For the general population, strengthening your own immune system is your best bet," says Wendy Pollock, a chiropractic and homeopathic doctor in Portland. "The obvious things are the simplest - getting enough sleep, eating well, such as lots of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, and keeping a low stress level."

In recent years, herbal remedies have gone mainstream; however, the federal government considers herbs to be dietary supplements, not drugs, and it has limits on the claims manufacturers can make.

Whether they actually do any good is still a topic of debate among scientists, but more consumers are beginnin 1/8g to reach for bottles of herb extracts or brew a cup of herbal tea instead of taking a painkiller, NyQuil or other over-the-counter medication.

"So many times doctors say, 'There's not much we can do,' " said Martha Carton of Freeport, who uses homeopathic remedies for herself and her three kids. "Thank God allopathic medicine is there, but I think there are other paths as well."

Carton, whose children are vaccinated against polio and tetanus but no other childhood diseases or the flu, said her family is rarely sick.

"My father and sister don't believe in homeopathy at all," she said. "They think it's ridiculous. It's voodoo medicine. But I see it work over and over."

One of the most popular immune-boosting herbal supplements is echinacea, which German research has found to be helpful in chronic cold and respiratory infection therapy.

Other common natural immune-boosters and antibiotics are the traditional Chinese herb astragalus, olive leaf extract, garlic in tablet form, and the roots of goldenseal, licorice and ginger, as well as juniper berries.

Aconite is a homeopathic remedy recommended when feeling run-down but before flu symptoms start.

If you think you need a particular homeopathic or naturopathic remedy, you should see your local practitioner first.

After being largely unrecognized for most of the 20th century despite its more than 100-year history, naturopathic medicine has seen a resurgence in popularity since the 1980s. Naturopathic medicine has roots in ancient medical practice and draws upon the healing traditions of many cultures, including the Ayurvedic tradition of India and traditional Chinese medicine.

Naturopathic physicians are trained as family practitioners, and education includes therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, classical Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, pharmacology and minor surgery.

According to the philosophy of naturopathic medicine, disease is a manifestation of the body's struggle to heal itself from underlying imbalances. Unless a disease is life-threatening, rather than quell symptoms, naturopathic physicians seek to address their cause while helping the body restore itself to health.

Often it is necessary for patients to make lifestyle or dietary changes during this process, and to resolve mental, emotional, social or spiritual issues that might be contributing to their illness.

Naturopathic medicine, by definition, excludes major surgery and the use of most synthetic drugs.

Homeopathy is a holistic therapy developed by German physician and chemist Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. The main principal of homeopathy is that substances that in larger doses cause illness in healthy people will provoke healing in people suffering from the same or similar symptoms.

It is believed that a homeopathic remedy's healing powers are enhanced when the substance is diluted in water or alcohol.

Liam McClintock, a Freeport naturopathic doctor who has been practicing homeopathy, Oriental medicine and acupuncture for 13 years, said interest in natural health care has blossomed in recent years.

"Certainly the (training) schools are having larger classes," he said. "People are finding in some cases there has to be some other form of treatment."

McClintock said flu prevention is one area where natural therapies outshine allopathic medicine.

"From a conventional point of view, there's not a lot to do for folks who start to feel ill except get some rest," he said. "We can use medicines preventively, during and after the flu."

If you do begin to feel flu-like symptoms - muscle aches and pains, sore throat and cough, chills and fever, headache, exhaustion - there are two antiviral medications conventional doctors can prescribe, amantadine and rimantadine, that can help people recover more quickly.

Natural remedies taken during the onset of a flu include a popular homeopathic flu remedy called Oscillococcinum, which can be found at health food stores.

Oscillococcinum is manufactured from wild duck heart and liver, a well-known reservoir for influenza viruses.

In addition to Oscillococcinum, Devra Krassner, president of the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors, recommends increased consumption of vitamin C and zinc at the onset of flu symptoms.

"Just be sure you're following a really healthy lifestyle," said Krassner, who practices at Maine Whole Health in Portland. "That includes not eating a lot of sugar, refined carbohydrates, junk food, alcohol, coffee or smoking tobacco."

Raszmann, of Portland, believes many people are more susceptible to illnesses such as the flu this time of year because they are consuming more sugar than usual during the holidays.

"This is the time when we really need to be taking care of our diets, and instead what do we do - we all pig out," she said. "That just exacerbates the condition while our bodies are trying to deal with a major climate change."

Raszmann said she has been able to ward off viruses this winter by taking echinacea, vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, selenium and garlic tablets, as well as getting more sleep.

"It's empowering, being able to quell a virus," she said.

Raszmann says in the past 20 years that she has been taking supplements and natural remedies, she has never been ill for more than a few days at a time.

She also gives her children chewable supplements and herbal tea, which Raszmann's 11-year-old daughter, Lydia, says keep her from contracting illnesses from her sick classmates at Lincoln Middle School.

"Most of the time they come to school sick," said Lydia. "I try to stay away from them when they sneeze."

So far this flu season, Raszmann said her children have had little more than coughs and sniffles.

"I tell my kids being sick is OK because your body is able to build antibodies," said Raszmann. "Think about how much healthier your body will be on the other side of this - you will have a natural immunity to the virus."

Staff Writer Selena Ricks can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:


Religion on Display in National Parks; Christian Fundamentalist Influence on Park Service Decisions - "Faith-Based Parks" Decried


Press Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 22, 2003
Contact: Chas Offutt (202) 265-7337

Washington, DC — In a series of recent decisions, the National Park Service has approved the display of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Also, under pressure from conservative groups, the Park Service has agreed to edit the videotape that has been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 to remove any image of gay and abortion rights demonstrations that occurred at the memorial.

"The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks."

This July, NPS Deputy Director Donald Murphy, ordered the Grand Canyon National Park to return three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses to public viewing areas on the Canyon's South Rim. Murphy overruled the park superintendent who had directed the plaques' removal based on legal advice from the Interior Department that the religious displays violated the First Amendment. In a letter to the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, the group sponsoring the plaques, Murphy apologized for "any intrusion resulting from" the temporary removal of the plaques quoting Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 and pledged "further legal analysis and policy review" before any new action is taken.

This fall, the Park Service also approved a creationist text, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book by Tom Vail, claims that the Grand Canyon is really only a few thousand years old, developing on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. At the same time, Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis.

Last month, the Park Service announced that it would alter an eight-minute video containing photos and footage of demonstrations and other events taking place at the Lincoln Memorial. Conservative groups have asked to cut out footage of gay rights, pro-choice and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations because it implies that "Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion 'rights' as well as feminism." The Park Service has promised to develop a "more balanced" version that include rallies of the Christian group Promise Keepers and pro-Gulf War demonstrators though these events did not take place at the Memorial.

The Park Service is also engaged in an extended legal battle to continue displaying an eight-foot-tall cross, planted atop a 30-foot-high rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve in California. PEER Board Member and former-Park Service manager Frank Buono filed suit to force removal of the cross. That suit is now pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Voodoo powder blights Miami courts


Prosecutors in a trial in Miami complain that their seats and evidence boxes are being covered with voodoo powder.

US District Judge Patricia Seitz has been shown a large quantity of the greyish dust which was dumped in what's believed to be a Santeria ritual.

Santeria experts say voodoo powder can bring good luck, swaying juries, judges or prosecutors in favour of the accused.

The powder was left in evidence boxes next to the prosecution table in the courtroom which is trying defence attorney J.C. Elso on money-laundering charges.

Veteran Assistant US Attorney Richard Gregorie said he respects all religions but is tired of getting his suit coats cleaned of powder residue, says the Miami Herald.

A team of cleaners, known as the Voodoo Squad, regularly remove sacrificial chickens, roosters and goats from the grounds of the courthouse.

Eighth European Creationist Congress


'Evidence for design' by an intelligent Creator was the main theme at the European Creationist Congress this year. It was hosted by creationists in Sweden, in a beautiful family-inclusive seaside setting, conducive to fellowship, relaxation and restoration for body, mind and spirit.

No doubt

Dr Paul Nelson, from the Intelligent Design movement at the Discovery Institute, USA, described a robot designed to imitate a cockroach. Unfortunately, it kept falling over, and a team of skilled engineers took over two years to write extensive computer code to overcome this problem.

Nelson then compared the robot with its real-life counterpart. No one doubts that the robot was designed — just stuffing wires into a box for 10,000 years would not produce one! Robots are far less efficient than insects, yet evolutionists dismiss any thought that the insect is designed.

How did life arise? Imagine searching for buried treasure on an island. The treasure represents the true origin of life.

But the evolutionist creates a 'no dig zone', putting a screen between themselves and the evidence. As a result, they dig on the wrong part of the island and never find the answer.

Nelson also spoke about 'common descent' — the idea that all life is related by common ancestry. He showed evidence that challenges common descent — such as the puzzle of why ORFan [open reading frame] genes are so different from one another when they are supposed to have all come from a common 'ancestor'.

He concluded that people cling to 'common descent' for ideological rather than scientific reasons.


Professor Matti Leisola, a protein engineer at the University of Helsinki, spoke of the origin of protein families. 'Nature is full of intelligent molecules', he explained: the evolutionary view that proteins have originated step-by-step has problems.

There is no evidence that random chemical reactions can produce novel proteins — or even protein building blocks.

There is no effective evolutionary pathway from one folded protein to another in the same family (and it is the folded shape of the protein that makes it work).

The 'jump' required from one folded form to another is enormous, and no 'in between' proteins are likely to be functional. Macroevolution is really at a dead end.

Beauty of man

Dr Stuart Burgess, Reader in Engineering Design at Bristol University, spoke of the 'beauty of man'. Contrary to the prevailing idea that humans are similar to apes, a whole range of features distinguishes one from the other.

One example is the human's arched foot, which is vital for upright balance. Burgess commented: 'An arched foot cannot have evolved from a flat beam. Just like a bridge design, it must be a complete arch'.

Another example is the inner ear. The vertical semi-circular canals of the human ear are very large (unlike those of apes), to enable upright balance.

Moreover, humans have at least 58 different hand movements, compared with 3 in apes, with a correspondingly larger area in the brain to co-ordinate such movements.

Even a child can learn to play the piano at over 20 notes per second! Humans also have an enormous density of nerve receptors to aid dexterity (1500 per square centimetre).

Sophisticated language is possible in humans because of a voice-box with around 100 muscles — enabling about 100 different sounds, compared with about 5 in apes.

Humans also have a unique brain, with up to 100 billion neural connections. Brain growth in a baby ape slows rapidly after birth. But in the human baby, 4 million synapses (nerve connections) are added every second throughout the first two years!

Burgess spoke of the elegant beauty of the human form, concluding that our nearest relative is God, not apes!


Professor Werner Gitt, from Germany, spoke of the origin of information. There are five levels of information — statistics (sequence of symbols); syntax (the rules of language); semantics (the meaning of words); pragmatics (the action required); and apobetics (the conceptual purpose, or result to be achieved).

Gitt concluded that since the DNA genetic code has all five levels, there must be an intelligent Sender of information. And since the complexity of DNA-encoded information is billions of times greater than man's technology allows, the Sender must be supremely intelligent.

New approaches

Dr David Tyler proposed an approach to geology in which geological processes are driven by tectonic forces. This liberates geologists from being locked into 'deep time' and allows the global flood to be recognised in the field data.

Students of geology are provided with interpretive tools that brainwash them into presuming long timescales. The new approach is a tool that enables a radically different understanding of the same data.

Dr Lee Spetner, an American physicist based in Israel, showed how random mutations cannot account for evolution. One of the best experimental evidences for evolutionary change through mutations is the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

But Spetner showed that resistance can be caused by gene transfer from organisms with natural antibiotic resistance, or by mutation damaging the antibiotic drug's attachment site — if a mutation degrades this site, the bacterium becomes resistant by losing its sensitivity to the drug.

In neither case is new information created, as required by a Darwinian mechanism.

Battle of worldviews

Other speakers included Dr Harold Binder, from Germany (new insights from amber); Dr David Rosevear (the history of the Congresses); and Professor Peder Tyvard of Norway (a discourse on entropy).

Stefan Gustavsson, head of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, showed how changes in society's views of the Bible's infallibility and trustworthiness need to be addressed if we are to reach our neighbours with the gospel.

He gave four reasons why we can indeed believe the Bible — philosophical (the Bible gives the best explanation of our existence); historical (many biblical accounts are confirmed by archaeology); existential (the Bible speaks to my needs, challenges and liberates me); and Christological (the historical evidence indicates that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and we therefore believe the Bible on his authority).

In this battle of worldviews, the doctrine of creation offers clear answers. This year's European Congress gave us even greater confidence that this is so.

Evolution has tried to destroy the truth, but the Author of Truth is stronger.

Sheena Tyler

Key messages from some of the speakers will be featured in Origins, the Journal of the Biblical Creation Society (www.biblicalcrea tion.org.uk)

Disclosing Houdini's secrets proves tricky

Thursday, December 18, 2003 Posted: 9:31 AM EST (1431 GMT)

APPLETON, Wisconsin (AP) -- Tourism promoters in Harry Houdini's hometown hope a rift over whether to demystify the magician's Metamorphosis trick will disappear.

Plans to disclose the secrets at the Outagamie Museum's "A.K.A. Houdini" exhibit due to open June 2 have upset the Houdini Club of Wisconsin. The club says it "more than likely" won't be holding its 2005 convention at the downtown Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.

"A lot of magicians in the club are terribly offended that something like that would happen in Appleton," club secretary Richard Pankow said. "If it happened in Vegas, you would almost expect it. But it wouldn't happen there because magicians would step in to stop it."

Disagreement over whether to share Houdini's behind-the-scenes secrets comes down to differing philosophies on what the museum's mission should be, says Terry Bergen, executive director of the museum.

"They perceive our museum role to be a shrine for Houdini," Bergen said. "We don't see ourselves that way. We see ourselves as an educational institution that explores local history."

"I can't say which side is right -- I just know Houdini is important for tourism," said Lynn Peters, executive director of the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Metamorphosis trick, also known as the substitution trunk trick, involves a magician being placed in a sack and locked in a trunk by an assistant. Under a curtain and after a quick count, the assistant and magician switch places.

Houdini first performed it more than 100 years ago.


Dark energy tops science class

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

A series of breakthroughs in the quest to identify the mysterious fabric of the Universe has topped a list of the 10 key scientific advances of 2003.

The winning discoveries provide further evidence that the Universe is composed largely of dark matter and dark energy.

The eagerly awaited top 10, which is compiled annually by the journal Science, is always controversial, and this year's proves to be no exception.

Second place went to scientists who identified genes for mental illness.

Particular mention was given to studies that found genes responsible for increasing a person's risk of schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Third place was taken by the authors of studies appearing to show evidence of global climate change.

'Convincing evidence'

"The consensus about global warming has reached a point where it's very difficult indeed to deny what's going on," Don Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science, told BBC News Online.

The papers included a study which linked unusually warm waters in the western Pacific and Indian oceans to the products of greenhouse gases and research demonstrating increases in the flows of rivers emptying into the Arctic Ocean.

The list of breakthroughs was decided by Science magazine's news and editorial teams.

"We looked for science that would lead to new things. Not necessarily applications in human service, but new extensions of human knowledge," Mr Kennedy added.

Of the position of top breakthrough, awarded to researchers who had elucidated the nature of dark energy and dark matter, the journal said: "[This] ends a decades-long argument about the nature of the Universe and confirms that our cosmos is much, much stranger than we ever imagined."

Cosmic microwaves

The "concordance" model of the Universe proposes that over 70% is made up of dark energy, with around 25% composed of dark matter and only 5% of normal matter. In this model, dark matter is constantly being stretched by dark energy.

In February, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (Wmap) satellite took the most detailed picture yet of the cosmic microwave background - an image of the infant cosmos when it was less than 400,000 years old.

In July, astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which aims to map out a million galaxies, published a research paper in which they superimposed their own galaxy-clustering data on Wmap's microwave data.

They claim the results prove that dark energy must exist.

But on Friday (12 December), an international group of astronomers claimed analysis of data returned from the European Space Agency's (Esa) XMM-Newton satellite observatory casts doubt on the existence of dark energy.

The astronomers measured the quantity and energy of X-rays emitted by eight distant galaxy clusters. They say their results may imply that the density of matter in the Universe is very high, contradicting the popular concordance model.

"To account for these results you have to have a lot of matter in the Universe and that leaves little room for dark energy," said Alain Blanchard of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees in France.

Fuller details of the top 10 list are outlined below:

Science magazine's breakthroughs of the year 1. Illuminating the dark Universe . Satellite and telescope data cemented the idea that the Universe is composed mainly of dark energy and dark matter. 2. Cracking mental illness . Researchers identified genes that reliably increase one's risk of inherited disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. 3. Climate change impacts . Scientists reported melting ice, droughts, decreased plant productivity, and altered plant and animal behaviour. 4. RNA advances . Scientists explored how small ribonucleic acids (RNAs) impact cell behaviour, from early development to gene expression. 5. Zooming in on single molecules . Collaborations between biologists and physicists captured the activities of individual molecules inside cells. 6. Starbursts and gamma rays . Scientists improved our understanding of the most energetic explosions in the universe: tremendous blasts of energy called gamma ray bursts. 7. Spontaneous sperm and egg cells . The observation that embryonic stem cells can develop into both sperm and eggs may help scientists learn how some kinds of infertility arise. 8. Left-handed materials . Several research teams confirmed that certain high-tech materials can bend light and other electromagnetic radiation in the "wrong" direction. 9. The self-reliant Y chromosome . The genetic sequence of the human male Y chromosome revealed it has duplicate genes. Thus, when mutations arise and a new gene is needed, a twin copy is on hand. 10. Possible cancer therapies In June, researchers announced that a drug which limits the blood supply to tumours, given with chemotherapy drugs in a large clinical trial, prolonged the lives of patients with advanced colon cancer.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/12/20 08:27:03 GMT


Saturday, December 20, 2003

Egyptians turn to holy medicine



20 December 2003

CAIRO - The mother of six-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Saif had given up hope that modern medicine could improve his health when a centuries-old alternative practised by the Muslim Prophet Mohammad came to the rescue.

"He became more alert, relaxed and the involuntary movements stopped," said Saif's mother Hoda Abdel Reheem.

The treatment, called "hejama" in Arabic, involves evacuating air from cups placed on parts of the body, mainly on the back, to suck tissue and stimulate blood flow.

The treatment is cited several times in a narrative, known as the "hadith", about the deeds and sayings of Mohammad, the founder of Islam who lived in 6th and 7th century Arabia. Some practitioners say it even dates back to Pharaonic Egypt.

Egyptians are increasingly putting their faith in "the prophet's medicine", despite an official ban, to treat conditions which modern medicine has failed to cure.

Although popular with both rich and poor, for Egypt's less well off the treatment offers an affordable alternative to private medicine and state-provided health care, which many think inadequate.

Some scorn the practice.

"It's like asking people to get rid of their cars and ride camels," Hamdy el-Saied, the head of Egypt's Doctors' Syndicate, told Reuters.

He said the syndicate did not approve of alternative medicine. Doctors found that using treatments, which had not been scientifically proven, would face a disciplinary council. The council could punish them by warning them or suspending their licences, he said.

Defying the ban

Following a caesarean operation, 33-year-old Manar Ahmed suffered problems including thrombosis. Two operations and specialist consultations could not ease her pain.

But she said weekly hejama treatment had achieved what modern medicine could not. "After the first (session) I started to get better. Now I am back to normal," Manar said.

She says she still needs treatment from time to time, but can no longer visit the man who treated her because the authorities had confiscated his equipment and closed his clinic for practising hejama.

"The first accusation was practicing hejama. The other was selling herbs for treatment without a licence," said Hany el-Ghazawy, Manar's hejama practitioner.

Ghazawy said he would soon leave Egypt to set up a clinic in Saudi Arabia, having received offers from a number of other countries to run hejama centres. Hejama is permitted in some other Arab states including Lebanon and Syria.

"It really hurts to say I even got an offer from Israel to practice what I am banned from doing in my own country," he said. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but relations have remained cool.

Ignoring officials

Ignoring the authorities, some preachers have called on more Egyptians to learn how to practice hejama.

The popular healer Sheikh Ahmed Hefny, who teaches and applies hejama free of charge, urges Egyptians, especially doctors, to study the treatment to heal relatives, friends and the poor.

Alongside hejama, a diet including dates and honey, believed to be similar to that of the Prophet Mohammad, could treat conditions including diabetes, he said.

Sheikh Hefny, who is not a doctor, tells Egyptians they do not have to have formal medical qualifications to practice hejama.

That message seems to be taking root in Egypt's mainly Muslim society, which observers say now clings more tightly to its Islamic identity. More and more popular healers are learning about hejama, avoiding the authorities by carrying their equipment from house to house.

Charging 30 Egyptian pounds ($5) for a session, the popular healers are cheaper than private modern medicine in a country where a state-employed teacher earns the equivalent of about $50 a month.

For the wealthier, some doctors offer the traditional treatment in their clinics where the Egyptian authorities find it difficult to clamp down on their activities. Some doctors may charge five times more than the house-to-house healers.

Miracle healer heals himself at hospital


NT Bureau
Chennai, Dec 10:

His has been the most notable face among the Christian gospelers. He has presided over several thousand 'miracle healing' meetings wherein countless 'sufferers' have had their illness or afflictions, ranging from common cold to blindness, 'cured' through prayers.

But when it came to healing his own troublesome knee, D G S Dinakaran, the well-known evangelist in question, seems to have reposed faith with a team of doctors at a local hospital rather than hobble around and wait for divine help.

According to sources, Dinakaran, the most visible of gospelers with a slew of radio and TV shows to his credit, had been suffering from a chronic knee problem. The man, who exhorts the public to attend his healing and prayer meetings to get cured of their ailments, however has gone to a popular private hospital in Adayar to get his knee repaired.

Sources said Dinakaran underwent a knee replacement surgery, conducted by a team of top doctors, at the hospital yesterday afternoon. His faith in doctors seems to have done him good as he is said to be doing fine.

Dinakaran, who presides over the Christian gospel group Jesus Calls, along with his family members including his son Paul Dinakaran, has conducted several hundred faith healing meetings across the State and elsewhere too.

In many of these meetings, whose footages are regularly shown in almost all popular satellite channels, people are shown to get 'cured' of their handicaps and illness. There are also special prayers conducted for serious ailments. It is also said that money was also collected for these special prayers.

Obviously, tongues will start wagging over Dinakaran's choice for his own treatment. Perhaps there is a moral in the story: Thou shall not pray for thyself.

Officials unveil new social studies, science standards


Associated Press

Published December 19, 2003

Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke today released a new draft of social studies and science standards that she said were extensively changed from a widely criticized first effort.

The lengthy documents for each subject were overhauled in response to public comments from nearly 2,000 Minnesotans since a first draft in September. Yecke said the new draft cuts back on the number of benchmarks, and puts more weight on analysis, explanation, evaluation and comparison.

The first draft of the standards was attacked by some people who said they had too much material to cover in a 180-day school year. Others, including some educators, said the social studies standards were shaped to reflect a conservative viewpoint.

In social studies, Yecke said schools would have more flexibility in what events, dates and historical figures they can teach. Some things that were required benchmarks are now examples that teachers can use as they wish.

The number of social studies benchmarks fell from 848 to 541. Science benchmarks also were scaled back considerably, though the new draft adds a section on environmental studies.

Yecke encouraged people to set aside their outrage over the first draft when considering the new version.

``My hope is people will look at the new document with an open mind and say let's judge the documents on its content,'' Yecke said.

Full copies of each were posted on the Education Department's Web site, http://education.state.mn.us. The process isn't final; the Legislature will weigh in when it returns to the Capitol. A Senate hearing is planned for Jan. 23.

If all goes as planned, schools will start implementing the science standards next fall and the social studies standards the following fall.

The standards are the work of separate committees of citizens, educators, parents and other volunteers selected by Yecke. More recently, though, smaller working groups also picked by Yecke have put the standards in their current form.

The initial draft of the social studies standards - encompassing history, geography, economics and civics - drew immediate and steady criticism on several fronts.

Some teachers and college professors complained they contained too much material to cover in 180-day school year and said some of the requirements weren't grade-level appropriate.

Others took aim at the content, charging the standards were politically biased. They cited the prominent mention of Ronald Reagan and the exclusion of modern Democratic presidents. They also questioned whether enough attention was given to dark moments in U.S. history, like the Vietnam War and Watergate.

The new draft changes that. For example, former Democratic president John F. Kennedy is noted by name and there is more focus on civil rights, slavery and other low points in American history.

Todd Flanders, a Catholic school headmaster and leader of the high school history committee, said the new version more thoroughly covers `` the struggles of women, the struggles of minorities, the struggles of African Americans ... and also focusing on the contributions of women and minorities throughout the document.''

American Indians faulted the accuracy and adequacy of lessons taught on their heritage. In response, the committee enhanced that content in the standards. More language was also added about African and Asian cultures.

The first round of science standards raised concerns of their own. Some science teachers and professionals said they were loaded down with requirements, which they feared would leave less time for experiments and other lab work.

In its first draft, the committee left out references to the biblical theory of creationism, opting to focus on evolution. Four members of the science committee submitteed a minority report that asks the Legislature to work evolution back in, saying it was wrong to ignore the theory entirely.

The proposed standards are the latest in a line of academic requirements Pawlenty's Education Department is helping draw up in place of the now-repealed Profile of Learning. Language arts and math standards were developed last spring and are already filtering into classrooms.

The Profile and the proposed standards take markedly different approaches. The Profile emphasized having children apply what they've learned while the new standards focus more on what they learn.

Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, said he was generally pleased with the changed direction.

``This final draft in science is significantly better,'' Kyte said. ``In social studies, we're hoping that it is but it's going to take us a little bit of time to digest.''

Today's Birthdays:


Comedian Charlie Callas is 76. Rock musician Peter Criss (Kiss) is 58. Psychic Uri Geller is 57. Actor John Spencer is 57. Singer Alan Parsons is 54. Actress Jenny Agutter is 51. Actor Michael Badalucco is 49. Actress Blanche Baker is 47. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 46. Rock singer-musician Mike Watts is 46. Country singer Kris Tyler is 39. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 37.

Friday, December 19, 2003

U.K. Castle Cameras Catch Ghostly Visitor


Dec 19, 1:52 PM EST

Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Are there ghostly goings-on at Henry VIII's palace, or is that hazy image of a fellow in fancy robes just a bit of Christmas cheer?

Closed-circuit security cameras at Hampton Court Palace, the huge Tudor castle outside London, seem to have snagged an ethereal visitor. Could it be a ghost?

"We're baffled too - it's not a joke, we haven't manufactured it," said Vikki Wood, a Hampton Court spokeswoman, when asked if the photo the palace released was a Christmas hoax. "We genuinely don't know who it is or what it is."

Wood said security guards had seen the figure in closed-circuit television footage after checking it to see who kept leaving open one of the palace's fire doors.

In the still photograph, the figure of a man in a robe-like garment is shown stepping from the shadowy doorway, one arm reaching out for the door handle.

The area around the man is somewhat blurred, and his face appears unnaturally white compared with his outstretched hand.

"It was incredibly spooky because the face just didn't look human," said James Faukes, one of the palace security guards.

"My first reaction was that someone was having a laugh, so I asked my colleagues to take a look. We spoke to our costumed guides, but they don't own a costume like that worn by the figure. It is actually quite unnerving," Faukes said.

The palace, built in 1525 on the River Thames 10 miles west of central London, is a popular tourist attraction and some of the guides wear costumes of the Tudor period.

Wood said she was hoping people would come forward with similar stories and try to explain the figure.

The palace has been the scene of many dramatic royal events, and already is supposed to have a few ghosts.

King Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, died there giving birth to a son, and her ghost is said to walk through one of the cobbled courtyards carrying a candle.

Her son, Edward, had a nurse called Sibell Penn who was buried in the palace grounds in 1562. In 1829 her tomb was disturbed by building work, and around the same time an odd whirring noise began to be heard in the southwest wing of the palace. When workmen traced the strange sounds to a brick wall, they uncovered a small forgotten room containing an old spinning wheel, just like the one Penn used to use.

Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, condemned for adultery, was held at the palace under house arrest before her execution at the Tower of London. An 1897 book about the palace says she was reportedly seen, dressed in white and floating down one of the galleries uttering unearthly shrieks.

The palace was once a prison for King Charles I, who later was beheaded, and then home to his nemesis Oliver Cromwell, who briefly ruled when Britain was for a short time a republic.

On the Net:

Hampton Court Palace, http://www.hrp.org.uk/webcode/hampton-home.asp

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Psychic Babble?


Michael Shermer Answers Viewer Questions on Psychics

Dec. 11— 20/20 recently profiled John Edward, a popular with psychic with a hit television show, Crossing Over, and several best-selling books to his credit. Dr. Michael Shermer, Editor and Publisher of Skeptic magazine and a monthly columnist and contributing editor to Scientific American, answers viewers' questions about psychics and the paranormal below.

Introduction From Skeptic Michael Shermer

Thanks to ABC for posting this Internet dialogue. I wish that I could answer all 350+ letters that viewers sent, but time constraints prohibit it. I have selected a couple of dozen letters, some friendly and supportive, most negative and critical. It was roughly one-third positive, two-thirds negative, better than I expected, actually.

A number of viewers inquired how I would test John Edward scientifically. Here's how: Edward, along with Sylvia Brown, James Van Praagh, Rosemary Altea and others, claim that they can tell whether it is a man or woman coming through from the other side. Male or female gives us a simple binary choice and coin-flip model for a test. Get 50 people, each of whom writes down before the reading whether it is a man or woman in their life who passed over. Without asking questions of each subject, the psychic then determines whether it is a man or woman coming through for each of the 50 subjects. Through pure guessing, or flipping a coin, we would expect a 50% hit rate, or 25 correct out of the 50 subjects. Of course, some psychics, by chance, will get 26 or 27 right, others 23 or 24 right. The hit rate, in fact, will vary around a bell curve, or probability distribution curve. By chance some may even get 30 right or only 20 right. But how many does the psychic need to get right for science to conclude that their hit rate was not due to chance but to some other effect (such as genuine psychic power). The answer, at the 95 percent confidence level, is 37. If John Edward could get 37 hits out of 50 in this simple test, he could legitimately claim that he had passed a scientific test of his powers.

Finally, let me note in general that I am sensitive to and empathetic with the emotions evoked by loss, death, and grief — the emotions that underlie most of the responses from participants and viewers of Crossing Over. I have lost both of my biological parents (I have two surviving step-parents), and most recently assisted my mother through a nearly-decade-long battle with brain cancer (my most recent column in Scientific American, "What's the Harm?" discusses this). I think of my mom often, wishing I could talk to her so that she could help me through some troubled times. Alas, wishing it were so does not make it so, and my mom has never spoken to me despite the fact that she knew how much I loved and needed her. Such is the nature of life, and death.

— Michael Shermer

QUESTION: How do you know that people cannot connect with those who have crossed over? There have been many who have written books on the subject over hundreds of years. So my question is why should I listen to Michael Shermer? As far as I can see he has proven NOTHING. Mr. Shermer in his own words is Baloney.

— Carla Smith

ANSWER: You shouldn't listen to Michael Shermer, or anyone else for that matter. The first principle of skepticism is to check it out yourself, and remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Of course, I cannot prove that it is impossible that psychics can talk to the dead, any more than I can prove that the pet psychic doesn't really talk to pet hamsters. One cannot prove a negative, as it is said. Nevertheless, we can estimate the probability of claims being true or false, and to that extent, from the evidence I have seen, it is highly probable that dead people cannot talk to us.

Q: How do you explain the live shows, like the ones he does on Larry King, or the pay-per-view ones. He doesn't see these people and it's live. I don't hear him rattling off hundreds of names, he usually gets names pretty close. Lots of times he says things no one else would know such as … "What happened to your arm, or someone you know's arm, did it get burned?" Yes, her sister's did! OR...Are holding something of your mom's in your hand right now? Yes she was. How do you explain that?

— Shawna

A: "He usually gets names pretty close." Usually? Exactly how usual? Herein lies the problem in testing the validity of psychics. What constitutes a hit? How many total statements and/or questions were made? How many misses? What was the ratio of hits to misses? How many hits would be expected by chance? These are the sorts of questions that scientists and skeptics ask. The only way to really know is to run the test I proposed at the top of this document.

Q: About a year or so ago, I think it was on a late night show like Jay Leno or Letterman, another man who did the exact same thing as John Edward was on. He was obviously working off of the popularity that Edward was receiving. But he was just as "accurate", he even rubbed his hands like Edward does, and had the same vocal inflection, style of presentation, like an exact duplicate!! Physically and personality wise, he was different: he was on the chubby side and talked about his wife and family. I was flabbergasted when I saw this guy on TV, because the obvious deduction one arrived at was that whatever John Edward was "doing", so was this guy! I thought at the time, "This will destroy the J. Edward Illusion!" — and I never heard of him after that! It would have been different if his style was unique, but he was a carbon copy of John Edward. It made John Edward's "show" appear to be a complete hoax — even though it remained unclear how he gets away with it.

— Laci Meszaros

A: I too have noticed that the psychics, like comedians and magicians, pick up each other's lines, patter, moves, and tricks. This is because talking to the dead is an act, and like any stage act it can be improved through practice and watching what other people do.

Q: Does Mr. Shermer still believe that the Earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe?

— Helen Vasquez

A: What? It isn't?

Q: Don't you think the biggest factors in accounting for the rise in belief in the paranormal are the many television shows which promote it? Especially egregious are the so-called Learning Channel, History Channel, Larry King, and network shows such as all the crop circle, UFO, alien autopsy, etc. programs — not to mention the sci-fi channel, Discovery, and Crossing Over. People are drowning in the promotion of paranormal & superstitious beliefs. The level of incredulity is not only astounding, it is a shameful national disgrace! What can unbelievers and skeptics do against the veritable ocean of cultural clap-trap promoting such beliefs?

— Sharon Nichols

A: I agree. Mass media — particularly the proliferation of cable channel shows, which run these episodes because they get good ratings — accentuatesbelief in the paranormal. Far too many people think that what they see on television must be real. I cannot tell you how many letters I received after Fox aired a purported documentary about how we never went to the moon! "I saw this documentary on television!" Don't believe everything you see and only half of what you hear.

Q: My question is what do you think of James Von Praagh? I have compared him to this John Edward guy and find that James is more precise with his answers and goes into more detail and overall more accurate.

— Parm Hundal

A: In 1994 I spent 11 hours with James Van Praagh for an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. This is how I learned how the psychics do their tricks. After that long, Van Praagh was repeating himself and giving away his secrets that would not have been apparent had I seen only one session. I think Van Praagh is better than Edward is at making it look like the dead are talking to him. But they are both just actors in a cruel psychodrama, in my opinion.

Q: Mr. Shermer and Mr. Ritter, After you watched the piece on 20/20 do you really feel it followed the principles of good journalism — i.e. was balanced and fair? Personally, I think the readings (and commentary) were edited in a way so that they would support and illustrate Mr. Shermer's points. Edward had no opportunity to respond to any of them (except one question like, "Are you really self-deluded AND preying on grieving people?") The readings were all chopped up into little negative sound bites (again, illustrating the negative "spin" of Shermer and Ritter — i.e. "the swagger of a rock star" — how slanted a characterization is THAT?) And who evaluated the "40 out of 41" misses for your producer, using what criteria? Couldn't we have seen more of that reading and his comments of how nothing fit for him? (And it would only have been fair to contrast a dissatisfied sitter with a satisfied one, and perhaps get both people to talk about their different perception of the experience). It also would have been FAIRER and more BALANCED to have shown more of the readings themselves, and to have talked with some of the people who felt he got excellent information for them (and why, even if later you debunked it.) AT LEAST, you would have presented a balanced view!!!! But no. This wasn't investigative journalism. More like a (deceptively UNlabelled) op/ed piece. My question is: Do you both think it was actually a fair and balanced piece of reporting? I'll be extremely surprised if you both can honestly say, "Yes".

— Julie

A: I can honestly answer Yes. We have become so accustomed to biased reporting in the media these days that it is difficult to recognize truly "fair and balanced" reporting when it is actually done correctly. The ABC News department is first-rate in this regard. Larry King, by contrast, is in the entertainment department, not the news department, of CNN, and the difference in the quality of the reportage shows.

Q: I'd like to know how Shermer can discredit someone without knowing anything about how the paranormal works. I find it to be such a shame that someone who doesn't understand the paranormal is the first to criticize it. Shermer has no clue as to how something works or why it works, so I guess the best thing to do is discredit it and call it baloney. I listen to the skeptics, but most of the time I just roll my eyes at their close-mindedness.

— Dusty Vestal

A: Please go to www.skeptic.com and read the numerous articles I have written on the subject, the readings I have received and given, the research I have been conducting on the subject over the past decade, etc.

Q: People like [John Edward] should be taken with a "grain of salt." But a part of me does hope that my Dad is watching over me.

— Debby

A: A whole shaker of salt is more like it, but I concur with your sentiment. I often wish the same thing about my dad and mom.

Q: I think you stink. John Edward is my hero, idol and I believe him all the way. He doesn't care who believes him.

— Judy Case

A: He doesn't need to when acolytes such as yourself will believe him regardless of how clearly we can demonstrate that it is all a fake. That is the power of belief, and, as Ritter noted in the show, with a base of 60 million believers he doesn't need to care about skeptics.

Q: A couple of years ago I watched a show on Discovery about a scientific experiment done with a group of the major psychics to test whether they really had psychic powers. John Edward was part of that experiment which did show definite positive findings. Have your skeptic watch that and redo the show about that particular aspect of Mr. Edward's ability. Would make for an interesting show if you can find that research video. I think he deserves the other side shown since you presented this negative side only.

— Darlene

A: I am very familiar with that test. The problem with it is that it was unclear what constitutes a "hit" or "miss" with Edward's statements. There was far too much wiggle room in allowing what looked to me to be misses to count as hits. That is why I devised the simple male/female binary test. No ambiguity there!

Q: I was one of the biggest skeptics in the whole world — I questioned everything — always. I taught my kids that we didn't know for sure whether there was a heaven so they had just better live their lives like this Earth was their heaven — then if there is one later that would just be a bonus! Then my 20-year-old son was killed in a car accident, and I can no longer be a skeptic — I HAVE TO BELIEVE!! My question to you is: Have you ever lost someone you loved more than life itself? It's much harder not to believe if you have. Does John make me feel better — NO — nothing makes me feel better, but I feel as if I NEED to BELIEVE — in him?? — not really — it's really that I need to believe the dead can be around us and can communicate with someone {yes, I always think: if him, why not me?}. John Edward allows me to believe — makes it all right to believe. Whether he is a fake or "the real deal", do you really think that allowing me, or others like me, to believe is so immoral?

— Judy Morrow

A: I am so very sorry that you lost your son. I have lost my parents, which was extremely painful, but as a parent I can only imagine how much more painful it would be to lose a child. I completely understand why you "have to believe," as you so poignantly said. Sadly, tragically, John Edward and the other media psychics know this and count on it. In another way, however, your son still lives in the beautiful memories of the time you did have together. That can never be enough, of course, nor replace the real thing, but it is all any of us has once our loved ones are gone.

Q: Do you believe in god, creator, or higher power? How and why do you think we are here on earth? Are you an agnostic?

— Julie Molnar

A: I do not believe in God. I was once a born-again Christian, but when I really examined the reasons for my belief, and for belief in God in general, I realized that the evidence was too slim to make that belief commitment. I wrote a book about this entitled How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God.

Q: I wanted to thank you for opening up my eyes. I guess there is a part of people that want it to be true. But as I heard your thoughts on it, I understood that this is not true. I again want to thank you for opening up my eyes when it comes to John Edward. And I will not be one of those people to pay hundreds of dollars to have someone guess and play off of my emotions.

A: Thanks. We're trying to save souls — one mind at a time.

Q: If all Edward's apparent hits can be explained by guesswork, body language, prior knowledge, etc, how does Shermer explain highly specific hits when the medium has no visual, auditory or other sensory means of communication, e.g. when sitters are proxy or when readings are double-blind, as in some of the experiments conducted with Edward and others by Professor Gary Schwartz of Arizona University? Is Shermer not aware that such tests have been conducted since the 1880s, and that there is a vast accumulation of written evidence inconsistent with his explanation?

— Montague Keen

A: Indeed, I wrote a column about this very subject in Scientific American ("Psychic Drift") in which I bemoaned the fact that serious psychic researchers have now had well over a century to put ESP to the test, and out of tens of thousands of experiments run there are only a couple significant ones, and even these fall apart under close scrutiny. By now it should be obvious if there were really something to psychic power. There isn't, and it isn't likely that there will ever be with that failure rate.

Q: Why can't you let this go, What does it matter to you if he can realy talk/see the dead. As a person who has lost her parents and too many other family members to mention, HE GIVES US HOPE, AND SOME CLOSURE. I don't care realy if it is true.. ALL I care about is that he/they John Edward, James Van Praagh and Sylvia Browne all give us a hope that we will see our long lost loved ones again. Also how can them making people feel so good about such a huge lost in theier lives, be so wrong ??? Do you know of any ways to help the pain of a lost loved one???

— Pamela Nicholson

A: Yes, grief counselors. These are trained professionals who deal in loss, death and grief. They tell me that the reason the psychics are harmful is that pretending that one's lost loved one is not really gone keeps one in a state of denial, making it impossible to ever work through the grieving process.

Q: Dear Mr. Shermer,

What do you belive happens to us when we die? Second, what is your religion? Why do you choose to be a skeptic? How long have you been a skeptic?

When we die, do you believe we go into the ground and that's it?

— Susan Bowen

A: Nothing happens when we die. We just quit living. You can't even experience death, because all experience requires a functioning brain. If you are dead, your brain is not functioning, by definition. I am not religious. My world view is scientific and rational. Not everyone goes into the ground upon death. Some go into the sea. A couple have even gone into space (the ashes of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, were allegedly launched in a tiny capsule). As for our "souls" (which is what I presume you mean), there is not a shred of evidence that anything survives the death of the physical body.

Q: I have a question for Mr. Shermer. It is a little off the subject of psychics talking to the dead but it involves one of America's greatest psychics. What is your opinion about the psychic abilities of the late Edgar Cayce? His psychic readings are well-documented and his sincerity and honesty seem above reproach.

— Glen Culp

A: I wrote about Edgar Cayce and my experiences at the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia in my book Why People Believe Weird Things. His psychic readings are indeed well-documented, and leather-bound and stored in a beautiful library. And I have never questioned the sincerity of the man. But that's not what is at issue. The question is, could he actually diagnose medical conditions beyond chance? No. Could he really return to previous lives he claims he lived in ancient Egypt and Atlantis? No.

Q: If you can communicate with the afterlife, is there a Heaven, a Hell, and a purgatory? Do you have communication with a superior being (God)?

— Richard Gatto

A: No. No. No. And definitely no.

Q: Is there any kind of legal statute that would allow someone to prosecute those who participate in this type of activity? I believe John Edward and people like him inflict unnecessary emotional harm on people who have, most probably, already had a significant trauma in their lives.

— Lori McCurdy

A: For the most part, no. Since it is next to impossible to prove fraud in such cases the law has a difficult time prosecuting psychics.

Q: Dear Mr. Shermer, Have you heard of "psychics" using audience ticket and mailing lists to obtain information and family histories so they already know about some of the people watching that day? I was surprised this wasn't mentioned in the story.

— Kevin Hughes

A: It is quite possible that John Edward gets information on his subjects, but I doubt that he actually needs to. As you saw in the show, his hit rate is embarrassingly low, yet he is hugely successful nonetheless, so why bother to cheat and risk getting caught when people will believe you anyway?

Q: In response to your story on John Edward, psychic. The other day my wife and I saw a house that had a big sign in front yard. It read "Madam X talks to the dead and predicts the future — $100.00 per session". Beside her sign was another sign that read. "Home for Sale". It showed the Realtor's name and MLS capability. I wondered why Madam X had listed her property with a realtor. Why didn't she just look in her crystal ball and get the name and phone number of the person that was going to buy her home and deal with them direct. She would save herself the 6% Real Estate Commission fee.

— Dwight Crawford

A: Nicely said. And, while we're at it, why aren't there any psychics living in Las Vegas and scoring big at the casinos, or at Santa Anita race track betting on the ponies? And, while we are on the subject, why didn't one psychic foresee the demise of the Psychic Friends Network? Or Princess Di's death? Or 9/11? The psychics always seem to know when some celebrity is going to get divorced, but they somehow miss things like terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Q: Where can teachers access lesson plans and resource materials to help provide students with the skills to separate baloney from reality? It seems a majority of Americans hold beliefs in impossible things and are credulous enough to be ripe for hucksters such as Edward.

— Edmund Smith

A: Thanks for asking! We have a Baloney Detection Kit and Jr. Skeptic magazine (which comes with a subscription to Skeptic magazine) just for teachers and students. You can get those at www.skeptic.com. The Baloney Detection Kit includes course syllabi and materials on how to teach a course on this subject.

Q: Why don't you ask John Edward to do a reading for you? It may open up your heart and soul.

— P. Mason

A: I would love to get a reading from John, but I seriously doubt he would entertain (if you will) the idea.

Q: What makes you think he's a phoney? Could you come any where near as close to a name or a sickness as he does? I would bet not.

— Brett

A: I can do much better than John Edward, and I have! See my article "Psychic for a Day" at www.skeptic.com, which discusses my psychic abilities on a television show. Q: Mr. Shermer, I have noticed your Skeptic Society around the Web with such unscientific theories as that an "out-of-body" experience that was obtained during weird psychosurgery disproves the existance of the soul (according to the article, you were the author of that whacked idea) and another by the Skeptics Society that claims there were no concentration camps in Germany. I am wondering why you purport such Nazi ideology and are so hell-bent on making unscientific assertions as to the nonexistance of the soul? A subject of LSD experimentation who "leaves his body" equally neither proves nor disproves the existence of the soul, of course. Also I wonder if you are brazen enough to agree that your group supports Nazi ideology.

— Ross Rice

A: Actually, we debunked the Holocaust deniers. I even wrote a book on the subject, entitled Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It (University of California Press).

Q: If John Edward and his kind are legitimate then they should assemble a group of relatives of victims of unsolved murders. Then they could solve these murders.

— Mike

A: Yeah, how come John Edward doesn't tell us where Jimmy Hoffa's body is buried? Or who killed Nicole Brown Simpson?

Q: Hi Michael,

Way to go! Keep after these disgusting phonies wherever they raise their money-grubbing heads. To prey on people's losses the way this scum does is despicable and should be a punishable offense. Dirtballs like Edward encourage the kind of brainless gullibility that has police departments paying "psychics" to investigate crimes, or idiot hand-wavers to make hospitals even more expensive by charging for so-called "healing touch" that involves no touching! Edward, you belong in the mythical hell along with San Diego's own blathering fruitcake, Deepak Chopra, who wouldn't know a quantum if it bit him on his aura! LOL

— Jeff Wells

Q: About 10 years ago I dreamt one of my clerical workers would die in a car accident en route to Mexico the coming weekend. I told her of my dream, she told her mother (who locked her in her room Sat. night). Her boyfriend opened her bedroom window, they went to a dance in Mexico and were killed in an accident that night. Just coincidence? 8 months ago I turned off the freeway and arrived at a green light but found myself afraid to go through it, so I sat there for 8 seconds. A hugh tractor trailer "moving van" I had not seen went through the red light and crossed the intersection where I should have been. The trailer saw his mistake and slammed on his brakes several yards after going through the red light emitting tire smoke everywhere. Coincidence?

— Joseph Sanchez

A: Yup, coincidink. The law of large numbers explains this one, or as I like to say, million to one odds happen 280 times a day in America. With enough people and even things happening to those people, a handful of really weird things are going to happen every day, and this is what gets reported in the news ("film at 11"). We remember the hits and forget the misses.

Q: Are you an atheist? If so, where can other atheists talk to others who have the same beliefs?

— Tim Young

A: Go to www.the-brights.com where you will find lots of us nonbelievers.

Q: Thanks. You perform a valuable service. I am a Christian but also disturbed by this superstitious chicanery. I constantly encourage people not to swallow things whole when they are suggestion-based scams. I assume that you're not "against" anything in particular, just trying to debunk such scams.

— Dan

A: Correct. Skepticism is not a position you take about claims, but an approach, a scientific, naturalistic approach to trying to understand what is really going on. Ideally one never goes into an investigation with one's mind already made up.

For More Information

For more information, go to http://www.skeptic.com to read (or download and distribute if you like — they are free) the several articles I have written on the subject of psychics and mediums, including specific articles on John Edward and James Van Praagh, as well as general articles on how anyone, including a skeptic, can easily learn to do psychic readings.

Note especially my article "Psychic for a Day," in which I recount doing an astrological reading, palm reading, tarot card reading, and psychic reading — all in one day — for a television show that will air next spring hosted by Bill Nye (The Science Guy) on PBS. I provide specific instructions on how to talk to the dead, among other things. I have also written about related subjects that many viewers brought up, including God, religion, and morality, in several books: Why People Believe Weird Things, How We Believe, and The Science of Good and Evil. In my monthly column for Scientific American ("Skeptic") I have written about these subjects in a number of short essays, all available for free at http://www.sciam.com. You can also get a free subscription to e-Skeptic magazine, the electronic version of the print magazine, by sending an e-mail to: join-skeptics@lyris.net.

What is homeopathy?


by JUDY STOLZ, Arizona City Independent

December 17, 2003

Homeopathic medicines are prepared from natural sources such as plants, animals and minerals, and are used in extremely small amounts. These remedies are non-toxic and when properly administered, can be used safely with puppies, kittens, infants as well as adults.

Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of "like cures like". In other words, symptoms that a particular substance causes are the symptoms that can be resolved when the body is given a specifically prepared dilution of that substance.

An example of "like cures like" occurs when a person or animal is allergic to a certain grass. A dilution of that particular grass is made and injected into the body to diminish the symptoms from the grass exposure. Or suppose a person has hay fever symptoms, watery eyes and burning nasal discharge. Instead of giving an anti-histamine to dry up the discharge, which will only make matters worse, a homeopath might prescribe Allium cepa, a tiny dose of onion specifically prepared by a homeopathic pharmacy in accordance with FDA guidelines, because onion is known to cause watery eyes and a burning nasal discharge.

This principle of using "similars" was developed into a system of medicine, called homeopathy (meaning "similar suffering") by the German physician Samual Hahnemann in the late 1700's, but the concept dates back to the time of Hippocrates. The exact mechanism by which homeopathy works in unknown, but 200 years of clinical experience along with research published in medical journals have confirmed homeopathy's effectiveness.

Homeopathy treats the whole person/animal - physical, mental, emotional - and treats each animal individually. For example, a homeopath treating a dog with a bee sting does not presume that all bee stings are alike, but instead asks about the animal's unique symptoms. Did the face swell up and if so which side? Did vomiting or diarrhea occur? How about lethargy or just the opposite -restlessness? The homeopath gets the complete picture of the animal's or person's individual experience of the bee sting. Then the homeopath chooses a homeopathic medicine that best matches the unique set of symptoms. In other words, the patient himself is treated, not the name of the diagnosis. The same holds true for chronic situations such as inflammatory bowel disorders, skin problems, allergies and seizures. Each animal is an individual and deserves to be treated as such.

Dr. Judy Stolz, a new resident of Arizona City, has been a doctor of veterinary medicine since 1985, and a naturopathic physician since 1996. Her practice consists of natural therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs and other treatments. She can be reached at (520) 494-9571, or visit her website online at the following address: www.drstolz.com.

©Casa Grande Valley Newspaper 2003

Virulent Flu Virus Threatens; Leading Homeopathic Medicine Offers Serious Relief

Press Release [from a notorious quack medical concern]


Thursday December 18, 5:07 am ET

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Eighty-four percent of this season's reported flu cases are from an unusually tenacious strain not included in this year's flu vaccine, reported Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year in particular, those who wish to avoid losing a week sick in bed should get ready to nip the flu in the bud. More and more people are discovering the benefits of a homeopathic medicine called Oscillococcinum®. Widely used in Europe and regulated by the FDA here in the States, Oscillo® has been shown in clinical studies to quickly decrease the duration and intensity of flu symptoms.

The latest double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in a British scientific journal, found that 63 percent of patients with flu symptoms treated with Oscillo showed "clear improvement" within 48 hours. This research confirmed the results of three earlier clinical studies. More information about can be found at www.oscillo.com.

"I tell my patients to take Oscillo as soon as they feel the first sign of flu," said Robert Schiller, M.D., department chairman of family medicine at Beth Israel and an assistant professor of family medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "In addition to making them feel better fast, Oscillo works without causing side effects such as drowsiness or interacting with other medications."

Additionally, Oscillo will not mask symptoms indicating a more serious condition, unlike most drugs. These advantages offered by Oscillo as a homeopathic medicine are especially beneficial to children and seniors. Dr. Schiller points out "homeopathic medicines are extremely safe and therefore they can be used by every member of the family."

"Because of their many benefits, homeopathic medicines should be a patient's first course of treatment," said Albert Levy, M.D., a family physician affiliated with the Albert Einstein Hospital in New York City. "It's possible to dodge the flu altogether by taking homeopathic medicines as soon as you feel achy or under the weather," he added.

Boiron, maker of Oscillo, expects to sell over one million units of Oscillococcinum in the U.S. this flu season. A six-dose box of Oscillo sells for about $11.65 in most health food stores, most independent pharmacies, and select drug stores. To locate the nearest store that carries Oscillo, call the Boiron Information Center at 1-800-BOIRON-1 (1-800-264-7661), or e-mail info@Boiron.com.

Boiron, world leader in homeopathy, is a $270 million public company with 2,600 employees in more than 60 countries. It produces over 1,500 homeopathic medicines. For more than 70 years, Boiron has been committed to funding scientific research and educating the public and healthcare professionals on homeopathic medicines. As a pharmaceutical company, Boiron maintains the highest standards in manufacturing, complying with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the U.S., and the drug Good Manufacturing Practices.

Source: Boiron

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