NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 January 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, January 16, 2004

HB 911 -- Standard Science Instruction


Sponsor: Cooper (155)

This bill prescribes definitions for the teaching of standard science in public elementary and secondary schools by distinguishing the differences between scientific law, scientific theory, and hypothesis and by requiring the equal treatment of viewpoints in written and orally presented material. The bill prescribes seven major criteria for the presentation of information in course materials and instruction. Textbook publishers must certify that their books meet the requirements of the bill, and the Commissioner of Education must post a list of suitable textbooks by January 1, 2006. Textbooks purchased after January 1, 2006, must meet the requirements of the bill; and all textbooks in use after January 1, 2016, must meet the requirements. The commissioner is required to appoint a committee of no fewer than five supporters of intelligent design who are knowledgeable about science to develop supplemental materials for interim use by September 1, 2005. Willful neglect of the requirements of the bill is cause for termination of a teaching contract. State-controlled testing must conform with the bill, and a copy of the bill must be posted in each eighth through twelfth grade public school classroom in which only science is taught.

Copyright (c) Missouri House of Representatives

Missouri House of Representatives
92nd General Assembly, 2nd Regular Session
Last Updated January 16, 2004 at 4:36 pm

Teenage girl's x-ray vision baffles scientists


Russian scientists have been unable to disprove a teenage girl who claims she has x-ray vision and can see inside human bodies.

Doctors at Saransk's children hospital carried out exhaustive tests on 16-year-old Natalia Demkina whose claims she has x-ray vision has gripped the Russian public.

But so far they have been unable to come up with a logical explanation for the vivid and detailed accounts she gives of what she sees when she looks inside the human body.

But according to Russian daily newspaper Izvestia, the scientists have so far failed to explain the vivid and detailed accounts she gives of the inside of bodies.

The teenager, from Saransk in Mordovia, said she had been upset that the doctors had not believed her but was pleased they had not claimed she was lying.

She added: "I am worried now that they might be hiding something from me about why I can see through objects. I don't know how it works, but I can see through things."

Her mother Tatiana Vladimirovna added: "I knew she was talented girl as she started to talk when she was only six months old and she learned to read when she was three years old.

"When she started to claim she sees through things that worried me. That's why I wanted her to undertake tests in the local hospital."

Story filed: 10:46 Thursday 15th January 2004

Wives claim husbands bewitched by barmaid


Women from a Romanian village have lodged an official complaint against a pub barmaid who they claim has bewitched their husbands.

The women, from Slobozia, Iasi county, complained to police and consumer protection officials that their husbands were spending too much time in her pub.

They say their husbands waste their wages there and when they finally come home they don't want to have sex with them because they are still dreaming about the barmaid.

The complaint read: "We want somebody to take measures in this matter, either to close the pub or sack the waitress.

"This is a consumers' problem and we addressed the office to solve it. The money our husbands leave there at the pub should be brought home to wives and children but they are practically stolen."

But Ioan Haranga, head of the consumers protection office in Iasi, said he could not take any action against the barmaid.

He told Ziarul daily: "The complaint is one of those problems we just cannot solve. These women want the pub closed but for such a measure we need solid arguments and we cannot do it just because the waitress is nice to the customers. It is the men's problem and their wives', not ours."

The barmaid, Ioana Alistar, said it was not her fault that she has good looks and men like her.

Story filed: 10:42 Thursday 15th January 2004 Initiative Effort OKd to Allow Bible as a Literature Textbook http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bibles6jan06,1,1403845.story

An Orange County man received the go-ahead from state officials Monday to begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would authorize the use of the Bible as a textbook in literature classes.

If Matt McLaughlin can collect 598,105 valid signatures by May 24, voters would then decide whether to amend California's constitution to allow the voluntary use of the Authorized or King James Version Bibles for classes in grades 1 through 12, according to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's office.

McLaughlin did not return calls seeking comment, but Shelley's office described the proposed study as "without devotional or denominational purpose." Under the initiative, Bibles would be distributed free to every public school student, unless parents objected.

Launching the project would cost the state and local school districts about $200 million, according to legislative analysts.

2004: Psychics foretell great year...for Las Vegas, that is...

Two out of three psychics agree: 2004 will be a good year, especially in Las Vegas.

A decidedly unscientific survey of local psychics revealed mostly guarded optimism for 2004, at least from the few fortunetellers who agreed to make predictions.

The new year looks especially promising for President Bush, while other prominent figures such as Celine Dion and Michael Jackson might want to watch their steps.

First the bad news, courtesy of Margo Piper from the 'Psychic Eye Book Store' in Henderson: "It's going to be a year from hell for Mother Nature," said Piper, who envisions chaos worldwide as a series of natural disasters serve to humble humanity and remind us of "what's important."

"I have a really bad outlook for (the new) year," said Piper, who has been reading tarot cards for the past 15 years and working at Psychic Eye for about a year. "I didn't realize it until I started talking to you."

But Pamela Knouse, who works just a few feet away from Piper at Psychic Eye, sees good things in 2004. "I think it will be a good year," she said. "The people are going to start doing better."

Some people more than others.

Patricia Marks, owner and head psychic at 'Palm & Tarot Card Reader', a small business with bars on the windows at Charleston and Las Vegas boulevards, says [Las Vegas Mayor Oscar] Goodman is "going to do something a little provocative that will help a lot of people." Whether those people will be prostitutes and supporters of a downtown red-light district, Marks couldn't say.

All three psychics also predict a good year, culminating with an election win, for President Bush. Marks said the vote will be "very close," and Piper predicted that the election will produce a strong independent candidate backed by fervent supporters clamoring for change.

In the entertainment field, all three predicted a year of improvement for magician Roy Horn, though none of them expect him to return to the stage in 2004. "He's going to be better, but I don't think the show will go on -- at least not this year," Marks said. "But he will do better, thank God."

The future is clouded for [Celine] Dion, according to the psychics. Marks said that Dion or someone very close to her is going to be involved in an accident, "though it can be prevented."

Piper said she saw personal problems, maybe of the marital variety. Knouse predicted a mostly successful year for Dion, but she said some sort of illness would prompt the singer to cancel some shows in August.

Meanwhile, another celebrity with ties to Las Vegas will see his bad luck get worse in 2004, Marks said. "Michael Jackson is going to become very ill -- bedridden," she said.

As for the rest of us, the three psychics said terrorism is one thing Las Vegas residents won't have to worry much about in 2004. The psychics said any plans for an attack here will be thwarted, though Marks said she sees something small happening in Las Vegas. "It's not just going to be a scare."

And commuters take heed: "There's going to be some kind of crack in one of our freeways," Marks said. "I see a ramp going up."

But there will be "no big major collapse," she said, "more like a boo-boo or a no-no will be done."

Overall, though, Las Vegas will be a safe and prosperous place to be in 2004.

"Our economy in Las Vegas, our books will be up," Marks said. "Las Vegas will have more money coming into it." [Editor's comment: I wish *I* had the psychic talents to predict such a thing.]

The economic recovery won't happen all at once, Knouse said, but after March or April the housing market will take off and "people are really going to be happy with the flow of money."

Despite her gloomy vision for 2004, not even Piper would argue with that.

"Locally, this town thrives," she said. "It always will."


Thursday, January 15, 2004

Swede says expect Eagles, Colts in Super Bowl


by Brandon Hansen
January 15, 2004

Editor's Note: Brandon Hanson is a cool guy, and he refers to himself as "The Swede". And a good football psychic.

The average football fan can watch the playoffs with a certain amount of joy and bliss. After all, it is the most meaningful and exciting time of the football season.

They can pick a team that looks like its going to go all the way, and switch teams, when no one is looking, if the picked team loses. This process repeats itself until after the Super Bowl, then that fan can proudly brag that "I supported that team all the way!" That kind of satisfaction. However, for a football junkie like me, it is pure unadulterated torture.

Many Children With Autism May Receive Complementary Or Alternative Treatments


A significant percentage of children recently diagnosed with autism receive complementary or alternative medicine treatments, some of which are potentially harmful, according to a research team from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The researchers reviewed charts for 284 patients evaluated at the Hospital's Regional Autism Center for autistic spectrum disorder. They found that 90 children, or 32 percent of the total, were using complementary and alternative medicine, with 25 children (9 percent of the total) using a potentially harmful approach.

Latino children were more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) compared to other groups of children, according to lead author Susan E. Levy, M.D., while those with additional, non-autistic disorders or cognitive deficits were less likely to do so.

The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The researchers caution that the data they found at one clinical location may not reflect figures for the entire population of children with autism.

"Some of these CAM treatments may alleviate problems associated with autism, such as sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems, but the treatments are unlikely to resolve core symptoms of the disorder," said Dr. Levy, director of the Regional Autism Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "There is no cure for autism, but experts conclude that the best way to improve core symptoms involves intensive behavioral and educational methods," she added.

Nevertheless, parents of some autistic children may choose to try other sources of treatment in hopes of alleviating symptoms of the condition.

Dr. Levy and colleagues divide the nontraditional treatments into four categories. First, there are unproven but harmless biological treatments that have no basis in medical theory (like vitamin B6, gastrointestinal medications or antifungal agents). Another group includes unproven but harmless treatments with some theoretical basis (like Vitamin C, gluten-free diets or hormones). A third category includes unproven, potentially harmful treatments (such as chelation, antibiotics, high-dose vitamin A, immunoglobins or withholding immunizations). The final group consists of nonbiological treatments (animal therapy, auditory integration training and others).

Latinos were seven times more likely to try one of these approaches. However, the small number of Latinos in the study (nine) may have partially accounted for the disproportionate results, Dr. Levy said.

In any case, she added, "Latino" may be too broad a term to have useful meaning. She cautions that differing national origins and levels of adaptation to American culture may produce varying results with a group commonly combined as Latino. Nevertheless, the apparently increased use of complementary or alternative practices may reflect important cultural issues concerning autism.

The researchers also noticed reduced use of CAM among patients with additional diagnoses, including both medical ailments and mental retardation.

Use of potentially harmful CAM was found at significant levels among those who had seen a health-care provider about the diagnosis before coming to the autism center. There was some evidence that patients who had to wait longer for an appointment at the center also were more likely to use riskier alternatives.

"Longer wait times for an appointment and the older average age of those who had seen previous providers may have been associated with greater frustration among the parents of these children, leading to use of complementary and alternative medicine with higher associated risks," Dr. Levy said.

Use of CAM should not be dismissed out of hand, she added, noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages clinicians to discuss such practices in a non-accusatory, nonjudgmental manner.

In the article, Dr. Levy suggests ways that physicians can creatively engage parents regarding their beliefs about autism and how to treat it. For example, if a complementary treatment is not toxic, the clinician might not discourage that treatment, but could suggest that it will be more effective to add or continue to use the standard treatments the clinician has prescribed. If the parent is using a potentially harmful treatment, the clinician may negotiate a safer replacement practice – such as lowering the dose of a vitamin that may have been taken at excessive concentrations.

"If parents believe that clinicians do not respect their beliefs and decisions or are unwilling to negotiate around the use of additional treatment strategies," Dr. Levy concludes, "these strategies may become alternative rather than complementary."


Dr. Levy's co-authors were David S. Mandell, Sc.D., and Stephanie Merhar, both of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Richard F. Ittenbach, Ph.D., of the Children's Hospital Division of Biostatistics; and Jennifer A. Pinto-Martin, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Portions of this release were provided from the Health Behavior News Service.

Founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked today as the best pediatric hospital in the nation by U.S.News & World Report and Child magazine. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents from before birth through age 19. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.

This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia.

Guest Opinion: Teaching ID is no right-wing conspiracy



My response to John Schneeberger's comments claiming that Christian fundamentalists are attempting to introduce religion into the school curriculum is, so what?

He sounds as though people who want intelligent design to be taught in the Darby High School are not playing fair. He seems to be saying that a right wing conspiracy is at work here.

I find it laughable to hear leftists moaning about conspiracy. For decades they have covertly utilized public schools to further their ideological goals. Their fight to assure the so-called separation of church and state is, to put it mildly, disingenuous.

In 1983 a man named John Dunphy addressed the new role of America's public schools. His remarks were published in The Humanist, (A publication devoted to secular humanist ideology). I quote: "The battle for humankind's future must be fought and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith, a religion of humanity. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never- realized Christian ideal of "love thy neighbor" will be finally achieved."

It matters little to me whether I.D. is taught as biology or something else. Surpressing discourse in the schools is what the secular humanists are really committed to. They just don't want anyone else's religion mentioned, especially Christianity.

It is clear that those who claim they wish to remove all religion from the schools are, in fact, targeting Christianity. We never heard a word from the ACLU, the enforcement arm of secular humanists activists, when that public school in California had students assuming Islamic names, dressing in Muslim attire and praying toward Mecca for a semester.

We do, however, hear of a teacher changing the words of a song that traditionally made reference to Christmas. This teacher was without question imposing his aversion to Christianity on 7-year-old children. All over this country schools are prohibiting any manifestation of Christian beliefs of students or teachers. I refer to the teacher who was prohibited from wearing a cross around her neck. She lost her job and had to sue the school board to be allowed to return to work. These incidents are rarely reported in the mainstream press, but they can be confirmed by anyone who takes the time to do so.

I must point out that my references to public schools refer to schools all over America. I certainly do not believe that all teachers, administrators or school boards are involved in this covert attack. I do suggest that everyone make themselves aware of what the curriculum is in the school that their children attend. Regarding the need for careful scrutiny by parents I quote a man named John Goodland, who wrote the forward for a book titled "Schooling for a Global Age."

"Enlightened social engineering is required to face situations that demand global action now .... Parents and the general public must be reached also, otherwise children and youth enrolled in global oriented programs may find themselves in conflict with the values assumed in the home. And then the educational institution frequently comes under scrutiny and must pull back."

If those opposed to ID are basing their argument on the need to adhere to separation of church and state they are completely off base. How can the religion of secular humanism be acceptable in schools and Christianity not be?

Critical thinking requires the ability to evaluate conflicting information and arrive at a conclusion that stands the test of qualified peer revue. Mr. Schneeberger questions the scientific credentials of the proponents of ID, but among the 300 scientists presently advocating ID, Henry Shaeffer is a five-time Nobel nominee. He has written at least 1,000 scientific publications. Dr. Richard von Sternberg is a biologist at the Smithsonian Institution and is also with the National Institute of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information.

As to science class not being a place for the exercising of religious and political agendas I say fine. As stated above, I don't care what you call the class. Just present opposing views to the students and allow them to draw their own conclusions. Above all, dispense with the hypocrisy of pretending that secular humanism is not the religion of the left, and that it is not part of a political agenda.

Gene Williams lives in Hamilton.
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Copyright © 2000-2004 Helena Independent Record and Lee Enterprises.

Raelian cult beliefs just as nutty as the Christian majority's


Recently, I was recalling the stupidest news events of 2003. Obviously, Bush was a recurring figure, but the story I fixated on was the comical cloning saga trumpeted by the Raelians.

The Raelians are a UFO cult that believe alien scientists created life on earth. The Raelians, along with an apparently affiliated organization called Clonaid, claimed a human clone had been born. The story broke at year's end in 2002 and continued well into 2003.

What I found amusing had little do with the cloning claim. I admit it was funny watching the Raelians capture the world's attention with an empty assertion of a successful human cloning procedure; however, it was the public's reaction to the cloning claim, or more specifically the reaction to the Raelians, I found especially enjoyable.

One evening, while channel surfing, I came upon a debate of the cloning controversy with a clergyman as one of the guests. Of interest were comments the clergyman made about the "nutty" beliefs held by the Raelian cult, clearly implying his own Christian beliefs were somehow objectively less "nutty."

I would have loved to ask the clergyman exactly what about the Raelian beliefs he found so comparatively nutty. Is it nutty that the Raelian leader received his revelation alone on a mountaintop? Sounds a bit like Moses. Is it nutty that the alien scientists allegedly created man in their own likeness? Hmm - that sounds familiar, too. Perhaps it's nutty that the Raelians believe our alien creators will someday return to us. No, that can't be it; Christians have been waiting patiently, nearly 2,000 years now, for the anticipated return of Jesus.

For comparison's sake, consider the assertion that communion wine and bread literally become the blood and body of Christ. Catholics call it the Doctrine of Transubstantiation; I call it borderline psychotic. Frankly, nothing the Raelians believe is any nuttier than that.

After the clergyman's remark, I noticed how often various commentators would refer to the Raelians with a smirk, suppressed laugh or clearly condescending tone. The obvious implication was that Raelian beliefs were laughable in a way mainstream religious beliefs were not.

In reality, mainstream unsupported beliefs (such as Christianity) are in no way objectively superior to the equally unsupported beliefs of fringe groups. As most would probably agree, the number of individuals holding to a belief is rarely a reliable measure of its truth.

During much of human history, people universally believed in an earth-centered universe; however, I doubt this unanimous belief had much impact on reality. Similarly, the fact most people in this country are Christian provides no evidence to conclude that Christianity is correct and the Raelians are "nutty." Evidence, not popularity, imparts merit to beliefs.

The Raelian and Christian cults represent essentially identical "ways of knowing." Extraordinary claims are made, which are not able to be disproved. Minimal, often zero, direct supporting evidence for a belief is offered, and revelation is often a primary source of knowledge.

Ultimately, belief in fundamental claims is based on faith rather than reason. This doesn't mean God does not exist, or that aliens did not create life on earth. Each assertion remains a possibility; however, religious faith is required for belief. Bottom line: Christians mocking Raelian beliefs is hypocrisy, pure and simple.

As an interesting side note, Raelian beliefs fit quite nicely with those of Christian creationists. Both creationists and Raelians agree, despite overwhelming evidence, that evolutionary theory is incorrect. Especially worthy of note is how well Raelian beliefs dovetail with the most recent variant of creationism called Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC).

In an effort to bypass church/state separation concerns, creationism has evolved into the assertion that life is too complex to have developed naturally; ergo, life must have been "designed by a creator." This specious argument offers a number of new pseudoscientific buzzwords, such as "irreducible complexity," in an effort to mask the religious underpinnings and pass itself of as scientific. Any reference to God is calculatingly and intentionally avoided. In fact, IDC proponents insist that the nature of the creator is unknown. It may be God, it may be space aliens or it may be a malevolent imp from the hellish trans-dimensional domain of Alpha-718b. It's anybody's guess. However, creationists clearly believe if IDC is taught in science classes, the unstated assumption among students will be that the "designer" is the God of Christianity. It's a clever ruse, but it's certainly not science.

If I were a science teacher and found myself forced to teach IDC alongside evolution, I would strongly emphasize the "alien scientist" creator possibility. And, of course, what discussion of "alien creators" would be complete without a discreet plug for the Raelians and their nifty cult.

It's going to be a long year. Who knows what 2004 will bring. However, regardless of what the year has in store, I find myself hoping the Raelians make the news again. I also hope to see lots of "expert" religious commentary on a variety of topics; I can always use a good laugh.

John Bice is an MSU staff member. He can be reached at bice@msu.edu.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The practice of complementary medicine is becoming more mainstream


In recent years, nurses have become well acquainted with the potential benefits of combining Western medicine with what has been called alternative, complementary or integrative medicine. Increasing numbers of nurses also practice complementary methods themselves or work in medical practices that provide alternatives.

With this issue, Kansas City Nursing News offers excerpts from previous stories that have informed and educated readers about integrative health care.

(May 5, 2003)

Internationally renowned speaker Barbara Dossey, Ph.D., RN, HNC, FAAN, was the keynote speaker for Saint Luke's Health System's second annual Perinatal Practices Conference, at the Embassy Suites KCI Hotel. The conference offered participants 6.6 nursing contact hours.

Dossey is recognized as a pioneer in the holistic nursing movement and has authored or co-authored 19 books. As an educator, consultant, researcher and author, she integrates non-traditional viewpoints with a high degree of scientific awareness...

"The challenge is to create an interdisciplinary dialogue between traditional Western medicine and complementary/alternative medicine. We have new, emerging possibilities in health care, regarding how to satisfy a patient's need to feel a sense of well-being...

"In perinatal care we should cluster necessary procedures, such as feeding, suctioning and IVs, so a baby gets some rest. We need to be aware of the noise level and the brightness of lights. We should remember that a baby comes from a tight womb and likes to have a sense of nesting, while in the nursery..."

Dossey emphasized that a nurse cannot do her best for her patients unless she takes care of herself first.

"That means taking breaks and taking 20 to 30 minutes for lunch," she said. "Nurses are paid for these and we need to encourage nurses to use them. We need to support each other in this. When we begin to value self-care at work, it begins to happen."

(April 21, 2003)

Diana Lynn Woods, Ph.D., ARNP, will present a seminar about Therapeutic Touch for Alzheimer's patients.

Woods has established a primary goal to improve the quality of life for elders who have dementia. She explores treatments that will decrease stress hormones and reduce the potential for neural damage among the elderly.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences John A. Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence recently welcomed Woods as its first Hartford post-doctoral fellow. She is an assistant professor in the college of nursing...

Woods is examining the effect of two complementary therapies on agitated behavior - music and Therapeutic Touch. By facilitating decreased stress hormone levels in patients, these treatment strategies may protect against stress-related diseases such as depression, dementia and heart disease.

"I started to use Therapeutic Touch with day hospital patients on a psychogeriatric unit in Vancouver," she said. "Several nursing homes called me afterwards and said the patients smiled more appropriately, needed less medications and slept better after a treatment. Then several physicians on the unit began to make referrals.

"I developed a modification of Therapeutic Touch for the neck, shoulders and down the back, and used it with Alzheimer's and dementia patients. I also taught caregivers the modification. It provides another form of communication for caregivers and some have said this eases their feelings of helplessness...

"The behavioral changes in patients typically lasted one to two days. Patients were less agitated, which also caused everybody else around them to be less agitated."

(April 14, 2003)

Although the concept of body-mind-spirit medicine has only been prevalent in Western culture since the 1980s, it has existed in Oriental and Indian cultures for more than 2,500 years. And recent scientific studies have verified that we can measure very low magnetic or "subtle" energy.

Several nurses recently learned fundamentals of Reiki - an ancient form of energy work - and received eight continuing education credits during a weekend-long course taught by Brad and Diane Masters, from The Masters Institute in Lee's Summit, Mo...

Reiki (ray-key) means "universal life force." Based on the idea that physical illness reflects a body out of balance, it is a technique of energy work that facilitates stress reduction and relaxation and enhances each individual's innate ability to heal. Reiki practitioners direct energy with their hands, as is true in several other forms of energy work...

According to Reiki tradition, the body has seven major energy centers, or "chakras," that correspond to the body's endocrine glandular system and regulate hormone balance and the metabolism in different areas of the body. When blocks occur in any of these energy centers pain, illness or disease may occur...

During one training exercise, a student lay on a massage table while the remaining students simultaneously offered Reiki at different points of the body.

"I was surprised by the simplicity of it," said Rachel Hill, BSN, and hypnotherapist. "It was interesting to feel heat moving through my hands, and we were all tuned in together. When I was on the table it was sort of like a daydream, where you don't want to get up and your limbs are heavy with relaxation...

"In day-to-day patient care, Reiki can help patients achieve balance. (Using Reiki) fulfills our holistic responsibility to our patients. It's good for nurses, too, who often don't care well for themselves, because it is symbiotic."

(Nov. 18, 2002)

Approximately 1,400 nurses, worldwide, are certified in Healing Touch, a five-level program that includes a one-year membership and is offered by the American Holistic Nurses Association. The program introduces participants to a broad range of energy-based healing techniques from throughout the world, including several from indigenous peoples and Native Americans. One of these nurses is Mary Oberg, MN, RN, CS, CHTP, CCM, ARNP, and a med-surg and geriatric clinical nurse specialist at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Oberg typically provides energy-based treatments for one patient per month at the hospital. She also has a private practice, during her spare time, in which she sees three to four patients each week.

"Western medicine doesn't completely solve some medical problems," Oberg said. "I felt like I was always looking for another tool to become a better nurse. Healing Touch uses hands-on and energy-based techniques to balance and align the human energy field, which reactivates the mind-body-spirit connection and encourages self-healing...

"Healing Touch incorporates a broader number of techniques from throughout the world (than Therapeutic Touch)...

"Healing Touch reduces pain and anxiety. Patients feel deeply relaxed and peaceful after a treatment and often report less pain, although some pain medications are still usually needed. Some people sleep during a session and wake up feeling refreshed..."

Healing Touch has been found effective in helping to treat neck, back and skin problems, headaches/migraines, and premenstrual and chronic fatigue syndromes. It has also assisted in wound and fracture healing, hypertension, heart and lung disease, autoimmune disorders including HIV/AIDS, cancer, grief management, arthritis, rehabilitation, disease prevention and spiritual enhancement...

"There are people doing research regarding the benefits of Healing Touch," Oberg said. "They have already compiled 60 studies to validate its effectiveness."

(Dec. 11, 2000)

Many Americans, today, routinely include herbal products in their health regimen. But the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has expressed concern that the public may not be fully aware of potential negative side effects of various alternative remedies...

Patients should discuss and disclose herbal use with all health care providers including their nurses, their primary care physician, their surgeon and their anesthesiologist.

"I think we have to ask our patients what over-the-counter supplements they take, and we need to add that information to medical charts," said Susan Holcomb, RN, CS, MN, CCRN, FNP, a Ph.D. candidate in holistic nutrition, and a nutritionist and primary care provider at Sastun Center for Integrative Health Care.

"Twenty years ago, maybe 10 to 20 percent of the population used herbal supplements on their own. I think probably 50 percent are now, but there are still a lot of Western medicine doctors who are skeptical..."

Here are some potential negative side effects of commonly used herbs:

* St John's wort may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, increase light sensitivity, or interact with different types of anesthesia induction agents because the herb may act as a mild monamine oxidase inhibitor or as a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor...

* Garlic, ginger, ginseng and ginkgo biloba inhibit platelet function and blood clotting, which are essential body functions following surgery. Garlic...may also interact with anticoagulants. Siberian ginseng is counter-indicated in cases of high blood pressure.

* Echinacea and goldenseal...may interfere with immuno-suppressive therapy, and goldenseal should be avoided among individuals who have high blood pressure. Goldenseal coagulant activity may also oppose the action of heparin because of a compound in this root called berberine...

"Nurses should get one of the more respected books written on (the subject) for their office," Holcomb said.

Recommended sources include the "Physician's Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines"; "Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants"; "The Green Pharmacy"; "Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine"; and "Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies."

(July 31, 2000)

In the Mayan tradition, the word "sastun" means healing amulet. When Jane Murray, MD, left her position as chairman of family medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center to open her own medical practice, she christened it Sastun Center for Integrative Health Care.

Murray offers traditional Western medicine to her patients, in combination with several other medical professionals who specialize in Swedish and deep tissue massage, range of motion work that provides stress reduction, deep relaxation and pain relief; Chinese herbal medicine; and craniosacral and polarity therapy...

Debbie Mitchell, RN, BSN, ...said she had looked for a medical practice like this for a long time, before she joined the staff in May 1998...

Mitchell said she has always felt comfortable working in this integrative health care environment. She had previously worked in a chiropractor's office.

"I've always been very open to everything," she said. "I've always believed in the importance of psychological and emotional health on physical health...

Mitchell admires the fact that Murray is not quick to "push pills" on patients. Murray frequently works with natural hormones in treating her female patients, who make up the majority of her caseload...

Mitchell said she has learned a lot about women's health while working at Sastun Center.

"I've also seen the benefits of better nutrition and using supplements, and how they can really help you and possibly reduce the number of medications you need," she said...

Sastun Center places great importance on education. All Sastun practitioners participate regularly in public lectures, seminars and panel discussions concerning health care issues and ways to promote health.

"I think this should be the medicine of the future...We need to take more control of our own health and demand it from our physicians," she said.

©Kansas City Nursing News 2004

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Prophecies of the psychic psycho


December 31, 2003

Today is the last day of 2003 and that can mean only one thing: It's time to deliver our annual predictions from the twisted mind of the Psychic Psycho.

January: Roy Barraclough of Rural Health Management Corporation will check into a sanitarium after the weight of 30,000 disenfranchised souls crushes his psyche and his spirit.

To save time and money, the FBI will establish a field office in Pahrump and staff it with 400 special agents.

February: The Pahrump Regional Planning Commission will fire Tri-Core Engineering amid allegations the master plan the firm developed "isn't enough like California."

Two days later the Nye County Board of Commissioners will dissolve the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission.

The Pahrump Town Board will alienate the new town manager at his first meeting of the month.

March: The new town manager resigns; collects $70,000 in severance pay.

Insurance company execs decide they've screwed long enough with Mountain View Casino and Bowl owner John McCaw, who announces a July groundbreaking for a new and improved casino and bowling alley.

A slightly stronger than usual windstorm whips through the tiny village of Goldfield and destroys virtually every structure in town. Experts determine the damage is in excess of $11.

April: Roy Barraclough feels much better by now, but his heart is broken after psychiatrists tell him he'll have to stay in restraints until Nov. 30.

County Manager Mike Maher wants to know if he can get the same deal as the new ex-town manager.

The Nye County Commission tells him that, unlike some town managers, the character, integrity and state of mind of county managers must be attacked in public before a formal payoff could be discussed.

May: A perfect example of how resistant to change some people can be is made after the road department installs a four-way stop sign at Linda Street and Wilson Road.

A man who causes the first traffic accident at the improved intersection tells police: "That sign wasn't there when I moved here, why should I have to do what it says?" (Actually, the above paragraph is a true story. The four-way was installed quite a while back at Basin Avenue and Barney Street. I was just looking for an excuse to get the dimwit's comments in the newspaper.)

June: National television news outlets break into regularly scheduled programming to report the sun has exploded in the West.

Fears are soon allayed after more responsible types realize it's just another summer in Southern Nevada.

The Nye County Board of Commissioners hold a 17-hour meeting in Pahrump. The same five people who show up for every meeting to bitch and complain about anything and everything consume 16 hours and seven minutes making public comment.

The 398 seniors that comprise the Class of 2004 receive their diplomas.

July: All but two of the 398 grads have left Nye County. They move away from their friends and families for three reasons: find work, go to college, and, "to be closer to like a freaking hospital, dude. Are you like whack?"

A man of his word, John McCaw lays a ceremonial cornerstone as the rebuilding of the Mountain View begins.

Meanwhile, a petition drive is underway to give Pahrump a different name; one that more accurately reflects her personality.

Signs are erected at the entrances to town welcoming visitors to Billboard City.

August: The 17th 100-year flood of 2004 devastates Pahrump.

The Pahrump Town Board signs an ordinance outlawing flash floods.

A startling number of elected offices are suddenly vacated as Henry Neth, Joni Eastley, Patricia Cox, Candice Trummell, Midge Carver, Rick Ewing, Jeanna Howard, Charlotte LeVar, Richard Billman, Paula Glidden, Robert Lane, John Davis, Bob Beckett, Tony DeMeo, Sam Merlino, Sandy Musselman, Pat Foster, Dawn Murphy, Melanie Reiner, Dennis Keating, Nancy Sollinger, Tracie Ward, Debbie Wescoatt, Shawn Hall, Murray Loomis, and Donna Motis resign in disgust.

September: Roy Barraclough guarantees he's "all better now" and demands to be shown some respect. His doctors meet in secret to discuss upping his dose of lithium.

The primary election turns violent after a smattering of Pahrump voters who - resistant to change, don't you know - burn down the community center in protest of the new voting machines.

The 18th 100-year flood of 2004 wipes out the Pahrump Winery.

October: Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., stops in Pahrump to press the flesh and kiss the babies as he pursues the keys to the Governor's Mansion. People who do their homework wish him the best of luck.

Citing exorbitant telephone bills and mileage reimbursements owed to its 400 special agents in Pahrump, the FBI abandons Washington, D.C., and moves its headquarters to Highway 160 and Homestead Road.

November: Giving his doctors a note written on an Etch-a-Sketch and a fortune removed from a Chinese cookie, Roy Barraclough pleads with them to accept the pathetic offering as having met condition number three on the certificate of sanity he so desperately hopes to secure by Nov. 30.

Tragedy strikes when 10 people are trampled after a herd of Pahrumpalopes stampede the buffet line at Saddle West.

December: Roy Barraclough's doctors "assure" him he will be returned to society sometime in January, just as soon as he can secure funding for his release. Wink-wink.

Happy New Year Nye County.

Write to Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@pvtimes.com.

Stars (still) in her eyes


Famed psychic Irene Hughes has slowed down, but hasn't retired

Times Features Writer

When the late eccentric and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes sought advice, he called on psychic Irene Hughes to look to the stars for help.

"It was around 1968 and I first did a consultation and reading for one of his accountants," said 83-year-old Hughes, who has lived in a large, lofty country house in Crete since 1971.

"I didn't know who I was talking with until the accountant returned and brought Mr. Hughes. I'll never forget it. My downtown Chicago office at the time was at 30 West Washington Street. Mr. Hughes came in and was wearing a white linen suit and a Panama-style hat. And he sat across from me with one leg over the arm of the chair, very comfortable and relaxed."

At that time, Hughes and her psychic abilities were making national headlines. Her contemporaries in the field, who shared equal fame at that time, were Jeane Dixon and Sydney Omarr, both of whom at one time served as syndicated horoscope columnists and astrologers for The Times.

Hughes has outlived Dixon and Omarr, and along the way achieved greater noteworthiness, especially for her uncanny talent of helping police departments around the country solve or locate key crime evidence.

It's the life of a woman who has written three books, attended White House presidential prayer breakfasts, hosted a show for WMAQ for 14 years and 10 years for radio station B96, and helped the Gabor sisters sort out romance problems.

Hughes is a Bolivar, Tenn., native, of Cherokee heritage, who grew up on grandfather Joseph Carter's watermelon farm.

"I knew I had a gift at an early age," Hughes said. "At 4 years old, I disrupted our church services by announcing to our minister that in one year he would not be around anymore. My mother scolded me, but in private, for being so bold. But what I had predicted came to be. The right side of the brain is the psychic side and the left side is the logic side."

Hughes married her husband, Bill, now 86, 58 years ago and they've been companions through life's surprises ever since.

"Bill's my supporter and my partner in life," Hughes said. "He's very intelligent, loves his crossword puzzles and is always there when I need something."

The couple have three daughters. Their son Bill Jr., lives a mile away. They also have 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"I remember being in third grade and my teacher told my entire class that I had a famous mother who was a celebrity," said daughter Patricia Hughes, who lives in Tinley Park.

"For me, she was my mother not a famous person. I stood up and said out loud 'she's not a celebrity she's my mom.' I really didn't know everything my mother had done."

At the height of her business ventures, Hughes' office was based in an five-room suite at 500 N. Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago, where her consultations could cost as much as $500 per hour. She kept the address for 35 years before recently deciding to travel more for pleasure and deciding to work from home.

Even though Hughes has slowed down -- she hasn't made public predictions of national events since 1990 -- she still does lectures, charts and writes a weekly horoscope and astrology column for a newspaper insert called INDIGO, which is included in Sunday editions of the Star newspaper chain.

Even though she's rubbed elbows with presidents Johnson and Nixon, Hughes said she's never been "star struck" when working with famous people.

"I think my most interesting client was an international ambassador for Red China," Hughes said.

"We were in constant communication for my services and then one day one of his letters arrived opened. I never heard from him again."

She said one of her most famous predictions was the Chicago blizzard of 1967, which gained her headlines around the world.

Irene and Bill have room after room of memories and awards of her accomplishments, from plaques from police stations to keys to cities across the country. She also has an entire room devoted to Egyptian ornaments and treasures from her travels to Egypt, mostly notably with the Chicago Press Association in 1970. She considers Egypt as one of her favorite places in the world, after Chicago.

And although Hughes doesn't admit defeat, there are times when she's had to fine-tune her predictions -- such as the one that had Jacqueline Onassis marrying rock star Bon Jovi in 1990.

During the 1980s and early '90s, her services were called upon each January by The National Enquirer to give a year's worth of predictions.

Hughes' current goal is to write her memoirs.

"I've put it off for a long time," she said. "Now it's time to tell my story."

* Philip Potempa can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or at (800) 837-3232, ext. 4327.


Listen to Times Features Writer and Columnist Philip Potempa interview psychic Irene Hughes at 9:30 a.m. Thursday on WLJE-FM (105.5). For more information about Irene Hughes and her services, call (708) 672-7090.

Here's what she saw:

Irene Hughes saw her rise to fame with predictions during the late 1960s and early '70s:

* In 1966, she twice predicted the Middle East problems that escalated in 1967.

* She named the Cardinals as the 1967 World Series winners.

* Skeptics and television comedians joked when she foretold of an earthquake shaking a wide band from St. Louis to the state lines between Kentucky and Tennessee between Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, 1967. Strong tremors rumbled through the exact region on Nov. 9, 1967.

* On Jan. 31, 1968, she predicted then-President Lyndon B. Johnson would announce his decision not to run for re-election. The president issued that same statement on television coast to coast on April 1, 1968.

* Hughes predicted as early as 1963 that Jacqueline Kennedy would remain widowed only for a short time before remarrying. She foresaw, "Jackie will marry a much older man than herself -- a sort of father image."

She later married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

* She astounded world leaders (who found it harsh and unprofessional) with the prediction North Vietnamese Premier Ho Chi Minh would die during the last week of August 1969. It happened just as she described, only one week later during the first days of September.

* In 1962, she wrote the exact date of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson's death: July 14, 1965.

- - From "The Amazing Prophecies of Irene F. Hughes" by Brad Steiger (1970 Warner Books)

Deep rift over creationism grows from book about Grand Canyon


Friday, January 09, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

By Julie Cart
Los Angeles Times

How old is the Grand Canyon? Most scientists agree with the version that Grand Canyon National Park rangers tell visitors: that the 10-mile chasm in northern Arizona was carved by the Colorado River 5 million to 6 million years ago.

Now, however, a book in the park's bookstores since last summer tells another story. "Grand Canyon: A Different View," by veteran Colorado River guide Tom Vail, asserts that the canyon was formed by the Old Testament flood, the one Noah's Ark survived, and can be no older than a few thousand years.

The book includes essays from creationist scientists and theologians. Vail wrote in the introduction, "For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years. Then I met the Lord. Now, I have a different view of the canyon, which according to a biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than a few thousand years old."

Reaction to the book has been sharply divided. The American Geological Institute and seven geo-science organizations sent letters to the park and to agency officials calling for the book to be removed. In part to appease some outraged Canyon employees, the book was moved from the natural-sciences section to the inspirational-reading section of park bookstores.

"I've had reactions from the staff all over the board on it," Deputy Superintendent Kate Cannon said. "There were certainly people on the interpretive staff that were upset by it. Respect of visitors' views is imperative, but we do urge our interpreters to give scientifically correct information."

Park Service spokesman David Barna, based in Washington, D.C., said each park determines which products are sold in its bookstores and gift shops. The creationist book at the Grand Canyon was unanimously approved by a panel of park and gift-shop personnel.

But the book's status at the park is still in question. Grand Canyon Superintendent Joe Alston has sought guidance from Park Service headquarters in Washington.

Meanwhile, the book has sold out and is being reordered.

The flap highlights what officials say is a problem for the national-park system: how to respect visitors' spiritual views that may directly contradict the agency's accepted scientific presentations and maintain the necessary division of church and state.

"We struggle. Creationism versus science is a big issue at some places," said Deanne Adams, the Park Service's chief of interpretation for the Pacific Region.

Adams said the questions arise most often at Western parks where geology is often highlighted, and singled out John Day Fossil Beds Monument in Oregon as a place where scientifically determined dates have been challenged.

"We like to acknowledge that there are different viewpoints, but we have to stick with the science. That's our training," Adams said. She said there is no federal guideline for how to answer religious inquiries. "Every fundamentalist or Christian group has a take on how they interpret the Bible. They are entitled to believe whatever they believe. It's not our job to change their minds."

The Park Service last summer ordered the reinstatement of three plaques bearing Bible verses that were erected at Grand Canyon National Park in 1970 by a group called the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. Alston called for their removal last summer after a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Barna said Park Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy overruled Alston because he and the agency's regional attorney were not sufficiently well-versed in constitutional law.

"We contend that our superintendent knows a lot about wilderness protection but not enough about separation of church and state," Barna said.

Critics say that by condoning religious material in the park, the federal government is endorsing a particular spiritual point of view.

"The Bush administration appears to be sponsoring a program of faith-based parks," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "Any time a question arises, the professionals and lawyers are reversed and being told to respect the displays of religious symbols. We believe the actions by these officials violate their oath of office to defend the Constitution."

Some scholars, however, say they have no objection to books that offer religious interpretations of the parks, providing they are not marketed as science.

Historian Stephen Pyne, whose book, "How the Canyon Became Grand," is also on sale in the park's bookstores, said he doesn't mind if Vail's book is sold at the park, as long as it's not displayed in the science section.

"I have not read the book, but I'm familiar with the genre," Pyne said. "I think the Park Service would be remiss if it did not explain that there is not an agreed-upon story about the canyon, that there are conflicting stories. But science assumes it was not formed by a great flood or divine intervention. What this creationists' group is looking for is some sort of validation by the Park Service. There's an agenda there."

Not so, says an official of the organization that published Vail's book, the San Diego-based Institute for Creation Research.

"We have a secular presentation at the Grand Canyon, and we don't want to suppress other ways of thinking," said Steven Austin, who heads ICR's geology department and worked with Vail on the book. "But there needs to be room for more than one interpretation. It is appropriate to discuss theology to express a creationist view. As long as all sides are presented, I don't see any problem with it."

Vail could not be reached for comment.

George Billingsley, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been studying the Grand Canyon for 36 years and said scientists never have agreed about the exact age of the canyon, although most concur that the oldest formations are nearly 2 billion years old. A scientific symposium held in 2000 to resolve the question of how the canyon was formed dissolved in acrimony and adjourned without consensus, he said.

As for the creationist theory, Billingsley said, "If someone presented that theory to me, I'd say you gotta have proof. You have to have some kind of mechanism to show what you say happened. I don't know how to argue with someone like that.

"But as far as putting the book in the bookstore, that's fine. That's the freedoms we have. Everyone has to make up their own mind. You could put a book in there that says alien beings created the canyon. The more ideas you have out, the better."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company



For over twenty years the story of the Rendlesham Forest UFOs in Suffolk has gathered momentum. But the incident has never been properly explained, until now…

The alleged UFO sighting has become one of the world's most talked about extra-terrestrial encounters.

Now, Inside Out has investigated the case and can reveal exclusive details that may change opinion.

Not only can we tell you that most of it was a hoax but also how it was done.


Mysterious lights appeared over Rendlesham Forest During the nights of December 26 and 27 1980, American servicemen stationed at RAF Woodbridge and Bentwaters in Suffolk reported mysterious lights in nearby Rendlesham Forest.

Visit our photo gallery to re-live the events

A team of airmen, including Deputy Base Commander Lieutenant Colonel Halt, left the base to investigate. Halt gave a running commentary into a dictaphone.

They were armed with an image intensifier and a tape recorder but were unable to identify the source.

Listen to the recording of Lt. Halt's investigation

The men chased a varied assortment of lights, described as 'weird phenomena.'

They claimed that they had encountered an alien craft, which they established a landing site for.

Following the incident, the men filed top secret witness reports, which were strictly classified.

However, copies of the tape-recording were leaked and the incident attracted attention.


One interesting utterance that a puzzled Halt gives on the tape recording is, "The red, white and blue lights of the UFO are still hovering over Woodbridge."

Kevin Conde exclusively reveals that the lights were a result of a practical joke But former USAF Security Policemen, Kevin Conde, has exclusively revealed that these lights were the result of a practical joke he played on the gullible airman.

Watch an extended interview with Kevin Conde - part one

Conde says, "I drove my patrol car out of sight from the gatehouse, turned on the red and blue emergency lights and pointed white flashlights through the mist into the air."

Watch an extended interview with Kevin Conde - part two

"The bottom line is that, that was not a UFO it was a 1979 Plymouth Volare!" explains a bemused Conde.

Witness reports

James Easton, a writer specialising in UFO phenomena, recently stumbled across the eyewitness reports, hidden in a released US government file.

Easton says that they make breathtaking reading. Each individual account conflicts with the other. But most damning of all is the admission that the men knew they were 'chasing lighthouse beams' from the Orford Ness lighthouse.

One of Halt's men says he touched an alien craft. Another states nothing happened at all.

Halt maintains a light out at sea is a UFO. Easton says he has identified that light as coming from the Shipwash Buoy, which is now out of service.

Judgement questioned

Were Police car lights responsible for the 'weird phenomena'? By the end of 1980, the Suffolk bases were on high alert as US relations with soviet Russia worsened.

Conde has questioned the airmen's conduct at this crucial time.

Conde says, "If they're out in the forest seeing red and blue pulsing lights and I'm back here doing this prank with red and blue pulsing lights, what else do they think they're seeing?"

"You have to call into question the judgement of military officers, in charge of a front line base in the Cold War, who can't distinguish a UFO from a bank of police car lights."


Despite these fresh revelations, ufologists maintain that there is a high level cover-up. Some believe that the witness reports are false.

Brenda Butler still believes that the phenomenon was true. She was the first person to investigate the case.

"Rendlesham is a very magical place," says Brenda. "It's like a doorway opening to another dimension. We've seen ghostly things and mists"

One thing is certain, Conde's confession 23 years on completely turns the alleged Rendlesham UFO encounter on its head.

Local can't shake eerie encounters

Staff Writer
January 12, 2004

Gennie Fritz didn't sleep in her own bedroom for six years.

"When I would go to bed at night, my bed would shake," she recalled. Terrified, Fritz, then 11 years old, would only sleep either in her mother's bedroom or on the couch; the behavior continued until she left for college.

The shaking bed was not the only strange thing that happened to Fritz. She has predicted a plane crash, seen orbs of light dance around her room and seen glimpses of strange shadow figures.

Fritz recounts her experiences of living in two haunted houses, one in Pittsburgh and the other in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on HauntedDiary.com and GhostChatter.com - sister sites that have attracted a massive community of paranormal buffs. About 2,200 people have registered to chat at GhostChatter.com.

"[My mother and I] felt a need to share our experiences, and we wanted a place where other people could go and say, 'Oh, I am having these things happen to me, too'," Fritz said.

Until age 18, Fritz lived with her mother and brother in a haunted house in the South Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb. The first paranormal experience she can remember - the plane crash prediction - occurred when she was 4 years old.

"I remember looking outside my bedroom window and seeing a plane crash into what looked like the woods below," Fritz recalled.

She ran screaming to her mother, but no plane had crashed - until later that evening. HauntedDiary.com has a newspaper clipping about the crash.

Growing up, Fritz had more bizarre experiences. Twinkly-sounding music, "something similar to a melody from a music box," seemed to come from nowhere. Glowing orbs - which she nicknamed "Tinkerbell" - danced around her bedroom. A shadow figure appeared in front of the family's Christmas tree. The figure slowly developed arms, then legs, then a torso. Fritz, age 11, hid under a blanket.

After a year at Slippery Rock University, Fritz moved into a duplex in Wilkes-Barre with her boyfriend. The duplex, apparently, was also haunted.

"Jason had experiences there himself, before I came around, so it is not like I brought the ghosts with me," Fritz said of her boyfriend.

"I personally feel that this side [of the duplex] is occupied by a mild spirit who doesn't seem to do much," she said. Lumps of coal that mysteriously appeared in the basement have been mysteriously repositioned. Shadow figures have appeared in an old mirror that previous owners left behind.

In January 2002, Fritz and her mother launched HauntedDiary.com, featuring their personal accounts and perplexing photographs from inside the houses. Ghostchatter.com was launched in spring 2003, when Fritz's MSNBC-hosted chat room became troublesome.

Fritz chats online when her 12-month-old daughter is napping, though the baby's grandmother, immobilized by a bad leg, is the main administrator of the site.

About 30 people gathered at the community's two off-line get-togethers - the first, in July 2003, was at Point View Hotel in Brentwood, Pa., and the second, the following October, was at Larry's Roadhouse in Brookline, Pa. Both places are supposedly haunted.

"It took researching on our part, because you don't go up to someone and say, 'Hey, you got a ghost in that building?'" she said. "We had a tour and got to hear about the history of the buildings."

The group also used an Ouija board. Some people reported "feeling a presence."

Fritz is planning a third get-together in Pittsburgh next spring.

"We are planning a haunted bed and breakfast, where people can stay overnight if they want," she said. "We are anticipating a lot will come to this one - maybe 100, if not more."

Fritz thinks that the ghosts she has encountered are previous owners of the houses but does not know exactly what they want.

"They might be lost or lonely. I think it depends on the spirit."

Even though she has a daughter now, Fritz does not mind sharing her home with ghosts, under one condition - "as long as whatever it is isn't scary."


Earthquakes can be predicted months in advance


Major earthquakes can be predicted months in advance, argues UCLA seismologist and mathematical geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok.

"Earthquake prediction is called the Holy Grail of earthquake science, and has been considered impossible by many scientists," said Keilis-Borok, a professor in residence in UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and department of earth and space sciences. "It is not impossible."

"We have made a major breakthrough, discovering the possibility of making predictions months ahead of time, instead of years, as in previously known methods," Keilis-Borok said. "This discovery was not generated by an instant inspiration, but culminates 20 years of multinational, interdisciplinary collaboration by a team of scientists from Russia, the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Canada."

The team includes experts in pattern recognition, geodynamics, seismology, chaos theory, statistical physics and public safety. They have developed algorithms to detect precursory earthquake patterns.

In June of 2003, this team predicted an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 or higher would strike within nine months in a 310-mile region of Central California whose southern part includes San Simeon, where a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck on Dec. 22.

In July of 2003, the team predicted an earthquake in Japan of magnitude 7 or higher by Dec. 28, 2003, in a region that includes Hokkaido. A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003.

Previously, the team made "intermediate-term" predictions, years in advance. The 1994 Northridge earthquake struck 21 days after an 18-month period when the team predicted that an earthquake of magnitude 6.6 or more would strike within 120 miles from the epicenter of the 1992 Landers earthquake — an area that includes Northridge. The magnitude 6.8 Northridge earthquake caused some $30 billion in damage. The 1989 magnitude 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake fulfilled a five-year forecast the team issued in 1986.

Keilis-Borok's team now predicts an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.4 by Sept. 5, 2004, in a region that includes the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert, and an area south of it.

The team has submitted a description of its new short-term earthquake prediction research to Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, a leading international journal in geophysics.

Prediction by this method is based on observations of small earthquakes that occur daily.

"We call our new approach, 'tail wags the dog,'" Keilis-Borok said. "For example, I recently had a sharp pain in a small area of my arm. The doctor sent me for an MRI to test whether this pain was preceded by an unfelt deterioration of the muscles in the whole arm during the last few months. If yes, the pain signals that the deterioration has escalated, so I am in trouble, and need urgent medical treatment. If not, I may have just hit something, the pain will subside, and it's of little concern. To detect these symptoms in order of their appearance — first emerged, first detected — could seem more natural but it is much more difficult; we would not know when and where to look for long-term deterioration.

"Similarly, we look backwards to make our earthquake predictions. First, we search for quickly formed long chains of small earthquakes. Each chain is our candidate to a newly discovered short-term precursor. In the vicinity of each such chain, we look backwards, and see its history over the preceding years — whether our candidate was preceded by certain seismicity patterns. If yes, we accept the candidate as a short-term precursor and start a nine-month alarm. If not, we disregard this candidate."

In seismically active regions, the Earth's crust generates constant background seismicity, which the team monitors for the symptoms of approaching strong earthquakes. Specifically, they consider the following four symptoms: small earthquakes become more frequent in an area (not necessarily on the same fault line); earthquakes become more clustered in time and space; earthquakes occur almost simultaneously over large distances within a seismic region; and the ratio of medium-magnitude earthquakes to smaller earthquakes increases.

One of the challenges in earthquake prediction has been to achieve a high proportion of successful predictions, while minimizing false alarms and unpredicted events. The team's current predictions have not missed any earthquake, and have had its two most recent ones come to pass.

Still, not all seismologists are convinced. "Application of nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory is often counter-intuitive," Keilis-Borok said, "so acceptance by some research teams will take time. Other teams, however, accepted it easily."

Keilis-Borok, 82, has been working on earthquake prediction for more than 20 years. A mathematical geophysicist, he was the leading seismologist in Russia for decades, said his UCLA colleague John Vidale, who calls Keilis-Borok the world's leading scientist in the art of earthquake prediction. Keilis-Borok is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the European, Austrian and Pontifical academies of science. He founded Moscow's International Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics, and joined UCLA's faculty in 1999.

His research team has started experiments in advance prediction of destructive earthquakes in Southern California, Central California, Japan, Israel and neighboring countries, and plans to expand prediction to other regions.

Vidale, interim director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, said, "Most seismologists agree that the ingredients of the 'tail wags the dog' method are sensible, but argue about the performance. However, the proof is in the pudding, and Professor Keilis-Borok's methods have now delivered several correct and impressive forecasts."

At the most recent stage of the research, four members of the team worked at UCLA on the "tail wags the dog" method for short-term prediction: Keilis-Borok; Peter Shebalin, geophysicist from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Institute of the Physics of the Earth in Paris; Purdue University mathematician and geophysicist Andrei Gabrielov; and UCLA researcher Ilya Zaliapin, whose field is analysis of complex systems.

Keilis-Borok's team communicates the predictions to disaster management authorities in the countries where a destructive earthquake is predicted. These authorities might use such predictions, although their accuracy is not 100 percent, to prevent considerable damage from the earthquakes — save lives and reduce economic losses — by undertaking such preparedness measures as conducting simulation alarms, checking vulnerable objects and mobilizing post?disaster services, Keilis-Borok said.

During the last few years, the team was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

How does Keilis-Borok compare this research with other discoveries he has made over his scientific career?

"I think this is the strongest result we have obtained so far," he said.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Penn on creationism


It was also a matter of unbridled opinion. Here, for instance, is Jillette talking about an installment of his show dealing with creationism being taught in schools: "Of course, creationism is a psychotic fairy tale for mentally ill people. That doesn't mean those mentally ill people don't have the right to teach their children.''

Life called 'intelligent design'


The movement offers a modern view of creation.

Statesman Journal
January 11, 2004

John McCaslin tried to imagine the speaker in a helmet.

"I'm looking at him as a Patton in the Christian World," he said during the lunch break of a day-long seminar on intelligent design Saturday. "He's a strategist and attempts to bring the intelligent Christians of the world together."

McCaslin was referring to Phillip Johnson, a leading proponent of the intelligent-design movement, which asserts that the world and all its inhabitants did not originate and develop by chance or natural selection.

Johnson's strategy is to drive a wedge into the "dogma" of evolutionary theory that is taught in schools and that dominates national media and science.

He wants children to at least be taught that there is controversy surrounding the 145-year-old theories of Darwin. And that there are many who do not believe in the evolutionary gospel to which many scientists adhere.

And his approach of unifying all the various facets of Creationism under the intelligent-design umbrella appeals to McCaslin and many of the 300 people who attended his lecture at Morning Star Community Church in South Salem.

Proponents of intelligent design contend that there is an intelligent cause underlying creation. A fundamental claim of the philosophy is that the intelligent cause is the only way to explain the complex nature of life, and that there is empirical evidence of such.

Johnson's talk was sponsored by the Salem-based Oregon Theological Seminary. Jay Wesley Richards, vice-president of Seattle's Discovery Institute, also spoke about his upcoming book, "The Privileged Planet."

Johnson does not present his point as a minister. The Harvard University graduate and law professor at the University of California at Berkeley does not use the Bible as a scientific text.

He emphasizes strategy and cooperation among Christians who are frustrated by the "utter contempt" the scientific establishment has of their beliefs.

Overall, Johnson said, the battle is going well. He says scientists are worried about the movement, as evidenced by the many pages of counter-literature they publish against books such as his "Darwin on Trial" and "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds."

Critics say intelligent design is an effort to inject God into science and classrooms and is based on a untested hypothesis.

Johnson acknowledges that the evolutionary scientists have a lot of power and money — tax money.

"The only problem they really have is that their story isn't true," he said to laughter and applause.

Johnson's remarks appealed to Becky Glodt, a senior biology major at Western Oregon University. A biologist and a Christian, Glodt lives at the intersection of the two philosophies.

"Friends say, 'You can't be both,'" she said. "But you can be a biologist and look at the faults that have been made" in the development of evolutionary theory.

Glodt wants to be a high school biology teacher, but doesn't want to be gagged by rules that she says prevent teachers from discussing the controversies of Creationism and evolution.

Tara McLain can be reached at (503) 399-6705.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Jach Pursel has turned 'channeling' for an entity he calls Lazaris into a golden empire

Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 12:00 AM


It's a story that Orlando resident Jach Pursel has told probably hundreds of times: Sitting quietly on his bed one day in 1974, he slipped deep into meditation as his wife watched. Then words spilled from his lips, and Lazaris made his first appearance through Pursel.

For nearly three decades, Pursel has claimed to communicate, or channel, information from the "nonphysical entity" he said is called Lazaris (pronounced La-ZAR-is).

He has built a million-dollar business, Concept Synergy, around Lazaris -- a being that no one has ever seen. Since 1974, followers have shelled out money for Lazaris seminars, videotapes, audiotapes, books, calendars and music CDs.

Followers say Lazaris has taught them about love and friendship, but the mystery and intrigue surrounding Pursel have provided fuel for his detractors. Much of the skepticism stems from the 2001 accidental death of Pursel's ex-wife and the suicide of her husband the same day at the secluded southwest Orange County compound the trio shared.

Pursel, who still lives at the waterfront compound near Walt Disney World, remains undaunted by his critics. His followers -- whom he says are mostly doctors, lawyers and business people -- are pleased with the lessons they learn from Lazaris, Pursel said.

"The criticisms are either very bizarre or untrue. Some people are jealous and envious," said Pursel, 56. "I'm not going to give it any energy. If other people reading those detractions decide they don't want anything to do with Lazaris or Concept Synergy, then good, they probably wouldn't have a good time anyway."

Born John W. Pursel, he later changed his first name to Jach as a believer in numerology -- the idea that numbers corresponding with certain letters can influence a person's life. Pursel said he attended the University of Michigan and, at age 20, married his childhood sweetheart, Peny Lake. He went to work as a claims adjuster for State Farm Insurance and was advancing to management, he said.

That was when Lazaris entered their lives. In 1972, after his wife read a Cosmopolitan article about Silva Mind Control -- a program that claims to develop clairvoyance and memory, among other things -- he attended a course and learned to meditate. "It wasn't something that I did particularly well. I mostly fell asleep," Pursel said.

Pursel said that in October 1974, while living in Lakeland, Fla., he was meditating with his wife sitting by his side and started speaking with a foreign accent. He identified himself to Peny as Lazaris. Pursel said he never remembers his channeling sessions, but his wife recorded the sessions with handwritten notes and tape recordings.

Peny Pursel told her husband after the first channeling session that Lazaris had never taken a physical form but had come through Jach Pursel to be closer to her.

In the years to follow, "tens of thousands of people have found their friendships with Lazaris," Pursel said on his Web site Lazaris.com. They have paid hundreds of dollars for one-on-one sessions, group workshops or videotapes of Pursel channeling Lazaris and preaching love, friendship and inner peace.

Believers say Lazaris is a good friend who offers sound advice about life through workshops with titles such as "Developing Self-Confidence" and "Forgiving Yourself."

In the Awakening the Love video made in 1985, Pursel, speaking as Lazaris, explained who Lazaris is: "We are a spark of consciousness -- a spark of consciousness that does not have a form. Content without form. Therefore to talk with you we use this body, we use this mechanism so as to let you know we're communicating with you so that you know we are all the same."

In 1979, Pursel moved Concept Synergy -- the business behind the being -- from Florida to California, where the New Age movement was taking off. During the next decade, celebrities touted him. Actress Sharon Gless thanked him in her 1987 Emmy acceptance speech. Actress Shirley MacLaine lauded Lazaris as her "spiritual guide and teacher" in her 1987 book "It's All in the Playing."

About the same time, Pursel and his wife divorced and she married Michaell Prestini, a Concept Synergy business partner, who later changed his name to Michaell North, also for numerology purposes. Instead of breaking up the partnership, Pursel and Peny and Michaell North became closer. They shared homes, bank accounts and work.

"The three of us had a connection. It was not a menage a trois, as some people suspected. It worked well. We shared everything; all the properties and other things were in all our names," Pursel said.

In 1988, with the cost of living skyrocketing in California, Pursel moved his business to Palm Beach, Fla.

In 1997 they moved to Orlando because, Pursel said, they liked the positive energy surrounding Central Florida. They lived in a four-house compound surrounded by a concrete privacy fence on a private road called Penny Lane Drive.

According to property records, the largest house is a two-story home listed on the Orange County tax rolls as worth $4.2 million. That home, which belonged to Peny and Michaell North, is about 20,000 square feet with six bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

It was in that home that the couple died hours apart in 2001.

On May 9, 2001, investigators were called to the house to find Peny North, 54, dead in a wheelchair. Michaell North, 55, told authorities that his 313-pound wife had been in pain for weeks, taking codeine every two hours and drinking vodka to relieve the pain. Her death was determined to be an accident. She had toxic levels of codeine and aspirin in her system and was not able to metabolize the drugs fast enough because of her weight and myriad health problems, according to an Orange County Sheriff's investigative report.

Hours later Michaell North was found dead in a lounge chair at the screened-in pool. The Orange County medical examiner determined his death was a suicide from nitrous oxide poisoning. His suicide note said he didn't want to go on without his wife of 24 years, Orange County sheriff's investigators said.

Michaell and Peny North left a combined $6.2 million in assets to Pursel, according to their wills.

Peny and Michaell North's deaths stunned Pursel's -- and Lazaris' -- fans.

Unaware that Peny North was so gravely ill, many followers questioned why Lazaris couldn't predict, or prevent, the deaths or help Peny overcome her health problems. Looking for answers, some turned to a Web site dedicated to skeptics.

The site, cosmicfool.com, was started in September 2000 by Katie Dean and Ted Vollmer. For 12 years they considered Lazaris a "loving, good-humored entity giving logical, common-sense information" and traveled to seminars and bought Lazaris audio- and videotapes. But they started questioning their relationship with Lazaris after witnessing Peny North's backbiting of some followers on the Lazaris Web message board, Vollmer said. They thought she should have been above that because of her close relationship with Lazaris.

"We were questioning and wanted to get other people's feedback," Vollmer said. "We wanted to see if anybody else was questioning."

Craig B., 46, of Lancaster, Pa., who doesn't want his last name used for fear of repercussions from work, spent more than a decade following Lazaris. Peny North's death was "a big red flag," he says.

"According to Lazaris, Peny was the most spiritually advanced soul," Craig, a computer software programmer, said from his home. "Then why would she die the way she did, especially since she had unlimited access to Lazaris?"

James Randi, a former magician who is known worldwide for debunking claims of the supernatural, paranormal and occult, said channelers such as Pursel are scam artists who eventually retire when "they get fabulously wealthy."

"These people are vultures. They sit and wait for the weak and vulnerable and eat them up," he said from his Fort Lauderdale office. "They don't offer any evidence. They don't offer any proof. They just ask people to believe."

But longtime followers say such criticism is motivated by jealousy.

Susannah Nathan, 58, moved to Orlando in 2001 from the Miami area to be closer to the Lazaris workshops. Nathan, who formerly worked in human resources for a large computer company and owned a holistic healing center, said in the past decade she has received sound, practical advice about spirituality and life.

Now, Nathan teaches and lectures about holistic healing. She considers Lazaris a "private part of my spirituality."

"Lazaris isn't for everybody," she said from her Orlando home. "Not everybody wants to look at how they're creating their life and get in touch with how to change it."

Helen and Andrew Avalon of Orlando said they first saw a Lazaris videotape in 1986 and they felt as though they were getting sensible advice about work and their personal lives. They moved to Central Florida in 1998 from California, in part to be closer to the workshops.

Helen Avalon said she and her husband, a construction claims consultant, consider Lazaris a good friend. Helen Avalon, who works with her husband as a data analyst, said they were skeptical at first, but that quickly passed.

"I think that skepticism is very healthy," she said. "Lazaris has so much wisdom and so much insight, the likes of which I haven't seen anywhere else."

At a recent workshop in Orlando, about 500 participants lined up at the grand ballroom at the Caribe Royale Resort near Disney. Many paid $50 for a Thursday-night seminar or $325 for the Saturday and Sunday seminar.

When Pursel walked in, participants dashed to their seats. All eyes were on the distinguished-looking, silver-haired man wearing a simple blue shirt and khaki pants as he moved to his podium.

Sitting on a low chair, his face expressionless and hands folded in his lap, Pursel clenched his eyes and his head fell forward as he appeared to slip deep into meditation. The crowd was motionless.

Nearly a minute of silence passed before Pursel lifted his head to reveal a bright, toothy grin. His eyes still clenched, Lazaris spoke his first words in an accent that sounded somewhat Scottish -- nothing like Pursel's Midwestern voice.

Around the room, some Lazaris followers clutched crystals, which are thought to carry energy, while others furiously scrawled his words on notepads as they settled in for the five-hour lecture.

"All right, all right, all right. Well, well, well. Oh my, yes, yes. It is with great joy and deep reverence that we come to you this evening," Lazaris started, waving his arms in the air. "As it always is, it is a pleasure and a delight to be with you ..."

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page B1.


What is death?

How does it feel to die?
Is there a life after death?



My name is Gerald Woerlee. I was born, raised, and studied medicine in Western Australia. A brief internship in anesthesia made me decide to specialize in anesthesia in England. Since then I have practiced anesthesiology in teaching and peripheral hospitals for more than 20 years - a fascinating and challenging specialism whose effects upon the functioning of the human body continually reveal new aspects of the human condition to the interested practitioner.

My main interests and fascination are the thresholds of survival of the human body, as well as in the ways the functioning of the human body determines socio-cultural functioning, how we view the world, and our philosophies. Religions and philosophies of life and death are but two aspects of the ways our world views and experiences are determined by the functioning of our bodies.




January 11, 2004 -- Britney's quickie Vegas marriage was all anybody was talking about last week.

People just couldn't help themselves.

As it turns out, that excuse may be exactly right.

In his new book, "The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share and Follow the Golden Rule" (Times Books, $26), Scientific American columnist and Skeptic Magazine editor Michael Shermer argues that our moral impulses are more a matter of biological hard-wiring than conscious choice.

What's more, he says that human beings have stopped evolving morally - and our baser impulses to lie, cheat, gossip and steal are behaviors we'll just have to learn to live with.

The author, a self-proclaimed "non-theistic agnostic," uses everything from anthropology to neuroscience and philosophy - but emphatically not religion - to chronicle the evolution of human morality.

"Our basic moral principles evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago, before religion came along and encoded them," says Shermer.

"People wonder, 'Why should I be moral?' " he says. "In a sense, [they] might as well ask, 'Why should I be in love? Or be hungry?'

"It's just basic to human nature."

Like the desire for sex or food, "guilt and shame and pride and the sense of justice and injustice" evolved to help the human race survive.

But even when we're generous, he says, we're really only interested in what's in it for ourselves.

Moral acts of altruism, sympathy or cooperation have historically enabled groups - and the species itself - to prosper.

"If everybody in a group did the wrong thing most of the time, these groups would not survive," Shermer explains.

"For a social primate species to survive in a fairly harsh world, there must be a level of cooperation."

But Shermer holds little hope that human beings will continue to refine their sense of right and wrong - in fact, he thinks that this is as good as society gets.

As evidence, he says that several of the same moral qualities found in early human history are still with us today - and they influence everything from how we gossip to why we go to war.

So we asked Shermer to explain some specific behavior.

For example: Why do we generously tip a waiter we'll never see again?

"Fairness is a deep evolutionary feeling that evolved because it's good for the group," Shermer says.

Shermer says we have an innate sense of what's fair and what's not, and cites studies done involving both primates and small children.

"Young children know whether they're getting a fair [share] or not down to the microscopic difference in the size of slices of birthday cake," Shermer says.

"They'll shout, 'I was cheated!' The sense of what's fair and what isn't is deeply ingrained."

If we're so inclined to be fair, why would, say, a wealthy man like Sam Waksal break the law just to avoid losing money in the stock market?

Shermer says we have an inherent ability to excuse our own immoral desires - to, perhaps, convince ourselves that we "deserve" to break the rules.

"We can rationalize all kinds of selfish behaviors," he says, even though we are programmed by culture, history and evolution to resist pursuing our own happiness at the expense of another's.

On a grander scale, Shermer says he is not a believer in moral absolutes like good and evil; he believes anything and anyone can be explained, including a terrorist like Osama bin Laden - who Shermer maintains is not pure evil, but a man who, like the rest of us, had potential for both good and evil.

The author maintains that environmental conditions informed his decision to choose to commit acts of atrocity.

People like bin Laden, says Shermer, somehow "override our evolutionary propensity toward moral behavior and the repulsion most of us would, or at least should, feel."

But such extreme acts, he says, are aberrations. Easier to explain, he says, are far more commonplace behaviors like gossip - even about people we don't know, like Ms. Spears and her lamentable ex-husband.

We're compelled, he says, to talk about "who's sleeping with who, who's a bully, who's a cooperator, who's not," says Shermer.

"It's really important to gossip so you know who's going to [take care of you]," he says.

"[Nowadays] we spread a lot of information that's not true, but originally gossip had a good, positive and useful impulse. That's the normal human thing to do - to talk about other people."

And when it comes to adultery, the evolutionary benefits are obvious, says Shermer. "For the male, depositing one's genes in more places increases the probability of . . . genetic immortality. For the female, it's a chance to trade up for better genes and higher social status.

Still, Shermer holds out a bit of hope that human beings could actually develop even better behavior. "Those guys made a good start of it," he says, referring to the authors of the Bible, Koran and Talmud. "But we live in a completely different world.

"It's time," he says, "that we came up with something better."

The Flim Flam Artist

By Michael Fumento

Charles Berlitz, who just died, was known as one of the world's top linguists and grandson of the founder of the Berlitz language schools. Yet his true claim to fame was as author of "truth is stranger than fiction" books that were actually just plain fiction.

A Time magazine reviewer summarized all of Berlitz's paranormal works in describing one as taking "off from established facts, then proceed[ing] to lace its theses with a hodgepodge of half-truths, unsubstantiated reports and unsubstantial science."

Among his vast repertoire: "The Mystery of Atlantis" (1969), "Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds" (1972), "The Bermuda Triangle (1974), "The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility" (co-authored in1979) which was later made into a feature film, and "The Roswell Incident" (1990).

He also wrote a 1982 book prophesizing the end of the world called "Doomsday 1999." Oops.

Berlitz didn't invent any of these legends he wrote of, he simply embellished and popularized them. Consider two: The Bermuda Triangle and the Philadelphia Experiment.

Bermuda Triangulation

Berlitz sold over 14 million copies of "The Bermuda Triangle," making it the worldwide best-selling "non-fiction" book at the time. It described seemingly inexplicable disappearances of planes and ships in a part of the Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southern tip of Florida and brought into play "time warps," "other worlds," and "the watchers." The book's success led to a 1977 sequel, "Without a Trace," comprising anecdotes of persons supposedly affected by the Triangle and claiming the existence of a giant pyramid on the bottom of the ocean.

Berlitz claimed the pyramid reached 470 feet above the ocean floor. This would make it taller than any in Egypt. He based this on a sonar chart which does show a pyramid shape -- but one only a few feet tall. This may be the closest you'll ever get to a literal representation of "making a mountain out of a mole hill."

As to the Triangle, as a couple of books and a vast numbers of articles have shown, it's far less mysterious than how Anna Nicole Smith got her own TV show. It's a heavily-trafficked area, prone to bad weather (hurricane alley, no less) and like only a few other spots in the world has a tendency to throw off magnetic compasses that until GPS systems were critical to navigation.

Individual incidents also fall apart upon inspection.

Consider the origin of the Bermuda Triangle legend, the mysterious disappearance of five TBM two-man Navy Avenger torpedo bombers and a rescue plane sent after them. Twenty-seven men vanished without a trace for no apparent reason.


All of the Avenger crewmen were inexperienced trainees except for flight leader Lt. Charles Taylor. He was flying by sight (or "dead reckoning) as was JFK Jr. when he dived straight into the ocean while thinking he was flying on a parallel course. Taylor used the Florida Keys as his focal point, which worked until a storm appeared and visibility fell so that Taylor became completely disoriented. The flight leader thought he was sending his planes towards land but instead was tracked sending them further out to sea.

Had the so-called "Lost Patrol" (which actually wasn't even a patrol) crashed near its last-known position, the ocean depth would make finding it almost impossible. Indeed, the deepest part of the Atlantic lies within the Bermuda triangle.

A Martin Mariner rescue seaplane was then dispatched as part of a search party. It also disappeared, in a manner of speaking. Shortly after takeoff it blew up, which sadly was an all-too-common event with this aircraft which had been dubbed "a flying fuel tank." The only mystery is why the Navy kept flying the damned things.

Philly Follies

And the Philadelphia Experiment?

It was October 28, 1943. The United States Navy was fighting a desperate two-front war against German U-Boats in the North Atlantic and Japanese ships in the Pacific. It prompted the most daring secret experiment in naval history -- an attempt to cover a warship with a "cloaking device," rendering it invisible to both radar and sonar. The chosen vessel, the U.S.S. Eldridge, was a destroyer escort docked in Philadelphia Harbor, Pennsylvania.

But, as Berlitz and others later wrote, something went wrong with the experiment. Horribly wrong. The ship disappeared entirely, only to re-materialize a day later in Norfolk, Virginia. The sudden appearance was witnessed by crew members of the civilian merchant ship S.S. Andrew Furuseth. The Eldridge then disappeared from Norfolk just as mysteriously as it had arrived, and reappeared back in Philadelphia Harbor. Many of the sailors were violently ill, and about half had vanished forever. Most horrifyingly, five men were fused to the ship itself.

Or so goes the tale. Actually the closest the ship got to Philadelphia in 1943 was when a sailor spread cream cheese on a bagel. Information in the U.S. Navy Archives, which include the Eldridge's deck log and war diary, show that in mid-October it left the Bermuda area for a convoy off New York which it joined on the 18th. It remained in New York harbor until November when it sailed with a convoy for Casablanca, whence it returned to New York in December and only then went on to Norfolk.

As for the Furuseth, one man who claimed (without evidence) to have been on the ship at the time did send a UFO book author a series of letters in which he insisted he saw the Eldridge magically appear. But the Furuseth's movement report cards show it left Norfolk with a convoy three days before the alleged incident.

Naval archives contain a letter from the master of the ship categorically denying that he or his crew observed any unusual event while in Norfolk. The letter-writer turns out to have been a disturbed individual, known for pulling hoaxes.

The Navy became so fed up with answering individual inquiries that it set up a website to set the record straight and for a fee will mail out copies of the pertinent documents.

Just as most myths have a kernel of truth, the kernel here may be that the Navy was experimenting with making its ships less attractive or ideally even invisible to magnetic torpedoes or mines by sending electric waves through the hulls to throw the weapons off. The process is known as degaussing and is now routine.

But what's so bad about all this Berlitz baloney? Isn't it just harmless fun?


Our culture has become far too cavalier about something called "truth." Too many of us embrace any fantastic story that brings excitement into otherwise humdrum lives, be it UFO abductions and impregnations or Gulf War Syndrome with soldiers ejaculating burning semen and vomiting substances that glow in the dark. When authorities dismiss the stories as the nonsense they obviously are, they become all the more exciting because now they're CONSPIRACIES and COVERUPS.

We must draw bright lines between science fiction and science fact, between that which may yet prove to be true and that already proved false. Bad science drives out good. It causes unnecessary deaths from disease, lawsuits that destroy businesses and cost consumers, and needless fear and angst for parents and others.

Whether it's a Brockovich or a Berlitz, we all suffer when a flim-flam artist sells faulty scientific goods.

Michael Fumento is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute (Fumento[at]pobox.com) and author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World.


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