NTS LogoSkeptical News for 27 January 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Study: That Neanderthal was not your grandfather

WASHINGTON (Reuters) --You may think your grandparents act like Neanderthals, but U.S. researchers said on Monday they had strong evidence that modern humans are not descended from them.

A computer analysis of the skulls of modern humans, Neanderthals, monkeys and apes shows that we are substantially different, physically, from those early humans.

New York University paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati said Neanderthals should be considered a separate species from Homo sapiens, and not just a sub-species.

"We interpret the evidence presented here as supporting the view that Neanderthals represent an extinct human species and therefore refute the regional continuity model for Europe," she and colleagues wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some anthropologists believe that Neanderthals, who went extinct 30,000 years ago, may have at least contributed to the ancestry of modern Europeans.

There is strong evidence that Homo sapiens neanderthalis, as they are known scientifically, interacted with the more modern Cro-Magnons, who eventually displaced them. Cro-Magnons are the ancestors of modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens.

Some research has suggested they may have interbred to a limited degree, although this is hotly disputed in anthropological circles.

At least one study that looked at fragments of Neanderthal DNA suggested any Neanderthal-Cro-Magnon offspring did not add to the modern gene pool.

Harvati and colleagues combined modern computer technology and the tried-and-true method of determining species that uses physical comparisons.

They examined the skulls of modern humans and Neanderthals and 11 existing species of non-human primates including chimpanzees, gorillas and baboons.

They measured 15 standard skull and face landmarks and used 3D analysis to superimpose each one on the other.

"From these data, we were able to determine how much variation living primate species generally accommodate, as well as measure how different two primate species that are closely related can be," Harvati said in a statement.

Their computer analysis showed that the differences measured between modern humans and Neanderthals were significantly greater than those found between subspecies of living monkeys and apes.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Scholars Debate Significance of "Dickens Code"


The perennially popular works of the noted author Charles Dickens, who wrote such classics as A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol, are receiving a new focus with the publication of an article asserting that the works of Charles Dickens may bear hidden significance.

"Our statistical analysis conclusively demonstrates that the works of Dickens contain hidden descriptions of key events in English history," said author Jeremy Newton, who published his findings in the Winter 2003 issue of the scholarly journal The Dickensian. "I must say, the mention of Queen Elisabeth's corgis was rather unexpected."

Michael Drosnin's bestselling 1997 book The Bible Code thrust the issue of hidden coding into the spotlight by asserting that the Hebrew Bible contains a complex code revealing events that took place thousands of years after the Bible was written. Drosnin arranges the 304,805 Hebrew letters of the Bible into a large array, and a computer looks for matches to selected names or words by stepping to every nth letter in the array.

Statisticians have applied his technique to other secular works as controls, but this is the first time meaningful results have been found in a non-Biblical source.

"This does cast rather a puzzling light on what we thought was fairly well-known material," said University of Cambridge Professor of History Chester Stuart. "It beggars the question as to why on earth Dickens would have slipped a coded reference to the 1992 Arsensal [soccer team] record into The Pickwick Papers. But then Dickens always was an odd duck, don't you know."

According to Newton's article, his analysis reveals coded messages included in every one of Charles Dickens' works, including the following:

-Great Expectations: Prediction of Tony Blair's 2001 election victory, with margin of victory

-Oliver Twist: The complete text of the Magna Carta

-A Tale of Two Cities: Prediction of the Battle of Britain in World War II

-The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Alphabetic list of Queen Elisabeth II's corgis

-Barnaby Rudge: Recipe for Yorkshire pudding

"What is especially puzzling is the fact that Dickens was essentially paid by the word," said Stuart, "and published his works serially, according to punishingly strict and frequent deadlines. So it defies comprehension that he could have managed to insert these codes deliberately."

Sales of Dickens' works have increased sharply in the UK, though as all the codes unveiled to date deal exclusively with English history, interest outside the UK has been marginal.

"I really have no explanation for this," said Newton. "But I'll tell you this: Prince Charles had better watch out for stray weather-balloons in 2006 if Nicholas Nickleby has anything to say about it."

Copyright 2004 The Watley Review, all rights reserved.

Quack addicts


Cherie and Tony bonding in a muddy Mayan ritual - it's the ultimate example of how mumbo-jumbo has inundated Britain, writes Francis Wheen in this final extract from his fascinating new book

Tuesday January 27, 2004
The Guardian

Everyone was at it. In Britain, allegedly the home of the stiff upper lip, the loopier manifestations of soul-baring may have been mocked but managerial mumbo-jumbo found an eager market. By 1995 the British government was spending well over 100m a year on management consultants, as branches of officialdom were forcibly transformed into "agencies". What had once been straightforward public services, such as the health system or the BBC, acquired their own internal markets - which in turn created new blizzards of paperwork and extra layers of bureaucracy, all in the name of efficiency ...

Tony Blair had never concealed his reverence for management gurus. In the summer of 1996 he dispatched 100 Labour frontbenchers to a weekend seminar at Templeton College, Oxford, where a posse of partners from Andersen Consulting lectured the wannabe ministers on "total quality service" and "the management of change". (The veteran Labour politician Lord Healey, who also spoke at the event, was unimpressed: "These management consultants are just making money out of suckers.") When Blair entered Downing Street, several executives from Andersen - and McKinsey, the other leading management consultancy - were seconded to Whitehall with a brief to practise "blue skies thinking". Soon afterwards, in perhaps the most remarkable manifestation of New Labour's guru-worship, they were joined by [lateral thinker] Dr Edward de Bono, whose task was "to develop bright ideas on schools and jobs".

In the autumn of 1998 more than 200 officials from the Department of Education were treated to a lecture from De Bono on his "Six Thinking Hats system" of decision-making. The idea, he explained, was that civil servants should put on a red hat when they wanted to talk about hunches and instincts, a yellow hat if they were listing the advantages of a project, a black hat while playing devil's advocate, and so on. "Without wishing to boast," he added, "this is the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years since the days of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle." So far as can be discovered, the education department has yet to order those coloured hats, but no doubt it benefited from his other creative insights: "You can't dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper"; "With a problem, you look for a solution"; "A bird is different from an aeroplane, although both fly through the air."

Gurus are safe enough while peddling ancient cliches disguised as revolutionary new strategies. It is when they seek out instances of this wisdom in action that they come a cropper: the entrepreneur-as-hero often turns out to be merely human after all. In his 1985 book Tactics: The Art and Science of Success, De Bono offered the lessons that might be learned from a number of people who "would generally be regarded as 'successful'." After studying these inspiring examples, "The reader should say, 'Why not me?"' The millionaires he extolled included Robert Maxwell, subsequently exposed as one of the most outrageous fraudsters in British history.

Even the no-nonsense Margaret Thatcher was a devotee of mystical "electric baths" and Ayurveda therapy. But she was a mere dabbler compared with more recent inhabitants of Downing Street. Cherie Blair found her devout Catholicism no impediment to flirtations with New Age spirituality - inviting a feng-shui expert to rearrange the furniture at No 10 and wearing a "magic pendant"known as the BioElectric Shield, which has "a matrix of specially cut quartz crystals" that surround the wearer with "a cocoon of energy" to ward off evil forces.

The catholicism - if not Catholicism - of her tastes was further demonstrated in 2002 by the revelation that she employed a former member of the Exegesis cult, Carole Caplin, as a "lifestyle guru". Through Caplin, the prime minister's wife was introduced to an 86-year-old "dowsing healer", Jack Temple, who treated her swollen ankles by swinging a crystal pendulum over the affected area and feeding her strawberry leaves grown within the "electro-magnetic field" of a neolithic circle he had built in his back garden.

It was long assumed that Tony Blair, who wears his Christianity on his sleeve, did not share his wife's unorthodox enthusiasms. But that was before he and Cherie had a "rebirthing experience" under the supervision of one Nancy Aguilar while holidaying on the Mexican Riviera in the summer of 2001. The Times's detailed account of the prime ministerial mudbath is worth quoting at some length:

"Ms Aguilar told the Blairs to bow and pray to the four winds as Mayan prayers were read out ... Within the Temazcal, a type of Ancient Mayan steam bath, herb-infused water was thrown over heated lava rocks, to create a cleansing sweat and balance the Blairs' 'energy flow'.

"Ms Aguilar chanted Mayan songs, told the Blairs to imagine that they could see animals in the steam and explained what such visions meant. They were told the Temazcal was like the womb and those participating in the ritual must confront their hopes and fears before 'rebirth' and venturing outside. The Blairs were offered watermelon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other's bodies along with mud from the Mayan jungle outside.

"The prime minister, on holiday just a month before the 11 September attacks, is understood to have made a wish for world peace. Before leaving, the Blairs were told to scream out loud to signify the pain of rebirth. They then walked hand in hand down the beach to swim in the sea."

Although Mayan rebirthing rituals are not yet available in Britain through the National Health Service, some of Cherie Blair's other peculiar obsessions have already been adopted as official policy. In January 1999 the government recruited a feng-shui consultant, Renuka Wickmaratne, for advice on how to improve inner-city council estates. "Red and orange flowers would reduce crime," she concluded, "and introducing a water feature would reduce poverty. I was brought up with this ancient knowledge."

Two years later, the government announced that, for the first time since the creation of the NHS, remedies such as acupuncture and Indian ayurvedic medicine could be granted the same status as conventional treatments. According to the Sunday Times, "The inclusion of Indian ayurvedic medicine, a preventative approach to healing using diet, yoga and meditation, is thought to have been influenced by Cherie Blair's interest in alternative therapy." An all too believable suggestion, since Cherie was a client of the ayurvedic guru Bharti Vyas and officiated at the opening ceremony for her holistic therapy centre in London.

The swelling popularity of quack potions and treatments in recent years is yet another manifestation of the retreat from reason and scientific method. According to a 1998 survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of homeopathic preparations in the United States more than doubled between 1990 and 1997. In Britain, by the end of the 20th century the country's 36,000 general practitioners were outnumbered by the 50,000 purveyors of complementary and alternative medicine - some of whom receive the seal of royal approval.

The Queen carries homeopathic remedies with her at all times. Princess Diana was a devotee of reflexology, the belief that pressure applied to magical "zones" in the hands and feet can heal ailments elsewhere in the body. Prince Charles has been a prominent champion of "holistic" treatments since 1982.

Most alternative therapies, homeopathy included, are closer to mysticism than to medicine. This may explain their appeal to the British royal family, whose survival depends on another irrational faith - the magic of hereditary monarchy, so fiercely debunked by Tom Paine and other Enlightenment pamphleteers.

Francis Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions is published by 4th Estate. Francis Wheen will be appearing at Foyles bookshop in London on Thursday March 11 at 6.30pm. For further details call 0870 420 2777.

200 turn out for debate on origins in Darby


By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian

Decision postponed

DARBY - Judy Parker works at Darby High School, and she's almost sure the school district will be sued if its trustees pass a change to the science curriculum that she believes violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

But Ella Springer is more interested in giving students a choice when it comes to evolutionary science. Never, she said, has she seen an "intermediate" species, so she's all for objective origins.

As written, the curriculum change calls for students to "assess evidence for and against theories" in science class, but the only theory named is evolutionary theory. It also encourages teachers to "give examples of scientific innovation or discovery challenging commonly held perceptions."

Trustees of the Darby School District were expected to vote on the proposal Monday, but they postponed their decision to take additional comment from attorneys at a continued meeting Wednesday night. The objective origins debate has embroiled the community, and Monday's meeting drew attendance from Missoula, Victor and Hamilton.

The board allowed 15-minute presentations from advocates and opponents of the policy, then allowed the public the chance to speak. Those who didn't speak Monday have another opportunity on Wednesday.

Curtis Brickley, a Bitterroot Valley minister with children coming into the district, has been the public face supporting the curriculum change. Using a well-produced computer presentation, Brickley told a crowd of more than 200 that "we will not be teaching creation science."

Instead, Brickley wants the district to teach "the controversy" he said exists in the scientific world where evolutionary theory is concerned. With slide after slide, Brickley showered the crowd with quotes from scientists who dissent from current evolutionary theory and who appear to support the notion that the world is the work of an intelligent designer.

Darby's teachers should teach their students about "qualified, responsible criticism of Darwinian evolution," Brickley said.

"That's what we're asking for," he said.

Brickley's remarks drew loud applause, but so too did the presentation by Rod Miner, who represented the Ravalli County Citizens for Science.

"These kids need more science, not less," Miner said.

But less is what they'll get, he said, if the district approves objective origins, which generally leads to discussions of the anti-evolutionary theory kno wn as intelligent design.

Rob Crowther, the marketing and communications director for the Center for Science and Culture and the Discovery Institute, described intelligent design theory this way in an e-mail to the Missoulian: "The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

Miner said intelligent design is interesting from a philosophical point of view, but he said it's not science. Intelligent design has no testable hypotheses, Miner said, and thus leads to no scientific theories.

"ID has no legitimacy in scientific theory," Miner said.

Despite some whispered dismissals of some speakers by some in the crowd, the hearing proceeded civilly. That civility was captured best by Steve Archibald, who said that many in the crowd disagreed with one another but that didn't mean they needed to be disagreeable when they meet in the grocery store.

As part of the hearing, the board also made public a letter from Deputy Ravalli County Attorney James McCubbin, who urged the district not to pass any curriculum change that has not been approved by the state.

"Failure to meet state standards for your curriculum could result in loss of accreditation for the Darby schools," McCubbin wrote. "This, in turn, could result in litigation and/or make the Darby schools ineligible to receive state and/or federal funding. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that your curriculum continue to meet those state standards."

Monday's meeting continues Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the gym at Darby Junior High School.

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or 370-3330, or by e-mail at mmoore@missoulian.com

Monday, January 26, 2004

Satanic Cult Probed in Monster of Florence Murders

Fri January 23, 2004


09:33 AM ET

FLORENCE (Reuters) - Almost 20 years after the last murder blamed on the "Monster of Florence," investigators have reopened the case because they suspect a Satanic cult ordered the killings and kept body parts as prizes. "The refrigerator of horror," was Friday's headline in Il Messaggero newspaper, referring to new witness reports of female genitalia and body parts in the fridge of a plush Tuscan villa.

The villa was rented by a doctor, thought to have drowned in a Tuscan lake in 1985. But when authorities recently discovered he was a suspected Satanist and had actually been murdered, they reopened their files, a judicial source told Reuters.

Investigators now suspect the doctor was part of a clan that ordered the "Monster" to kill eight couples.

The victims were shot during romantic trysts in the picturesque Tuscan countryside between 1968 and 1985 and many suffered gruesome sexual mutilations.

A farm labourer of below-average intelligence was initially convicted in 1994 for the murders, in a sensational mystery which caught the attention of the author of "Silence of the Lambs."

The labourer, Pietro Pacciani, was acquitted in an appeals court in 1996 but was ordered to stand retrial. He died in 1998 at the age of 73 before the retrial could get underway, but two men were convicted of aiding him in the 1990s.

Prosecutors now think there were two tiers to the killings, and this week began a new probe into Tuscan higher society.

"The eight double homicides were carried out according to a criminal plan on two levels," the source said, citing the search warrant issued by prosecutors.

"The execution was entrusted to (Pacciani and his friends) but a group of people who celebrated rituals and black magic put the arms in their hands," the warrant said.

Authorities have now formally placed a 60-year-old pharmacist under investigation, with police seizing pornographic videos and books from his home.

A respected Florentine dermatologist, a businessman and a lawyer are also now being questioned, the source said.

The reopening of a case that shocked and mesmerized Italy for decades has shattered the peace of Chianti's rolling hills.

Thomas Harris, the American author of best-selling serial killer novel "Silence of the Lambs" with its cannibalistic character Hannibal Lecter, was fascinated by the case and attended the initial trial to "work and gather data."


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 670 January 22, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

EXTREME ULTRAVIOLET FROM ARGON. Physicists in Colorado have gotten argon ions to send out coherent light with an energy of 250 electron volts, almost twice the energy previously achieved with argon. This energetic light, in the extreme ultraviolet (or soft x-ray) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, might be useful in support of future lithographical patterning of higher-density microchips. The process used to produce the light is called high-order harmonic generation: light at visible wavelengths enters a sample of helium atoms and temporarily strips the outer electron from the atom. This electron then quickly rejoins its atom, emitting a higher-energy (harmonic) photon in phase with the original light. In other words, the atom is being used as a machine for converting visible light into higher-energy light. The atoms sit in a waveguide which helps to keep the emerging laser light focused, particularly in the plasma created when the electron is ripped from the atom and does not recombine with it. Noble gas atoms are ideal for this harmonic process since their outer electrons are grasped tightly, but if they can be surrendered, they will render up a prized high-energy photon upon their turn home. Helium (the smallest noble element) emits harmonic photons at energies even higher than that achieved now with argon, but it does so very grudgingly. Argon is generally chosen because the harmonic conversion of light is much more efficient. But in the past, the x-ray photon energy was lower. This new work has the potential to make efficient, compact x-ray sources at higher energies than was previously possible. According to Emily Gibson (303-492-7766, gibsone@jilau1.colorado.edu), a member of the JILA-Colorado-NIST team of researchers (Margaret Murnane, Henry Capteyn, et al.) doing the argon work, the new source of coherent soft x-ray light will be important for nm-scale imaging, including biological imaging and surface science. (Gibson et al., Physical Review Letters, 23 January 2004)

PULSARS WITH BOUNCE. Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich and the University of Chicago have a new explanation for the curious high speeds of some pulsars moving through interstellar space. In gravitating themselves to death, some stars might suffer an asymmetric supernova. Since momentum must be conserved at all times, the imbalance in the explosion debris would be taken up by the remnant of the star, namely the spinning neutron star, or pulsar, that is left behind. Or rather, the pulsar won't be left behind, but will be kicked out into space away from the original stellar position with enough velocity (as much as 1000 km/sec) to be measurable by telescopes on Earth. For some time, one explanation for the pulsar velocities has been the idea that the emission of neutrinos from the newly formed neutron star causes the acceleration. Even a 1% asymmetry in the emission could result in pulsar speeds as great as 300 km/sec, but this line of thinking necessitates the presence of extreme conditions, such as magnetic fields of 10^16 gauss. Thomas Janka (thj@mpa-garching.mpg.de) and his colleagues believe the observed effects are better explained if the asymmetries come not from neutrino emission but from the way matter reacts with neutrinos shooting into (and heating) the infalling stellar layers that are about to be flung back out into space during the supernova explosion. In other words, the irregularities arise not from particle physics but from the purely hydrodynamic effects of a gust of neutrinos plowing into a layer of material, a process in which small instabilities in a shock front can quickly grow much larger. (Scheck et al., Physical Review Letters, 9 January 2004; see colorful illustrations at www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/mpa/research/current_research/hl2003-10/hl2003-10-en.html )

COMPUTATION IN GENE NETWORKS. Searching for a new way to produce a computational device, Asa Ben-Hur (Stanford) and Hava Siegelmann (Amherst) have developed a model which shows that the functioning of a model gene network---genes acting as a computer "program" and the gene products in a cell (protein levels) acting as the "memory"---is comparable in expressive power to the workings of a Turing machine, the generic idealized computer. They compare a hypothetical analog gene-network computer to standard digital computers and suggest that chemical reactions can be used to implement Boolean logic and neural networks. (Chaos, March 2004)

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

Fossil find 'oldest land animal'

Scientists have decided that a fossil found near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire is the remains of the oldest creature known to have lived on land. It is thought that the one-centimetre millipede which was prised out of a siltstone bed is 428 million years old.

Experts at the National Museums of Scotland and Yale University, US, have studied the fossil for months.

They say the specimen is the earliest evidence of a creature living on dry land, rather than in the sea.

The discovery on the foreshore of Cowie Harbour was made by an amateur fossil hunter, Mike Newman.

To recognise his role in the significant find, the new species - Pneumodesmus newmani - has been named after him.

Scotland has the best Palaeozoic, pre-Triassic, pre-dinosaur sites in the world Mike Newman Fossil hunter The Aberdeen bus driver, who lives in Kemnay, told the Sunday Herald newspaper: "I knew that the site had been re-aged, that it was older than originally thought, so I went down there. "I knew that any terrestrial-type things with legs found there could be early and important.

"I had found millipedes there before, but this one had evidence of the holes that showed it actually breathed.

"I'm interested in particular in fossil fish; I describe the fish in scientific journals, but things like this creature I pass on."

He added: "Scotland has the best Palaeozoic - pre-Triassic, pre-dinosaur - sites in the world.

Spidery animals

"There are more sites in the small country of Scotland than the whole of the US and Russia put together.

"It's a fantastic place for these very old invertebrates. Just think, the first air-breathing creature crawled out of the swamp at Stonehaven."

The fossil is believed to be some 20 million years older than what had previously been thought of as the oldest breathing animal - a peculiar spider-like creature chiselled out of the chert - a hard quartz rock - at Rhynie, also in Aberdeenshire.

The millipede had spiracles, or primitive breathing structures on the outside of its body, making it the oldest air-breathing creature to have been discovered.

The site near Stonehaven is well known in fossil collecting circles for its arthropods - animals with segmented bodies and jointed limbs - such as sea scorpions.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/01/25 11:46:37 GMT


Study: Red Sea parting was possible


ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Russian mathematicians have determined the legendary parting of the Red Sea that let the Jews flee Egypt was possible, the Moscow Times reported.

The study, published in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, focused on a reef that runs from the documented spot where the Jews escaped Egypt, which in Biblical times, was much closer to the surface, according to Naum Volzinger, a senior researcher at St. Petersburg's Institute of Oceanology, and a colleague based in Hamburg, Alexei Androsov.

The mathematicians calculated the "strong east wind that blew all that night" mentioned in the Bible needed to blow at a speed of 67 miles per hour to make the reef, said Volzinger, who specializes in ocean phenomena, flooding and tidal waves.

"It would take the Jews -- there were 600,000 of them -- four hours to cross the 4.2-mile reef that runs from one coast to another. Then, in half an hour, the waters would come back," he said.

The Egyptian army that followed them drowned in the sea.

"I am convinced that God rules the Earth through the laws of physics," Volzinger told the Times.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Sharing a second sight



Knight Ridder News Service

MIAMI Micki Dahne was a star psychic by the time Elvis had left The Room. She traveled the country, uttering predictions, working the talk show circuit, holding seances. The National Enquirer, which proclaimed her its No. 1 psychic and sent her on a national tour, gave her a new first name: "Amazing."

It was quite a wild ride, and Micki didn't ride alone. She brought along her teenage daughter, Jill. She had the gift, too. Elvis' relatives witnessed it during a seance two weeks after the King's death in 1977. Young Jill Dahne clasped her hands over her eyes and moaned, "They're hurting! Why are my eyes hurting?" And it turned out that Elvis, his relatives said at the time, suffered from a painful eye condition he kept secret.

Months earlier, seventh-grader Jill appeared on a radio show and described a frightening vision: a bloody attack in Washington, D.C. Her word turned to prediction gold after terrorists struck there days later. "Ripley's Believe It or Not" named her the "Most Amazing Teenage Psychic."

But amazing business aside, the daughter psychic couldn't be more different than the mother psychic.

"She's establishment. She gets all dressed up make up, fine clothes, high heels. And I'm in a mumu," says Micki, rattling off the astrological reasons for their differences. "Jill's a Capricorn. I'm a Sagittarius. Sun in Sag. Merc in Sag. Mars in Sag. Venus in Sag. Jill's moon is in Sag that's her soul. So she's still my baby."

Opposing views

Tonight, Micki is riffing on matters of life and love. She's holding court in the living room of her high-rise, oceanview condo. Outside, a waxing moon casts a subtle glow on the beach. Micki's doing that uncanny thing psychics do, pulling vibes and initials out of the ether, "reading" the aura as if it's wearing neon. Her daughter does that, too, in her own, cut-to-the-chase way.

While Micki might look into a client's eyes and say, gingerly, that a troubled relationship could be worth saving as long as there is true love, Jill might roll her eyes and say: "Forget it. Next."

Micki prefers to talk about that tiny window cracked open to a sky of possibility. Jill sees that window, but prefers to talk about the door slammed shut next to it. Micki's the romantic. Jill is the pragmatist. Then again, Micki has been married eight times, and Jill only once, to her first real sweetheart.

It's not that mother and daughter get opposing visions when they turn up the sixth sense. It's simply that they have vastly different ways of looking at the world and the other world.

Trading places

Tonight, the ESP is kicking. Micki tells the story of how she dragged Jill along to her old radio show years ago.

"She didn't want to come with me. She was being a brat," Micki recalls.

So Micki decided to teach her rebellious daughter a lesson. Just before it was time to go on the air, she excused herself for a minute and left Jill in the studio. And she didn't come back. When the on-air light flashed, Jill found herself staring at the microphone. Moments later, from outside, Micki heard her daughter's voice and nearly fell back:

"Hi, this is the 'Jill Dahne Show."'

"And she didn't stop yakking," Micki recalls.

Jill remembers her first caller, a woman whose voice triggered a sordid vision.

"Get home now. There's someone at your house," Jill remembers telling the caller.

"When she got home she found her husband with another woman. He told her he was just giving mouth-to-mouth to her because she had passed out. Except he was naked. So there you go," Jill says.

She took over her mother's show in 1993. Now Jill hosts "The Love Psychic," on WNN Health Talk Radio. She's a professional matchmaker. She says she's put together 750 couples. Like her mother, she does private consultations and routinely issues predictions, which they post on their respective Web sites, www.mickidahne.com and www.jilldahne.com. But Jill also organizes social events for singles. When it comes to the idea of looking for love, she's a walking affirmation.

"Come on out. You never know," goes her twinkling invite.

It's clear that Micki taught her well.

"From the time she was a kid, I let her loose and I encouraged her. I wanted her to sense on her own if something is good or if it's not," Micki says.

Childhood visions

It's not like she had much of a choice. Jill was as self-possessed a child as Micki had been.

"One day she was sent home from school with a letter. She was telling the teacher what she was going to write on the chalkboard before she wrote it," Micki remembers with a laugh.

She, too, had her childhood outbursts of ESP. She was Maxine Blumenthal, a Jersey girl whose father was part owner of the cinema company that became Warner Brothers. She was his golden, lucky child, the girl whose birth was announced in Walter Winchell's column. But to her mother, she was the girl who too often spoke out of turn.

"Before the phone even rang, I'd tell my mother, 'Aunt Reba is calling,' " Micki says.

Her mother wanted no part of Micki's predictions. She called them "rumors." She'd keep Micki quiet with candy.

"In a little town like Passaic, N.J., you don't want a daughter who's a psychic. Especially if you're Jewish," Micki says.

So Micki ignored the "rumors" until well into adulthood. She had been a housewife and mother for nearly two decades before she tapped into what she calls her "extranatural sense of perception." It was a sense that came easily after she moved to South Florida, close to the ocean. Her husband and the father of her children, Herman Sokoloff, had died and she felt vulnerable. Micki says tuning into her instincts became her protection.

Celebrity psychic

It was 1970, a time when clairvoyants were considered circus acts. But Micki was different. She was hip, pretty, and of her time. TV producers snapped her up for their talk shows. She swam easily in the pop culture and celeb scene. Within a few years of turning on her switch, she was the country's It psychic, having predicted earthquakes and plane crashes.

"She told them when Patty Hearst was coming out! The extraordinary adventures of a mind-tingling, rib-tickling, amazingly accurate super-psychic who astounds millions!" proclaimed the cover of her 1975 memoir, "Micki Dahne: ESP Is Chicken Soup."

She gained a reputation for being show-bizzy, straightforward and, yes, amazingly on target. Her favorite dubious honor is having snubbed Larry King when his radio show was based in Miami. But, proving Micki's appeal, King lavished praise on the psychic later.

"She's the only person to have ever walked off my show... . Micki, I forgive you," King is blurbed on her 1989 book, "The People Watchers/How to Read People."

Not any easier

And as the psychic she is famed to be, Micki predicted her own daughter's romantic path. Jill says mom told her who she was going to marry when she was 17. And she did 14 years later. By then, Jill was nationally known. And she has made mom proud.

"I respect her tremendously. She says it like it is. If you're getting a divorce, she'll tell you," says Micki, who recognizes streaks of her early days in her daughter's approach. Now mellowed by years, the stars and all those full moons, Micki admits some things don't get easier.

"How do you give bad news? It's still very hard," she says.

Fortunately, Micki can tell the "rumors" to relax every once in a while. The family's got her covered. There's Jill. And there's also Jimmy. He's Jill's 5-year-old son. They say he's psychic, too. Amazing.

The Herbalization Of Korle Bu

Feature Article of Sunday, 25 January 2004


The Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana's number one health center, says it is to construct a new block to serve as a center for Traditional and Herbal Medicine, the Accra-based Ghanaian Times says. This is after 45 years of independence from colonial rule, a rule that suppressed African values and imposed European ones. The suppression of Ghana (and African values such as traditional medicine) projected our local values as "primitive." Such propagandistic talks sank into our gullible elites, who echoed the colonialists' smear campaigns. So in the long run not only has our well tried and tested values demeaned in our own environment but also have not influenced policy planning in our local developmental context. The result is two diametrically opposed values wheeling in mid air for not only balance but also mixture in the Ghanaian (and African) scheme of development. The confusion in terms of development is there for all to see, calling for massive intellectual/research breadth and leadership to unearth African values to be placed in the forefront of our development drive.

By being financed with proceeds from the Korle-Bu Hospital Endowment Fund the elites have now realized that Ghana (and Africa) before the coming of the colonialists have had their own health system, though it might lack the technological gadgetry of the Western world (The Western world itself started in the same herbal way. In fact as inadequacies in some Western medicine spreads, African (and other Third World) medicine is increasingly coming into the forefront). Most Ghanaians and their Africans brethrens rely on their indigenous medicine for varied ailments since the increasing cost of orthodox medicine alienate most. It is therefore time for Ghana and other African states to aggressively enter the lucrative international alternative medicine arena just as the Chinese have done to help enhance indigenous medicine. The proof of how we have come of age in terms of using our values for development is seen in Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Korle-Bu's boss, saying that he has received a donation of about US$25,000 from the management and staff of Ghana Cocoa Board towards the Korle-Bu Endowment Fund.

By contributing towards a fund that is partly to be used in refining and paring Ghanaian native medicine along Western orthodox ones, more so at the same spot, the value of indigenous medicine has gained not only national value but international respectability just as the Chinese, the Japanese and other Oriental medicine is doing globally. Chinese acupuncture medicine is not only officially part of most provinces in Canada but the global community. The reason for the global acceptance of Chinese medicine is not had to understand, it is the way over the years they have been to treat it, respect it, and market it. Despite SARS making the rounds in some parts of China, its medicine is on the plain of international respectability.

By placing Traditional and Herbal Medicine center at an old, arrogant and tied Western founded hospital in the same place, Ghanaian medical elites are not only going the Chinese and other Oriental way, but telling wrong-headed Ghanaians who have been misinformed by colonial propaganda machine for long, long time and their mindlessly unrealistic elites that Ghanaian (and African) indigenous medicine are as good as any one anywhere, short of the need for some refinement. In fact respected international medical journals such as Lancet and Florence G. Strauss Complementary and Indigenous Medicine Collection are increasingly touting the potential values of African indigenous medicine in healing traditions, practices, and attitudes toward health and disease.

These are Western-based journals, how are African-oriented journals touting African medicinal values internationally for all to see and bring in economic benefit. For either Ghanaian or African indigenous medicine to have international acceptability like Chinese traditional medicine, African health officials should tout it globallyat conferences, seminars, workshops, write ups, talks, trade shows, and references in medical practices, comparing its potential with Chinese and other indigenous medicine and Western orthodox ones. Said Dr. Frimpong-Boateng, in a new thinking that reveals respect for not only Ghanaian indigenous medicine but also that of Africa as a whole, "it is wrong for orthodox medical practitioners to dismiss traditional medicine in view of its enormous healing potentials." It is not only wrong but also mindless to dismiss one's own native medicine which has been practiced for millions of years. If African indigenous medicine is all that bad, how come Africans are still living?

The challenge, as African health officials have been saying, is how to ensure that African herbal medicines of all kinds are prepared scientifically before being dispensed to patients, some of who are so poor and desperate that any thought of refinement before using them. That will need concerted education not only among indigenous pharmacists, doctors and other allied institutions but public education. The reason for the need for public education for the respectability of indigenous medicine, especially in regard to our Western educated population, is that by demeaning the value of our own indigenous medicine because of colonial propaganda and our elites continuation of such images, we have proved to be gullible to the detriment of our own medicine values unlike the Chinese.

By bringing traditional medicine along side its Western orthodox institutions, Korle-Bu's scientific side will rub with traditional medicine and in the process clear out most of superstitions surrounding some aspects of native medicine.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Evolution debate reaches Darby classrooms


The Missoulian

DARBY In a way, the evolution versus intelligent design debate set to take place before the Darby school board Monday night is a little bit of evolution unto itself.

It's just the latest incarnation of an age-old debate about God and science that's been cropping up since Galileo wrote a book supporting the Copernican notion that the Earth revolved around the sun.

It's also something of a one-sided debate, in that evolution isn't really a topic of hot dispute in scientific circles. It simply gets called into action when religion and science start mixing in the schoolyard.

Now that schoolyard is in Darby, where a local minister is backing a change to the science curriculum that would stress teaching of so-called "objective origins" hypotheses. The discussion of teaching "intelligent design theory" in Darby schools surfaced as a possibility last year in a community committee looking at the school curriculum.

Curtis Brickley, a local minister, has been pushing the policy change, which states that, "teachers in the Darby school district are encouraged to help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, by giving examples of scientific innovation or discovery challenging commonly held perceptions."

Brickley did not return Missoulian calls on Friday, but he will speak for the intelligent-design advocates at Monday's meeting, where the school board is expected to make a decision on the policy.

In a column in the Ravalli Republic, Brickley wrote that Darby would join a "long list of school districts that are challenging the status quo by preparing their students to enter into the controversial debate over biological origins by educating students about 21st century advancements in science, free from the academic restraints of 19th century dogma."

At previous meetings, Brickley has said he wants to see the evidence for and against evolution taught in Darby schools.

Not surprisingly, the proposal has embroiled the district and the board. The board has now heard from advocates from both camps, including Brickley and a scientist from the National Center for Science Education. Although Brickley and other proponents have characterized the debate as "science-versus-science" and not a religious issue, the broad community of scientists nationwide is generally not swayed by the intelligent design theory. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, the largest general scientific society in the world, passed a resolution in November urging school policy-makers to keep intelligent design out of U.S. science classrooms.

"We have great problems with the claim that ID is a scientific theory or a science-based alternative to evolutionary theory," Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and publisher of the journal Science, recently wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "We don't question its religious or philosophical underpinnings. That's not our business. But there is no scientific evidence underlying ID theory."

The central thesis of intelligent design is this: Evolutionary theory can't explain the sheer diversity of life on Earth, which therefore is the result of some "intelligent designer." While Brickley claims the "controversy rages" over evolution and intelligent design, the debate generally falls outside the mainstream scientific community. Almost always, it occurs where anti-evolutionary forces with religious attachments challenge the foundations of American science education.

That said, the Darby opponents of teaching intelligent design have also been careful not to frame the debate in religious terms.

"There are many people in our group and at the National Center for Science Education with very strong religious beliefs," said Ron Miner, who will present the opponents' argument at Monday night's meeting. "This isn't a Christian-versus-atheist thing."

In fact, Miner said philosophical discussion of the moral ramifications of evolutionary theory is something to be encouraged. The problem comes when you dress those discussions up as science.

"I don't have a problem talking about the moral choices that science brings," Miner said Friday. "I do have a problem with trying to discard big chunks of science for something that might look like science but isn't." Statewide curriculum adopted by the Montana Board of Public Education teaches evolution, and an attorney from the state school boards association had counseled the Darby board not to adopt curriculum outside state standards.

Miner worried Friday that if the board does approve changes to Darby's curriculum that the district will be sued.

"I have no idea where the money will come from to defend a lawsuit," Miner said. "And I have no idea what sorts of things we do at the school that will have to be canceled to pay for a lawsuit."

Miner had another thought about the proposal, one that may not have occurred to the Darby proponents of intelligent design.

"I don't think we've really talked about the fact that this will bring religion into the classroom and science will become a path for criticism of religious beliefs," Miner said. "The policy says teachers are encouraged to help students challenge commonly held perceptions. What about Genesis and Noah's ark? I think this really has a backlash built into it, and it's going to put teachers in an untenable position."

The board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at Darby Junior High School.

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or 370-3330, or by
e-mail at mmoore@missoulian.com.
Saturday, January 24, 2004

Saturday, January 24, 2004

CBS segment: "Psychotherapy Fraud"

From: Jim Kutz

video: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/videos500251.shtml#

"Carol Diamond... heard about a cutting-edge marriage counselor... Instead of fixing her marriage... psychologist Pat Mansmann came up with a startling diagnosis: repressed memories... "They had me convinced that my parents had raised me in a satanic cult, that my father had sexually abused me." Carol says Mansmann prescribed two controversial treatments... rage therapy, which included beating pillows while screaming... the other: detachment therapy. Mansmann urged Carol to move out of her home, away from family.

INTERVIEWER JIM ACOSTA:: "You ended up losing your family over this.

DIAMOND: "... My children haven't spoken to me in ten years."

"After nearly a year with a different therapist, Carol found out her memories of abuse were planted by Mansmann, so she sued, as have other former patients. ANd even though Mansmann surrendered her license to avoid prosecution, her office, Genesis Associates, remains open, posting ads for her psychotherapy services. Mansmann wouldn't explain to us what she's douing. [ picture of ad for Mansmann M.Ed., picture of headline: surrender of license permanent. ]

"You'd think you need a license to practice as a therapist, but most state laws allow just about anybody to offer counseling services.

"Take psychotherapist Zoe D. Katze -- not him, her.

INTERVIEWER: "You had your cat certified by the American Psychotherapy Association." [ picture of license for Dr. Katz Ph.D."

STEVEN EICHEL. PSYCHOLOGIST: [holding cat] Correct.

All it took was an application and a doctored resume. Why the charade? To prove that it's too easy for amateurs to be certified as psychotherapists, like this man who was caught flaunting false credentials in this undercover video.

INTERVIEWER: "It doesn't matter what their background is."

EICHEL: "Apparently it doesn't even matter what species they are."

"The experts warn it's up to patients to check credentials, available on state websites, and challenge treatment methods.

DR. RUSS NEWMAN, DIR. AMER. PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOC. "Unfortunately, individuals who have mental health problems can be in a very vulnerable state. That's one of the reasons why a lot of education needs to take place.

-- end of excerpts --

Unanswered question:

Was the name "Genesis Associates" chosen to attract believers in satanic cults? Ordinary 'repressed memory' models doesn't use a satanic angle, which is harder for clients to swallow unless they're religiously predisposed to believe it.

A key premise of Christian demonology is that Satan can control the mind, prevent a person from knowing what's going on, or convince a person that something totally different is happening. This dates back to witch trials in the Middle Ages, based on the Vatican's manual on witchcraft, the _Malleus Malefacorum_ or _Hammer Against Witches_. Individuals supposedly possessed by evil spirits were probably schizophrenic, in rarer cases exhibiting personalities that had no knowledge of each other. Even if false memories are debunked in modern psychology, the superstition remains and can be exploited by targeting 'back to Genesis' believers, who accept Biblical stories of demonic influence as literally true.

Getting back to therapy: Bunco cops have long said it's difficult to prosecute phony "therapies", whose practitioners can whistle up a parade of expert witnesses to vouch for any given hokey therapy -- because they invented it, and they alone control who gets certified in it. Because these therapies operate outside the practice of medicine, medical experts lack standing to testify, unless the bogus therapy causes medical damage, or preempts needed medical treatment.

According to CBS, consumers can be safe simply by checking the state licensing website. The Ohio Medical Licensing Board isn't much help to consumers on this issue.. http://www.med.ohio.gov/

The Ohio Board site lists "acupuncture" as a branch of medicine. There's no lookup for "psychotherapy" per se ( just psychiatriy and psychoanalysis ). Quack chiropractic claims, of the type featured by Penn and Teller on HBO, weren't even mentioned.

The Ohio medical board website did provide links to clarification ( for what little it's worth ) in the Ohio codes. "Psychologic psychotherapy" is covered -- provided the practitioner actually uses the word "psychological", or uses a technique normally requiring medical supervision. Quacks can dodge the law by not using the word "psychological", and by not using legitimate techniques requiring psych supervision.

How can psychotherapy NOT be psychological?

The Ohio Revised Code Sec. 4757.01 ( definitions ) describes "social psychotherapy... which includes the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders" as coming under "the practice of social work", not psychology. -- a separate turfdom. Then there are "counseling" psychotherapies, used with clients who don't have a clinical psychological condition. Some are predators plain and simple.

The Ohio Revised Code takes a piecemeal approach to:

4732-5-01 Psychological procedures which create a serious hazard to mental health and require professional expertise in psychology...

"Persons regulated under other sections of the Revised Code can use hazardous psychological procedurees when consistent with their professions, provided they do not hold thenselves out to the public by the title "psychologist"... Using the term "psychologic", "psychological" or "psychology" constitutes holding oneself out to the public as a psychologist, even though use of the procedure under other names may be permitted, as provided by law."

"The board judges that the following psychological procedures are a serious hazard to mental health and require professional expertise in psychology... psychological and school psychological diagnosis... prescription... client supervision... sensitivity training... confrontation groups... hypnotic techniques for diagnostic, treatment, or other psychotherapeutic purposes... individual intelligence testing... assessment of cognitive processing, or determination of individual intelligence... personality evaluation... individual and group psychological psychotherapy... psychological behavior psychotherapy such as, but not limited to, implosive therapy, aversive therapy, and desensitization... couples and family psychotherapy... psychological psychotherapy for sexual dysfunctions and disorders." --http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp=PORC

Unless a "procedure" is destructive enough to make the hazard list, it can be used by unlicensed personnel. The personnel can be unlicensed if they don't claim to provide "psychological" services, Fly-by-night 'professions' need only keep inventing 'therapies' that no-one ever heard of, including the state medical board. Consumers have no way of knowing that, unless they can dissect legalese.

An even slicker dodge is 'religious diagnosis' -- Satan got into the client's head and erased her memories. Because of the constitutional protections afforded religion, lawmakers cannot "infringle" religious speech such as "In my opinion Satan was in your head", or "If Satan was in your head and your family denies consorting with Satan, you should cut all ties with them." The only 'expertise' required is the Bible -- and many big-name evangelists will testify that Satan can get into your head just by playing with a Game Cube, or clicking on a sleptical website.

The "satanic" angle in the CBS story reveals something else: State regulatory schemes such as Ohio's are based on a false assumption -- that if quacks can't 'borrow' medical credibility, quacks can't operate. Here the credibility is borrowed from religion. Repressed memories were discredited as a psychological diagnosis, so the quacks simply substitute 'religious amnesia'., which is then 'treated' by mundane and generally approved means -- hit the pillow, cut ties with the alleged abuser(s) etc.

States can't just license all practitioners who claim to help people. There are Christian Science practitioners and Scientology practitioners. In many religious denominations, the clergy double as 'free shrinks', especially in congregations so small there's not much else for a minister to do for a full-time salary. Some churches have specialized personal work ministers to help solve family crises the Christian way as they see it. Other churches partner with Christian counseling agencies. Constitutionally, this comes under "practice of religion". Christian Science practitioners, for example, recommend consistently against any accepted medical psychotherapy or other treatment.

Then there are the fringe dietitians, who 'treat' serious stress, anxiety and depression by recommending herbs and meditation. Regulators are loath to interfere in any way with 'alternative medicine', so great is public demand for it. In some states the regulatory language has been changed to blur the line between medicine and non-medicine, with respect to both both body and mind -- the goal being to make state laws friendly to "alternative" sources of large tax revenues. When times are tight, people forego medical care -- but still open their wallets for what seems like a cheap alternative.

One legislative aide said privately "Look, if alternative medicine is proven to pose a pervasive danger, it can be reined in -- but not until." That assumes the process is reversible, which it isn't. Medical language itself is changing. 'Placebo' therapies are gaining supporters INSIDE the medical profession -- deemed harmless under medical supervision. What doctors don't see is what placebo 'therapies' are doing to the regulatory framework, and to consumers' and courts' ability to distinguish therapeutic value from fraud.

The free market does NOT evolve the most efficacious, most cost-effective placebos. The free market evolves the most efficient parasites in a protected niche called 'alternative' medicine. What succeeds best in the free market is not what makes patients feel better. What succeeds in the free market is what can be milked for the greatest profit margin to buy ad blitzes, endorsements, settlements, and legislative protection. What succeeds in the free market are 'practitioners' who make unequivocal claims, unconstrained by medical ethics or proof-of-claim.

AT NEWS: New Website Fighting AT

From: Linda Rosa rosa@ezlink.com

Advocates for Children in Therapy is happy to announce a new website dealing with pseudoscience known as Attachment Therapy and the many abuses it inflicts on adopted and foster children.

The URL is: http://www.ChildrenInTherapy.org/.

The site contains much information about the nature and extent of AT brutality. Look for our section, "What is AT?" for essays and summaries on these topics:

* Attachment Therapy: Child Abuse by Another Name * Abusive Techniques * AT versus Conventional Therapies * Valid Evidence for AT? * AT Parenting Techniques * Reparenting * Government Subsidies for AT

There is extensive reporting on highly publicized cases of child victimization with AT, including the eight deaths known to us.

Other pages provide: a history of criticism of AT; a sampling of the opinions of 70 organizations and individuals opposing AT, coercive restraints in therapy, or both; and an archive of recent *AT News*.

We hope soon to put up a NewsRoom page (covering publicity about AT), reports on specific proponents and providers of AT, and surveys of regulatory and legislative activity touching on AT.

We urge you to use our site for comprehensive information regarding all aspects of Attachment Therapy. We hope you will also use it to let others know about the horrors of AT.

We welcome your comments, too. If you can think of anything you'd like to see on the website, please let us know. If you have something of your own you would like to contribute to the site, we would love to hear about it!

CSICOP: Articles of Note

How Satan is propping up Bush's war on terror
By Andrew O'Hehir


"Bill Ellis goes to some lengths to convince you that he's a normal American. The biographical blurb in the back of his new book, "Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture," assures readers that he's an "active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" -- perhaps the most mainstream and least controversial religious affiliation one can imagine."

Nessie-hunter explains away 'mystery' creature
Inverness Courier


"NESSIE-HUNTER Steve Feltham believes he has solved one mystery of the loch and the identity of a strange beastie found on its shores."

Big plans to catch bigfoot
By Yunmi Choi
San Mateo Daily Journal


"It's a master plan that includes global positioning, aerial surveillance and ground patrol."

Water torture
by Ben Goldacre
The Guardian


"You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch a Sunday Times beauty journalist out. "Harriet Griffey thought bottled water was a con, until mountain-pure H2O healed her senses.""

When the sums don't add up
by Ben Goldacre
The Guardian


"Like most people who know the first thing about science, I don't usually bother to read scare stories in the media, as I know they're not going to tell me anything useful. Parabens from deodorant in breast cancer cells? That sounds interesting. Oh, you haven't measured it in normal cells yet. Thanks for wasting my time. Four minutes poorer, life goes on."

Truth about the cancer trap
by Felicity Lawrence, Ian Sample and Alok Jha
The Guardian


"No, you shouldn't. Yes, you should. If it weren't so serious, there might have been something funny about the row between scientists either side of the Atlantic about how much salmon we should all eat."

Get poor quick!
By A.C. Thompson
San Francisco Bay Guardian


"THE SALESMAN IS named Steven Lloyd. Or so he says."

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."

Kucinich's own crusade
By Steve Miller


"The smell of incense and cinnamon hangs in the air during a reception for Dennis J. Kucinich at a country mansion outside this "meditation community," a town of 9,500 and the home base of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Natural Law Party."

Cardinal takes a crack at 'The Da Vinci Code'
Chicago Sun-Times


"Let's corner Dan Brown and noogie him until he tells us the truth about his book The Da Vinci Code."

More answers from George on 'Da Vinci Code'
Chicago Sun-Times


"Well, that struck a nerve. As the e-mails poured in from far and wide in response to last week's column about Dan Brown's novel The DaVinci Code (fact, fiction or both?), I started to wonder if I might hear from all of the readers of the 4.5 million copies in print."

Code stirs pot of controversy, questions
By Michelle Martin
Catholic New World


"When Rosalind Hays first read “The Da Vinci Code,” she didn’t look at it as anything but entertainment."

Sharpton must admit fault in Brawley hoax
Weschester Journal-News


"Pete Rose admitted he lied and bet on baseball."

Sale of book at park ignites debate over Grand Canyon's age


"Traditional scientists and Christian creationists have lined up on either side of a dispute over sales of a new book at Grand Canyon National Park that claims the canyon dates to the biblical flood of Genesis rather than millions of years ago."

Critics Say the Park Service Is Letting Religion and Politics Affect Its
New York Times


"To halt the removal of a cross placed in the Mojave National Preserve almost 70 years ago to commemorate World War I veterans, a Republican lawmaker from California has proposed swapping the land it sits on with a private group."

Bet on an Eagles win - it's in the stars
Philadelphia Daily News


"The Eagles have a lot going for them when they take the field Sunday against the Carolina Panthers." (If there were some sort of dumb-ass award this story would surely win it)

Is Your Psychotherapist Qualified?


"Carol Diament thought her problems were over when she read about a cutting edge marriage counselor in the local paper."

Woman branded witch for discoloured eye
Times of India


"A 60-year-old woman, Chokli Ratansinh Kanasia, of Jambusar village under Devagadh Baria taluka, branded as witch by relatives, was attacked by villagers forcing her to run away from her house on Thursday."

Thanks to Joe Littrell and Skeptic NewsSearch


If you'd like to support the Skeptic NewsSearch, please consider making a donation via PayPal - http://tinyurl.com/x81m

Weil's integrative medicine gathering steam


By Carla McClain

Although the launch of the "integrative medicine" movement in this country may have depended on the face and fame of Dr. Andrew Weil, its rapid spread nationwide is now out of his hands.

His train - built here at the University of Arizona - has left the station.

No longer the solo act of a single doctor, "integrative medicine" - the blending of conventional mainstream Western medicine with more nature-based alternative therapies - is fanning out across the country faster than anyone had predicted.

Though still controversial, it is a medical revolution now fueled by growing legions of doctors burned out by a broken health care system, responding to patients demanding better treatment from them.

Many of these doctors have been trained by Weil - fulfilling his vision that they go forth and multiply after he opened the first university-based integrative medicine, or IM, program in the nation - at the UA - in 1996. Fourteen UA-spawned IM clinics are now operating throughout the country and more than 100 UA-trained doctors are practicing integrated medicine in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Others have jumped on the IM bandwagon on their own.

"It was a little unnerving at first - when Andy Weil was the only person showing you this is worthwhile," said Dr. Karen Koffler, one of the first out-of-state physicians to take the two-year training course in integrative medicine at the UA.

A highly conventional critical care specialist, she was at first filled with doubts during training, feeling that some of the alternative therapies were outright frauds. Today, Koffler is director of her own thriving IM clinic in Evanston, Ill.

"I've never seen such good results," she said, speaking of the many patients she has treated in the Midwest since her clinic opened in 2001.

"I've learned how to balance the intellectual processes of medicine with an intuitive understanding of what this person, this patient really needs to gain strength for healing. That is never taught in medical school and is lost entirely from medicine now."

Working within the system

Koffler was stunned by the early and large demand for this brand of medicine in that region.

"Here I am in the Midwest, where I expected it to be much more conservative, less open to this. But people were finding me even before I left the UA. There is no problem with a shortage of patients at all," she said, noting her clinic sees about 350 patients a month, even though most of them must - and are willing to - pay out of pocket for this care.

Koffler is one of 28 mainstream physicians from around the country who have chosen to change the way they practice medicine by taking the two-year IM fellowship training at the UA under Weil.

Since the first class of "IM fellows" graduated in 1999, 14 have opened their own IM centers coast-to-coast - from New York City to Portland, Ore. Others have simply blended the integrative therapies into their own private or academic practices.

"The whole goal of Dr. Weil's program was not to just have us graduate and then hang up our own shingle. It is to send us out to work within the existing health system, with all of our colleagues, to spread an understanding of this kind of medicine," said Dr. Russell Greenfield, an emergency physician who took Weil's training after 10 years of ER work in North Carolina. He returned to open the Carolinas Integrative Health clinic in Charlotte in the summer of 2001.

But unlike Koffler's high-demand experience in the Chicago area, Greenfield ran into a wall of distrust and resistance in the conservative Deep South.

"It has taken us quite a while to pick up steam. We had to spend that first year explaining what we're not, so people would not be afraid of us. We are not 'alternative' medicine. That implies we do these therapies instead of conventional care. Not true. The goal is to find the right combination for each patient."

Greenfield's most hostile audiences in the South have been his peers - other physicians.

"I tell them 'I'm one of you' and that we have the data - we have the studies, we're not making this up," he said. Examples are published studies showing the beneficial effect of saw palmetto on enlarged prostates, and how massage therapy can ease lower back pain with fewer side effects than drugs.

After all this difficult trailblazing, Greenfield's clinic is finally getting up to speed, drawing enough patients to make it solvent. The trend went positive about a year ago, with this December his busiest month ever.

Like so many IM doctors, Greenfield decided to take Weil's training after witnessing the disaster of mainstream medicine through the ER.

"We saw people all the time in the ER because they could not get in to see a doctor, and if they did, they only got a few minutes and nobody listened to them. The doctors in the system feel the same way," he said. "It's broken."

Spreading the word

A school with no dropouts, the UA's on-site IM training was only the first wave of spreading this gospel. What has really sent it far and wide is what the UA calls "associate fellows" distance-training. Taken through the Internet, it does not require physicians to pull up stakes and move to Tucson for two years.

To date, some 166 doctors have done it, with more than 60 practicing some form of integrative medicine in 20 states, and Canada, Puerto Rico and Japan.

"That's what really swayed me," said Dr. Raymond Woos-ley, who, as the UA's vice president for health sciences, is in a position to shut Weil down if he deems the program unworthy or unsuccessful.

"I felt Weil would never be able to succeed if he was training only three or four doctors at a time. It would be almost impossible to create the critical mass to change the culture of medicine.

"But now, with the distance-training, he is having that impact. My only concern now is we need to clone him."

"One of the skeptics" when he got to the UA in 2001, Woosley said he's on this IM bandwagon wholeheartedly now.

"Andy wants doctors to care about patients and give them the time they need. He and I are both very concerned about the doctor who writes a prescription just to get the patient out the door," he said.

Chicago breast cancer patient Cheryl Oulehla, 52, has used diet, energy medicine, acupuncture and massage therapy at Koffler's clinic to help get her through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The result has been a sense of calm and tolerance, deeper sleep, and a decent appetite, she said.

"I spent a lot of my money to do this, but it is a priority and it has changed my life," she said. "This is the first doctor - and I've had a lot of doctors - that ever sat down and talked to me. Somebody actually wanted to know how I felt, who wanted to hear what I had to say. That never happens."

"It's not all bad"

Even the harshest critics of Andrew Weil are now conceding he has caught the wave of what's wrong with medicine and is riding it for all it's worth.

"I'm not surprised this hasn't gone away - it has a lot going for it. It's not all bad," said Dr. Arnold Relman, a now-retired professor of medicine at Harvard University (Weil's alma mater) and the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Relman has publicly and repeatedly attacked Weil and integrative medicine as fraudulent from the get-go.

"This is nothing that I think justifies or legitimizes it, but what Weil does plays to the generalized dissatisfaction with current medical care.

"One of the reasons this movement has made headway is that it recognizes an important truth - that good medicine and healing require compassionate and caring physicians. But we've been saying that for 50 years. Andy's not the first."

Relman's faint praise stops there. Mincing no words, he said Weil offers "belief in miracles" to a country that remains largely distrustful of science and still believing in creationism.

"It's all about thinking and hoping and wishing - the power of the mind to make things happen," Relman said, calling Weil "just another snake oil salesman."

"It's just the latest thing in mankind's long history of quackery and fakery and hysteria and charlatans. It's a romance with irrationalism. It's a step backward. Andrew Weil is not the messiah. He's just a shrewd operator."

Changing the system

And shrewd he will have to be if integrative medicine is ever to fully enter our medical system, Weil is the first to say.

The main thing holding back integrative medicine is that, with few exceptions, little of it is covered by traditional health insurance plans. Most patients must pay out-of-pocket for services, including the initial, leng-thy doctor-patient interview, that can run from $100 to $350. That severely restricts who and how many can actually use it.

"That is the greatest frustration for anybody involved in this. None of us wants to practice what some call 'elitist' medicine, available only to the weller-off," said Greenfield. "We want this available to all segments of society. We want to start early with children, to teach them preventive medicine. We want to help people with predisposition to disease, to help them stave it off. We want to make everybody less reliant on the health care system."

That will one day happen, Weil insists, because consumer demand is out there. But more critical, integrative medicine is going to prove as effective - but considerably cheaper - than conventional care alone.

"Integrative medicine satisfies patients, and it works. But the main thing is the economics - it is going to save money," said Weil. "Once we do the large-scale outcome studies and economic analyses to show this, the system will change, within the next two to three years."

Until it does, many IM clinics are surviving hand-to-mouth, no matter how busy they are with eager patients.

Treating more than 1,300 every month in New York City, the Center for Health & Healing - also run by a Weil protg - spends too much time fund-raising to keep going, says its medical director.

"It is a heroic challenge, because what reimbursement we do get never covers the time spent with patients," said Dr. Roberta Lee.

"It's an art keeping it going."

*Contact reporter Carla McClain at 806-7754 or cmcclain@azstarnet.com.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Mike Moore: Blast off, space hoax theorists

By Mike Moore

If we can scrape together a few billion dollars, we're headed back to the moon. Great, maybe we can convince people we were there in the first place.

Over the years, I've had to debate a couple of my friends who are certain the Apollo missions were a sham. A well-publicized launch and then a series of Hollywood productions in Bumblesquat, New Mexico. Anybody can see that, they say. They drone on about inconsistencies in the pictures from the moon, stuff like shadows and blowing dust. Mostly they just don't trust the American government to do as much as blink without lying.

Maybe they've got something on that last one, but the moon? With a couple of clicks of my mouse, I can knock out pretty much every conspiracy theory. Now that the Mars probe is sending back amazing pictures of the red planet, hoax theorists have a bunch of new fodder. Internet newsgroups are cluttered with posts saying the Mars images are fake, done by special effects gurus when they aren't busy making Gollum look real as he slithers toward the hobbits.

I called the number for Karen Johnson Productions here in Racine to see if anyone knew whether it was possible to artificially create those images. I found out it's now called Aha! Studios, and I was connected to computer graphics animator Rick Eshbaugh. You might recognize some of his work, on the "Nancy Drew" PC games.

"Part of my job is just to have a gut-level feeling of what's real and what's not," he said.

His gut tells him the Mars images are legit. With the Martian terrain right there on his computer desktop, he's followed the rover's progress pretty closely.

"I think it's easier to fly to Mars and take pictures than to fake it," Eshbaugh said.

Sometimes people can be fooled in movies with a quick glance at something, but usually even an untrained eye can tell after a while that the Titanic isn't really hitting an iceberg. The same goes for the Martian photos.

There's just something other-worldly about the planet's desolate landscape. With family in New Mexico, Eshbaugh sees some similarities in the images - but not enough to believe there's a crew of programmers duplicating the southwestern desert for NASA.

As for the moon, it's been more than three decades since the last human wandered around on the surface, yet thousands aren't buying it. If you want conspiracies, move on to JFK or Vince Foster or the NBA playoffs. I guess it must seem weird to much of my generation, which wasn't born when the Apollo 17 crew last sauntered through the lunar dust. Really, with billions of galaxies out there, for us to go to a couple of our closest galactic neighbors isn't that big of an accomplishment that we should refuse to accept it.

Those low-budget TV specials don't help. A survey the Fox TV network took after one of those programs a couple of years ago suggested 20 percent think we never landed on the moon.

Good news; it looks like our students are smarter than that. Robert Fitts, a Marquette University biological sciences professor, said he hasn't been approached by any skeptical students. Then again, they'd definitely be barking up the wrong tree, since Fitts works with NASA. He's trying to find ways to fight off the loss of bone density on long spaceflights, like the six-month one it'd take to get to Mars.

A few months ago, several hard-core stargazers let me peer through their gigantic telescopes during the open house at the Modine- Benstead Observatory in Yorkville. As I looked at the two brightest objects in the sky, the moon and Mars, I imagined someday I'd have the chance to hop around on their surfaces. I've even considered buying an acre of lunar land from one of those shady companies for $30. Yeah, they don't have a high enough category of risk to classify that investment, but the payout sure would be big.

Wait. It might be more rewarding to give my seat on the lunar shuttle to a skeptic. And make sure it's the rickety old one that's about to be retired. Hey, if it's all fake, the thing wouldn't be going anywhere anyway. What difference would it make what condition the spacecraft is in? See you on the dark side, people.

Mike Moore is the associate editor of The Journal Times. He can be reached at (262) 631-1724 or by e-mail at mmoore@journaltimes.com

Bill defines how to teach life's origins

By Carolyn Bower
Of the Post-Dispatch

A handful of Missouri legislators have signed on to a proposal that would change how teachers introduce students to information about the origin of life.

Public school teachers who teach evolution also would have to teach intelligent design under the proposal pending in the Missouri House of Representatives.

New textbooks would have to label evolution as a theory that cannot be proved. A teacher, principal or superintendent could be fired for deliberately ignoring these requirements.

With the proposal, Missouri joins states such as Kansas, Georgia and Ohio, where fierce debates have erupted over how to teach science in public school classrooms.

"This is so sad to see this in this day and age," said Charles Granger, curators' distinguished teaching professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a member of the board of the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

"I hope we don't make fools of ourselves like Kansas."

A decision by the Kansas Board of Education in 1999 to remove evolution from science standards brought a storm of protest. A year later, a new board revised the standards to include the subject.

State Rep. Robert Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, said he introduced the bill at the request of a group from the St. Charles area called Missourians for Excellence in Science Education.

Cooper said he seeks to improve science education by changing textbooks, by making sure fact and theory are not commingled and to allow discussion of intelligent design as a model for the origin of life.

The bill could have a huge impact on the teaching of science, said Tom Cradick, a biology teacher at Parkway North High who has taught for 28 years and was 2001 Missouri Outstanding Biology Teacher. For instance, after science standards were changed in Kansas, a physics teacher was not allowed to teach the big-bang theory. A chemistry teacher could not teach the periodic table.

Cradick noted that the provisions of the bill would apply to physics, chemistry, biology, health, physiology, genetics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, anthropology, ecology, climatology or other science topics.

He worries that the legislation will distract from the effort to make students competitive in science with students abroad.

The National Science Teachers Association,has said "so-called theories of intelligent design and creationism have no scientific credibility and will lead to many misconceptions about scientific concepts and the nature of science." Teachers should not be pressured to promote nonscientific views, said Cindy Workosky, a spokeswoman for the association based in Arlington, Va.

Supporters of intelligent design are trying to bring creationism and religion into schools, said Rebecca Litherland, science coordinator for the Columbia public schools and a past president of the Science Teachers of Missouri.

There is no such intent, said Joe White, president of the citizens group that worked several years to prepare for the legislation that Cooper introduced.

"We are not defining who intelligence is," said White, a Boeing engineer who lives in St. Charles. "If you are Christian, you may say God. If you are an atheist, you may say it was an extraterrestrial intelligent cosmic being."

People who support intelligent design reject the theory of evolution, White said. "Life is too complex to happen by an evolutionary mechanism."

Evolution is impossible to explain in a few sentences, teachers say. But the basic concept holds that over millions of years and with environmental pressure, various traits are selected that can lead to different species.

Intelligent design is explained as "irreducible complexity" in a living organism that could not have happened by chance.

State Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, said she decided to co-sponsor the bill as a way to make sure children are given "intellectual freedom." Davis said she has received more e-mail on this bill than any other she has sponsored.

Many creationists and evolutionists embrace tenets of both to various extents, said Andrew Shaw, a teacher at Westminster Christian Academy in west St. Louis County.

"A good teacher does not need the state telling her or him what position to hold on a curricular issue or what percentage of time to devote to each side of an issue," Shaw said.

If Missouri legislators approve the bill, White expects a court challenge. "We are looking forward to that," he said. "We plan to kick their tails to the Supreme Court and back on this one."

The bill is HB911.

Reporter Carolyn Bower
E-mail: cbower@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-209-1246


Highlights from 4th Quarter 2003

December 30, 2003
Fox News Channel
"The Fox Report"
7-8 pm EST US

CSICOP senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell was interviewed for a segment on the "Solano [County, California] Crop Circles," to address recent claims that the circles were the product of something other than human hoaxers.

December 25, 2003
Fox News Channel
"The Fox Report"
7-8 p.m. EST US

Ed Bucker, Southern Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, appeared Fox News Christmas Day for a segment on the appropriateness of Christmas nativity scenes, etc., on government property.

December 15 & 18, 2003
"Anderson Cooper 360"
7-8 p.m. EST

This week on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/index.html), there was a weeklong series of segments on miracles. Monday featured the case of Audrey Santo. Tuesday was devoted to the Roman Catholic Church's "Miracle Verification Unit." On Wednesday, CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta discussed alleged medical miracles. Thursday was devoted to visions and simulacra of the Virgin Mary, and the final segment discussed why people believe in miracles.

Nickell appeared on the Monday night segment to discuss Audrey Santo. His pre-taped appearance was short, but on Tuesday, CNN asked him to come back for a live appearance for the Thursday segment on visions of Mary. Excerpt available at http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0312/18/acd.00.html).

November 11, 2003
Newshouse News Service
"Alternative Medicine Agency Puts Health Claims to Test"
by Robert Cohen

Cohen reports on the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in Bethesda, Maryland. He quotes Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine editor and CSICOP Fellow, Wallace Sampson, MD, on the frivolity of much of the NCCAM's research:

"'Eighty (percent) to 90 percent of these studies don't have to be done. They are investments in absurd propositions and methods already disproved.' Sampson said.

"He called alternative medicine 'an institutionalized social cult movement that perpetuates itself using governmental agencies for funding and promoting products and therapies that are worthless. Most scientists recognize it is baloney.'"

November 7, 2003
Time.com (Time Magazine Web site)
"The Skeptical Eye: Larry King and the Paranormal"
by Leon Jaroff

Jaroff, a CSICOP fellow, chronicles Larry King's promotion of psychic mediums and other paranormal clap-trap, citing Chris Mooney's article for Skeptical Inquirer.

"...host Larry King has undermined the impact of those interviews by also repeatedly inviting a motley collection of UFO enthusiasts, paranormalists, seers and mediums to his show," Jarroff writes. "Writing in the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer, columnist Chris Mooney pulls no punches. 'CNN may be a respected news network,' he says, "but in its irresponsible presentation of paranormal topics and themes, 'Larry King Live' compromises that reputation.'"

(See http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,538305,00.html)

November 4, 2003
Los Angeles Times
"Battling Delirium in the ICU"
by Jane E. Allen

Wallace Sampson MD, editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, comments on the frequent symptoms of delirium in intensive care unit patients.

October 31, 2003
Discovery News
"Internet Tricks No Treat"
Larry O'Hanlon


"Trick or treat?," O'Hanlon writes. "Brace yourself for a trick, said leading skeptics from the United States, Canada and Europe who gathered in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this week to debunk the latest and greatest cons, frauds, pranks, hoaxes, hauntings, UFOs, monsters, fake TV psychics and other paranormal phenomena."

O'Hanlon reports on the lessons he took home from the Albuquerque "Hoaxes Myths and Manias" conference, namely that the Internet and modern media make it possible for hoax claims to spread faster than ever.

October 30, 2003
Associated Press
"Investigator probes the paranormal"
by Chaka Ferguson

Ferguson reports on the career of CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell as paranormal sleuth.

Ferguson writes:

"On Halloween, when legend says disembodied spirits return in search of living bodies to possess, Joe Nickell goes on the prowl, too -- for ghosts, ghouls, and other things that creep in the night.

"The former private eye, who used to solve arsons and theft rings for a security firm, is now a senior research fellow at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP.

"His job: unravel the unexplained, debunk the deceptive, unmask the hoax."

October 26, 2003
Associated Press
"People Want to Talk to the Animals"
by Joann LoViglio

Joe Nickell comments on the renewed phenomenon of pet psychics who claim to convey the thoughts of living pets to their owners and pet mediums who "channel" the spirits of deceased pets:

"'Like all aspects of the paranormal, this is tapping into the most basic of human hopes and fears and longings,' Nickell said. 'We hope that we live after we die, we hope we're not alone in the universe."

'... This is kind of like a grown-up version of the child with imaginary playmates,' [Nickell] said. 'They're fantasy-prone people who are conveying a message to people who are hoping to get a message and aren't thinking critically.'"

October 24, 2003
KOAT-TV Albuquerque (ABC Affilate)
11:00 pm news broadcast

Coverage of "Hoaxes Myths and Manias" Conference.

October 24, 2003
KRQE-TV (CBS Affiliate)
11:00 pm news broadcast

Coverage of "Hoaxes Myths and Manias" Conference.

October 23, 2003
National Geographic News (nationalgeographic.com)
"Forensic Expert Says Bigfoot Is Real"
by Stefan Lovgren

CSICOP Fellow Michael Dennett comments explains to National Geographic why the majority of scientists are skeptical of Bigfoot claims:

"'The bottom line is, they don't have a body,' said Michael Dennett, who writes for Skeptical Inquirer magazine and who has followed the Bigfoot debate for 20 years.

"Dennett says he's not surprised by the flood of Bigfoot sightings.

"'It's the same kind of eyewitness reports we see for the Loch Ness Sea Monster, UFOs, ghosts, you name it," he said. "The monster thing is a universal product of the human mind. We hear such stories from around the world.'"

October 23, 2003 Albuquerque Tribune "Believe it or not, meeting set for aliens, Bigfoot" Frank Zoretich

Zoretich announces the "Hoaxes Myths & Manias" conference in Albuquerque, NM.

October 22, 2003
Albuquerque Journal
"Skeptics Host Meeting: Conference Looks at Pseudoscience"
John Fleck

Fleck announces the "Hoaxes Myths & Manias" conference in Albuquerque, NM.

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