NTS LogoSkeptical News for 12 February 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Thursday, February 12, 2004

'Stars' go back to reality

http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/showbiz/content_objectid=13940485_method=full_siteid=50003_headline=--Stars--go-back-to-reality-name_page.htmlFeb 11 2004

Spoon-bender Uri Geller and the Wife Swap mother notorious for claiming thousands of pounds in benefit will join Jade Goody and Nasty Nick in a new reality TV show, it was announced today.

In a surprise twist, Five's Back To Reality will also invite a member of the public to join the 12 celebrity contestants from past reality shows.

Today the channel unveiled the last six contestants - mother-of-eight Lizzy Bardsley from Wife Swap, BBC Merseybeat's Josie D'Arby from The Game, Uri Geller, model Catalina from I'm A Celebrity, Big Brother's first winner, Craig Phillips and Maureen Rees from docusoap Driving School.

They will join Jade and Nasty Nick from Big Brother, Ricardo from The Salon, Pop Idol loser Rik Waller, "love rat" James Hewitt from The Game and Playboy centrefold Sarah Kozer from Joe Millionaire who will enter the studio mansion dubbed Beckingham Palace.

The 12 contestants will battle it out in the house - where they will be deprived of real daylight for the prize of £75,000 to give to charity.

The mansion guests will have a week before public voting begins and the most popular contestant will then decide which of the two least favourites gets the boot.

Producers today said they would be able to control the time of day and arrange for the sun to set or rise at the push of a button in Truman Show style and admitted that lack of real sunlight could "take its toll".

Producers will relay messages to the contestants via a phone box and post box outside the mansion, which has three bedrooms.

One of the bedrooms has only one bed in it, a feature which could spark conflict or romance.

Producers would not reveal how long the member of the public who enters the show - someone who has taken part in the vote for their favourite contestant - will stay for, saying it could be just the morning or the whole stint.

Series editor Justin Gorman said: "By voting, you can join the reality stars and be having breakfast with Jade and Nick.

"This is the ultimate reality experience with the ultimate reality TV stars.

"Being deprived of the natural elements could take its told, with the celebrities becoming depressed or trying to escape."

The celebrities will talk to the show's producers via a potting shed in the garden, which is surrounded by a backdrop of painted blue skies. There will be no clocks so that time can be manipulated and, although there is a TV, what guests can watch will also be controlled.

The mansion is rigged with 50 widescreen cameras and 30 discreet cameras.

Today, Tess Daly and Richard Bacon, who will present the show, predicted fireworks.

Tess said: "These are big, interesting personalities. There's going to be a lot of dynamics and fireworks. Anything could happen in there.

"I can't imagine anything worse than being watched by 30 cameras 24 hours a day.

Richard said: "This is the best of reality TV, like the greatest hits."

The Peaceful Guidance of Dr. Deepak Chopra is Now Available to Verizon Wireless Get It Now Customers; Airborne Entertainment Brings Daily Doses of Chopra to Mobile Phones

http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20040211005685&newsLang=en

February 11, 2004 02:08 PM US Eastern Timezone

BEDMINSTER, N.J. & LA JOLLA, Calif. & MONTREAL--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 11, 2004--Wireless users looking for peace and tranquility can now find it from a unique source - their wireless phones. For the first time ever, the teachings and guidance of internationally renowned health and spiritual advisor Dr. Deepak Chopra are available to Verizon Wireless Get It Now(R) customers with The Seven Spiritual Laws application.

Produced by Airborne Entertainment, The Seven Spiritual Laws represents a revolution in life enhancement programs promoting personal development. Content is updated daily so that customers can tap into Dr. Chopra's wisdom and guidance and learn how to achieve daily success at home, at work and in their relationships. With The Seven Spiritual Laws, Get It Now customers can view portals that incorporate Dr. Chopra's wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing, bringing his calming influence with them wherever they go. Consumers interested in health and spirituality are readily familiar with Dr. Chopra, author of 35 books with more than 20 million copies sold around the world. Heralded by Time Magazine as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine" and "The Top 100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century," Dr. Chopra has spread his message of holistic wellbeing to millions of dedicated followers.

"The Seven Spiritual Laws program has been life altering for millions of people across the world, said Dr. Chopra, "We have expanded this program for Airborne Entertainment and applied it specifically to relationships, success, spirituality, and well being. My hope is that people apply these principles in their daily lives and their lives will be happier, fulfilled, successful, and healthy." "Deepak Chopra's mission has always been to 'bridge the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east' and we're honored to be instrumental in advancing this mission," said Andy Nulman, President Airborne Entertainment.

The Seven Spiritual Laws is designed to be inspiring, practical and easy to use. The application's flower-shaped main menu is divided into eight sections; each a portal into a distinct, dynamic feature that is accessed through clear and colorful icons. Verizon Wireless Get It Now customers can read a daily law and then learn how to apply it to their own lives, read success tips and daily wisdom, view inspirational images and opt-in to receive a weekly message direct from Dr. Chopra. The Seven Spiritual Laws is the first of numerous Deepak Chopra life-enhancement applications designed specifically for mobile, with the second app scheduled for release later this year.

The Seven Spiritual Laws is available on Verizon Wireless' Get It Now service for $3.25 monthly access. Download charges for Get It Now applications vary and airtime charges apply when browsing, downloading and using certain applications. Customers need a Get It Now-enabled handset and Verizon Wireless digital service to access the Get It Now virtual store. Customers can purchase Get It Now-capable phones at more than 1,200 Verizon Wireless Communications Stores throughout the country, at participating Circuit City and RadioShack locations, or online at www.verizonwireless.com.

About Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 37.5 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To receive broadcast-quality video footage of Verizon Wireless operations, log onto www.thenewsmarket.com.

Efforts to Sabotage Ohio's Science Lessons Deplorable, Claims Discovery Institute

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040211/sfw119_1.html

Press Release
Source: Discovery Institute

Wednesday February 11, 8:54 pm ET

SEATTLE, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The tentative decision of the Ohio State Board of Education this week to approve a model lesson plan on the critical analysis of evolution was applauded today by the Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture examines scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. At the same time the Institute said efforts by Darwin-only lobbyists to misrepresent the issue by identifying it with intelligent design were deplorable.

"Intelligent design isn't even covered in this lesson," said Bruce Chapman, President of Discovery Institute. "The curriculum only examines the evidence for evolution and the scientific challenges to Darwin's theory that are under debate by scientists around the world."

The scientific theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause. Ohio's science standards are clear that they do not mandate the teaching of intelligent design. But Benchmark H of the science standards do require all students to be able to "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The proposed lesson covering critical analysis of evolution implements this benchmark. The lesson has students examine the evidence supporting Darwinian evolution as well as some questions that have been raised by scientists about that evidence.

"Members of the board of education are to be congratulated for making sure that Ohio students learn as much as possible about evolution, including scientific criticisms of the theory," added Chapman. "This is a win-win approach that will benefit everyone -- students, teachers, parents, and scientists."

The Ohio Board of Education is expected to vote again in March to confirm the model lesson plan on the critical analysis of evolution.

To speak with a spokesperson for Discovery Institute contact Rob Crowther at 206-292-0401 x107 or by e-mail at rob@discovery.org.

About the Center for Science and Culture

Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture is the nation's leading think tank and research center examining scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy, think tank which promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty. Current projects include: technology, the economy, regional transportation, and the bi-national region of "Cascadia." http://www.discovery.org/

Source: Discovery Institute

Board OKs lessons criticizing evolution

http://www.marionstar.com/news/stories/20040211/localnews/396275.html

Opponent calls plan a 'sad day for science in Ohio'

By LEO SHANE III
Star Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS -- Evolution criticisms backed by religious groups will remain in the state's model curriculum for high school science classes, after getting overwhelming support from the state Board of Education Tuesday.

The board by a 13-4 vote gave preliminary approval to the science model lesson plan, suggestions on how to handle the subject in Ohio classrooms. It includes a chapter titled "Critical analysis of evolution" that recommends 10th-graders debate several common critiques of the theory.

Supporters of the curriculum insist that, as written, the model has nothing to do with intelligent design - the belief that a higher power played a role in the creation of all life.

But opponents said the examples and arguments included - things like missing links in the fossil record - bear all the marks of intelligent design teachings, and accused board members of sneaking it into Ohio schools. Several Web sites listed in the model also reference pro-intelligent design groups.

"There is a clear paper trail here to intelligent design," said Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biology lecturer at Case Western Reserve University. "It's a disservice to the kids learning evolution.

"This opens up the reputation of Ohio scientists to ridicule, both internationally and nationally. It's a sad day for science in Ohio."

Proponents of intelligent design pushed to have it included in the state's science guidelines in 2002, but compromised on language that required students to "investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

James Turner, a governor-appointed board member from Cincinnati, said the controversial chapter simply fulfills that analysis requirement.

"I reject the notion that these lessons advance the idea of intelligent design," he said. "There has been a lot of hyperbole about what we have done. They ignore that these are probably the most pro-evolution standards in the country."

Others on the board weren't convinced.

"I support the science standards, but I simply cannot be sure this isn't an introduction to intelligent design," said board member Robin Hovis, an elected member from Millersburg. "So I'm hesitant to put the backing of the state board behind this."

On Monday references to Jonathan Wells' book "Icons of Evolution" were deleted from the model's bibliography after complaints about the authors' pro-intelligent design views were raised.

While opponents on Tuesday pushed for further scaling back the chapter, several supporters asked the board to expand the critical thinking lessons.

"The best way to handle disagreements in the classroom is to teach both sides of the issue," said Robert Lattimer, a chemist at Noveon Inc. who helped write the 2002 science standards. "In my view, too much material has been removed from this lesson."

Members of the National Science Foundation and the Ohio Academy of Science opposed Tuesday's approval. Last week board member Sam Schloemer, who represents Hamilton County, called for standards committee chairman Michael Cochran to resign for ignoring the scientific community in drafting the model.

After the vote he called for Gov. Bob Taft to use his influence to move the board members away from the "faulty curriculum."

"The governor has been mum on this for two years," he said. "He has got to take a position on this ... and get it out of our education."

Orest Holubec, spokesman for Taft, said the governor has no current plans to intervene in the process. All eight of his appointed members voted in favor of the model curriculum.

"He has faith that the school board members will implement the curriculum based on the standards," Holubec said.

The state Board of Education's preliminary vote will be followed by a final vote next month. But changes could be made up to July 1. Ohio Academy of Science CEO Lynn Elfner said he is confident Taft and other state leaders will step in before then.

"There are senior level staff members at the Department of Education who are ready to revolt over this," he said. "They're being politically silenced. But they're having a hell of a time living with themselves at this point."

Leo Shane III is a reporter for The Marion Star's Columbus bureau.

Originally published Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

BEYOND BRRR: THE ELUSIVE SCIENCE OF COLD

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/10/science/10COLD.html

from The New York Times

For tens of thousands of years, nobody knew how cold it was. They knew about ice and snow and the danger of freezing to death, but no one had thermometers. Instead, they used metaphors, often vulgar, to describe what the cold could do.

In the 16th century, the thermometer was invented. But it wasn't until the 18th century that Fahrenheit and Celsius came up with their numerical scales, making polite conversation about the weather possible for the first time. General satisfaction reigned, if not with the weather itself, at least with how to talk about it, until the 20th century, when the wind chill factor was invented, complicating things. The start of the 21st century has brought even more complicated attempts to describe how hot or cold it is, by academic researchers, government agencies and private companies.

Once again, nobody knows how cold it is.

Scientists meet, probe vaccine-autism link

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/02/10/MNGG14SRDB1.DTL

Rob Stein, Washington Post

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Scientists cast new doubt Monday on suspicions that vaccines increase the risk for autism, saying large studies conducted in Denmark, Britain and the United States have failed to find a link between childhood shots and the brain disorder.

Other researchers, however, questioned the findings and presented evidence they said supports the theory that mercury used as a preservative in some vaccines may increase the risk for autism in at least some children.

The conflicting research came at a meeting sponsored by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which is investigating a possible link between vaccines and autism.

Autism is a poorly understood disorder marked by a variety of symptoms, most of them behavioral, such as difficulty interacting socially and repetitive, sometimes self-destructive actions.

Some researchers, advocates and parents of autistic children blame childhood vaccines, which are administered at about the same time that autism symptoms often appear. Suspicion has focused on a mercury-containing compound known as thimerosal, used as a preservative in some vaccines, which some suspect may cause brain damage in certain genetically susceptible children.

Thimerosal has been phased out of most vaccines currently available in the United States, but it is still used in some. It is widely used in developing countries.

A number of recent studies have examined the issue, with many finding no association. Many of those studies were presented Monday to a committee of the Institute of Medicine, including the largest to date, a Danish study involving nearly 500,000 children published in September.

Many studies were presented Monday to a committee of the Institute of Medicine, which is not expected to issue its findings for several months.

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It Just Takes One

Chris Mooney; February 9, 2004

How an advertisement for Intelligent Design theory made its way into the Harvard Law Review.

Run and edited entirely by students, the Harvard Law Review may be the most prestigious legal journal in the country. According to the Harvard Gazette, its circulation--roughly 8,000--is the largest of "any law journal in the world." And the Review's influence extends far beyond the number of copies lying around. Partly thanks to the Harvard name, publication in this journal automatically elevates an academic's legal scholarship above the rest of the pack.

Note received from Francis Beckwith:

I noticed that you republished Chris C. Mooney's essay on the Harvard Law Review book note on my recent monograph. I'm writing to bring to your attention that Mr. Mooney has changed his article to more accurately describe my book. That change, however, is not in your republished version. Here's the changed version:

http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/harvard-design/

Francis J. Beckwith, MJS, PhD

Given all this, it was more than a tad shocking to find a highly promotional article about the latest pseudoscientific rival to Darwin's theory of evolution--so-called "Intelligent Design" theory (ID)--in the January, 2004 Harvard Law Review. Several thousand words in length and titled, "Not Your Daddy's Fundamentalism: Intelligent Design in the Classroom," the piece glowingly reviewed Francis J. Beckwith's Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design, a recent book making a legal case for teaching ID alongside evolution in public schools. Beckwith, the anonymous reviewer writes, "persuasively argues that presentation of ID in public schools would not impermissibly 'establish' religion"; he "provides four potent secular reasons why schools may permit or require the presentation of ID"; he "pulls the trigger in the final chapter"; and so on (italics added).

In light of such stroking, it's no surprise that pro-ID groups like the Access Research Network and the Alliance Defense Fund quickly cited or linked to the piece. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the granddaddy of ID organizations, even seemed to hint that the unsigned article represented the institutional view of the Harvard Law Review. "By: Harvard Law Review," proclaimed Discovery on a web page that is now blank, but that used to contain a full length reposting of the Harvard Law Review piece (I printed out a copy on January 19).

In fact, the article was an unsigned "book note" and, like all law review "notes," was written by a student editor. It did not represent the views of the Harvard Law Review, as president Daniel Kirschner assured me when I called him to inquire. (Though other leading law journals like the Stanford Law Review do identify the authors of student notes, the Harvard Law Review has stuck with traditional anonymity.)

Still, you can understand why a rave review in the Harvard Law Review would get the ID crowd excited. Such a publication represents intellectual legitimization of a sort that traditional creationists never achieved. "The whole game plan here is to credential the movement," observes Florida State University law professor Steven Gey, a specialist in legal issues surrounding the teaching of evolution. Gey calls the Harvard Law Review piece "very weak" in its assessment of the legal case for teaching ID in public schools. But he adds, "I suspect this Harvard note is going to cause problems. I suspect they're going to make reprints and scatter it here and yon, as if this were really some valid legal approach."

For this P.R. victory, the ID movement can thank the inner workings of student law journals. All Harvard Law Review student editors get to publish a total of three articles, and to say more or less whatever they want. "Basically, the policy is to let students express their own opinions through the pieces," says Kirschner. "They're not at all vetted for their ideologies." In this case, the article in question was authored by a law student named Lawrence VanDyke. VanDyke politely declined, by e-mail, to be interviewed for this column. But given what he's written, it's safe to assume that he's highly sympathetic to the arguments of ID promoters like Francis Beckwith. It only takes one such person--placed at the Harvard Law Review, anyway--to provide the ID movement with an impressive form of legitimization.

The point of this column isn't to call for the censorship of pro-ID viewpoints, whether in the Harvard Law Review or elsewhere. Rather, it's to explore the process whereby the pseudoscientific ID movement enhances its credibility and achieves the "credentialing" described by Gey. By showing just how easily this can happen, this column should help promote a greater skepticism of ID claims even when they receive favorable treatment in legitimizing outlets like newspapers and law reviews.

Furthermore, given that ID proponents are clearly gearing up to use them in court, it's important to answer the legal arguments laid out by Beckwith and endorsed by VanDyke. Legally speaking, the pro-ID case is very weak, and relies heavily upon a highly questionable description of what Intelligent Design theory actually is. Still, it demands refutation.

At its core, "Not Your Daddy's Fundamentalism" reiterates Francis Beckwith's argument that because ID does not represent a religious theory--but, rather, is scientific in nature--it can be taught as science under the First Amendment, which bans government establishment of religion. In the process, the article recycles numerous Discovery Institute talking points. Once these claims are refuted, the legal argument for teaching ID to public school students crumbles.

The first dubious contention of "Not Your Daddy's Fundamentalism" is that Intelligent Design represents a scientific theory. For example, the piece describes the ID movement as a "small but tenacious group of sophisticated and well-credentialed scientists, philosophers, and legal scholars," and discusses the "scientific evidence" that favors ID as well as its "scientific and philosophical basis." From such language, you would hardly know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's preeminent scientific organization, has adopted a resolution explicitly stating that ID is not science.

In omitting this telling fact, the Harvard Law Review piece doesn't merely misrepresent ID; it also fails as a piece of legal analysis. After all, the opposition of AAAS, not to mention the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), represents a rather huge impediment to the constitutional case for teaching ID in public schools. Just think: If it ever came to a major court challenge, it's a safe bet that scientific groups like the AAAS and the NAS, as well as scores of Nobel laureates, would sign on to amicus briefs labeling ID for what it really is--a pseudoscientific religious theory with no place in science classes. Such documents would have immense weight with virtually any judge.

Even more astonishingly, the Harvard Law Review piece paints the ID movement as entirely divorced from religion, citing its "exclusive focus on empirical evidence and philosophical argument." This statement is extremely misleading. As Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross document in their new book Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford: 2004), there's virtually nothing to Intelligent Design but religion. The leading ID organization, the Discovery Institute, owes its most generous funding to three conservative Christian foundations: The Stewardship Foundation, the Maclellan Foundation, and Howard F. Ahmanson's Fieldstead & Company. The latter connection is particularly troubling, giving Ahmanson's longstanding ties to the theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement.

Meanwhile, Discovery's major players--Phillip Johnson, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells--have all outwardly confessed their religious motivations. As Dembski put it in Touchstone magazine in 1999, "intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." Wells, a member of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, has even written that "Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

Once again, the Harvard Law Review piece's failure to note any of this torpedoes its legal analysis. The motivations and funding sources of ID proponents, explains Gey, would be highly relevant to any serious legal consideration of whether ID can be taught in public schools under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Gey cites the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard, in which the Court struck down, by a 7-2 vote, a Louisiana law that required equal treatment for creationism in schools. "The Court went into actually the existence of these creationist institutes, it looked at the founding documents of the institutes, and looked at the fundamentalist religious statements of principle by these institutes," says Gey. "And the Court said, 'look, if this is who's pushing the statute, then this is clearly motivated by a religious purpose, and that's unconstitutional.'"

Precisely the same thing would happen with ID if it came to a court challenge, of course. Indeed, the very notion that ID--which centrally postulates the existence of an Intelligent Designer (God)--doesn't count as "religion" for legal purposes is absurd.

And there's yet another glaring weakness in the legal analysis provided by the Harvard Law Review piece. The review spends much of its time outlining evolution's supposed connection with "methodological naturalism," a philosophy that excludes the possibility of supernatural causes in explaining the way the world works. The idea seems to be that for Establishment Clause purposes, evolution may be just as much a religion as creationism. And it's true that many evolutionary biologists are atheists. But once again, a crucial fact that contradicts the argument goes unmentioned: The pope himself has said that evolution presents no conflict with Catholic views. "I'm not sure that the pope would embrace methodological naturalism, it's just not really part of his game plan," says Gey.

Given all these legal weaknesses, the ID movement may have a rude awakening in store if it ever makes it to the Supreme Court. For now, though, the ID gang has made it into the pages of the Harvard Law Review, and that must feel pretty good. The legal arguments are now in place; the movement has made a kind of first lunge up the courthouse steps. Defenders of scientific science education should steady themselves for more. To Read the entire column visit:

http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/harvard-design/

Grand Blanc considers adding Bible, creationism to curriculum

http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-19/1076344081308880.xml

GRAND BLANC

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION

Monday, February 09, 2004

By Bob Wheaton
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Grand Blanc - Creationism and the Bible would be taught in Grand Blanc public schools under separate proposals that school officials said they will consider.

Superintendent Gary Lipe also has approached other Genesee County school chiefs to ask them to consider jointly offering an online course on the Bible as literature or history.

Lipe and other school officials said it's possible to teach about the religious topics in a nonreligious way, but a spokeswoman for the ACLU said it would likely challenge the school district in court.

"We know the Bible cannot be taught as theology in public schools," Lipe said. "It can be taught as history and literature through a humanities perspective."

As for creationism, Lipe said he's unsure if the district would spend as much time teaching it as evolution - as requested in a petition signed by about 85 high school students.

"I'm sitting here saying, How much evidence is there (for creationism), and how do you go about doing that, and is there enough to justify equal treatment?' " Lipe said. "I don't know. We'll have to look into it."

Wendy Wagenheim, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said the organization is watching the situation in Grand Blanc. She said the ACLU had already heard of the Bible proposal but not about the creationism request.

"The teaching of creationism is an issue that the ACLU watches very carefully, and we hope that the school board will act wisely," Wagenheim said. "(The Bible curriculum) is clearly a religious curriculum and should be taught in church if they want to teach it, but not in public schools."

Wagenheim said the ACLU is familiar with the Bible curriculum that Grand Blanc is considering, and the group has successfully challenged it in other states.

But Lipe said the school district isn't considering any particular curriculum.

He said he proposed the online Bible class to county school chiefs during a meeting last week because the number of students who would sign up in individual schools might not be enough to justify scheduling the course.

Kelly Edwards, a junior at Grand Blanc High School, submitted the creationism petition to the Board of Education last week . She said her teacher mentioned creationism in her biology class, but she thought it deserved as much attention as evolution.

"Just the basics - God created the heavens and the earth," she said. "There's a lot of things that just don't make sense about evolution, things that are missing, things that can't be explained."

Edwards is the daughter of Susan Edwards, a school board member who said she supports her daughter but wasn't responsible for her decision to collect signatures.

"She didn't do this because of my beliefs," Edwards said. "I've read pretty extensively on evolution, and there's some holes in it. I'm not sure it has the weight that people give it."

Dr. Robert Bouvier, a Grand Blanc parent who proposed the Bible curriculum to the school board last month, couldn't be reached for comment.

According to minutes from the January school board meeting, Bouvier said 35 states have adopted a Bible curriculum in their schools. Lipe spoke at a Jan. 24 "Religious Expression in Schools" conference that Bouvier also attended.

Clio Superintendent Fay Latture attended the same conference. Latture said she's a Sunday school teacher, but wants to make sure any Bible course is legal.

She said Lipe's proposal for online courses through GenNet went over well during the Thursday meeting of county superintendents, but that more work needs to be done to find an appropriate curriculum.

"No one's interested in breaking the law or the separation of church and state or the establishment clause (of the Constitution)," she said.

Lipe said a curriculum subcommittee of the superintendents' group will discuss components of the Bible curriculum and materials that could be used. It's likely one school district would sponsor the course, with others allowed to sign up their student to take it online.

Approval of curriculum changes usually takes about a year, he said.

Grand Blanc's school board is interested in considering both the creationism and Bible proposals, Lipe said.

All proposed curriculum changes are reviewed by teachers who serve on the district's advisory council, Lipe said.

Grand Blanc and the ACLU have been at odds previously. The ACLU and a former student challenged the school district's student-athlete drug-testing policy, but a Genesee circuit judge ruled last year that the policy was allowable under the Michigan Constitution.

Bob Wheaton covers Grand Blanc. He can be reached at (810) 766-6375 or bwheaton@flintjournal.com.

© 2004 Flint Journal.

Could Lake Tahoe be home to its own monster?

TAHOE CITY (AP) - Since sailors first started navigating earth's waters, tales of sea monster sightings put fear in their hearts. But reports of these creatures have not been limited to the world's vast oceans - they've also been seen in lakes.

Reports of beasts shaped like giant serpents or waterborne dinosaurs have brought fame to places such as Scotland's Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, which borders New York, Vermont and the Canadian province of Quebec.

Even Lake Tahoe reportedly has its own sea monster, Tahoe Tessie.

Do the creatures really exist?

Dr. Charles Goldman, a limnologist who is engaged in the scientific study of lakes and the foremost expert on Lake Tahoe, tried to answer the question recently.

Goldman said he was invited last August to study Loch Ness by professor Robert Rains, head of the Applied Science Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rains, a firm believer in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, used sonar in the 1970s to take strobed photographs of "Nessie." These photographs depict a humped creature 20 to 30 feet long.

While other photos of Nessie, such as the famous one showing a long-necked creature rising out of the water, have been determined to be hoaxes, Goldman said Rains' photos are more difficult to discount. One shows a flipper "that looks terribly authentic," according to Goldman. Another shows a 20-foot-long body and head.

Goldman said most sea monster sightings tend to be in deep, cold lakes that produce mirages brought on by temperature changes in the water.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/articles/2004/02/01/news/news95_.txt

Helpful Hilliard note: This incredible press release about a sea monster living in a Nevada mountain lake becomes a bit more understandable when you read this other fine press release -

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2004/01/30/news/news01movie.txt

Mystic, Magician, or Madman?

http://www.felixonline.co.uk/2002-04/article.php?aid=1440

I was going to add charlatan to that list but it would have broken up the chain of alliteration. No, but seriously, I have to be very careful about what I say. Geller has a history of litigation proceedings against anyone who tries to slander his name or what he does.

Uri Geller was born in 1946 in Tel Aviv. When he was 4 years old Geller claims that a mysterious orb of light touched him while he was in a garden near his house. A year later he became convinced that he had magical powers when, during a meal with his parents, his spoon spontaneously curled up in his hand and broke. He then went on to develop these 'powers' in school by demonstrating them to fellow pupils.

In 1969, Geller began to demonstrate his skills in front of small audiences. In 1972, he travelled to Europe where it was not long before he became famous. In Germany, one of his first stunts was to stop a cable-car in mid-air 'using the power of his mind'. In that same year he first went to the United States and met with several important physicists who were interested in psychic studies.

In 1972 Geller was studied at the Stanford Research Institute in California where it is alleged that he predicted the results of 8 out of 10 throws of a dice (against the odds of a million to one) and predicted the positions of some hidden objects (a trillion to one). Results from these experiments published in the journal Nature, caused a huge stir in the scientific community, and made Geller a celebrity for life. Further experiments at the University of London, with a team of physicists including the eminent theoretical physicist Prof. David Bohm, cemented Geller's entry into the scientific domain.

In 1974, Geller hit the front cover of New Scientist magazine who published a feature on the Stanford experiments. In the article, Robert King, a senior lecturer at Imperial College's Electrical Engineering Department, helped debunk Geller's claims and undermine the findings of the Stanford experiments.

The more successful Geller became the more his detractors tried to bring him down. On the Johnny Carson show in the US, James Randi, his arch-enemy and uber-sceptic set 'certain safeguards against cheating' during Geller's appearance. The result was the low-point of Geller's career as he fumbled his way through 22 minutes of the Johnny Carson show without completing one feat. In 1990, James Randi published a book to further discredit Geller. In The Truth about Uri Geller he attacks Geller for being a charlatan who uses standard magic tricks to convince people of his paranormal powers. As a result Geller brought seven lawsuits against Randi, all of which collapsed after Geller capitulated. Since then Randi has offered $1,000,000 to anybody who could demonstrate psychic ability in laboratory conditions. This prize has gone unclaimed.

More recently, Geller has hit the headlines for trying and failing to sue Nintendo for £60 million over an evil occult Pokemon character called Ungeller, who had the special ability of bending spoons using the power of his mind. In 2001 he appeared on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and was the first to get voted off the celebrity reality TV show.

The fact is that Uri Geller if nobody else is absolutely convinced of his abilities. As scientists we have to be extremely sceptical of any phenomena that cannot be tested in controlled laboratory conditions. To date, as Geller admits in his interview with Felix, that the psychic community 'have not validated the likes of extra-sensory perception, psycho-kinesis, or telepathy'. Until repeatable and viable experiments have not been demonstrated, Geller and his peers will always be accused of being 'charlatans'.

Darius N


Monday, February 09, 2004

Campaign to make California stem cell capital underway

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/02/09/news/state/2_8_0421_21_25.txt

Last modified Sunday, February 8, 2004 10:00 PM PST

By: PAUL ELIAS - AP Biotechnology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A coalition of wealthy patient advocates, eminent scientists and Hollywood executives have launched a well-funded campaign to make California a hub for human embryonic stem cell research even as tepid federal support slows such efforts elsewhere.

The group is trying to qualify a $3 billion bond proposition for the November ballot that would make California the first state in the nation -- and the largest government backer -- to fund the research. The proposal will also fund laboratory cloning projects intended to create stem cells while specifically shunning cloning programs aimed at creating babies.

If passed, the measure would make $295 million available annually for 10 years, far exceeding the $10.7 million awarded by the federal government in 2002.

"California will be the center of stem cell research for the world," said real estate developer and campaign organizer Robert Klein, who has contributed $500,000 to the effort.

Klein's son suffers from diabetes, and he and like-minded patient advocates believe embryonic stem cell research could yield cures and treatments for this disease as well as spinal cord injuries and a wide range of other ailments.

Some researchers believe creating stem cells by cloning embryos in labs may eventually create therapies that won't lead to immune rejection problems in people.

The measure would prohibit funding for research that involves the destruction of embryos older than 12 days, which Klein and other supporters contend is not even an embryo but a microscopic dot.

California and New Jersey have each passed largely symbolic legislation supporting research that many religious and anti-abortion groups oppose because it involves destroying human embryos, which they believe are created at inception.

"The technology is extremely questionable morally and practically," said Wesley J. Smith, a fellow at the conservative think tank Discovery Institute in Seattle. "Treating human life, however nascent, as a product is incredibly inhumane."

What's more, California is grappling with a large budget deficit, and any measures that put the state deeper in debt may face considerable opposition.

President Bush ordered the National Institutes of Health not to fund any research on stem cells harvested from embryos after Aug. 9, 2001. NIH identified 78 cell lines that met all the restrictions, and 12 of those lines are now available for study.

But many stem cell scientists say the policy severely restricts research. For instance, none of the cell lines available could be used to treat patients because they were grown using mouse cells and may contain rodent viruses.

"President Bush has set a policy that excludes a lot of research and that has really put a pall on the field," said campaign supporter Keith Yamamoto, vice dean for research at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

UCSF, a stem cell research pioneer, has opened a small off-campus laboratory that shuns federal funds so its researchers can work unfettered with embryos donated by fertility clinics. Yamamoto said the current political climate has slowed recruitment.

Yamamoto and other campaign backers said they expect the California initiative, if successful, to renew interest in the lagging field.

Since Bush announced his policy, leading U.S. universities say young researchers avoid the politically charged field and the few companies hoping to profit from the technology are experiencing financial difficulties.

Organizers said they've raised $2.5 million and intend to raise $20 million for the campaign. They said they've not approached the biotechnology industry for support, hoping to keep the issue focused on disease cures.

Campaign organizers need to gather 600,000 voter signatures and submit them to the California Secretary of State by April 16 to qualify for the November ballot.

Movie producers Janet and Jerry Zucker, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the American Diabetes Association support the measure. So do several prominent university researchers -- including Nobel laureates Paul Berg of Stanford University, UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop and California Institute of Technology head David Baltimore.

The measure would create a 29-member board appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, various other elected officials and University of California chancellors to dole out the grants.

Only California schools, institutes and companies would be eligible.

Hypnotherapist helps clients discover 'balance'

http://www.theargusonline.com/Stories/0,1413,83~1971~1944830,00.html

Argus

By Erin Breznikar
STAFF WRITER

Monday, February 09, 2004 -

UNION CITY -- Hypnotherapist Kayla Wentworth says there are plenty of misconceptions about her work.

"Hypnosis is just like a state of being relaxed," she says. "You don't need to cluck like a chicken or lose power and control."

Her work with clients is about "bringing balance into a person's life," not mind control or zombielike trances, she says.

For more than 20 years, the Union City resident has practiced hypnotherapy, hypnobirthing, aromatherapy and several other massage and relaxation techniques.

Several years ago, after working at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, Wentworth took a "leap of faith" and opened a full-time studio specializing in massage and hypnosis.

After opening two wellness centers in Fremont, Wentworth, 56, now practices from her Seven Hills home.

In recent years, Wentworth's client roster has grown to include local residents looking to lose weight, quit smoking and treat phobias.

"More and more people are checking into their lives and saying, 'Wow, how can I change it?'" she said.

Historically, interest in hypnosis booms near the beginning of a new century, according to Richard Neves, president of the American Board of Hypnotherapy.

"So we are on an upswing right now, but I think this movement will continue on and people are realizing the power of the mind is the most powerful tool," he said.

The growing popularity of wellness authors, including Deepak Chopra, are taking hypnosis and relaxation techniques out of an "alternative field," Neves said.

"Now, people are realizing it's complementary to mainstream medicine," he said.

In fact, teaching hospitals nationwide, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Harvard Medical School, utilize hypnosis with some surgical patients to accelerate recovery times. Medical research has shown that mental distraction can shut down pain signals from the brain, according to published reports.

A client of Wentworth's, who declined to give her name, said her hypnosis and massage sessions have helped her curb her obsessive-compulsive disorder and reduce anxiety.

"I have realized what I want from my life," she said. "I can remember how I used to be a long time ago before I became very stressed in my life."

"On the Job" profiles people with unusual occupations in the Tri-City area. Contact coordinating reporter Robert Airoldi at (510) 353-7003 or rairoldi@angnewspapers.com, or write The Argus, 39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, 94538.

Nissan Uses Device to Stop Hail

http://www.wlbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=1628848

Jackson 02/03/04

By Bert Case
bert@wlbt.net

Nissan demonstrated its new device designed to protect its parking lot from a hailstorm for WLBT News on Tuesday. It is a cannon that sends sonic waves up to 50,000 feet in the air to keep hailstones from forming.

There are more than 400 such machines in operation in the world, and this is the ninth one installed in the United States. They are made in Canada and are used primarily to protect crops. It works by using its own radar to detect the conditions that are favorable for hail to form.

It automatically activates when its own weather radar system detects conditions favorable for the formation of hail. It fires every 5.5 seconds, making a sound we know can be heard at least five miles away from the Nissan plant near Canton. It then starts sending sound waves into the cloud every five-and-a-half seconds.

The sound at ground zero is about 120 decibels, or about the same as a tornado warning siren. Workers are installing fences around two of the machines in the 140-acre parking lot at Nissan and filling the fences with hay in an effort to reduce the sound level.

Eric Rademacher is an environmental engineer with Nissan who is an expert on the Hail Suppression System.

"Hailstones are formed and begin with a piece of dust in the clouds," he explains. "There is a lot of activity going on, and what we do is to de-ionize that activity in the clouds and keep those dust particles from collecting moisture out of the clouds in turn reacting and forming what we know as a hailstone."

If you ever hear this system activate in Madison County near Nissan, it's time to get yourself and your vehicle protected from hailstones.

Nissan hopes it will save millions of dollars worth of vehicles from hail damage. They won't say what it cost, but admit they won't really know if it works until there is a hail storm over the plant. The sound is produced by igniting the same material used for welding.

This is the first such machine used by an auto-manufacturer. The man who installed it bought a Nissan Pathfinder Armada, which is made at the plant.

Would you buy a way of life from a guru?

http://books.guardian.co.uk/extracts/story/0,6761,1131153,00.html

Deepak Chopra earns $20m a year selling spiritual guidance to the likes of Demi Moore, Hillary Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev - and he's not the only self-help guru making a fortune. In the first of two extracts from his new book, Francis Wheen traces the rise and rise of mystic mumbo-jumbo

Monday January 26, 2004
The Guardian

In September 1784 a Berlin magazine invited Immanuel Kant to answer the question: What is Enlightenment? "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity," he replied. "Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another's guidance. Dare to know! That is the motto of Enlightenment."

The Enlightenment had many critics, but its illuminating influence and achievements were apparent in the history of the next two centuries - the waning of absolutism and superstition, the rise of secular democracy, the understanding of the natural world, the transformation of historical and scientific study, the new political resonance of notions such as "progress", "rights" and "freedom". Does that light still shine today? According to the philosopher Roger Scruton, "Reason is now on the retreat, both as an ideal and as a reality." The leaders of the counter-revolution may seem an incongruous coalition - post-modernists and primitivists, New Age and Old Testament - but they have been remarkably effective over the past quarter-century. Those who lack the courage to use their understanding "without direction from another" are easy prey for self-styled gurus, and the sleep of reason has duly brought forth many such monsters, exploiting and expanding the demand for mumbo-jumbo.

In 1982 a young management consultant from McKinsey & Co, Thomas J Peters, co-wrote In Search of Excellence, a relentlessly optimistic primer which celebrated America's best companies and sought to identify the secrets of their success. As the Economist noted, Peters had "a knack of saying the right thing at the right time": In Search of Excellence was published in the very week unemployment in the US reached its highest level since the 1930s, and it found a ready audience in a nation worried about declining competitiveness but sick of hearing about the Japanese miracle. (Perhaps Peters had learned from the precedent of Dale Carnegie, whose equally cheerful and vastly popular How to Win Friends and Influence People had appeared in 1936, in the depths of the Depression.) In Search of Excellence sold five million copies, and Peters used the proceeds to buy a 1,300-acre farm in Vermont, complete with cattle and llamas.

After that, the deluge: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey; The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge; The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson; Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins ... The New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers soon became so clogged with inspirational tracts that the paper established a separate category for "Advice, How-to and Miscellaneous". In the words of Mike Fuller, author of Above the Bottom Line, "you have to have a shtick of some kind". One promising approach, as the emphasis shifted from "management" to "leadership", was to seek out historical analogies, though the history usually turned out to be a mere promotional gimmick rather than a serious examination of past experience. The pioneer here was Wess Roberts, whose book The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun appeared in 1989. Described as a "fantastic" guide which "will help you make the most of your leadership potential", it vouchsafed these truly fantastic discoveries: "You must have resilience to overcome personal misfortunes, discouragement, rejection and disappointment"; "When the consequences of your actions are too grim to bear, look for another option."

Could anything be sillier? You bet: other authors have since come up with Confucius in the Boardroom, If Aristotle Ran General Motors; Make It So: Leadership Lessons from "Star Trek the Next Generation"; The Heart of an Executive: Lessons on Leadership From the Life of King David; and Moses: CEO. The 10 commandments, we now learn, were the world's first mission statement.

Recognising that not everyone wanted to be Donald Trump, or even Queen Elizabeth I, publishers extended their self-help lists to include more emollient titles on "personal growth" such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. These might seem more New Age than New Economy, but it is instructive to note how often the two overlapped, as in Barrie Dolnick's The Executive Mystic: Psychic Power Tools for Success or Paul Zane Pilzer's bestseller, God Wants You to be Rich. When Anthony Robbins performed for a 14,000-strong crowd at a stadium in Dallas, the supporting speakers included John Gray, the man who inflicted Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus on the world.

The marriage of mysticism and money-making reached its consummation in Deepak Chopra (or rather, Deepak Chopra MD), a Harvard-trained endocrinologist who turned to transcendental meditation (TM) and ayurvedic medicine in the early 1980s. He began marketing TM herbal cures - and indeed praised them in the Journal of the American Medical Association without mentioning that he was the sole shareholder in the distribution company. Chopra's transformation from an obscure salesman of alternative potions to a national guru can be dated precisely to Monday July 12 1993, when he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to promote his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. His revelation that "love is the ultimate truth" was perfectly pitched for Oprah and her millions of fretful yet hopeful viewers. Within 24 hours of the broadcast 137,000 copies of Ageless Body, Timeless Mind had been ordered, and Chopra's publishers - the deliciously named Harmony Books - were reprinting round the clock. By the end of the week there were 400,000 copies in circulation.

Since then he has published 25 books and issued at least 100 different audiotapes, videos and CD-roms, in which Eastern philosophy, Christian parables and even Arthurian legends are distilled into a bubble-bath for the soul. (One video offers "Lessons from the Teaching of Merlin".) Like Covey and Robbins, Chopra understands the magic allure of numbered bullet-points: hence titles such as The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success and Way of the Wizard: 20 Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want. In public performances, the soothing effect of his Hallmark-card ruminations - "Everything I do is a divine moment of the eternal", "You and I are nothing but saints in the making" - is intensified by his mellifluous Anglo-Indian cadences and the mellow sitar riffs that often accompany them.

Those who want the full-immersion experience can book into the Chopra Centre for Well-Being in La Jolla, California - dubbed "Shangri-La Jolla" by the irreverent - where their "profound personal transformation can be customised for stays of one to seven days". The centre grosses about $8m a year, though Dr Chopra himself no longer attends to customers personally. "It wouldn't be in the best interest of patients," a spokeswoman said, "because of his writing and speaking engagements." Perhaps wisely, Deepak Chopra MD ceased renewing his California medical licence after the annus mirabilis of 1993 and therefore cannot be held professionally accountable for the consequences of his advice. "I don't consider myself a religious or spiritual leader," he has said. "I consider myself a writer who explains some of the ancient wisdom traditions in contemporary language."

Harold Bloom argued in his 1992 book The American Religion that many Americans are essentially Gnostics, pre-Christian believers for whom salvation "cannot come through the community or the congregation, but is a one-on-one act of confrontation". Clearly this does not apply to the more traditional churchgoing masses, but it suits solipsistic New Agers seeking the "inner self" - and high-achieving materialists who like to think that fame and riches are no more than their due, reflecting the nobility of their souls. Chopra is happy to oblige: "People who have achieved an enormous amount of success are inherently very spiritual ... Affluence is simply our natural state." Vain tycoons and holistic hippies alike can take comfort from Chopra's flattery ("You are inherently perfect"), and from his belief that the highest human condition is "the state of 'I am'": since we reap what we sow, both health and wealth are largely self-generated. Following this logic ad absurdum, he argues that "people grow old and die because they have seen other people grow old and die. Ageing is simply learned behaviour". Demi Moore was so impressed by this apercu that she named him as her personal guru, announcing that "through his teachings I hope to live to a great age, even 130 years isn't impossible". Chopra himself, rather more cautiously, says, "I expect to live way beyond 100." Why the longevity formula failed to work for Princess Diana, with whom he lunched shortly before her death, remains a mystery.

Other famous admirers have included the former junk-bond king Michael Milken, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Donna Karan, who expressed her gratitude by supplying the dapper doctor with free designer suits. Alas, as Karan looked to the east her business went west: she was replaced as chief executive of her own company in the summer of 1997, under pressure from investors who feared that a growing obsession with mysticism was blinding her to the financial imperatives of running a publicly traded corporation.

Chopra himself continues to flourish. "Go first-class all the way," he advises his followers, "and the universe will respond by giving you the best." Named by Time magazine as one of the hundred top Icons and Heroes of the 20th century, he is reported to earn more than $20m a year from his spiritual business empire. No coach class for him.

Or indeed for the many other gurus chortling and whooping all the way to the bank. Blanchard parlayed the success of The One-Minute Manager into an income of $6m a year from videotapes and lectures promoting his message that "people who produce good results feel good about themselves". In the late 1990s Covey's Utah-based consultancy had annual revenues of more than $400m, and employed 3,000 people in 40 countries to spread his gospel of "Principle-Centered Leadership". Stephen Covey's client-list in the US included the departments of energy, defence, interior and transportation, the postal service - and Bill Clinton, who invited both Covey and Anthony Robbins to spend the weekend with him in December 1994.

Reeling from his party's defeat by Newt Gingrich's Republicans in the previous month's congressional elections, the president summoned no fewer than five feelgood authors to help him "search for a way back". The other three were Marianne Williamson, a glamorous Hollywood mystic (and, one need hardly add, bestselling author) who had performed the marriage rites at Elizabeth Taylor's 1991 wedding to Larry Fortensky; Jean Houston, a self-styled "sacred psychologist" whose 14 books included Life Force: The Psycho-Historical Recovery of the Self; and her friend Mary Catherine Bateson, an anthropology professor whose study of "non-traditional life paths" had been praised by Hillary Clinton.

This quintet of sages asked the president to describe his best qualities. "I have a good heart," he said. "I really do. And I hope I have a decent mind." (If so, one might ask, why seek solace from snake-oil vendors?) As they talked long into the night, and all the following day, the conversation was increasingly dominated by Hillary's problems - the constant personal attacks she endured, and the failure of her plan to reform healthcare. Houston, who felt that "being Hillary Clinton was like being Mozart with his hands cut off", informed the First Lady that she was "carrying the burden of 5,000 years of history when women were subservient ... She was reversing thousands of years of expectation and was there up front, probably more than virtually any woman in human history - apart from Joan of Arc."

The latter-day Joan was understandably flattered. Over the next six months Houston and Bateson often visited Hillary in Washington, urging her to talk to the spirits of historical figures who would understand her travails and thus help her "achieve self-healing". Sitting with her two psychic counsellors at a circular table in the White House solarium, she held conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt (her "spiritual archetype") and Mahatma Gandhi ("a powerful symbol of stoic self-denial"). It was only when Houston proposed speaking to Jesus Christ - "the epitome of the wounded, betrayed and isolated" - that Hillary called a halt. "That," she explained, "would be too personal." The reticence seems rather puzzling: don't millions of Christians speak to Jesus, both publicly and privately, through their prayers?

There was little the Republicans could do to exploit "Wackygate", as it became known: too many people remembered Ronald Reagan's dependence on Nancy's astrologer. In any case, the management-mystics were everywhere by then. As Newsweek pointed out when the story of Hillary's chats with ghosts eventually leaked, "From Atlantic Richfield to Xerox, corporate America has spent millions every year putting managers through the same kind of exercises in personal transformation the Clintons have been sampling for free. Houston herself has run seminars for the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies. At Stanford Business School, Professor Michael Ray has prepared future captains of industry with Tarot cards and chants to release their deeper selves."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Man marries dog for luck - then dies

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEW20040204131617&Page=W&Title=World&Topic=0&

KATHMANDU: A 75-year-old man in Nepal married a dog in a local custom to ensure good luck only to die three days later, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

With his son and other relatives by his side, Phulram Chaudhary tied the knot with a dog Saturday in Durgauli village in the southwestern Kailali district.

He was following a custom of his Tharu community which holds that an old man who regrows teeth must take a dog as a bride.

"He believed that this would help him avoid great misfortune later in life. However, he died a few days afterward," the state-run daily Gorkhapatra said.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

Ohio wading into debate on biology

http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/02/08/loc_bronson08.html

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Most of what I learned in high school biology is buried in the bottom of my mental locker. But for some reason, I clearly remember those semi-creepy pictures in the chapters on evolution.

They showed embryos - fish, salamander, human - and they all looked as much alike as The Who and the Stones. My biology textbook said they were proof that all living critters are just different fruit from the same tree of life.

But here's something they didn't tell us in biology:

"Those drawings were faked," says Joel Roadruck, who will teach one of Ohio's first classes on intelligent design on March 1, at Forest Hills Community Education. "We know now that the differences in a fertilized embryo are as great as in a fully developed organism.''

Roadruck collects examples of "evidence" of evolution. Many have been exposed as frauds - but they are still in textbooks, which evolve slower than flatworms.

He argues that DNA and the incredible complexity of life - especially humans - contradict Darwin. "They're teaching evolution as truth - microbes to man. But this is not true. If they were stockbrokers, they'd be in jail" for fraud, he said.

Roadruck got interested by looking at biology books. "I found one view of the origins of life. Only evolution was being taught, when in fact a growing number of scientists support intelligent design theory.''

The state of Ohio is wading into the primordial ooze: The Ohio Board of Education is expected to sign off on a new model curriculum that asks teachers to introduce challenges to evolution in biology classes. Ohio's approach is pretty neutral. It doesn't mandate teaching of intelligent design, or go anywhere near biblical versions of creation.

Akron University biology professor Dan Ely helped write the key lesson plans, and he says they are "very balanced'' and "absolutely'' founded in credible science. "It's ridiculous not to look at the other side,'' he said.

That's the goal of Roadruck's evening classes at Turpin High School. They will examine books by scientists such as Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe and William Dembske, who dispute Darwin's theory on the origin of life and evolution. "Just take a look at the evidence and see if it's real,'' he said. "You decide for yourself.''

But that's not so easy. Ohio Board of Education member Deborah Owens-Fink of Akron says the over-reaction to even a modest challenge to evolution has been "very disturbing.'' Most of the acrimony comes from what she calls "the whiny scientists'' who oppose even a protozoa of intelligent design.

"If you support this, you are labeled a Pat Robertson, fundamentalist wacko,'' said Owens-Fink, who has taught scientific research methods at University of Akron. "What's so bizarre is that they never attack the science part, they just attack the people.''

Roadruck says evolution is the cornerstone of a worldview.

"We've been indoctrinated,'' Roadruck said. "If you teach a generation that we all evolved from pond scum, then everything is relative. There is no truth.''

In high school, I learned that in the 1600s, Galileo was forced to recant his theory that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Truth will prevail. You can't keep it buried in a locker.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.

Copyright 1995-2004. The Cincinnati Enquirer

Police Turn To Psychic For Answers In Murder Case

http://www.katv.com/news/stories/0204/123867.html

Wednesday February 04, 2004 10:07pm Posted By: Ginny L. Barksdale

Craighead County - Desperate for clues in an unsolved murder case, police are turning to a psychic for answers. Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann is working with a Hollywood psychic hoping to find out who killed 20 year-old Amanda Tusing. Tusing's body was found in June of 2000 in a ditch west of Monette. Her car had been found abandoned a few days earlier. Police have never made an arrest in the case.

[Carla Baron, psychic] "I believe that this was not random, that this was a person she had interacted with before. I get a sense of the dynamic between these two individuals."

Bringing in the psychic was the idea of the victim's mother. The psychic says she's worked with police for 20 years and she claims she's been successful.

Copyright 2004 KATV, LLC

All work and no feng shui makes for a stressed employee

http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/0206Feng-Shui-ON.html

Darnell Morris-Compton
Indianapolis Star
Feb. 6, 2004 07:35 AM

Having problems getting that raise? Think you deserve that promotion? Is your girlfriend cramping your style?

Hey, it's not your fault. Blame your workspace - that filthy, cluttered office cubicle that's holding you back.

But you can change that; feng shui your office.

With help from a professional consultant, you can bring harmony to your puny space and help all areas of your life. The feng shui experts believe it, and their clients seek help in all areas of life by altering spaces at home and work.

"All of feng shui is about harmonizing with nature, bringing benevolent energy in the space," said Jeanne Olson, owner of Feng Shui by Golden Eye Phoenix in Indianapolis. "You enhance the energy and balance it out."

Feng shui balances energy flow to any chosen space, incorporates the power of positive thinking and converts a space into a comfortable environment, Olson said.

The process includes diving into your personal life, determining your priorities, assessing energy flow and utilizing a feng shui expert to manipulate energy to benefit you.

But for the sake of time, energy and fun, we're going to skip all that and give you some feng shui tips from experts:

- Draw a line.

Look at the entrance of your cubicle. Find the imaginary line between the domain that is public and what defines your workspace.

That is the entrance, or mouth, of your work environment. All energy from everywhere else will enter through the mouth of your cubicle, said Maureen Marsico, owner of Ancient Arts, Therapy for the Body, Mind and Spirit in Indianapolis.

Step inside your cubicle and face the entryway. Divide your space into nine equal squares, like a tic-tac-toe board with borders. Each square represents an area of your life.

- Play some hopscotch

The front three squares closest to the entrance (from left to right) represent knowledge, career and helpful people. You will want to put items that correspond to those areas here.

Books that keep you abreast in your field would go in the knowledge area. Degrees earned, awards and honors in your field or your business cards should be kept in the career square. Consider putting the telephone in the helpful people square, Olson said.

The middle three represent family, health and creativity.

Photographs of family can go in the first space. Leave health open and remove the clutter from that area. Put something you've created that you are proud of in the center right area.

The back three areas farthest from the door represent abundance, reputation and relationships. Abundance is best represented by water.

A fountain, fish bowl or a picture representing running water symbolizes prosperity, Marsico said. In the back middle, photographs of you receiving awards or an object representing something you want to be known for should go here. And photos of friends and people you work with can go in the back right corner area, Olson said.

Both experts agree that your workplace, no matter how stressful your job is, should be a comfortable place for you.

"You have to have a place where you can rejuvenate," Olson said.

Copyright 2004, azcentral.com

Darby school policy triggers candidate debate

http://www.montanaforum.com/rednews/2004/02/06/build/education/id-debate.php?nnn=1

Associated Press

HELENA – A dispute over whether a new school policy in Darby promotes the teaching of creationism in the classroom spilled over into the political arena Thursday.

John Fuller, a Kalispell teacher and Republican candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, said Democratic incumbent Linda McCulloch went too far in threatening Darby with loss of state accreditation for adopting the policy Monday night.

He also attacked McCulloch for asserting the "objective origins" policy for the school district's science classes is a directive for religious teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution.

"Given the reverence of local control of schools in Montana, if Darby wishes to investigate such a curriculum, shouldn't they be permitted to do so without the self-righteous threats of the superintendent?" Fuller said in written statement.

McCulloch fired back, saying she never threatened anyone with loss of accreditation. "That's just something in Mr. Fuller's head," she said. "Montanans expect their superintendent to speak out on education issues."

Earlier this week, McCulloch said the policy adopted by a divided Darby School Board embraces concepts that are thinly veiled efforts to promote the teaching of creationism in public school classrooms. Similar efforts have occurred in other states and are familiar to education officials across the country, she said.

"Mr. Fuller is fooling himself if he thinks 'objective origins' and 'intelligent design,' or whatever you want to call them, is anything more than an attempt to put religion in our classrooms," she said Thursday. Critics have said the Darby policy is based on the theory that natural evolution cannot explain the diverse life on Earth, so it must be the product of some "intelligent designer."

A leading advocate of the Darby policy has denied it is meant to bring creationism to the classroom, but rather is intended merely to encourage students to question science with science.

Fuller said that McCulloch has wrongly presumed to know the motives of those behind the new policy and that she is "more concerned about erecting a wall around secularism than encouraging students to explore, wonder, analyze and speculate."

McCulloch said Fuller apparently doesn't understand that, as state superintendent, she must uphold the Montana Constitution that demands religion be kept out of the classrooms.

The Darby policy threatens to violate that mandate and to affect the quality of education students receive, she said. "This action in Darby does nothing to further a quality education in Darby."

In response to Fuller questioning whether McCulloch's disdain for religion in public school means she believes the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, McCulloch replied, "That's just silly."

"I have no intention of doing anything like that," she said. "When candidates make statements like this, it's politics at its very, very worst."

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press.

Creation focus of seminars at school

http://www.mlive.com/news/jacitpat/index.ssf?/base/news-7/1076151976311800.xml

Saturday, February 7, 2004

By Jessi De La Cruz

For Denny Locke, it's not much of a debate.

The Michigan Center resident reads and believes what the Bible says, so there's not much room to subscribe to the theory of evolution.

"With the Bible, either you believe it or you don't," said Locke, whose three daughters attended Jackson Christian School. "In the Bible, it doesn't say anything about anything evolving."

Locke and his wife, Jan, were among more than 300 people who visited Jackson Christian School on Friday to hear a speaker, Don DeYoung, discuss creationism. The speech, which kicked off a weekend of seminars at the school, is more fuel for a timeless debate about how children should be taught about the beginning of life.

Private schools likely teach creationism, involving stories from the Bible to reinforce the divine connection. Public schools tend to teach creationism as a theory and stay away from Christian references.

But while the two sides raise debate in the science world, much of the talk has died down in the education arena, local school officials say.

"It used to be a hot button issue, but it isn't anymore," said Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Dan Evans. "People are not as easily threatened by other people's beliefs as they used to be."

The 7,000-student district teaches creationism as a theory in high school biology classes. Evolution also is part of that same lesson, Evans said. But what teachers should tell students isn't defined in district policy or the high school handbook.

"It's kind of a wide open thing," Evans said. "Some biology people teach (creationism) as one of the theories of life."

The situation is similar in Springport Public Schools, where evolution is hit on heavily in the high school's advanced placement biology class and creationism is presented as theory. The district hasn't heard parent complaints or much debate on this issue, said Superintendent Roland Pakonen.

Besides, students are old enough to come to their own conclusions when the topic is introduced, he said.

"These are high school students so if they want to examine it, they can do that," Pakonen said.

But at Jackson Christian High School, the sponsor for this weekend's creationism seminar, students are taught evolution only to point out its fallacies, said H. Michael Bracy, the school's administrator.

"Scientifically, evolution cannot be proven," he said. "We are teaching our children falsely."

DeYoung, this weekend's speaker and professor at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., says creationism takes science back to its roots and is necessary to give a full picture to how life began.

However, he said there is always room for debate on the issue and that enhances the educational experience for everyone.

"When you have two competing theories you learn both of them better," he said. "We're for getting things out on the table and talking about it."

In the Reinker household, children Angelina and Anthony hear both sides of the debate. They attended Friday's speech, said their mother Pamela, because "they are bombarded with evolutionary theory all the time" at Hanover-Horton Elementary School.

Pamela Reinker said she believes in creationism and wanted her 10- and 9-year-old kids to hear DeYoung's talk. It's one way, she said, that she tries to balance what her children learn in public school.

"We deal with it at home," she said.

-- Reach reporter Jessi De La Cruz at 768-4918 or jdelacruz@citpat.com. Reach reporter Brian Wheeler at 768-4928 or bwheeler@citpat.com.

© 2004 Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Copyright 2004 Michigan Live.

In feel-good times, Mumbai is waiting for Texas faith-healer

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=40634

Governor, high society, million more get ready for America's miracle worker; organiser promises all lives will change

CHE KURRIEN

MUMBAI, FEBRUARY 6 It's going to be the biggest gathering Mumbai's seen recently: bigger than Sonia Gandhi, bigger than Bal Thackeray, and ten times bigger than the recently concluded World Social Forum (WSF).

To frenetic activity—Mumbai can't supply enough chairs so Pune is chipping in—and growing controversy, American evangelist and faith-healer Benny Hinn is scheduled to hail the lord before a million of the faithful on the doorstep of the city's gleaming business district, the Bandra-Kurla complex, between February 13 and 15.

The alarm isn't coming from the Hindu or Muslim fringe. The opposition is coming from the Catholic church. The Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Ivan Dias, has issued a statement to his flock, urging them to stay away.

''Mr Benny Hinn, despite his popularity on TV shows, is not accepted even by many of his own colleagues ... it will be wise to strongly discourage your parishoners from attending his programmes,'' Cardinal Dias said in a statement.

The Cardinal spoke of Hinn's ''false prophecies, his alleged vision of angels and contact with the dead, his emphasis on the prosperity of the Gospel and exaggerated physical healings''.

But Hinn clearly has a torrent of support, from a raft of evangelical churches scattered across India's hinterland to Mumbai's high society (there are seats set aside for 1.7 lakh in the VIP gallery and parking for 60,000 cars). Governor Mohammed Fazal has confirmed his attendance.

''Praying for India,'' declare the posters that have taken over Mumbai's railway stations and walls. At the ground, carpets are being laid out along its 1.2 km length and 32 giant video screens are being erected. The man responsible for spearheading the year-long preparations is Gul Kripalani (60), a prosperous seafood exporter—he lives in an exclusive sea-facing flat near the Gateway of India—and chairman of the Indian Merchants' Chamber.

After juggling phone calls from Mumbai's deposed police commissioner Parvinder Pasricha and Benny Hinn himself—calling from Dallas to check the weather in Mumbai—Kriplani explained how he hasn't had a moment's rest in weeks.

He's been inundated with requests for passes by friends from Mumbai's formidable cocktail circuit. He must decide who gets priority seating.

''My heart is for the Page 3 people,'' confessed the suave Kriplani. ''They're the people I socialise with.''

Indeed, style guru Sabira Merchant confirmed she will attend all three days of the festival.

''He has a piercing personality and I'm fascinated by him,'' said Merchant. ''I'm looking forward to meeting an individual who commands so much power, and gives peace to so many people.'' There will be lakhs of poor and middle-class among the faithful, but convert Kriplani explained that the denizens of high society also needed such solace. ''They have terrible problems too but don't have anyone to speak with,'' he sid. ''If they humble themselves, come to the festival and pray with us, I'm sure that it will change their lives.''

Out in the hinterland, Solomon Issac can't agree more. ''Brother Benny Hinn has never claimed anything for himself,'' said Issac, Pastor of the Church of The Living Waters in Nashik. ''Please do not condemn a great man of God without knowing his committment to Christ.''

Hinn is acclaimed among his followers for his ability to heal physical ailments and his dramatic speeches around the world have attracted millions of people searching for a miracle.

(with Hubert Vaz)

© 2003: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Dino 'survival' claim disputed

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

The idea that dinosaurs survived for some time after the asteroid impact blamed for wiping them out 65 million years ago has been dealt a blow. Dinosaur egg fragments dug out of rocks in China seem to postdate the dramatic extinction event popularly believed to have extinguished the creatures.

But new data suggests the egg pieces got mixed up in later deposits through the action of mud and debris flows.

Details of the latest findings are published in the Journal of Geology.

Dinosaurs survived until the end of the Cretaceous Period of Earth history. But by the beginning of the Tertiary Period, about 65 million years ago, they had apparently vanished. Egg discovery

At numerous sites around the world, a clay layer separates rocks laid down in the Cretaceous from those deposited in the Tertiary. This is known as the K-T boundary.

The boundary contains high concentrations of the element iridium, commonly found in meteorites. Researchers have proposed that a meteorite impact which produced a huge crater at Chicxulub in Mexico, could have been responsible for the demise of the creatures.

Discoveries of dinosaur egg fragments in deposits from Nanxiong Basin, southern China, which contain Tertiary animal remains and pollen, suggested dinosaurs there could have survived until about 62 million years ago.

But US and Chinese researchers now dispute this.

They claim the egg pieces originated in Cretaceous deposits and were swept up in mud and debris flows during the Tertiary. This jumbled material was then re-deposited.

Dr Brenda Buck of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US, said she came upon the idea while examining palaeosols, ancient soils that have been buried and later exposed in Nanxiong.

"During the dry season you had these big open cracks," she explains. "Mudflows would come down and fill in those cracks. All those mudflows are in the [rock] sections where the flora and fauna are mixed."

Dr Buck suggests the presence of several iridium layers at Nanxiong supports a view that Cretaceous rocks were reworked in the Tertiary.

Multiple claims

There have been other claims for the survival of dinosaurs into Tertiary times at sites in Montana and New Mexico in the US, in Bolivia and in India.

All of these claims have been questioned by other researchers.

"The only really well documented dinosaur remains are from the American west. We actually have no idea what's happening anywhere else in the world," Dr Norman MacLeod, keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London, told BBC News Online.

"We know that they lived on other continents, so there's no particular reason to suppose that that western US population was the last population.

"It could well be that they went above the K-T boundary in other parts of the world, especially parts that were remote from the Chicxulub impact."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/3458651.stm

Published: 2004/02/05 10:31:59 GMT

© BBC MMIV

Science Trumps Ritual in Mystery Skeleton Row

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=DCT42CJWJ1QLKCRBAEKSFFA?type=scienceNews&storyID=4286705

By Adam Tanner SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Denying a request by American Indian tribes who sought an immediate burial, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that scientists should be allowed to continue testing on a 9,000-year-old skeleton.

"It's terrific," said Robson Bonnichsen director of Texas A&M University's Center for the Study of the First Americans and a plaintiff in the case. "The court has upheld the principle for scientific study of very early human remains."

The legal battle pitting Bonnichsen and seven other scientists against the U.S. government and Indian tribes dates back to 1996, after two teenagers discovered a skeleton near the shore of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington.

Scientists dated the "Kennewick Man" remains as 8,340 to 9,200 years old, yet it was a puzzling find because its features differed from those of American Indians. Scientists hoped further study would shed light on early North Americans.

Indian tribes demanded the burial of the remains, which they believe belong to a distant relative, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied that request, backing a lower court ruling.

"From the perspective of the scientists-plaintiffs, this skeleton is an irreplaceable source of information about early New World populations that warrants careful scientific inquiry to advance knowledge of distant times," Judge Ronald Gould wrote for the three-judge panel.

"From the perspective of the intervenor-Indian tribes the skeleton is that of an ancestor who, according to the tribes' religious and social traditions, should be buried immediately without further testing."

The battle was especially emotional because of the mystery the "Kennewick Man" represented. Aged 45 or 50 when he died, he had a projectile point unlike those seen in the region in his hip dating back to when he was 15 or 20 years old.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which had fought to bury the remains, said it was reviewing the decision but did not say whether it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

MYSTERIOUS ANCESTOR

Until recently, most scientists thought North America was first populated after the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago when Asian mammoth hunters walked from Siberia. Yet recent evidence has hinted at late Ice Age human settlements on California's channel islands and in Chile, suggesting earlier settlers may have arrived by boat from different regions.

The core of the legal arguments centered on whether the remains were Native American, as the law on reburial requires a link between the remains and an extant tribe.

"The age of Kennewick Man's remains, given the limited studies to date, makes it almost impossible to establish any relationship between the remains and presently existing American Indians," the ruling found.

Without a clear link between the skeleton and Native Americans, the court gave a green light to science.

We "affirm the judgment of the district court barring the transfer of the skeleton for immediate burial and instead permitting scientific study of the skeleton," the court wrote.

KENNEWICK MAN

http://www.kennewick-man.com/
http://www.komotv.com/stories/29637.htm

http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/02/04/kennewick040204
http://www.tri-cityherald.com/images/kennman/0235994.pdf
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001850585_webkennewick04.html

Scientists can study the 9,300-year-old remains of the Kennewick Man. The ruling said the remains date to a time before any recorded history and that that makes it impossible to establish any relationship with existing Indians.

The WWN resident psychic says....

DEAR SERENA: I drove to the cemetery to visit with my beloved mother last weekend and when I got there it was obvious someone had been digging in her grave. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, and then I thought I must be losing my mind. I pulled myself together enough to confront the manager of the cemetery. And when I did, he got real nervous and kept insisting that Mama's grave hadn't been disturbed. But the ground was still soft where somebody had been digging. And it wasn't a little hole -- it was the size of a casket. I know something's happened to Mama, Serena. Tell me what's going on. -- Frantic in Hamlet

Dear Frantic: The FBI secretly exhumed your mother's body to get a DNA sample that will help them identify and prosecute the psychotic nurse who poisoned her and 12 other hospital patients in 1999. You read right, dear, your mother was poisoned -- she did not suffer "age-related cardiac arrest" as doctors originally thought. I hesitated before dropping this bombshell in your lap, but you deserve to know the truth. The Energy of Comforting Love I'm sending your way will help you cope.

http://tv.yahoo.com/news/wwn/20040204/107590680003.html

Understanding Evolution

The National Center for Science Education and the University of California Museum of Paleontology are pleased to announce that the Understanding Evolution web site: http://evolution.berkeley.edu is now live.

The Understanding Evolution web site -- written for teachers but accessible to the general public -- is intended to provide "one-stop shopping" for evolution education. The web site is rich in content, with sections on the nature of science, evolution itself, the different lines of evidence supporting evidence, evolution's relevance to everyday life, widespread misconceptions about evolution, and the history of evolutionary thought. There is also an extensive section especially for teachers, giving advice on teaching evolution, ideas for lesson plans, ways to avoid confusing students, and answering common student questions.

The Understanding Evolution web site is a collaborative project of the National Center for Science Education and the University of California Museum of Paleontology. It was funded by a grant to UCMP from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Foundation. NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott, Alan Gishlick, and Eric Meikle assisted in its production. Be sure to check it out!

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

REPORT QUESTIONS BUSH PLAN FOR HYDROGEN-FUELED CARS

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — President Bush's plan for cars running on clean, efficient hydrogen fuel cells is decades away from commercial reality, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences.

Promoting the technology in his State of the Union address a year ago, Mr. Bush said a hydrogen car might be available as the first vehicle for a child born in 2003. On Monday, the Energy Department included $318 million for both fuel cells and hydrogen production in its 2005 budget. "Hydrogen is the next frontier; a hydrogen economy is where the world is headed," said Spencer Abraham, the secretary of energy.

The Bush administration anticipates mass production of hydrogen cars by 2020. But the academy study, released Wednesday, said some of the Energy Department's goals were "unrealistically aggressive."

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/06/politics/06HYDR.html

Genetic Study Shows Snake Evolution

http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Hedges1-2004.htm

30 January 2004 --The mystery of where Earth's first snakes lived as they were evolving into limbless creatures from their lizard ancestors has intrigued scientists for centuries. Now, the first study ever to analyze genes from all the living families of lizards has revealed that snakes made their debut on the land, not in the ocean. The discovery resolves a long-smoldering debate among biologists about whether snakes had a terrestrial or a marine origin roughly 150 million years ago--a debate rekindled recently by controversial research in favor of the marine hypothesis.

In a paper to be published in the 7 May 2004 issue of the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, Nicolas Vidal, a postdoctoral fellow, and S. Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State, describe how they put the two theories to the test. They collected the largest genetic data set for snakes and lizards ever used to address this question. Their collection includes two genes from 64 species representing all 19 families of living lizards and 17 of the 25 families of living snakes.

...

"For the marine hypothesis to be correct, snakes must be the closest relative of the only lizards known to have lived in the ocean when snakes evolved--the giant, extinct mosasaur lizards," Vidal says. "While we can't analyze the genes of the extinct mosasaurs, we can use the genes of their closest living cousins, monitor lizards like the giant Komodo Dragon," he explains.

...

The team analyzed gene sequences from each of the species, using several statistical methods to determine how the species are related. "Although these genes have the same function in each species--and so, by definition, are the same gene--their structure in each species is slightly different because of mutations that have developed over time," Vidal explains. When the genetic comparisons were complete, Vidal and Hedges had a family tree showing the relationships of the species.

"Our results show clearly that snakes are not closely related to monitor lizards like the giant Komodo Dragon, which are the closest living relatives of the mosasaurs--the only known marine lizard living at the time that snakes evolved," Vidal says. "Because all the other lizards at that time lived on the land, our study provides strong evidence that snakes evolved on the land, not in the ocean."

The research suggests an answer to another long-debated question: why snakes lost their limbs. Their land-based lifestyle, including burrowing underground at least some of the time, may be the reason. "Having limbs is a real problem if you need to fit through small openings underground, as anybody who has tried exploring in caves knows," Hedges says. "Your body could fit through much smaller openings if you did not have the wide shoulders and pelvis that support your limbs." The researchers note that the burrowing lifestyle of many other species, including legless lizards, is correlated with the complete loss of limbs or the evolution of very small limbs.

This research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astrobiology Institute and the National Science Foundation.

Abstract and text at

http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/app/home/contribution.asp?wasp=hpb9qmqvyq3jlcuq9evl&referrer=parent&backto=issue,2,33;journal,1,4;linkingpublicationresults,id:110824,1


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