NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 June 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Sunday, June 06, 2004

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography

http://www.csicop.org/bib/656

The Woman With The Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail
Margaret Starbird
http://www.innertraditions.com/titles/wowial.htm
1993, Bear & Company, Inc.; 184p., color plates.
astrology:defense, astrology:history, folklore, newage, numerology, occult, prophecy:defense, prophecy:history, prophecy:sociology, religion:anthropology, religion:defense, religion:history, religion:philosophy, religion:sociology

A devout Catholic, Margaret Starbird is a scholar of religion who originally intended to debunk the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That book claimed that Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married and produced a holy bloodline. However, once Starbird examined the evidence, she became convinced that Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married, and that Mary Magdalen herself is the legendary Holy Grail. Starbird examines art, folklore, ancient myths, and history to present her evidence for the marriage; sometimes she sounds plausible and sometimes farfetched. Whether or not the bloodline ever existed is irrelevant to her claims for the marriage and the Grail. However, towards the end of the book Starbird loses all her credibility when she resorts to astrology to prove her case, and claims that Jesus is prophesied to usher in a New Age. After reading this astrological nonsense one wonders about the reliability of Starbird's historical scholarship in the rest of the book.

Reviewed by Saffron Monsoon

http://www.csicop.org/bib/657

The Holy Grail: The Legend, the History, the Evidence
Justin E. Griffin
2001, McFarland; 167p, illustrated
faith-healing, folklore, religion:anthropology, religion:defense, religion:history, religion:philosophy, religion:sociology, shroud:defense

Griffin attempts to combine various sources of the Holy Grail legend into a single story that accounts for all the "serious Grail candidates" known at the present time. Griffin accepts the Grail as a physical object, that is, a container, a chalice, cup, or vial that once contained Jesus' blood. Griffin rejects the ideas of a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalen and the existence of a holy bloodline. He also rejects all pre- Christian myths that are strikingly similar to the Grail legend. Throughout this small book, Griffin shows pro-Christian and Catholic bias. For example, he rejects Celtic Grail-like legends because they are not Christian and therefore cannot be true. He also accepts all the objects he describes as genuine holy relics without any critical evaluation. His stated reason is that fakes could never be objects of veneration. In this regard, Griffin's most serious blunder is promoting the Shroud of Turin as authentic and linking it to the Grail legend. He cites pro-Shroud literature without ever mentioning the scientific evidence for the Shroud's medieval origin. Because of these serious shortcomings, taking Griffin's Grail unification story seriously is impossible.

Reviewed by Saffron Monsoon

http://www.csicop.org/bib/658

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Mary Roach
http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/spring03/005093.htm
2003, WW Norton; 303p, illustrated
faith-healing, folklore, medicine:history, pseudoscience, psychology, quackery, religion, science:anthropology, science:history, science:methodology, science:philosophy, science:sociology

Warning: do not read this book while on a plane. Science writer Mary Roach describes the various ways human cadavers help the living. Her writing style is humorous and irreverent; some readers may find this annoying and even offensive. Overall she makes a serious and depressing subject quite readable. However, sometimes she makes being a cadaver sound a bit too entertaining. Some of the ways cadavers help the living is by allowing surgeons to practice surgery, by being human crash test dummies, by decaying in various conditions so forensic scientists can advance their field, and of course by being organ donors. Roach also covers the history of medical anatomy and dissection. The most fascinating chapter is Roach's visit to an airline crash investigator. He used cadavers to analyze the TWA Flight 800 crash, and he describes his work in detail. The weakest chapters are the ones in which Roach describes scientific attempts to search for the human soul and cases of alleged medical cannibalism. Surprisingly, Roach seems to confuse whole body donation with brain donation, and after all her research she seems reluctant to donate her own body to science. Stiff is a provocative and necessary book and a worthwhile read.

Reviewed by Saffron Monsoon

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Branch opinion piece in Seed

Dear Friends of NCSE,

You might be interested in my recent opinion piece in the latest issue of Seed, "a popular science magazine for our times aimed at smart, young, and curious men and women who are passionate about science and its fast-changing place in our culture."

I discuss the continuing antievolutionist ploy of calling for "teaching the controversy," remarking, "Couched in attractive secular terms such as 'analysis,' 'objectivity,' and 'balance,' the policies appeal to Enlightenment values. But their focus on evolution reveals a darker agenda."

The article is available on-line at the Seed web site:
http://www.seedmagazine.com/?p=article&n=above&id=4

Since the piece was written, the proposed "objective origins" policy in Darby, Montana -- referred to in the opening and closing paragraphs -- seems to have disappeared, following an electoral shakeup of the school board. For details, see the Missoula Independent's story:
http://www.missoulanews.com/News/News.asp?no=4038

For more detail on these and other stories, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

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

Forthcoming in July 2004: Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism:
http://greenwood.com/books/BookDetail.asp?dept_id=1&sku=GR2122 **

Bookmaker betting on feng shui

A feng shui expert has been asked by a London bookmaker to discover why customers keep raking in the money.

Payouts to punters visiting the Ladbrookes outlet on Putney Bridge Road are 20% higher than other shops.

Dr Paul Darby of Nottinghamshire says the shop's layout is to blame for clients' good luck.

He says the office is in the cellar where there is no natural light, and the energy of the nearby river is blocked by a new police station.

Upside down

Dr. Darby's expertise has been called upon before.

He used the art of feng shui to overturn the so-called "curse of the southern dressing room" at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2002.

No team using the stadium's southern dressing room had ever won the Cup Final before his visit.

The front area is very good for the customers, and they are bringing in all the energy of the outside world Dr Paul Darby Feng shui expert

After Dr Darby's intervention, Stoke City became the first team to beat the curse.

According to Dr Darby, eight out of 10 teams using the dressing room now win their matches.

Dr Darby says he became an expert in feng shui after becoming crippled and bedridden from stress brought on in his former role as headmaster of Berry Hill Middle School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

"I left the school 15 years ago, and became a pensioner at 39.

" I'd always been interested in the Far East, and studied to become a Doctor of Oriental Philosophy."

Dr Darby has been working with the Ladbroke's branch , for the past 10 days.

He says its problems are easily solved.

"The layout of the shop is upside down - there's rubbish outside the front, and the kitchen area and toilets are at the back, blocking all the energy."

"The front area is very good for the customers, and they are bringing in all the energy of the outside world, which is bad for the business."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/3779501.stm

Published: 2004/06/05 13:18:38 GMT

© BBC MMIV

Physics News Update 687

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 687 June 4, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

REVERSING TIME TO CATCH SNIPERS. At last week's 75th anniversary meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in New York City, researchers presented a system that uses "time-reversed" acoustics to pinpoint the exact locations of gunfire and explosions in an urban environment. Coming from the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and the University of Connecticut, the researchers (Donald.G.Albert@erdc.usace.army.mil and Lanbo.Liu@erdc.usace.army.mil) tested the system in a small "training" village consisting mainly of two-story concrete-block buildings. In their tests, they fired a gun at an arbitrary location within the village. The gunshot echoed from building walls and other surfaces. A network of simple audio sensors recorded the reverberations at unique vantage points. The researchers then turned to a computer, which contained a 2-D computer model of the village. Inside this "virtual village," the computer generated a backwards version of each recorded sound wave. Displaying a map of the village, the computer broadcasted the time-reversed waves from the locations corresponding to the sensors that recorded the original waves. In the computer map of the village, the time-reversed waves eventually returned and converged at the spot corresponding to the source of the gunshot. The researchers are hoping to develop the system for real-world use, for example by reducing the amount of computer processing time associated with the procedure so that it can potentially pinpoint snipers and explosions in real-time. (Paper 5aPAb5; pictures, movies and lay-language text at http://www.acoustics.org/press/147th/liu-albert.html)

OBSERVING SUPERFLUIDITY IN HYDROGEN MOLECULES is difficult since the predicted temperature at which liquid H2 would become superfluid (losing all viscosity), about 2 K, is well below the triple point of hydrogen (14 K), the temperature below which H2 exists only as a solid. To make H2 into a superfluid, H2 molecules would have to be supercooled, cooled rapidly below their freezing point. A new experiment at the Instituto de Estructura de la Materia-CSIC in Madrid has not yet observed superfluid H2, but physicists there have, for the first time, proved that tiny H2 droplets---tiny clusters, with up to 8 molecules, in a gas jet---are liquid in form. The scientists (from Madrid, a Max Planck Institute in Goettingen, and Washington State University) determined the liquid status of the individual cluster sizes through Raman scattering, the process in which the energy of a laser beam is depleted ever so slightly when it passes through a molecular medium (in this case the H2 droplets) by the excitation of the molecules. This proved for the first time that a Raman spectrum can be obtained for H2 clusters. Why so much fuss over whether hydrogen can be made superfluid? If successful it would be the first direct evidence for the existence of another superfluid besides helium, at present the only known liquid superfluid. H2 is the simplest and most abundant molecule in the universe, and scientists rely on it to point to properties in other atoms and molecules. Furthermore, hydrogen is the primary fuel in stars, while on Earth hydrogen might also play an important role as fuel since it has the highest chemical energy density by mass. (Tejeda et al., Physical Review Letters, 4 June 2004).

MICROFLUIDIC TANGO: SORTING WITHOUT DIFFUSION. Separations of complex biological mixtures such as the contents of a cell require biomolecules to be sorted by their size or density. To accomplish this, molecular biologists usually employ methods that rely on diffusion, the often gradual migrations of particles from one zone to another. However, diffusion-based sorting requires patience, since the particles must randomly wander over a large number of possible paths. Now, a multidisciplinary Princeton team (Robert Austin, Austin@princeton.edu) has produced a potentially faster, non-diffusion-based sorting method. The researchers tap into the power of microfluidics, the control of liquids using microscopic structures. Their microfluidic method allows them to sort objects in a nonrandom (deterministic) fashion. In their technique, a smooth fluid carries the biomolecules of interest in a downward stream. Encountering arrays of obstacles staggered in a certain way, smaller molecules zig-zag back and forth through the obstacles but must proceed on the average straight down. However, if a biomolecule is big enough, it moves steadily at an angle to the zig-zag motion, taking tango-like dance steps as it veers to the left or right, thereby separating itself from the smaller molecules. In their initial demonstrations, the researchers have sorted fragments of artificial bacteria chromosomes to within 12% of their molecular weight in 10 minutes, already an order of magnitude faster than conventional methods. In tests with sub-micron polymer bead particles, the device can rapidly and continuously sort them into an array of output channels with a resolution of 1% of the particles' radius or less. Thus the device may find applications in the area of sorting inorganic nanoparticles as well. (Huang et al., Science, 14 May 2004.)

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


Saturday, June 05, 2004

Southern Baptists consider public school exodus

http://www.christiantimes.com/Articles/Articles%20Jun04/Art_Jun04_16.html

By Staff Reporter
CHRISTIAN EXAMINER

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Southern Baptists should remove their children from public schools and find Christian education alternatives. At least that's what two Southern Baptists are saying in a resolution they submitted for consideration at the denomination's annual convention in June.

The resolution—co-authored by Thomas C. Pinkney, an Alexandria, Va., man who was once second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Bruce Shortt, a Houston lawyer—makes two main points: Christian parents are responsible for the education of their children, and the education public schools offer is the antithesis of what Christian children should be learning.

The measure begins by citing several biblical passages that admonish parents to teach their children, and points to the Bible's instruction that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."

The resolution then makes a case for why public schools are unacceptable for Christian children.

"Government schools are by their own confession humanistic and secular in their instruction, and the education offered by the government schools is officially godless," it reads.

The prevalence of evolutionary theory with contempt for creationism, and the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in public schools also make the schools a hostile place for Christians, the measure says.

And the measure cites studies that it says proves that public schools have an adverse effect on children.

"The Nehemiah Institute has discovered through extensive surveys of student attitudes and beliefs that acceptance of a secular humanist worldview by Christian children attending government schools has increased dramatically over the last 15 years," the resolution says.

The authors of the measure say public schools are "anti-Christian"—and they say it is time for Christians to get out.

The resolution specifically proposes that: "The Southern Baptist Convention encourages all officers and members of the Southern Baptist Convention and the churches associated with it to remove their children from the government schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God, the good of Christ's church, and the strength of their own commitment to Jesus…"

Pinkney acknowledged the worth of some public schools, but said the system as a whole is in a downward spiral.

"Some public schools are doing a good job, as are some teachers who are Christians," he told Associated Press. "But they are in a system that is officially and legally godless."

It is impossible to gauge how many Southern Baptists agree with Pinkney. The denomination is the largest in the country, reporting some 16.2 million members. And Pinkney said "hundreds of thousands" of Southern Baptist families send their children to public schools.

So far, the denomination hasn't taken a position against public education. Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy for the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told The Washington Times, "We have suggested parents make sure their children are receiving appropriate instruction in public schools and that they remain engaged in all of their children's education.

"We are also concerned about what happens in public schools, some of which is contrary to Southern Baptist faith and sensitivities. But we've never said public education is incompatible with Christian life."

The SBC Resolutions Committee will decide whether to present the resolution to the full convention during the June meeting. If the non-binding resolution makes it to the floor, it will need a simple majority to pass.

Published by Keener Communications Group, June 2004

REASON
The dimming of the Enlightenment

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/8844255.htm

Posted on Sat, Jun. 05, 2004

BY FRANCIS WHEEN

In 1922, just after his second term as president, Woodrow Wilson was asked for his thoughts on Darwinian theory.

''Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education, I do believe in organic evolution,'' he replied. ``It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.''

Now imagine Wilson's downright astonishment had he been informed that in 2004, more than eight decades later, the state schools superintendent in Georgia would propose excising the word evolution from the biology curriculum.

History going in reverse

There are few backers these days for the argument that we have reached ''the end of history.'' However, a glance at some of the dominant ideas of the last couple of decades raises an even more startling possibility: that history, far from halting, has gone into reverse gear.

This may explain why so many of the case studies in Charles Mackay's classic 1841 history of human folly, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, are reflected in the more-recent episodes that I've been studying.

The dot-com lunacy of the late 1990s, for instance, when companies with no discernible income achieved higher market valuations than big and well-established industrial corporations, was eerily reminiscent of previous investment manias such as the South Sea Bubble and the Dutch tulip craze, both of which were recounted at length by Mackay.

Mackay also mocked Nostradamus, observing with amused incredulity that this 16th century astrologer still had some followers in ''the Walloon country of Belgium,'' among ''old farmer-wives.'' Yet the self-same Nostradamus raced up the bestseller lists in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and few if any of those 21st century readers could be classified as ``old farmer-wives.''

Mackay's book is largely a history of the pre-Enlightenment -- an age of witch hunts and holy relics, alchemy and geomancy. But we've grown out of that now, haven't we? Apparently not.

Over the last 25 years or so, after two centuries of gradual ascendancy, Enlightenment values of reason, secularism and scientific empiricism have come under fierce assault from a grotesquely incongruous coalition of radical deconstructionists and medieval flat-earthers, New Age mystics and Old Testament fundamentalists.

The space vacated by notions of history and progress has been colonized by cults, quackery, gurus, irrational panics, moral confusion and an epidemic of gibberish. A Gallup poll in 1993, for example, found that only 11 percent of Americans accepted the standard scientific account of evolution, whereas 47 percent maintained that ''God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.'' Another poll revealed that 49 percent of Americans believed in demonic possession, 36 percent in telepathy and 25 percent in astrology. It is as if the Enlightenment never happened.

There have been astonishing scientific advances in the last quarter-century, exemplified by the creation of the Internet and the mapping of the human genome. Despite this -- or, more likely, because of it -- millions of Westerners now seek consolation from mumbo-jumbo merchants and snake-oil vendors.

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who styles himself a modernizer and recites the mantra ''education, education, education,'' has praised creationist teachers at a state-funded school in the north of England who seek to establish the Book of Genesis as the main biology textbook.

Blair and his wife underwent a ''rebirthing experience'' while holidaying on the Mexican Riviera three years ago. ''The Blairs were offered watermelon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other's bodies along with mud from the Mayan jungle outside,'' the London Times reported. ``Before leaving, the Blairs were told to scream out loud to signify the pain of rebirth.''

Reagan's astrologer

Rational argument is increasingly obscured by a swirling fog of emotionalism and superstition -- and, as Blair has proved, even the highest and mightiest are not immune.

Remember Nancy Reagan's astrologer? Or President Clinton's brainstorming weekend with Hollywood mystic Marianne Williamson, self-styled ''sacred psychologist'' Jean Houston and management gurus Anthony Robbins and Stephen R. Covey?

The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. Some are manifestly sinister, others perhaps merely comical -- harmless pastimes, as Reagan said of her reliance on horoscopes. Cumulatively, however, the proliferation of obscurant bunkum is a menace to the Enlightenment legacy bequeathed to America by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Where is H.L. Mencken when we need him?

Francis Wheen is the author of Idiot Proof: Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power-Brokers, Media Morons and the Erosion of Common Sense.

©2004 The Los Angeles Times

© 2004 Herald.com and wire service sources
http://www.miami.com

Tony Robbins and the Wellness Community Inspire Cancer Patients by ``Talking Wellness''; Series of Free eCards Offer People with Cancer Empowerment and Support

http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20040602005149&newsLang=en

June 02, 2004 07:00 AM US Eastern Timezone

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 2, 2004--"One in three Americans will develop cancer in their lifetime. This simply means that every one of us will be touched in some way by this disease. The only question is, will you sit on the sidelines or will you work to make a difference?" asks Anthony Robbins, an internationally recognized inspirational author and life coach. Tony has spent years helping people improve their lives, and is now reaching out to people with cancer and their families to provide them with the same kind of education and encouragement he has given to millions around the world.

Tony, along with The Wellness Community, a national non-profit organization that provides free support, education and hope to people with cancer, is launching an inspirational series of free electronic greeting cards called "Talking Wellness: Cards for Cancer." The program is supported by Merck & Co., Inc.

By logging on to www.talkingwellness.org, family, friends and caregivers can send eCards expressing sentiments that can be difficult to verbalize to a loved one coping with cancer. The selection of free eCards will feature messages of empowerment and encouragement written by Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Chef Michael Lomonaco. The Web site also provides educational information for people affected by cancer on how to work with their healthcare team to effectively manage some of the more common and often distressing side effects that can result from chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue that often compound the emotional toll and disruption that cancer brings into patients' lives.

"My life's work is dedicated to making a difference in the quality of peoples' lives by helping them learn the vital skills that empower them not only to succeed but to contribute in meaningful ways to those around them," said Tony Robbins. "A strong support system of loved ones can help people with cancer cope with their condition and provide a sense of hope and empowerment, which can be important in their fight against the disease. This sense of empowerment can inspire patients to become more involved with their treatment and foster better communication with their healthcare providers."

Communication with doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare team is essential for the more than nine million Americans who have a history of cancer. Although people facing cancer cannot change their diagnosis, finding reliable and up-to-date information, communicating with family members, friends and their healthcare team, and seeking out sources of support can help them take control of their situation and make informed decisions.

"Encouragement from friends and family is essential to those living with cancer. ECards can help remind people that they're not alone and empower them to cope with all aspects of their cancer, including treatment side effects," said Kim Thiboldeaux, president and CEO of The Wellness Community. "The 'Talking Wellness: Cards for Cancer' eCards provide people with a meaningful tool for reaching out and offering words of support and encouragement to those they care about with cancer."

Tony explained, "I partnered with The Wellness Community because of their extraordinary understanding of patients' deepest needs. The disease is only half the problem -- some of the biggest challenges can be the loss of hope and the feelings of isolation that often go along with a cancer diagnosis. The Wellness Community helps to address these concerns."

Side Effects from Cancer Treatment Greatly Impact Patients' Lives Compounding the emotional impact of cancer are the debilitating and common physical side effects that can result from chemotherapy, including nausea, vomiting and fatigue. These side effects can profoundly affect patients, causing considerable distress and disruption in their lives and preventing them from continuing their daily activities. Unfortunately, some patients believe that these side effects are unavoidable and don't discuss them with their doctor.

"One of the most important things patients can do is become active participants in their health management by speaking to their doctor or nurse about any side effects of chemotherapy they experience," said Kim Thiboldeaux. "Working with their doctor, patients can take specific actions to help prevent and help better manage side effects, including if appropriate, exploring medications. In addition, some patients may experience a positive impact on their emotional distress by participating in a community of support." "If someone you care about is affected by cancer, we encourage you to visit www.talkingwellness.org to send them a free eCard offering empowerment and hope and access educational materials on cancer and managing the side effects of chemotherapy," said Kim Thiboldeaux.

About the eCard Authors

Tony Robbins

For more than a quarter of a century, Anthony Robbins has served as an advisor to leaders around the world. A recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, negotiations, organizational turnaround and peak performance, he has been honored for his strategic intellect and humanitarian endeavors. Tony has had several people in his life touched by cancer. As part of his desire to support the "Talking Wellness: Cards for Cancer" program, Tony has volunteered his time for this program. His non-profit Anthony Robbins Foundation provides assistance to the homeless, elderly and inner-city youth, and feeds more than one million people in nine countries every year through its international holiday "Basket Brigade." Robbins has directly impacted the lives of nearly 50 million people from 80 countries with his best-selling books and audiotape products, public speaking engagements and live appearances. Since fathering the life coaching industry more than 25 years ago, Robbins has produced the number one audio coaching system of all time. He also is an international best-selling author, award-winning speaker, Chairman overseeing five private companies and Vice Chairman of two companies.

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is a dynamic speaker who shares his special brand of spiritual, scientific and personal wisdom during speaking tours around the world. Through his 20+ years of experience since leaving his medical practice, Deepak continues to revolutionize common wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing. His mission of "bridging the technological miracles of the West with the wisdom of the East" remains his thrust and provides the base of his recognition as one of India's historically greatest ambassadors to the West. Michael Lomonaco One of America's most popular and brightest culinary stars, Chef Michael Lomonaco has worked at some of the finest restaurants in New York, including the legendary Maxwell's Plum, the '21' Club, the historic Windows on the World complex, and most recently, as Consulting Chef overseeing the creation and opening of Noche, a Latin American restaurant and nightclub. Michael has also gained enormous popularity as the talented and charismatic host of Discovery Channel's "Epicurious" and the Food Network's highly rated "Michael's Place." Co-author of the best selling, "The '21' Cookbook," published in 1995 by Doubleday, Michael's new cookbook, "Nightly Specials," will be published by William Morrow in the fall of 2004. He has also had articles published and contributed recipes, tips and hints to dozens of national magazines, including New York Magazine, Gourmet and Food and Wine. In addition, Michael regularly is a guest on food and lifestyle oriented radio programs, nationwide.

About The Wellness Community

The Wellness Community is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing free support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. Through participation in professionally led support groups, educational workshops, nutrition and exercise programs, and mind/body classes, people affected by cancer learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of their disease. For more information, please visit www.thewellnesscommunity.org.

About Merck Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical products company. Merck discovers, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of innovative products to improve human and animal health, directly and through its joint ventures.

Chopra to board -- guaranteed

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/06/03/BUG3P6VPGV1.DTL

- Kathleen Pender
Thursday, June 3, 2004

The Men's Wearhouse, an apparel chain best known for its traditional suits, is putting together a board of directors that is anything but buttoned- down.

The company, which is based in Houston but has executive offices in Fremont, has nominated Deepak Chopra to its board.

Chopra is an India-born physician-turned-author and motivational speaker who has written more than 25 books on subjects such as God, golf, health and healing.

His new book, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," offers "a plan for tapping into the everyday coincidences that spring from the heart of creation, which we can use to rewrite our destinies."

He lives in La Jolla (San Diego County), where he runs the Chopra Center for Well Being, an alternative medicine clinic that can send "spiritual messages from Deepak Chopra on your wireless phone!"

At any other company, Chopra might seem like an odd addition to the board. At Men's Wearhouse, which has a growing contingent of New Age directors, he will fit right in.

The board has six incumbent directors and is nominating two new ones: Chopra and William Sechrest, a Texas lawyer.

Five of these eight incumbent or nominated board members have ties to the World Business Academy, a nonprofit research and publishing organization that says it sees business as "the dominant institution in society today and the one most capable of responding to rapid change."

The academy "is looking at the cutting edge of business consciousness, the changing way business approaches itself and looks at its responsibilities to society," says Rinaldo Brutoco, founder and president of the academy.

Brutoco has been a Men's Wearhouse director since 1992. The proxy statement does not mention his role with the academy. It identifies him as president and chief executive officer of ShangriLa Consulting. ShangriLa, based in Ojai (Ventura County), has done consulting work for Men's Wearhouse in years past but does none now.

Zimmer is a dues-paying member of the academy. Dues start at $500 a year, Brutoco says.

Men's Wearhouse is a corporate sponsor of the academy, which is also based in Ojai. It donates $10,000 a year and also gave $10,000 to help sponsor the academy's "Global Mind Change Forum" in Santa Barbara in March.

The proxy does not disclose these contributions. Federal law generally does not require contributions of that size to be disclosed.

Chopra and Zimmer were both speakers at the mind change forum. Although Zimmer has known Chopra for years, he says it was at this business-oriented conference that he got the idea of adding Chopra to the board.

Michael Ray, an incumbent Men's Wearhouse director, is a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is also one of about 70 academy "fellows," an unpaid job that involves research and writing. Chopra is also an academy fellow. Their fellowships are not disclosed in the proxy.

Sechrest, the second board nominee, is a director of the World Business Academy, an affiliation that is disclosed in the proxy.

Zimmer says he wants to add Sechrest and Chopra because "we need a better balance on the board between old paradigm and new paradigm business thinkers."

He calls Brutoco, Ray, Chopra and Sechrest the "new paradigm players."

The old-paradigm directors, according to Zimmer, are Vice Chairman David Edwab, a high-ranking Men's Wearhouse employee; Sheldon Stein, who runs the Southwest investment banking business for Bear Stearns, the company's investment bank; and Kathleen Mason, president and CEO of Tuesday Morning, a discount retailer.

"I'm the swing guy," Zimmer says. "I'm old, but I understand the new."

Ray, Chopra and Mason did not return phone calls. Edwab and Sechrest could not be reached for comment.

Stein says, "I'm just an investment banker in Dallas. I don't get involved in world business."

Stein has not read any of Chopra's books, but says his wife has, and was impressed. He says Chopra will make a good addition to the board.

So far, Chopra has not served on any corporate boards, although he has taught a short course to executives called the Soul of Leadership at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Shareholder rights activists say Chopra might make a good director, but wonder whether he will be truly independent from Zimmer and other directors with ties to the Academy.

Pat McGurn, a director with Institutional Shareholder Services, says the company probably did not have to disclose its directors' relationships with the academy because it is a nonprofit. But he says they should have been disclosed voluntarily, so shareholders could make up their own minds.

"You don't like seeing nexuses at all. When it involves more than two directors, it becomes a concern. That's not what you would expect to see if the board is truly independent," McGurn says.

Ann Yerger, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors, agrees. "This raises the red flag of cronyism," she says. "Companies are bending over backward to have boards that look at least on paper to be very independent."

Zimmer disputes the notion that his board is some sort of cult or "cabal with a robotic leader that has been implanted in Men's Wearhouse. I'm the founder of the company. I've built this company."

He adds: "The relationship I have with people or the World Business Academy is far from a significant relationship in my life."

He calls himself "an admirer" of Chopra's, but "I've never had a meal with him or been to his house."

In fact, Zimmer says he was attracted to Chopra because "he's a unique man who is unafraid to say what he thinks. ... In a corporation, you want people who are unafraid to say what they feel."

Zimmer says he is not sure why some directors' ties to the academy were disclosed and some were not.

"For consistency, you'd think it would be," he says.

Explaining his philosophy, Zimmer says that in the old business paradigm, there is only one stakeholder, the shareholder.

In the new paradigm, which he says he ascribes to, there are five stakeholder groups: shareholders, employees, customers, vendors, and the communities in which they do business.

"The CEO has to balance all five of these stakeholder interests," he says. "We put decisions that recognize benefit to more than one stakeholder group ahead of decisions that only recognize one group," he says.

He says many members of the World Business Academy believe in the same philosophy.

He says there have been and will continue to be disagreements on his board between old- and new-paradigm thinkers. "We agree to disagree agreeably, " he says.

Net Worth runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail Kathleen Pender at kpender@sfchronicle.com.

Page C - 1
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/06/03/BUG3P6VPGV1.DTL

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle

It's Armageddon Time
Bush and his loyal Christian fundamentalists want you to have a front row seat! (Whether you want one or not)

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/June04/Droubay0605.htm

by Sandi Magathan Droubay M.A
www.dissidentvoice.org
June 5, 2004
First Published in OpEd News.com

Religion and Politics do not make good bedfellows. They never have. Why is it that we can recognize the danger posed by fundamentalist extremists in other religions but not our home grown religious extremists. I'm talking about the problem with many Conservative Christians in our own country.

Let's take a look at the relationship between the Christian Right and our present administration. During the 2000 presidential campaign George Bush stated, "I feel that God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it; … I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it." During one debate, Bush stated that: "Christ" was his favorite" philosopher." He went on to inform the American public that Christ had "changed my heart…When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as Savior, it changes the heart and changes your life." It also apparently gives one the ability to look into the hearts of others. As he would so often claim, he could look into the heart of a person and know that he is "a good man." I recall he said this after he had his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, " I looked into his heart. He is a good man." One can only wonder if he has looked into the hearts of Rove, the architect of the smear campaign against McCain during the 2000 campaign, or Dick Chaney, the Halliburton mogul; or Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, the vultures of war? Perhaps it isn't easy to see what isn't there.

After September 11th Bush addressed the country and speaking in theological language, he referred to the "axis of evil," stating that "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war,… and we know that God is not neutral between them." He told the world that "you are either for us or against us." The world is, according to Bush, black or white, good or evil, friend or foe; this is absolutist language, the language that conservatives, both religious and political, understand. They knew he was their man. Simple, straight-forward, not introspective; confident, judgmental, self assured and he never makes a mistake, as he recently assured the press. Nothing is ever relative, it is never gray. Just like in the old westerns, good guys wear the white hats and the bad guys wear the black hats. This he can really relate to, as he likes to pretend on the weekends, at his ranch in Crawford Texas, that he is a cowboy. Ever notice how he swaggers when he's dressed up in his cowboy gear, boots and all. Bang, bang, what a guy. Sure makes me feel safe, how about you?

In an article he wrote in March of 2003 for the Washington Post, Fritz Ritsch asked, "When did the president become theologian in chief?" Well, remember Fritz, he was "appointed" President by the Supreme Court and apparently "anointed" by God. Or so he believes, and so do many fundamentalist Christians. According to Ritsch, Bush also used the words from a hymn, "There's Power in the Blood," in his State of the Union speech. He (Bush) referred to the "power, wonder-working power, of the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people". The original words to this hymn, according to Ritsch, refer to the "wonder-working power" of "the precious blood of the lamb", the lamb referring to Jesus Christ. Fundamentalist Christians would have understood exactly what Bush was referring to, as he was talking to them. He knew who his base was and he was talking their language. It was our job, as Americans, to fight evil, and he, being able to look into the hearts of others, knew who the evil ones were and it was his duty to lead us in that fight. So, for the next several months we heard; 9/11 and Sadaam; 9/11 and Iraq; 9/11 and Hussein 'and so on and so forth. Iraq being, of course, one of the three "axes of evil." It was al Quaeda that was responsible for the horror of September 11th, most of the terrorists on those planes were citizens of Saudi Arabia! We are still in Iraq, Osama bin Laden is still running around in the mountains of Afganistan attached to a kidney dialysis machine and we can't find him (until October), but we have Hussein. Are we safer? Just the other day a civilian was beheaded in Iraq, was it just last month that Spain experienced a terrorist attack that killed hundreds? And where are those pesky WMD's anyway?

Many Christians, especially the Fundamentalist branch, see this war, not as a war against terrorists, they see it as a war against the infidels, good against evil; Christians against Muslims, whose God is Allah, a "different" God. For Conservative Christians this is a religious war.

The conflict in Iraq isn't the only conflict that has grabbed the attention of Religious Conservatives, as they are also very interested in the on-going conflict between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel. Why is that?

Fundamentalist Christians see biblical prophesy being played out in this part of the world. This conflict fits in with their doomsday philosophy; Armageddon, the end of the world. They subscribe to a world view, or philosophy known as premillennialism. First, let me make it clear that not all Conservative Christians are Fundamentalists, however, most, if not all Fundamentalists consider themselves to be Conservative Christians. This particular philosophy is usually associated with the Fundamentalist branch of Christianity.

Premillennialism refers to the apocalyptic vision many Christians hold of the Last Days, the final war between God and Satan which will end our world as we know it. It is known as the battle of Armageddon. Premillennialism was a theory put forward by a gentleman named John Nelson Darby ( 1800-1882). Darby believed the bible to be literally true, the inerrant word of God. According to Darby, historic time in the bible can be divided up into what he refers to as "dispensations." During each of these dispensations, of which there are seven, humans have been given laws set forth by God under which they are to lead their lives, and in each instance they have failed. Because of their pre-disposition towards wicked behavior, God has been forced to punish his creatures in some way. The Fall, the Flood and the crucifixion of Christ are all seen as "dispensations". We are now in the sixth dispensation which is considered the 'penultimate" dispensation.

According to this worldview, the Antichrist (the False Redeemer) will return before the end as predicted by St .Paul in II Thessalonians 2: 3-8. This Antichrist will deceive the world, he will be quite charismatic and many will be fooled by him. To be even more devious he may appear as a "peacemaker." So, most Fundamentalists who subscribe to this theology are highly suspect of anyone who preaches peace. War is inevitable and must come to pass before Christ will appear. Here is where it gets tricky, although this trickster, the Antichrist, will make noises about being a peacemaker, he will eventually wage war and Christians will find themselves being persecuted. Notice how often they claim they are being persecuted in our country right now. No matter how hard they try to shove their beliefs down our throats we resist, therefore they are being persecuted, hence the prophesy is correct. .

Christ will come to the rescue and a great battle will ensue between Christ and Satan on the plain of Armageddon outside of Jerusalem; at this time the seventh dispensation will begin. I kid you not, there are Christians buying up real estate near Armageddon so they will have a front row seat for the big day. Here's the good part, the faithful, those who have been saved in Christ, or" born again," will be taken up into heaven, referred to as the Rapture. The rest of us the unsaved Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews will be left to suffer through the rough times. Ever wonder why Christians are so obsessed with "saving" people. The more the merrier, and it's for our own good after all.

Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have written a series of books referred to as the "Left Behind" series. These novels depict the Last Days and have been immensely popular, selling millions of copies. In this series the Rapture is graphically described, pilots of airplanes will suddenly be raptured up leaving the plane without a pilot ( the co-pilot too, presumably) to crash and burn taking all the unsaved with it. Husbands will wake up to a bodiless nightgown, because their wife was one of the "saved," perhaps the children will be gone too, except the teenagers of course. Cars will become driverless careening down the road killing other sinners and Buddhists or Jews, whatever. This is not a story to them, this is literally what they believe. This belief informs their worldview and their political decisions.

The Jews have a special role to play in this End of Days drama. First it was necessary for them to inhabit the land of Israel again- this would be a sign that the end days were upon us. This happened in 1948 with the Balfour Declaration. Other events such as the six-day war in 1967, the Gulf War in 1991 and the Sept.11 attacks have all fed the fires of their prophetic doomsday expectations. The most important sign, however, is the rebuilding of the Temple. The site for this new Temple is already occupied, unfortunately, by one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Temple Mount, the location of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Which means, well, you get the picture. Both Christians and Jews believe this re-building of the Temple must happen before the Messiah returns. The difference lies is the aftermath; in the Christian version, two thirds of the Jews will not be "saved" and will perish, the rest will "accept" Jesus as the Messiah or burn in hell with the rest of the "unsaved." The security around this Mosque remains very tight as there are many fundamentalists, both Jewish and Christian who would like to help the prophesy come true in a timely manner. There is an interesting book of fiction written by Robert Stone called "The Damascus Gate." The story takes place in Israel and examines the many competing interests, political, historical, and religious that have a stake in the future of that land. Here we have Jews, Christians and Muslims all claiming this speck of land as theirs. Many religious fanatics flock there every year creating a dangerous powder keg just waiting to go off. The city is full of crazies just dying for the end to come, there is even a name for this psychosis -- it's called the "Jerusalem Syndrome." It's not a joke, these people are serious, and capable of doing what they believe to be God's will, even blowing up the Mosque to get things going. Stone's book is a good read and informs the reader about the seriousness of this belief in the End Times.

Supporters of the Christian Coalition lobby the halls of Congress to make it clear that they see the conflict in the Middle East as a struggle between Jews and Muslims, and they expect Bush to see it that way also. In a Sixty Minutes interview Rev. Jerry Falwell stated that it is his belief that, "…the Bible Belt in America is Israel's safety belt … there are 70 million of us, and if there's one thing that brings us together quickly it's whenever we begin to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel." He went on to say that there is nothing, "that would bring the wrath of the Christian public in this country down on the government like abandoning or opposing Israel in a critical matter" The Christian public is, according to Falwell, President Bush's core constituency. He goes on to say that "I really believe…Ariel Sharon can trust George Bush to do the right thing all the time." The right thing according to whom? Do we really want biblical literalists to be deciding foreign policy? War is what they want.

The Religious Right believes that God gave Israelites that land which historically belongs to them, every inch of it. What of the Palestinians who inhabit that land? They are, according to Conservative Christians, in the way and must be removed in order for the prophesy to be fulfilled, no matter what. They are Arabs and they worship the "wrong" God. They are doomed to burn in hell anyway, unless they convert. Jews are part of the story but it's really only about the "saved" Christians in the end.

Many Fundamentalists believe that when Prime Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Peace accords to trade land for peace it was going against the will of God and that was why he was assassinated. Beware the peace-maker. They like the warlord Sharon who started this latest conflict by taking a stroll around the Temple Mount. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew how offensive it was to Muslims to desecrate their holy place in such a way. Sharon, the Jew, played the tough cowboy and our Christian Conservatives like the tough cowboy image, and they love the " bring 'em on" style of our very own cowboy Bush and his vultures of war. They even like Tony Blair now that he seems to have been possessed by a war demon. If it all goes to hell in the Middle East it will just prove that they were right all along. We "bleeding heart liberals" are nothing but a bunch of peaceniks standing in God's way.

Yes, we hear that all the time, Ann Coulter proclaims that Liberals "hate America." If we do not support the war in Iraq, political conservatives, claim we are "unpatriotic." If we do not support Israel implicitly we are not Christians, nor do we support democracy. Black or white, never shades of gray. There are good guys and bad guys, it's all so simple. No it isn't. Peace and reconciliation are not easy, it is very difficult, but it is the high road we must take. It is time now for all people of faith to stand up for peace, join hands and speak as loudly as our war obsessed brethren do. People of "Reason" are actually the majority, we have just been too polite in the aftermath of 9/11, We did not want to cause division in this country, we wanted to be united and we were, with our own citizens and the rest of the world that mourned with us. Now the gulf that divides us is greater than it has been for generations, both in our own country and in the rest of the world. Our present administration appears to be out of control, as we have seen during the last week with the Iraqi prison abuse scandal. It's time to take our country back and it's time for Christians who follow the prince of peace, not the war God, to take Jesus back and redefine the terms of what being a Christian is all about.

"The family of man is bound up in the sacred. We cannot allow it to die without strangling our blood ties to a deeper reality; that we all come from one place that we are on a journey toward a greater good, that our every act is being weighed from a cosmic perspective." Deepak Chopra from " How to Know God."

Sandi Magathan Droubay lives in Pensacola Florida with her family. Pensacola is known as one of the most conservative cities in the U.S and home to Scarborough Country. "Since I've lived here we've had one school board member jailed, four out of five county commissioners brought up on criminal charges, several abortion clinic bombings, two abortion doctors killed, and 51 stellar members of the community arrested in a huge cocaine bust. The beaches, however, are beautiful." Ms. Magathan has an M.A. in Religious studies. She can be reached at: Droubay2@cox.net. This article first appeared in OpEd News.com.

WHAT'S NEW Friday, June 4, 2004

From: Bob Park opa@aps.org

HAFNIUM: CONGRESS KILLS THE "ISOMER ENERGY RELEASE PROGRAM."
In spite of the Pentagon's fascination with imaginary weapons, the Senate Armed Services Committee listened to the scientists and recommended a $4 million reduction in the program. That puts it at zero. The House Armed Services Committee agreed: "The committee questions the utility of this research under any circumstances and is particularly skeptical of research into nuclear isomer production before triggering is shown to be possible." WN recommends they also cancel DARPA's subscription to Popular Mechanics (WN 16 Apr 04).

INTERCESSORY PRAYER: MAYBE OUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED.
Three years ago, Columbia U. researchers reported in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine that in-vitro fertilization is twice as likely to result in pregnancy if the women are prayed for by a group of total strangers, even though the women are unaware of being prayed for. Recognizing that such a finding would threaten the very foundations of science, WN called on WN readers to "pray this study is wrong" (WN 05 Oct 01). This week we learned that our prayers seem to have been answered. No one, of course, ever replicated the study. But meanwhile, one of the coauthors has been exposed as a con-man. Daniel Wirth, J.D. (not MD), is known in alternative-medicine circles for his studies of Non-contact Therapeutic Touch on wound healing. Touch therapy, you may recall, was thoroughly debunked in a Journal of the American Medical Association paper by a 9-year old scientist, Emily Rosa (WN 03 Apr 98). On 18 May '04, Wirth reportedly pled guilty to fraud charges in Federal Court for his role in bilking troubled Adelphia Communications out of $2M. The senior author on the prayer paper, Rogerio Lobo, Chairman of the Columbia Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, now says he provided only "editorial asistance." Bruce Flamm, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics at UC Irvine, who relates this incredible tale of academic chicanery in Skeptik magazine, says the third author, Kwang Cha, has left Columbia and isn't talking.


Friday, June 04, 2004

Critic Says NPR's Pro-Evolution Bias Censors Opposition

http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/32004c.asp

By Jim Brown
June 3, 2004

(AgapePress) - National Public Radio is being accused of censoring a guest who is critical of evolution. On its Science Friday program, NPR was slated to air a "pro and con" discussion about the controversy over the Darwinist theory -- but somehow the "con" got canceled.

The Science Friday program on May 21 was supposed to feature a pro-evolution historian, a pro-evolution science teacher, and Roger DeHart, a biology teacher who has taught scientific criticisms of Darwinism. However, just a few hours before the show, NPR cancelled DeHart, effectively turning the planned debate format into a monologue.

Dr. John West is with Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based science and culture think tank. He says NPR has a history of presenting only one side of this topic.

"NPR, on the evolution issue, is even more biased -- if that's possible -- than on several other issues," West says. "They've just had repeated stories that are one-sided or inaccurate, and they refuse to correct the record or even investigate the inaccuracies."

The Institute spokesman claims the taxpayer-funded radio network is involved in "a campaign of misinformation" to discredit legitimate scientific criticism of Darwinism. He says as far as the evolution issue is concerned, liberals have an "inherit the wind" mindset, which insists that only "unthinking, right-wing bigots" could criticize the theory of evolution.

"That is the stereotype in their head," West says, "that [those who disagree with evolution] could only oppose it based on religion -- there can't be any science involved. And that's the stereotype that they have. That's how they shape the stories."

Discovery Institute has submitted complaints to both NPR and the Congressional Committee that oversees it, asking for corrections to five recent NPR reports on evolution that contain inaccuracies. One such report wrongly claimed Ohio's "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan deals with Intelligent Design.

NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says he has "no knowledge" of these complaints, and therefore cannot comment on the allegations.

© 2004 AgapePress

NPR accused of 'censorship' Radio network cancels anti-evolution guest at last minute

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38779

MEDIA MATTERS

Posted: June 4, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

National Public Radio is being criticized for canceling a scheduled interview with an anti-evolution high-school biology teacher while allowing a pro-evolution teacher to appear on the program.

According to the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which accuses the radio network of "censorship," NPR canceled invited guest Roger DeHart "just hours before airing a program discussing the teaching of evolution." The teacher was to appear on the May 21 edition of the "Science Friday" program.

As WorldNetDaily reported, DeHart received national attention in 2000 because his school district in Burlington, Wash., forbade him from presenting in the classroom scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory.

DeHart was originally slated to appear along with a Texas teacher who opposes the critical examination of Darwinian theory in public schools, Discovery Institute says.

As of yesterday, NPR's website still listed DeHart as having been a participant in the program.

The network's Web promotion for the show said: "Should intelligent design – which says there is scientific evidence that an intelligent being designed the species – be taught in science class? We'll talk with two teachers."

NPR lists Robert Dennison, a biology teacher at Jersey Village High School in Houston, as the pro-evolution teacher that appeared on the show.

"I wish I'd been allowed to present my side of the story," said DeHart in a statement. "The teacher they had on made false claims such as Discovery Institute wanting to weaken the teaching of evolution. Nothing could be further from the truth, but NPR listeners will never know that because NPR only presented the one side."

According to DeHart, the producer who pre-interviewed him for the show said she was an atheist and insisted that scientists who are critical of evolutionary theory are merely promoting religion.

"The censorship of DeHart is just another incident in a long list of biased reporting by NPR in what seems to be a campaign of misinformation about criticism of Darwinian evolution," said Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "NPR has a history of presenting only one side of the issue, or misrepresenting critics of Darwin when their point of view is included."

When DeHart was targeted in 2000 by the American Civil Liberties Union for his in-class criticism of evolution, he was muzzled – forced to clear all of his teaching materials with the school board's curriculum committee.

"If something in science suddenly becomes so sacrosanct that you can't question it, then it ceases to be science," said DeHart at the time. "I don't even want to teach creationism, I just want to teach the flaws of Darwinism."

DeHart now is a biology teacher at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif.

NPR did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The network can be contacted via this webpage.

CDPHP to offer alternative medicine program

http://albany.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2004/05/31/daily31.html?jst=b_ln_hl

LATEST NEWS
3:10 PM EDT Friday

Capital District Physicians' Health Plan will offer discounts on massage therapy and holistic services through a new program promoting alternative medical practices.

Under the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) program, which debuts July 1, the Albany, N.Y., health insurer will offer discounts on acupuncture and fitness magazines, as well as supplement advice and diet information through new features and services available at its Web site -- www.cdphp.com.

CDPHP is the first health insurer in the region to offer such a comprehensive package for alternative medical care, said spokeswoman Ellen Boyle. The local program is offered through American WholeHealth Networks Inc., headquartered in Sterling, Va.

"CDPHP continually seeks ways to better serve its diverse customer base understanding that one size does not fit all," Douglas C. Savidge, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a press release.

CDPHP has 360,000 customers in 24 New York state counties.

© 2004 American City Business Journals Inc.


Thursday, June 03, 2004

NPR Ombudsman Criticized by Discovery Institute for Being 'AWOL' on Evolution Misrepresentation

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040602/sfw109_1.html

Press Release
Source: Discovery Institute

Wednesday June 2, 5:45 pm ET

SEATTLE, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Discovery Institute today criticized National Public Radio (NPR) for mounting a campaign of misinformation about the teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools. The Institute also questioned whether NPR's "ombudsman" who is supposed to investigate listener complaints really exists.

Culminating with the cancellation of a guest critical of Darwinian evolution last week, NPR has aired a series of recent reports about the controversy over teaching evolution that were factually inaccurate, misrepresenting key issues, or unbalanced.

"This is nothing short of a campaign to misinform the public about how evolution is presented in classrooms across the country," said Robert Crowther, director communications at Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. Crowther listed five recent stories that misrepresented the debate over evolution in states such as Montana, Ohio and Texas:

-- On February 6, NPR's "Science Friday" aired a program about challenges to teaching evolution, but the program only featured guests opposed to teaching criticisms of evolution. "The program was a monologue, not a debate," commented Crowther.

-- On April 21, NPR's "Day to Day" show aired a report that falsely led listeners to believe that Ohio has adopted a model lesson plan that includes intelligent design, which it does not. In reality, Ohio's lesson plan only deals with scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory, not with alternative theories like intelligent design.

-- On May 2, NPR's "Weekend Edition" ran a false story about a purported effort to introduce intelligent design into the Darby School District in Montana. In fact, the actual policy proposed in Darby does not deal with intelligent design; its words are taken almost verbatim from the Montana state science standards, and it only deals with the critical analysis of evolutionary theory.

-- On May 9, NPR aired an "update" of its earlier Darby story, falsely claiming that there is an effort in Darby to include "intelligent design" in the local school district curriculum, and that "two proponents of this intelligent design curriculum" lost a recent election.

-- On May 21, NPR's "Science Friday" aired a discussion of the history of evolution presenting only one side of the debate after canceling Roger DeHart's appearance at the last minute. DeHart is a biology teacher critical of Darwinian evolution. The pro-evolution biology teacher who still appeared on the show used the occasion to misrepresent Discovery Institute's position in Texas' recent debate over biology textbooks. The teacher asserted that "There was an active campaign on the part of the Discovery Institute and their several intelligent design proponents to weaken the coverage of evolution in the books, is how they put it." "Wrong," responded Crowther. "Far from trying to weaken the coverage of evolution in textbooks, Discovery has always advocated strengthening the teaching of evolution by teaching more about the theory, including some of the peer-reviewed scientific criticisms of neo-Darwinism."

According to Crowther, Discovery Institute has submitted detailed complaints about inaccurate stories to NPR's "ombudsman" Jeffrey Dvorkin, but as of today Dvorkin has not responded, except to claim in a brief e-mail that he believed the one limited response from an NPR producer was adequate.

"We're beginning to wonder whether Mr. Dvorkin even exists," joked Crowther. "We certainly wonder what he does during the day. He seems to be AWOL when it comes to listener complaints."

Crowther added that on NPR's website Dvorkin is quoted as saying: "NPR is committed to the presentation of fair, accurate and comprehensive information and selected cultural expressions for the benefit of, and at the service of our democracy. NPR is pledged to abide scrupulously by the highest artistic, editorial, and journalistic standards and practices of broadcast programming."

"It's time for NPR to actually live up to these standards," said Crowther.

Discovery Institute has posted complete documentation of its claims about NPR's biased reporting on its website at http://www.discovery.org/ . Copies of the documentation can be requested by e-mailing Rob Crowther at rob@discovery.org.

Center For Inquiry

The Center for Inquiry has two important announcements about the progress being made at the Center for Inquiry - Florida:

CFI - Florida Leases New Office in Tampa The Center for Inquiry is pleased to announce that its Florida Center has leased an office suite in Tampa. CFI-Florida has moved, effective June 1, 2004 to The Bridgeport Center, 5201 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Fl 33609. The Center is in a class A office building, across State Route 60 from Saks Fifth Avenue at the West Shore Exit at I-275. Centrally located, It is only ten minutes from the airport. The 1250 square feet suite has room for 70-80 people and is installing a reading room/library. It has been newly decorated. There is ample parking space. It is adjacent to a hotel-conference complex, within 20 yards walking distance, which can provide larger meeting and banquet halls, and is able to accomodate 300-500 guests. Chairperson of CFI-Florida is Jan Eisler, Executive Director is Toni Van Pelt. Prof. Richard Hull, Senior Development Officer, is relocating from Amherst, New York to Florida and will assist in creating educational programs at various Universities in the State and help establish other CFI Communities throughout Florida. For further information, please call 813-849-7571 (main line), 813-849-7572 (fax), 800-398-7571 (toll free). Internet: www.cfiflorida.org Paul Kurtz, Chairman of the Center for Inquiry, International said that "CFI-Florida, only 15 months old, has made tremendous progress since its inception. It has had enthusiastic support from the readers of Free Inquiry and the Skeptical Inquirer in Florida. It has ambitious plans for future growth and development." Jan Eisler, Founder of CFI-Florida, declared that "This is this the fulfillment of a dream. At last we are able to serve the good citizens of Florida, with a latest start of the art facility and we are able to present a much needed secular, skeptical and humanist alternative." Center for Rational Living and Rational Living Foundation in Tampa, Florida Affiliate with the Center for Inquiry - Florida We wish to announce that the Center for Rational Living (CRL) and the Rational Living Foundation (RLF) in Tampa, Florida will affiliate with the Center for Inquiry-Florida (CFI-Florida). The CRL and RLF use Cognitive Behavioral and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapay in treating patients and training professionals all over the world. They are both affiliates of the Albert Ellis Institute in New York City. CFI-Florida is a regional branch of the Center for Inquiry, International, whose headquarters are in Amherst, New York. There are now 12 CFI's in the United States and World wide. Speaking of this new relatlionship, Dr. Vincent E. Parr, President of the Albert Ellis branch in Florida, declared: "Since our firm stance is reason and science applied to human problem solving, the new relationship with the CFI-Florida is obvious. We also wish to defend reason, science and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor. Our area of concern is the reduction and elimination of human suffering." Dr. Parr added: "Inasmuch as there is so much nonsense in the self-help and mental health areas (eg. the wearing of crystals around the neck), our association can be a 'candle of light', as Carl Sagan said, in this important field." Paul Kurtz, Chairman of the Center for Inquiry, International, declared that "we welcome this new affiliate of the Center for Inquiry, especially since it applies the methods of therapy advanced by the distinguished psychologist Albert Ellis a veteran secular humanist and skeptical critic of questionable schools of psychotherapy. We look forward to a productive relationship." The Center for Inquiry-Florida is located in the same office complex as the Center for Rational Living: The Bridgeport Center, 5201 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Florida 33609. Chairperson is Jan Eisler and Executive Director is Toni van Pelt. www.cfiflorida.org (tel# 813-849-7571.)

Magicians Angry Over Unveiling of Houdini's Secret

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,121530,00.html

APPLETON, Wis. - How did Harry Houdini do his signature "Metamorphosis" escape, the one where he was handcuffed inside a sack, locked in a trunk and yet somehow managed to switch places with an assistant on the outside?

To find out, all a fan or an aspiring illusionist has to do is go to a new exhibit opening Wednesday and climb inside the trunk. That has some in the business tied up in knots.

Magicians say their code of ethics prohibits revealing secrets to the public. The famous and not-so-famous alike, including David Copperfield (search) and Ronald "Rondini" Lindberg," have called the Outagamie Museum (search) to protest its "A.K.A. Houdini" show.

"It's just that this is a very, very passionate thing that magicians feel about and what the museum is doing is wrong," said Lindberg of Appleton, a city of about 40,000 that Houdini considered his hometown.

Museum officials, on the other hand, insist the exhibit -- set to run for 10 years -- doesn't reveal anything not already available in books and on the Internet. They also say people will appreciate magic more by knowing the secrets.

Still, as a precaution, museum officials have contacted police and hired security guards for Wednesday's opening. Bob Rath, a professional magician and small business owner, comes down on the museum's side. It would take some 40 hours of practice to do the trick successfully, he said.

"The performance is more important than the secret, and just because somebody is going to know the secret to Metamorphosis isn't going to make them any great magician, he said. "It's a very complicated and very difficult effect to do."

The Houdini Club of Wisconsin (search), however, is displeased about the trick's exposure because it has bylaws that prohibit such a thing, said Rath, the club's vice president.

He said club members thought the selection of the trick was inappropriate because there are many magicians around the world still using it.

"There are a lot of people in the organization that are real upset," he said. As part of an agreement with the club, the museum has posted a sign warning visitors: "The 'backstage' area shows some of the secrets to Houdini's tricks. Those who do not want to know how Houdini performed his magic should avoid this area."

Besides the "Metamorphosis" explanation, the exhibit tells the life of Houdini through hand-on displays and personal items. Houdini was born Ehrich Weiss on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary.

His family moved to Appleton when he was 4, when his father became the town rabbi. They stayed for only four years.

He embarked on a career in magic and later focused on escapes. He died of peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix in Detroit on Halloween 1926.

MOVIE REVIEW | 'CARLOS CASTANEDA: ENIGMA OF A SORCERER'

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/02/movies/02ENIG.html?pagewanted=print&position=

June 2, 2004

The Shaman May Have Been Fake, but, Hey, the Drugs Were Real

By DAVE KEHR

Was Carlos Castaneda — the U.C.L.A. anthropologist whose 1968 book, "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge," became one of the founding texts of the New Age movement — a great spiritual leader or a cynical con man? The documentary "Carlos Castaneda: Enigma of a Sorcerer," which opens today at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village, struggles with that question but ultimately declines to answer it.

Directed by Ralph Torjan, once a member of Castaneda's inner circle of students, this digital video documentary piles up plenty of evidence that Don Juan, the Yaqui shaman from Mexico who supposedly trained Castaneda in the ancient Indian ways of accessing alternative realties, was a complete invention on Castaneda's part.

Many of Don Juan's "teachings," the film suggests, were drawn from previously published academic articles, and little in Castaneda's account of his fabled apprenticeship to the master checks out when compared to the available facts.

Castaneda, who died in 1998, used the celebrity his best-selling book earned him to establish his own personality cult. He surrounded himself with servile followers and made a habit of seducing female recruits.

One of his former lovers bluntly characterizes the group around him as "Carlos's private harem."

But as painfully aware of Castaneda's shortcomings as he is, Mr. Torjan makes no secret of having been deeply affected by his time with him. He tries to reclaim what he can from his former guru, offering testimony from several ex-members of the Castaneda cult about the profound, positive effect Castaneda's teachings had on their lives.

Unfortunately the explanations get very fuzzy at this point, and it becomes hard to tell just what Castaneda was advocating, apart from the liberal use of psychedelic drugs.

Trying to recreate that experience, Mr. Torjan has framed his talking-head interviews against an annoyingly persistent psychedelic background, generated by the popular music visualization program G-Force. It's not easy to concentrate on what's being said when pulsating colors and geometric patterns are radiating from the speakers' heads. But maybe that's what Castaneda himself was counting on, as he rode the vague ramblings of a probably fictional teacher to what was, and remains, an international reputation as a modern prophet.

CARLOS CASTANEDA Enigma of a Sorcerer

Written, directed and edited by Ralph Torjan; music by Mr. Torjan and Robert J. Feldman; produced by Mr. Torjan and Pamela Weir-Quiton; released by Indican Pictures. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 91 minutes. This film is not rated.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Discovery puts South America, Africa together longer

http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/2004-06-01-dinosaur-usat_x.htm

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

A pair of dinosaur discoveries is shaking up scientific understanding of when South America and Africa split into separate continents.

The discovery of one African dinosaur fossil in particular indicates that a land bridge may have connected the continents 95 million years ago, 25 millions years after they were thought to have parted.

Found in the Sahara desert and dubbed Rugops (Roo-gops) primus, meaning "first wrinkle face," the 30-foot-long carnivore resembles similar fossils found in India and South America.

Earth's continents regularly drift apart and pull together in roughly 600-million-year intervals, a phenomenon known as plate tectonics. The Asian and South American continents, once joined, were slowly drifting apart during the age of the dinosaurs, which ended 65 million years ago.

Scientists have long believed that the continents of Africa and South America split apart for good 120 million years ago. But Rugops' existence in Africa years later indicates that the continent was still connected in some way to South America, says University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who led the discovery team.

"One mystery had been how southern dinosaurs got across separated continents. There's clear evidence of dispersal, which suggests a land bridge," Sereno says.

Rugops had a short, round snout and small, delicate teeth, typical of carnivorous dinosaurs called abelisaurids. Sereno says the creature likely scavenged the kills of other carnivores or simply beat them to herbivore remains, given its skull's shape. Other predators had thicker skulls and longer, slashing teeth, suggesting Rugops played a different role in the ancient world.

The team also uncovered fossils of a second dinosaur species, named Spinostropheus (Spine-o-stro-phee-us) gautieri, also an abelisaurid dinosaur. They emerged in Niger in 135-million-year-old rocks. Both finds are described in today's Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences journal.

Paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr. of the University of Maryland in College Park says dinosaur scientists and geologists will be interested in what the fossils show about how the ancient continents split and how the abelisaurids related to one another across continents.

Fossil traces of Spinostropheus had been discovered over the last few decades, but Sereno's team first recognized the new species.

An oddity of Rugops is that its skull was probably covered in a tough layer of keratin, the material in fingernails and bird beaks.

Sereno and other paleontologists have suggested that many dinosaurs — like triceratops, the wickedly horned herbivore found in every grade-schooler's dinosaur diorama — may also have been armored in keratin, rather than the reptilian scales long considered standard for these oversized creatures. The shell, like a vulture's beak, probably helped Rugops rip at carrion, Sereno says.

Visitors to Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory can see the fossils as part of an exhibition of African dinosaurs until Sept. 6.

A Drink? The Ice Is Vintage

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/01/science/01post.html

June 1, 2004

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

To a good scientist, everything is a question.

That was the case in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, on a recent Friday night, when weary scientists and research staff gathered for farewells before flying home after weeks of grueling fieldwork on the two-mile-high ice cap that cloaks the giant Arctic island. Many had spent weeks in 30-below-zero weather, extracting cores of ice, which contain clues to climates past and hints of the future.

Now, it was time to relax.

In the kitchen of a red prefab residence building, the group dined on grilled burgers and a salad speckled with pine nuts and Greek olives.

Someone pulled out a plastic bag filled with unusable chunks of the ice cores.

The scientists call it "party ice." The name refers to the fizz and pop that occur when bubbles of ancient, pressurized air escape as the ice melts in a liquid.

This batch was labeled "144 m," reflecting the depth it had come from (about 470 feet down), 140 years back in time. The greater the depth, the more the air is compressed and the louder the sound.

But there is another possible variable: Dr. Joseph R. McConnell, a snow and ice expert from the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., said lore had it that party ice makes more noise in an alcoholic beverage than in, say, juice or water.

A controlled experiment was proposed.

Glasses of Ballantine's Scotch, Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur, Danish Gammel Dansk bitters and several other beverages with varying alcohol concentrations were meticulously lined up on a table. Pieces of ice were plopped into each glass and ears bent low to assess which samples fizzled loudest.

A paper has yet to be submitted for publication, but the researchers on hand quickly came to a conclusion that often results from scientific analysis:

Further research was required.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Rio theory

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1085944468395

While kids elsewhere are writing computer software at age 10, students in Rio de Janeiro will soon be taught that the first humans on earth were Adam and Eve.

"Evolution theory is being questioned as much as creationism," explained Suzana Viana of the governor's education secretariat.

Behind the idea to scupper Charles Darwin's theory is the desire on the part of the governor Rosinha Matheus and her husband Anthony Garotinho, who governed the state before her, to reintroduce religious education.

The couple believes the earth was created like the Bible says, and they want schoolchildren in Rio to think the same.

Alas, this is only the latest in a string of highly controversial moves by Rio's governing couple, including a proposed wall around favelas to contain violence and extra pay for policemen who confiscate guns. But are they prepared to enter Rio's most infamous favela, the City of God?

Tepid Fusion Still Buggy

http://www.glossynews.com/artman/publish/tepid-fusion-708.shtml

By Brendan Alexander
May 28, 2004, 02:38

Ever since scientists discovered how to create fusion in a controlled environment they've been searching for a way to do it in an uncontrolled environment as well as ratchet the heat levels down a bit. Sadly, we aren't quite there yet.

For the layman "fusion" is a thing that scientists talk about. It has something to do with science and a quest for better energy. Much beyond that it's pretty much gibberish, and you can take that from an expert; I speak fluent gibberish.

The baby step towards cold fusion I saw was a little something cleverly called "tepid fusion." Though not precisely cold, at full blast it still failed to melt through the apartment floor, and that's without even any lead shields or reinforced concrete.

As a renewable energy source it's pretty amazing. Once plugged into the wall it can burn forever by only changing the incandescent filament from time to time. It emits energy in the form of light and a very subtle "heat."

The problem may have stemmed from a little voltage misunderstanding. The "lamp" is wired to run on 240 volts AC, but our "scientists" plugged it into a voltage converter to bring it down to 110 volts AC. Clever contraption that fusion lamp was, it still tried to suck 240 through the line and my adapter gave protest. Under the stress and conflict the converter suffered a total meltdown and now both the research committee and the living room are left in the dark.

This is without a doubt a milestone for fusion research, though admittedly I have no clue what a milestone actually is. For lack of a better understanding let's just agree that this is one of them.

Tepid fusion will be a technology to keep a watchful eye on in coming years. Mock my words, if these "light bulbs" don't catch on, my name isn't whatever my name is.

Crop circles as oracles
Filmmaker reaps alien messages

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1086127812447&call_pageid=968867495754&col=969483191630

15,000 sightings claimed since 1980

SUSAN WALKER
ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER

Crop circles have been puzzling observers for decades. Not Robert Nichol. The director of Star Dreams, a documentary film about the UFO-related phenomenon, is quite sure what these precise patterns mysteriously carved into farmers' fields are all about.

Along with other forms of activity attributed to extra-terrestrials, Nichol believes that "the whole thing is preparing us for contact. It's almost imminent, only a matter of a few years."

The B.C. filmmaker, a former employee of the National Film Board with more than 25 film credits to his name, has turned himself into a travelling road show of the paranormal. He has organized a series of 20 screenings of Star Dreams from Victoria to Newfoundland. The Toronto engagement is tonight at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall at Innis College on the University of Toronto campus. Nichol is accompanied by Neil Olsen, author of Crop Circles Deciphered.

Every year there are more sightings of more complex crop circles — and now, ice circles and sand circles — and Nichol is convinced a higher consciousness is trying to make contact with people on earth. He estimates 15,000 crop circles have been found since 1980.

"There were two in Ontario last year," Nichol claims, "both in wheat fields. The one in Hensall (in Huron County) drew 5,000 people."

Star Dreams shows us crop circles, most of them from 70 to 100 metres at their widest point, as photographed from helicopters. Their increasingly complex patterns, say Nichol's interviewees, is an indication of a greater need to communicate. Others form symbols that go back to ancient times and have led researchers to examine Mayan and Hopi prophecies. It is no coincidence, Nichol contends in his film, that so many crop circles have cropped up, as it were, in the south of England near sacred sites such as Stonehenge.

Nichol, a resident of Gibson's Landing, B.C., decided to bring his film directly to his audiences to spread the wordHe is certain the crop circles could not have been man-made, and cites witnesses who say the circles get created in four to seven seconds. Star Dreams documents sightings of "balls of light" in the vicinity of the circles. Some witnesses have described UFOs that appeared at the time of the formations.

The intent of the symbols is clear to Nichol. They are "a wake-up call, asking us to come up to a higher level of consciousness. They reach beyond the rational mind and touch us at a very deep psychic level."

On his Web site devoted to crop circle research, Paul Anderson, an artist and graphic designer, says crop circles have been recorded in Canada as far back as 1925. While he is skeptical about aliens transmitting messages, he believes "that somehow human consciousness is involved or interconnected with the phenomenon ... Whether this is an interaction with some other intelligence(s) other than `alien' in the traditional sense, or with natural energy systems, or both perhaps, is a matter of opinion."

What is undeniable is the beauty and precision of the formations seen in the film. Close up, they appear to be created in a uniform fashion, with bent-over stalks swirled into patterns that can include dozens of elements. "They're increasing exponentially," says Nichol. Sightings have now been reported in 50 countries. In his film, people tell how they've felt energized after walking through a crop circle. The same thing happens, Nichol says, to audiences of his film.

Faith healing warning on alternative medicine

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=527021

By Alf McCreary newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
01 June 2004

A PRESBYTERIAN Church committee has warned people to be careful about the term "faith healing" and also about certain other methods of dealing with illness.

In a report to next week's General Assembly, the Divine Healing Committee presents a survey on alternative medicines and therapies, including reflexology, reiki, acupuncture, yoga and transcendental meditation, aromatherapy and homeopathy.

It states: "There is clearly a search for a deeper spiritual reality going on in society. However, we need to be clear that not all spirituality is good."

The report cautions people to be careful about terms such as "faith healing." It asks "In whom or what do we place our faith? For the Christian, it is in Christ and Him alone. "So, depth of faith is not as important as whom that faith is in - Jesus.

"This is in direct contrast with the current popular view that it doesn't matter what your faith is in, just as long as you have faith." The report asks whether the pursuit of good health has become "a god".

"If health is the single most important thing to us, then we may be free to use whatever therapies we wish, irrespective of their consequences whether spiritual or physical. Are we willing to accept healing at any cost?"

Guess What I'll Write Next

Psychics continue to make outrageous claims

Wednesday, May. 26, 2004

Whenever I begin to feel that I've been too hard on so-called psychics, my feelings of guilt are quickly assuaged by still another example of psychic nonsense. This time it involved American Airlines Flight 1304, scheduled to take 128 passengers from Fort Myers, Florida, to Dallas earlier this year.

Shortly before passengers were to board, police with bomb-sniffing dogs arrived and began searching the plane from nose to tail. By the time their efforts were concluded, some of the crew members had exceeded their maximum time on duty. No immediate replacements were available, so the flight was cancelled, leaving passengers scrambling to find other planes.

Why all the fuss? An unnamed psychic, "sensing" that a bomb was on the plane, had telephoned her hunch to the local office of the federal Transportation Security Administration, which foolishly ordered the search.

But the Feds aren't alone in their folly. The U.S. is awash in psychics these days, and the public is eating it up. From fortune tellers in shabby storefronts to polished "mediums" appearing on ratings-hungry national TV shows, they successfully hoodwink people who I'll refrain from calling gullible only out of respect for gulls. And what about the psychics? A handful may actually believe that they have supernatural powers but most, I fear, are outright fabricators and con artists.

Perhaps the best known of these psychics is Sylvia Browne who, like a bad penny, just keeps turning up. She has made more than 70 appearances on the Montel Williams show, surfaces frequently on Larry King Live, has an active web site, a newsletter and a thriving business under the aegis of the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.

She has written several books, gives health "readings" by phone for $700 per pop ($750 in person), and claims, among other powers, to envision the location of missing persons. She communes with God, acts as a medium to bring messages from our departed loved ones, says that her psychic abilities run in her family and that psychic ability must have a genetic component. Can you believe it?

Sylvia says that she has seen winged angels with her own eyes. Larry King and Montel Williams are her angels. Her fame, such as it is, can be largely attributed to their ratings-driven generosity in inviting her, again and again, to perform before nationwide audiences.

Bryan Farha, a professor at Oklahoma City University, teaches a course called "Psychology & Skepticism" and has investigated and exposed many of Sylvia's deceptions. He gives an example: during one of her appearances on Larry King's show, a caller lamented that "I never had a chance to say goodbye to my husband and am wondering if he knows how much I loved him."

Replied Sylvia, "Not only did he know that, but…it looks like there was something about a clot." (When a death is sudden, psychics usually guess that it was caused by a heart attack and often proclaim to sense something amiss in the victim's chest. Sylvia, more inventive than most, "saw" a clot, which can cause a heart attack.) "Yes," said the caller, "he had a severe brain hemorrhage…" The caller seemed impressed, Sylvia looked smug, and King apparently accepted Sylvia's "hit." Problem is that a clot blocks the flow of blood in a vessel and is the opposite of a hemorrhage, which is an excessive flow of blood from a ruptured vessel.

On another Larry King show, when Sylvia was challenged by a guest, skeptic Paul Kurtz, she demonstrated her psychic powers by sensing that he had a prostate problem. Kurtz, in his 70s, seemed amused, pointedly remarking that there were few men his age that didn't have prostate problems.

As a guest on that same show, I asked Sylvia if she would prove her psychic ability by taking the Million Dollar Challenge offered by James Randi, the noted magician and skeptic who heads the James Randi Educational Foundation. That challenge, as she was aware, involves a double blind, scientifically-valid test of her psychic ability, terms of which would be agreed upon by both her and Randi,. If she were to pass the test, she would win a million dollars. Sure, said Sylvia, any time.

That was three years ago. Despite repeated requests by Professor Farha and James Randi, Sylvia Browne has consistently reneged on her promise, stating variously that Randi couldn't be trusted, that she wasn't interested in a million dollars and that, anyway, there was no such prize money available. And when Randi sent her a certified letter containing a notarized copy of the Million Dollar Prize account at Goldman Sachs & Co., she refused to accept the mail. A copy of that letter was also sent to Larry King, who has not responded.

The reason for Sylvia's silence is obvious. Should she take the challenge and flunk, as she knows only too well she would, her TV career would be over and her lucrative psychic empire would collapse, perhaps forcing her to begin making an honest living. Farha notes that more than three years have passed since Sylvia's promise to be tested. "I don't believes she ever intended to take the test," he says. "Do you think any talk show hosts will care?" Not likely.

Leon Jaroff was the founding managing editor of DISCOVER, the newsmagazine of science, and was a longtime correspondent, writer and editor for TIME and LIFE.

http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,642416,00.html


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