NTS LogoSkeptical News for 10 June 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Colloidal Silver: Risk Without Benefit


Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Colloidal silver is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base. Long-term use of silver preparations can lead to argyria, a condition in which silver salts deposit in the skin, eyes, and internal organs, and the skin turns ashen-gray. Many cases of argyria occurred during the pre-antibiotic era when silver was a common ingredient in nosedrops. When the cause became apparent, doctors stopped recommending their use, and reputable manufacturers stopped producing them. The official drug guidebooks (United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary) have not listed colloidal silver products since 1975.

Dubious Ads

In recent years, silver-containing products have been marketed with unsubstantiated claims that they are effective against AIDS, cancer, infectious diseases, parasites, chronic fatigue, acne, warts, hemorrhoids, enlarged prostate, and many other diseases and conditions. Some marketers claim that colloidal silver is effective against hundreds of diseases.

During 1997 and 1998, Changes International, a Florida-based multilevel company, stated:

Our colloidal silver contains 99.99% pure silver particles suspended indefinitely in demineralized water that kills bacteria and viruses. It can be applied topically and/or absorbed into the blood stream sub-lingually (under the tongue), thereby avoiding the negative effects of traditional antibiotics that kill good bacteria in the lower digestive tract.

An all natural antibiotic alternative in the purest form available. The presence of colloidal silver near a virus, fungi, bacterium or any other single celled pathogen disables its oxygen-metabolism enzyme, its chemical lung, so to say. The pathogens suffocates and dies, and is cleared out of the body by the immune, lymphatic and elimination systems.

Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics which destroy beneficial enzymes, colloidal silver leaves these beneficial enzymes intact. Thus colloidal silver is absolutely safe for humans, reptiles, plants and all multi-celled living matter.

It is impossible for single-celled germs to mutate into silver-resistant forms, as happens with conventional antibiotics. Also, colloidal silver cannot interact or interfere with other medicines being taken. Colloidal silver is truly a safe, natural remedy for many of mankind's ills. Colloidal silver can be taken indefinitely because the body does not develop a tolerance to it [1]

Seasilver International, a California-based multilevel company, claims that American are suffering from "silver deficiency." Although silver is not an essential nutrient, product information posted on the company's Web site states:

The depletion of minerals in our soil has left us deficient of silver, one of our most essential trace minerals, causing a drastic increase in immune system disorders in our society in the last decade. Research has taught us that all disease is allowed to manifest itself because of a weakened immune system. In over 20 years of worldwide research on Colloidal Silver, numerous interviews with government agencies, health care practitioners and their patients, no other nutrient, herb or drug (prescription or over-the-counter) is as safe and effective against all known forms of unfriendly virus, bacteria, and fungus. Additionally, while it is generally known that most antibiotics kill only perhaps 6 or 7 different disease organisms, reports have shown that Colloidal Silver has been used successfully in the treatment of over 650 diseases! Furthermore, strains of disease organisms fail to develop in the presence of Colloidal Silver. Colloidal Silver's greatest attribute is its unique ability to function as a superior second immune system in the body! [2]

Critical Studies and Case Reports

In 1995, an herbal distributor named Leslie Taylor tested nine commonly marketed colloidal silver products available at health-food stores and concluded:

Of course, the fact that a product inhibits bacteria in a laboratory culture doesn't mean it is effective (or safe) in the human body. In fact, products that kill bacteria in the laboratory would be more likely to cause argyria because they contain more silver ions that are free to deposit in the user's skin.

FDA laboratory studies have found that the amount of silver in some product samples has varied from 15.2% to 124% of the amount listed on the product labels. The amount of silver required to produce argyria is unknown. However, the FDA has concluded that the risk of using silver products exceeds any unsubstantiated benefit [3]. So far, nine cases of argyria related to silver products have been reported:

Enforcement Actions

Between October 1993 and September 1994, the FDA issued warning letters to five colloidal silver marketers::

In October 1996, the FDA proposed to ban the use of colloidal silver or silver salts in over-the-counter products [8]. A Final Rule banning such use was issued on August 17, 1999 and became effective September 16th. The rule applies to any nonprescription colloidal silver or silver salt product claimed to be effective in preventing or treating any disease [9]. Silver products can still be sold as "dietary supplements" provided that no health claims are made for them. During 2000, the FDA issued warnings to more than 20 companies whose Web sites were making illegal therapeutic claims for colloidal silver products.

In 2000, the Federal Court of Australia banned Vital Earth Company Pty Limited and its director Darryl John Jones from falsely representing that the colloidal silver produced by their "Vital Silver 3000 Zapper," "Vital Silver 2000 Automatic" and "Vital Silver 2000":

The company was also ordered to pay AUS$9000 in costs and to provide refunds [10].

In 2001, the FTC obtained consent agreements with two companies:

In 2002, the FTC obtained a consent agreement with Kris Pletschke, doing business as Raw Health, agreed to stop making unsubstantiated claims that its colloidal silver product could treat or cure 650 different diseases; eliminate all pathogens in the human body in six minutes or less; and is medically proven to kill every destructive bacterial, viral, and fungal organism in the body, including anthrax, Ebola, Hanta, and flesh-eating bacteria [12].

In 2002, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration amended its rules so that water-treatment products containing substances like colloidal silver for which therapeutic claims are made must meet the requirements of medicines included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. This means that such products can no longer be legally marketed without proof that they are safe and effective for their intended purpose. The amendment was based on clnclusions that:


1.Product brochure. Changes International, 1997. Downloaded in 1998.
2.Seasilver International Product Information, accessed October 12, 1998.
3.Fung MC, Bowen DL. Silver products for medical indications: risk-benefit assessment. Journal of Toxicology and Clinical Toxicology 34:119-26, 1996.
4.Gulbranson SH and others. Argyria following the use of dietary supplements containing colloidal silver protein. Cutis 66:373-374, 2000.
5.Hori K and others. Believe it or not -- Silver still poisons! Veterinary and Human Toxicology 44(5):291-292, 2002.
6.Blue Is the color of my candidate's skin. Associated Press, Oct 2, 2002
7.Cohen LE and others. Effects of Internet quackery: Argyria in the silver state. Federal Practitioner 21(4):9-17, 2004.
8.Federal Register 61:53685-53688, 1996. (To access this document, search the 1996 volume for "colloidal silver.")
9.FDA. Final rule: Over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts. Federal Register 64:44653-44658, 1999. Download PDF version
10.Refunds for buyers of alternative therapy devices. News release, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission., May 5, 20
11."Operation Cure.All" wages new battle in ongoing war against Internet health fraud. FTC news release, June 14, 2001.
12.FTC announces first two enforcement actions against purveyors of bioterrorism defense products. FTC news release, Feb 27, 2002.
13.Regulation of colloidal silver and related products. Therapeutic Goods Administration Web site, Aug 19, 2003.

For Further Information

Rosemary Jacobs, an argyria victim, has made a detailed study of the colloidal silver marketplace and is willing to answer questions.

This article was revised on May 5, 2004.

Alternative medicine reading list:


Foolproof forensics?


Even science may not make a death sentence infallible

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff | June 8, 2004

In proposing a new death penalty for Massachusetts last month, Governor Mitt Romney offered firm assurance that no innocent people would be executed: Convictions, he said, will be based on science.

According to the proposal, a death-penalty verdict would require not only an especially heinous crime, but also ''conclusive scientific evidence'' of guilt. If it passed, Massachusetts would become the first state to require a scientific link to a crime to impose a death sentence.

Romney's plan, however, comes at a difficult time for courtroom science. Much scientific evidence is coming under fresh attack from lawyers and judges, either for technical unreliability or for the human errors that can color the results. Even fingerprint analysis — once the gold standard of scientific evidence — is being questioned. Last month, an Oregon lawyer was released from custody after the FBI acknowledged he was wrongly linked to the Madrid terrorist train bombings through poor fingerprint analysis.

''The premise is interesting that scientific evidence is more reliable than other evidence. . . . It would be nice if it were true,'' said Simon A. Cole, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine. ''In the cases of wrongful conviction that we know about, scientific evidence is a very significant factor.''

Romney's plan, which would be applied only to particular first-degree murders such as killing a police officer or murders involving torture, does not require absolute scienti fic proof. Rather, it would require a jury to find evidence ''reaching a high level of scientific certainty'' that will ''strongly corroborate the defendant's guilt.'' While DNA is the most ironclad evidence now available, other categories such as photographs, video and audiotapes, fingerprints and tool marks may suffice. Multiple layers of review in the plan would ensure ''as much as humanly possible'' no innocent person be sentenced to death.

''We can't get to zero, but we can get close,'' said Joseph Hoffmann, a law professor at Indiana University who cochaired the panel that crafted the Romney plan.

Only a minority of murder cases have enough biological evidence to provide DNA, according to defense lawyers and crime experts. This means that the burden of proof could more often fall on far more subjective and much more controversial evidence, such as tire tracks or fingerprints. Though often presented as science by prosecutors and expert witnesses, such evidence is increasingly derided by defense lawyers and academics as an interpretive art.

''[Technicians] are actually told to develop this intuitive sense of certainty when they review fingerprint comparisons that they've obtained a match,'' said David Faigman, a University of California law professor who wrote ''Laboratory of Justice: The Supreme Court's 200-year Struggle to Integrate Science And The Law.'' He said there are no required standards for fingerprint analysis, and labs often declare a match between two prints based on years of examining fingerprints rather than a clearly spelled-out methodology. ''From a scientific standpoint,'' he said, ''that is the voodoo part.''

Faigman and other critics argue that science has a long and checkered history in the courtroom. Lawyers once used body characteristics, such the lengths of people's arms or shape of their heads, to prove a defendant's propensity to commit a crime. In 1927, a phrenologist was called into court to ''read'' a woman accused of murdering her husband; the phrenologist declared that the suspect's chin ''tapered like the lower face of a cat,'' demonstrating treachery.''

As phrenology was being dismissed as quackery, the early 20th century saw the birth of forensic science as a specialized profession, with laboratories and experts who aimed to link suspects definitively to crime scenes. Eventually, handwriting, fingerprints, photographs and blood samples became regularly introduced into evidence, and the belief that ''every criminal leaves a trace'' became a cornerstone of police investigations.

By the late 1980s, DNA testing had been widely adopted, and today technology is still marching on: A new technique called ''brain fingerprinting'', a kind of lie detector based on brain signals, was admitted into court in Iowa in 2003 in order to help free a man in prison for murdering a retired police officer. (The man was freed by the Iowa Supreme Court, although the judges did not refer to the technology in their decision.)

If history is any lesson, however, today's certainty is tomorrow's question mark. For example, the rise of DNA testing has revealed enormous failings in the microscopic hair analysis that was considered reliable a generation ago. In 2002, DNA analysis helped free aMontana man who had spent 15 years in prison for rape based in large part on faulty expert analysis of pubic hair found at the crime scene. According to the Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted people, in 25 of the first 82 DNA exonerations around the country, scientists and prosecutors presented bad or tainted science to convict a defendant.

So concerned was the US Supreme Court about the growing role of science in the courtroom in the 1990s that the court instructed judges to act as gatekeepers for scientific evidence, scrutinizing experts and procedures to be sure scientific techniques were peer-reviewed or tested, with known and acceptable error rates.

That instruction led to the first major court decision questioning fingerprint evidence. Two years ago, a Philadelphia judge ruled an expert could not link fingerprints found at a crime scene to a defendant because the matching technique used by fingerprint experts had never been proven valid. There was no proof, the judge said, that fingerprint analysis had been scientifically tested or its error rates calculated. The judge later reversed his decision after the FBI testified about training, procedure and error rates, but the challenge opened up the floodgates for other defense attorneys protesting fingerprint analysis. ''It has never been demonstrated that fingerprint examiners use a proven methodology,'' said Lyn Haber, a California forensic researcher.

With DNA analysis, the problem is different. The scientific underpinnings of DNA analysis are welltested and conceded to be solid even by critics. But the certainty of a DNA match can be overshadowed by the larger question of how the DNA evidence was obtained and handled. In the O.J. Simpson murder case, for instance, defense attorneys cast doubt on DNA results because of sloppy lab work, ultimately suggesting investigators planted the evidence at the scene. And a DNA match to a crime scene, many defense attorneys point out, only proves a suspect was there — not that he or she committed a crime.

''The problems with DNA are partly human error, or worse, human corruption,'' said Harvey Silverglate, a Boston civil-rights attorney who fears innocent people may still be convicted under the Romney plan.

Human error is also emerging as a key problem in crime labs, both in Massachusetts and around the country. Stephan Cowans, who was convicted in 1998 of shooting a police officer in a Roxbury backyard, was freed from prison this year after it was revealed the fingerprint evidence used to convict him did not come from his finger.

A recent article in Champion, a magazine published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, noted widespread problems at crime labs across the country, many exacerbated by overwork and small budgets. In Massachusetts, a state report two years ago noted that space in the State Police crime lab in Sudbury was so limited that scientists had to extract evidence from suspect and victim's clothing on alternate days to avoid cross-contamination.

Stung by that report, officials say the state has since gone through a voluntary accreditation by a national board that sets standards for crime labs. But that is only partially true: The Sudbury lab is accredited only in DNA testing and ''criminalistics,'' the analysis of trace evidence, fibers and tool markings. The offices of ballistics and fingerprint analysis are not accreditated; nor is the state's DNA database. State officials say they are attempting to get them accredited and are also seeking a large increase in funds for that lab. Under the death penalty plan, Romney has pledged to ensure that all labs are operating as flawlessly as possible so there will be no questions about the way evidence is collected or analyzed. If valid questions do arise, prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Death penalty opponents agree that if labs were better monitored and funded fully, there would be less suspicion about whether the evidence was tainted or analyzed incorrectly. And the authors of the Massachusetts death penalty proposal are clear in wanting an independent scientific review of the collection, analysis and presentation of evidence, along with other safeguards. But as long as humans are involved in science, either analyzing it or interpreting it, mistakes can happen, others say.

''What we say in forensic science is the more certain the scientist is, the less reliable the scientist is,'' said James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University. 'We all want to be on safe ground, always looking for a magic bullet. But our society can easily be taken in by science, and that is worrisome.''

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Study Finds Genetic Link Between Autism, Vaccines



A preservative once common in inoculations affected only one strain of lab mice, possibly explaining the mixed results of past studies.

By Thomas H. Maugh II
Times Staff Writer

June 9, 2004

The mercury preservative used in some vaccines can cause behavioral abnormalities in newborn mice characteristic of autism, but only in mice with a specific genetic susceptibility, Columbia University researchers report today.

The findings challenge the results of several large studies on autism and bolster the fears of parents who have long believed their children were harmed by the vaccines.

The fact that the preservative, called thimerosal, had an effect on only one strain of mice could explain why researchers had found it so difficult to prove or disprove a link to autism.

"The exciting thing is that this gives us a way forward in understanding why we have not seen more conclusive findings on either side of the fence, and how we need to design studies to pick up gene-environment interactions," said Ellen Silbergeld of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

"I believe this has enormous implications for public health," said Dr. Julio Licinio of UCLA, editor of the journal Molecular Psychiatry, where the report is appearing.

"Showing that genetic background impacts on the outcome of thimerosal exposure is a major breakthrough."

He added that the study clearly showed that there was a link between vaccines and autism "for some groups and not for others."

An Institute of Medicine report released last month concluded that there was no evidence to support a link and suggested that researchers study other possible causes.

Dr. Steven Goodman of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a member of the commission that prepared the report, said those on the commission were aware of the research.

"It's a tantalizing little piece of evidence that requires a lot more work" to overturn the "tremendous amount of human work that doesn't find a clue of a connection," he said.

The researchers have not yet identified the human analog of the mouse gene or genes that confer susceptibility to the effects of thimerosal, so it is not clear what proportion of children could be at risk from vaccinations containing the preservative.

What they do know is that the genes are involved in the immune system and that they make the mice more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases. Researchers already know that as many as a third of families with an autistic child have a history of autoimmune problems.

The researchers do not believe that all cases of autism — or even a majority of them — are caused by vaccines, said Dr. Mady Hornig of Columbia, the lead author. "Autism is a constellation of syndromes that almost certainly has many different causes," she said.

But the link to thimerosal may help explain recent increases in the incidence of the disorder, she said.

Thimerosal, which contains ethyl mercury, has long been used as a preservative in vaccines. Critics contend it became a problem in the 1970s, when the number of vaccines given to children increased sharply.

Since 1999, it has been removed from most of the vaccines routinely recommended for infants and children. It is still used in injectable influenza vaccine, though some thimerosal-free flu vaccine is expected to be available this year.

Autism is a severe developmental disorder in which children seem isolated from the world around them.

There is a broad spectrum of symptoms, but the disorder is marked by poor language skills and an inability to handle social relations.

No cure exists, but many problems can be alleviated with intensive behavioral therapy.

Between 1975 and 1985, studies showed the U.S. rate of autism to be about four cases per 10,000. Between 1985 and 1995, the numbers tripled to 12 per 10,000. But researchers now think the actual rate may be much higher, on the order of 20 cases per 10,000.

Several epidemiological studies have failed to find a link between vaccines and the increase in autism, and laboratory studies in mice and other animals have also failed to show a connection.

But researchers may have simply looked at the wrong animals, said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, in whose laboratory the new work was carried out.

Hornig and her colleagues studied four strains of mice, including one strain — called SJL/L — in which mercury had previously been shown to stimulate autoimmune disorders.

Newborn mice of each strain were injected with either thimerosal or a thimerosal-vaccine combination at ages corresponding to those when human infants are typically immunized.

The doses of mercury were also comparable to those used in humans.

The three strains of mice with no autoimmune susceptibility showed no effects from either type of inoculation.

But virtually all of the SJL/L mice developed a variety of problems, including delayed growth, abnormal response to novel environments, decreased exploration of their environments, abnormalities in brain architecture and increased brain size.

All of those are typical of children with autism, Hornig said.

"This is clearly showing that there is an interaction of genes with the environment," said Dr. Daniel H. Geschwind of UCLA, who had been looking for genetic causes of autism and was not involved with the Columbia study. "The strain difference is … quite fascinating. This will clearly rev the debate [about vaccines] up again."

The researchers are now following up on these findings by trying to determine what other genes, if any, may be involved in the mercury susceptibility.

They are also working with researchers at Brigham Young University to try to find families with a genetic defect comparable to that observed in the SJL/L mice to determine whether they have a higher risk of autism.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Scientists see new species born


By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Fruit flies are usually studied in the lab Scientists at the University of Arizona may have witnessed the birth of a new species for the first time.

Biologists Laura Reed and Prof Therese Markow made the discovery by observing breeding patterns of fruit flies that live on rotting cacti in deserts.

The work could help scientists identify the genetic changes that lead one species to evolve into two species.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One becomes two

Whether the two closely related fruit fly populations the scientists studied - Drosophila mojavensis and Drosophila arizonae - represent one species or two is still debated by biologists.

However, the University of Arizona researchers believe the insects are in the early stages of diverging into separate species.

The emergence of a new species - speciation - occurs when distinct populations of a species stop reproducing with one another.

When the two groups can no longer interbreed they cease exchanging genes and eventually go their own evolutionary ways becoming separate species.

Though speciation is a crucial element of understanding how evolution works, biologists have not been able to discover the factors that initiate the process.

In fruit flies there are several examples of mutant genes that prevent different species from breeding but scientists do not know if they are the cause or just a consequence of speciation.

Sterile males

In the wild, Drosophila mojavensis and Drosophila arizonae rarely, if ever, interbreed - even though their geographical ranges overlap.

In the lab, researchers can coax successful breeding but there are complications.

Drosophila mojavensis mothers typically produce healthy offspring after mating with Drosophila arizonae males, but when Drosophila arizonae females mate with Drosphila mojavensis males, the resulting males are sterile.

Laura Reed maintains that such limited capacity for interbreeding indicates that the two groups are on the verge of becoming completely separate species.

Another finding that adds support to that idea is that in a strain of Drosophila mojavensis from southern California's Catalina Island, mothers always produce sterile males when mated with Drosophila arizonae males.

Because the hybrid male's sterility depends on the mother's genes the researchers say the genetic change must be recent.

Reed has also discovered that only about half the females in the Catalina Island population had the gene (or genes) that confer sterility in the hybrid male offspring.

However, when she looked at the Drosophila mojavensis females from other geographic regions, she found that a small fraction of those populations also exhibited the hybrid male sterility.

The newly begun Drosophila mojavensis genome sequencing project, which will provide a complete roadmap of every gene in the species, will help scientists pin down which genes are involved in speciation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Group: Dover schools could face lawsuit


June 09, 2004

Says it's a textbook case of church, state separation

The York Dispatch

The quest of several Dover Area School Board members to find a high school biology textbook that teaches both evolution and creationism could put the district at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court and at risk of a lawsuit.

William Buckingham, a board member and head of the curriculum committee, said this week he was disturbed by a proposed high school biology textbook, the 2002 edition of Prentice Hall Biology, because it was laced with Darwinism.

Board member Noel Wenrich agreed.

The book was initially selected by the high school science department and district administration to replace the current textbook, which is six years old and out of date in some areas.

A recommendation on the book will come from the curriculum committee, which also includes board members Sheila Harkins and Casey Brown. Buckingham said the committee would look for a book that presented both creationism and evolution.

However, teaching creationism may get the district in trouble.

Robert Boston, spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the district will be inviting a lawsuit if it chooses a textbook that teaches creationism.

"Creationism isn't a science, it's religion, and any attempts to introduce creationism into public school science classes would most likely spark a lawsuit," Boston said. "The district would almost certainly lose a lawsuit like that. It's not even worth wasting the time and energy to consider."

The Washington, D.C.-based group is leading the charge in Hanover to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the borough-owned Wirt Park.

Americans United sent a letter to the borough council in November, saying the monument violates the First Amendment and asking that it be removed from public land, where it has been since the 1950s.

The letter sparked strong public response, as residents signed petitions and held a vigil asking the borough not to move the monument.

At the suggestion of State Rep. Steve Nickol, the council petitioned the York County Common Pleas Court for permission to sell the monument and the land on which it sits to a nonprofit organization, so that it will no longer be on public property. Judge Gregory Snyder will hear Hanover's arguments at 9 a.m. Monday.

Previous cases: In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the teaching of creationism in public school as a violation of the separation of church and state.

But Buckingham said he is unconcerned about violating the separation of church and state.

Although he swore to uphold the Constitution when he became a school board member, Buckingham said he didn't come to uphold the separation of church and state, which he sees as a myth and the Supreme Court's interpretation.

Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Education high school science standards require the teaching of evolution.

Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa said the current textbook, called Biology: The Living Science, and the school's science curriculum teach evolution.

"We do not address the origins of life," he said. "The origin of life is left to the personal beliefs of each family."

However, he said teachers may make reference to creationism in class and the district would not prevent students from pursuing other theories.

The district has not rejected the proposed new textbook, Baksa said, but it will continue to look for a book that will make everyone happy.

However, he acknowledged that at the end of the day, the book has to match state standards, which would mean a book that teaches evolution.

The other curriculum committee members stayed away from the creationism issue.

Brown declined to comment, saying she will be making a public statement on the issue at the next board meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday at North Salem Elementary.

Harkins said she didn't think the high school needed a new science textbook, saying the current one has hardly been used. She would not comment on creationism .

The school board will have the final say on which textbook to use, said Superintendent Richard Nilsen.

©2004 by The York Dispatch Publishing Co., LLC

Bigfoot found, shot down in cold blood


Written by Frank Cotolo

REDCLIFF, Wash. -- A hunter claims that he saw the legendary beast known as Bigfoot, shot him five times through the chest and watched it bleed to death in a remote part of Washington state.

Before he fired the five rounds, the man reportedly took a photo of the strange creature known as Sasquatch.

"He bled like any wild animal," said Irvine Knotts, a local man who said he was sick to death of the Bigfoot legend. "He died like a mule with no teeth, squealin' like a rubber ducky."

Knotts said he loaded his rifle and headed for the woods to settle the Bigfoot legend once and for all. He went to an area where it was reported the beast was last seen.

"I found him there and he looked like a big dirty rat who hadn't bathed in years," said Knotts. "And he smelled like baked racoon with garlic stuffed in its ears. Disgusting. But it's finally over, this stupid hunt for the varmint is over."

Scientists are shocked that after all the years of searching, hunting and tracking, a man with no experience found Bigfoot so easily.

But they were disappointed, too.

"We could have learned much from the creature," said one scientist, "if anyone had captured it alive. Dead, it isn't worth much to us."

"Nonsense," said Knotts. "Fur's gonna make a great rug once I can blow the stink off of it."

Police: 'Psychic' Con Artist Took Elderly Men For $1 Million


Police Believe There May Be Other Victims

NBC 6 News Team

POSTED: 5:11 pm EDT June 8, 2004
UPDATED: 7:54 pm EDT June 8, 2004

MIAMI -- Police in Miami arrested a South Florida woman who they say called herself a psychic, and used multiple identities and phony stories to rob at least two elderly men of nearly $1 million.

Police said Sabrina Williams alternately called herself Lila Feldman or Sofie Marlowe, and that she targeted elderly men who had large savings accounts and little family, in what authorities called a "classic gypsy scam." Williams reportedly befriended two victims, ages 83 and 93, then told them she was suffering from a life-threatening illness and that she needed money for surgery.

Authorities said Williams listed her occupation as "psychic" and called herself a gypsy when she was arrested May 28.

Williams reportedly met the 93-year-old widower after approaching him at a Publix supermarket in Surfside.

"She said, 'I thought you looked like a friend of my dad's, and one thing leads to another,'" Fernandez-Rundle said. "He wants a friend. He is looking for friendship, and she knows that. So she is an opportunist."

The unidentified victim reportedly gave Williams $725,000, which she said was for a transplant operation, and which she said she would both repay, and secure with real estate she owned in New York. Police said she even introduced the men to a supposed nurse to "validate" her story. Authorities said the "nurse" was an accomplice in the scheme.

The 83-year-old victim, a former nuclear engineer from Miami Shores, gave Williams $225,000 after pleaded for money using a similar story, authorities said. The two reportedly met after Williams knocked on the victim's door, looking for information on local real estate.

Williams, 43, from North Miami Beach, was being held without bond at the Women's Dentention Center in Miami on two counts of grand theft and two counts of organized fraud. She had been free on bond after a January arrest on grand theft charges, after authorities said she stole a half-dozen pairs of shoes from the Bal Harbor Neiman Marcus store and tried to return them for cash at the store in Coral Gables.

The state attorney's office said Williams, who was born in Boston, was part of a ring of thieves who target elderly victims, and they said there could be more victims, in Broward as well as Miami-Dade County.

"They have done their research," State AttorneyKatherine Fernandez-Rundle said. "They target these folks and prey on their emotions. (Williams) said, 'I need a liver transplant and I will die if I don't get one, and she took two of the victims for a substantial amount of money."

Authorities were asking anyone who believes they may have been scammed by Williams to contact the Miami-Dade state attorney.

They also praised the victims for coming forward, saying that often, elderly con victims are too afraid or embarrassed to notify police.

Investigators also said they are tracking the cash and that the chances are fairly good that the victims could get some of their money back.

Copyright 2004 by NBC6.net.

Pet psychic helps humans forge connections with their animals


By CORTNEY MARTIN, Citizen staff
June 09, 2004

Logan has also chided a cat owner for secretly keeping the cat's toys from him, and she has helped a family understand why their Border Collie refused to chase a ball and perform common animal tricks.

"A lot of people just want to talk to their pets to see if they are happy," Logan said. "And the pets are always happy to communicate through me, because finally somebody can hear them."

Always aware of her intuitive abilities, Logan discovered that she could communicate with animals as well as people a few years ago when at a restaurant with a friend and someone else she had never met before.

Although there were no animals in sight, Logan could "hear" a cat talking to her and asked the stranger if she owned a cat. When the woman said yes, Logan told her the cat wanted to know why she hadn't given his new toys to him.

The woman was astonished, Logan recalled. She said she had bought some new toys for the cat but was hiding them until his birthday, and she was even more surprised when Logan described one of them - purple with a feather - to a T.

At that time, Logan's day job was with a major energy company. She had been in the corporate world for 35 years, but after a major lay-off that forced her to lose her job, she made animal communication a full-time gig.

Today, she does in-home consultations, telephone consultations and leads animal communication seminars. Most recently, she appeared at Pasadena Pet Adoption's Dogs' Day in the Park.

Logan has clients all over the Houston area and a few in other states and out of the country. She communicates with animals living and deceased and is game to deal with any type of animal.

"Every time I talk to a new animal, it's a surprise and a joy. All animals think differently, and they have their own personalities," Logan said.

Many times, her consultations have enlightening, funny results. She said some animals gossip about their humans and say negative things about their humans' friends; others share very personal details about their owners' lives.

One Yorkshire Terrier told Logan that he was afraid of his human's large, loud shoes and requested that she not wear them anymore.

The Border Collie who refused to play ball with her 12-year-old owner defended herself by saying, "What's the point? If he wants a dog who will chase a ball, he should get a Lab," Logan said.

She is called to assist owners of pets who have behavioral problems and sometimes assists veterinarians with problems that are hard to detect. She regularly has consultations with animals like horses or dogs before a big race.

Logan is also in high demand for pet owners who are considering having their very old or sick pets put down. Those consultations are often the most emotional, but she said most pet owners feel better after speaking with her.

"Surprisingly, animals are very understanding about having to be put down. They just don't want to leave their humans upset," Logan said.

"One of the biggest things I've learned is that animals want their humans to be there when they are euthanized. I know it's very upsetting for people, but it's even more upsetting for the animal when their human isn't there," she said.

When Logan communicates with animals who are already deceased, the information she gives people is often very comforting. In several cases, she could still sense the animal's presence in the owner's home.

Many times, pet owners emerge in tears after a meeting with Logan, and it isn't always because their pet has died or will have to be put to sleep.

Even the smallest insight into what animals are thinking can trigger an outpouring of emotion for people, Logan said.

"People get very emotional because they love their animals. That connection with the animals brings out so many emotions, and it often changes the way people see their animals," Logan said.

The pet does not have to be present for Logan to use her intuitive abilities. She can provide insight by looking at a picture of an animal or hearing a physical description.

One woman brought Logan a photo of her parents' dog for a consultation. As with all her clients, Logan tape-recorded the meeting and gave the woman the tape, which the woman then gave to her parents for Christmas.

Logan's rate is $2 a minute, and she requires a minimum of one hour for in-home consultations. Her animal communication seminars, which help others become "pet psychics," are $60 per person.

"There's nothing special about me; everyone can do this. People are just so busy with their lives, they have forgotten what they can really do," she said.

More information is available online at www.myralogan.com and by phone at (713) 805-7963.

Pasadena Citizen 2004

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Cancer agency won't study alternative therapy


By Michael Lasalandra, Globe Correspondent | June 8, 2004

The cases of five patients who say they were cured of cancer by a controversial alternative medicine were not compelling enough to justify a government-funded study of the 714X compound, the National Cancer Institute apparently has decided.

The treatment, available in Canada under a compassionate-use program, has gained popularity in the United States through word of mouth, though it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. There are no published studies showing it works in humans.

''The presented data was insufficient to recommend NCI-sponsored research using 714X in the treatment of cancer,'' Colleen O. Lee of the NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine wrote in a May 17 e-mail to Gaston Naessens, a Canadian biologist and developer of the compound made from mineral salts, nitrogen-rich camphor and some trace elements.

An official statement on the decision from the NCI is expected this week. The institute reviewed 714X at the request of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The respected research center had conducted laboratory tests of the compound in 1999 and then stopped the work, prompting criticism from some who thought it was blocking development of a promising drug.

The five cases, including those of Billy Best of Rockland and Katie Hartley of Duxbury, were presented to the NCI's Drug Development Group in July 2003. Best, now 26, gained notoriety 10 years ago when he ran away from home to avoid continued chemotherapy for non- Hodgkin's lymphoma at Dana-Farber. He is healthy today and credits 714X.

Best, now an auto mechanic who is writing a book about his experience, said he believes that the NCI is trying to ''sabotage'' the drug, but that the agency won't succeed. ''It helps too many people,'' he said. ''It's not going to go away.''

Hartley, now 17, was diagnosed with sarcoma of the sinuses at the age of 7. After she failed chemotherapy, her doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her, and expected her to die. Her parents heard about Best and started Katie on 714X. She and her family say she has been cancer-free ever since.

About 4,000 patients in Canada have used the medicine with the approval of Health Canada, according to Naessens. American patients can obtain the medication by mail without a prescription from Naessens' Cerbe Distribution of Quebec.

Health Canada approved the compassionate use of the compound after Naessens was acquitted in 1989 of charges of practicing medicine without a license and negligent homicide in connection with the death of a woman with advanced breast cancer who had been treated with 714X. Earlier in the 1980s, he was charged in France with practicing medicine without a license and paid a fine. The medication's popularity soared after Naessens' acquittal in Canada. In recent years, the drug has gained popularity in alternative- medicine circles and through the Internet.

But 714X has its critics. Dr. Gerard Batist, chief of oncology at McGill University in Montreal, said he was pleased by the NCI's decision not to fund a study of the compound. ''Patients should not feel that anything of any value is being taken away from them,'' he said.

Batist said that about 10 years ago he studied several cases of patients who had used the medication, cases provided to him by Naessens.

''It was very clear there is no benefit to anyone from anything he has done,'' he said. ''In every case, there were other explanations.'' Batist said Health Canada was pressured into allowing the drug under compassionate use — without seeing any studies.

Naessens ''had a following,'' Batist said, ''and he managed to convince Health Canada to make it available.''

The compound is injected into or near the lymph nodes, and is said to boost the body's immune system.

While 714X has no apparent side effects, there are no published studies to prove its efficacy. Tens of thousands of patients have used it, and many say it has cured their cancer. But skeptics say these patients may have experienced spontaneous remissions or been helped by the delayed effects of chemotherapy.

Dana-Farber researchers took an interest in 714X in 1999, but the tests were stopped soon after and Cerbe sued for breach of contract. The case was settled out of court, with the terms kept confi- dential.

Court documents revealed sharp disagreement among Dana- Farber researchers about the promise of the drug. ''For the first time, our data provide scientific evidence supporting that 714X is an immune stimulus,'' wrote Arthur B. Pardee, a researcher at Dana- Farber's Division of Cancer Biology, and Lili Huang, a research associate, in an August 1999 letter to Dana-Farber's director of research.

But Faye Austin, the research director, and other Dana-Farber scientists later said in interviews that any number of compounds could have produced the same response and disagreed that 714X was promising.

Dana-Farber officials nevertheless requested the NCI review of so-called ''best cases'' in May 2001, saying they were responding to growing interest from the media and from patients.

''We asked the NCI to review the claims people were making about 714-X because the NCI has a special office for just that purpose. Our goal has always been to ensure that cancer patients have the best information possible about their treatment options,'' Dana-Farber spokesman Steven Singer wrote in an e-mail last week.

In its May 17 e-mail to Naessens, the NCI stated that the overall impression of the drug development panel was that more information was needed. But the agency said it intends to submit the studied cases for publication in a scientific journal.

''The goal is to make this information available to the scientific community whose individual members can then make decisions to pursue research involving the use of 714X to treat cancer,'' Lee wrote.

Jacinte Naessens, the wife of the medication's developer, said she believes the NCI review was done simply to take the heat off Dana-Farber. ''I don't think helping patients was the concern,'' said Naessens, whose husband speaks no English.

Dr. Roger H. Rogers, a Canadian primary-care doctor who said he has treated about 400 cancer patients with 714X, said he is puzzled by the NCI decision.

''A study is certainly warranted, because of the numbers of people who have improved on 714X,'' said Rogers, whose practice near Vancouver integrates conventional and alternative medicine.

He said he first became aware of 714X about 15 years ago when a patient with uterine cancer persuaded him to try it on her. ''I was amazed at her recovery,'' he said. ''She had tried chemo and radiation. Nothing worked.''

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Earth isn't so old, theorist says


By DAWN MICELI , Correspondent

PLAINVILLE -- Earth is much younger than scientists claim and dinosaurs co-existed with the first humans, according to Bill Hoesch, geologist and creation theorist.

Hoesch presented six scientific observations during a seminar Monday at Faith Bible Church in Plainville that he says discredit the widely accepted evolution theory and instead promote the Biblical version of God's creation of the world.

"I'm not interested in religious ideas, I'm interested in the truth," Hoesch told about 50 people on hand for the lecture.

Hoesch said he represents a group of scientists from the Institute for Creation Research, in the San Diego area, all of whom "are skeptics of the evolution world view."The Institute is devoted to the research and teaching of scientific creationism, which negates Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and uses science to support Scripture.

The world's oceans are a good benchmark for determining Earth's age, Hoesch said., because of the build-up of sediment on the ocean floors.Each year, 27.5 billion tons of sediment is deposited under the sea, meaning that a 4.5 billion-year-old Earth -- as asserted by scientists and biology textbooks -- would have a lot of build-up.Not so, says Hoesch, who maintains that the ocean floors contain a level indicative of about 10,000 years of sediment deposits.

That "guesswork" by evolutionists is what irritates Hoesch.

"When it gets into textbooks and museums as absolute fact, that's when I get upset," he said.

Jim Deppe of Bristol said the Earth's timescale is important to creationists because genealogy laid out in the Bible dates human origins back about 6,000 years ago, thus negating the evolutionary time frame.

Deppe said larger living creatures, such as dinosaurs, lived simultaneously with the first humans (Adam and Eve according to the Bible) but were destroyed during a cataclysmic global event.That event is better known in the Bible as Noah's flood.

"There's much more information than he's giv en tonight," said Deppe."But what he's touched on, I can say, is all true."

Raymond Torres of New Britain wasn't as sure -- especially the part about the dinosaurs being created at the same time as man.

Torres accompanied the Rev. Vincent Placeres of Tabernacle Baptist Church in New Britain to the seminar because he had doubts as to the validity of the literal translation of the Bible as touted by creationists.

"I don't believe that at the same time God created dinosaurs and man during the six days of creation," said Torres.

Placeres said he hopes Torres will come to a better understanding of the creationist belief by listening to the scientific evidence laid out by Hoesch."When there's doubt we need to accept that," said Placeres.

©The Herald 2004

Satanic Ritual Blamed for Death of Italian Teens


Jun 7, 12:24 PM (ET)

By Rachel Sanderson

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian magistrate warned against the growing lure of Antichrist cults in Catholic Italy Monday after the discovery of the bodies of two teenagers killed in a satanic sacrifice.

Police announced at the weekend they had uncovered the bodies of 19-year-old Chiara Marino and 16-year-old Fabio Tollis, last seen in January 1998 leaving a pizzeria with other members of their heavy metal rock band "Beasts of Satan."

As forensic experts searched the two meter (six foot six inches) deep grave in a wood in northern Italy, police said they had arrested four of the band members for murdering the pair for a human sacrifice.

"It is a crime with a level of cruelty and savagery, with an intent to cause extreme pain through ritual activity, that I have never seen before in my career," chief investigating magistrate Antonio Pizzi told Reuters.

"There was a very specific ritual with very specific rites and at the end of that Chiara and Fabio were killed."

Italian media said witness statements showed Marino and Tollis died during a cocaine-fueled ritual where Marino, a petite brunette, was killed under a full moon by knife plunged into her heart.

Tollis, the lead singer of the band, was killed with a hammer blow to the head when he realized the other band members were going ahead with Marino's murder and tried to stop it.


The deaths have horrified Catholic Italy, home of Vatican City, with pages of newspapers given over to descriptions of the black candles and goats' skulls decorating Marino's bedroom and witness statements of sexual violence.

What has fueled the fear are suggestions the double sacrifice near the town of Busto Arsizio may not be isolated.

"Four people have been arrested for the murder of the two teenagers, but the investigations are ongoing. We are looking at other levels of involvement," Pizzi said.

One of those arrested in the double murder is already in prison for the murder of a former girlfriend.

As many as 5,000 people are thought to be members of satanic cults in Italy with 17- to 25-year-olds making up three quarters of them, officials say.

"The phenomenon always existed in Catholic countries where the figure of Satan is prominent in teachings as the alter-ego of Christ," La Sapienza University professor Maria Matioti said.

"What has changed is the age of those involved, who are younger," she said.

She said satanic cults tended to be found in northern Italy, where traditional family communities had been split up due to migration to find work, leaving some people demoralized and isolated. "In the south, people are more open," she said.

Pizzi said investigators were looking into the possibility the "Beasts of Satan" band members were instructed by Satanists in their late 20s or early 30s. He said police were also reviewing two suspicious suicides in the area.

"I am convinced there are others involved in this," Michele Tollis, father of Fabio told RAI state television.

Hidden creatures revealed - on the Web

Thursday, June 3, 2004

By Tim Clodfelter

Relish Staff Writer

Several recent news reports - including a story in The Charlotte Observer and a segment on some tabloid news program I saw a few weeks ago because The Daily Show was a rerun - have questioned the authenticity of the famed Roger Patterson Bigfoot film. You remember, that's the film that supposedly shows Bigfoot out for an afternoon constitutional in the woods, reacting with annoyance at the camera operator filming him (but not roughing the cameraman up Russell Crowe-style).

The Patterson film is to Bigfoot lovers what the Zapruder film is to loopy conspiracy nuts. And implying that it's not real is a real blow (actually, the Observer article was an interview with a guy who says he made the gorilla suit, so that's more than an implication, I suppose, unless it was a Bigfoot wearing a gorilla suit). So to restore my faith in the reality of Bigfoot, I decided to look him up on the Internet.

Now, you'd think you could find info on him at www.bigfoot.com, but noooo.... All that you'll find there is a "communications powerhouse" that "delivers the best and latest in Web-based communications innovations." Oh, and you can also look up names to find anyone, anywhere in the country. But there's nothing here on giant furry humanoids. Then there's www.bigfoot4x4.com, but that site just has monster trucks, not monster monsters.

Instead, you'll need to go to such sites as www.cryptozoology.com and the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, www.bfro.net

Cryptozoology.com is a sort of centralized database of all kinds of mysterious critters. Cryptozoology is, as the Web site describes, "the study of hidden animals." That includes such familiar beasties as Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster and the Jersey Devil, as well as lesser-known - and often less interesting - creatures. (A stripeless zebra? What's the difference between that and, say, a pony?) And then there are more obscure creatures that don't get the media attention of Nessie and pals but sound wicked-cool. I'd love to see a Mongolian Death Worm. From a great distance, preferably.

The site has write-ups about some of the most popular hidden animals - or "cryptids" - as well as news articles, galleries of illustrations and photos (some blurry, some not), and ... um ... fan fiction. No kidding, you can read fictional stories about Bigfoot and the like. Granted, many people believe that any story about Bigfoot is fictional.

Although the site tries to keep things scientific, to a skeptical eye it seems like a site largely for those who truly believe in these creatures.

The Bigfoot Field Research Organization site is, as you might guess, more specific. The focus here is strictly on Bigfoot - or Sasquatch, or Windigo, or the Florida Skunk Ape, or whatever you want to call it (the site says that there are at least 60 different American Indian names for the creature).

The site has numerous FAQ (frequently asked question) files, articles analyzing various pieces of evidence, and an elaborate, easy-to-navigate "Geographic Database of Bigfoot/Sasquatch Sightings and Reports." Click on North Carolina, for instance, and you'll be treated to 21 stories of sightings in the Tarheel State. They include an incident from Yadkin County in the early 1970s, when a young boy startled a creature with "off-white fur" lurking under his porch, and less dramatic stories from Ashe, Caldwell and Burke counties of people finding footprints or hearing strange howls. The BFRO site also includes a history of Pre-Columbian Bigfoot-type legends, advice on how to collect evidence and a form to report your own Bigfoot encounter.

Another extensive site is Bigfoot Encounters, www.n2.net/prey/bigfoot/, which includes genuine sightings as well as an amusing list of hoaxes that show just how far people will go for a prank. For a more skeptical take on the subject, try the Skeptic's Dictionary write-up on the Big Guy (www.skepdic.com/bigfoot.html), which takes the wind of out many stories claiming that Bigfoot's really out there somewhere.

But those skeptics must have missed Bigfoot's cooking show, which proves that he's real. After all, Emeril Lagasse has a cooking show and he's real. Check out the evidence yourself at cookingwithbigfoot.com, a series of Flash animation cartoons about Bigfoot's misadventures as a TV star. There are plenty of cuss words, cheeseball celebrity impersonations and a Bigfoot who talks like a mix of Mr. Belvedere and Frasier Crane.



Kohei Minato and the Japan Magnetic Fan Company

by John Dodd When we first got the call from an excited colleague that he'd just seen the most amazing invention -- a magnetic motor that consumed almost no electricity -- we were so skeptical that we declined an invitation to go see it. If the technology was so good, we thought, how come they didn't have any customers yet?

We forgot about the invitation and the company until several months later, when our friend called again. "OK," he said. "They've just sold 40,000 units to a major convenience store chain. Now will you see it?"

In Japan, no one pays for 40,000 convenience store cooling fans without being reasonably sure that they are going to work.

Continued at: http://www.japan.com/technology/index.php

Cosmic single currency unveiled in Bulgaria


SOFIA (AFP) - A cosmic single currency for use in financial transactions between Earthlings and extra-terrestrial civilizations has been unveiled at a conference on unidentified flying objects here.

"We are offering the galactos as a means of payment between plants. It will represent the Earth in financial relations in the Cosmos," Kiril Kanev, chairman of the Bulgarian foundation on cosmic intelligence research, said Sunday.

The coin, made up of chrome and nickel, weighs three grams with the inscription "galactos" and the year of issue 2004. It will be identified by the letter G with two parallel lines like the US dollar.

The Bulgarian foundation sent its official currency proposal to Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg and the Bulgarian Central Bank governor, Kanev said.

"Extra-terrestrials come into contact with insignificant, ordinary people. We're not talking about government-level relations," he added.

But he said high-level contacts to launch the "galactos" will be possible after peace is established among peoples on Earth," he said.

Moved by the Spirit to Govern



In Brazil and other traditionally Catholic Latin American nations, politics has become a fertile ground for evangelical Protestants.
By Henry Chu
Times Staff Writer

June 7, 2004

BRASILIA, Brazil — Most of the books on Adelor Vieira's desk are what you'd expect for a congressman busy with the machinery of state: a copy of the civil code, a handy reference guide to laws on local governance. But tucked to one side, within easy reach, lies the book that, for Vieira, trumps all the others: the Bible.

Everything necessary for moral conduct is contained in the pages between Genesis and Revelation, Vieira believes. And as an evangelical Christian, he is determined to ensure that Brazil's statute books reflect the principles of the Good Book.

"I believe it's an obligation," he said. "You can't isolate church from society. The churches to which evangelicals belong have a mission, which is to promote the kingdom of God."

In countries throughout Latin America, evangelicals such as Vieira are stepping out from the shelter of their churches to enter the fractious world of secular politics. These Protestant Christians are increasingly speaking out, teaming up and getting elected in a region that remains overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

Their influence extends from that of small-town mayors in the Brazilian interior to the governor of Mexico's Chiapas state. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, although a Catholic, meets regularly with an evangelical pastor to read the Bible and pray.

The sortie into politics follows years of growth among evangelical Christians, especially charismatic and neo-Pentecostal groups, in Latin America. In Guatemala, for example, up to 40% of the nation's 13.3 million people are evangelical Christians. In neighboring El Salvador, nearly a quarter of the 6.3 million people there describe themselves that way.

In Brazil, the region's largest country and an unshakable Catholic stronghold for centuries, census figures show 15% of the population to be evangelicals — about 27 million people. Many are attracted by dynamic worship services and the emphasis on a personal relationship with God.

For many here, faith remains a private affair, their devotion playing out at church and at home. But others are heeding what they believe is a divine calling to shine the light of Christian truth on "works of darkness," which encompass perceived evils as varied as abortion and the corruption rampant in Brazilian politics.

"We cannot be silent when those things happen," said Walter Pinheiro, an evangelical Christian deputy in Brazil's Congress. "We have to bring light to and condemn those practices."

By "we," Pinheiro means an evangelical contingent in Brazil's lower house that has grown over the last few years and, last September, formed an official lobby in Congress, the Evangelical Parliamentary Front.

The group, whose goal is to ensure that public policy falls "in line with God's purposes, and according to his Word," boasts 58 deputies and three senators out of nearly 600 legislators. Ten years ago, fewer than half that many evangelicals occupied the glass offices along the corridors of power here in the Brazilian capital.

Much of the evangelical bloc's agenda would be recognizable to conservative Christian brethren in the United States. The group opposes any liberalization of Brazil's already-strict abortion laws. Gay marriage is anathema. So are legalizing drugs, handing out clean needles to addicts as a public-health measure and distributing condoms in schools.

One of the group's biggest victories in Congress last year was amending a bio-safety bill to outlaw the cloning of human embryos to harvest stem cells for research. On the local level, the evangelical governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Rosinha Matheus, has outraged scientists by authorizing public schools to teach creationism.

Yet to view the evangelical front as a simple analogue of the religious right in the United States would be off the mark.

Whereas most conservative U.S. Christians vote Republican, the Brazilian deputies belong to a motley, squabbling bunch of rival groups that span the ideological spectrum. Pinheiro is one of the more militant members of the left-wing ruling Workers' Party; Vieira declares allegiance to the center-right Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

As a result, "you can point to things they've done and said which have been very different, which would make the American Christian right's hair stand on end — policies regarding economics, policies regarding the attitude toward global capitalism," said Paul Freston, an expert on the political influence of evangelicals in Latin America and professor at Calvin College in Michigan.

Pinheiro is an ardent advocate of the welfare state, saying that Christian principles require the government to champion the poor, to take care of society's weakest. He wants a higher minimum wage, secure — and generous — pensions for workers and civil servants, and more money for public education and health. He leans toward radical socialist policies, while Vieira is more moderate.

And though most conservative U.S. Christians support President Bush's hawkish foreign policy, it meets stony silence here.

"I was struck by the way that just before the Iraq war was started, all these evangelical congressmen, however conservative the party they were in and however wild and woolly the charismatic church they were from, were all thoroughly against the war," Freston said. "I didn't hear a single word from anybody in favor of that."

Religiously influenced leftism in Latin America is nothing new. Guerrillas inspired by Catholic liberation theology and Marxist dogma struggled, with bloody consequences, to advance their ideology in such war-racked countries as Nicaragua and El Salvador during the last few decades of the 20th century.

At the same time, Protestantism began making inroads, sometimes promoting itself as a refuge from the radical activism roiling some sectors of Catholicism. As their ranks swelled, evangelical Christians throughout Latin America started to shed their skittishness about mixing religion with politics.

In Guatemala, an evangelical, Jorge Serrano Elias, served as president from 1991 to 1993 before being ousted and forced into exile. One of his co-religionists, former army Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, headed Congress from 1996 until an unsuccessful run for the presidency last year.

In Brazil, the recent burst of parliamentary gains is rooted in the rise of neo-Pentecostal churches such as the Assemblies of God and, especially, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, whose membership rolls have zoomed in the last two decades. Together, the two denominations boast 10.5 million followers.

These sects are especially popular in poor communities, where sermons on self-improvement through God's grace promise better lives. Organized programs to combat illiteracy, hunger and other social woes are also offered.

Previously disdainful of worldly politics, the leaders of these churches now embrace it. And beyond exhorting the faithful to exercise their franchise — voting is mandatory in Brazil, anyway — the churches field or endorse candidates, mobilize workers and plot election strategy with increasing astuteness. Some candidates have legally added "Pastor" or "Bishop" to their names so that those identifications would appear on ballots and attract the attention of Christian voters.

"The Universal Church had a political map and a religious map and tried to make them meet up," said Regina Novaes, a researcher at the Institute of Religion Studies in Rio de Janeiro. "They're on the offensive."

Some of the motivation for getting involved in the public arena has been self-interest, a move by the churches to protect themselves from encroachment by the state.

The Universal Church and other evangelical institutions are major owners of media in Brazil, including TV and radio networks; one estimate put their holdings at 58 radio stations in 16 states.

Evangelical legislators have worked hard to ensure that the government does not upset the status quo. Late last year, they banded together and amended Brazil's civil code to prevent state interference in how churches collect tithes and offerings. They have opposed political reforms that could restrict their ability to nominate candidates for office and urban-planning regulations that they believed could prevent them from starting up new churches.

They happily make common cause with many of their Catholic counterparts in Congress over such issues as abortion and gay rights. But at the same time, mindful of their minority status in Brazil, the evangelical representatives keep a sharp eye out for policies that they feel tip the government scales in favor of Catholicism, such as the declaration of official holidays in honor of Catholic saints.

Evangelical voters have become a coveted group. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a practicing Catholic, courted them during his election campaign in 2002, telling one group of enthusiastic evangelical leaders that he wanted to see a Bible placed in every public school.

One of Lula's chief rivals, Anthony Garotinho, an evangelical Christian, routinely invoked God at campaign rallies, offered quotations from the Bible and narrowly missed making the runoff that eventually produced Lula as the winner.

But given the profusion of political parties in Brazil, evangelical Christians spread out their loyalties and cannot be counted on to vote as one unthinking monolith. In many cases, fealty to party outweighs church affiliation, especially for those who remain hesitant about marrying religion to politics.

"The vote is not a zombie vote," said Freston of Calvin College. "There are all sorts of calculations going on here. The degree to which people actually obey the [political] exhortations of their pastors is variable."

But with some estimates projecting that Brazil could be 50% Protestant by 2050, the influence of evangelicals in the political realm is likely to increase.

"To understand Brazilian politics today, it's necessary to understand the field of religion," Novaes said. "If you don't understand religion, you can't understand Brazilian politics."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Monday, June 07, 2004

Alternative medicine gains ground


The Denver Post

By Karen Augι
Denver Post Staff Writer

Thursday, June 03, 2004 -

From prayer to echinacea, millions of Americans are turning to alternative medicine to treat everything from back pain to menopause symptoms, the largest-ever national study on the issue has found. And in Colorado, a growing number of mainstream doctors and hospitals is embracing, not fighting, the movement.

In 2002, more than one-third - 36 percent - of American adults tried herbal treatments, meditation, chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, diets or some other nontraditional care, according to a study of 31,000 people.

If prayer for health is included as an alternative treatment, the number soars to 62 percent, according to the survey released last last month by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey found women and people with higher levels of education are more likely to use alternative medicine. Some turned to alternative medicine after conventional treatments failed, some out of curiosity, and others said traditional medicine was too expensive.

"Many conditions are not easily treated with conventional medicine," said Richard Nahin, of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

"It may be the public is turning to complementary and alternative medicine because it's not getting relief from conventional medicine," he said.

The results suggest alternative therapies are gaining popularity, but this study cannot be compared with previous studies because of differences in survey methods, health officials said.

In Colorado, a number of health practitioners say acceptance is growing, not just among the public, but within the medical community as well.

"I come from Nebraska, where the medical community are more conservative in their approach," said Don Aspegren, an Englewood-based chiropractor.

"But you come to Colorado, things are very open-minded. And I say that as a compliment to the medical community," said Aspegren, who also teaches at the CU medical school.

Nationwide, 26 percent of people who told researchers that they used complementary and alternative treatments did so because a conventional medical professional recommended it.

"I've seen quite a bit of shift in the mind-set," said Dr. Lisa Corbin, medical director of the University of Colorado's Center for Integrative Medicine.

Often the relationship between traditional and nontraditional providers remains "adversarial" Corbin said. "But the gap is narrowing," she said.

At CU, "initially ... they saw (the center) as a necessary evil, and I would present it to my colleagues as a necessary evil. Now I present it as, 'Here are the beneficial things you can use it for,' and they ask me, 'How can we use your center?"'

The center, at CU's Fitzsimons campus, offers acupuncture, massage and herbal counseling, Corbin said. In addition, a psychologist provides biofeedback and relaxation training, she said.

According to the survey, pain - joint pain, neck pain, back pain, headaches - is one of the most common conditions that people seek to treat alternatively.

That's no surprise to Dr. Christopher Centeno, who runs the Centeno Clinic in Westminster. The clinic treats pain with a smorgasbord of traditional and nontraditional methods.

"Pain management in mainstream medicine is still in its infancy," he said.

He said a startling number of patients he sees are overmedicated with narcotics.

"Some of those patients can be managed so much more elegantly than by putting them on Oxycontin," a powerful pain medication.

Centeno said one cause of overmedication is that many insurance companies are more comfortable paying for traditional medications than nontraditional therapies - even if those therapies would be cheaper in the long run.

But some insurance companies are starting to cover alternative therapies.

And there is money at stake in alternative medicine.

A previous study estimated that the public spent $36 billion to $47 billion on alternative therapies in 1997.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff writer Karen Augι can be reached at 303-820-1733 or kauge@denverpost.com .

Church settlement brings relief


To the disappointment of some outsiders, those mired in the Scientology case were ready for the draining episode to end.

By ROBERT FARLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published June 6, 2004

CLEARWATER - The recent settlement of the 7-year-old Lisa McPherson wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology was a shocker for many, seemingly coming out of nowhere.

It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision at all, but rather a resolution that had been simmering more than six months in quiet negotiations at the St. Petersburg law offices of mediator Michael Keane.

It was no small feat, given the acrimony marking the case. On one side of the negotiating table was Ken Dandar, lawyer for the McPherson estate, who for years had called Scientology a ruthless cult. Staring back were church officials who had branded Dandar a liar and bigot.

All that angry talk stopped abruptly with the settlement. Now, neither side will hint at its terms, sticking faithfully to a confidentiality agreement. But legal experts and court documents shed light on developments that likely helped end one of the most intriguing cases in Pinellas court history.

Some view the settlement as the latest example of the Church of Scientology wearing down a legal opponent with a barrage of litigation. Others see it as the church buying its way out of an embarrassing trial sure to be documented by international media.

Court transcripts also show a judge bent on resolving a case that had taxed the Pinellas judiciary.

Through the repeated negotiations, mediator Michael Keane said he never lost faith. When the two sides came together shortly before Memorial Day, Keane had a sense the end was near.

"You had parties that were deeply, deeply passionate about their positions," Keane said last week. "They both worked really hard and found a place where they could reach a settlement, but not without a lot of pain. There was a lot of pain."

Neither side said they celebrated when they walked out. It simply was time to move on, they said.

"The church bought silence," said California attorney Ford Greene.

In 2002, Greene helped a former Scientologist who accused the church of mental abuse collect an $8.6-million settlement. A trial would have been a vehicle, he said, for the public to get "a copious education on what Scientology is and how it operates."

Even with a large payout, the Scientologists come out victorious, Greene said. "The millions of dollars that go out aren't nearly as much as the millions that don't come in if they get bad press."

Clearwater attorney Denis deVlaming, who once represented a former-church-member-turned-critic who claimed the church set him up for a marijuana possession charge, said he is disappointed the case isn't going to trial. He planned to take off time from work to attend.

"I just wanted to see the exposure of the doctrine of the church," he said. "I wanted the public of our town . . . to see what the church is all about. But we won't see it . . . In a sense, Scientology was going to be on trial."

He thinks the settlement was several million dollars, and money well spent by the church for a "monumental" public relations victory.

Those opinions are off base, said Monique Yingling, a Washington attorney for Scientology.

First, she said, both sides fought vigorously.

"The case was not over-litigated by the church," she said. "The church responds appropriately when the religion is attacked."

And the prospect of a trial getting intense media attention did not drive the church to settle, she said.

"There has already been mountains of publicity about that case," said Yingling, who participated in the final mediation sessions. "From the church's perspective, it couldn't have gotten any worse."

In the final hours, she said, it came down to this: "Everybody wanted to move on."

Those sentiments were echoed by attorney Luke Lirot, who assisted Dandar in the negotiations and in numerous other connected cases.

"Everyone is able to get beyond this and focus on things that are perhaps more mundane and appropriate and are able to go on with their life," Lirot said.

"The McPherson family can now honor her memory in dignity and peace," he said.

The court file, however, reveals some clues of the pressure mounting on Dandar.

Retired Senior Pinellas Circuit Judge Robert Beach, who was assigned the case last year, aggressively pushed both sides to end the grueling legal wrangling. He wouldn't talk of the case last week, but he was clear in remarks made in hearings at the end of last year.

"Now, everybody that has had any contact in this case from the judicial standpoint would like to see it go away, so there is no question about that," Beach said.

"This case has affected a lot of people along the way, a lot of people, laypeople and lawyers and judges. And if it doesn't go away, it's going to affect a lot more people. And it's not going to get concluded next year. Oh yes, we might try the case next year. But then the appeal comes. And more appeals. And more cases. And this thing has taken on a life of its own, really.

"I think it really begs for some resolution, which will be fair to both sides," he said.

Beach took the unusual step of replacing Dandar with Lirot as lead attorney. Dandar's "feelings have crossed the border of professionalism," Beach said. "He's gotten so personally involved in this matter that he stepped outside the role as lawyer and has taken on this as a personal cause, which I think, in turn, has obscured some of the decisions he made in this case."

Dandar declined interview requests last week, but left a telephone message saying of the settlement: "Things are not always what they appear to be."

Beach also said Scientology attorney Samuel Rosen suggested a settlement might not be possible as long as Dandar was involved because the church distrusted him.

With Lirot as lead counsel, Beach said, "we have a better shot of concluding this case."

Lirot insisted last week that becoming lead counsel was of little consequence. He also scoffed at a Florida Bar complaint filed by church attorneys against Dandar.

In January, a grievance committee of the Florida Bar found probable cause to move forward with church allegations that Dandar commingled for personal use some $2-million given to him by a wealthy church critic. The complaint also alleges Dandar misrepresented some facts to a judge in the case.

Lirot said he believes the complaint will go Dandar's way once his side is presented.

It's the only remaining legal issue left from the death of McPherson, a 36-year-old church member who died in 1995 after 17 days in the care of Scientologists in Clearwater.

Her aunt, Dell Liebreich, who represents her estate and filed the lawsuit, lives in Texas. She, too, was present for the settlement talks. She is refusing interview requests.

But Lirot, asked last week to describe her mood, said, "I don't think it was jubilant. There was certainly a sense of relief and a sense that now she could honor Lisa's memory in privacy and peace."

There was jubilation among many in the judicial community.

"I am, of course, delighted," said Pinellas Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird, who presided over one of a handful of offshoot cases. "Any time a case like that gets resolved, it's good for the system. Litigation like that ties up an inordinate amount of the judicial system."

The case was so unusual, Baird said, because it "became very personal for everyone involved" and involved two sides that seemed not to care much about the expense of fighting every legal point "tooth and nail."

That it is over is a huge relief, Baird said. "This is always what should have happened."

[Last modified June 5, 2004, 23:51:22]


Date: Sunday, June 06 @ 08:33:18 PDT
Topic: Health, guide Dr. Rita Louise

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's (NCCAM) National Advisory Council (NACCAM) welcomed six new members today. Appointed by Health and...

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's (NCCAM) National Advisory Council (NACCAM) welcomed six new members today. Appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, each new council member will serve a 4-year term, replacing members who have completed their service. The Council, which meets three times a year, is composed of 18 members including investigators, physicians, licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, and representatives of the public. They contribute their time and expertise in offering advice and recommendations to NCCAM on the prioritization, conduct, and support of complementary and alternative medicine research, including research training and dissemination of health information derived from Center-supported research.

"NCCAM is pleased to welcome six new members to our advisory council, and we look forward to working with them," said Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM Director. "Their scientific and clinical expertise and perspectives will enrich the Council's ability to provide valuable insights as we prioritize our research - an important responsibility as the Center begins drafting its second 5-year strategic plan."

The six new NCCAM Council members are:

CARLO CALABRESE, N.D., M.P.H., research professor at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM); senior investigator at NCNM's Helfgott Research Institute; clinical assistant professor at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU); and clinical investigator at Kaiser Center for Health Research, Portland, OR. He was a founder and co-director of Bastyr University's Research Institute and taught epidemiology and biostatistics at Bastyr. He has conducted studies on nutrients, botanicals, and CAM practices and is an author of 20 papers and 7 book chapters on CAM research. His current work is in clinical trials of natural products and CAM approaches in diabetes, cognitive performance, and inflammatory conditions.

JEANETTE M. EZZO, PH.D., M.P.H., Ms.T., research director of JPS Enterprises, a company based in Takoma Park, MD, specializing in designing and developing evidence-based CAM materials for a variety of audiences. Dr. Ezzo has published systematic reviews on a variety of CAM modalities including acupuncture, mind-body therapies, and massage. In addition to a background in epidemiology and biostatistics, she is a certified massage therapist who maintains a private practice in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Ezzo also teaches critical appraisal skills to breast cancer advocacy groups.

ROBERT E. FULLILOVE, III, ED.D., associate dean for community and minority affairs and professor of clinical sociomedical sciences at Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, New York, NY. He currently co-directs the Community Research Group at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University along with his wife, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D. The Fulliloves are also co-directors of a newly formed degree program in urbanism and community health in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Mailman.

L. DAVID HILLIS, M.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX. Dr. Hillis has performed extensive clinical research in patients with ischemic, valvular, and congenital heart disease, and with colleagues has done a series of studies on the influence of cocaine on the heart. Coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 50 book chapters and review articles, he is also the primary author of "Manual of Clinical Problems in Cardiology", now in its 6th edition. He serves on the editorial boards of the "New England Journal of Medicine", "Circulation", and "American Journal of Cardiology".

BALA V. MANYAM, M.D., professor, Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine, and director, Plummer Movement Disorders Center, Temple, TX, where he established a basic science laboratory and clinical center for movement disorders. He also performs research on Ayurvedic drugs, especially for degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Manyam has authored more than 170 publications, including book chapters on movement disorders, Ayurveda, general neurology, and the history of neurology. He has served on the editorial boards of "Neuroepidemiology" and "Phytotherapy Research".

JOEL G. PICKAR, D.C., PH.D., associate professor at the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research at Palmer College of Chiropractic, Davenport, IA. Prior to joining the Center in 1999, Dr. Pickar was an associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at Kansas State University. Dr. Pickar's research laboratory is studying neurophysiological issues related to the vertebral column and to chiropractic manipulation. He is on the advisory editorial board for "The Spine Journal" and has published 3 book chapters and more than 30 articles.

NCCAM, a component of the National Institutes of Health, DHHS, is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226 or visit NCCAM's Web site at http://nccam.nih.gov.

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