Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
By Shezna Shums
Acupuncture, the ancient natural and art of healing, can treat many illnesses without causing any side effects. This along with Shiatsu, a Japanese type of massage, provides relief from various physical and mental ailments. Because these methods assist the movement of energy in the body. Acupuncture as well as Shiatsu helps to move energy from where there is excess to places in the body where there is a deficiency.
Dr. Laurel Botsford who has visited Sri Lanka several times, now resides here. She has studied and now practices acupuncture as well as Shiatsu.
She said that though throughout her life she has practiced Shiatsu the Japanese massaging technique, it was only after being treated by acupuncture for a physical ailment, she was convinced that this was an excellent method of healing . "I was told that I would have to live with the pain - however after being treated with acupuncture I was completly cured," emphasised Botsford.
What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a therapy of physical and energy rebalancing. This massage is done by using pressure with the thumbs, fingers, and palms which are then applied to areas and points in the human body, in order to evenly redistribute the energy in the body so that there is no excess or shortage of energy.
Advantages of Shiatsu
Increases flexibility of the skin Improves the circulatory system Aids digestion Regulates the functions of the nerves
Shiatsu is an oriental therapy, which is based on principles of oriental medicine where health is a balance of energy in the body.
"When I went to Dr Anton Jayasuriya's clinic in Kalubowila I saw that the people around me were being healed and so was I, everyone was healing, that was pretty wonderful." she said.
After studying and working with Dr. Anton Jayasuriya for more than a year, she now practices both these methods on her own. She also feels that acupuncture is complemented by Shiatsu which is the art of balancing the energy levels in the body.
Botsford believes that "acupuncture is a fascinating way to heal people." Acupuncture heals so many different things and many people do not realise how many illnesses can be treated with acupuncture.
The theory behind alternative medicine revolves around the idea of balancing energy levels in the body and providing equal levels of energy.
She noted that in her practice of both acupuncture and Shiatsu she goes to people's homes and treats them, while some people also visit her at her home.
She is also affiliated with Ultramedics at the World Trade Center and The Sanctuary Spa.
One day she hopes to have her own clinic for acupuncture and the other alternative methods she practices.
She also explained that people of all income groups seek acupuncture and that slowly the world is changing towards looking at alternative medicine as being very reliable.
Botsford an American, stated that she only practices alternative healing in Sri Lanka and noted that if she has a patient who she feels needs more attention she takes them to someone with more experience.
She pointed out that alternative medicine is increasingly accepted in the USA, because surveys show that over 50 percent of people seeking treatment first try alternative medicine over conventional medicine, because the practice and acceptance of alternative medicine is growing, around the world.
Describing the practice of acupuncture she says that it is a simple pinprick in different parts of the body, depending on the ailments of the person. After this, the person is made to relax and practice slow rhythmic breathing for about half an hour after which the needles will be taken out. This process will be repeated until the patient is healed of the illness.
However she does acknowledge that many people are afraid of the needle but assures that these are tiny needles that can hardly be felt except at sensitive places.
It is the Chinese, who documented the acupuncture points in the body for illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and even asthma because acupuncture does not merely control the illness but cures it as well.
She stated that many of her patients who suffered from such illnesses are not even taking medication now because they have been cured by acupuncture. "Because the main thrust of alternative medicine is to balance the energy of the body in order to cure the person, so that the person will not have to go to the pharmacy or visit the doctor for the ailment again.
Many seeking treatment
She also said that she has treated many people with physical problems, even children, people who have been paralysed, people suffering from nerve problems, even cured smokers and obesity. Now she is treating a small boy who has been paralysed in the right side of his face after a brain operation and noted that he has shown tremendous improvement because he has started to smile and blink. Noting that even if it is only a finger that moves it is a huge achievement and even this is very encouraging for both the patient and doctor.
Botsford certainly speaks with pride and confidence when she refers to her patients whom she has helped with acupuncture.
"Acupuncture is phenomenal for such patients," stressed Botsford who has treated and improved a number of paralysed patients. Even if there are no Western cures for such illnesses, acupuncture can help them.
Botsford not only practices acupuncture and Shiatsu, but she is also qualified in energy healing, colourtherapy, homeopathy, auriculotherapy, reflexology, lasertherapy and physiotherapy. http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/news/iss0704/alternativemed0703.html
July 3, 2004
For equine veterinarian Dr. Karen Gellman — and an increasing number of other professionals in the field — the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture and other forms of complementary medicine don't have to be exclusively reserved for humans.
Gellman, who serves the greater Finger Lakes region as well as central New Jersey, specializes in treating equine performance problems using acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation and physical therapy.
Her career path initially led her in several different directions. She studied ancient Greek at Cornell University with plans to stay in academia, then moved to New York City after graduating to work in professional theater, and later became a designer for Christian Dior Lingerie. It was in New York City where she rediscovered her love for horses, trotting through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and decided to attend the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell.
Since earning her doctorate in locomotion biomechanics in 2001, the Ithaca-based vet has found her niche doing specialty veterinary work and research on horses.
One of the initial things Gellman does when visiting a patient is to evaluate the way the horse stands. Ideally, she said, it should stand straight up and down like a table with weight evenly distributed to all legs.
"There's a variety of reasons why the posture can be incorrect. A very common one is problems with the feet, and also it can be other places where the nervous system is being interfered with — like being stuck in the top of the neck where it joins the head," she said, adding that problems with dental occlusion can throw off the balancing system in the horse's brain.
Other problems might include stiffness, resistance, obscure lameness, back pain and behavioral issues.
This is where acupuncture and other manual therapies — combined with conventional veterinary medicine — can work to correct these problems, Gellman said.
During a recent visit to Mary DeMico's farm in Clifton Springs, Gellman diagnosed, evaluated and treated a 23-year-old Arab that DeMico said hasn't been ridden in a year because of soreness in her front feet.
"When a horse is standing like this and thinks it's normal, it means her brain is giving messages that her ground environment is other than what it is," Gellman said, pointing out the horse's weight shift to the rear quarters and bracing front feet.
"I mean she's standing on pretty level ground, but she's positioning her body as if she's standing on a hill," Gellman said. "We need to correct her brain so that she stands up straight but also correct the signals that go to the brain which has to do with where her feet are," she added.
Gellman's holistic approach is becoming more widely accepted — with plenty of clinical research and scientific backing in the field — and especially as more people embrace the treatments for themselves.
About a year ago, DeMico was in search of an alternative form of medicine for her horse, Feather, when she saw Gellman treating several horses in Newark.
"I saw her working on the horses at Everybody Rides doing chiropractic work and acupuncture. And it was at this time that I was trying to find a new approach for Feather," she said.
DeMico noticed her horse's lameness about a year and a half ago after a normal ride.
"At the time, I figured she was getting older and that's just the way it was. But the following spring when she was just laying out in the pasture — this wasn't normal," she said.
Part of the approach that Gellman uses involves assessing the animal's overall health and condition — rather than looking at specific parts independently of one another — to determine how well it will respond to a particular treatment.
Many of the cases that get referred to Gellman are for back pain and lameness that doesn't seem to go away or isn't easily diagnosed. Things to look for in a horse that could benefit from this treatment are general, ongoing signs of discomfort; saddle irritation; tooth grinding or tail swishing; resistance when asking the horse to do something; grumpiness; and sensitivity in the back.
"Alternative therapies have been pretty active in the vet field for the last 15 to 20 years. The degree that keeps changing is the level of acceptance in the world of traditional medicine, both human and animal. There's a certain consumer-driven aspect of acceptance. People want to use these therapies for their animals because they're using them for themselves," Gellman said.
Gellman has recently accepted a position on the advisory board of the Equus Academy Foundation — an organization founded by acclaimed horse trainer J.P. Giacomini — to assist in creating a national riding school and equine locomotion research facility in Kentucky.
Gellman said the center could be the best in the world, noting that much of the research being done on biomechanics is with equipment designed for humans, rather than animals. The new facility would have equipment designed specifically for quadrupeds, allowing for a detailed analysis of each individual limb of the horse.
"We hope to revolutionize the way that locomotion research is done by making it species appropriate," she said.
Gellman would serve as the director of research for the facility, continuing her research of locomotion biomechanics. Researchers would also seek to learn more about the horse and rider as a pair.
She is also working on two chapters for a textbook being co-edited by Cornell University's Dr. Kevin Haussler. The book will delve into manual therapies including chiropractic manipulation, osteopathy, physical therapy and massage therapy. Gellman's contribution will cover postural rehabilitation as well as biomechanical injury associated with particular equine sports such as horse racing.
For more information, contact Gellman at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (607) 227-5406.
Courtesy: Finger Lake Times
Posted on Mon, Jul. 05, 2004
By Raymond H. Kocot
Kudos to the editors of The Sun News for having the courage to publish Daniel Conover's article "S.C. professor fights for theory" April 12. The article describes the protracted efforts of Dr. Christian Schwabe, a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, to publish his evolution theory "Genomic Potential Hypothesis" in the major scientific journals.
While it is normal for the major journals to validate the scientific integrity of the research papers submitted, I suspect a sort of Darwinian litmus test involving ideological considerations is being used to reject ideas that ignore and/or oppose Darwinism.
To allow publication of a theory challenging Darwinism, which professor Schwabe has already done, would expose the trade secret of evolutionary biology to the world.
Back in 1973, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard exposed what he called "the trade secret of paleontology" - the nonexistent fossil series supporting Darwin's theory.
Zealots of the church of Darwin never quite forgave Gould.
Evidence of the perversion of biology is the fact that even today the gatekeepers for college textbooks, encyclopedias and television's nature programs still give pride and place to paleontology along with other frauds as support for Darwin's macroevolution.
The trade secret of the church of Darwin, that life arose by chance from lifeless chemical and evolved, by chance, into a series from bacteria to man (goo-to-you), is not a scientific theory.
Scientific theories must be observable, testable and must yield reproducible results using the scientific method. With respect to goo-to-you evolutionary events, professor of evolutionary biology Ernst Mayr of Harvard had this to say in Scientific American: "Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain." In other words, unique events like the origin of life and Darwinism's evolution theory - and, yes, creation - are not testable and therefore must rest on stories.
Well, if no experimental facts exist to support goo-to-you evolution, why do evolutionists always win the debates in state school boards? Answer: The leaders of the church of Darwinism play their trump card by threatening the offending state boards of education (or schools) with loss of accreditation. Therefore, Darwinism's myth continues to be taught as a scientific theory and students are given textbooks that contain half-truths while professors recite mantras that are portrayed as science.
I've used "church of Darwin" to reveal the religiouslike faith in two supernatural stories. The third supernatural story describes the origin of the universe. Big Bang Inflation theory (2004) touts that quantum fluctuations created from nothingness our space-time universe. This story is also supernatural because the "creator" (quantum fluctuations) acted prior to the existence of the natural laws. Get it? Super. Natural. So then, all three unique events; the origin of space-time, the origin of life and goo-to-you evolution theory, must rest on stories, not experimental science.
Finally, keeping all the above in mind, Darwinism's religious zealots have circled the wagons around the church of Darwin to ward off scientific attacks.
Schwabe's "genomic potential hypothesis" is a new theory that scientifically challenges Darwinism's single random-chance event and natural-selection theory. Countering Darwinism, Schwabe's theory posits that life on Earth arose from multiple predictable chemical processes.
Unfortunately, the professor's theory sounds too much like the creationist's intelligent-design theory mentioned by another biochemist, Michael Behe, in his book, "Darwin's Black Box."
I believe professor Schwabe is being punished by the church of Darwin for his apostasy.
The writer, a truth in science advocate, lives in Murrells Inlet.
© 2004 The Sun News and wire service sources
CHABOT SPACE & SCIENCE CENTER
- Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Some of the world's first professional sky watchers were court seers and bureaucrats working for the rulers of ancient China, whose divine right to govern depended on knowing something about celestial events.
Missing an eclipse could cost someone his job -- or his life. And so, for thousands of years, the Chinese built an astounding collection of instruments and detailed written accounts of the night skies, including some of the world's earliest known observations of comets, sunspots and supernovas.
"There's an enormous amount of material there," said David Pankenier, a professor of Chinese language at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and co- author of a two-volume translation of the ancient Chinese records. "For anyone with at least a layman's interest in science and science history, it makes a fascinating story."
Yet few people outside the People's Republic of China and scholarly circles have had any chance to encounter the elaborately decorated armillary spheres, royal gnomons and oracle bones that recall ancient China's vanished "celestial empire."
Now, under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland hopes to lift the veil on this hermetic world with a major traveling exhibit.
"Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China" is scheduled to open Saturday for a six-month run at Chabot (10000 Skyline Blvd. in Oakland, www.chabotspace.org) before heading out on a seven-city national tour.
The exhibit at the 86,000-square-foot facility high in the East Bay hills promises to be an eye-opener on several counts.
"The great thing for me about Dragon Skies is that it crosses so many boundaries," said Alexandra Barnett, Chabot's executive director, citing the exhibit's scientific as well as cultural, historical and even aesthetic appeal.
The exhibit took about three years to pull together, starting with efforts by Barnett's predecessor, Michael Reynolds, and colleagues to gather up the technical background and financial support, while also winning the cooperation of the authorities in Beijing and Nanjing.
The talks ultimately could not overcome a ban on transporting national treasures out of China. As a result, some visitors may be disappointed to discover that many of the 32 artifacts that form the core of the Chabot exhibit are replicas or working models.
And some of the showpieces have little to do with astronomy. One of the more charming replicas, for instance, is of an ancient Chinese seismograph, which registered earthquakes by means of a clever system of bronze balls dropped from the hinged mouths of carved metal dragons, to be caught by open- mouthed frogs stationed below, whenever the ground shook.
But the exhibit also includes many tangible links to a realm of skilled sky watchers -- including relics never before seen in the United States.
The oldest original artifacts, for instance, are eight fragments of oracle bones. Their minute cracks, formed when burnt with a hot poker, were used to read the future by court astrologers during the Shang Dynasty, as early as 1700 B.C.
Other genuine artifacts include a rubbing from an ancient stone star chart, used to educate young emperors of the Song Dynasty, which dates from 1279 to 960 B.C. One of the more recent relics, from the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) shows the stars of the northern sky on a fan decorated with gold dust.
Perhaps the most unusual artifact, possibly the only one of its kind to have survived to the modern era, is a bronze gnomon, a timekeeping tool used to determine the arrival of the solstices over the course of a year. Most such devices were quite large, but the one in the Chabot show is a portable version, a sort of traveling alarm clock of the Eastern Han Dynasty, which dates to the turn of the first millennium.
The working models include a gravity-powered clock tower whose flowing water kept the time, and which also incorporates a rotating celestial globe and armillary sphere, both important astronomical tools of the ancient Chinese court.
About a dozen interactive exhibits have been designed to give museumgoers and schoolkids a crack at using such ancient tools to find stars, check the time or compare Chinese and Western constellations.
"It's going to be a revelation," said Sue Yung Li, a San Francisco landscape architect and documentary filmmaker who served on a cultural advisory committee for the exhibit planners.
The Chabot exhibit is one of the only China astronomy exhibits "so well focused with solid academic background," said Edwin C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Krupp, a longtime Chinese-astronomy scholar, was among the first U.S. scientists to conduct research in China after travel restrictions were lifted in the early 1970s. The ancient Chinese were unique in their devotion to accurate record keeping, Krupp said, producing accounts of eclipses and comets still used by modern astronomers otherwise limited to roughly 500 years of Western observations.
Before the Renaissance, there was no systematic account of night skies as seen from Europe, and the widely held perception in the West is that the first important stargazing traces no further back than the time of Galileo, Copernicus and Newton.
But the Chinese, and later the Koreans and Japanese, had a head start of perhaps 2,000 years or so, leaving a continuous set of celestial records that goes back at least to 1500 B.C.
Most famously, the Chinese sky watchers took note in A.D. 1054 of an odd "guest star" -- later appreciated as a contemporary record, unmatched in European annals, of the exploding star that gave birth to the famed gas cloud known as the Crab Nebula.
It's little wonder that the Chinese left the best account of one of cosmology's seminal events.
"Some people's job was to go out every night and record everything," Krupp said. "This kind of deadly serious, official-business approach to astronomy is not the kind of thing that prevailed in Europe at the time."
It even took the continuity of the Chinese records for the Europeans to decipher some of their own legacy -- recognizing, for instance, that a fuzzy object in the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest of England in 1066, was Halley's Comet.
Most of the key Chinese astronomical achievements are summarized in a 1996 account by Kevin Yau, an astronomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Yau and colleagues have used the Chinese records to calculate the slowdown of Earth's rotation as well as gravitational perturbations affecting comets as they pass through the solar system.
Despite that, Yau said, the Chinese really "weren't much as astronomers."
Science, as that term is now understood, had little to do with the celestial observations of Imperial China. Instead, the point was to prop up the king's power, time seasonal plantings, and pick out the portents of doom and good fortune -- all things considered heaven-sent.
"They were observers of the sky," Yau said. "They were interested in anything they could observe with the naked eye at the time, because the king was interested in omens."
E-mail Carl Hall at email@example.com.
Page B - 1
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
By JENNY JOHNSON Staff Reporter
DARBY - The objective origins science policy that churned in Darby for more than six months is extinct.
"Today the community is beaming with relief," said trustee Mary Lovejoy. School board trustees voted 3-2 Monday against the policy in second reading. The vote kills the policy that called for teachers to question the theory of evolution, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. Passing the second reading would have made Darby the first school district in Montana to have such a policy, for which a curriculum would follow.
The former board approved the policy, also on a 3-2 vote, in early February. But passing a second reading is required before the policy could be adopted.
Critics of objective origins say it's a way to insert religion in the classroom and argue the current curriculum and textbooks treat evolution as a theory, allowing students to assess the theory alongside their own paradigms.
A majority of the current board was concerned that the policy wasn't approved by the Montana Office of Public Instruction and was the focus of threatened lawsuits over its constitutionality.
The issue sharply divided the community and drew more than 50 percent of registered voters to the polls in May. Campaigns for two seats on the school board centered on the policy, and voters changed the make up of the board, effectively killing the policy before fruition.
"I asked to have this put on the agenda," said board Chairman Bob Wetzsteon. "I think it's clear where the board stands, and I wanted to get this put away."
The agenda item drew criticism from proponents of the policy who said the board had agreed to have the second reading in August.
Darby resident Joe McCrossin said putting the item on the agenda Monday - a specially scheduled monthly meeting that fell on a national holiday - was sneaky and underhanded.
"I have not had time to prepare," said trustee Doug Banks, who twice voted for the policy. "My concerns have been neglected. The actual process is as important as the actual vote."
Banks said there was new information about the policy available since the first reading. Voting on the policy before that information was part of the record "circumvented the process," he said.
"There is a large volume of new material available since the first reading," said Jack Frank, a Hamilton resident who heads Montana Advocates for True Science. "I think you should table it to let me prepare to comment."
Trustees considered tabling the issue until August, but voted 3-2 to vote on the policy Monday. Banks and Elisabeth Bender voted to table the issue, and Lovejoy, Erik Abrahamsen and Wetzsteon pushed forward with the vote and finished off the policy.
"People certainly have spoken their mind before the first reading," Wetzsteon said. "I really feel it's important to move forward - it's important for the district."
Hundreds of people chimed in on the issue during nine hours of public comment in three public meetings last winter. The issue evolved from the Darby school board room to a national arena as media from all over the country started paying attention to Darby, which educates about 400 students.
The policy doesn't specifically include language requiring any sort of religion to be part of science class, but instructs teachers to challenge the theory of evolution. Teachers are "encouraged to help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution."
"All this is just good science - looking critically at evolution," Banks said. "Why are we afraid of going there?"
Banks also cited language in the national No Child Left Behind Act, developed by education officials in Ohio that support the proposed policy, that requires critical analysis of evolution and curriculum.
"Darby has the opportunity to be the first," Frank said. "It's inevitable."
Others questioned the personal beliefs of trustees and the facts that led to the decision not to approve the policy, including whether trustees believed the issue was under the jurisdiction of "local control."
"I don't understand what you're afraid of," said Gina Schallenberger, who chaired the board during the bulk of the policy's controversy.
While most policy opponents deny the policy is religiously motivated, it was initially proposed by the Rev. Curtis Brickley as a push to teach intelligent design - a biological origins theory that assumes there is a designer of the biological world but stops short of saying who or what that designer is.
"I can't get over it's first introduction as ID," Lovejoy said.
Besides a potential lawsuit over the policy, opponents said the issue should be brought up at the state level.
"I'm a Republican and a Christian who doesn't believe in evolution," Darby parent Jennifer Ray said. "And my children learn evolution and still carry their beliefs with them."
Ray said Darby teachers already allow discussion about alternative beliefs in the classroom.
"If it ain't broke...," Darby parent Eli Hansen said. "Science is taught carefully. Science is science."
Reporter Jenny Johnson can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wed, Jul 7, 2004
By Kyle Gearhart
For the Journal
Acceptance of alternative and complementary forms of medicine to deal with aches, pains and other ailments is pushing local care health providers to make changes.
Interest in acupuncture and massage has grown quickly at the 16-month old Center for Integrative Health, part of Community Health Care clinics. Growing numbers of patients have pushed the center to move from an off-site space at 2801 Westhill Drive this week to separate offices in three clinic locations.
"We've had phenomenal growth," said Dr. Hilary Scully, a family physician and acupuncturist who started the Center for Integrative Health. "We hired an acupuncturist last October for two days a week. He was working three days a week and will now go to four days a week." Across the country, a survey of 31,000 U.S. adults found that 36 percent used some form of complementary or alternative medicine, whether receiving acupuncture or chiropractic care from a provider or using herb or vitamin therapies on their own, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2002 National Health Interview Survey.
Acupuncture, which uses small needles to stimulate points on the body, is used most often to treat pain and has proven effective in helping cancer patients with nausea and vomiting.
"At least half of the patients I see are using something considered complementary (in conjunction with Western medicine), whether it's acupuncture, massage therapy, vitamin E, ginseng or garlic," said Rebecca Richards, a nurse practitioner at Marshfield Clinic-Marshfield Center's hematology and oncology department. "Acupuncture is clearly much more mainstream than it used to be - the same is true for biofeedback." Richards and some of the clinic's physicians will refer patients for acupuncture or other treatments if they think it will help. But unlike patients, who might be drawn to acupuncture or massage by a friend's testimonial or their own experience, Richards and physicians reserve referrals only for certain scientifically proven treatments.
"We want to hold these treatments up to the same standards that we hold other (Western) treatments up to," Richards said. "It's in its infancy. We'll see more study, more knowledge and more progress. We are also beginning to see many more resources available for people to make the right choices." One of those people is Betty Pound, 54, of the town of Maine. She's had arthritis since she was 17. As she got older the pain worsened, and about five years ago a car accident created constant knee pain. Pound found that acupuncture eased her pain. She was able to lessen the frequency of her treatments from once a week to months over more than a year of treatment. She now uses Reiki, a form of energy and meditative healing.
"You don't heal diseased joints," Pound said. "But what I find with Reiki is that if I start in the morning I am completely mobile. If not, if I skip a day or two, then it's painful." Reiki is part of Pound's daily life. In fact, she started a business in Rib Mountain called Inner Well devoted to its practice. But just as the doctors use evidence-based studies before recommending complementary approaches, Pound took time to study psychology to better understand how her Reiki practice works on the mind and body.
Scully hopes to win more converts, both patients and physicians, to the benefits of acupuncture, massage and other complementary medicines. Integrating the Center for Integrative Health into the Family Health Specialists clinic in Wausau, the CHC-Weston Clinic and the General Clinic in Antigo, will help to do that.
"Now it will become more common. We'll build those relationships," Scully said. "One of the things we really wanted to do was integrate into the hospital and offer massage and acupuncture. To grow we couldn't have our own place to make this mainstream."
Copyright © 2004
Wednesday July 7, 2004
The education secretary, Charles Clarke, today sought to defend the Department for Education and Skills's (DfES) five-year plan - due to be published tomorrow - as dissent grew over plans to reduce the role of local education authorities (LEAs).
Amid confusion over what tomorrow's announcement will contain, with the prime minister preparing to make a speech on the subject this afternoon, Mr Clarke attempted to quell fears that LEAs would become redundant as part of the government's plans to give schools greater independence.
He told the Commons education select committee that a role for town halls would remain.
Mr Clarke went on to defend plans for a major expansion of city academy schools - independent schools financed by the government - and rejected allegations that the scheme allowed independent organisations too much control over the curriculum.
His comments follow reports that the DfES new five-year plan will involve the marginalisation of town halls as schools get full control over their budgets. The Local Government Association (LGA) reacted angrily, declaring a serious breakdown in communication had taken place.
Asked if the government was planning to instigate direct funding from the DfES to schools, bypassing the funding role of LEAs, Mr Clarke said: "I don't think so myself. The idea of funding 28,000 schools directly is hard to see.
"We want to give a very strong role to LEAs. The idea that the DfES can press a button here and sort out a problem there is not viable."
Mr Clarke went on to say that by strengthening the requirement on LEAs to passport all the funds they receive for education to schools and colleges and introducing a three-year budgeting programme, LEAs would stay in the loop, and schools would have a greater ability to plan.
Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the committee, told reporters afterwards that Mr Clarke was launching a "charm offensive" following the souring of relations between the government and the LGA over the plans, the final version of which will be confirmed tomorrow.
This morning, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the newly elected Conservative chairman of the LGA, warned that a "serious breakdown" had developed between the government and council over the issue of schools.
Mr Sheerman went on to accuse the government of taking a "risky strategy" over its plans to expand the city academy programme by 200 new schools, details of which are also expected to be confirmed tomorrow.
During the meeting, Mr Clarke insisted that the expansion of the city academies programme was the right way forward despite the impact of the initial phase - the introduction of 12 academies so far - not having yet been properly assessed.
"There will certainly be a proper assessment," he said. "We will look carefully at it [the inital phase]. It would be foolish not to do so. But does that mean we should be frozen? No I don't think it does."
Mr Sheerman replied: "If this government believes in evidence-based policy, then not waiting for the policy is a risky strategy."
Describing the city academy programme as a "bazooka" for driving up standards in struggling inner-city areas, Mr Clarke rejected Mr Sheerman's suggestion that the academies allowed for "evangelical" groups to teach creationism as an alternative to traditional science in schools.
"If the teaching in the schools suggests that science as a way of looking at the world is wrong, I would be very concerned. I think that would be very damaging and I would take that seriously," he said.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Kate Jackson, Wales on Sunday PSYCHIC Monica Pearson claims she was haunted by the ghost of James Dean for 40 years - until she eventually told him to leave.
His presence never worried her and she came to regard him as part of the family.
But when Monica's husband, Jimmy, became terminally ill, she had to say goodbye to the ultimate rebel for good.
"There was no way I could focus on Jimmy with James around," said Monica, 60, who is a member of the Psychic Circle. "I remember sitting in my living room one day and said to him, 'There's no use hanging about - I will love you to eternity, but you have to go. You have to cross over'.
"He still hangs around now and again, I know he does."
Monica, from Bridgend, discovered her psychic gift at a very young age, but she had no idea it was the Rebel Without a Cause actor who had paid her a visit.
She said: "I was 12 and I was sitting in my bedroom reading, and listening to music. I looked up and this man came through the window. He literally melted from outside in. He was solid.
"He looked like a normal human being - he was in a brown suit and had an open neck white shirt. His hair was blonde, eyes blue and he had a cheeky grin. His hands were in his pockets. He walked past my bed and slowly walked through the wall.
"A few weeks later, I went to school and a friend showed me a picture in her magazine of James Dean. Everything went quiet. It was as though time stopped."
By ANIL DAWARin London
July 2, 2004
IF you have ever felt that someone is watching you, sending prickles up your neck, it might not have been just your imagination.
Scientists have found evidence to suggest we do have a sixth sense and can tell when we are being watched, even through CCTV.
This shows humans could have paranormal powers, say researchers at Germany's Freiberg University.
Dr Stefan Schmidt and his team carried out two experiments a thousand times and believe they have finally proved the reality of the sixth sense.
The first, called "remote staring", consisted of a volunteer in a sealed room watching a second volunteer in another room via CCTV.
The second volunteer was hooked up to electrodes which recorded the "prickle" or electrical activity of the skin. This was compared when the volunteer was or was not being watched.
In the second experiment, called "direct mental interaction", the first volunteer concentrated on making the second feel uncomfortable or relaxed from within the sealed cell.
The German team used a complex statistical scale to grade the studies according to reliability and paranormal effect recorded.
In other experiments, the starer tried to make the other feel either uncomfortable or relaxed. Again, the electronic monitor proved repeatedly that it could be done.
In the British Journal of Psychology, Dr Schmidt noted that the data was ambiguous but found that "for both data sets there is a small but significant effect".
While the findings will please believers in the paranormal, they are not enough to convince the sceptics.
Psychology professor Richard Wiseman, of Hertfordshire University, said: "The number of times you turn around and find someone not looking at you far outnumber the times when you do but you only remember the times you turned round to see someone looking."
Back in the 1960s Czech psychologist Milan Ryzl did a series of experiments with two supposedly telepathic people who were many kilometres apart.
The "sender" was asked to try to make the "receiver" feel uncomfortable by imagining that he had been buried alive, and succeeded in inducing a crippling attack of asthma.
Mr Ryzl was inspired by a colleague, Stepan Figar, who had proved that when one person concentrates on another, it can actually cause a measurable rise in blood pressure.
The Daily Telegraph
This report was published at www.dailytelegraph.com.au
July 6, 2004
BY ALICE HOHL
A Lockport man who describes himself as a doctor and advertises on his Web sites that he offers a cure for cancer and affordable health care for all has been ordered to stop practicing medicine without a medical license.
In April, the state Department of Finance and Professional Regulation wrote to Bob Jerrolds, who refers to himself as "Dr. Jerrolds," asking him to prove he shouldn't be disciplined for "holding yourself out to treat human ailments including cancer, while not being a licensed physician in the state of Illinois."
Subsequently, Fernando Grillo, director of the state agency, issued an order that said, in part: "It is therefore ordered that Robert Jerrolds immediately cease and desist the practice of medicine which includes, but is not limited to, treating human ailments including cancer in the State of Illinois."
Jerrolds had planned to offer a laser treatment he called the "Cancer Cell Terminator" at a clinic he was going to open in Joliet, as well as at other clinics he advertised as National Healthcare Center that he planned to open in the Chicago area and nationwide. He said he would offer medical care and insurance.
Jerrolds said he planned to hire three physicians from out of state, but Illinois officials said they were unable to find proof those three were licensed in any state.
His cancer-fighting claims centered on a supposed treatment that would use a laser to kill cancer cells by heating them to 107 degrees. "The patient would virtually be treated one time and live the rest of their life cancer-free," Jerrolds said in a news release last fall.
Jerrolds said he does not own laser equipment and that the news release was meant to be part of a discussion of alternative treatments.
The news release last fall also described treatment at Jerrolds' clinic as "more nightclub atmosphere than medical center. All the sizzle and excitement of a fine casino."
But, after the state first warned him about holding himself out as a doctor, he said he lost his investors.
"Everything's pretty much on hold right now," said Jerrolds, who'd also planned to offer "clinical" massage and creams and lotions to eliminate varicose veins and enhance breasts.
Jerrolds said he practices naturopathic medicine out of his Lockport home. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, naturopathy combines therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, pharmacology and Chinese practices.
Jerrolds said he studied at the Herbal Healers Academy in Arkansas, which has been sued by the Arkansas attorney general for practicing medicine without a license and training others to do so. "None of the coursework offered can actually lead to licensing as a naturopathic physician," the Arkansas attorney general's office says in a letter warning consumers about the Academy.
Richard J. Harper 06.07.2004
A craziness difficult to understand for Europeans
A scientist looking back on his life and his work on his 100th birthday reveals some genuine problems of someEnglish speaking countries regarding the history of life
Science magazine on July 2nd published an article by Ernst Mayr, written on his 100th birthday. Mayr is a giant both in evolutionary theory and in the writing of the history of evolutionary theory. Mayr reflects that he isn't really clear on when exactly he became an evolutionist. In the gymnasium he attended evolution was taken for granted. He received all of his education including his Ph. D. in Germany. Like many of the world's best evolutionists he wound up teaching in the U.S.. So why is evolution and creationism still such a big issue there?
In the early 1900s most industrialized countries implemented mass public educational systems under central government control. Much of the motivation involved the need for economies to be internationally competitive. But in the U.S. there wasn't the same sense of competitive urgency. Additionally, since the Civil War in the 1860s "States Rights" issues have had a major base of support in the South. As a result the U.S. developed an almost completely decentralized educational system, independently administered by each individual state. While European countries were developing standardized nation-wide teaching practices and curriculum standards the U.S. did not. Creationists have both supported the decentralization as well as exploited it.
As with the racial segregation of schools up through the 1960s, creationism also has tended to be strongest in the states of the Civil War South, though it is by no means restricted to there! However, I know of no one from the South who learned about evolution in school before college. Teachers are often subtly (and not too subtly) discouraged from even mentioning evolution. So with schools teaching around evolution and many churches actively arguing against evolution many students only ever hear creationist arguments.
In the past creationists tried to pass laws forbidding the teaching of evolution, such as in the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial", one of the most famous trials of the 20th century. Scopes taught biology using a book that included a discussion of evolution. At first he was convicted but on appeal the case was decided on a technicality instead of constitutional grounds. (In 1968 the Supreme Court finally ruled that laws forbidding the teaching of evolution are unconstitutional).
Within the United States the Deep South has the poorest standardized test scores. Among industrialized nations the U.S. consistently ranks toward the bottom on most scales, even while spending more than average.
Education is often listed in public polls as one of the top presidential campaign issues. Presidential candidates usually try to portray themselves as being for educational-reform. When they can they refer to programs they enacted while governors. But once elected to the presidency nothing substantial happens. The sad political reality is the forces against change are organized, and the forces for reform are unorganized.
Governmental institutions run by locally-elected officials are highly susceptible to influence by special interest groups. The most relevant interest groups here include construction companies, teacher unions, textbook companies, and creationists. Local construction companies use their political influence to win lucrative contracts. Teacher unions, like state and municipal unions generally, are among the most successful unions today. As opposed to national-level government unions such as postal workers and air traffic controllers.
Textbook companies sell different textbooks in different states – it's big business. The tragic result usually has been textbooks of incredibly low quality, like described by Richard Feynman and later published as a chapter in his autobiographical book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!". And, of course, the creationists. As part of the political "religious right" they have in recent decades exerted considerable influence as when Reagan made a campaign promise to abolished the federal Department of Education. All of these political forces work toward keeping the educational system decentralized, over-ruling the widely-held public sense of badly needed reform, and resulting in creationism as a persistent issue in the United States.
Many people often underestimate creationists. The most recent creationist spin is intelligent design theory, which is mostly being argued for at the level of the universities. For the latest on these issues I recommend the just-published book Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross. Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson says it is "...the definitive work on modern creationism".
I find myself wondering... if Mayr had grown up in the United States would he have even gone into biology ?!
Richard Harper studied evolution at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and was a member of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology
Sunday, July 4, 2004
By Steve Eighinger
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Much has been made about the 25th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention's return to its conservative roots, which in the summer of 1979 set the stage for one of the most tumultuous periods in the denomination's 159-year history.
The Rev. Tom Rains of First Southern Baptist Church in Quincy remembers those times very well. He was part of them.
"I lived it, I have the battle scars," said Rains, a knowledgeable authority on church history who has missed only three of the last 25 Southern Baptist national conventions. "Never in the history of Christiandom had a denomination veered so far to the left and came back. They said it couldn't be done, but it was."
Rains said he sees the same kind of dilemma gripping other denominations a quarter of a century later, specifically pointing to the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists.
Rains said the Southern Baptists' problem stemmed from a liberal minority — his figure was 5 percent — of the denomination gradually working its way into positions of power over the course of several decades.
Rains said that minority was dictating stances, policy and schools of thought which were not in line with the faith's views on such issues as homosexuality, abortion, evolution/creationism and various Biblical accounts.
"What they were saying and teaching was not what was being preached in the pulpit," Rains said. "It was not a political thing, not at all. It came down to whether the Bible is the word of God without error and whether it is trustworthy. For example, there were (liberals) who said the first 11 chapters of Genesis were just folklore or Jewish myth.
"We took a stand, drew a line in the sand and said, 'No way.' "
Twenty-five years later, the conservatives are once again in full control of the Southern Baptist movement.
"The Southern Baptist Convention (denomination) is as strong, if not stronger, than ever before," Rains said. "And I publicly applaud the conservative Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists over their stances on homosexuality. We stand with them, applaud them and pray for them. It is one of those hate-the-sin, love the sinner things."
Rains said Southern Baptist conservatives regained control of their denomination through the proper channels, organizing lay members from coast to coast to vote in conservative national leaders.
Rains said the grassroots movement to return to a conservative stand started at the lay — or grassroots — level in an effort to regain academic and theological control of their colleges, universities and seminaries.
Rains said today lay members of the church no longer have to worry about what kind of education their children will receive at a Southern Baptist college.
"Will they be exposed to other thoughts? Yes," Rains said. "But it will be pointed out why (those other schools of thought) are wrong, without beating them to death."
Rains is a 1977 graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., and currently serves on the board of trustees for a 3,800-student Southern Baptist seminary in New Orleans.
The Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination with 16.3 million members in the United States. There are 45,000 Southern Baptist churches in North America, all but about 1,000 in the United States. Among the most well-known Southern Baptist leaders are the Rev. Billy Graham and the Rev. Charles Stanley.
While the conservatives are in control of the Southern Baptists, their battle against liberal theology is far from over. The Southern Baptists voted June 15 to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance, a federation of 46 million Baptists in 211 denominations.
Southern Baptist spokesmen said the move was due to some members of the alliance falling away from "the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit." The Southern Baptists helped launch the alliance 99 years ago.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said Southern Baptists should not give money or endorse an organization that includes liberals.
According to an Associated Press account, Patterson complained American Baptist Churches, a U.S. denomination, includes "gay-friendly congregations." He also said other members of the world alliance "call the inerrancy of Scripture into question."
The Southern Baptists had provided approximately one-third of the World Alliance's $1.7 million operating budget.
Contact Staff Writer Steve Eighinger at email@example.com or (217) 221-3377
©2004 The Quincy Herald-Whig
State used as metaphor for class "derangement"
By Dorman T. Shindler
Special to The Denver Post
Anyone with a whit of historical knowledge should wonder how Kansas - a state that led the fight for the abolition of slavery and was home to William Burroughs in his later life - has become a Republican stronghold during election years. Thomas Frank ("One Market Under God," "The Conquest of Cool") may not carry the same name recognition as Al Franken, but his writing packs the same sort of wit - albeit with fewer sophomoric puns.
In "What's the Matter With Kansas," Frank revisits his home state, using it as a metaphor for what he perceives to be a "species of derangement" that led to working-class people voting against their better interests and eventually putting the Republicans in charge of all three branches of our government.
Frank, a former Republican, revisits his home state to track his own - out of the Midwestern mainstream - conversion to being a Democrat and the rest of America's slow trudge to the right, starting with the Heartland.
A child of the '80s, Frank details his growing awareness that the sunshine former President Ronald Reagan pumped up everyone's pantaloons just might have been of the artificial sort.
"I thought of Western Kansas, a place I then knew only as a landscape seen from a car going seventy, as a sort of Holy Land of working-class naturalness and authenticity," he writes.
When a high school classmate reveals his plans to be a Democrat because it is part of the working class, the young Frank is genuinely shocked. Having grown up on the edges of one of the more affluent suburbs of Kansas City, and having played with the children of millionaires, Frank is further shocked to find he won't be attending the same East Coast colleges or be asked to join the elite fraternities when he enrolls at Kansas University.
While acknowledging his skirmishes in the class war were "small beer," Frank cites them to show how he eventually became aware of what he calls the myth perpetrated by the political right.
His finest chapters are those detailing how much the once radical state of Kansas has changed: This is the state where women's suffrage was first proposed in 1867, and where abortion rights were in full measure before Roe v. Wade in 1973. Or how the religious right started to overtake politics in the 1990s.
The portions where Frank airs what he feels is the chicanery of longstanding right-wing icons like Sen. Sam Brownback and John D. Altevogt (who led the charge to force creationism onto public schools and do away with teaching evolution) are particularly enlightening.
Obviously, there is some bias in Frank's book-length essay about middle-class America's strange embrace of politicians and systems that work against them. But his observation that Democrats are their own worst enemies is spot-on and the certain sign of a man who wishes to inspire an above-board, even-handed and informative debate.
A resident of Kansas City, Mo., for more than 14 years, Dorman T. Shindler is a freelance book reviewer.
Sunday, July 4, 2004
I notice lately the Dover school board has been getting criticized over the idea of creationism and evolution. Maybe they are trying to move in the right direction, but that will never happen because we have strayed so far from our beliefs and values. Morality doesn't seem to matter anymore.
What I don't get is why we can learn about other religions in school, but not what our own country was founded on. For those of you that think it is all about science, take a good hard look at our history. Of course, don't look too hard because you might find something to disprove your point. I also think it is ridiculous that anyone would consider taking "under God" out of the pledge. It was put there for a reason, and should not even be cause for discussion.
We ask what is wrong with the world. If we take some time to look at our Bibles, things may become a little clearer. It just saddens me to know that God is pushed aside by so many people. We all have the freedom and right to express our opinions. That's America, but that doesn't mean throwing God and everything we as a nation stand for out the window.
Shunning myriad real-life exciting experiences,doctor picks historical spoof for 1st book topic
By Joanna Massey, Globe Staff | July 4, 2004
After turning down an offer to pitch for the Boston Red Sox, surviving the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire, owning the country's winningest racehorse, and running a successful South Shore medical hair transplant clinic, Saul P. Davis could easily turn his life experiences into a book.
But at age 86, the Stoughton resident has instead based his first book, ''The History of Man (sort of): From Adam to Atom," on the lives of eight famous men, beginning with Genesis and ending with Albert Einstein.
The book, a biographical parody that has George Washington using chopped cherry wood to start Virginia Kitchens Inc. (''the first IPO of the New World," says Davis), grew out of the author's writings and letters to the editor at local newspapers on the debate over creationism versus evolution.
''To me, it was hilarious because no one knows and no one will ever know" the origins of life, Davis said. ''People draw all these conclusions and they're adamant about them, but it's silly because history can be interpreted so many ways. I decided to have some fun with that idea."
A well-known doctor who had a family practice in Brockton for 55 years, Davis also served as the city physician, and retired from practicing medicine in 2001. But he says he had little interest in writing about the medical world. He wrote ''The History of Man (sort of)" over the course of a year, starting in late 2002.
It began as a parody on the story of Adam and Eve. In Davis's version, a depressed Adam asks God for Prozac but is told his health insurance won't cover it. After the couple is banished from ''The Garden of Eden Resort," they settled along the Mediterranean Sea to raise a family.
''After I wrote that story, I thought, 'That's pretty funny. Who else can I do?' " said Davis, who moved from Brockton to Stoughton 15 years ago. ''Abraham was good because he started the first religion, and I saw a lot of humor in Moses leading his people out of the desert. Then of course I had to do Jesus."
After researching the lives of the other historical figures, including Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus, who he writes had such a poor sense of direction that as a child he ''couldn't find his rattle in his crib," Davis combined history with humor to sketch quirky vignettes.
The preface of the 115-page book reads: ''You will find this book very informative and interesting, or you won't." It is telling of the brand of irreverent humor that has characterized Davis throughout his life.
Born in 1918, he was raised in Boston and attended Boston College, where he made a name for himself playing baseball. After graduation in 1939, he spent a summer at a Red Sox camp for prospective players. But when it ended, Davis chose to become a doctor.
''It was pretty understood that I was going to be a doctor; everyone in my family was a doctor, and I had gone to medical school," he said.
When he was sent to intern at Brockton Hospital, he had never heard of the city, he said. In November 1942, during a rare Saturday night off from the hospital, he and his wife joined two other couples for dinner at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston. The sound of people yelling was the first clue that fire had broken out at the popular nightclub, he said. Shortly after, the lights went out.
Davis grabbed his wife by the hand and followed the crowd toward a rear door. But when they got there, more than 50 bodies were piled up, blocking the escape route. Choking from the thick smoke, Davis pushed his wife in the opposite direction, toward a basement kitchen he had seen waiters using. After breaking a cellar window, they were able to crawl outside.
''The police were good; they had lined up cabs at that point to take us to the hospital. When we got there, you could see dead, burned bodies lining the hallway," Davis said. His eyes tearing up, he recounted how two of his friends died in the fire, which killed close to 500 people. Another was hospitalized for months. ''I didn't talk about that night for a long, long time," he said.
When Davis finished his internship at Brockton Hospital, World War II had begun and he planned to join the Army as a physician. But hospital and city leaders convinced him he could help more by staying home and opening a medical practice to help alleviate the shortage of doctors.
His office on Pleasant Street was open for about 40 years and gave preference to those who could not afford to pay for medical care. In the late 1980s, Davis took a course on medical hair transplants and opened the Davis Medical Group specializing in the procedure, with offices in Brockton and Stoughton.
Around the same time, he bought a string of racehorses. One, named Moxie Town, won more races in 1986 than any other horse in the country, he said.
''I've definitely had some interesting experiences," he said. ''And I never thought I would write a book. When I say my age, I laugh; I don't feel like what I picture 86 to be."
''The History of Man (sort of)," published by Bloomington, Ind.-based 1st Books, is available at several local bookstores and online at www.amazon.com. Davis said he hopes to write a second book, especially if the success of his first one helps attract a larger publishing company.
''I'm thinking of writing 'The History of Woman (sort of),' but I'm a little more nervous making fun of women," he said.
Joanna Massey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Sunday, July 4, 2004
The ongoing controversy about teaching creationism in local public schools reveals a significant lack of understanding of what science and the scientific method are. All too often, well-meaning people say creationism should be taught "to be fair" or that evolution is "only a theory." But science isn't "fair"— it is based on what explanations are in best accord with the evidence. And a theory is not just somebody's "hunch" — it is an explanation supported by significant evidence. Furthermore, the weight of the evidence justifies the status of "fact" for evolution — with numerous theories describing various mechanisms by which evolution occurs. Despite many claims of "scientific creationism," there has not yet been any scientific research done by advocates of creationism, whereas the practical utility of evolutionary theory has greatly advanced our understanding of the biological world.
The leading promoters of the latest flavor of creationism, "intelligent design (ID)," claim that their work is scientific when they are arguing that their notion be allowed into public schools. But when they are speaking to their funding sources (and they receive significant funding from right-wing fundamentalist organizations and promoters) and faithful, it's that old-time religion.
A number of the founding members of the ID movement have, as their ultimate goal, the replacement of what we know as science with what they call "theistic science" (their phrase). This would be a return to a medieval world view that shuns learning about how the world works, relying instead on belief in supernatural forces and warring deities.
MARK T. DUIGON
New analysis of a famously cryptic medieval document suggests that it contains nothing but gibberish
By Gordon Rugg
In 1912 Wilfrid Voynich, an American rare-book dealer, made the find of a lifetime in the library of a Jesuit college near Rome: a manuscript some 230 pages long, written in an unusual script and richly illustrated with bizarre images of plants, heavenly spheres and bathing women. Voynich immediately recognized the importance of his new acquisition. Although it superficially resembled the handbook of a medieval alchemist or herbalist, the manuscript appeared to be written entirely in code. Features in the illustrations, such as hairstyles, suggested that the book was produced sometime between 1470 and 1500, and a 17th-century letter accompanying the manuscript stated that it had been purchased by Rudolph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1586. During the 1600s, at least two scholars apparently tried to decipher the manuscript, and then it disappeared for nearly 250 years until Voynich unearthed it.
Voynich asked the leading cryptographers of his day to decode the odd script, which did not match that of any known language. But despite 90 years of effort by some of the world's best code breakers, no one has been able to decipher Voynichese, as the script has become known. The nature and origin of the manuscript remain a mystery. The failure of the code-breaking attempts has raised the suspicion that there may not be any cipher to crack. Voynichese may contain no message at all, and the manuscript may simply be an elaborate hoax.
Critics of this hypothesis have argued that Voynichese is too complex to be nonsense. How could a medieval hoaxer produce 230 pages of script with so many subtle regularities in the structure and distribution of the words? But I have recently discovered that one can replicate many of the remarkable features of Voynichese using a simple coding tool that was available in the 16th century. The text generated by this technique looks much like Voynichese, but it is merely gibberish, with no hidden message. This finding does not prove that the Voynich manuscript is a hoax, but it does bolster the long-held theory that an English adventurer named Edward Kelley may have concocted the document to defraud Rudolph II. (The emperor reportedly paid a sum of 600 ducats--equivalent to about $50,000 today--for the manuscript.) Perhaps more important, I believe that the methods used in this analysis of the Voynich mystery can be applied to difficult questions in other areas. Tackling this hoary puzzle requires expertise in several fields, including cryptography, linguistics and medieval history. As a researcher into expert reasoning--the study of the processes used to solve complex problems--I saw my work on the Voynich manuscript as an informal test of an approach that could be used to identify new ways of tackling long-standing scientific questions. The key step is determining the strengths and weaknesses of the expertise in the relevant fields.
Baby God's Eye?
The first purported decryption of the Voynich manuscript came in 1921. William R. Newbold, a professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed that each character in the Voynich script contained tiny pen strokes that could be seen only under magnification and that these strokes formed an ancient Greek shorthand. Based on his reading of the code, Newbold declared that the Voynich manuscript had been written by 13th-century philosopher-scientist Roger Bacon and described discoveries such as the invention of the microscope. Within a decade, however, critics debunked Newbold's solution by showing that the alleged microscopic features of the letters were actually natural cracks in the ink.
The Voynich manuscript appeared to be either an unusual code, an unknown language or a sophisticated hoax.
Newbold's attempt was just the start of a string of failures. In the 1940s amateur code breakers Joseph M. Feely and Leonell C. Strong used substitution ciphers that assigned Roman letters to the characters in Voynichese, but the purported translations made little sense. At the end of World War II the U.S. military cryptographers who cracked the Japanese Imperial Navy's codes passed some spare time tackling ciphertexts--encrypted texts--from antiquity. The team deciphered every one except the Voynich manuscript.
GORDON RUGG became interested in the Voynich manuscript about four years ago. At first he viewed it as merely an intriguing puzzle, but later he saw it as a test case for reexamining complex problems. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Reading in 1987. Now a senior lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at Keele University in England, Rugg is editor in chief of Expert Systems: The International Journal of Knowledge Engineering and Neural Networks. His research interests include the nature of expertise and the modeling of information, knowledge and beliefs.
© 1996-2004 Scientific American, Inc.
Wed Jun 30,10:11 PM ET
By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN, Texas - A doctors' group in President Bush (news - web sites)'s home state has endorsed embryonic stem cell research and says federal funding should be restored for new studies to combat disease.
The Texas Medical Association published the endorsement Wednesday in its monthly magazine. Members of the group adopted a resolution last month supporting embryonic and adult stem cell research and a process called therapeutic cloning.
The group, the nation's largest state physicians' organization with more than 39,000 members, said it would oppose cloning to produce a human child.
Federal help for embryonic stem cell research has been limited since 2001, when Bush signed an executive order preventing its expansion. Because the extraction of stem cells destroys day-old embryos, the process is opposed by groups who link it to abortion.
"There's a very strong belief these stem cells can offer the world of medicine a strategy for fighting chronically debilitating diseases," said Dr. Leonides Cigarroa, who chairs the association's council on scientific affairs. "The belief is this can improve quality of life."
Scientists believe stem cells can be coaxed to develop into specific cell types that could one day be used to replace damaged tissue and treat such conditions as diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.
July 01 2004 at 11:01AM
By Ayanda Mhlongo
"The light was so bright, at first I thought it was a police helicopter searching for criminals. But when I could not hear the sound of the rotor blades, I decided to draw the curtains and check what it was."
Roshnie Naidu, of Phoenix, could not believe her eyes when she saw a huge, pulsating, colourful light in the sky. "It looked like a massive ball of light, much brighter than the sun, with blue and purple colours filtering through. My eyes were glued to it for almost 10 minutes, it was unbelievable. I had never seen anything like it before," she said.
Naidu told the Daily News she woke up just before 4am on Sunday.
She was watching TV when she noticed a bright light flashing through her curtains. She did not take any notice of it at first, but the light continued to shine in her face.
According to Naidu, when she drew the curtains she could not believe what she was seeing. "I still cannot explain to people who did not see the object what it was.
"After a couple of seconds, the object would change shape from being circular to oval."
She rushed to her daughter's bedroom to wake her up, but she refused to get up.
"When I tried to wake up my husband he told me that I was seeing things and sent me away.
"But I persisted and pulled him out of bed and opened our bedroom curtains."
Naidu's husband, Shrirama, said he wiped his eyes a couple of times because he could not believe what he was seeing. "I immediately told my wife to call our neighbours and alert them to what was happening."
Shrirama managed to capture video footage of the unidentified object that was in the sky.
According to the Naidus, the object was in the sky for about three hours. It disappeared as the sun came up and it became lighter.
The Naidus said they had no idea what the object was and would like someone to explain it to them. "We are hoping that someone will be able to view the footage that we have captured and explain the fireball to us," they said.
Weather forecaster Ntobeko Nkangana said no objects were picked up in the sky on Sunday morning.
Nkangana said weather balloons are released only at midnight and midday. "The weather balloons remain in the sky for a maximum of two hours."
This article was originally published on page 1 of Daily News on July 01, 2004
The fossilised bones of two ancient hippos have been found in Norfolk.
They are said to be more than 450,000 years old and were recovered from a quarry along with horse, hyena, fish and a variety of rodent remains.
Researchers believe the fossils open a new window on the UK's past in the early Middle Pleistocene when average temperatures were about 2C higher.
The discovery was made by scientists from the Natural History Museum and Queen Mary, University of London.
"The site was first visited by a local amateur geologist who came across these deposits and realised they contained something that was really very exciting," palaeontologist Simon Parfitt, from the NHM, told BBC News Online.
The quarry is some 25km (15 miles) in from the coast. The researchers are not revealing the precise location because it is unsafe for sightseers.
The fossils are about 10-15m (30-50ft) under the surface. They were covered by glacial deposits that are known to be just under half-a-million years old.
The nature of the finds indicates they may be 50,000 to 200,000 years older still.
The hippos would have weighed in at something like six to seven tonnes - about half as big again as today's descendants.
They had very prominent eyes which served as periscopes when submerged in the water.
It is likely the hippos died through natural causes and their bones show evidence of having being gnawed by hyenas.
The animals would have lived at a time when Norfolk had a landscape populated by an unusual mixture of familiar plants and animals and more exotic species now found only in the African savannah.
"It would have been about two degrees warmer than it is now," Mr Parfitt said.
"The landscape would have looked quite familiar - a big river and a very broad flood plain. But some of the animals would have been very different to what we are used to."
He continued: "The importance of the new site is that we think it records an unrecognised warm stage. We know from the study of the ice caps and the deep ocean that the climate was fluctuating very quickly.
"Every 40,000 years or so you had a cold phase and then it got warmer again, and this is possibly a 10,000-year slot in that jigsaw we didn't know about before."
Some of the fossils collected to date go on show from Thursday at the NHM as part of its Festival of Fossils.
The researchers are in a race to excavate the quarry site. The dig location is to be redeveloped in the next few months.
Cruise's aid to detox center draws critics
Tom Cruise has stepped into some fresh controversy by funding a Long Island clinic with links to Scientology.
Three weeks ago, the actor slipped into Williston Park for the opening of a facility touted to help 9/11 rescue workers who suffered smoke inhalation.
"Thousands are still suffering" from the aftermath of the WTC attacks, Cruise declared. "That's unacceptable to me, to these heroes and to their families."
Having opened one detox center in Manhattan in 2002, the "Mission: Impossible" star said, "We were asked for a second one closer to the rescue workers' homes."
Cruise said he'd helped raise $1.2 million for the Long Island clinic because "when I say I am going to do something, I do it - every time."
New York City print media weren't told of the ceremony.
"Why would we invite the press when they said such nasty things about us before?" Jim Woodworth, a Scientologist and director of the Manhattan detox center, told us.
Run by Dr. Steven Lager, a Scientologist, the Long Island program is based on the teachings of Scientology founder and science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It consists of exercise, sauna sweating and a regimen of vitamins and minerals aimed at cleansing the body of toxic residues.
An FDNY spokesman said yesterday that fire officials continue to believe the program's "results are medically unproven." The spokesman added, "The department is not affiliated with the organization."
Rick Ross, who monitors Scientology on his cultnews.com site, contends that the clinics may serve as recruiting facilities for the group.
"[It's] a religious ritual being marketed as detox," Ross told us. Keith Miller, a spokesman for the project and a Scientologist, argued that the clinic is "strictly secular."
Lee Anne De Vette, Cruise's sister and spokeswoman, says the actor remains "incredibly involved" in the rescue-worker detox effort. She added, "We're looking at opening more centers in the other boroughs."
With Jo Piazza
and Chris Rovzar
Originally published on June 30, 2004