NTS LogoSkeptical News for 31 July 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Evolution education update: Francis Crick dies

We mourn the passing of Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, who died on July 28, 2004, in San Diego, at the age of 88.

Crick is probably most famous for discovering the structure of DNA in 1953 in collaboration with James D. Watson. At the time, the chemical basis of the gene was not understood. Only a few scientists considered DNA to be the likely carrier of genetic information in part because DNA is composed of only four subunits, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and uracil (U). Once the structure of DNA was known, however, numerous research programs were developed to investigate the structure and function of genes. One of the most important was the deciphering of the genetic code in the 1950s and 1960s. In collaboration with Sydney Brenner and others, Crick determined that the precise order of bases in DNA specifies the order of amino acids in a protein. They found that each amino acid is represented by a sequence of three DNA bases. It then became possible to study in elegant detail the molecular mechanisms by which the proteins are synthesized with the proper sequence of amino acids. In the past two decades, Crick turned his attention to neuroscience, investigating the nature of the mind and consciousness. Over his career, Crick received numerous awards, most notably the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, which he shared with Watson and Maurice Wilkins for discovering the structure of DNA. Crick's intellectual spirit, wit, and open-mindedness were admired and emulated by molecular biologists all over the world.

A long-time member of NCSE, Crick was no friend to creationism, although his speculative writings about the possible extraterrestrial origin of life are routinely quoted by antievolutionists. In The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994), he wrote, "The age of the earth is now established beyond any reasonable doubt as very great, yet in the United States millions of Fundamentalists still stoutly defend the naive view that it is relatively short, an opinion deduced from reading the Christian Bible too literally. They also usually deny that animals and plants have evolved and changed radically over such long periods, although this is equally well established. This gives one little confidence that what they have to say about the process of natural selection is likely to be unbiased, since their views are predetermined by a slavish adherence to religious dogmas." Crick signed the amicus brief of 72 Nobel laureates in the Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that argued "'Creation-science'" simply has no place in the public-school science classroom," and recently signed a letter calling for the establishment of Darwin Day as a British national holiday "[a]t a time when creationism appears to be gaining ground in English schools."

For further details, consult the obituary in The New York Times:


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available.


Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Don R. Patton Present:
Significance Of Evolution

Yes I understand that millions of our tax dollars are spent so that respected teachers can teach our children that evolution is a fact; so what? Does it make any difference? Does it really matter?

Dr. Patton will provide valid answers to these questions, documented from, history, sociology, scripture and science; answers which will show that the apathy encouraging this condition is shameful. You need to understand the real consequences in order to respond appropriately.

Don't miss this truly exciting presentation.

Bunky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, August 3, 7:30 PM

Class yields a surprise subject


UW-Fond du Lac study course based on writings of Scientology founder


Posted: July 29, 2004

When Sydney Dillmann, a 12-year-old from Fond du Lac, enrolled in five-day course called "Study Technology" at her local University of Wisconsin campus this summer, she and her mother thought it would be a good way for young Sydney to improve her study skills.

Thanks to the course, she stumbled upon a surprise subject - the Church of Scientology.

The Study Technology curriculum relies on the educational writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology movement.

On one hand, it appears rather routine, and, in the words of Sydney and some of her friends, "boring." The children are taught effective methods of using a dictionary, for example, or how to associate abstract math exercises with concrete objects.

But according to some scholars who follow Scientology, the same Hubbard writings used to devise Study Technology are considered scriptures in the church. The point of sponsoring such courses is to promote Scientology methods and beliefs while burnishing Hubbard's image, skeptics say.

Much of this Sydney and her mother, Mary, learned from scouring the Internet. And they haven't been shy about challenging UW-Fond du Lac or the session's teacher, Barbara Abler. "It's just such junk science," Mary Dillmann said.

But that's one side.

Study Technology has its defenders, and they adamantly deny trying to promote a religion in the classroom. UW-Fond du Lac officials, for the record, say they're comfortable with the summer enrichment offering.

Abler declined Thursday to identify her religious background and said she never tried to promote Scientology in the classroom.

"I'm teaching a study skills class - it's a totally secular class," Abler said, adding that she welcomed calls and visits from parents.

She referred a reporter to Mary Adams, a senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics International in St. Louis. Applied Scholastics is a non-profit group founded in 1972 that promotes Hubbard's Study Technology. However, outside of using his educational writings, Applied Scholastics isn't affiliated with the church itself, Adams said.

"It's just a misconception," Adams said. "When people see Mr. Hubbard's name, they immediately think of the things that they are familiar with that he is associated with. I don't know if they know of Study Technology."

Adams said Applied Scholastics has 450 groups on six continents. She defined groups as "schools, community learning centers or tutoring centers." She also said school districts in the United States had started to use Study Technology but declined to identify which ones or how many.

A spokeswoman for the church, Karin Pouw, offered this statement: "The church completely supports Applied Scholastics, but Applied Scholastics is an independent, secular organization."

UW-Fond du Lac's dean, Dan Blankenship, said the two-year college was not a llowed to question its employees about their religious backgrounds before hiring them. He said he'd talked to Abler after hearing about the concerns.

"It sounded like, to me, that the allegations that she was teaching a religion seemed extraordinary and didn't seem consistent with what she was doing," he said.

Leanne Doyle, director of continuing education at UW-Fond du Lac, said the college was aware that Study Technology was based on educational methods devised by Hubbard, but she observed the class and doesn't believe Abler was promoting the church.

Mary and Sydney Dillmann said they didn't believe Abler was trying to convert the students to Scientology either, but the methods and ideas didn't make sense.

According to the Dillmanns, the students were told that a key part of learning is knowing certain words, and that if they ever felt tired or dizzy that they needed to learn the meanings of certain words to get re-energized.

David S. Touretzky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied Scientologists, said such concepts were central to church teachings.

"Scientology believes that if someone has misunderstood a word, that that can actually cause a kind of pain or trauma," said Touretzky, a frequent critic of Scientology whose academic specialty is computational neuroscience.

Touretzky believes teaching Study Technology in public schools violates laws governing separation of church and state and promotes Scientology beliefs. The church spokeswoman, Pouw, blasted Touretzky, insisting: "He is discredited in the field that he's trying to comment on. He is a specialist in rat brains."

Despite her concerns, Dillmann chose to keep Sydney in the class, which ends today.

"This is the best time she's had all summer," Dillmann said. "Her forensic skills, her research skills, her sifting through different Web sites, looking at data, interpreting information. . . . You wouldn't believe how much she learned from this class. It's just not the type of information we thought she'd get out of it."

From the July 30, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New CUP title on Intelligent Design

Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA
William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse (Editors)
Cambridge University Press, released July 2004, 424 pages, $45.00

Book Description
William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide here a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins--a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been "design." Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: *Darwinism* *self-organization* *theistic evolution* *intelligent design*. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate. William A. Dembski is an associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University as well as a senior fellow with Seattle's Discovery Institute. His most important books are The Design Inference (Cambridge, 1998) and No Free Lunch (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002). Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He is the author of many books, including Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?: The Relationship Between Science and Religion (Cambridge, 2000).


1. General Introduction -- William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse
2. The Argument from Design: A Brief History -- Michael Ruse
3. Who's Afraid of ID? A Survey of the Intelligent Design Movement -- Angus Menuge

4. Design without Designer: Darwin's Greatest Discovery -- Francisco J. Ayala
5. The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity" -- Kenneth R. Miller
6. The Design Argument -- Elliott Sober
7. DNA by Design? Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis -- Robert T. Pennock

8. Prolegomenon to a General Biology -- Stuart Kauffman
9. Darwinism, Design, and Complex Systems Dynamics -- Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew
10. Emergent Complexity, Teleology, and the Arrow of Time -- Paul Davies
11. The Emergence of Biological Value -- James Barham

12. Darwin, Design, and Divine Providence -- John F. Haught
13. The Inbuilt Potentiality of Creation -- John Polkinghorne
14. Theistic Evolution -- Keith Ward
15. Intelligent Design: Some Geological, Historical, and Theological Questions -- Michael Roberts
16. The Argument from Laws of Nature Reassessed -- Richard Swinburne

17. The Logical Underpinnings of Intelligent Design -- William A. Dembski
18. Information, Entropy, and the Origin of Life -- Walter L. Bradley
19. Irreducible Complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution -- Michael J. Behe
20. The Cambrian Information Explosion: Evidence for Intelligent Design -- Stephen C. Meyer

Friday, July 30, 2004

New Species of Worms Discovered in Ocean


Associated Press Writer

July 30, 2004, 8:48 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Two strange new species of worms, without eyes or stomachs or even mouths, have been discovered living on the bones of dead whales in California's Monterey Bay.

"Who knows what we can learn here," researcher Robert Vrijenhoek said. "There are many things left to discover in this world. Some we find by accident ... and some we find because we look in places that few people have explored before, as in much of our work in the deep oceans."

In this case, it was a bit of both because the unexpected discovery was made about 9,400 feet below the surface.

Lead researcher Greg Rouse of the South Australian Museum added: "Deep-sea exploration continues to reveal biological novelties" such as this "remarkable" worm.

Vrijenhoek, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif., said the worms, ranging from 1-inch to 2 1/2-inches long, have colorful, feathery plumes that serve as gills and green "roots" that work their way into the bones of dead whales. Bacteria living in the worms digest the fats and oils in the whalebone.

The researchers named the worms, a new genus, Osedax, which is Latin for bone eating. Their findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"The worms provide insight into the cycling of carbon that reaches the bottom of the ocean. A dead whale delivers the equivalent of 2000 years of `marine snow' drifting to the bottom ... where carbon is fixed into organic molecules," Vrijenhoek said. Marine snow is made up of bits of dead fish and other matter than settle to the floor of the sea, feeding many creatures there.

He added that the "worms turn whalebone lipids (fats) into worm eggs and larvae that are carried away from the carcass to produce new worms or to be eaten and dispersed by other animals. This discovery adds to the limited knowledge we have about what happens to organic carbon on the bottom of the ocean."

The worms found eating the whale bones were females.

"Initially we were puzzled why every worm was a female," Vrijenhoek said in a telephone interview. He said Rouse took some worms to his laboratory for study and discovered tiny male worms living inside the females.

There were as many as 50 to 100 males within each female, Vrijenhoek said.

The males still contained bits of yolk, as if they had never developed past their larval stage, but they also contained large amounts of sperm.

The female worms, regardless of size, were full of eggs, the researchers noted....

"These worms appear to be the ecological equivalent of dandelions -- a weedy species that grows rapidly, makes lots of eggs, and disperses far and wide," Vrijenhoek said.

He said a whale carcass may last for decades before it is fully consumed. The carcasses, termed whale fall, tend to be found along migration routes so that eggs dispersed from one whale-eating worm may find another carcass nearby.

At first the researchers -- who were actually studying clam ecology -- were at a loss to determine what kind of creature they had found.

"They have no mouth, no guts, no obvious segments like all worms are supposed to have," Vrijenhoek said. They looked a lot like little miniature versions" of the strange worms discovered living around hydrothermal vents in the oceans. These vents are cracks in the ocean floor where very hot, mineral-rich water bubbles out from the earth's crust.

So the team extracted DNA from the new worms and discovered they were indeed related to the giant vent worms.The vent worms have colonies of bacteria allowing them to live off sulfides released from the vents, while the new worms have bacteria that digest fats from bones.

The new whalebone worms were divided into two species, and the researchers concluded that the most recent common ancestor lived roughly 42 million years ago, about the same time whales themselves first evolved.

The scientists named the two species of Osedax "rubiplumus" for their red feathery gills and "frankpressi" in honor of Frank Press, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences who recently retired from the board of the Research Institute.

They found the worms with a remotely operated submarine, which discovered the whale carcass.

The jaw was covered with a "beautiful red carpet" Vrijenhoek recalled. That wasn't surprising because many marine worms are red, he said, but when they got the bones to the surface they knew immediately they were dealing with something totally different.

The research was funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the South Australian Museum.

On the Net:

Science: http://www.sciencemag.org

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press



AN ANCIENT Chinese herbal remedy has been found that acts against malaria.

The active compound known as qing hao su, or artemisinin in scientific terminology, was reportedly extracted by Chinese scientists around 1972. But artemisinin was known to Chinese doctors in the Han Dynasty, 2,000 years ago.

A paper published in May in a prestigious British journal, Transactions Of The Royal Society Of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene, reported that treatment with traditional Artemisia annua preparations caused a rapid clearing of malaria symptoms.

A clinical trial had been carried out in a hospital and three health centres in Congo in 2001.

However, using just artemisinin to treat malaria was not recommended: Among other things, the malaria parasite might develop a resistance to it.

Study centres on Chinese, non-traditional medicine mulled


Tan Hui Leng

COMPLEMENTARY and alternative medicine (CAM) looks set to gain a foothold here as two separate bodies aim to set up research centres here.

A committee established a month ago by the Ministry of Health (MOH) has begun looking at issues related to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) such as research, standardisation, education and practice. The 15-member panel was an outcome of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's visit to China last year, during which he said Singapore and China would jointly set up a Chinese Medicine Centre. Committee chairman Prof Su Guaning, who is also the president of Nanyang Technological University, said many issues are involved, but he expects to submit a proposal in two to three months.

"We are looking to see how Singapore can contribute to this and what benefits it can bring to Singapore," he said.

At Kent Ridge, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is working with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to set up an International Centre for Research on CAM here using a grant from the US National Institutes of Health's National Center for CAM.

The JHU-NUS team is competing with nine other teams from around the world for a $5 million grant to set up a centre.

The team has secured a planning grant of US$275,000 ($473,000) and will submit a proposal for the final grant by next year.

Prof Paul Lietmanof JHU reckoned that his team had a one-in-three chance of winning. Competition is keen, he said, with China pumping huge sums into the industry. The CAM market is worth more than US$14 billion annually in the US. The local herbal trading business alone is worth about $30 million.

Singapore will get its first taste of the huge CAM pie at next February's Inaugural International Congress on Complementary and Alternative Medicines.

Organised by NUS, it will bring together 500 participants from around the world to share information and educate the public on CAM. Attendees will sample Singapore's CAM offerings at qigong, yoga and hypnotherapy sessions. For more information on the congress, log onto www.iccam2005.org.sg.

S'pore to host congress on alternative medicine


East-meets-West event aims to bring about rise in standards

FOREIGN and local experts will attend an inaugural scientific congress on alternative medicine here next year, with topics as cutting edge as DNA profiling on the agenda.

The International Congress on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Iccam) is to be the forum for discussions leading to raised standards in herbal medicine, and for scientific exchange between practitioners and researchers.

Advertisement With the theme Herbal Medicines: Ancient Cures, Modern Science, it will accept papers reporting the results of scientific research into complementary and alternative medicine.

Besides DNA profiling, topics will include plant-based medicine, safety and regulatory issues and the chemistry of natural products.

The organisers are the NUS-Johns Hopkins Consortium for Botanical Drug Development, and the medicine and science faculties at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the National University Hospital.

They felt Singapore was a good venue as it was 'right smack in between East and West'. Unlike South Korea or China, however, it had no herb-growing industry and so no vested interest.

Professor Ong Choon Nam of the NUS department of community, occupational and family medicine, is the scientific co-chairman of the Iccam 2005 organising committee.

He said that, in the last five years, there has been more interest in complementary and alternative medicine, which refers to various traditional therapies, whether used together with Western medicine or on their own.

Traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture, is part of it.

It could offer answers to diseases that Western medicine cannot yet defeat, from the common cold and Alzheimer's disease, suggested Professor Paul S. Lietman of Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine.

Interested parties should submit abstracts for the congress by Oct 15 to Iccam 2005. Check out www.ICCAM2005.org.sg for details.

The event will be held from Feb 26 to 28 next year, at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Study Finds Millions Favor Declaring Christianity Nation's Official Faith


Tens of millions of Americans would support a constitutional amendment to declare Christianity the official faith of the United States, according to a new survey by the Barna Group (BG). At the same time, the study shows there are also millions who would support a policy permitting curse words on broadcast television. Released Monday, the poll of 1,618 adults examined six possible changes in how faith and morality could be integrated into America's public policy or social activity. Those considerations include barring the Ten Commandments from government buildings, eliminating the phrases "In God We Trust" from currency and "One Nation Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, allowing profanity on broadcast TV, teaching creationism in public schools, and making Christianity the "official religion" of the nation.

The research showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans want traditional Christian values and symbols to prevail, although most people would stop short of declaring the country to be a Christian society.

Americans are opposed to "a constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States" by a two-to-one margin (66 percent oppose, 32 percent in favor).

But BR president George Barna also pointed out that: "Almost 70 million adults favor such an amendment. That is a huge vote of confidence in the Christian faith ? and a tacit statement about people's concerns regarding the direction and lukewarm spirituality of the nation. If nothing else, this certainly indicates that given effective leadership, American Christianity could play a larger role in shaping the norms of our culture in the future."

Barna added that "most Americans are on the same wavelength when it comes to faith and matters of public policy."

"Evangelicals, however, also emerged as the group most fervently desirous of integrating a Christian perspective into the basic fabric of American life," he noted. "The intensity of their commitment to their faith makes them a cultural lightning rod and an easy target for the media."

Conservatives help finance State Board of Education races


Posted on Tue, Jul. 27, 2004


Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - Conservative candidates in two State Board of Education races were outspending their moderate Republican opponents, with the board's ideological balance at stake in the Aug. 3 primary.

According to campaign finance documents filed with the secretary of state, challenger Kathy Martin, of Clay Center, had raised almost twice as much money since the beginning of the year as incumbent Bruce Wyatt, of Salina, in the 6th District race. Martin raised $22,962 and spent $16,572. Wyatt raised $12,107 and spent $11,633.

In the 10th District, incumbent Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City, raised $5,327 and spent $3,507. His challenger, Tim Aiken, of Derby, raised $3,705 and spent $2,167.

The campaign finance reports cover activity from Jan. 1 through Thursday.

No Democrat filed in either district, meaning the primary will determine who holds each seat.

Martin and Abrams' contributors included John Calvert, manager of the Kansas office of the Intelligent Design Network, which advocates the teaching of creationism alongside - or instead of - evolution in the science classrooms.

Calvert, of Lake Quivra, contributed $500, the maximum allowed, to Martin's campaign and gave $200 to Abrams.

Martin, a former science teacher, has made teaching creationism and not raising taxes for education a focus of her campaign.

In addition to Calvert's contributions, Abrams and Martin received donations from Freedom In Academic Research, an organization associated with the Kansas Republican Assembly. The assembly represents conservatives and advocates for smaller, less intrusive government and lower taxes.

Both Abrams and Martin received $500 from FAIR's state political action committee and other $500 from its separate federal PAC.

Aiken and Wyatt have received contributions from teachers' unions. Both received $500 from the Kansas National Education Association, while Aiken received another $500 each from two Wichita NEA groups.

Wyatt also made a $1,000 loan to his re-election campaign.

The primary could change the ideological split among the 10-member State Board of Education, currently split 5-5 between conservative Republicans, including Abrams, and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, including Wyatt.

Conservatives had a majority but lost it in 2000, when moderates were elected in response to the board's 1999 decision to reduce the emphasis state science standards place on evolution. That decision gained Kansas international ridicule.

In 2002, conservatives regained some ground, unseating two moderates in the GOP primary.

In June, ideological differences resurfaced as Abrams and other conservatives sought to modify state social science standards to put greater emphasis on U.S. and Kansas government and economics and less on international relations. The board expects to resolve the dispute at its August meeting, scheduled a week after the primary.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cooperation helps Clearwater and Scientology


Letters to the Editor
Published July 28, 2004

Re: Scientology's town, July 18.

Thank you for the time and attention of your reporter in ensuring accuracy in the recent two-part series on Scientology in Clearwater.

The Scientology religion has grown at an unprecedented rate internationally in recent years, and that of course is reflected in Clearwater, the home of our international religious retreat. There is no conflict between that expansion and the revitalization of downtown, which benefits the entire community, a community much more diverse than some suggest. In addition to church staff and parishioners, the community includes 1,400 Pinellas County employees, 1,000 city of Clearwater employees, 1,000 business employees who work downtown, and the more than 100,000 residents who live within a 3-mile radius.

The downtown Starbucks is a good example of an amenity enjoyed by all citizens of Clearwater. Certainly the number of church parishioners and staff in Clearwater was a major factor considered by Starbucks. That is to be expected. Starbucks, like any business, must have confidence that it will succeed, and success means volume of customers. Similarly, the church presence would be a major economic factor in the decision of any other business or national chain considering opening downtown.

The economic impact of the church on downtown development is not based primarily on the church staff who live in Clearwater, but rather on the thousands of visiting parishioners who travel to Clearwater from around the world. In fact, they provide the same economic impact as "tourists" but year round. As your article explained, this presents an ideal opportunity for the development of downtown.

Downtown was a ghost town when the church moved to Clearwater in 1975. While it had previously thrived and was enjoyed by all local citizens, development had concentrated on the beach for tourists and on the malls for residents. At that time it appeared unlikely downtown could be developed as a destination point. The church filled that void. Today, virtually any retailer - especially name-brand stores, restaurants or a theatre - can expect to survive because of the numbers of Scientologists living and visiting in downtown. And that benefits all citizens, since the new facilities will be available to anyone, as in the case of Starbucks.

While some critics, who are not involved in downtown planning and do not know the factors involved in its development, may believe our motivations are selfish, they miss the point. Of course we would like a nice downtown with shops and restaurants and entertainment for the benefit of our visiting parishioners. But the church presence is also a "selling point" to bring those businesses downtown. If the city wants to use that presence, we not only do not object, we support the city in its efforts.

As we explained to the mayor, the city manager, and other city officials, and as people involved in downtown planning and others of goodwill have recognized, church and city expansion plans are not a point of conflict, but of cohesion. Cooperation is necessary to be successful.

It is time for us to move forward and work together to create the vibrant downtown that 80 percent of the citizens recently surveyed by the city said they want.

-- Ben Shaw, director, Church of Scientology, Flag Service Organization, Clearwater How is Clearwater being hurt? After publishing two excellent articles on Scientology in Clearwater (Scientology's town, July 18, and Striving for mainstream, building connections, July 19), I am confused as to what the July 25 editorial City by the sea is asking Scientologists to do.

I moved here from New York in 1980 and found Clearwater to be floundering, with no sense of direction. The citizens seemed to like the status quo, meaning "do absolutely nothing." The Scientologists, on the other hand, were slowly improving the rundown properties they purchased, increasing the tax base and helping to reduce crime. As a result, property values in Clearwater have risen dramatically.

Your editorial suggests the Scientologists may be taking over the city to fulfill L. Ron Hubbard's dream for a Scientology "city by the sea." My reaction is simply, "So what?" How does that hurt the city? You also state the citizens have not been interested in positive change, for reasons I have never understood. For example, if a Scientologist opens up a business, how does that translate into hurting the city? Since when do people identify their religion in order to open a business? I have worked closely with several Scientologists, raising money for charity, and found them to be sincere and forthright in addressing the needs of those less fortunate. It seems to me that is supposed to be the goal of all religions.

Unfortunately, as history has shown time and again, prejudice always rears its ugly head against those who appear to be different. If the politicians and business leaders in Clearwater cannot effectively lead the voters to create positive change in Clearwater, then please do not complain when others do. For the record, I am not a Scientologist.

-- John W. Kent, Largo

We're Clearwater residents, too

I must take exception to last Sunday's editorial, City by the sea. I have resided in Clearwater for 15 years. Since moving here, my husband and I have been homeowners, taxpayers, business owners, parents of schoolchildren, community volunteers, good neighbors and voters. In other words, we would be considered model citizens in any community. But apparently my religious affiliation disqualifies me, and other residents who are members of the Church of Scientology, to be referred to, and given appropriate consideration, as "Clearwater residents." Your editorial purports to inform readers of how "Clearwater residents" feel about Scientology (skeptical, distrustful, etc.) but you may be certain that you do not speak for me, my family, and thousands of other Clearwater residents, including non-Scientologists.

In this modern era, I cannot imagine any public voice such as the Times referring so negatively to any other religious or ethnic group, and it is outrageous that you set such an irresponsible example of prejudice and intolerance.

-- Debra Bellmaine, Clearwater

If we could stand together

Your recent news articles on Scientology were a refreshing change. I then read with interest your editorial City by the sea.

You ended with some good advice to the Scientologists: ". . . stand beside the city government and other stakeholders in the effort to create a diverse downtown with appeal for everyone."

As you well know, the Church of Scientology has supported exactly that idea and has done so for years. Thus far, the major block to that happening has been the highly biased coverage of Scientology by the St. Petersburg Times, which attempted to sow fear and mistrust among Clearwater residents. While your reporting seems to have become more accurate, your editorial writers cannot seem to let it go.

Those of us Scientologists who have made Clearwater our home hope that you will support our city government's efforts to improve the environment and that you will stand beside us in doing so.

The pointed alternative


Jul 28 2004
By The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Acupuncture has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years and is now becoming more widely used within the framework of modern Western medicine. HILARIE STELFOX reports

WHEN I told my family that I'd had acupuncture their first question was "did it hurt?"

That's understandable really, given that I'd had eight needles inserted into my skin at various points on my arms, legs and feet.

And, to be perfectly honest, the answer would have to be "not when the needles went in, but a bit afterwards".

Suffice to say that the pain was more of a dull ache than the sharp "scratch" that I'd been expecting.

Mitchell Brooks, who got his licence to practise acupuncture two years ago after more than three years of study, was the man inserting the needles.

From the South of England originally, he now lives in Sheffield and practises at a number of centres in the region, including Huddersfield's Healing Hands in Moldgreen.

Mitchell studied both Five Elements and Traditional Chinese Medicine at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, a private institution in Reading he attended while living in Watford. To fund his studies, which cost around £12,000, he worked in data network sales.

"It was a means to an end, I have always been interested in oriental medicine. When I was younger I became involved with the martial art Ving Tsun, which has the same root as Chinese medicine. I wanted to become much more involved with that way of thinking," he said.

However, it wasn't until he dropped out of a chemistry degree at university that he decided to forge a career in alternative medicine.

It's impossible in a short article like this to explain fully the underlying beliefs and systems of Chinese medicine. It is entirely alien in its diagnostic methods and ways of looking at disease compared to Western medicine.

Five Elements medicine assesses the patient in terms of sound, colour, emotion and odour. TCM studies the way energy to internal organs is affected by the flow of Chi (Qi) along the body's meridians (channels that cannot be seen). Practitioners take a pulse reading and examine a patient's tongue.

"We are not just looking for how many beats per minute, we feel for the depth, width, rhythm, strength and shape of the pulse.

"When we affect a change in an organ through acupuncture then we take the pulse again to see if there is an improvement. It's used as a diagnostic method.

"We treat according to a pattern of symptoms and disharmony. It is a completely different approach. The body and mind are interconnected and therefore just treating a problem in isolation won't fix the underlying cause" explained Mitchell.

A lot of the language used in Chinese medicine is both archaic and unscientific - or seems that way to the ears of someone raised with conventional Western medicine. However TCM has been refined and developed over 2,000 years of trials and observations. In China it is widely used for all complaints, sometimes alongside Western treatments.

"It is a complete system of medicine but there are certain things we are not allowed to say we can treat by law," said Mitchell.

He personally has had success treating women with fertility and gynaecological problems, including period pains and pregnancy difficulties. "I have also seen quite a few people recently with ME who have been helped," he added.

A consultation with Mitchell takes a great deal longer than the average appointment with a GP. He takes a full history, including details of diet, bowel habits, menstrual patterns in women and emotional state.

A course of treatment is usually needed and Mitchell will also give dietary advice based on TCM beliefs. For example, oranges, sugar and coffee are all heat-forming foods and therefore accentuate pain in the body. They are also bad for eczema sufferers.

He uses both acupuncture and Chinese massage, which also works on the acupuncture points, to treat patients. In the future he hopes to also study Chinese herbs.

For more information about acupuncture check out the British Acupuncture Council website on www.acupuncture.org.uk or contact Mitchell at mitchell.brooks@btopenworld.com or call Healing Hands on 01484 425 236.

Acupuncture exists in this country in two forms: an holistic approach practised by those trained in traditional Chinese medicine and a Western-style medical acupuncture practised by doctors and health professionals, using a limited range of techniques and Western medical diagnosis.

Acupuncturists insert fine needles (thinner than a hair) into the skin at precise points along energy meridians to stimulate the body's healing responses and help restore its natural balance.

The flow of energy (chi or qi) along meridians can be disturbed by a number of factors including anxiety, stress, fear or grief, poor diet, weather conditions, hereditary factors, infections, poisons or trauma.

The principle of acupuncture is to treat the whole person and recover the balance between the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the person.

A first consultatation with an acupuncturist may take up to two hours. Mitchell charges £45 for this and £27 for subsequent one-hour consultations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Alternative medicine finds a new home


Special to the Times Leader

FORTY FORT - In an ever-eager quest for healthier minds and bodies, Americans are spending more than $47 billion a year on non-traditional or "alternative" medical practices and products.

The alternative catch phrase covers everything from megavitamins and massage therapy to acupuncture and qi gong, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

With such evidence at hand, it's no wonder the InterMountain Medical Group recently opened an alternative center called Wellspring in Forty Fort. The 10,000-square-foot facility offers physical rehabilitation, physical and aqua therapy, and alternative therapies including therapeutic massage and acupuncture.

InterMountain's Chief Executive Officer Mark Stephens said patient surveys revealed that more area people are turning to non-traditional health care, which reflects national findings.

"What we found is that, number one, people know about non-traditional services. Number two, they're using them," Stephens said. "And number three, they're not telling their physicians out of fear their physicians wouldn't approve.

"So our question was, 'If your doctor offered these services, would you be interested?' "

The overwhelming answer was "yes," Stephens said. The result? Wellspring, which opened June 1. The facility is located off Welles Street in the old Acme warehouse, which is now a multi-office medical complex.

"We got off to a great start. It's a unique twist," Stephens said. "The demand is impressive."

Stephens calls Wellspring a "life improvement center" and said it's designed to bring a variety of medical disciplines together under one roof. The center also houses the recently relocated family practice of Dr. William Clearfield, a National Society of Acupuncturists member.

Acupuncture is done by inserting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body to stimulate energy flow along the body's meridians. It's generally used to relieve pain and treat health conditions. According to a Harvard University study, Americans now make more than 5 million visits to acupuncturists annually.

A bulk of Wellspring's business comes from physical rehab. Stephens said that what differentiates Wellspring from other rehab centers is the use of the Core Spinal Fitness System by MedX, a medically based workout system that delivers strength, stability, flexibility and endurance.

Some of the MedX machines are also computerized, which aids in diagnosis and can also help therapists determine if a patient is progressing or malingering - in other words, faking injuries, perhaps in order to collect disability or remain out of work.

"It's quantifiable. We can tell if an injury exists," said physical therapist Gerri Misunas.

Construction is also under way on an aqua therapy pool that will be used for a variety of therapies and for recovery after orthopedic surgeries.

By fall, Wellspring also will feature physician-guided weight loss and exercise programs as well as the services of a nutritionist and registered dietitian.

Wellspring doesn't expect to compete with fitness centers or gyms. Instead, it will largely appeal to patients with physical disabilities or challenges, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

"Here, they will have the benefit of medical supervision," said Stephens, 48, of Kingston Township.

The center is managed by Pain Care Inc., of Daytona Beach, Fla., which is also in charge of recruiting and hiring.

The Kingston-based InterMountain, a regional health care company, employs 240 people. Its 45 physicians treat about 80,000 patients at 23 offices throughout Luzerne County. The company also operates the CDI Outpatient Imaging Center, which is also located at the Forty Fort complex.

Wellspring is adding about 50 new patients a week, mostly by tapping the huge patient population already visiting InterMountain offices, Stephens said. About 40 percent of InterMountain patients are on Medicare, which typically does not pay for alternative therapies.

Said Stephens: "In time, alternative medicine will become more accepted."


Tapping into growing trend

More Americans are turning to alternative medicines and practices, according to a survey recently administered to more than 31,000 U.S. adults.

The questions were asked as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2002 National Health Interview Survey. Findings were released in May.

Some highlights:

More than one-third of U.S. adults use complementary and alternative medicine, known as CAM.

CAM use was greater among a variety of population groups, including women, people with higher education, those who had been hospitalized within the past year and former smokers, compared to current smokers or those who had never smoked.

African-American adults were more likely than white or Asian adults to use CAM when megavitamin therapy and prayer were included in the definition of CAM.

CAM approaches were most often used to treat back pain or problems, colds, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness, and anxiety or depression.

Only about 12 percent of adults sought care from a licensed CAM practitioner, suggesting that most people who use CAM do so without consulting a practitioner.

55 percent of adults said they were most likely to use CAM because they believed that it would help them when combined with conventional medical treatments; 50 percent thought CAM would be interesting to try; 26 percent used CAM because a conventional medical professional suggested they try it; and 13 percent used CAM because they felt that conventional medicine was too expensive.

About 28 percent of adults used CAM because they believed conventional medical treatments would not help them with their health problem.

For information, visit NCCAM's Web site at nccam.nih.gov.

sidebar two

Wellspring, a center for physical rehabilitation and life improvement, is located at 190 Welles St., Suite 166, Forty Fort.

Phone: 714-4171.

Services: Physical therapy, aqua therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, physician-monitored weight loss and exercise.

© 2004 Times Leader and wire service sources.

His path from patient to healer


Evan Ross' battle with brain cancer began a life-changing journey that led to his embrace of Eastern medicine.
By Hilary E. MacGregor
Times Staff Writer

July 26, 2004

Evan Ross lost one eye to cancer at age 2, and then nearly lost the other.

Then, 22 years later, doctors told him he had cancer again. This time it was a tumor in his brain. And this time they told him he would die.

Ross had moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey to follow his dream — to work in the music industry. He was working as a record producer when he started getting severe headaches, experiencing shortness of breath, and twitching. His therapist told him he was having panic attacks.

The strange symptoms persisted. He grew weak on his left side. He had trouble keeping food down. One day he passed out on the bathroom floor.

He went to the doctor. They scanned his head, and by the time he got home there was a message on his telephone answering machine.

"You appear to have a rather large mass in your head," he recalls the doctor telling him when he called back. "It appears to be a glioma." "I didn't even know what a glioma was," he says.

The mass in Ross' head turned out to be a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme — a common and highly malignant type of brain tumor. Like many people who battle cancer, the experience would change his life. But it also would change his career. Ten years later, Ross has left his job in the music industry and is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of oriental medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, helping patients not unlike himself.

Today, cancer-free for eight years, he works closely with teams of doctors in the hospital, visiting patients in the ICU, rehab unit and cancer wards. He sees about 80 patients a week, many of them cancer patients, and about three in four of them are referred by medical doctors.

A decade ago, integrative medicine was little more than talk at most medical centers. But according to a 2003 survey by the American Hospital Assn., 17% of hospitals offer complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services.

Ross' ties with top medical doctors at a prestigious hospital give him a badge of legitimacy in a world often unequipped to assess either the effectiveness of alternative medicine therapies or the qualifications of its practitioners.

"It definitely makes a difference having him here at Cedars," says Dr. Edward Wolin, an oncologist at the hospital's Comprehensive Cancer Center who refers patients to Ross. "He has staff privileges. He is able to come to the hospital room, if the person is an inpatient, and he is able to give acupuncture at the hospital. He is treated as part of the medical team. It is a unique relationship with someone in the acupuncture field."

But it is Ross' first-hand experience with cancer, it seems, that makes him even rarer.

A spiritual journey

Ross' tumor was the size of a lemon, in a part of the brain — the right frontal lobe — that controls movement on the left side of his body.

"I didn't believe I was going to die," Ross says. "From the beginning — I have an entry in my journal — I believed it was about learning a set of lessons. I believed it was destined to happen. And I welcomed it as a challenge."

In May of 1995, he underwent a 10-hour surgery at UC San Francisco during which doctors were able to remove only 50% of his tumor. Doctors told his family he would be paralyzed on one side and that after the surgery he would be treated with chemotherapy. But the doctors told him it was unlikely the treatment would save his life.

Ross is 35, with the boyish face of a graduate student. He is matter-of-fact, almost clinical, when he talks about his battle with cancer. So his detours into topics of spirituality feel all the more unexpected. He frequently draws on his personal story to inspire patients, so that at times it begins to feel like a spiel. But as he tells his tale once again to a reporter, his professional veneer cracks. "It's hard to talk about this," he says.

Ross spent three weeks researching conventional cancer treatments on the Internet, and many nonconventional ones too. Even while undergoing chemo and other standard treatments, he went on a macrobiotic diet and meditated twice daily. He tried acupuncture, took nutritional supplements, practiced Qigong and was treated with ayurvedic herbs. He kept a journal, to allow his subconscious to speak to him and teach him lessons. He saw a shaman and consulted with a Jewish mystic.

That experience informs his work today. "I don't practice alternative medicine," he corrects during one interview. "I always call it complementary. There is a danger in thinking of it as alternative medicine, because it implies one kind of medicine or the other. Both types of medicine have to be used together."

Dr. Michael Lill, the medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Outpatient Cancer Center and director of the blood and marrow transplant program, says that perspective is part of what makes Ross an asset.

"He is careful to still send people for conventional therapies, rather than trying to do everything himself," Lill says.

Ross believes his diet and alternative therapies enabled him to withstand high doses of chemo, and endure two stem cell transplants with few side effects. He considered his illness a spiritual journey and reflected deeply on his disease. He understood that genetics play a role in his disease. But why was he cancer-free for more than two decades? What had set it off?

He came to L.A. to compose music for films. Soon, he was caught up in having a nice car, a nice place to live and trying to schmooze with famous record producers. He was hanging out at bars until the wee hours, always wheeling and dealing and "trying to make it happen." He felt lost.

"The way I was living my life — mentally and spiritually — I was in a state of chaos," he says. "What is cancer but a state of chaos? Cells lose the ability to grow normally, and begin growing haphazardly and chaotically."

Empathy, rapport

It is a hot, summer afternoon and Ross calls in his next patient, Amy Syrett. A nonsmoker with two young children, Syrett, 44, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer last fall and received aggressive chemo and radiation. She was referred to Ross by her doctor to help overcome her treatments' side effects. It meant a lot to her that he had survived cancer against long odds.

"He could relate to me," she says. "He inspired me."

Ross talks to Syrett about how she's feeling and does a brief exam.. Then, he takes her into another room and places the delicate needles into her back, her ankles, her feet. With the sounds of ocean waves playing on a radio, he leaves her for 20 minutes. Ross has also put her on a special organic diet — free of refined sugars and processed foods — and given her herbs and supplements. Syrett says the sessions have helped her to assess her life.

"I am healing," says Syrett, who is not currently undergoing treatment, but doesn't know yet if her cancer is in remission. "A lot of it is traditional medicine. A lot of it is changing my lifestyle."

A sea change

After his battle with cancer Ross knew he wanted a change in his life. "After the cancer I was afraid," he says. "I was scared that once [the disease] was gone I would forget all the lessons it had taught me, and I would go back to being the person I was before I was sick."

In 2000 he received his degree in oriental medicine from Emperor's College, an accredited college of traditional Chinese medicine in Santa Monica. He began working at Cedars in 2001.

Ross loves the challenges and opportunities at Cedars, even if he knows there may be doctors who doubt the effectiveness of acupuncture. "One thing that is frustrating is if a person sees a neurologist, and the neurologist misdiagnoses them, the medical profession will not say, 'Neurology is a bunch of nonsense,' " he says. "But if someone goes to an acupuncturist, and it fails to help them, they throw the baby out with the bathwater. They will say the whole profession is worthless."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

State shuts off Geauga vet's canine fountain of youth'


Food supplement was sold in TV infomercial
Monday, July 26, 2004
John Horton
Plain Dealer Reporter

Bainbridge Township

There's more than nutrients packed into Dr. Carol Osborne's VitaLife pet supplement, says an Internet site selling the product. There's a lifetime of health and wellness for your pet.

"Rejuvenating older dogs," touts the Web page, "was just the beginning."

Interested in buying the so-called "canine fountain of youth" developed by Osborne, a Geauga County veterinarian? Then you better move out of Ohio, because the pills can't legally be purchased here.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture ordered that the supplement not be sold in the state until ingredient and labeling questions are answered. The agency says many of the ingredients have not been tested to find out whether they are safe for animals.

Continued sales could result in "legal action," according to an Agriculture Department letter sent to Osborne's husband, Howard Shanker, who filed a feed registration form for the supplement in October.

Shanker accuses state investigators of singling VitaLife out for enforcement. At least one chain store in Northeast Ohio is selling products containing two of the ingredients that prompted state officials to halt sales of VitaLife, he said.

Shanker notified state officials about the products. No action has been taken.

"If these [ingredients] are really bad, why aren't they doing anything about those?" Shanker asked. "These products are sitting on a shelf. Why are they regulating us and nobody else?"

Investigators looked into VitaLife after seeing a television infomercial promoting the product, said William Goodman, a specialist in the Feed and Fertilizer Section of the state Agriculture Department. Problems surfaced after Shanker submitted the supplement's labels with the feed registration paperwork.

VitaLife contains 17 unapproved additives not proven to be safe for animals, according to the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which reviewed the supplement at the state's request. Unauthorized ingredients cited by the agency include green tea extract, Siberian ginseng and borage seed oil.

"The worry is that these could be harmful to animals," Goodman said. "We aren't saying they are . . . but we can't say they aren't."

Osborne, who has written several books and appeared on national television during her career in veterinary medicine, defended the supplement and her work. Anecdotal accounts from satisfied customers show VitaLife's power and impact, she said.

"The proof's in the pudding," said Osborne, a Bainbridge Township veterinarian. "Pets don't lie."

A dozen customer testimonials posted on Osborne's Web page - www.drcarolspets.com, one of the Internet sites where VitaLife can be ordered - tell tales of turnarounds once the supplements entered a pet's diet. The stories carry addresses from across the United States and Canada and relay similar experiences.

Marcia in San Francisco reports that the pills eased her dog Fawn's arthritis pain. Mary in Phoenix wrote about her 13-year-old long-haired dachshund mix getting smoother fur and playfulness in her step. Ted in Michigan said his golden retriever-Labrador mix named Kelsey lost 14 pounds and gained energy.

VitaLife advertisements say the supplement, which costs between $26.95 and $85.95 a month, depending on the size of the dog, replenishes a pet's body with critical nutrients. Ingredients target maladies such as joint stiffness and benefit a pet's heart, immune system, eyes and coat.

The result? "Dr. Carol's supplements," a Web page says, "can increase your pet's healthy life span" and "slow the aging process."

Such a claim is doubtful, some in the veterinary profession say.

It's "a big leap" to suggest a pill impedes aging, said Francis Kallfelz, a professor at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in New York. He said he would like to see valid scientific studies, not nearly anonymous anecdotes, supporting VitaLife's claims.

The supplement is an example of the alternative-medicine movement that's creeping into animal care, Kallfelz said.

Osborne brushed off the cynicism as gripes from people within the industry's mainstream who feel threatened by a changing approach to animal health care. A biography posted on Osborne's Web page describes her as a pioneer in the exploration of new treatments of degenerative diseases in pets.

Osborne previously advertised herself as a diplomate of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a nonprofit group formed to detect, prevent and treat diseases related to aging. The Chicago-based group is not a specialty board recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that created problems for Osborne.

The Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board last year accused Osborne of violating state regulations that prohibit practitioners from presenting themselves as diplomates of an unrecognized specialty. As part of a settlement, Osborne agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and remove the unsanctioned title from all literature.

Shanker said Osborne is targeted by state agencies and other veterinarians because of her strong belief in alternative medicine. He accused state agriculture officials of using selective enforcement by singling out VitaLife from other pet supplements available on the Internet and in stores.

Labels on two animal products that Shanker recently purchased at a chain store in Chardon include glucosamine sulfate and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which were among the 17 unapproved additives that investigators cited in VitaLife. Shanker notified state inspectors about the products.

Neither product is registered for distribution in Ohio and should not be sold here, said Melanie Wilt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture. She said the agency would "keep an eye out" for the products and try to bring the distributors into compliance.

Investigators have yet to contact the store or the distributor, but will, said Wilt.

In a written response to questions about the state's concerns over VitaLife, Osborne's husband said simply that the supplement's status is under review. Shanker also questioned whether the supplement should fall under the feed additive guidelines that prompted the state's action.

Shanker told an Agriculture Department employee that Ohio is the only state he and his wife "were having trouble with" regarding VitaLife, according to a handwritten note on a letter in the state's file. The note also stated that the couple are considering moving out of Ohio.

During an interview, Shanker accused the state government of creating a climate that's driving business out of Ohio.

But Goodman, the Agriculture Department specialist, said the state is only enforcing the rules and trying to bring VitaLife into compliance. The ingredients and product labeling - VitaLife seems to be improperly marketed more as a drug than a food, Goodman said - need to change for the supplement to be sold in Ohio.

"When consumers buy a product, they need to know it's safe," he said. "That's why these regulations are in place."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jhorton@plaind.com, 1-800-962-1167

Copyright 2004 cleveland.com

Ideology divides education candidates


Posted on Mon, Jul. 26, 2004

Balance of power at stake in Kansas


The Kansas City Star

For the Kansas Board of Education, the last two years have been a waiting game.

With its 10 members split ideologically, neither conservative Republicans nor a block of moderate Republicans and Democrats have been able to push their agendas as strongly as they would have liked. That could change with the upcoming election, when one race could tip the balance of power.

At issue are the teaching of evolution in science classes and the inclusion of a global view in history classes. In addition, candidates differ about how much money is needed to fund education and on whether the state should consider opting out of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The science standards are expected to come before the board again late this fall or early next year. A 25-member committee appointed by the board began reviewing and updating them this summer. The history/government standards are expected to come up at the board's meeting in August.

Five seats on the board are open. Only three of the races are contested, and none is in the Kansas City area. Two of those seats are held by moderates and one by a conservative.

The conservative Kansas Republican Assembly surprised moderates by not fielding candidates to run against Sue Gamble of Shawnee or Carol Rupe of Wichita, both moderate Republicans, said Caroline McKnight, executive director of the Mainstream Coalition, which supports moderates.

As a result, she said, the race to watch in the Aug. 3 primary is in the Salina area. That district is rural and more conservative than Wichita or the Kansas City area, McKnight said, so conservative challenger Kathy Martin of Clay Center might have a good chance of upsetting Bruce Wyatt, the moderate incumbent there.

Tamara Cooper, the assembly's executive director, declined to comment on why it did not challenge Gamble or Rupe.

“The only thing I am going to say to that is we are going to work real hard for Kathy Martin and Dr. Steve Abrams, and if Kathy Martin gets in, there will be our advantage,” Cooper said.

Martin and Wyatt, both 58, are facing off in the 6th District. Both are Republicans. No Democrats have filed, so that race is expected to be decided in the primary.

Martin retired this spring after 30 years as an elementary school teacher who was trained to teach other elementary teachers in her district how to teach the science program the district used. This would be her first political office.

Wyatt is an attorney seeking a second term. He ran in 2000 on a platform against the state board's 1999 vote on the science standards. In that vote, conservatives succeeded in downplaying the teaching of evolution. Moderates reversed the vote in 2000 after they gained control of the board.

In the 10th District, moderate Republican Tim Aiken, 47, of Derby, is challenging Abrams, the conservative incumbent Republican from Arkansas City. Because no Democrats filed, that race is expected to be decided in the primary.

Aiken has been on his local school board for 11 years.

Abrams is a veterinarian seeking a fourth term. He was a leader in the 1999 vote to change the science standards.

The third contested race will be decided in November. It pits incumbent Democrat Bill Wagnon of Topeka against Republican Robert Meissner of Topeka. Wagnon is part of the board's moderate block; Meissner could not be reached to comment on his views about the science standards.

Wyatt, Aiken and Wagnon believe that the science standards should remain intact.

Martin said she supports the teaching of evolution along with the study of intelligent design and creation science.

Abrams has suggested history/government standards be changed to emphasize the study of Kansas and the United States. Aiken agrees with moderates on the board who question why Abrams would want to diminish studies that encourage a global view.

To reach Diane Carroll, call (816) 234-7704 or send e-mail to


Monday, July 26, 2004

Sassenach sells Loch Ness water for £6 a pint


By Auslan Cramb
(Filed: 26/07/2004)

An Englishman who started selling water from Loch Ness as a joke says the enterprise has become a huge success. Brian Ball, 37, a sales manager, who moved from London to Aberdeenshire last year, scoops water out of the loch and sells it at £6 a pint.

He stumbled upon the idea after American friends asked him to bring them water from the home of the Loch Ness monster as a souvenir. "It started as a joke, but it has really taken off," he said.

He said he asked the Loch Ness Visitor Centre and public health officials about the legality of selling the water and was told that as long as it was clearly labelled as unfit to drink, he could carry on.

Each bottle has a label with an image of the monster, and a guarantee of its origin.

Mr Ball, from Turriff, sells the water on the internet auction site eBay and has taken around 250 orders from Australia, America, New Zealand, Kenya and Canada.

Center to Boost Science Appreciation


Sat Jul 24, 2:35 AM ET

By CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer

AMHERST, N.Y. - For years the Center for Inquiry and its determined hoax-busters have taken on mysteries such as crop circles and ghost sightings. While intriguing to some, to the center they are byproducts of a public too willing to turn a blind eye to science.

That's why, as the center undertakes a major expansion, there is a special focus on getting people to appreciate a scientific outlook, said chairman Paul Kurtz. The center hopes to raise $26 million in the next four years to add on to its suburban Buffalo world headquarters.

"The United States is the leading scientific and technological power on the planet, with amazing breakthroughs, yet the general public is basically illiterate about science," said Kurtz, 78.

The dangers go beyond a tendency to fall for urban legends and Internet chain letters, Kurtz said. More serious, he believes, is a willingness to embrace unproven alternative medical treatments and to reject advances like embryonic stem cell research, opposed by many on religious grounds.

Kurtz, his 60 employees and fellows that have included Carl Sagan and Andrei Sakharov, follow a motto of applying reason and science to all areas of human life.

Nothing is off limits — the center is about to launch the Journal for the Scientific Examination of Religion. More than a dozen other journals and magazines are already being published, with titles such as the Skeptical Inquirer, Free Inquiry and The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.

Neil Young, 20, was at the center this week, taking a class on the ethics and politics of punishment, forgiveness and reconciliation.

"There's no aspect of life in which critical thinking is not beneficial," said Young, an intern at the center's Los Angeles location, one of a dozen far-flung branches that also include New York City, Germany, Mexico, Nepal and Nigeria.

Young thinks the center's efforts are laudable, but acknowledges that achieving them may be an uphill battle.

South of Buffalo, at the spiritualist community Lily Dale, where resident psychics draw thousands of visitors for readings and advice each year, the center's work is taken in stride.

"We always welcome people to question because by questioning we're able to educate," said Sue Glasier, Lily Dale president. "We believe in free will so people come with open minds and they come searching."

Sunday, July 25, 2004


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 693 July 22, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

OPTICAL HALL EFFECT. Physicists in Japan have theoretically shown that an optical equivalent of the Hall effect exists, and that this hypothesis could be borne out with experiments with polarized light. In the classic Hall effect, an electric current, pulled along a conductor by an electric field, will be deflected sideways somewhat if in addition a magnetic field (perpendicular to the electric field and to the plane of the conductor) is applied. One can attribute to the sideways motion a "Hall voltage" and a "Hall resistance." If the experimental conditions are even more stringent---extremely cold temperatures and high magnetic field---a quantum equivalent of the Hall effect manifests itself. In this case the electrons execute trajectories that are quantized; that is, the Hall resistance can take only certain discrete values. Something like this might be happening when a light ray moves from one medium into another. The amount of the shift sideways at the deflection will depend on the change in the index of refraction from the one medium into the other. Masaru Onoda (m.onoda@aist.go.jp, 81-29-861-2985) at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Tsukuba, Japan) and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo believe that the topological aspects of light refraction in materials can be explored in upcoming experiments using photonic crystals. In effect, they are predicting a correction to Snell's law for spin-polarized light. (Onoda et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article)

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING IN BACTERIA creates dramatic, previously unknown fluid patterns, researchers have discovered. With the Summer Olympics a few weeks away, physicists are showcasing some remarkable water action in aerobic bacteria, those that require oxygen to survive. Bacteria swim through fluids by quickly rotating corkscrew-shaped "flagella," hair-like appendages that can be up to five times greater than the length of their main body (generally a few microns in size). It's not a routine feat for a bacterium to stay above water: a typical organism is about 10 percent denser than H2O, so gravity tends to sink the creatures. Nonetheless, aerobic bacteria often swim up to the oxygen-rich surface in order to find and consume the million O2 molecules per second that they need to survive. Conventional wisdom has been that such swimming does little to stir up the fluid itself. Now, studying concentrated populations of the common aerobic bacterium Bacillus subtilis in small, half-inch-diameter fluid drops, a group of physicists at the University of Arizona (Raymond Goldstein, gold@physics.arizona.edu and John Kessler, kessler@physics.arizona.edu) has found that the combination of upward swimming and downward sinking in the suspension can produce striking flows that strongly mix the fluid (see pictures at www.aip.org/png) and concentrate the bacteria. The crowd of swimming bacteria creates arrays of circulating vortices whose size is orders of magnitude larger than an individual bacterium. Jets and surges of fluid that straddle the vortices can move 100 microns per second and be as large as 100 microns. These speeds and lengths greatly exceed the swimming speeds and sizes of the organisms themselves, which move only tens of microns per second. The new results provide, possibly for the first time, information on the way in which concentrated swimming bacteria order themselves. Such accumulations can have many important consequences. For example, they may greatly aid in the formation of biofilms, and can even be micromixers in tiny quantities of fluid. In addition, the way the fluid currents concentrate bacteria into small spaces may be crucial for triggering the phenomenon of "quorum sensing," whereby congregated bacteria sense sufficiently high amounts of each other's secreted chemicals to turn on specific capabilities, such as the emission of light in bioluminescent bacteria. Quorum sensing is found in many important bacteria, including those that create gum disease. (Dombrowski et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; also see Univ. Arizona press release at http://uanews.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/UANews.woa/3/wa/SRStoryDetails?ArticleID=8615.)

DEFENDING NETWORKS AGAINST CASCADING FAILURE. Just as foresters can often halt a forest fire from burning out of control by deliberately setting firebreaks, it might be possible to reduce the size or spread of outages in a network in the wake of an attack or overload. The Internet and the electrical grid are just two such networks that might benefit from a new model devised by Adilson Motter of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden. Several previous network models have shown how an attack on key nodes of a system can cascade into a catastrophic failure. Motter's model shows how such a failure can be mitigated by shutting down selected peripheral nodes that handle only small amounts of the network's total load. Simulating attacks on networks showed that answering the original attack with several successive rounds of precautionary node shut-down drastically reduced the size of the overall cascade. (Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; motter@mpipks-dresden.mpg.de)

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

A jinx in a box?


Maybe mischievous spirits do haunt this Jewish scroll cabinet, or maybe it's just another Web-spawned legend run wild.
By Leslie Gornstein
Special to The Times

July 25, 2004

A small wooden cabinet went up for auction on EBay. Inside were two locks of hair, one granite slab, one dried rosebud, one goblet, two wheat pennies, one candlestick and, allegedly, one "dibbuk," a kind of spirit popular in Yiddish folklore.

The seller, a Missouri college student named Iosif Nietzke, described the container as a "haunted Jewish wine cabinet box" that had plagued several owners with rotten luck and a spate of bizarre paranormal stunts.

"We have definitely seen a tidal wave of 'bad luck,' " the seller wrote on EBay in the first week of February. "Most disturbingly, last Tuesday, my hair began to fall out. I'm in my early 20s and I just got a clean blood test back from the doctor's…."

Within days, the box's opening bid of $1 jumped to $50; that value soon quadrupled. On Feb. 9, the box sold for $280 to a university museum curator named Jason Haxton.

In the months after, the hype surrounding the wooden box has mushroomed. The Forward, a 107-year-old Jewish newspaper on the East Coast, ran a story about the box's sale and supposed otherworldly powers. Since then, the EBay auction page has logged more than 140,000 hits.

At least five authors, one screenwriter and a documentary crew have sought up-close access, says Haxton, a 46-year-old father of two who also lives in Missouri. Rabbis, Orthodox Jews and Hebrew intellectuals have contacted Haxton, offering to crack the box's mysteries.

Haxton says he's had to unlist his home number, change his e-mail address and erect a website, http://www.dibbukbox.com , just to field inquiries. He agreed to be interviewed only if he could add this request: Please, please, box fans, leave him alone.

The strange case of the bogey in a box is threatening to become an urban legend as big as any ghostly hitchhiker, fried rat or stolen body part. In Chicago, Bull basketball fans have paused their online arguments over salary caps to post theories on what's in the box. Ditto with newsgroups usually dedicated to Subaru ownership or NASCAR tickets. In Long Island, a group of particularly dedicated ghost hunters has founded a Yahoo chat group dedicated solely to the box.

All the while, dozens of Web surfers have e-mailed Haxton through his website, complaining of strange headaches, nightmares and other plagues.

"One person pleaded with me to get all images of the box off the Internet because they would provide an electronic portal for the spirit into every computer that visited the site," he says.

Most often, discussions of dybbuks (as it is more commonly spelled) are accompanied by plenty of snorting skepticism — "I think I'm going to put my haunted Game Cube on EBay," one Texan recently posted — but the number of those fascinated with the little wooden box continues to climb.

The reason, experts say, is tied to a witch's brew of trends and developments unique to the new millennium: A booming blog culture; a growing interest in Jewish mysticism, particularly cabala; and high-speed Internet connections that allow photos to be downloaded onto countless home computers.

Dybbuks have haunted Yiddish folk tales since the dawn of Judaism's mystical movement in the latter half of the 16th century. "Dybbuk" literally means "an attachment, a cleaving to something"; a dybbuk is thought to be the spirit of a person who, instead of drifting into the next realm, sticks around and enters the bodies of living people.

"It's essentially a kook subject," muses Rabbi Eli Schochet, a professor of rabbinic thought at L.A.'s Academy for Jewish Religion, which trains rabbis and cantors. "But I could never say that it's impossible because, obviously, there's precedent for these things that are recorded in different religious traditions, including my own."

The EBay auction page (still viewable on Haxton's website) claims to document experiences from two previous owners, told in the first person and pasted back to back in the item's description space.

The tale, according to the site, began in fall 2001, when Oregon antiques collector and small-business owner Kevin Mannis discovered the box — smaller than a case of beer, decorated with two metal plates in the shape of grape clusters — at a neighborhood estate sale. (Mannis later told The Times he bought the box in 2000, but so much bad fortune befell him in that first year that he didn't want to tell potential buyers about it.)

Mannis said the estate sale's host told him that the box had belonged to her 103-year-old grandmother, who had dubbed the cabinet a "dybbuk box" and warned her kids … never to open it.

Heedless of this spooky back story, Mannis bought the box and put it in the basement of his antiques business. A half-hour after the box arrived, the creepiness, as he describes it, began: While Mannis ran a few errands, a mysterious force apparently went berserk in his shop, cursing and smashing light bulbs and scaring a store clerk.

"When I got back to the shop, I went to investigate," Mannis says from his Oregon home. "I remember heading toward the back and walking into what I can only describe as a wall of scent. It smelled like jasmine flowers. You could take one more step and not smell a thing, and take a step backward and be surrounded by it again."

Later, he says, when he gave the box to his mother as a gift, she suffered a stroke that temporarily left her unable to speak. She penned the tersely scrawled admonishment "hate gift" and Mannis has not discussed the object with her since, he says. The FBI then raided Mannis' shop, he says, hauling out loads of electronic equipment. He got his stuff back but says he never got an explanation for the raid. Add to his list of woes that he lost his shop lease and was a victim of identity theft.

"All of this stuff has an explanation that doesn't necessarily point to this box," Mannis muses. "But when you take everything together, it becomes such a weird coincidence."

The 'curse' changes hands

BY June 2003, Mannis had had enough and posted the box on EBay. The high bidder was Nietzke, who, for $140, got the box, contents and — presumably — its ectoplasmic squatter. (Repeated attempts to reach Nietzke have been unsuccessful.)

Nietzke's alleged experiences, which are also posted on EBay — included strange odors in his house, a bug infestation, malfunctioning electronic devices and "sort of like large, vertical, dark blurs in my peripheral vision."

Haxton, the college museum director who collects religious paraphernalia, says by phone that he first heard about the box last year through a student employee at his museum — who is also Nietzke's roommate.

When Nietzke posted the box for sale, Haxton went for it. The day after it arrived in his office, Haxton says, "I woke up with my right eye looking like it had been poked." Other afflictions arrived, including fatigue, a metallic taste in his mouth and constant nasal congestion and a cough. Around the house, Haxton says he occasionally smells the signature odors of cat urine and flowers.

Haxton has been aided by Rebecca Edery, an Orthodox Jewish bookkeeper who lives in Brooklyn and whose father studied cabala. It was Edery who helped uncover the purpose of the box. "The two doors on the outside open up just like the Holy Closet," or Aron HaKodesh, a receptacle for Torah scrolls, Edery says. "And I saw round, metal hoops on the inside of the doors that would hold scrolls. This particular size is used when going to comfort the family of the deceased."

Edery says she is convinced the box was sacred and had been intentionally stuffed with some sort of spirit. "This was done deliberately, for a specific purpose." She believes that to put an end to the misfortunes, the box needs a formal Jewish burial involving a 10-man minyan, or prayer group.

For his part, Haxton says he wants to follow the box back to its origins. Then, he says, he might create a replica and bury the original. "To me this is a historical puzzle," he says. "It came from somewhere. It was made for a reason. What is it and why is it?"

Room for doubt on either side

Researchers and religious scholars say that, sure, the box contains items that could have served as fetishes or tokens to a family, Jewish or otherwise. Pennies and locks of hair fall under the common fetish territory, says Bill Ellis, a fetish researcher and American studies professor at Penn State University.

"It was not uncommon for people to hunt through their change and, when they found the birth date of a child, to put that aside as a life token of the child," Ellis says. "You also have two locks of hair. That is a very common tradition, especially for preserving a keepsake of a dead family member. These things would incorporate a memory or some part of a life spirit."

But the tale also contains a parade of red flags that point to a possible hoax.

For one thing, Schochet points out that most dybbuk tales have the ghost coming back to convey some sort of message, but "there is nothing to explain why this particular box is inhabited."

Elliott Oring, an anthropology professor and folklore specialist at Cal State L.A., also has his doubts. "Go through [the story and] you will see areas that seem to require suspending critical functions. There is too much piling on of incidents…. Why wasn't it simply disposed of?"

So if there's no proof a dybbuk exists, why is the box so fascinating?

"We embrace such stories because they tap into our own fears and prejudices," says Allan S. Mott, author of "Urban Legends: Strange Stories Behind Modern Myths."

"The dybbuk story taps into our belief that out in the world there is a supernatural evil that will attack anyone regardless of how good they are. They allow people to make some sense of a chaotic world."

The story also benefits from the credibility lent to it by a mainstream site such as EBay, says Jan Harold Brunvand, author of the coming "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends."

But Brunvand sees a difference in the tale. "The length and detail of the story is unlike most urban legends," he says, "as is the supernatural angle and the first-person narrative. So I would not classify it as a 'normal' urban legend."

Perhaps that leaves open a small window of credibility. After all, who doesn't like a good ghost story?

"Of course, we realize we could most probably be dealing here with a very elaborate hoax," notes the Rev. Jim Willis, an Arizona minister and author of "The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints and Seers." "I have to say that because I do have my academic reputation to uphold." But, he adds, "if you leave it at that, it takes all the fun away."

As his words trail away, a huge picture in his office falls from the wall and crashes to the floor.

"This is weird," Willis says. "Have I just become a part of an urban legend?"

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

City by the sea


Clearwater could benefit from Scientology's energy and investment, but residents should not let the controversial organization take over downtown.
A Times Editorial
Published July 25, 2004

Church of Scientology documents twice have revealed to outsiders a plan to make Clearwater, Pinellas' county seat, a Scientology stronghold. Documents seized by the FBI in 1977 laid out a church plan to take over the city and discredit enemies. And a church pamphlet stated a goal to make Clearwater the world's first "Scientology city" by 2000.

A recent two-part series by Times staff writer Robert Farley revealed that Scientology is well on its way to achieving domination in Clearwater's core, where there has been little investment by others. The story also detailed how a city government that once branded Scientology as a cult and a hostile interloper now finds it needs to partner with the only real player downtown.

The Church of Scientology and individual Scientologists have stepped into the vacuum downtown with enthusiasm, purpose and millions of dollars, and the impact has been stunning. The church now owns 21 buildings and a dozen empty lots downtown and is in the process of spending $160-million on projects ranging from a block-sized headquarters building to a planned 3,600-seat auditorium bigger than Ruth Eckerd Hall. That is just the church-owned properties. Many individual Scientologists own small businesses or other properties downtown, and now emerging are Scientologists who claim the financial wherewithal to develop condominium towers, townhouses, retail shops and restaurants.

The number of church members living in Clearwater is growing by about a thousand a year. Members are stitching themselves into the city's civic and cultural fabric with volunteer work and memberships in non-Scientology organizations.

Any community could benefit from a growing population of energetic and productive people. The question that must be asked in Clearwater's case is, to what end are the church and its members here? Are they working toward a better city for everyone, or is domination of the community their goal? Are they merely filling a vacuum downtown, or are they building church founder L. Ron Hubbard's dream of a Scientology city by the sea? And if their answer is that there is nothing nefarious going on, can their word be trusted?

Clearwater residents have had many reasons to distrust the church during the almost 30 years since the church established its international spiritual headquarters in Clearwater under an assumed name. Granted, the church now has occasional open houses to show off portions of its buildings, and its public relations techniques have improved. However, it remains a mysterious and controversial organization that attempts to silence its critics, not just locally but in countries around the globe. If Scientology wants more acceptance, it must bring more transparency to its internal operations and act more like a church than a secret society.

Clearwater residents' skepticism about the organization apparently has not translated into an understanding of the damage that could result from having Scientology, or any single entity for that matter, take over their downtown. Twice since 2000, voters have turned down redevelopment plans by non-Scientology developers and the city government. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many voters opposed those projects because they didn't want anything built downtown that Scientologists might like.

That view is shortsighted. The absence of development competition downtown allows Scientology to build a stronger base in the city's historic core. And where will the wealthy, expansion-minded church go from there? Perhaps east, to the city's wide swath of neighborhoods. Or perhaps west, to Clearwater Beach, the city's economic engine. The likely result: a city in pieces, divided economically and socially.

There is still time to prevent that. Clearwater officials understand what they are up against, but the city lacks the money to take on large-scale redevelopment of downtown on its own, and the voters have tied the city's hands on smaller projects. Residents need to equip their government with the tools to lead the revitalization of downtown, rather than conceding that job to Scientologists.

And if the Church of Scientology sincerely wants what is best for Clearwater, it will recognize the harm in converting the center of the city into a Scientology preserve. It will not forge ahead for its own benefit, but will stand beside the city government and other stakeholders in the effort to create a diverse downtown with appeal for everyone.

© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times

Let's Go: Creation museum offers different approach to world's origins


See also http://www.ntskeptics.org/images/ICR1995.jpg

Last modified Friday, July 23, 2004 10:50 PM PDT


The idea that the universe was created by an intelligent being may be science fiction to some, but to others it's just plain science.

At the Institute for Creation Research's Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, some 50 exhibits at the 3,500-square-foot building attempt to explain how the universe was created by the God described in the Bible, and not through the forces of evolution.

"Although we do believe in the Bible, we look at the science and use that to support the theories," said museum official Kathryn Mokan.

For example, one exhibit focuses on disproving the big-bang theory, which says that the universe began with the explosion of superdense matter in all directions. Yet galaxies are spread haphazardly throughout the universe, Mokan said, illustrating that the distribution of galaxies is "not from a centralized bang."

To prove the Biblical story of Noah's ark, in which God supposedly flooded the Earth to restart humanity, Mokan said exhibits point to fossil evidence from Mount St. Helens to the Grand Canyon that substantiate a global flood.

The museum also uses examples on a smaller scale to prove the theory of creationism. Museum official Bruce Wood said a display case of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly attempts to show how the process is too complicated to have developed through evolution, which accepts that the metamorphosis developed through mutations.

A small bookstore is attached to the museum for those who want to learn more about creationism.

If you go

WHAT: Museum of Creation and Earth History

WHERE: 10946 N. Woodside Ave., Santee

DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 52 east. Highway 52 ends at Mission Gorge Road. Turn left. Past an intersection with Magnolia, there is a fork in the road. Take a left onto North Woodside Avenue.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and holidays.

COST: Free

CALL: (619) 596-6011

Contact staff writer Jennifer Kabbany at (760) 631-6622 or jkabbany@nctimes.com.

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