Article #2 (21 is last): Subject: Welcome to the CSICOP Electronic News Stand. Date: Wed J

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Article #2 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: Welcome to the CSICOP Electronic News Stand. Date: Wed Jul 8 01:13:47 1992 About C.S.I.C.O.P. ------------------- The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal attempts to encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view, and to disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and to the public. It also encourages critical thinking, an appreciation of science, and the use of reason in examining important issues. To carry out these objectives the Committee: * Maintains a network of people interested in critically examining paranormal, fringe-science and other claims, and in contributing to consumer education. * Prepares bibliographies of published materials that carefully examine such claims. * Encourages and commissions research by objective and impartial inquiry in areas where it is needed. * Convenes conferences and meetings. * Publishes articles, monographs, and books that examine claims of the paranormal. * Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but rather examines them objectively and carefully. The Committee is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. The SKEPTICAL INQUIRER is its official journal. Inquiries from the media and the public about the work of the Committee should be made to: Paul Kurtz, Chairman CSICOP P.O. Box 703 Buffalo, NY 14226-0703. Tel. (716) 636-1425. FAX: (716) 636-1733. Subscriptions to THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER which is published quarterly are $25.00 for one year, $43.00 for two years, and $59.00 for three years. The money should be sent to: THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226-0703. Or you may call toll free 1-800-634-1610. The Committee also publishes a quarterly newsletter, SKEPTICAL BRIEFS. Subscriptions to SKEPTICAL BRIEFS cost $15.00 for one year, $28.00 for two years, and $35.00 for three years. The address of SKEPTICAL BRIEFS is CSICOP, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226-0703. No subscriber to either of these publications may speak on behalf of CSICOP or either publication. About The CSICOP Newsgroup -------------------------- This newsgroup is reserved for official CSICOP publications, and is operated on behalf of CSICOP by: Page Stephens and Jim Kutz chairman member CSICOP Electronic CSICOP Electronic Communications Subcmte. Communications Subcmte. (aa325@cleveland.freenet.edu) (aa387@cleveland.freenet.edu) (local Free-net address: aa325) (local Free-net address: aa387) In addition, the following people will be working on the board: Cynthia Bell-Moores (aa470@cleveland.freenet.edu) Ron Hopkins-Lutz (aa747@cleveland.freenet.edu) Dr.D.A. Rickards (aa354@cleveland.freenet.edu) We hope you will enjoy reading this board, and find it both useful and educational. Electronic mail feedback regarding this newsgroup should be sent to the mail room address for forwarding to CSICOP: from Free-net: xx029 from Internet: xx029@cleveland.freenet.edu CSICOP does not have sufficient staff to operate a discussion board of its own. Please use the main Skeptics' Sig discussion board ( section #3 on the main menu ). -- Article #3 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: Skeptical Briefs (v.2 #2) Copyright Notice, Address, Subscriptions Date: Wed Jul 8 01:15:22 1992 Copyright 1992 by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, P.O. Box 703, Buffalo NY 14226-0703. All rights reserved. Editor: Barry Karr Skeptical Briefs is a quarterly newsletter of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Chairman: Paul Kurtz, Executive Director: Barry Karr Subscription rates: $15, one year; $28, two years; $35, three years. Address all correspondence to: P.O. Box 703, Buffalo NY 14226 Telephone (716) 636-1425. Fax (716) 636-1733. -- Article #4 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Cleveland Free-net Chosen as Official Online BBS for CSICOP Date: Wed Jul 8 01:19:23 1992 SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS CSICOP's Electronic Communications Subcommittee Page Stephens The Electronic Communications Subcommittee of CSICOP is in the process of setting up a moderated (read only) bulletin board on the Cleveland FreeNet for use by CSICOP, and another similar bulletin board for use by local groups. These boards are designed to disseminate information from such sources to the public at large. In the future, we will be requesting news items that you think would be of interest to skeptics worldwide. These items should be sent to us either via MS-DOS compatible disk (either 3.5" or 5.25", any format up to 1.44K) or E-mail and should preferably be written in ASCII, although almost any other word-processing format is acceptable. Disks should be sent to Page Stephens, 6006 Fir Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102. E-mail should be sent via InterNet to xx029@cleveland.freenet.edu. We chose the Cleveland FreeNet as the initial node in a proposed skeptical news net for several reasons. The first is that the service is free and two members of the subcommittee, Jim Kutz and Page Stephens, already work with the FreeNet and thus will be easily able to take care of the board in the course of their everyday duties. The second is that FreeNet gives us ready access to InterNet as well as a variety of other E-mail networks so that we can readily communicate with other skeptical groups. Finally, a network of free-nets is being set up in geographical areas where other local groups exist so that in the near future such groups will be able to take advantage of its features if they choose and perhaps even set up their own bulletin boards. For example, a Buffalo group is currently developing a free-net, and this would allow CSICOP and perhaps the Western New York Skeptics to tie directly into our bulletin board for an even more rapid exchange of information. We are also interested in hearing from skeptical groups that run independent computer bulletin boards and skeptical activities on such computer networks as CompuServe, GEnie, etc., so that we can coordinate our activities with theirs in order to pass information back and forth. We would thus appreciate it, if you either run such an operation or know of a group that does, if you would contact Page Stephens at one of the above addresses or via U.S. mail. We also need to develop a new E-mail directory for the use of skeptics, so please send us any address you or your group has. If you would like to look in on our activities on the Cleveland FreeNet, you can dial 216-368-3888 via modem _ 8 bits, one stop bit, no parity, any speed up to 2400 bps. If you have telnet access, you can also log onto the Cleveland FreeNet via freenet-in-a.cwru.edu or, if it (a) is busy, via freenet-in-b.cwru.edu or freenet-in-c.cwru.edu. Once you are online, type "go skep." Registration, which will allow you to use the E-mail facilities, is free and is explained once you sign on as a visitor. As the project develops, we will print more information in these pages. Page Stephens is chairman of the CSICOP Electronic Communications Subcommittee. -- Article #5 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Skeptics Organize in Hungary, Host Randi Date: Wed Jul 8 01:21:13 1992 Skeptics Organize in Hungary, Host Randi Barry Karr In a previous issue of Skeptical Briefs (November 1991), we told you about the efforts being undertaken in Hungary to organize a skeptics group. At the conclusion of that article, I predicted that we would soon be reading about the success of this new organization. Who said predictions never come true? The new Hungarian Skeptics have been quite active and have made their presence felt on a variety of fronts. Their first project was to publish an appeal for support in creating an association of skeptics in Hungary. The announcement appeared in Nepszabadsag, the largest circulation daily in Hungary, and in the monthly science magazine Termeszet Vilaga (World of Nature). The announcement read in part: As a consequence of democratic changes in our country, pseudoscientific tendencies and their most primitive outlets grow stronger. It is the duty of the scientific community to prevent all those speculating swindlers bargaining with pseudoscience from abusing people's credulity. The community is able to carry out this task only by popularizing the idea of the critical way of thinking, which is essential for science. Nowadays it has a special importance in our changing society, where trustworthiness of science has been undermined by the general crisis of confidence. . . . Our association can be joined by anyone who approaches so-called "paranormal" phenomena, and the harmful cults so dangerous to society, in a sensible and critical way. The Society for the Dissemination of Science and the editorial staff of World of Nature had contacted CSICOP earlier for advice in setting up an association of Hungarian skeptics and integrating it into the international skeptics network. The appeal was signed by the Hungarian Society for the Dissemination of Science, the Editorial Staff of World of Nature, the Chamber of Scientific Journalists, and the Hungarian Association of Scientific Films. Following this, several of the skeptics brought super-skeptic James Randi to Hungary for a grueling eight-day lecture and media tour. At the Association of Hungarian Journalists, Randi met with the members of the Chamber of Scientific Journalists for an evening discussion lasting several hours. He also gave a lecture for the Hungarian magicians. In Visegrad, at the International Neurological Conference, more than one hundred scientific researchers attended his talk. On the evening of January 24, he lectured before five hundred people at the Budapest Planetarium. The following day, Randi attended a World of Nature program for high school teachers and students. At this meeting, World of Nature announced a national competition of scientific articles by secondary pupils. This was the first such competition in the 123-year history of World of Nature. Also at this meeting, Randi was presented with the highest award of the Society for the Dissemination of Science by its president, Professor Janos Szentgothai. Professor Szentgothai is the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Science and a current member of the Hungarian Parliament. The award, a plaquette and golden wreath, was given for Randi's work throughout the years exposing pseudoscience. In addition, World of Nature has been printing a monthly feature called the "Skeptics Corner." In this space, they have been running articles translated from the pages of the Skeptical Inquirer. On March 20, I received a fax from Orsi Rethelyi. She said: "I am happy to announce the formation of the Hungarian Skeptics. . . . We held our first, very successful meeting yesterday, with nearly one hundred participants and many good ideas, and future plans." The president of the group will be Professor Szentgothai. Other members of the board will include: physicist Gyula Bencze; astronomer Ivan Almar; magician Gergely Molnar; author Istvan Lazar; World of Nature editor Gyula Staar; historian of science Laszlo Vekerdi; professor of physiology Gyorgy Adam; chemist Mihaly Beck; and organization secretary Orsi Rethelyi. The address of the group is: Hungarian Skeptics, c/o Termeszet Vilaga, PO Box 256, Budapest 8, 1444 Hungary. Fax 36-1-118-7506. -- Article #6 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Scourge of the Godmen in India Date: Wed Jul 8 01:25:41 1992 Scourge of the Godmen in India Lewis Jones On the afternoon of the last Saturday in March, London's Conway Hall was packed with 350 people who had come to see miracles. They were not disappointed. The performer was everyone's idea of a bearded Indian guru. He ate glass, ran fl aming torches along his bare arms, handled lighted camphor freely and put it int o his mouth, hung a weight on a hook stitched through his skin, shoved a nasty-l ooking spike through his tongue without harm or bleeding, caused pieces of paper to burst into flame by the power of thought, changed a single biscuit into a pi le of a dozen of them, produced enough holy ash out of thin air to be able to de liver some to a great many people in the audience, showed spoons that bent and b roke at a touch, and, of course, turn water into wine. And that would have been enough for any self-respecting guru. But this was no gu ru. This was Premanand, whose mission was not only to demonstrate miracles, but to explain how they all done. And this he did, to the further amazement and amus ement of his audience. There was a time in his youth when he was highly impressed by the miraculous feats of those of his fellow-countrymen he calls "godmen." He was willing to learn from them, and he spent a great deal of time and effort trying to acquire their magical powers, but doubts began to creep in. The yogis were forever telling oth er people how to achieve good health (not to mention immortality), so how come a number of the godmen had cancer, rheumatic complaints, liver complaints, tuberc ulosis, asthma, diabetes . . . ? One yogi replied to Premanand's query: "I could achieve health, but I am conscio usly atoning for sins in a past life." But it was soon obvious that a critical f rame of mind was not welcome. The yogi Sivananda's response to Premanand's probi ng was: "No questioning! Get out!" The young Premanand's skepticism took a practical turn. One godman was regularly brought out and put on show while apparently possessed. Premanand wondered if g ods ever went to the toilet. So he laced the godman's bottles of country liquor with epsom salts. In mid-performance the mystic called out for a wooden barrel. He sat on the barrel and evacuated into it while his head and body continued to sway. A disappointingly human response. It was soon clear that every one of the godmen's miracles was merely a trick, an d since 1976 Premanand has been mercilessly exposing their methods. To be allowed to infiltrate the inner circles of the godmen has sometimes requir ed large expenditures of money, and Premanand himself is a man of modest means. He had to find two million rupees (about $117,000) in order to worm his way clos e to his bjte noire - the highly influential Satya Sai Baba. To do this, he had to give away ninety acres of fertile land. Premanand became particularly incensed that poor people were being tricked into handing over sizeable amounts of their hard-earned money for worthless remedies and advice. "Religion," he says, "is a means to exploit people who believe in god." Even more ominously, Sai Baba "has followers among the bureaucracy, law enfo rcement departments, revenue departments, the judiciary, the state and central m inistry, and among the elite and influential." Premanand toured the villages and small towns of India in a jeep and deliberatel y set off the car's alarm when he stopped at the roadside. He treated the crowd of onlookers to a miracle show in the manner of a godman, then set about exposin g the trickery. "If the claims of the godmen are false," he says, "then godmen should be prosecu ted for cheating the credulous public in order to exploit them. Or, if they are true, the education department should stop teaching the theory of conservation a nd relativity to the students." Right now, Premanand is gunning for Sai Baba in particular and is in the process of nailing him down in a court of law. Premanand has given more than 7,000 lectures, "educating our people in the scien tific temper." He has met about twenty million people, and visited twenty-seven countries. Twenty-five days of every month are spent traveling, and he has writt en thirty books in Malayalam and six in English. In 1989, Premanand was awarded a fellowship by the director of the Communication Department of India's Council for Science and Technology. His brief is to compl ete a video library of 1,200 miracles, to write books, and to train 1,000 people to tour 50,000 villages. "They will explain the science and tricks behind mirac les, superstitions, and blind beliefs, so that exploitations in the name of gods and miracles are stopped." He is close to fulfilling a dream of 40 years _ the building of a research cente r, with a library where explanations of religion, magic, science, miracles, and psychic phenomena are available. This is to be on a 15-acre site in Kerala, at a spot that the poet Rabindranath Tagore named "Shrishaila." Premanand has not achieved all this without attempts on his life. He has been ph ysically attacked by the godmen's followers. He has been hospitalized, his car w as tampered with so that it overturned at speed, and a lorry has tried to run hi m down. None of these things has dampened the energy of this remarkable 62-year-old. He is convenor of the Indian Rationalist Association, and since 1976 he has been co nvenor of the Indian Skeptics. In 1988, Premanand began publishing Indian Skeptic. It still comes out every mon th, and you can have it sent by airmail for $12 a year or $150 for a lifetime su bscription. (And if the magazine should ever fold, you would get the whole of yo ur lifetime subscription back.) Address: 10 Chettipalayam Road, Podanur 641 023 (Tamilnadu), India. Each issue includes descriptions of how a number of miracles are performed _ and there are 1,000 to cover. Talking of miracles, everyone who was in that Conway Hall audience can now perfo rm the feats that at first seemed impossible: how to run a flame along your arm without getting burned; how to create psychic fire with ingredients from your lo cal drugstore; and how to produce a seemingly endless supply of holy ash. Some of the "miracles" require simple gimmicked apparatus. The spike doesn't rea lly go through the tongue: there's a little u-bend in the middle of the spike th at fits around it. But it looks alarmingly realistic. Is there anything else Premanand would like to accomplish in his lifetime? "Oh y es," he told me. "To see a real miracle before I die." But I can't convey in print the twinkle in his eye or the blossoming grin. It wa s like so many of Premanand's performances. You had to be there. -- Article 7 does not exist Article #8 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Magic and Trickery in Lexington Date: Wed Jul 8 01:28:29 1992 Magic and Trickery in Lexington, Kentucky Barry Karr "In dealing with the paranormal, you can find a lot of deception and misperception. Magicians are interested in this sort of thing. They are experienced in sleight of hand. That's their business - having people see what they want them to see. Who better to spot tricks and deception than a magician?" This is the answer I gave the Memphis Commercial Appeal when they asked why CSICOP believes it is important to have magicians involved in investigating paranormal claims. With this in mind, CSICOP organized an Institute for Inquiry seminar on the subject "Magic for Skeptics: Trickery and the Paranormal," which was held April 17 to 19, at the Ramada Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. The seminar, led by former professional magician Joe Nickell, who now teaches technical writing at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and Robert Baker, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Kentucky, provided an intensive history of magic and its association with the paranormal, and at the same time explained various conjuring techniques and offered hands-on demonstrations of various effects. Thus participants not only learned some of the ways that such effects as reading the contents of sealed envelopes, the passing of one solid object through another, mind reading, and the old spoon-bend are accomplished, they also were shown how these various effects are used by people claiming paranormal abilities. The point was stressed, however, that because you may know one way an effect can be done, this doesn't mean that there aren't other ways. We can all be fooled. Although I don't know that any of the 60 or so participants will be quitting their day jobs to go on the road as professional magicians, I do think they came away with a solid foundation, and appreciation, for basic conjuring skills. -- Article #9 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Voice of Inquiry Heard Across Australia Date: Wed Jul 8 01:29:33 1992 "Voice of Inquiry" to be Heard Across Australia "The Voice of Inquiry," the 13-part radio series produced by Inquiry Media Productions, in cooperation with the Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry, will be heard on 160 stations across the continent of Australia. The well-known Australian broadcaster Phillip Adams, a founder of the Australian Skeptics, will air the tapes across the country. They will be heard on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) Radio Nation, the national broadcasting organization's "spoken word" network. It's not too late to help air "Voice of Inquiry" on your continent. For more information, write Tom Flynn, Director, Inquiry Media Productions, Box 32, Buffalo NY 14215-0032. -- Article #10 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . "Can Psychic Astrology Solve Your Problems?" Date: Wed Jul 8 01:30:53 1992 Barrett's Corner by Steve Barrett Can "Psychic Astrology" Solve Your Problems? Would you like to "hit it big" and accrue "up to millions"? Cope better with important personal relationships? Have everything mapped out so you can "fulfill your dream of living the good life"? Just complete the enclosed "psychic interview form" and send it with $19.95 for your "Personal Forecast and Life Development Chart," guaranteed to provide "full Good Luck/Money instructions" for the next year or your money will be returned. This sales pitch, in an envelope marked "absolutely confidential" _ was mailed by "psychic astrologer" Irene Hughes. "Dear Tom," the letter said. "Your name got on my special list. The moment I saw it there I had a hunch: a psychic 'gut feeling.' I knew I should contact you. I said to myself, 'Things are not right with this friend. I must help my new friend.' "Now I happen to be famous for spotting people in trouble, and helping them. . . Even officials of the Church and Government call on my services. Being able to 'receive' psychic impressions from anywhere in the world . . . I've been nearly 100% successful assisting important world figures in ways that amaze authorities." "Right this minute I'm concentrating on you. On how Irene Hughes should and must help you. What my gut feeling tells me is this. You have a serious personal problem. It is eating away at you. . . . ' "There is no shortage of so-called psychics or astrologers out there willing to help you . . . They will take your money and not actually do anything for you or tell you anything you didn't already know," Hughes continued. "You don't know how lucky you are that a truly qualified psychic counseling expert _ someone known to be 'right' as a psychic 74 out of 75 times _ is now on to your problem. . . . Normally my consultation services cost a client $500.00 or more, plus expenses." I have no way to determine whether Hughes helps people. But I do know that her selection of "Tom" was not psychic. "Tom" does not exist. He's just one of many assumed names used by a reporter I know to subscribe to offbeat health publications, order bogus products, and inquire about get-riah-quick schemes. "Tom" receives a steady stream of mail from entrepreneurs who have acquired his name for their "sucker lists." Stephen Barrett, M.D., co-chairman of CSICOP's Paranormal Health Claims Subcommittee, practices psychiatry and edits Nutrition Forum, a newsletter focusing on nutrition fads, fallacies, and quackery. His 28 books include Health Schemes, Scams, and Frauds, published by Consumer Reports Books in 1990. His recommended reading list can be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Lehigh Valley Co. Against Health Fraud, Inc., P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105. -- Article #11 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Earthquake Lights and UFOs Date: Wed Jul 8 01:33:17 1992 Earthquake Lights and UFOs "Earthquake lights", a low-intensity luminescence sometimes visible on the exterior surface of rocks near the epicenter shortly before an earthquake, are a well-established scientific fact, although the phenomenon is not too well understood. The phenomenon is believed to involve the "piezoelectric effect", used in some cigarette lighters to create a spark to ignite butane gas. The idea that some UFO reports might be triggered by "earthquake lights" is not in itself new, having been proposed more than a decade ago by Michael Persinger, a Canadian psychologist who is interested in UFOs. Recently John Derr, who is with the U.S. Geological Survey's Albuquerque Seismological Lab, has been trying to correlate earthquake activity in New Mexico 40 years ago with UFO sightings of that period. While a few of the UFO sightings may have been triggered by earthquake lights, the high apparent correlation is suspect for several reasons, according to Philip J. Klass, chairman of CSICOP's UFO Subcommittee, who has written four books on UFOs. First is the considerable distance of some of Derr's UFO sightings from the epicenter of the quakes, and another is the elapsed time separating the two events. Still another is that, for most UFO sightings, the object is reported to be airborne, while earthquake lights are on or very close to the surface, according to Klass. Additionally, many UFO sightings involve brightly illuminated moving objects, whereas earthquake lights are of low intensity and necessarily relatively static. Derr has used scientific methodology to try to find a prosaic explanation for UFO reports, and believes his theory may explain a small percentage of the total. "However," Klass said, "after nearly 26 years of investigating UFO sightings, I have learned that there are dozens of different 'trigger mechanisms.' "These include bright planets/stars, re-entering space debris, meteor-fireballs, advertising aircraft with strings of flashing lights, military aircraft conducting refueling operations or special tests, and hoax hot-air balloons launched by pranksters, plus many others," Klass said. "perhaps the list should include earthquake lights," he added. -- Article #12 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . BEYOND BELIEF: Photographic Proof? Not For Long! Date: Wed Jul 8 01:35:08 1992 BEYOND BELIEF Photographic Proof? Not for Long by Tom Flynn If your kids dragged you to Steven Spielberg's movie Hook, you may have been impressed with the fluidity and realism of its flying scenes. Robin Williams as Peter Pan (obviously not a stuntman) would swoop around those studio sets with the greatest of ease, while the camera wheeled gracefully around him. How was it done? With a technology called "wire removal." Why should skeptics care? Because the digital visual-effects technology behind today's blockbusters is poised to thrust all our old ideas about "photographic evidence" into the dustbin of history. Until about 1990, flying an actor in a movie studio meant taking enormous pains to hide the wires. In pictures like Superman (1978), the wires were kept so thin that they limited both the possible flying maneuvers and the performers' safety. (Of course, traveling matte techniques were available that permitted certain types of flying shots to be executed without worrying about wires. But these methods introduced problems of their own.) With Back to the Future II, the technicians at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), George Lucas's cutting-edge special-effects facility, rewrote the book on flying scenes. That picture featured dozens of shots with Michael J. Fox on a flying skateboard. Director Robert Zemeckis staged them with all kinds of big, clumsy, safe steel rods and wires out in plain sight. He just let the hardware show. Then ILM technicians scanned each frame of film into a powerful graphics workstation. Using proprietary software, they removed the rods and wires. They extrapolated background imagery from either side of the objects to fill in the spaces where the hardware had been. And it all worked invisibly, frame after frame, 24 frames for every second of screen time. Finally, each manipulated frame was laser-scanned back onto 35mm or 70mm film negative. Cut into the finished picture, these highly manipulated shots matched perfectly with "virgin" first-generation footage. You never saw the wires, and you never saw where they'd been removed. Which brings us back to Hook. Unencumbered by the need to make wires invisible to the camera, Spielberg's technicians concentrated on building a flying rig that would do just about anything _ and do it with such a margin of safety that Robin Williams could do most of the flying himself. All Spielberg had to worry about was getting the moves and the performance right. The techno-pixies at ILM would take care of everything else. This made for some fine entertainment _ and for rising anxiety among specialists in visual forensics. Suppose someone with access to ILM technology created, say, a phony UFO photograph. If the faker was skillful, neither the photo nor its negative (previously the Achilles' heel of photo manipulators) would betray any signs of the manipulation they had undergone. Picture-massaging technology almost as sophisticated as the equipment at ILM is already in use at service bureaus, in corporations, and on college and university campuses. It's a sizeable installed base, much of which is good enough to manipulate 35mm negatives at snapshot resolution. With the ubiquity of camcorders, which produce low-resolution moving imagery already in electronic form, an increasing number of extraordinary claims, criminal prosecutions, and the like, will hinge on a form of evidence that's even easier to manipulate. Finally, electronic still cameras are beginning, however slowly, to move into applications that once belonged exclusively to silver-halide film technology. These devices do not produce negatives, but graphics files _ the ideal format for easy manipulation. The days when a skilled photo analyst could be sure of detecting a doctored image may soon be history. The next Rodney King-style scandal could be set in motion by faked camcorder footage, and the fakery may prove difficult or impossible for authorities to detect. While we wait for that, skeptics can occupy themselves wading through what I'm sure will be a growing stream of increasingly better-quality "proof shots" of ghosts, levitation, UFOs, and who knows what else. Till next time, grow doubtful with along with me. The weirdest is yet to be. Tom Flynn, director of Inquiry Media Productions, is currently producing the upcoming CSICOP video "Case Histories in the Paranormal." -- Article #13 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Oops Awards Date: Wed Jul 8 01:37:23 1992 The "Oops!" Awards Barry Karr Our readers have an excellent habit of sending us interesting items from their local newspapers. Sometimes these clips are so good we feel there should be some means of honoring them. In this spirit, I propose the "Oops!" Award. For example, "Oops!" Awards that could have been given in the past include this, in the "Perhaps I Have Said Too Much" category: Psychic News, a London Spiritualist weekly newspaper, reported in its January 31, 1987, issue that their offices had been burglarized. "A day's mail was stolen _ and we have no idea what it contained," said the report. In the "I Should Have Seen It Coming" category: "E. Frankel, one of the Soviet Union's growing number of psychic healers and mentalists, claimed he used his powers to stop bicycles, automobiles, and streetcars. He thought he was ready for something bigger, so he stepped in front of a freight train. It didn't work." (AP, October 2, 1989) For this issue, also in the "I Should Have Seen It Coming" category: "A Denver psychic and her ex-husband . . . were joined together Friday in a 14-count federal grand-jury indictment charging them with tax fraud. "Lou Wright and Richard G. Deubel were charged with filing false federal income tax returns for certain years in the 1980s. If convicted, Wright faces as many as 24 years in prison and a maximum $2 million in fines. . . . "Deubel testifies that Wright may have been earning more than $100,000 a year from her consulting business, even though she claimed . . . that her company, Lou Wright Enterprises, was worthless. . . . "Federal prosecutors say Wright filed false corporate returns for the company and another company called Lou Wright Inc. and that Deubel aided in their preparation." (Rocky Mountain News, March 28, 1992) -- Article #14 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . A Tribute to Isaac Asimov Date: Wed Jul 8 01:39:39 1992 In Memory of Isaac Asimov "[Asimov] is a natural resource and a national wonder." - George Simpson "There is a crying need for the popular understanding of modern science. Asimov was remarkable for his ability to popularize and entertain. He was a national resource, and there ought to be a national day of mourning for him." - Leon Lederman, in the New York Times. "What H. G. Wells did for public appreciation and understanding of science in the first half of the 20th century, Isaac Asimov did in the second half." - Gerard Piel, in the New York Times. "I think one of the most powerful aspects of his science fiction, one of the ways it worked so well, was that it was grounded in reality. It was based on real science, it felt like real science." - Carl Sagan, Boston Globe. "Yeah, well. Anyway it's been a fun life. I don't enjoy the thought of having to leave it, but if I do leave it, at least I have the feeling that I haven't wasted it." - Isaac Asimov, Interview magazine. -- Article #15 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Watch for a CSICOP Seminar Near You Date: Wed Jul 8 01:40:50 1992 The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal announces the 1992 CSICOP Conference at the Harvey Hotel in Dallas, Texas Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 16, 17, and 18, 1992 Fairness, Fraud, and Feminism: Culture Confronts Science Keynote Address (Friday at 8:30 p.m.) Richard Dawkins distinguished professor of zoology at Oxford University, author of The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene Friday, October 16 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.: Registration 9:00 - 9:15 a.m.: Opening Remarks _ Paul Kurtz, CSICOP Chairman 9:15 a.m. - 12 noon: Multicultural Approaches to Science: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Moderator: Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, professor of anthropology, Wayne State University Diana Marinez, professor of biochemistry, Michigan State University Joseph Dunbar, professor of physiology, Wayne State University 12 noon - 2:00 p.m.: Lunch Break 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.: Gender issues in Science and Pseudoscience Moderator: James Alcock, professor of psychology, Glendon College, York University, Toronto. Susan Blackmore, psychologist, University of Bristol, U.K. Carol Tavris, social psychologist, author of The Mismeasure of Woman. Steven Goldberg, professor of sociology, City College, City University of New York, and author of The Inevitability of Patriarchy 5:15 - 6:15 p.m.: Reception (cash bar) 6:15 - 8:30 p.m.: Dinner: The Future of Skepticism: The Price of Reason with the CSICOP Executive Council, Paul Kurtz, James Alcock, Barry Beyerstein, Susan Blackmore, Kendrick Frazier, Ray Hyman, Philip J. Klass, Joe Nickell, and Lee Nisbet 8:00 p.m.: Keynote Address Richard Dawkins, professor of zoology, Oxford University, and author of The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. Saturday, October 17 8:00 - 9:00 am.: Registration 9:00 a.m. - 12 noon: Fraud in Science Moderator: Elie Shneour, Director, Biosystems Research Institute Paul Friedman, professor of radiology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, at La Jolla. Clark Glymour, professor of philosophy, Carnegie-Mellon University Walter Stewart, National Institutes of Helath. 12 noon - 2:00 p.m.: CSICOP Luncheon Sergei Kapitza, editor of Russian edition of Scientific American; member Russian Academy of Sciences. Evry Schatzman, former president, French Physics Society; member French Academy of Science. 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.: Two Concurrent Sessions Session 1. Crashed Saucers Moderator: Philip J. Klass, leading investigator of UFO claims and former senior editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology. Robert Young, education director, Harrisburg Astronomical Society James McGaha, Major, U.S. Air Force (ret.), Tucson. Kevin Randle and Donald R. Schmitt, authors of UFO Crash at Roswell. Session 2. The Paranormal in China Moderator: Paul Kurtz, CSICOP Chairman and professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Guo Zheng-yi, Shen Zhen-yu, Weng Shi-da, and Dong Guang bi, members of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology; Lin Zixin, former editor-in-chief of China's Science and Technolgy Daily; Yu Li, journalist and magician. 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.: Reception (cash bar) 7:00 - 10:00 p.m.: Awards Banquet Entertainment by Steve Shaw, mentalist, magician, and "Project Alpha" alumnus. Sunday, October 19 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.: Tour of Dinosaur Valley State Park See the Paluxy River footprints and the fossil imprints left by giant reptiles of eons past. Dr. Ronnie Hastings, an expert on the Paluxy River footprints, will be our tour guide. A complete box lunch will be provided. 9:00 a.m. - noon: Conversation Session Screening of CSICOP video. Conference Information The CSICOP Hospitality Room will be open at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 15 (cash bar 7:30 to 11:00 p.m.). This room will be available for the entire conference. Accommodations: The Harvey Hotel, near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Highway 114 at Esters Blvd., 4545 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving, TX 75063. Free Parking. Single $68.00, double $68.00 (plus 11% tax). The Harvey will arrange shared doubles upon request. These special rates will be available from October 13 through October 19. For reservations call 214-929-4500, fax 214-929-0733. Benton's restaurant, Scoop's Diner, Cassidy's Lounge, and the Lobby Bar are on the premises, and the hotel will provide free transportation to Oestaurant Row. Complimentary coffee will be available in the lobby for hotel guests. Transportation: For special conference airline rates call CSICOP's travel agent, Judy Pensack, Creative Destinations, 800-572-5440 or fax 407-830-5530, who has arranged discounts. Free transportation to and from DFW Airport to the Harvey Hotel. For more information, call or write Mary Rose Hayes at CSICOP, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14225 or telephone 716-636-1425, fax 716 Media representatives should contact Barry Karr: 716-636-1425. This conference is hosted by the North Texas Skeptics, an independent, autonomous organization. Registration Form YES, I (we) plan to attend the 1992 CSICOP Conference in Dallas. $125 registration for _____ person(s), includes Keynote Address $ $15.00 Friday Dinner for _____ person(s) $ $15.00 Saturday Luncheon for _____ person(s) $ $25.00 Saturday Awards Banquet for _____ person(s) $ $10.00 nonregistrant ticket(s) to Keynote Address for _____ person(s) $ $31.50 Sunday tour of Dinosaur Valley Park and Box Lunch for _____ person(s) $ Visa MasterCard Check enclosed TOTAL $ Acct. # Exp. Signature Name Address City State Zip Phone: (day) (evening) No, I will not be able to attend the conference, but please accept my contribution (tax-deductible) of $__________ to help cover the costs of this and future CSICOP events. Preregistration is advised. Students 25 or under with I.D., $25.00. Registration fee does not include meals or accommodations. Mail to: 1992 CSICOP Conference, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226 -- Article #16 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . Skeptics' Legal Defense Foundat'n...Against Harassing Suits Date: Wed Jul 8 01:44:32 1992 CSICOP Legal Defense Foundation Help Us Defend Skepticism Against Harassing Suits In the Winter 1992 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer we outlined the difficulties that the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal is experiencing because of harassing lawsuits filed against skeptics. We feel confident that these suits will eventually be dismissed. Still, we suspect that the lawsuits were brought for reasons other than the redress of alleged grievances. For what do these suits mean? They mean that the pro-paranormalists think they have finally found a way to strike below the belt of scientists and skeptics. For years they have been unable to prove their claims of miraculous abilities. They've grown tired of hearing our challenges. Now they have turned to intimidation by lawsuit in an effort to silence their only persistent critics. It doesn't necessarily matter if the plaintiff wins or loses the suit. Their purpose is to waste their opponents' resources and to intimidate and silence them in effect, depriving individuals or organizations of their First Amendment rights. We are by no means a wealthy organization, but we are not prepared to surrender our rights. We have vowed to fight back. To do so, we need your support. CSICOP has established the CSICOP Legal Defense Foundation. Its funds will be used to help pay the costs of existing lawsuits and any that may arise in the future, and to countersue when appropriate. Don't allow the claim-mongers to destroy CSICOP (and the values of science and reason it steadfastly represents) through unjust and frivolous legal proceedings. Support the CSICOP Legal Defense Foundation today. It's the best way to blunt this frightening new weapon of the apostles of nonsense. Yes, I want to help defend the rights of skeptics. Enclosed is my tax-deductible contribution of: $ . (Please make check payable to the CSICOP Legal Defense Foundation.) Charge my Visa MasterCard Check Enclosed Card Number Expiration Date Credit-card contributors may call toll-free: 1-800-634-1610 Name Address City State Zip Mail to: CSICOP Legal Defense Foundation, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226 -- Article #17 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . The Skeptic's Toolbox: Inst. For Inquiry Seminar Aug. 20-24 Date: Wed Jul 8 01:46:41 1992 A CSICOP Institute for Inquiry Seminar The Skeptic's Toolbox University of Oregon at Eugene, Thursday to Monday, August 20 to 24, 1992 Thursday, August 20 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.: Registration 7:30 - 10:00 p.m.: Dinner _ Welcome and Introduction Quackery and Mental Health by Loren Pankratz Close Up Magic with Jerry Andrus, David Harkey, Ray Hyman, and Loren Pankratz Friday, August 21 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.: Getting Your Message Across by Jeff Mayhew 10:45 - 12 noon: Critical Incidents This will be a group session in which faculty and participants relate incidents in which they were confronted by paranormal claims. How did we handle the situation? With hindsight, what could we have done better? What tools could we have used? 2:00 - 3:15 p.m.: Random Andrus by Jerry Andrus A lecture demonstrating using optical illusions and magic to demonstrate how we often come to the wrong conclusions for the right reasons. 3:45 - 5:00 p.m.: Consult the Expert Choose one: 1. Ideomotor Action: Dowsing, Black Baxes, and Ouija Boards 2. Effective Communication and Argumentation 3. Children as Deceivers 4. Illusions and the Mind 5. Graphology and Assessment Saturday, August 22 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.: The Personality Styles of Deceivers by Loren Pankratz 10:45 - 12 noon: The Esoteric Brian by Barry Beyerstein 2:00 - 3:15 p.m.: The Psychic Reading by Ray Hyman Video and audiotape examples of Ray Hyman giving convincing psychic readings. Discussions of why they work and advice on how to do them. 3:45 - 5:00 p.m.: Practice at Doing Psychic Readings The participants will be given opportunities to practice giving psychic readings to volunteer clients. Sunday, August 23 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.: Eugene Vortex and Picnic The entire morning session will take place at Hendricks Park, within walking distance of the University of Oregon campus. Jerry Andrus will have set up some demonstrations equivalent to those that occur at the Oregon Vortex. He will also set up his "Impossible Box." The park has picnic facilities, and we will hold a group picnic along with discussion of the phenomena. 2:00 - 3:15 p.m.: Small Group Workshops The participants will be divided into five working groups, which will devise solutions to previously assigned problems or cases. 3:15 - 5:00 p.m.: Plenary Session of Participants The working groups will convene to compare solutions and discuss the cases. 7:30 - 10:00 p.m.: Dinner The Psychology of Deception by Ray Hyman Monday, August 24 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.: Subgroups Compose Summary Checklist The participants will be divided into five subgroups. Each subgroup will generate its own checklist of key tools and ideas developed during the workshop. 10:45 - 12 noon: Plenary Session and Wrap-up The participants will convene in one group and the checklists from each subgroup will be merged into one master checklist. Registration Form $130 registration for _____ person(s) $ Please reserve _____ double room(s) and board for _____ person(s) at McAlister or Schafer halls at $140 for four nights $ Please reserve _____ single room(s) and board for _____ person(s) at McAlister or Schafer halls at $160 each for four nights $ Visa MasterCard Check enclosed TOTAL $ Acct. # Exp. Signature Name Address City State Zip Phone: (day) (evening) Fill out and mail to: Barry Karr, CSICOP, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226-0703 Credit card orders call 1-800-634-1610 or fax charges to 716-636-1733 A CSICOP Institute for Inquiry Seminar -- Article #18 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . INSIDE CSICOP Date: Wed Jul 8 01:47:34 1992 Inside CSICOP Barry Karr The CSICOP Executive Council is pleased to announce that Barry Beyerstein and Vern Bullough have been elected Fellows of CSICOP and Terence Hines and Gary Posner have been named Scientific Consultants. Barry Beyerstein, a biopsychologist at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, was elected a CSICOP Scientific Consultant in 1984 and is now a member of the Executive Council. His contributions to the Skeptical Inquirer include "The Myth of Alpha Consciousness" (Fall 1985), "The Brain and Consciousness" (Winter 1987-88), and "Neuropathology and the Legacy of Spiritual Possession" (Spring 1988). He is also head of the British Columbia Skeptics. Vern Bullough, Distinguished Professor of the State University of New York, has been a CSICOP Scientific Consultant. He was recently named Dean of the Institute for Inquiry, which sponsors many CSICOP seminars. He is the author of "Spirit-Rapping Unmasked: An 1851 Investigation and Its Aftermath," which appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1985). Terence Hines is a professor of psychology at Pace University, Pleasantville, New York. His contributions to the Skeptical Inquirer include "Biorhythms" (Summer 1979), "High Flying Health Quackery" (Summer 1988), and "A Reaction-Time Test of ESP and Precognition" (Winter 1989). He is also the author of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, an excellent overview of the paranormal. Gary Posner, M.D., is an internist in St. Petersburg, Florida, a longtime member of CSICOP's UFO Subcommittee, and the founder of the Tampa Bay Skeptics. He has written "Nation's Mathematicians Guilty of Innumeracy" (Summer 1991) and other articles for the Skeptical Inquirer. Posner also was Medical Consultant to James Randi during Randi's investigation of faith healers. -- Article #19 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: . . . S.I. CURRENTS Date: Wed Jul 8 01:48:59 1992 SI Currents CSICOP is pleased to announce that International Periodicals Distributors (IPD), of San Diego, Calif., has agreed to distribute the Skeptical Inquirer to its network of bookstores and newsstands across the United States and Canada. Currently, the Skeptical Inquirer has a newsstand circulation of about 1,850 issues per quarter. IPD will be able to make SI available to almost 5,000 retail bookstores in the U.S., as well as possibly provide international distribution in the future. Major chains serviced by IPD include Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Tower Books, B. Dalton, and Encore Books. Other distributors of SI include: Armadillo & Co., Culver City, Calif.; Fine Print Distributors, Austin, Texas; Small Changes, Seattle, Wash.; and Ubiquity, Brooklyn, N.Y. So look for us at a newsstand near you. Chances are we'll be there soon. -- Article #20 (21 is last): Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop From: xx029@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Skeptics SIG) Subject: Judge Authorizes Sanctions Against Geller (CSICOP News Release) Date: Mon Jul 20 23:38:35 1992 [The following is the text of a news release from The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.] LAWSUIT AGAINST CSICOP DISMISSED A federal court in Washington, D.C has thrown out a lawsuit filed by self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller against the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and has authorized the imposition of monetary sanctions against Geller for prosecuting the case. In orders issued by Judge Stanley S. Harris, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered judgment on behalf of CSICOP and granted CSICOP's request that the Court impose sanctions on Geller for his prosecution of the lawsuit. Geller commenced the fifteen million dollar lawsuit in May of 1991 against CSICOP and James Rand, alleging that Geller was defamed by Randi in statements reported in The International Herald Tribune. In its motion to the Court seeking judgment on Geller's claims against it, CSICOP asserted that Geller had no legal or factual basis for his assertion that CSICOP should be held liable for Randi's alleged statements. In a declaration filed with the Court in Geller's lawsuit, CSICOP Executive Director Barry Karr stated that "I believe that CSICOP was made a defendant in this lawsuit solely for the purpose of harassment and intimidation, and in the hope that the lawsuit would dissuade CSICOP from encouraging and providing a forum for... the critical discussion and analysis of paranormal claims, particularly those asserted by Geller." CSICOP publishes on a quarterly basis the Skeptical Inquirer, a scholarly journal of articles and comment regarding claims of the paranormal and scientific controversies intended to inform interested scientists and scholars, the media and the general public on such matters and to publish skeptical and evaluative critiques of them based upon scientific principles and recognized concepts of creditable evidence. On numerous occasions, the Skeptical Inquirer has included articles that have examined and commented upon claims of paranormal powers asserted by Geller, many of which have called into question Geller's claims. Judge Harris's authorization of sanctions against Geller was made pursuant to a federal court rule that mandates the imposition of sanctions if litigation is "interposed for any improper purpose such as to harass or cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation," or if papers filed with the court are not "to the best of the signer's knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry...well grounded in fact...and warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law." Following notification of Judge Harris's orders, CSICOP Chairman Paul Kurtz commented, "This type of libel suit, even if ultimately unsuccessful, threatens to chill debate on scientific issues. If such obstacles as these are placed, unchecked, in the way of scientific research, and if one cannot question extraordinary claims, then a serious blow will be dealt to freedom of expression and of scientific inquiry." Kurtz continued, "We view this case as a serious challenge to our First Amendment rights, and we are thankful that Judge Harris chose to vindicate those rights." In addition, Kurtz observed, the judge's decision to impose sanctions against Geller "sends a stern warning to those who would utilize libel suits as a weapon to harass; such conduct can carry a heavy penalty." -- Article #21 (21 is last): From: aa470@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Cyn Bell-Moores) Newsgroups: freenet.rec.skeptic.csicop Subject: Skeptical Briefs Volume 2 Number 3 Reply-To: aa470@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Cyn Bell-Moores) Posted-By: xx029 (aa470 - Cyn Bell-Moores) Date: Wed Sep 23 12:30:30 1992 Skeptical Briefs This electronic document contains material copyrighted by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226-0703. Paul Kurtz, Chairman Barry Karr, Executive Director Inklings The Natural Law Party Lewis Jones I guess most people know the names of the main political parties in Britain, but the most recent election reminded us that almost a hundred other parties were also hoping to take over the reins -- among them the Jolly Small Brewers Party, the Fancy Dress Party, the Forward to Mars Party, the Whiplash (Corrective) Party, the Struck Off and Die Doctor's Alliance Party, and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. By far the biggest election manifesto to drop onto my doormat this time came from a party that wasn't around at the previous election -- the Natural Law Party (NLP). In contrast to the modest pamphlets put out by the main parties, the NLP's offering extended to 16 square feet of printed paper. And like other parties, the NLP set out its proposals for running the country. "It is time," they say, "to bring the light of science into politics." Economy? "We will implement programs to develop the full creative potential of every individual, and educate and train everyone how to achieve perfection in their profession." In this way, "a better economy will be created not on the basis of hard work, but on the basis of following Natural Law, which works through the Principle of Least Action (Physics) -- maximum accomplishment through minimum effort on the basis of infinite creativity." Taxation? "We will aim at keeping a tax level of between 10 and 20%," because the NLP's administration "will disallow emergence of problems, negativity, crime, and disease in the country, thereby increasing the efficiency of the administration and substantially reducing government expenditures." Education? "It is imperative to introduce the study of consciousness and research in consciousness in order to generate the influence of coherence and positivity in individual and national consciousness . . . . These programmes include Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation." Employment? The unemployed will be trained "to unfold their latent creative potential and gain the support of Nature . . ." Health? The NLP will create "a Disease-Free Society through prevention-oriented health education, based on the complete knowledge of prevention available in Maharishi Ayur-Veda." Law and order? The Maharishi Effect will "eliminate the very cause of crime -- the inability of the population to think and act spontaneously in accord with Natural Law." The environment? The NLP "will regenerate the inner cities by developing parklands with beautiful lakes, flowers, and trees in the decaying centres of cities and redistributing the population to ideal villages and towns around the outskirts of the cities." (No mention of how to deal with people who decline to be "redistributed.") By a happy chance, it appears that "the tradition of administration of the United Kingdom mirrors the absolute system of Nature's Government." since "a monarchy, integrated with democracy, appears to be the ideal structure of government which upholds the unifying and diversifying values of Natural law." In short, the NLP's aspiration is to "create a government which can satisfy everyone," and to create a "positive influence of harmony in our national consciousness, by establishing a few groups of 'Yogic Flyers' in the country." These claims, say the NLP, "would appear unbelievable, were it not for the more than 500 scientific research studies conducted at over 200 universities and research institutions in 27 countries worldwide, as well as decades of experience." The manifesto includes photographs of 35 members of the Executive Council. Among them are two physicians who were struck off the medical register some months before the election, for what the Lancet reported as "serious professional misconduct." Leading the Council's photographic parade is a figure more often seen on American television screens: one-time hippie magician Doug Henning -- seen here in sober jacket and tie, and captioned "Dr. Doug Henning." It turns out that his doctorate was in the Science of Creative Intelligence, awarded by a Maharishi College. For his British constituency, Canadian-born Henning chose half of a seaside town (Blackpool South) that is well known as an entertainment center. There are 651 seats to be filled in the British parliament, and the NLP claims that it is already the fourth-largest party in terms of number of candidates (310). In high hopes of success, the NLP's manifesto proclaimed: "Great Britain will be the first great nation in the world to enjoy freedom from problems." But it was not to be. In Britain, election candidates put up a deposit of 500, and if they fail to attract at least one-fifth of the votes, they forfeit that deposit. In the event, all NLP candidates throughout the country forfeited their deposits. (Henning drew 173 votes -- 0.4% of the votes cast in Blackpool South). But the NLP reckons that as a political party it is here to stay, and it has its eye on other countries. (Stand by; the NLP is already claiming a U.S. presidential candidate -- quantum physicist John Hagelin.) Tomorrow, the world? ***Lewis Jones is a science writer from the United Kingdom.*** EuroSkeptics Meet in Italy Paul Kurtz, CSICOP Chairman to 19 in St. Vincent, a small village nestled in the Italian Alps. Delegates came from more than a dozen European countries, the United States, and Canada. The theme of this meeting was "What is the Experimental Evidence for ESP?" although a wide range of other topics were debated, including dowsing, psychokinesis, the Saint Januarius "miracle," astrology, and homeopathy. The conference received wide coverage on television, radio, and in the Italian press. A noted Italian science writer and TV moderator, Piero Angela, played an especially important role in organizing the Italian CICAP organization and the conference. Also important were Steno Ferluga, professor of astrophysics at Trieste University, and two young Italian skeptics, Massimo Polidoro and Lorenzo Montali. CICAP has had strong support from the Italian scientific community, especially from its Nobel laureates. The conference contributors issued the following statement about the responsibilities of the scientific community in examining paranormal phenomena: This statement is issued at the conclusion of the Congress of CICAP (Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul Paranormale), and seventeen countries, July 17-19, 1992, at Saint Vincent, Italy. In response, to the basic question, What is the experimental evidence for, the paranormal? we submit that what is available is insufficient, inconsistent, and inconclusive. Therefore we suggest that the scientific community has a professional and social duty to express itself about the unchallenged growth of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, to fill the gap between science and popular opinion. Indeed, significant sectors of tile public throughout the world believe that "paranormal phenomena" have been proved by science, and there is a continuing abuse of scientific language by pseudoscientists. Scientists should be open to the investigation of any responsible claim about alleged anomalous phenomena, or at least they should support their colleagues who critically examine paranormal claims. When, in the past, scientists and their organizations have applied their expertise to question ill-founded notions, they have usually proved effective. Where there is clearly insufficient evidence, or when a specific claim has been falsified, scientists should convey this knowledge to the public. This is particularly important when the media sensationalize these claims, and when there is commercial exploitation by astrologers, psychics, spurious medical healers, and other pseudoscientific practitioners. Scientists should also promote governmental and public support for scientific education, and foster critical thinking to enable the general public to distinguish science from pseudoscience. Beyond Belief War in the Gulf Tom Flynn In the inky darkness beside the bridge, 20 people cluster outside their cars. A man scans the night sky with binoculars. Half a dozen senior citizens have arranged their lawn chairs in an outward-facing circle. They sit, heads thrown back, each responsible for 60 degrees of sky. Standing unattended a dozen feet away are three large camcorders on tripods. One has been modified; a sports photographer's super telephoto lens explodes from the camera body, supported by a machined aluminum bar. My companion, the videographer, is local. He introduces me as "Tom from out of town." It wouldn't do to reveal more. This is Gulf Breeze, Florida, and these people are waiting for a UFO. Other business had taken me to Orlando, and I took the opportunity to visit Gulf Breeze and shoot some interviews for the upcoming CSICOP video. Gulf Breeze, of course, is the home of Ed and Frances Walters, who say they were contacted and abducted in multiple alien encounters -- and claim to have the pictures to prove it. Skeptical investigators think the photos were faked. So do some people in the pro-UFO movement. Other UFOlogists swear by the photos, giving rise to the most bitter feud in current UFOdom. But that's old news. What's happening now is really weird. Since April 1991, slow-moving objects with red and white lights began appearing over Gulf Breeze on a regular basis. Often they sweep over Pensacola Bay, hang a right over the 3-mile bridge that links Pensacola with Gulf Breeze, and disappear into the distance. They have been sighted more than 160 times. many were probably misidentifications of ordinary objects; this part of Florida is freckled with military airbases. But a substantial number have been more mysterious. One mystery: Why are the objects such camera hounds? Until I arrived, they had never failed to appear on a night when a television crew was in town. Some of the resulting footage suggests that we may be dealing with airborne flares, perhaps suspended by a balloon, kite, or some type of remotely piloted equipment. If the phenomena are intriguing, the human response is perversely spellbinding. UFO believers now keep a nightly vigil at the foot of the bay bridge and at a nearby shoreline park. By the dozen, by the score -- every single night -- summer, winter, Christmas eve. Always. The city has bought the land at the foot of the bridge; it's being made into a park. My companion is talking with one of the watchers. Casually, he mentions a well-known local UFO believer who got blacklisted for suggesting that the Walter's photos were fakes. The watcher's voice rankles with venom. "We don't want to know about him," he rumbles. "I don't think he'd be welcome here any more." (The "banishee" reports he has had his tires slashed and received death threats.) I try to keep from showing surprise -- the darkness helps. For most people in the Florida panhandle, the "Gulf Breeze war" ended long ago. But those who remain committed are chained to a startling enmity. To be among the enthusiasts is like visiting one of those Appalachian towns where family members have turned against each other over a proposed landfill. All this over flying saucers? I watch the sky for an interval. Radio antenna strobes, the lights of passing aircraft, lights glinting on the waters of the bay. No red lights. I get in my companion's car and we inch away, driving without lights for the first hundred feet so as not to blunt the watchers' night vision. They'll watch hours more. They'll be back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. I'm glad to leave. ***Tom Flynn, director of Inquiry Media Productions, is currently producing the CSICOP video "Case Studies of the Paranormal."*** The Psychic Says . . . According to the National Enquirer, and their "ten leading psychics," these are some of the things we have to look forward to before the end of 1992. y Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" will go missing for a month and then turn up wandering the desert claiming he was abducted by aliens y After a dam breaks in eastern Tennessee, scientists will find the remains of three two-headed prehistoric creatures. y A secret UFO base that has been in use for thousands of years will be found in the Mexican desert. (This is just plain silly -- everyone knows the UFO base is in New Mexico.) Barrett's Corner Vitamin Wars Stephen Barrett About twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that food products be labeled so that ingredients, nutrient content, and other information would be displayed in a standard format. These provisions became regulations with little controversy and are still used today. But the proposal also said that labeling could neither state nor imply that a balanced diet of ordinary foods cannot supply adequate amounts of nutrients. Because this struck at the heart of health-food-industry mythology, the industry responded with lawsuits and a massive letter-writing campaign. In 1976, in response to this campaign, Congress passed a law preventing the FDA from regulating "dietary supplements" unless they are inherently dangerous or are marketed with illegal therapeutic claims. Simply put, the law permits worthless substances to be marketed if they meet two criteria: (1) they don't cause direct physical harm, and (2) product labels contain no disease-related claims. One FDA commissioner called the 1976 law "a charlatan's dream" because it prevents the FDA from removing worthless substances from the marketplace if they are cautiously marketed -- which, of course, most are. Inspect the shelves of any "health food" store and you will find few labels that state what the products are for. Most labels simply say: "Take two a day as a dietary supplement." The intended purposes of the products are not difficult to discern, however. False and unproved claims for their ingredients abound in books, magazines, and newsletters written by health-food proponents. Such claims are also made by retailers, who aren't the least bit shy about recommending products for virtually every health problem known to humans. Consumer Health Education Council, who telephoned 41 Houston-area health-food stores while posing as potential customers. Each caller explained that he or she had a brother with AIDS who was seeking an effective alternative product to use against the AIDS virus. Each caller also explained that the brother's wife was still having sex with her husband and was seeking products that would reduce her risk of being infected or make infection impossible. All 41 retailers offered products they said could benefit the brothers immune system, improve the woman's immunity, and protect her against harm from the AIDS virus. Thirty said they carried products that would cure AIDS. None recommended abstinence of the use of condoms. In 1990 Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act to strengthen the FDA's ability to regulate health claims on food products. Shortly before the law's passage, the health-food industry succeeded in exempting "dietary supplements of vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other similar nutrients" from certain provisions applicable to foods. Instead, the law called for separate standards to be established by the Secretary for Health and Human Services. The industry, which attributed its success to the efforts of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), hoped that the standards for supplements would be more lenient than those for foods. In response to the law , FDA Commissioner David Kessler, M.D., J.D., set up a Dietary Supplement Task Force to explore how food supplements should be defined and regulated. In a statement submitted to the task force, Kessler said that "the desire to take the products often arises from a belief that dietary supplements can have drug-like effects." Since attempts by the FDA to regulate supplement products have had only limited success, he suggested that "a completely new look at how supplements should be regulated is necessary." Once again, the health-food industry has gone into a panic. Early this year, industry leaders organized the Nutritional Health Alliance (NHA) to coordinate the activities of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, consumers, and other supplement industry allies. At a trade show in April, alliance leaders pledged to generate one million letters to Congress within six months and raised $500,000 to launch the campaign. "Health Freedom Kits" containing form letters, sample press releases, and other campaign materials have been distributed to many health-food stores throughout the United States. Most trade and consumer "health-food" publications have published ads urging their readers to "fight for your family's right to choose safe and beneficial nutritional supplements." The health-food industry fears that the FDA intends to promulgate labeling regulations that will sharply curtail its freedom to market products. The industry also fears that Congress will enact new laws giving the FDA greater efficiency and power to enforce its regulations. NHA's campaign is intended to block both of these possibilities and to weaken the agency's current enforcement power. In line with these goals, Senator Hatch has introduced what he calls the "Health Freedom Act of 1992." This bill would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to define dietary supplement as "an article that includes, and is intended to supplement the diet with: (A) a vitamin; (B) a mineral, (C) an herb, or (D) another similar nutritional substance, including a concentrate or extract of . . . (A), (B), or (C)." The bill would prevent the FDA from regulating the dosage of any substance for which no therapeutic claims are made, but would permit therapeutic claims based on "scientific evidence, whether published or unpublished, that provides a reasonable basis." The FDA would be prevented from regulating claims before they are made, and manufacturers would be permitted to seek immediate court review of FDA warning letters. Senator Hatch's proposal would enable manufacturers to call anything they please a "supplement," make false claims based on a poorly designed study, and tie up the FDA in court while continuing their dubious promotions. For practical purposes, consumer protection against health-food-industry deception would end. It remains to be seen whether Congress can ignore the industry's campaign and do what is needed to protect the public. ***Stephen Barrett, M.D., co-chairman of CSICOP's Paranormal Health Claims Subcommittee, practices psychiatry and edits Nutrition Forum, a newsletter focusing on nutrition fads, fallacies, and quackery. His 31 books include Health Schemes, Scams, and Frauds, published by Consumer Reports Books in 1990. His recommended reading list can be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Lehigh Valley Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. (LVCAHF), P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105.*** A Skeptics Notebook The Alien-Abduction Bonanza Robert Baker Hard on the heels of the May television sweeps, the nation's publishers also jumped on the UFO-abductions bandwagon and recently provided us with a number of equally far-out and sensationalistic tomes, namely: David M. Jacob's Secret Life: Firsthand Accounts of UFO Abductions (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), Kenneth Ring's The Omega Project (New York: William Morrow, 1992), John E. Mack's The Abduction Syndrome (New York: Scribner, 1992), and Peter Hough and Jenny Randle's Looking for the Aliens (U.K.: Blanford, 1992). While a great deal of time and attention has been devoted to David Jacob's 39 alleged abductees and their fantasies (See Fate, June 1991), much less has been accorded the work of the other scriveners. Because Kenneth Ring uses a long, detailed questionnaire and compares the responses, his Omega Project purports to be scientific. Unfortunately, it falls far short of the experimental ideal. His attempt to "connect" near-death experiences (NDEs), UFO encounters, and what he calls "Mind at Large" leaves much to be desired. The "loose mind" neologism, which he borrowed from Aldous Huxley, supposedly refers to a kind of planetary or collective mind "that is both an expression of humanity's deepest yearnings and transcendent to them." Ring's major thrust is an attempt to show that people reporting alien abductions and NDEs are very much alike. Both possess an "encounter-prone personality," which is "a distinctive spiritually sensitive and visionary psyche that may, collectively, represent the next stage in human evolution." After such heady talk, Ring sails off into the wild blue yonder with some deep thoughts about cosmic koans, alternate realities, and imaginal earths. Not surprisingly, the foreword to this lengthy speculative essay was written by Whitley Strieber. Strieber, Morey Bernstein (of The Search for Bridey Murphy fame), Leo Sprinkle , Budd Hopkins, and John White (all of UFOlogical fame) were Ring's helpers and technical advisors throughout this project. Ring is also an admirer of Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), a similar sort of essay in unbridled speculation. If people tell us they have been carted off by little gray men or that they died, went to heaven, and played chess with Jesus, Ring and Talbot insist we shouldn't contradict them. After all, they experience "realities" we don't, and as everyone knows, one reality is just as good as another in both Omegaland and that old holographic universe. John E. Mack, a Harvard professor of psychiatry, after writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Lawrence of Arabia (as well as the foreword to David Jacob's Secret Life) has now come into the big money with his The Abduction Syndrome. According to Big Mack "population surveys suggest that hundreds of thousands and possibly more than a million persons in the United States alone may be abductees or 'experiencers' as they are sometimes called. The abduction phenomenon is, therefore, of great clinical importance if for no other reason than the fact that abductees are often deeply traumatized by their experience and need appropriate help. " This is indeed a big bag of fries and Mack is ready and able to help us digest it by describing the Syndrome in great and graphic detail. Abductees are not mentally ill but they "do experience great emotional distress, confusion, and social isolation and are reluctant to speak about their experiences out of fear of being labeled crazy and becoming further isolated." Abductees also need the comfort and care that only kindly UFOlogists can provide in order to deal with their symptoms, e.g., "nightmares, and fear of the dark, missing-time episodes, small cuts, scars, and red spots on the body, experiences of flying through the air and the seeing of unusual lights." While none of these indicators would send anyone familiar with anomalistic psychology and hypnogogic phenomena into a dither or would cause them to create new abnormal-psychology categories, this is not true for Mack and the other abductologists. Apparently the good doctor is now convinced that "hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American men, women, and children may have experienced UFO abductions or abduction related phenomena." What a great day for the practice of psychiatry: Think of all the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of articles, television scripts, books, and movies -- and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars -- that can be made, and all in the name of healing. Why didn't the skeptics think of this first? Hough and Randle's Looking for Aliens is the British equivalent of the Jacobs book, with one major difference. English contactees and abductees "almost never claim the phenomenon is extraterrestrial. . . Yet it seems to have a psychological basis -- and a 'reality' basis. . . . Our studies of the UFO abduction phenomenon have made us wonder if the arguments as to whether they are 'actual' or 'fantasy generated' have become invalid. In some indefinable way, we need the aliens, they are a part of us, a curious symbiosis reflected in our art, literature, wishes, and nightmares. The concept of 'aliens' is a living germ, an idea which resides in all of us." The authors go on to say that their book, divided in five sections ("The Dream," "The Belief," "The Search," "The Evidence," and "The Consequences") is puzzling even to them. In their words, "At times we wondered why we bothered." We also wondered and emphatically agree: they shouldn't have bothered. Before leaving, we should mention not only Jacques Vallee's latest contribution to the current UFO-theology, Forbidden Science: The UFO Phenomenon and the Research Community (North Atlantic, 1992) but also the second volume of Jerome Clark's monumental UFO Encyclopedia series: The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning Through 1959, vol. 2 (Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1992). Vallee's book, which he describes as "both testimony and testament," is a compilation of his private journals for the period between 1957 and 1969, argues that "a genuine UFO phenomenon exists. It is physical and it is unexplained. . . . It is an opportunity and a challenge to science. I speculate, although I cannot prove, that a non-human form of intelligence is involved. . . . I refuse to align myself with the extraterrestrial party line . . . . The skeptics do not want free inquiry on the subject because it might disturb their rational universe. And many advocates are equally opposed . . . because the systematic application of the tools of science to this problem might reveal their incompetence as researchers." Vallee is particularly disturbed about the unscientific nature of the abduction researchers and, in his words, "We have allowed abduction believers to drive us into a blind alley. . . . Sensational theories (which are not really theories in the scientific sense but little more than strongly held beliefs) should be de-emphasized and more serious investigation should be conducted, as Dan Wright has suggested." Vallee too, unfortunately, believes in "new models of reality." I Wonder what model he used when he wrote this book? Clark's second volume in the UFO trilogy (an upcoming third volume will deal with abductions and other events during the period 1960 through 1979) is nearly 300,000 words long and covers just about everything any biased UFOlogist would want to know about the early days -- for just $85. ***Robert Baker is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Kentucky and a CSICOP Fellow.*** Reality Check Running On H2O Milton Rothman The Reno Gazette-Journal (May 18, 1992) brings to our attention a remarkable invention. Rudolf Gunnerman, a physicist, has converted a Porsche and a Dodge Shadow so that they run on a half-and-half blend of gasoline and water. Says the article, "Sparks from catalytic poles in the converted engines break down the water into oxygen and hydrogen, which is burned with the gasoline." Since "hydrogen has a higher energy density than carbon . . . you need less to get the same power." It is claimed that this device cut gasoline use by more than half, so that the Porsche went "from 20 miles per gallon to about 50 mph [sic] on the open highway." Let us examine this claim carefully. First the odd vocabulary: what are "catalytic poles," for example? The physicist writing this column is unfamiliar with the term. Let us assume, for charity's sake, that these "poles" are actually electrodes for the separation (electrolysis) of water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis is a simple process. It is accomplished by passing an electric current through the water. However, we know from elementary physics and chemistry that a certain amount of energy must be supplied to a water molecule in order to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen atom in that molecule. Later, when the hydrogen burns (hydrogen plus oxygen yields water), you get exactly the same amount of energy back, usually in the form of heat. Whence comes the energy to consummate the electrolysis? Either it must be supplied by a battery, or it comes from a generator driven by the car engine. If you use a battery, you haven't gained anything. If (you claim) the engine provides the energy to electrolyze the water and also to drive the wheels, then again you haven't gained anything, because the electrolysis must take away from the engine as much as you put back in through burning the hydrogen. If you claim an increase of efficiency through this scheme, then you are claiming a perpetual-motion machine. The energy output is more than the input! But this is impossible. The basic rule for analyzing any kind of device is: see where the energy comes from and follow where it goes. If an inventor claims that the output energy from his device is greater than the input, than the device cannot possibly work in the real world. Conservation of energy is the most thoroughly verified law of nature, and my recent book The Science Gap (Prometheus Books, 1992) demonstrates many ways to use this law in analyzing claims of the paranormal. The method is simple and foolproof. ***Milton Rothman is a former professor of physics at Trenton State College and was a physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.*** Notes on Skeptics Near and Far y The CSICOP Executive Council is pleased to announce that John F. Fischer has been elected a Scientific and Technical Consultant. Fischer is a forensic analyst for Orlando, Florida. He should be very familiar to readers of the Skeptical Inquirer for articles he co-authored with Joe Nickell, including cover stories on spontaneous human combustion and the crop circle hoax. He is also co-author with Nickell of Secrets of the Supernatural. y The Science Gap: Dispelling the Myths and Understanding the Reality of Science, by CSICOP consultant and SB columnist Milton Rothman, has just been released by Prometheus Books. According to a review in Science Books and Films: "For a generation that has grown up with Star Trek, an immense library of science fiction, and media that entertain rather than educate, this book will be a harsh but desperately needed therapy. . . . Those who believe in UFOs, ghosts, telepathy, and other arcana of the Twilight Zone will find no comfort here. . . . The National Science Foundation would be very well advised to put a copy of this book in every high school and college." A new independent and autonomous national skeptics group has recently formed in Japan, under the leadership of Tokai University astronomer Jun Jugaku. The group held its first annual meeting on April 18 in Tokyo, attended by 150 people. Subjects discussed included "The True Knowledge from Skepticism," "Think Scientifically About PSI Phenomena," and a symposium on crop circles. The group has also begun to publish a regular newsletter, and a journal will follow. One issue of the newsletter carried a message to the new group from astronomer (and CSICOP Fellow) Carl Sagan: Science thrives on a delicate mix of openness to new ideas, however seemingly counterintuitive, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, ancient and modern. We humans are fallible and prone to error, which can be especially dangerous in a world that is changing as rapidly as ours. This scientific habit of thought, this delicate mix, is badly needed in all areas of life, not just science. If we are credulous and unwilling to ask hard questions about UFOs, say, or communicating with the dead, how skeptical will we be about virulent nationalism or ethnocentrism or the next leader who tells us not to question, but to follow blindly? Where our emotions are engaged, we are vulnerable, liable to be misled and manipulated. Especially in democracies where people are said to rule, the citizens must be practiced in scientific skepticism. I welcome the initiation of an organization in Japan to promote this powerful and democratic way of thought. y The Australian Skeptics organization now has its own weekly radio program. Titled "The Liar's Club," the show airs on Sundays from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. Each week, the program will present special guests and the latest news from the realms of the paranormal. In the first show of the series, the skeptics were scheduled to quiz a television reporter about why his station used almost an hour of prime-time news over three nights alleging widespread Satanism in Melbourne without presenting anything memorable in the way of hard evidence. The Oops! Award The Oops! Award for this issue of Skeptical Briefs goes to famed San Francisco "psychic" Sylvia Brown. According to the June 6 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown, along with her estranged husband, were arraigned June 5 on six counts of grand theft and investment fraud. Brown allegedly sold securities to a gold-mining venture in Paradise (Butte County) under false pretenses. According to the criminal complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the Browns told investors their money would be used to pay operating expenses at the mine. Instead, the Browns allegedly transferred at least $27,000 to an account maintained on behalf of a foundation the Browns founded in 1974. According to the complaint, one month after the transfer, in April 1988, the Brown's declared bankruptcy in the mining venture. CSICOP Subcommittee on Magic Proposed Jerry Mertens The following proposal for a CSICOP Subcommittee on magic is addressed to skeptics with an interest in the role played by magic in CSICOP's objectives. This subcommittee would have as objectives the exploration of the general area of magic: (1) how it is used by those in the paranormal area, (2) its relationship to fraud, deception, etc., (3) the principles of magic and how they are at work in various areas of daily life, (4) the history of magic and its relationship to the issues of interest to CSICOP, (5) the role of magic in false claims and false perceptions, (6) how magic has been and is used to deceive scientists, (7) how magic can be creatively used to explore CSICOP interests. The issue of "the magician's ethic" immediately presents itself (i.e., that magicians share professional magic secrets only with "magic types"). It would appear more interesting and useful if magic disclosures could be utilized in this group. Magicians are not very explicit about how "magical" one has to be to be included in their ethical position. I think such a subcommittee could restrict membership to those with a strong magic involvement, advocacy, interest, or participation. One need not be formally a member of a state, national, or international magic group to join our special-interest group. A meeting to discuss this proposed subcommittee will be held at the 1992 CSICOP Conference in Dallas, on Friday night, October 16, following the regularly scheduled conference schedule -- at approximately 10:00 p.m. Because this is a participatory group, the price of admission to this meeting will be some contribution to the meeting. This contribution might include, but will not be restricted to: (1) performing a supposed "paranormal feat," (2) show and tell: #1 above and telling how it was done, (3) presenting a quick research finding in the area of magic, (4) giving an interesting account of something in the area of magic, (5) submitting a short proposal about the nature of the proposed group, (6) a sales pitch for something you sell in this area of interest, (7) an improvement or suggestion for some method already used, (8) a brief report of some investigation you were involved in, or (9) a creative contribution within the objectives of the group. Presentations (contributions to the meeting) will be made in the order in which they are received. All those interested in the formation of a CSICOP subcommittee on magic should respond to Jerry Mertens, Psychology Department, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (office: 612-255-2138; home : 612-251-3134) If sufficient interest is expressed, the proposal will be submitted to the CSICOP Executive Council on a date following the Dallas conference. -- Ed. Looking Towards the Stars Ivan Kelly Twenty-two years ago, two astrologers, John West and J. G. Toonder, published The Case for Astrology (Penguin Books). Interestingly, John West has revised the book, and a paperback edition has now been published. Readers of Skeptical Briefs can expect to hear this book quoted extensively by astrologers and their advocates. Unfortunately, the author makes his case by simply ignoring the negative evidence. Stay tuned, though! Geoffrey Dean is preparing an informed critique of the revised edition of The Case for Astrology for eventual publication in the Skeptical Inquirer. It is of interest to note that both Roger Culver and I were consulted during the revision of the book and copies of relevant critiques of astrology were forwarded to John West. Alas, these critiques received little or no mention in the book. ***Ivan Kelly is in the Department of Educational Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, and chairman of CSICOP's Astrology Subcommittee.*** *** *** *** This electronic publication was produced by Brent Bailey of Bailey Graphic Design. If problems are encountered, or for more information, contact me as follows: Brent Bailey, Bailey Graphic Design 3514 Canterbury, St. Charles, MO 63303 (314) 447-4768 on America Online as bbailey or via Internet as bbailey@aol.com --

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