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SWIFT October 26, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Boring, A Matter of Education?, Trudeau Again, Nine Silly Rules, Krugel “Responds” – Sort Of, Sylvia In the Comics, Compounded Woo-Woo, Schoolboy Prank, Shudder…, Understandable, Good Decision, That Monster Again, No Argument Here, Correction, A Welcome Document, Definitions, Honest “Fakir,” and In Conclusion…

Last night, the highly-touted “Phenomenon show appeared on NBC-TV. It was right on time, but that’s about all that can be said for it.

Happily, Criss Angel maintained – as he’d told me he would – his decision to treat the matter logically, critically, and in a straightforward manner. It seemed as if Uri Geller didn’t have much to contribute except that tired old ESP-card audience-participation stunt that he’s pulled on TV all over the world, along with his presumptuous clenched-fist repeated shouting of “1, 2, 3!” like a desperate cheer-leader. Now, magicians have known for decades that when those five basic symbols – the circle, plus-sign, wavy lines, square, and star – are shown, particularly with the star in the second-from-left position, as Geller displayed them, the audience choice is heavily for the star. Geller certainly has always been aware of this, since every time he’s done this chestnut, he’s chosen the star as the one to “broadcast telepathically” to the audience… Duh… In any case, the star symbol barely won the day, scoring just one percent more than the runner-up, the circle symbol…

Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon, writing in advance of last night’s show, asked the obvious question about Geller’s major claim to fame:

Table of Contents
  1. Boring

  2. A Matter of Education?

  3. Trudeau Again

  4. Nine Silly Rules

  5. Krugel “Responds” – Sort Of

  6. Sylvia In the Comics

  7. Compounded Woo-Woo

  8. Schoolboy Prank

  9. Shudder…

  10. Understandable

  11. Good Decision

  12. That Monster Again

  13. No Argument Here

  14. Correction

  15. A Welcome Document

  16. Definitions

  17. Honest “Fakir”

  18. In Conclusion…



BORING

Last night, the highly-touted “Phenomenon show appeared on NBC-TV. It was right on time, but that’s about all that can be said for it.

Happily, Criss Angel maintained – as he’d told me he would – his decision to treat the matter logically, critically, and in a straightforward manner. It seemed as if Uri Geller didn’t have much to contribute except that tired old ESP-card audience-participation stunt that he’s pulled on TV all over the world, along with his presumptuous clenched-fist repeated shouting of “1, 2, 3!” like a desperate cheer-leader. Now, magicians have known for decades that when those five basic symbols – the circle, plus-sign, wavy lines, square, and star – are shown, particularly with the star in the second-from-left position, as Geller displayed them, the audience choice is heavily for the star. Geller certainly has always been aware of this, since every time he’s done this chestnut, he’s chosen the star as the one to “broadcast telepathically” to the audience… Duh… In any case, the star symbol barely won the day, scoring just one percent more than the runner-up, the circle symbol…

Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon, writing in advance of last night’s show, asked the obvious question about Geller’s major claim to fame:

It’s a baffling question: Why bend a spoon? If you were blessed with telekinesis, wouldn’t this be a waste of time?

He continued:

You know what else is baffling? Why is Uri Geller about to appear on our television sets this evening? Shouldn’t this widely discredited "master of the paranormal" have vanished like a magician’s rabbit 30 years ago?

Phenomenon (NBC, 8 tonight) is essentially American Idol meets a David Blaine special. During the five-week series, Geller and hipster Mindfreak Criss Angel will scrutinize 10 contestants, a cabal of would-be Houdinis who will presumably dazzle the audience with their hocus-pocus 2.0….

So is Phenomenon worth your time? I have no idea. Tonight’s broadcast is live and I am not psychic. But as a general rule, television that conjures the inexplicable and hints at the occult tends to generate ratings that are not of this world.

Even if it disappoints, the dynamic between Geller and Angel should be fascinating. Because Angel is the one thing Geller never seemed to be back in those pre-debunked days: honest.

In the ’70s, Geller earned fame and fortune. He was on magazine covers, talk shows, television specials. What separated him from other magicians, however, was his claim to not be a magician.

Stopping clocks, making a compass go haywire, reproducing doodles contained inside sealed envelopes, these were not tricks, he said. No, he was using his mind, manipulating inanimate objects with his will.

In Geller’s world, the physical laws were not immutable. Well, so long as he could control the props and conditions. When others brought the spoons to the table – as once happened in 1973 during a disastrous appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson – Geller came across as a churlish huckster, unwilling to use his will, incapable of bending anything except his reputation.

I was thinking about this after stumbling upon a promotional clip for tonight’s premiere.

"I think Phenomenon is a show that’s going to give light to demonstrations that are going to create the illusion that people possess, you know, psychic ability," Angel says.

"I’ve done that for many years and have a lot of success, but obviously, I claim that I don’t possess any power, any supernatural power. No one possesses that power."

In another clip, he adds this: "I signed up to do this show because I was told that we were going to have some of the worst, some of the greatest mentalists in the world. But the minute somebody crosses the line and says this is something beyond a trick, this is supernatural, I’m just going to bust them right on live television."

Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Abowitz was also less than entertained. Under the headline: "Phenomenon" not phenomenal, Amazing Randi exposes Supernaturalists," he wrote:

I got spam yesterday from a local performer (Gerry McCambridge) asking for my vote on a new NBC show. I did not vote.

But last night I did something I don't think I've done in years: I watched network television. In addition to the local performer, I tuned in to see the preemie of "Phenomenon," the new NBC show, because of the presence of soon-to-be Luxor headliner Criss Angel.

That was one painfully dull hour to watch, and they only got through 4 out of the 10 contestants.

Angel manages an energetic and entertaining show on cable's A & E; but he is just an expert commentator/judge on this one. He is also the highlight of the show as the person charged with being hypercritical. Of course, it would be hard for Angel to look anything less than brilliant as he is paired bizarrely with almost forgotten spoon bender Uri Geller whose credulity seems limitless.

Angel, on the other hand, coaches like a pro very much in on the secret. But the real problem with Phenomenon is that the audience is not in on the secret.

How could all these Mentalists not have looked into the future and seen that problem? And, so the best moments on Phenomenon are to the audience inside baseball in the extreme as when Angel told one contestant he wasn't impressed by the guy's use of Banechek's PK Touch. What? The problem was that the PK Touch trick was left unexplained on every level to the viewing audience.

So, I called the famed debunker Amazing Randi this morning to find out how the PK Touch trick was done. But I was out of luck there:

"I never tell another magician's secrets."

Well, I guess that is what searching the web is for.

But what irks me is that this show isn't entirely being sold as tricks. In fact, whether Phenomenon is presenting "reality" or tricks looks like it is going to be left to the television audience to sort out. And, Randi did point out that the word magician was not used anywhere in the show or in its advertising. He considers this telling.

And, on that level, Randi is watching "Phenomenon" very closely. He promised me that his randi.org educational site will expose the method and tricks of anyone on the NBC show who claims to have actual supernatural powers outside the realm of tricks such as the ability to communicate with the dead.

That sort of relieves me of the need to watch the show as Geller seems capable of believing anything and everything and Angel knows better but ain't talking.

The contestant talent that NBC was able to find for this show, was just not effective. However, I note that they have Israeli Guy Bavli listed as one of their upcoming contestants, and I’ll venture that he’ll easily take the prize, knowing his skills as a mentalist. I wouldn’t want to compete against him, and no matter where he falls in this mix, I think he’ll carry it off…

When all was said and done, Phenomenon received a rating of 2.9 out of 8. Miserable…

However, a true natural phenomenon took place, even while this tedious confrontation was being broadcast. The comet designated “17P/Holmes” – normally at a magnitude of only 17 – did something absolutely wonderful, virtually overnight, and very rare, growing in brightness some 400,000 times to magnitude 3, thus becoming almost as bright as many of the other stars in the sky. Holmes is 150 million miles away from us – which means that it’s about 13 minutes away at the speed of light, a relatively cosmic neighbor.

I’m much more excited at this phenomenon than what NBC-TV offered us…




A MATTER OF EDUCATION?

In regard to the current “Pear Cables” brouhaha, just how astute Stereophile’s Michael Fremer is regarding basic science, should be examined. Of course, the pertinent question is whether he’ll ever get around to actually doing the test, and from the long-winded fuss he’s been raising on line, that’s looking less and less likely, but let’s look at some basics. Says he:

I never claimed plastic can hold a charge but carbon surely can and it is the carbon black that makes a record black and carbon black added to vinyl surely can and does hold a magnetic charge that can be demagnetized.

First, what kind of “charge” does Fremer refer to carbon granules “holding”? If he means a magnetic charge – which is what this is all about – he’s 100% wrong, and thus performing at par. And no, Mr. Fremer, a magnetic charge is not the same thing as a static charge…! You are simply wrong, and any school child could correct you on this matter. Vinyl is well-known for holding static charges, and legitimate devices – ionizing radioactive metals, UV lamps, and conducting, grounded, brushes – have been sold to remove that electrostatic charge. But the woo-woo manufacturers, suddenly recognizing that they needed to have a reason for such devices as the US$1800 Furutech deMag LP Demagnetizer – have called attention to the presence of iron, nickel, and cobalt – the only ferromagnetic substances, along with a very few other rare earth elements,– in silk-screen inks and in labels! This is sometimes true, but these substances are present in such minute quantities as to be virtually undetectable, and they are certainly incapable of producing any effect on the product or on its performance. Consider: cobalt, iron, or nickel can be present as elements in blue and/or green inks, and the amount of ink used in printing a label, is rather small, as is any possible trace of iron as an impurity…

The "magnetization" of such materials as carbon is a rare, esoteric, transient phenomenon that occurs under very specific conditions, is of very little strength - if even detectable - and is not about to take place in audio equipment so as to affect the performance in any way. This is a straw that the woo-woos have chosen to clutch at, and it will not support them.

Since there’s limited interest in this speaker-cables matter among my regular readers, I’ll not stuff SWIFT with that material, though I’ll put up bulletins as soon as anything pertinent occurs. Also, my time is limited by the huge array of other subjects that require my attention, and I’ve only the same amount of time in the day that anyone else has. And only so much energy, as well…




TRUDEAU AGAIN

Trudeau

Reader Cameron Akers sends us a report in the Chicago Tribune that says the Federal Trade Commission is again looking at the shenanigans of Kevin Trudeau. Extracted from that article:

Federal Trade Commission officials allege that Trudeau, 44, who grew his business from a base in Elk Grove Village, has violated a 2004 court order that bars him from using misleading infomercials to sell such books as "The Weight Loss Cure," which ranked ninth last week on Publisher Weekly’s list of best-selling non-fiction hardcover books.

FTC officials want [a judge] to hold Trudeau in contempt of court, a penalty that could ultimately force him to reimburse book buyers, disgorge profits or pay other penalties.

Andy, we all know that nothing will stop the homeopaths from promoting their zero-content, unproven, pseudoscientific nonsense, because their livelihood depends on the public investing in it. And the useless pills will continue to pass across the counters of pharmacies all over the world, into the medicine cabinets of the gullible and deceived…

Asks Cameron:

Maybe the FTC is finally going to try and be responsible? I can dream, right?

A link to the full article can be found at: tinyurl.com/28uf3n. I’m not at all convinced that the FTC will actually get any action underway… But, as Cameron says, I can dream…




NINE SILLY RULES

Jim Callahan, a “Paranormalist” at
jimclass.com/Jim%20Callahan%20Paranormalist boldly states:

It is my sincere intent to make $1,000,00.00 off of James Randi and his foundation.

Though the million dollars is not “on” me, as Jim seems to think, these are the “conditions” under which this genius says he’ll perform. Note that I’m not consulted, anywhere, so I’ll briefly comment on each of his “conditions” and set this man straight:

(1) Test to take place in a public entertainment venue & may be televised live.

Absolutely not. The JREF million-dollar challenge is not a circus, it’s a scientific test. The procedure may be recorded on video, and subsequently broadcast, but nothing will take place “live” on TV or with a public audience. Those two provisions would permit all sorts of feedback and communication, just what a mentalist would prefer…

(2) Five examiners to control the area of testing.

Okay. Those persons would be vetted and controlled, themselves. No problem here.

(3) If Mr. Randi participates he may not speak with me directly for 12 hours prior to the test or while participating in it.

I would not participate, so this is a moot point.

(4) I [Jim Callahan] will submit to interviews with Mr. Randi or his representatives at any mutually convenient time prior to the test if it is deemed necessary

No, you’ll submit to any and all inquiries we see necessary.

(5) All verbal communications will be recorded.

Sure. I’ll see to that.

(6) Mr. Randi may speak directly to me as soon as test is complete.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Oh, joy! I can’t wait! I’m all a-twitter!

(7) Mr. Randi or his representative must bring a cashiers check for $1,000,000.00 or cash and will immediately hand over said sum in the event I am successful.

Bullshit. Read the rules.

(8) I will have the $5,000.00 in cash and it will be immediately surrendered if I am not successful.

That will not be acceptable nor accepted. You don’t make the rules; I do.

(9) Judgment to be rendered within 10 minutes of test completion.

No, instantly, because no “judgment” is ever needed, according to the protocol. If a man says he can swallow a red-hot rivet without discomfort – for example – the results don’t take 10 minutes to be evident. No decision needs to be arrived at…

In any case, this man has not made an application, so all this is just blather on his part.




KRUGEL “RESPONDS” – SORT OF


Reader Rob Smith reports re last week’s item at tinyurl.com/25uwyb:

I recently emailed Danie Krugel to ask if he planned to apply for the JREF challenge. To my surprise, he replied, writing:

Thanks for the idea, would the following be a test. Take a cancer tumor give me a small piece move the tumor to one side off the room [th]en look at monitor how equipment follows [repeat?] it say 4 times.

This answer is sufficiently blithering for me to suspect he is trying to trap me into revealing how skeptical I am of his claims so he can justify (to himself) his refusal to answer my question. This is a tactic I occasionally come across. I was also bemused by the slightly grisly suggestion of using a “cancer tumor.” I thought a single hair was supposed to be sufficient to locate its previous owner’s body at a distance? What’s all this messing around with tumors?

I replied, first assuring him that I am not associated with the JREF, then explaining a little about how the challenge works and gently pointing out the most obvious flaw in his suggestion and therefore the need for control and double-blinding. I ended by asking again whether he plans to apply for the challenge.

I’ll let you know if he replies...

We’re not going to miss any sleep, waiting…




SYLVIA IN THE COMICS

Reader Lorne Dmitruk sends us to cectic.com/063.html for the latest Sylvia Browne nightmare…



COMPOUNDED WOO-WOO

I’ve been sent an excellent example of the strange thinking processes used by the believers when a definitive investigation blows away one of their preferred fantasies. Here’s the letter:

I’m writing to you about a very important matter to me and hopefully to you too. I watched the documentary movie about homeopathy and Dr. Zack [Jacques] Benveniste. I know you’ve participated in this documentary as well. As you were inspecting the experiment in Dr. Benveniste’s laboratory, you noticed that while the test tubes were labeled, the experiment succeeded.

A quote from the movie: "In order to prevent the misguiding of the experiment by the subconscious(!), the labels were removed from the test tubes."

What is the subconscious, if not the power of the mind? You see, THAT is what the test should have been about, and not the memory of water!

I really appreciate Horizon for doing this experiment in a very professional way, but I knew that it wouldn’t work! You see, science claims that the water is "independent" and may or may not have a memory of it’s own, but actually, and it appears to be proven already, our thoughts are the only influence on it! I want to ask you, if you could ask Horizon to perform the test again, but this time WITH the labels on the test tubes. I really feel that it should have been tested just like at Benveniste’s lab. I think that by doing such a thing, you will be able to make a difference in the world.

Here we see the firm assumption that the effect of human thought upon a simple molecule has already been proven, and that false assumption is offered to explain how the very well-designed protocol in the Horizon/BBC tests “failed” – from the woo-woo perspective. And, it’s obvious that this person has no notion of why the samples were re-labeled. Without that, the cheating could have gone right ahead… And, as I’ve pointed out before, that protocol was based on the design of Benveniste himself, with the close assistance of the homeopathic community – at a very high level. When it produced negative results, the excuse was that the homeopaths who were involved weren’t of sufficient caliber for that job…



SCHOOLBOY PRANK

I bring you the following tirade, which had to be corrected radically so that you’d be able to read it, at all. The sophomoric use of upper-case initials is preserved, though the text is condensed – intact – for clarity, and the punctuation is almost the same.

What If You Discovered That the NASA That You Think You’ve Known. Has Been a Lie!? In "Dark Mission: the Secret History of NASA" the extent of NASA’s lies is finally, overwhelmingly revealed.

Join co-authors Richard C. Hoagland and Mike Bara at LA’s famed "Airport Hilton" on November 4, 2007, for a personal briefing on the full extent of NASA’s 50 years of lies. And what they have painstakingly, religiously concealed.

And Special Guest, Jordan Maxwell – world-class authority on Secret Societies and Occult Rituals.

a. Why Has NASA Concealed Their Confirmation of "ET Ruins on the Moon." Ever Since Apollo?

b. Why Did NASA itself – over Thirty Years Ago – BEGIN the lie that "NASA Never Went to the Moon?"

c. Why Has NASA Consistently Lied About the Color of the Skies on Mars?

d. Why Has NASA carefully Concealed Gil Levin’s 1976 Viking Discovery of Microbial Life on Mars?

e. Why Has NASA Continually Suppressed the reality of intelligently-designed "artifacts on Mars?"

f. Did NASA Also Find – and Then for over Thirty Years Carefully Suppress – the Apollo Astronauts’ Stunning Discovery of a Race of Intelligent Robots on the Moon. Which They Also Secretly Brought Back to Earth?

And Finally – Did NASA, by its Relentless, 30-Plus-year Suppression of the Greatest Discovery in the History of the Human Race – the Existence of Other Intelligent Beings in the Solar System – Somehow Contribute to the Assassination of President John Kennedy?

Come to the LAX Hilton on November 4th at 1 pm. View Amazing NASA Images of Astonishing Discoveries Too-long Officially Suppressed. Participate in an Historic Film Documentary re: What NASA REALLY Discovered on the Moon.

Help Change History.

Hmmm. This might change the history of “LA’s famed ‘Airport Hilton’” but not much more…



SHUDDER…

Reader Marius Myburg has been in touch with one Danie Joubert, who makes very strong claims for evidence of miraculous healing through faith. Marius shares with us this note he sent her:

Hi Danie,

Idle discussion, however interesting, can only take one so far. Then proof is needed to establish if what is discussed, has any merit or not. So I have just emailed James Randi [www.randi.org] telling him about your mention of miraculous faith healings, and in particular, the story you heard about the boy who was miraculously healed after a Christian community prayed for him, when we had another one of our religion discussions this morning. I told him of my informal challenge that I put forward to you: to find scientifically sound evidence for the existence of this phenomenon. You said you are not interested in the million dollars the James Randi Educational Foundation offers, but I am sure your church, or any organization or cause of your choice, will find the money most helpful.

So, if you are interested in the truth, I hereby officially challenge you to present the JREF with scientifically unambiguous proof for the existence of a “paranormal” or “God” cause for healings. Like I said this morning, if God does really miraculously heal people, then it should be easy for you to simply find evidence that supports this. Get the phone numbers of the people who claim their son was miraculously healed. Phone the doctors who treated him. Obtain a statement from the doctor. That is a simple start!

James Randi has kindly offered to present your reaction to this challenge on his website. That would be wonderful exposure for any proof you may find for the existence of god. You will reach, and recruit for your god, more people that the average pastor will in a lifetime.

I want you to realize that by agreeing to undertake this study, you are either going to 1) revolutionize science with your proof, and get a million dollars, and cause many people to start having a reason to consider believing in your God, or 2) realize that your faith is built on stories and myths, and revolutionize your own way of thinking. Either way, it is good! Or, of course, 3) ignore the lack of evidence and continue to believe blindly – which would be the worst possible response to this challenge. Of course you may choose not to accept this challenge, but that would be synonymous with (3), at least I think so. In your hands lies the opportunity to give a lot of merit to your belief system.

I hope you are not offended by such an official challenge. But, from my sceptic viewpoint, I am trying to help you see the light. And, from your religious viewpoint, you now have an opportunity to make me, and thousands of other people, see the light. Just show us the supporting evidence we ask for. If miraculous healing is a real phenomenon, “simply show us.” That is really all we ask.

Shortly after, Marius wrote to us:

It looks like Danie has not only accepted my challenge to prove that faith healing works, but he also spoke to somebody else in his church who has also accepted my challenge, and they are now working to contact the parents and doctors involved to find supporting evidence for their claim. Danie mentioned that he is now trying to obtain before and after X-ray plates that demonstrate the ’miraculous healing’ of the boy I mentioned previously.

Danie said that the other person he contacted advised me and the JREF “to be very afraid.” Apparently, you are about to lose a million dollars! Of course, it goes without saying that these plates, together with other evidence, will have to be studied by experts to establish their true significance. If and when I receive any materials from Danie, I will take it upon myself to consult whoever is necessary to either verify, or infinitely more likely deny, any “paranormal” healing that took place, and I will send you all of my correspondence and copies of materials I receive.



UNDERSTANDABLE

Reader Lior Dagan is disappointed in Google…

I am a father to a 1.5 months old baby, who is suffering from gas. Looking for help, I entered "baby gas relief" on Google and hit the "I’m feeling lucky" button. To my amazement and disappointment, it directed me to a site promoting a homeopathic "cure" at coliccalm.com/baby_infant_newborn_articles. Luckily for me, I have read about the efficacy of homeopathy in your site, among others. Maybe someone needs to have a chat with the Google guys.

Lior, try to understand what Google does. Since there is widespread – and erroneous – belief in homeopathy, their system lists it – without making any value judgment on its merits… It’s the caveat emptor situation…



GOOD DECISION

Reader Bob Stacy, in Natick, Massachusetts, reports to us that European lawmakers, at a recent meeting in Strasbourg, France, approved, in a 48-25 vote, a report that criticizes Creationism advocates for potentially sacrificing children’s education "to impose religious dogma" and to promote "a radical return to the past." This was the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] members. Their report said that Creationism, a belief that a supreme being created life and the universe, was "an almost exclusively American phenomenon" but that some of its tenets had migrated to Europe. This came as quite a surprise to me, I must admit. I’d no idea we were so far behind Europe.

The PACE report said that denying pupils knowledge of various established theories – such as the actual age of the Earth – was "totally against children’s educational interests.” Creationism supporters, it said, endorse "a radical return to the past which could prove particularly harmful in the long term for all our societies.” The report also referred to the Muslim version of creationism, quoting a Turkish cleric’s work, "The Atlas of Creation," that was distributed to schools in Belgium, France, Spain and Switzerland.

But we’re already accustomed to the ubiquitous presence of Bibles in hotel rooms, yet seem not to think that this book isn’t promoting a “radical return to the past.” It most certainly is …



THAT MONSTER AGAIN

Reader Jan Lewis just took an 11-day tour of Scotland. And she’s over-Nessied…

The principal income generator of that country, after peddling jars of haggis to tourists, seems to be peddling stuffed Nessie toys to tourists. As our coach first approached the famous Loch, our guide started in on a gentle discussion of why he does not believe in Nessie... the number of members of the species you’d need to stay viable, the conditions of the Lochs and the water that make sightings so iffy, the amount of research that has been done that produces no sightings, etc. And also the story that the most famous image was confessed in a will to have been a hoax the whole time.

We stopped at the two competing Nessie information centers in order to pose for very silly photos at the metal Nessie statue. The tour company is an American operation, Rick Steves, who are also responsible for the PBS travel documentaries. See www.ricksteves.com This was my fourth tour with them in 2 years and they don’t market specifically to skeptics, but it’s to PBS viewers, who tend to be more thoughtful people.

Thought you’d smile at the good news.

Jan, it’s always refreshing to hear a rational approach to a popular subject, so yes, I’m smiling…!



NO ARGUMENT HERE

A reader sends us to www.thebigview.com/pastlife for amusement, with the suggestion that we check the disclaimer…



CORRECTION

Reader Robbert Folmer refers to a SWIFT item that brought me a lot of virulent denials and accusations. It’s at SWIFT October 5, 2007. I consider Mr. Folmer’s treatment far more constrained, and here it is:

In a recent edition of Swift, a letter was published (Linda Reports) in which it was said that Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to flee from the Netherlands because of the movie Submission (a very accurate criticism on Islam), which she made together with Theo van Gogh. However, this was not the case. Although she did have to go into hiding, refusing to flee, it wasn’t until later that she had to leave the country. Not because of death threats, but because of something much less pressing, and to my mind, completely ridiculous.

Years ago, when Ms. Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands from Somalia, she sought asylum under a false name, something not uncommon amongst political refugees. She did well in the Netherlands, entered politics, and gained much influence and an important voice in women’s rights (particularly in the Islam). However, when it was found that she had entered the country under a false name so many years ago, she was simply given the sack and kicked out of the country. She then went to the US, where she did quite well, as you know. Most Dutch people still disagree with the government’s decision, by the way.

As I’ve heard it, it has now been decided that it’s costing the Dutch government too much to have Ms. Hirsi Ali in the United States, and she may in fact be coming back to the Netherlands.

I hope that this information may be of use to you.

Thank you, Mr. Folmer…



A WELCOME DOCUMENT

Reader Stafford Bryer sends us to a very important document, one that is carefully and thoughtfully prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, to be seen at: Dangers of creationism in education. While I earnestly suggest that you read it, I can do no better a review than to quote the last item, #20:

The Assembly welcomes the fact that 27 Academies of Science of Council of Europe member states signed, in June 2006, a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.



DEFINITIONS

Reader Sam Lewson writes:

Here’s a good one for you. Apatheism. A theist believes in God. An atheist believes in no God. An agnostic doesn’t know. An apatheist just doesn’t care.

Short and sweet.



HONEST “FAKIR”

Wouter Bijdendijk, a Dutch magician working under the name Ramana has been levitating in Times Square and in front of the White House, as you’ll see. Though the TV commentators have managed – of course – to introduce woo-woo into his quite legitimate performance, inventing phrases such as, “leaning ever so slightly on a bamboo cane,” to lend a fact not shown or claimed in the stunt, the illusionist hovered several feet above the pavement, resting on a stick that he held with his left hand.

"This is an art," he said, “requiring certain knowledge that you have to have. He also said that it involved “training” and “science,” inarguably true. “I hope I make people wonder," he added. A press release said that Ramana’s repertoire also includes "flying" up to 10 meters above the ground, “mind reading” and “other forms of Indian street trickery.” How refreshing. And if he were to bend a spoon, I’m sure he’d also dub it as a trick – unlike some spoonbenders we know…

See this chap at work at tinyurl.com/2w5p2f



IN CONCLUSION…

It’s been a hectic week, with phone calls from all over, radio and other media interviews, requests for information – in short, what we do regularly. I won’t be here at the JREF for the end-of-month Open House, because I’m due in NYC for the opening of Jose Alvarez’ new show – The Visitors – at The Kitchen Gallery. All sorts of things for you next week, including fallout from the Phenomenon show…

Until then…