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SWIFT August 8, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Announcement, Fearsom Portents, Birds of a Feather, "The One" - One More Time, This Is Getting Boring, Feedback, Update, Correction, Who's Better Off?, The Same Old Argument, Another Non-Homeopathic Swindle, In Closing...

PP

Last week we sent out notices that Bad Astronomer Phil Plait is replacing me as President of the JREF. Just to make sure we’re all on the same frequency, here: Yes, our excellent friend Phil Plait is now the President of JREF. No, I’m not abandoning the JREF; I’m moving up-and-sideways to occupy the position of “Founder & Chairman of the Board.” I have nothing but total confidence in Phil and his ability to fill this position, and I will now have the time and opportunity to finish my next two books: “A Magician in the Laboratory,” and “Wrong!” – at long last...! When those emerge, watch the fur fly...!

Table of Contents
  1. Announcement

  2. Fearsome Portents

  3. Birds of a Feather

  4. “The One” – One More Time

  5. This Is Getting Boring

  6. Feedback

  7. Update

  8. Correction

  9. Who’s Better Off?

  10. The Same Old Argument

  11. Another Non-Homeopathic Swindle

  12. In Closing…



ANNOUNCEMENT

PP

Last week we sent out notices that Bad Astronomer Phil Plait is replacing me as President of the JREF. Just to make sure we’re all on the same frequency, here: Yes, our excellent friend Phil Plait is now the President of JREF. No, I’m not abandoning the JREF; I’m moving up-and-sideways to occupy the position of “Founder & Chairman of the Board.” I have nothing but total confidence in Phil and his ability to fill this position, and I will now have the time and opportunity to finish my next two books: “A Magician in the Laboratory,” and “Wrong!” – at long last...! When those emerge, watch the fur fly...!

I needn’t tell you how suited Phil is for this position. He’s both an astronomer and a skeptic, and has become very well known via his website at BadAstronomy.com. Already, he’s coming up with proposals for changes, and I’m very encouraged by his willingness to move in and take the helm.

Over to you, Mr. President!




FEARSOME PORTENTS

Logo

The 2008 Olympic Games begin today in Beijing. This is one of those opportunities we all have for putting aside cultural and political differences and embracing all members of our species. I hope that we will experience a renewal of respect and acceptance for all of our neighbors on planet Earth, and that we will learn – again – how insignificant the differences between the races really are.

But as expected, woo-woo – in a specifically ethnic flavor – has been dropped into the menu being offered. A Chinese “astrology expert” – perhaps even an astrologer? – named Raymond Lo has issued a warning to his country’s Olympic leaders. He says that they should wear an “Ox pendant” to ward off bad vibrations – or karma, or whatever – during the Olympics. Says Lo, even though the Games open at 8:08 p.m. on the 8th day of the 8th month in the 8th year of the 21st century, a time that numerically and astrologically provides an excellent combination of good luck and prosperity, the games take place in the Year of the Rat, which according to Chinese astrology, means trouble for anyone born in the Year of the Horse.

(I note that Mr. Lo chooses not to know of the more universal practice of designating eight minutes after eight in the evening as 20:08 h. – that wouldn’t work, of course.)

LogoFeng shui expert Lo says:

The clash between the Rat and the Horse is a serious clash between water and fire. For people born in the Year of the Horse, it is recommended that they wear a pendant of an Ox which will help to attract away the Rat so as to minimize the influence of the clash.

I’m confused. Lo accepts the Western calendar when it works for mythology. He embraces the repetition of the lucky digit eight, which China considers fortunate only because it sounds like the word "prosper" or “wealth” – Pinyin, fa – but he forgets Western numerology, in which the number eight is the number of destruction. Then he jumps into the Chinese zodiac with the Rat-and-Horse conflict, supposedly neutralized by an Ox that couldn’t care less… Says he:

The traditional belief is that you need an animal to attract away the rat.

But then Mr. Lo alerts his nation that there’s another problem, since the Rat also symbolizes the turbulent relationship between Earth and Water. Remember the crippling Sichuan earthquake in mid-May? What more proof of this nonsense could you ask for? Again dragging in the Western calendar, Lo points his bony finger at the great tsunami of December, 2004.

The number eight can be negative as well…You can see water trouble will be stronger in the second half of the year because of these seasonal elements… For example the Tsunami took place in December in 2004. Usually water is more powerful in the months after August.

What’s to be done?

My suggestion is to ignore all this dear-to-the-media fluff, concentrate on the performances that this stunning assemblage of international athletes at the Olympics will offer us, and celebrate the fact that we can assemble from across the world to meet in competition and witness the victories of athletes who want to express the pride of their individual countries in them, and in the Games. Let’s cheer for them, laugh and cry with them, and leave superstition and fear behind.

These are The Olympic Games.




BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Reader Martin Dunne:

I am surprised you haven't mentioned the capture of [internationally-sought war criminal] Radovan Karadzic in SWIFT. What else would a wanted war criminal do but get a gig as a faith healer? Apparently on the basis that his "wife was in America with his qualification" as a psychologist, he was allowed to practice at a Belgrade hospital as a parapsychologist, peddling "human quantum energy." With this soft touch of a story in the press – the equivalent of finding Hitler working as a orgone specialist in a large Berlin hospital in the mid-Fifties – I have seen very little commentary on the fraudulent aspect of his new career. Presumably if he wasn't a wanted criminal he'd still be practicing. How many more are there?

Well, at tinyurl.com/5ukngs, with much better style than I could aspire to, Donald Clarke covers the subject in detail in the Irish Times. Though he refers to me there as “Great” rather than “Amazing,” his other observations are right on…!




“THE ONE” – ONE MORE TIME

At tinyurl.com/5u38rh, though he gets the laughs he’s looking for, Mr. Rove McManus – to be fair – has carefully selected items where the “psychics” on “The One” TV series in Australia looked very foolish by missing rather dramatically. I’m going to set Sean McCabe to run through all five episodes and make a score… I think that will be very interesting. Of course, we won’t have all the material to work with, since any such program is always selectively edited, but I suspect that even though they’re favored, the woo-woos will not survive the exposure of their errors. But, as always, I’m willing to be shown…

As expected, our friend Robert Matic regales us with his report on the last of this series:

The finale opened with host Andrew Daddo asking the two judges for their opinions on the performances over the series, specifically asking skeptic Richard Saunders whether he saw anything that impressed him. Richard agreed some performances were impressive, but he hadn’t seen anything “amazing or paranorma.” Witch Stacey Demarco thought many things the show had revealed “cannot be explained away.” It was nice to see Richard laugh at Demarco’s comment. The introduction then went on to show a long montage of hits from the previous four weeks of taping and brought the three remaining psychics on stage for Daddo to praise their remarkable “powers.”

The remaining psychics revealed their predictions – made at the start of the series – of who the final three contestants would be. Amanda Roussety got one hit – herself. Ezio De Angelis got two hits – himself and Charmaine. Charmaine Wilson got three hits. Host Daddo asked Richard Saunders what he thought of the predictions. Richard likened the predictions to betting on a horse race and getting a “box trifecta” – where order is unimportant – with seven horses in the race, which gives a 1 in 35 chance of winning. But we can do better than that! The final three psychics were guaranteed to have at least one hit by choosing themselves, which leaves two guesses for the remaining six psychics, giving a 1 in 15 chance of guessing correctly. And with three predictions being made, there is a 1 in 5 chance that at least one of the predictions would have been correct!

Test 1 – Paranormal freestyle (woo-talk for “cold reading”)

“The One” has included at least one cold reading segment every week leaving the vast majority of misses on the cutting room floor. However, this week was different. To ensure the winner of “The One” was convincing, all misses were edited out of the final cold readings! Not one miss made it into the final edit of the show. Thankfully, JREF forum poster “nettiemore” was in the live studio audience during taping and has revealed – at forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=115415&page=6 – that the psychics were given ten minutes each to perform, of which only one minute made it to television screens. Ninety per cent was edited out!

Forum poster “nettiemore” also reveals that each psychic actually read multiple audience members. However, only one audience member was shown per psychic.

Nevertheless, we continued to see audience members squeezing guesses into their lives any which way. An “E L name” was a hit with a grandmother named “Dell” – the audience member later recalled the psychic specifically getting the name “Dell.” An “A name” who is a “worry-wart” was a hit with an older brother named “Anthony” who had problems with his new-born child – the audience member later recalled the psychic knew about the ill child, which the psychic never mentioned. One audience member went back three generations to link a name with a great-grandparent!

Richard commented that what we were seeing were classic and well-known cold reading techniques which made it look like the psychics knew more than they did. He also identified the use of “motherhood statements” which flattered the audience members and made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, adding to the feeling that something special was happening. Stacey highlighted some “strong hits” and defended the use of “motherhood statements” – because although they’re broad, “it doesn’t mean they’re not true.”

Test 2 – The search for the body of murdered backpacker Peter Falconio

The search for the body of Peter Falconio was a pathetic, pointless segment full of “feelings” and “vibes” that only revealed how useless psychic detectives really are. In case you hadn’t guessed – because, you’re not psychic, you see – Falconio’s body was not found. We saw a good half-hour of the psychics wandering around the outback touching the ground and exclaiming they had made contact with Falconio’s spirit. All three psychics thought they had made a break-through in the case, but failed to explain what the break-through was.

When probed by host Daddo, Richard Saunders said he would not send the police based on what a psychic felt, and there was no reason for the police to search the area again. Nevertheless, the “findings” of the psychics were passed on to the Northern Territory police. Oddly, four weeks after the finale was filmed, the police have not revealed any new leads in the Falconio case to the media. I wonder why.

And the winner is… Charmaine Wilson – now “Australia’s most gifted psychic” – who couldn’t find a boy lost in the woods in episode one, couldn’t find a cargo of barrels in a shipping container in episode two, failed to identify the location of Ned Kelly’s remains in episode three, couldn’t match a piece of luggage with a passenger in episode four and shed no light on the location of the body of Peter Falconio in episode five. How can we doubt these results?

Thank you, Mr. Matic, on behalf of our many readers who have been following the Adventures of Super Skeptic Richard Saunders with great interest. I’m sure we can expect a full behind-the-scenes report from Richard up ahead, now that he’s released from his contractual restrictions. We’ll all look forward to that...!




THIS IS GETTING BORING…

When the NOVA/PBS program “Secrets of the Psychics” came out in 1993 with some very unflattering content about Uri Geller, his lawyers began screeching about an 8-second inclusion there in which Geller’s doctor gives some sort of introduction. It was claimed that this bit of video – 240-frames of material – was Geller’s property, and on this claim he tried to get the NOVA show taken out of circulation. That just didn’t work, and in fact you can see the clip starting at the 50-second mark in tinyurl.com/5r8den – taken from the NOVA show. And go to tinyurl.com/5oh89r for the Rational Response Squad discussion of this brouhaha; the function of the illustrated cartoon lass they used, is still a mystery to me…

Understand: Geller has to do anything he can to prevent access to such material, even spending fortunes with lawyers to try suppressing it. It’s his greatest fear that these revealing bits will survive and add to his deteriorating claims of psychic power – despite his newest insistence that he no longer be referred to as a “psychic,” which seems quite unnecessary, at this point.

Geller – as usual – scratching around trying to get into the media, has made it again. He and two partners have just lost a federal lawsuit in which they claimed that the former owners of Elvis Presley's pre-Graceland house, had defaulted on a contract to sell the Memphis home to him. He and his partners had bid $905,100 for the ranch-style home in a 2006 auction, but the owners said that Geller had altered the terms of the deal and they would not now accept it. The U.S. District Judge ruled that even if it had been a proper contract, Geller and his partners had breached it when they altered the closing terms – after the sale.

Tricky…!




FEEDBACK

Believe me, I don’t intend to do this very often, but I’ll take a moment here to respond to a few of the “Comments” that came in following last week’s SWIFT. Here goes:

To “Razela”: If I hadn’t given out Mr. Woodward’s e-mail address, how would interested persons have been able to contact him, as he desired them to do? Duh…

To “Cuddy Joe”: Um, do a web search on Uri Geller. Not everyone gets their mentions of him only through SWIFT, believe me. Geller is still an attractive/vapid subject for the media, just as Britney Spears and Michael Jackson are, and he’s a potent source of misinformation and deception…

To “Caller X”: He perhaps didn’t get to order enough whiskies, so was out of sorts. Marcus Hill, Cuddy Joe, and Armitage Shanks, also seem to have missed that the reference I made to the giant acupuncture needle item was that it was so obvious, it was thus a huge joke! Yes, of course I read the text, but before that, I – and Sean – had spotted the PhotoShop work as soon as we saw it, though obviously a lot of folks hadn’t.

To “Marcus Hill”: I often correct many spelling variations I find here, to match American usage, since SWIFT originates in the USA, you see. This is common and accepted practice. I use the Random House edition of Webster’s College Dictionary, rather than the Merriam-Webster edition, and my references were quite correct.

To “MattD,” and a few others: re Ars Technica, did you actually read what I wrote there? I very much admire that site, and I was referring readers directly to it, so that they’d see the observations they’d made about the state of the USPTO – very similar to mine! I’d never mentioned Ars Technica previously, so why would you ask about this? There was no slight of Ars Technica, either intentional or unintended, at all. I was fully supportive of what they wrote!

To “Armitage Shanks”: Seems to be alarmed at my use of [sic] when quoting correspondents. Forgive me while I go to my Random House edition of Webster’s College Dictionary, where I find this usage:

sic Latin adverb. so; thus: usually placed within brackets to denote that a wording has been written intentionally or has been quoted verbatim.

And lo! that is how and why I use it, Armitage! That’s just what my high school English teacher, Mr. Chrysler, taught me to do. Years ago, I found that I came in for a lot of ragging if I didn’t do this, and I was blamed for spelling errors that I’d only copied from the original sources. If you’re annoyed by this practice, that’s just tough. However, as was pointed out to me, and I accept it, the way to insert it is not as [sic] but as [sic]. I will endeavor to do so, from now on…

To the several who commented negatively re Simon Singh: I just don’t follow. Mr. Singh – who spoke at a meeting we had in London in April – is a careful, straightforward reporter of what he observes. He didn’t give me the impression that he was being soft on the homeopathy matter, at all. No one could read that article and conclude that there was any hope for this quackery. True, he doesn’t use that kind of language, but leaves it to the curmudgeons – like me – to use it. And I just did.

To “eiskrystal”: No, I go after Edgar Mitchell because he’s a fool scientist, and he would be a fool even if he’d never heard of, nor endorsed, Uri Geller – though I’m sure that the encounter greatly promoted his delusions about how the real world works. Incidentally, my pursuit of Geller has paid off very well, too, with the spoonbender now in retreat and trying to wriggle out of the farcical situation he created for himself over the last 30 years.

But enough! Perhaps Forum reader and commenter AndyD posed the right question: “When did SWIFT become a spelling and grammar forum?”




UPDATE

Re last week’s item about astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s assertion that he knows the existence of ETs is being covered up by a government conspiracy to bury the truth, some additional facts are contained in a piece by reporter Todd Hartley to be seen at tinyurl.com/6ezobh.

Interesting points about Mitchell – such as his fantastic belief that he was supernaturally/remotely healed of cancer, and his enthusiastic acceptance of psychokinesis, communication-with-plants and astral projection (which I have always referred to as, “half-astral”) – are brought out in this article. Read it, and be better informed…

For more, go to tinyurl.com/6m95qm to learn about the late Olof Jonsson , the “psychic” to whom Mitchell tried to send a communication in his infamous ESP experiment while on his way back from the Moon. It’s a startling story, and points up the kind of persons who inhabit this astronaut’s reality sphere…




CORRECTION

Our good friend in the Netherlands, Jan Willem Nienhuys, corrects me on a point connected with the protocol used by Jacques Benveniste – see tinyurl.com/5969l8M last week. He tells us:

You write that the experimental procedure involved counting exploded cells. At that time, I looked into it and visited a lab technician in a hospital, who showed me how the experiment is done. It’s the unexploded cells that are counted. They show up as roughly circular red blobs. Occasionally one sees things that look like the remnants of an exploded cell. It is very difficult to make a consistent judgement; one can only count perfectly round blobs, to the exclusion of all doubtful, not-quite-round, etc., cells, or “borderline” examples. Whatever method is used, it is evident that one should do a blinded count. Even so, if one expects a small number – perhaps by seeing at a glance an unexpectedly low number of unexploded cells – one can count “strictly,” and in the opposite case, “liberally.” This may cause, I think, unsystematic ups and downs in counts, especially if the experimenter expects such ups and downs. Because the unexploded cells are counted, one needs to know – if one is dealing with a genuine allergy test – how many unexploded cells there are without the addition of IgE. In typical Benveniste experiments this often led to the rejection of samples when the “null” measurement didn't come out well. I don't think that for ordinary clinical tests of allergy, the counting is done blindly. Are any clinical tests in the hospital ever done with randomization and blinding? So, the Benveniste lab was doing extraordinary science in the manner of run-of-the-mill allergy tests, I think.

Perhaps, yes, but these were not regular allergy assays; they were very basic counts that looked into a very extraordinary and revolutionary concept. And, in response to that question you pose about “randomization and blinding,” my answer is twofold: first, clinical work certainly should be done that way, and lab workers should never make the mistake of believing that they cannot err in favor of expected results. Second, my personal work experience – about 1946/47 – with the Banting-Best Insulin Committee Lab in Toronto, Canada, involved randomization and blinding, since we were doing assays of raw insulin that would be diluted in direct response to our reported results, then issued – as zinc protamine [PZI] insulin – to patients who trusted our work to be accurate and dependable. That, it seems to me, is a quite sufficient reason to carry out as accurate and carefully-controlled a test, as possible.




WHO’S BETTER OFF?

Is the USA any better off than Russia, when it comes to belief in, and acceptance of, quackery and pseudoscience? Early last month, it was announced from Moscow that the State Duma was officially and vigorously investigating various sorts of miracle workers, astrologers, healers, extra-sensorial persons, UFO-touters, and other paranormal vendors. This, if true, it is very encouraging. Russia has a large population of “medicine women” who claim they can make love potions, cure diseases, and cast spells, along with all sorts of pseudoscientists, many of whom are actually salaried and working for government agencies.

The Duma says that the first blow will be dealt against the advertising of occultist and mystical services, which will soon be banned, along with the advertising of both tobacco and alcohol. Such legislation can eventually outlaw the advertising and provision of occult services in Russian territory, altogether.

Apparently, this official activity resulted from what the media refers to as, "an unambiguous hint from Vladimir Putin.” That, I'm sure, will get attention. In an address to the assembly of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the prime minister clamped down on what he described as “flourishing obscurantism and pseudo-sciences,” likening these to extremism. According to the press, ever since he took charge, Putin has been purging the Kremlin of a whole flock of “prophets” and “fortune-tellers,” who have been very popular there are ever since the days of the last czar, who gave the mountebank Rasputin free run of the government offices. For example, until Putin's crackdown, a Major-General Georgy Rogozin had officially encouraged woo-woo. He held the position of deputy chief of the Presidential Security and Bodyguard service, but was – in reality – the Kremlin’s chief astrologer. He dabbled at casting horoscopes for officials, until one day, he quoted Nostradamus, and predicted that a nuclear war would begin no later than August of 1999. That spectacularly wrong forecast signaled a sudden end to Major-General Rogozin’s civil service career.

Others of the woo-woo entourage were tossed out of their high-ranking positions by Putin, too. The Emergency Situations Ministry had, for several years, a special unit staffed by dozens of government-salaried astrologers, though these weirdos were only asked to leave for good after a major row involving the crash of a Tu-154 passenger jet in which a total of 127 astrologers were involved, but even ten days after the disaster none of them had come up with any answers. Conventional specialists using old-fashioned search methods eventually found the wreck. Exit astrologers, charts, crystal balls, and pointed hats…

Logo

In 1999, then-President Yeltsin gave a grand VIP reception at the Kremlin. Russian Academy of Sciences Member Eduard Kruglyakov was one of the invited scientists, and he recalls that Yeltsin approached him for a chat. He asked the scientist:

Will you tell me, please, is it possible to extract low-price energy out of stones?

Kruglyakov explained that it was hardly possible, not knowing that such a top-secret program had already existed for the last eight years: tens of millions of rubles had already been spent on it, without any signs of success.

In 1985, the notorious pseudoscientist Anatoly Akimov was employed by the Russian Defense Ministry to conduct research into “torsion fields,” in a specially-created and highly-classified Center of Non-Traditional Technologies, all under Akimov’s guidance. He declared that he had identified the torsion fields, and if this had been confirmed, the discovery alone would have probably earned him a Nobel Prize. Akimov promised to produce some kind of “psychotronic weapon” with fantastic capabilities. Both the Russian military and secret services were paying handsomely for his fantasies.

Scientist Kruglyakov recalls:

When the general physics unit of the Russian Academy of Sciences got word of the Akimov matter, they angrily rose in revolt against the state’s support of the charlatan… The fraudulent scheme burst like a soap bubble, but not before the state had squandered 500 million rubles – the firm old Soviet rubles. The USSR is no more, but it looks like Akimov may be planning a comeback. According to some sources, he is on the payroll of the Defense Ministry again. This time he is promising torsion field-based communication lines.

Others like engineer Rimily Avramenko at the Research Institute of Radio Instruments Engineering – and a spare-time UFOlogist – had a good feed at the Russian budget trough, too. He declared that he was working on the creation of the world’s most powerful system for anti-ballistic missile defense. Inter-continental delivery vehicles, he said, will be easily shot down with what he described as “autonomous plasmoids.” He wrote:

[The] action is based on focusing beams of electromagnetic energy produced by laser or microwave radiation into the upper layers of the atmosphere… A cloud of highly ionized air arises at the focus of the laser or microwave rays, at an altitude of up to 50 kilometers. Upon entering it, any object – a missile, an airplane, is deflected from its trajectory and disintegrates in response to the fantastic overloads arising due to the abrupt pressure difference… What is fundamental in this case is that the energy aimed by the terrestrial components of the plasma weapon – lasers and antennas – is concentrated not at the target itself but a little ahead of it. Rather than "incinerating" the missile or airplane, it bumps it out of trajectory.

As an admittedly amateur scientist, I must say that to me such a proposition does not look very promising. But Avramenko asked for 50 million dollars of budget money, and he got it. Today, Russia does not have the 50 million, nor the promised plasmoids, nor even someone to blame. Avramenko died recently, probably very rich, and his followers have disappeared – perhaps along with a few million dollars each.

The descent into woo-woo continued with a group called the International Academy of Energy Information Sciences who held a rather peculiar exhibition at the State Duma recently. The event’s greatest attraction was an “extra-sensorial sofa,” advertised as a remedy for every sort of affliction, including frigidity and impotence. This is simply a resurrection of the old “crystal beds” and similar devices that were popular in the 1920s. These ideas just never die.

Bored with such swindlers and prompted by these gross failures and certainly by Premier Putin’s pronouncement, the Moscow City Duma has reportedly gotten serious, and may soon produce sweeping amendments to federal law that would outlaw all occult services in the country. Lyudmila Stebenkova, chief of the Moscow City Duma’s Health Protection Commission, says:

The point at issue is not a ban on traditional medicine and healing practices, but a ban on such peculiar types of activity as banishing the “evil eye,” removing “the wreath of celibacy,” blending love potions, and other occult, mystical and religious services.

Lyudmila, those “traditional medicine and healing practices” are not any more respectable just because they’ve been around for a long time; will blood-letting, incense-burning, and chanting also be encouraged just because they’re old…? Presently, Russia has about 2,000 officially registered-and-licensed traditional healers. The unregistered-and-unlicensed mystics and fortune-tellers, however, probably number closer to 100,000. One must ask whether any actual tests are done for registration and/or licensing purposes, or if the payment of a fee “does the trick” – to coin a phrase…

The Serbsky Institute for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow has said that 32 percent of Russians believe that magic can affect a person’s fate, while 58 percent do not believe in magic, and 10 percent remain undecided, as a Public Opinion Fund poll found last September. Women, they found, tend to accept the possibility of magical effects on a person’s life more often – over 40 percent of those polled believe this. 50 percent of women do not exclude such a possibility, while only 23 percent of men recognize the existence and effectiveness of magical forces.

Has the USA any better percentages? I rather doubt it. Homeopathy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch, black magic, faith healing, magnet application and a variety of fanciful delusions are tolerated and ignored by state and federal law enforcement agencies, as these charlatans extract millions every year from naïve American citizens, and even take their lives.




THE SAME OLD ARGUMENT

Reader Andrew Batkin writes:

I was recently on a date with a girl [Amy] who ranted about this astrologer. I emailed her some clips about astrology from badastronomy.com and she forwarded them to her astrologer. This was the response [from Cindy]. I am so irritated I am not sure how to respond, and was seeking advice.

Dear Amy,

From my perspective, there is nothing to "believe" or not to "believe" about astrology. It's like saying that someone does not "believe" in acupuncture.

Astrology has been used effectively for over 5000 years as a guide and tool for people. It went underground with the rise of Christianity, and specifically the Catholic Church, as so many things did, that were of service to people. Astrology gives the person back the free will to use the energies of their unique path and the power of the planetary influences to make their way through life.

The Catholic church wanted NOTHING to supercede [sic] its power.

And then came Science.

Much can be proven and more can not be.

I wish that the Bush administration used astrologers. Perhaps we would not be in the mess we are in right now! Ah...but even that has been predicted in the stars!! Not only the Reagans but every monarch through out [sic] time has had astrologers as guides. The excellent astrologer will encourage the person to live their true path.

I have seen astrology use to really help and support people in their lives. That's what I use it for.

I would imagine your friend is frightened by unseen forces or that which he does not understand rationally [sic]. How can he make a judgment on astrology if he has never experienced it? It's like saying he hates chocolate but has never tried it! His skepticism might work for him even though it might not work for you.

In all the years I have shared astrology with people I have had ONLY excellent feedback and feel that I have helped many feel more comfortable in their skin.

Throw out the article and move onto more interesting topics!

All love, Cindy

P.S. Just because something is in print does NOT mean it is true! Trust what feels right for YOU!




ANOTHER NON-HOMEOPATHIC SWINDLE

An anonymous reader offers us:

“Wal-Mart World” is an internal glossy magazine for Wal-Mart employees, widely ignored in Wal-Mart break rooms everywhere. This month, we got a great advertisment for Licefreee!, trying to encourage us to sell a “homeopathic” lice treatment, a "safe alternative to existing head lice treatments." In any case, it fails to actually follow the rules of homeopathy, using salt to dehydrate despite the fact that that's what detectable amounts of salt will do, and it takes advantage of scared parents. I understand the fear; I'd like a bug spray for my apartment that doesn't have large blocks of terrifying warnings. But it happens that what hurts bugs isn't terribly friendly to humans. Except in rare cases, those claiming otherwise are con-artists. This con-artist, unfortunately, goes hand-in-hand with a billion-dollar corporation.

The blurb, using inventive spelling, eschewing capitalization and the use of hyphens – so as not to confuse readers – and directed only at Walmart employees, remember, reads:

Your customers want a safe alternative to existing head lice treatments that contain pesticides. Offer them Licefreee! Non-Toxic Lice Treatment. It's been your number one selling, pesticide free lice treatment for 10 years.

Licefreee! uses sodium chloride (salt) to dehydrate and kill lice and nits. A patented metal comb, recommended by school nurses, is included for effective removal of dead nits. Licefreee! is a homeopathic formula free of pesticides, so it's safe for the child and the environment. And because Licefreee! is a gel, the comb out process is a breeze.

Licefreee! is available in your first aid aisle.

Hold on…! The official product description states it has a “1X” concentration of salt. That appears as: “natrum muriaticum 1X” – meaning that 10% of this gel is salt, which is very far from any homeopathic dilution! We have here the same gimmick that Zicam – which contained real and effective medicinal amounts of zinc gluconate – used to use; since homeopathic preparations sell for about 15% more than remedies that actually work, the manufacturer can charge a premium price!

The manufacturers of Licefreee! Lice Treatment are lying; theirs is not a homeopathic compound. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, I’m only saying that it’s falsely glamorized – to the naïve consumer – as being special: homeopathic. If it were really homeopathic, it certainly would not work.

But then, who cares? No federal or state agencies, certainly. The joke known as the Food & Drug Administration grinds on, day after day, hoping that other agencies will notice – and act against – the bad guys, as they wait for Pension Time to roll around…




IN CLOSING…

Reader Mike Povoski:

Had an amusing experience today that I thought I'd share with you.

I was in the "wellness" section of my local alternative grocery store shopping for a multivitamin, when a couple with a toddler approached. The father was conversing with an employee, trying to find a multivitamin that would help his testosterone level. After two or three minutes of "alternative health" banter, the mother interrupted, saying "Help me here! The child has taken something from the shelf and put it in her mouth!" The father turned and proceeded to clear her mouth of a white powdery substance. The employee, taking the packaging from the girl, said, "Fortunately, it was a homeopathic remedy, so it won't have any..."

She never finished her sentence. I think the word she was searching for was "effect."

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Take a look at the site of a Kathleen Seidel at www.neurodiversity.com/main.html. This is a wide spectrum of subjects, well arranged and categoried, worth looking over.

We’re off on the Amaz!ng Adventure in the Galapagos! It’s possible that you won’t see a new SWIFT up here next week, but you’ll just have to survive... That’s one reason why this SWIFT is a bit longer than usual. Read it slowly...


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