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SWIFT August 29, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Lying Ain't a Sin!, Unnoticed Amid the Laughter, More Mitchell, A Delicious Hoax, A Request, Ban on Oxygen Bars Circumvented, From Cananda, Verbatim Editorial, Data Input Requested, 2008 Scholarship Awards, The Enchanted Islands, Signs of Progress, In Closing...

Monkey

We’ve heard from reader Chris Wayne in Brisbane, Australia, who tipped us to this next item.

The Australian Christian Church [ACC] is a group of Pentecostal Churches formerly known as the Assemblies of God in Australia. It was formed in 1937 and adopted the new name in 2007. It currently consists of more than 1,120 churches with over 215,000 constituents, making it the largest Pentecostal movement in Australia.

Table of Contents
  1. Lying Ain’t a Sin!

  2. Unnoticed Amid the Laughter

  3. More Mitchell

  4. A Delicious Hoax

  5. A Request

  6. Ban on Oxygen Bars Circumvented

  7. From Canada

  8. Verbatim Editorial

  9. Data Input Requested

  10. 2008 Scholarship Awards

  11. The Enchanted Islands

  12. Signs of Progress

  13. In Closing…



LYING AIN’T A SIN!

Monkey

We’ve heard from reader Chris Wayne in Brisbane, Australia, who tipped us to this next item.

The Australian Christian Church [ACC] is a group of Pentecostal Churches formerly known as the Assemblies of God in Australia. It was formed in 1937 and adopted the new name in 2007. It currently consists of more than 1,120 churches with over 215,000 constituents, making it the largest Pentecostal movement in Australia. A prominent figure in this group is Michael Guglielmucci, whose parents established the Edge Church International, an ACC church, at O'Halloran Hill in Adelaide's southern suburbs. He’s become a pastor with one of Australia's biggest youth churches, Planetshakers.

When I heard some recent news about Guglielmucci Jr., it seemed to me that he’d dropped one of the Ten Commandments – until I looked them up to refresh my faded memory of The Rules. You see, this man has claimed for the last two years that he was afflicted with terminal cancer, but it turns out that the claim was a nasty lie. Now, I was sure there was a Commandment against lying, but I found that there isn’t, so Mike is quite safe from Hell! He’s in compliance, you see. He hasn’t made any idols that we know of, I’m sure that he remembered every Sunday (or Saturday, whatever), he honored his Mom and Dad and didn’t murder anyone nor steal anything, he didn’t do any adultery, nor did he covet his neighbors’ houses or wives…! He’s safe! Oh, of course there’s Commandment #8, which inveighs against bearing false witness against those same neighbors whose houses and wives you don’t want, but that would involve being in court – I think – and telling fibs from the witness box about the guy next door, or am I being insensitive to subtleties…?

Hey, I might really be onto something here! Inspired and invigorated by what I’d found, I looked over that list of ten no-nos, and there’s nothing there about rape, slavery, graffiti, over-watering your lawn, or stock-pumping! Think of the new horizons that we’re presented with, folks! Almost endless possibilities!

But to get back to Mike. As part of his charade, he not only told his audiences that he was off to the grave, but he tugged at religious heartstrings with a hit song, “Healer,” which he performed on TV with an oxygen tube stuck up his nose. As a result of these gross histrionics, his song was featured on the latest Sydney religion-promo album, and debuted at No. 2 on Australia’s official music charts! This guy has to take the top chutzpah prize – but he wouldn’t know about that, because it doesn’t appear anywhere in the Holy Bible….

Guglielmucci Jr., we’re told, is now is seeking “professional help.” From a priest, no doubt.




UNNOTICED AMID THE LAUGHTER

Re-examining the ridiculous ADE 651 “Advanced Detection Equipment” ads from which I briefly quoted last week – see http://www.randi.org/joom/content/view/211/27/#i6 – I found these additional howlers created to assure the suckers that this is a technological miracle. To wit:

Unlike Trace Detectors that require the supply of sample traps, the ADE 561™ does not utilize any consumables thereby reducing the operating costs of the equipment. The equipment is Operator maintained and requires no ongoing maintenance service contracts. It comes with a hardware three year warranty. Since the equipment is powered electro statically [sic], there are no batteries or conventional power supplies to change or maintain.

Swivel

Now, consider: If you were offered a simple door-hinge with a three-year warranty against failure, would that attract your favorable attention? A hinge would also be “Operator maintained,” it would require no “ongoing maintenance,” nor “batteries or power supplies” – conventional or otherwise – to change or maintain. The ADE 561™ is exactly as complicated, friends! It’s just a hinge, nothing more, and the only maintenance I can imagine might be a drop of oil applied every two or three years!

One more example of how silly and devious these people can get:

By programming the detection cards to specifically target a particular substance, through the proprietary process of electrostatic matching of the ionic charge and structure of the substance, the ADE 561™ will “bypass” all known attempts to conceal the target substance. It has been shown to penetrate Lead in a nuclear facility, metal, concrete, and other matter used in attempts to block the attraction.

Okay. This suggests that if we were to design a test of the powers of the wonderful ADE 561™ we might try providing samples for detection that were heavily shielded, thus making the test more difficult. I can see wrapping a sample in lead foil, sealing it in a steel safe, and encasing that package in concrete… Well, I won’t inquire about what “nuclear facility” let these nuts in to test their toy, but here’s what I’d do, to fully illustrate just how pretentious, phony, and inane these claims are. I’d offer them the JREF prize:

1. The operator of the device – referred to ahead as “Operator” – must be chosen by ATSC (UK) Ltd. – referred to ahead as “ATSC” – and he/she must be experienced, competent, and able to properly operate the ADE 561™ Detector. This fact must be established by all involved, in advance, by having said operator successfully find any substance or object – referred to ahead as “Target” – to which the ADE 561™ is said to be sensitive. The specific target will be selected by ATSC. This test will be done “in the open,” with no concealment of the samples – unless such concealment is required by ATSC.

2. The foregoing test must produce positive evidence that the Operator is capable of detecting the chosen Target, to a degree of accuracy mutually agreed to be significant.

3. Next, ten Targets, one of which is the chosen substance or object, will be arranged randomly in the test area by means of a generated random number sequence, blinded to all but a third party, who will leave the area after setting them in place. Thus, the test will be double-blind. All the targets will be simple paper bags of identical weight and size, the nine “reference” targets being inert substances – to be chosen by ATSC as not capable of causing a reaction by the ADE 561™ Detector.

4. Should the Operator successfully identify the correct Target five times in the ten trials, the James Randi Educational Foundation representative in attendance will immediately certify that the test has been successfully passed, and the one-million-dollar transfer will be made to ATSC within 48 hours.

I have mailed this suggested protocol to the “ATSC (UK) Ltd” address provided. I predict that they will not respond, they will not offer any statements, and they will ignore this offer of one million dollars for success in a test which should take no more than one hour to complete. Are there any of my readers who would not respond to an offer of this sort, if they had a simple claim to prove…?

A further caution: “ATSC (UK) Ltd” is provided as the name of the company that manufactures and sells this device. A diligent Google search reveals no explanation of what their use of “ATCS” expands to, but that acronym is known universally as being used to represent the “Advanced Television Systems Committee,” an international organization that establishes standards for television, worldwide. Don’t be misled into thinking that “ATSC (UK) Ltd” is in any way connected with, or derived from, the “Advanced Television Systems Committee” organization. On the Internet you’ll see many legitimate mentions of an “ATSC Video/Audio Decoder,” which has nothing to do with those who manufacture and sell the ADE 651™. Read back through their literature, see how many times the supposed acronym “ATSC” is used, and you may wonder – as I did – whether the makers of the useless dowsing stick might be trying to imply a connection with the real ATSC…

We await with interest any response that ATSC may care to send…




MORE MITCHELL

On CNN, and in the UK Daily Mail, National Capital Area Skeptics [NCAS] president Scott Snell commented:

Apollo 14 astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man to walk on the Moon, attracted recent widespread media attention following an interview on "The Night Before," a program on "Kerrang! Radio" in the UK.

Mitchell claimed to have been

...deeply involved in certain committees and certain research programs with very credible scientists and... intelligence people that do know the real inside story... We have been visited [by extraterrestrials].

Mitchell affirmed that the aliens' physical appearance, as typically portrayed in popular culture, is accurate… However, none of this news was actually new. Mitchell also made these claims in a 1996 edition of "Dateline NBC."

In that newsletter of NCAS, Scott added a personal comment:

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mitchell back in April 1994 at a church in Rockville, Md. During a break in his lecture (about metaphysics, not his lunar voyage), he stepped outside for a cigarette and I talked with him one-on-one for several minutes. My impression is that he is highly intelligent and sincere in his quest to learn more about things for which there is no certain explanation. He seems very enthusiastic about provocative explanations, to the point that it affects his critical judgment, As an example, Mitchell was a pivotal figure in the public emergence of self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller in America, and even now believes Geller has genuine psychic powers, despite exposés by James Randi and other magicians showing that Geller achieves his "paranormal" effects through conjuring and mentalist techniques alone.

Yet Mitchell"s intellect and achievements as a military test pilot and lunar module pilot are unquestionable. He earned his PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. His lunar expedition faced formidable challenges following the earlier near-disastrous Apollo 13 flight. Its success was a testament to the skill and preparation of the entire project team, particularly the crew (Alan Shepard, Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa).

Mitchell also played an important role in the formation of the Association of Space Explorers during the cold war between the US and the USSR. Association membership was open to all astronauts and cosmonauts who had completed a space flight, regardless of nationality. The association was a bridge between the rival spacefaring nations and helped pave the way for the cooperative international space program of today.

Perhaps Mitchell serves also as a reminder that rarely are all the human virtues found in one individual, not even a genuine American hero like him. Some might consider Mitchell’s heroic status untarnished by his lack of critical thinking skills. Or could it be that critical thinking is not universally considered a virtue?

I fear that the answer to that question is disappointing… I ran this item here to expand on my previous item on Mitchell – see tinyurl.com/5hu8hy – and to present what is perhaps a kinder version of what I see as his bizarre world-view.




A DELICIOUS HOAX

Obviously, the “Carlos” hoax – see www.skepdic.com/carlos.html – has inspired others to demonstrate how one can use expertise and creative talent to hoax a nation, an organization, or – in this case – a trade. From reader Bob Gale comes this next item:

By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer August 22, 2008

Milan's Osteria L'Intrepido restaurant won Wine Spectator magazine's award of excellence this year despite a wine list that features a 1993 Amarone Classico Gioe S. Sofia, which the magazine once likened to "paint thinner and nail varnish."Even worse: Osteria L'Intrepido doesn't exist.

To the magazine's chagrin, the restaurant is a Web-based fiction devised by wine critic and author Robin Goldstein, who said he wanted to expose the lack of any foundation for many food and wine awards.

To pull off the hoax, Goldstein created a bogus website for the restaurant and submitted an application for the award that included a copy of the restaurant’s menu (which he describes as "a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes") and a high-priced "reserve wine list" well-stocked with dogs like the 1993 Amarone.

The application also included what Goldstein suggests was the key qualification: a $250 entry fee. "I am interested in what's behind all the ratings and reviews we read. . . . The level of scrutiny is not sufficient," said Goldstein, who revealed the prank while presenting a paper at an American Assn. of Wine Economists meeting in Portland,Ore., last weekend.

In response, Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews listed in a posting on the New York-based magazine's website its "significant efforts to verify the facts":

"a. We called the restaurant multiple times; each time, we reached an answering machine and a message from a person purporting to be from the restaurant claiming that it was closed at the moment.

"b. Googling the restaurant turned up an actual address and located it on a map of Milan.

"c. The restaurant sent us a link to a website that listed its menu."

Wine Spectator even found discussion about the restaurant from purported diners on the foodie website Chowhound. In a telephone interview, Matthews denounced Goldstein's actions as a "publicity-seeking scam."

He also denied that the award of excellence was designed to generate revenue for the magazine. "This is a program that recognizes the efforts restaurants put into their wine lists," he said.

Matthews said the magazine did not attempt to visit the phony Milan restaurant; it never visits about 200 of the establishments that get its award each year. But he said the awards had contributed to the growing popularity of wine since they were started by the magazine in 1981.

Getting the award, however, isn't exactly like winning an Olympic medal. This year, nearly 4,500 restaurants spent $250 each to apply or reapply for the Wine Spectator award, and all but 319 won the award of excellence or some greater kudos, Matthews said.

That translates to more than $1 million in revenue.

Tom Pirko, a beverage industry consultant who lives in Santa Barbara County's wine country, said the hoax would dent the magazine's credibility.

"This gets down to what the Wine Spectator is all about. It's not exactly Wine for Dummies; it's more Wine for the Gullible," Pirko said. "This gives the appearance of paying for advertising disguised as a contest."

Restaurants that win the award receive a plaque they can mount for diners to see and a listing as a wine-friendly establishment on the magazine's website. They typically use the award as a form of marketing and advertising, Pirko said.

Goldstein said he came up with the idea while doing research for an academic paper about the standards for wine awards. He is coauthor of "The Wine Trials," a book that looks at how 500 blind tasters from around the country evaluated 6,000 wines ranging in price from $1.50 to $150 a bottle.

He contends that people think wine tastes better when they know it is expensive, citing as evidence taste tests that show two-thirds of people preferred a $12 Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, a Washington state sparkling wine, to a $150 Dom Perignon Champagne.

When he crafted the bogus wine list for Osteria L'Intrepido (Italian for "The Fearless Restaurant") Goldstein also included a 1985 Barbaresco Asij Ceretto, which Wine Spectator described as "earthy, swampy, gamy, harsh and tannic."

"While Osteria L'Intrepido may be the first to win an award of excellence for an imaginary restaurant," Goldstein said, "it's unlikely that it was the first submission that didn't accurately reflect the restaurant."




A REQUEST

Reader Nick J. Karean, who deals in Science, Reason & Rationality, asks:

I’d like to make a request that you post this in your next SWIFT. Here's the link to the first article about The Amazing Randi: tinyurl.com/68r3t5.

Done...




BAN ON OXYGEN BARS CIRCUMVENTED

Reader Dan Lewandowski of Wichita Falls, Texas, has discovered that newspapers speak with forked tongue when money might be spent with them to advertise goods or services. Who would have thought...?

The low-life owners of a new business in town make the strong implication that oxygen treatments will at the very least prevent, if not cure, cancer. The way they take advantage of desperate vulnerable people with such statements is terrible enough, but the fact that the newspaper went along with it and didn't ask a single skeptical question, is even more disturbing.

I talked to city code enforcement about this because an oxygen bar was shut down here a few years ago, but this new business seems to be operating within the law. Code enforcement tells me there are other businesses like this in Texas, so I suspect we will see more of this business model elsewhere. On the off chance that you are not aware of the trend, here is a link to the recent article in the Wichita Falls Times Record News: tinyurl.com/6ghwy6.




FROM CANADA

Reader Angus Bell, from Montreal, shares this with us:

I’m an author from Scotland. I’ve always had a bent for the paranormal, believing I grew up in a haunted boarding house, much like Harry Potter. Now I’ve moved to Canada and, mercifully, there appear to be fewer ghosts in this continent.

I write to you from Montreal – hotbed of Canadian psychics. For the last four years, in the name of research, I’ve been attending psychic fairs, ghost-based chapel services, exorcisms and conferences on alien abduction. I’ve sung “Happy Birthday” to a psychic nun, listened to sermons by a fire-walking dwarf, meditated with an eagle, a mouse, and a buffalo, and driven a witch out of a wardrobe by burning an Ikea candle. I’ve tried to become a psychic myself, attended a workshop on interspecies communication, and completed a course on Astral Travel. While everyone else claimed to be flying over emerald temples on Mount Everest, I found myself staring at a candle in a Montreal loft, when I could have been down the pub.

I’m sure none of this will be new to you. While I’ve lost very little money on these endeavors, and have taken away hundreds of hours of entertainment and material, there are many vulnerable souls here who are spending what little they have on frauds. I am alarmed by the number of “charity” trips to South Africa and the Caribbean paid for by Montreal’s sick, lonely, and old.

The major psychic centre in Montreal is the SSF – Science and Spiritualist Fellowship – run by the “TV-famous” Reverend Dr. Marilyn Rosner. The centre hosts psychic chapel services every Sunday, private readings each day at $90 a pop, and a range of workshops and classes costing up to $500. Every year they organize an international conference with lectures on “Children who have memories of being educated on board alien spacecraft.” The politics of the centre is hilarious. It is said there is currently a war on between Montreal psychics, after a falling out over working hours and pay. Some psychics accuse others of “sending dark energy” their way, making their “wives and dogs sick.”

I think it’s time to blow the lid on this nonsense. I’ll be honest, some of them are very skilled and convincing – they had me hooked – while others are truly appalling. Sadly, they are all making a killing from it.

I wondered if you’d be interested in taking a trip north of the border and exposing these clowns. Or perhaps you could offer some advice as to how I could.

Thank you for your consideration and keep up the brilliant work.

Angus, you seem to believe that it’s a case of my riding into town on Rocinante and waving a wand... I can just as well expose them from here in Florida – if I were presented with the evidence. I’d need recordings of their “readings,” any printed ads or brochures, etc., etc. In any case, the believers will continue to believe, no matter how definitive an exposure is – because they need the fantasy, the delusions, that they have...




VERBATIM EDITORIAL

In the spirit of public service, we reproduce here an August 24th editorial from The New York Times. Please, if you are aware of anyone who has bought into the autism/vaccination fallacy and is thereby risking a child’s health and future, acquaint them with this information:

There has been an upsurge of measles cases in the United States, mostly because of parents’ misguided fears of vaccinations. The number is still relatively small — but climbing. In the first seven months of this year, 131 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than during the same period in any year since 1996. No deaths were reported, but at least 15 patients were hospitalized.

Most people have forgotten, but measles was once an uncontrolled scourge that infected three million to four million Americans annually. Victims typically suffered a rash, fever and diarrhea, but severe cases could lead to pneumonia or encephalitis. In bad epidemic years, some 48,000 Americans were hospitalized, 1,000 more were chronically disabled, and 400 to 500 died.

Then the development of effective vaccines and compulsory vaccination of schoolchildren drove the disease to the sidelines. Health authorities declared that measles had been eliminated from the United States in 2000. Only a few score cases have been reported annually in recent years, mostly imported from abroad.

Nearly all of the outbreaks this year were triggered by a mere 17 travelers or foreign visitors who contracted the virus abroad. The alarming wrinkle this year is that, once the virus is imported, it seems to be spreading to more people than before.

Outbreaks have occurred among home-schooled children who escaped the compulsory school vaccinations, and among children whose parents oppose vaccination, for philosophical and religious reasons or fear that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is dangerous. Many fear that the vaccines cause autism, a theory that has been thoroughly debunked by multiple studies and by authoritative medical organizations.

Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Britain are reporting sizable outbreaks of measles among populations that have refused vaccination. Although vaccination rates remain high in this country, some experts fear that they may be starting to drop. Because it is so contagious, measles is one of the first diseases to reappear when immunization coverage declines. If confidence in all vaccines were to drop precipitously, many diseases would re-emerge and cause far more harm than could possibly result from vaccination.




DATA INPUT REQUESTED

From reader Graham Smith, in Australia:

Student Bianca Kingdon at Western Australia's Curtin University of Technology is doing a research project in psychology. She is studying the nature of belief, and requires a large number of people to fill out an online survey about their particular beliefs or lack thereof. I was hoping that you might be able to post the link to the survey on your weekly blog. The link is: psych.curtin.edu.au/research/student/bk/info.htm

I hope that readers will click in and assist Ms. Kingdon...!




2008 SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS

The new JREF Scholarship Awards are announced. Three countries are represented, though all four winners are males. We stress that we always encourage both genders and all minorities to apply for these awards...! They are, for this year:

$1,000 to Alan Jern

Alan just finished a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with an overall 4.0 GPA from UCLA. He will use the scholarship funds towards graduate school in Cognitive Science at Carnegie Mellon, where he intends to study the question of why logical reasoning seems to come easier to some than for others, and to see if there are education techniques that might close this gap.

$1,500 to Joseph Meyer

Joseph has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology and is working towards a PhD in Applied Clinical Psychology in Education at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. A goal of his PhD research will be "to apply methodological scrutiny to studies declaring by fiat that religious beliefs are good for mental health." Joseph also has stellar GPAs in both his undergraduate and graduate work.

$2,500 to Tamas Borbely

Tamas is working on a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex, UK. The committee was impressed with the goals Tamas presented in his essay, which included producing a presentation to give at the Undergraduate Conference of the British Psychological Society concerning the psychology of irrational belief. The committee looks forward to following up with Tamas' plan of outreach and activism during his undergraduate career.

$5,000 to Pavel Petkov

Pavel is a PhD student in literature at the University of Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria, with a solid history of academic achievement. The committee was very impressed by his outreach activities, including his initiation of a Critical Thinking club on his campus, where there has been no history of such skeptical clubs in Bulgaria. Pavel's passion is to push back against the onslaught of paranormalism that has taken over since the fall of communism by initiating a skeptical movement on his campus. As an aside, the committee was also very impressed by his writing skills in English via his elegant essay.

Congratulations and best wishes to these winners. There is no monitoring done on how these funds are used, but we trust that the recipients find good uses for the money, to ease their way along the road to success. We thank all those who applied.




THE ENCHANTED ISLANDS

At tinyurl.com/68h7og you’ll see a report on our August 8th – 18th Amaz!ng Adventure cruise to the Galpágos Islands, by President Plait. As expected, Phil has expressed himself eloquently. During the trip, he was everywhere, on board ship and on land, explaining and pointing out features of this Enchanted Land which the Republic of Ecuador has so well preserved and guarded.

I must report that I was very, very, happy with the extreme care extended by the government-trained naturalist/guides who guided and informed us during our on-foot visits to the islands, and the diligence shown by the Celebrity Cruise Line to protect the ecology of the Islands. I’ll tell you briefly about an event involving “Jaime,” one of those guides who so well represented the attitude of his country, and you’ll see what I mean.

The ship always anchored well off-shore, so as not to intrude on the isolation of those islands being visited on foot by our party. In one of the “Zodiac” boats, the 12-passenger inflated craft that picked their way around the fascinating many-splendored islands and ferried us ashore when practical, we circled a tiny bit of very jagged volcanic rock festooned with sea lions, cactus, and frigate birds while we listened to Jaime’s comments. This particular bit of land, not an acre in area, was off-limits to us because there was no sandy beach area where we could have safely disembarked. One of the passengers commented to Jaime about a light-blue something-or-other she spotted about 10 feet from the shoreline; we all leaned forward to identify this, and Jaime quickly instructed the boat's pilot to bring the craft up against the rocks and to maintain a minimum thrust so that he could disembark. We were all in apprehension of this move, since it was obviously dangerous.

Jaime jumped onto the rock, and made his way – with great difficulty – around outcroppings of sharp volcanic glass protuberances and got to the mysterious blue object, with which he returned to the boat, jumping safely aboard, to our great relief. The mystery object turned out to be a shredded plastic bag of some sort, the kind of thing that plagues and threatens sea-birds and other inhabitants of this habitat – and many others. Our guide had reacted properly – if somewhat precipitously – to this danger.

It was what happened next that really got to all of us. One of us commented, "Jaime, that was very dangerous!" To this, our naturalist/guide merely shrugged and replied, "This is my island." And he meant it... With people like this in charge, I think we can be reasonably confident that the Republic of Ecuador is doing its best to preserve this national – and international – treasure known as the Galápagos Islands.

I emphasize this small event because I think it is very significant. Jaime really cared about the ecology of the Galápagos. In future, when I’m a bit annoyed that I find myself clipping up those plastic yokes that keep soft drinks together in my groceries – deadly dangers to marine life – I’ll do it with more grace because this man taught me to care just a bit more…

As another small example of why I have confidence in the integrity of this site, I will tell you that I watched a 5 a.m. unloading of garbage and sewage from our ship, in sealed, labeled, sorted, and safe containers – all being transported to the mainland to be incinerated and properly disposed of. Not a scrap of trash went overboard from the ship, or was left behind. Ecuador really cares, and fulfills its obligations to the world…

Our Amaz!ng Adventure was just that, and I’m still glowing. We’re already planning to return there next year on another Amaz!ng Adventure…




SIGNS OF PROGRESS

Steve Warshak, 42, the founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals has been sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to repay more than $500 million to customers. We most recently handled this scam at tinyurl.com/5l7lbd. Their major product was a pill they called “Enzyte,” which was said to be a “male enhancement” preparation, and was advertising by a perpetually-grinning character known as “Smiling Bob.” A federal jury convicted the company, founder Warshak, and several others of fraud, money laundering and bogus claims about the effectiveness of Berkeley’s products.

Hey, could “AirBorne” – see tinyurl.com/58lanb – be next…? This next-to-useless nostrum is advertised as “created by a school teacher,” so maybe is safe from such an action…

Also, in Santa Clara County Superior Court, 56-year-old Lola Miller has pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft for a psychic/fortune teller scam that got her almost $450,000. She’d convinced the victim she was cursed, and that money – of course! – would cleanse the evil. But Lola can bargain, unlike Warshak. Her sentence will depend on how much restitution her family pays before her sentencing date. She can get two years in prison if restitution of $400,000 is paid, three years for at least $150,000 and five years in prison if no restitution is paid. Hey, Lola, with all the offers I get for loans on mortgages I don’t have, and all the loan schemes being offered, this should be a cinch! Oh, but those offers are probably from relatives of yours…

And from reader David Colquhoun, whose www.dcscience.net/ should be a frequent stop for all you readers, comes this encouraging item:

The University of Central Lancashire has abandoned, or at least suspended, its "BSc degree" in homeopathic medicine. They blame falling entry and persistent attempts to get them to reveal what they teach (from, ahem, me, actually). They seem to regard the revelation of how they spend taxpayers' money as an "attack."

Go to dcscience.net/?p=249 to see this item…




IN CLOSING…

My good friend Chip Denman, our official JREF statistician, has graciously accepted to serve as a board member of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He will bring his considerable experience with the National Capital Area Skeptics to this position, and we are very grateful for his participation. This addition is part of the recent shift in positions and duties at the JREF, and already I have put in serious time on preparing my two new books – “Wrong!” and “A Magician in the Laboratory” – publication dates not yet arranged.

We’ve just received a sample of the long-awaited and stunning new DVD by Robert Neary and Tyson Smith – “Andrus – the Man, the Mind and the Magic” – which covers the life of our good friend Jerry Andrus, a legend of the magicians’ world and a challenge to our understanding of perception and reality. The JREF will be offering this item for sale to our readers, with the warning that viewing this presentation may lead to stupification and bewilderment – as well as delight, laughter, and total fascination. Jerry was one of a kind. His equal will, I believe, not be found again. Only Leonardo Da Vinci came this close...

It will be noted that I was having a Very Bad Beard Day when I was interviewed for this DVD...


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