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Swift
Written by James Randi   

Hey, just for fun – for which we have to make room, from time to time – courtesy of reader Steve Ilett in Australia, we’ll send you to www.whitepages.com.au, which gives you a search facility to find businesses in that country.  Some wag – an eminently sensible person, as I see it – has been at work. Go there, and enter “magic shop” in the “Business Name” slot, and “Queensland” in the “State” box, then click on “Search.”

See….?

And Matthew Hu Xinyu, my good friend in Beijing who is with the Beijing Cultural Protection Center [CHP], has informed me that the current year-designation in China incorporates a subtle joke – which you may wish to spring on your Chinese-speaking friends.  The word for “ox” – and this is the Year of the Ox, in China – is “niu,” pronounced “nee-oo,” which is very similar to our pronunciation of the English word “new.” Thus, when you say “Happy New New Year,” you see…  But I’m sure that you can figure it out…

matthewAnd you may wish to click in on http://en.bjchp.org/english/indexen.asp – In the photo, I believe that’s Matthew just left of center – where the CHP gives current information on their important project, which is to do everything possible to preserve the remarkable architectural and artistic artifacts of Old Beijing. Just wandering the narrow streets of that city, encountering the smiles and nods – and even handshakes – of citizens who are often quite surprised to see a foreigner taking such an interest in their surroundings, is a remarkable and rewarding experience. CHP wants to keep that possibility alive, in a country which is tempted to erase a unique part of their history. That would be a cultural tragedy, in my view.

I’ve received a call from the Norwegian media, who are concerned about my last video posting in which I mentioned the possibility that a blasphemy law might be brought into force, and expressed my amazement at the apparent endorsement of a currently-popular faith healer, Joralf Gjerstad, by the former Minister of Health in Norway. As always, I’m willing to be shown wrong… I was alarmed at these possibilities, since I’ve always considered the Scandinavian countries to be paragons of rationality and reason…  If this man – known as "Snåsamannen" – "the man from Snåsa" – who is said to have "warm hands" and is able to heal people, find missing items and look into the future, can do these things, he’s got a million dollars. No, not just for “warm hands,” which I also have…

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Norway
written by Sortkatt, February 04, 2009
The law will not be passed, thankfully, but the Snåsamannen-debate is as alive as ever.
Now, it's not as one sided as one might fear, the papers have printed some articles by sensible people explaining how it's easy to be fooled by these phenomena, the real problem here are the politicians and their utter lack of sense. When high ranking, even medically trained politicians exclaim his powers are real, a lot of people believe them.

I think the reason the guy is so popular is that he (I'm guessing here) genuinly believes in his powers, and as he is a really great guy (again, I'm guessing), he refuses to take money or gifts to "help" people. He's rather media-shy too (to an extent) so it seems it's really easier for most people to think he's on the level than to think him a charlatan. He has no obvious incentive to trick people (if, of course, you believe him when he says he's shy and don't accept payment or gifts).

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written by Roo, February 04, 2009
Loved the Queensland search - very cheeky! smilies/wink.gif
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written by TDjazz, February 04, 2009
The Queensland search is quite amusing--and right at the top of the list is the catholic church, a magic shop indeed (I'm an ex-catholic.)
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the need for a million bucks...
written by trixie, February 04, 2009
Snåsamannen does'nt seem to acutely respond to the offer. According to norwegian annual taxreports, the person who does'nt get paid, but humbly accepts gifts, is registered with an income that went from 204 000NOK in 2006 to 355 000 in 2007. His fortune was registered in 2006 to be 187 000NOK, and 305 000NOK in 2007. In 2008 his second book was launched. This guy is 82 yrs going on 83.
What kind of a pensionfund or pensioninsurance does he have? His professional occupation used to be farmer on a small farm and church-servant - none of which traditionally pays so much as to generate a steadily growing fortune and 150 000NOK a year increase in income when you are a pensionist.... Might it be the gifts? Not meaning the parapsychological ones...:-)
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Skeptical Spirits?
written by GMJ, February 04, 2009
There is a post about this issue over at the social network called Tribe.net. After I made a post critical of the con artist in Norway somebody sent me a private message. In the message I was told that the writer was going to implore "the spirits and ancestors" to punish myself and other "evil skeptics."

Last night my accountant informed me that I would get a much larger tax refund than I had expected. I think I shall use part of it to make a donation to a skeptics organization. Do you suppose I should private message this person back to request more imploring of their spirits?
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Not Those Kinds of Spirits
written by Jim Shaver, February 04, 2009
GMJ:

Do you suppose I should private message this person back to request more imploring of their spirits?


I wouldn't bother with it. Arguing with those idiots is a no-win situation. My advice -- Use a little of that refund money to buy yourself some real spirits, the distilled kind. Enjoy!
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written by horque, February 04, 2009
What a clever Easter egg (in more than one sense) the White Pages search is.
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Heh
written by legne, February 05, 2009

I’ve always considered the Scandinavian countries to be paragons of rationality and reason…


Well we did invent mead. Perhaps we drank a bit too much. smilies/sad.gif
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 05, 2009
"Well we did invent mead. Perhaps we drank a bit too much."

If you are conscious enough to wonder if you drank too much, you haven't drank enough.
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written by Nebalia, February 09, 2009
I searched a little deeper into the white pages anomoly. Within the listings under the Catholic Church is a convent named the Magic House. It would appear that it was this, rather than deliberate intervention, that made the church turn up on the search result.
Just as knowing how a rainbow is formed does not detract from its beauty, I still find this search result extremely funny.
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