San Francisco resident Lisa Marie Miller bilked a Santa Clara woman out of $108,000 and a sports car by giving her "spiritual cleanings", according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (available here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/09/BA8H14KOHF.D... ). Lisa Miller apparently was carrying on the family business: her mother in law was recently convicted on similar charges, and a sister in law is under investigation for bilking a woman out of $36,000 in payment for a similar "psychic cleansing." She received two months in jail, five years probation, and is required to pay restitution. Oh -- and not to ever engage in fortune telling, spiritual advising, and the like. There is considerable commentary on story at the Chronicle's blog.
The Skeptic Zone is a site maintained by the Australian Skeptics. On Friday November 7, they posted a podcast recorded between Australian Skeptic president Richard Saunders and me. It was rather a lot of fun, since Richard is a good interviewer. Most of the discussion has to do with creationism and the problem with antievolutionism in the US (and elsewhere). You can listen to it or download it at http://www.skepticzone.tv/.
For all of you who can't get enough skepticism, there is a new skeptic blog to set your RSS feed to. Called Skepticblog (natch), it can be found at http://skepticblog.org/. It is written by some familiar names from the skeptic world: Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Steven Novella, Kirstin Sanford, Brian Dunning, Yau-Man Chan, Ryan Johnston, and Mark Edward. Skimming over the current posts, one sees the particular interests of the various bloggers expressed in their different entries. Shermer's libertarian tendencies appear in his posts on the economic crisis, the Bad Astronomer notes UFO news, Mark Edward blasts psychic Sylvia Browne. Worth checking out from time to time.
BAS member and BASIS contributor Paul DesOrmeaux has an article in the November/December Skeptical Inquirer titled "More Cool Careers for Dummies: Ghost Hunter". Gotta admit, Paul sure has that Halloween vibe. BASIS readers will recall Paul's acupuncture article, available at http://www.baskeptics.org/category/medicine/acupuncture . An earlier SI Forum article by Paul was published in the March/April SI and was titled "Cool Careers for Dummies: Psychic Detective". It is available online at http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-34419223_ITM. If you're not familiar with accessmylibrary.com, it is a truly cool site. You need to have a library card to access the full article -- but you should support your local library anyway.
It appears that a new movie is being launched, "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie", though it is not at this writing being shown in the Bay Area. It concerns the efforts of two Ohio men, friends, who are convinced that Bigfoot lives in the wilds of Ohio . The New York Times says, "the film???s main emphasis is on depicting the everyday lives of regular, financially struggling folk who just happen to have an unusual hobby" and that the evidence of the two men is not "convincing enough to sway the opinions of skeptics, but that isn???t really the aim of this documentary. The Times review is at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/movies/17bigf.html?ref=movies. The film's website is http://www.notyourtypicalbigfootmovie.com/, and another review of the movie can be found at the Salon site, at
The Associated Press reported (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/science/6023151.html) a suspension of recruitment of new subjects for a federally-funded research project to test the efficacy of chelation therapy for the treatment of heart disease. Heart attack survivors were to be given high doses of vitamins and chelation therapy in a regimen involving weekly and then bi-monthly infusions over 28 months. Concern was expressed by physicians associated with Citizens for Responsible Care and Research that research participants had not been properly advised of the risks of the therapy. Chelation therapy is normally used to rid the body of heavy metals, such as in cases of lead poisioning. It is also a popular "alternative medicine" treatment for many diseases. A review of chelation therapy can be found at Quackwatch: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/chelation.html. "More than half of the doctors running the study make money by selling chelation treatments," a potential conflict of interest, according to the article. The $30 million study, being conducted at over
I was recently invited to give a presentation at "Ask a Scientist", which I am looking forward to. As a physical anthropologist, I have long been fascinated by Bigfoot, Yeti, and other alleged relic primates living in remote locations. I would absolutely LOVE it if someone actually found a Yeti, or a Bigfoot. What could possibly be more exciting to a scientist than the discovery that indeed, populations of large-bodied primates, unknown to science, actually existed somewhere? What would be the relationship of these creatures to other primates, or humans? What physical anthropologist wouldn't be itching to look at the morphology, the genetics, the DNA? Alas, one does science with the head, not the heart. As much as I'd love to believe the existence of "wild men of the forest" as these creatures collectively are called, I won't believe it without evidence. As my former professor, Neil Tappen, once remarked, he'd "love to go on the SECOND Bigfoot expedition" -- the one held after the first succes