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December 23, 2005 


 

 
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Hallelujah!, Medium Well Done, A Piece of History, Geller Still Floundering, UK Quacks Alarmed, Tell me Everything, On the Internet, Complaining the Right Way, Library Responsibilities, A Science Center Questioned, No Hope for Whole Foods, Time Table for Quackery, and In Conclusion….



Table of Contents:


January 26-29, 2006
Stardust Resort and Casino, Las Vegas

Time and Space are Running Out! more...




HALLELUJAH!

The Dover Area School District, Pennsylvania, got a jolt this last week when, after a six-week trial, the resultant 139-page opinion of U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was read. Said the judge, several School Board members had repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs. He found that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amounted to a pretext for their real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom. The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the USA.

Judge Jones declared that the citizens of the Dover area had been “poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," and:

It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

Judge Jones also used the expression, “breathtaking inanity” in referring to the Dover policy. This was the latest – but surely not the last! – chapter in a long-running brouhaha over the teaching of evolution in the USA which dates back to the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925, in which a Tennessee biology teacher named John Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade the teaching of evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court eventually reversed that conviction on a technicality, and the law was finally repealed in 1967.

But be sure: there will be appeals, lawyers will buy yachts, and we will be paying, some April 15th up ahead, for all the legal maneuvering that is being launched at this very moment. There is nothing as determined and furious as a thwarted religious zealot….



MEDIUM WELL DONE

Australian reader Paul Hatchman:

I got a chuckle out of this review of an episode of “Medium,” supposedly based on the "real life story" of Allison DuBois, which appeared in this Thursday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald:

This series, revolving around a psychic named Allison, encounters major frustration in tonight's episode when her husband, Joe, falls ill after a routine medical procedure and her gift of second sight is unable to reveal what the biopsy has triggered. The series is, if nothing else, well named, as it is neither rare nor well done.

Wish I’d written that….



A PIECE OF HISTORY

Reader David Gallatin reminded me of this statement from two very wise gentlemen – Antoine Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin – both of whom brought us many revelations and improvements in our lives, through science:

The art of concluding from experience and observation consists of evaluating probabilities, in estimating if they are high or numerous enough to constitute proof. This type of calculation is more complicated and more difficult than one might think. It demands a great sagacity generally above the power of common people. The success of charlatans, sorcerers, and alchemists – and all those who abuse public credulity – is founded on errors in this type of calculation.

This was part of the “Report of the Commission delegated by the King to investigate animal magnetism,” in 1784. In France, they were looking into the claims of the notorious Franz Anton Mesmer, who was scamming European society with his spectacular shows. Only ten years after this report appeared, Lavoisier – the chemist/nobleman who discovered and named the element oxygen and first framed the Law of the Conservation of Energy – was guillotined by the French revolution, a victim of the Reign of Terror that began as a cleansing of society and ended as an irrational bloodbath.    

As we know, our Ben survived the American Revolution and the French one as well, and provided us with many more wise words….  




GELLER STILL FLOUNDERING

Reader “Phil” reports from the UK:

Here in the UK Uri Geller was talking live on talk sport with presenter James Whale. A caller tried to ask Geller a question concerning your book “The Truth about Uri Geller.” As soon as your name was mentioned Geller immediately asked for the caller to be cut off, which he promptly was. James Whale asked him why he gets so irate when the name of Randi is mentioned, and he replied:

I have now moved on and no longer talk to skeptics and cynics and I left bending spoons some 10 years ago.

Randi comments: I see that, contrary to popular belief, it's the guest who edits and conducts Mr. Whale's show. Time for Mr. Geller to undergo a reality check, I think. He has no other talent than doing the same tired old conjuring tricks. He bends spoons and keys, reads messages in sealed envelopes, and does a variety of guessing games. Is he saying that he hasn’t bent any utensils in the last decade? He does it every chance he gets! His tap-dancing is poor, his singing mediocre, and his hairdressing skills are not well developed at all, so what else could he do to make a living, I ask? Back to the interview:

Then he said he doesn’t know whether you are still alive!! He then asked all skeptics and cynics to get a life!

James Whale also played a music track from an LP which Geller recorded in 1974. Geller was amazed that the radio station has a copy and exclaimed that they are huge collector items and if one is on EBAY then it will easily fetch £500 or around $890 (US). I have noticed one has recently been posted, I wonder how much it will reach?

The title of this musical item is “URI GELLER 1ST LP WHITE LABEL.” It was posted on Ebay on 12/12/05 and bidding ends on 19/12/05. The starting bid is $9.99, and so far, NO BIDS.

Oh, I’m sure that Mr. Geller knows I’m alive and still needling him. At one deposition in New York years ago, he claimed that he had no interest in me, and just didn’t keep a file on me, but then was able to come up with an astonishing collection of letters, quotations, and clippings.  A supernatural phenomenon, evidently.

Since I know you’re all panting to hear what the multitude of Geller fans out there offered E-bay for their very own copy of the Geller LP, I’ll tell you. There were two of these valuable items up for sale, initial minimum prices $9.99 and $14.99. Strangely, though, each of them received zero bids. However, the E-bay store offers one for $10.99, and it’s been there for a while. Obviously this is not a hot item….

Well, as part of my very extensive files on Mr. Geller – yes, I do maintain a very fat file on his activities! – I have two copies of the LP recording “Uri Geller” – Columbia Records, 1975. The record sleeve bears a copy of a letter dated July 17th, 1974, from Professor John Taylor, who was then with King’s College, London. Taylor was one scientist who Geller used to most often quote as supporting his paranormal powers, and this letter was written by Taylor before he had even tried to conduct any scientific tests with the performer! In fact, when Geller at last deigned to visit Taylor’s lab, the setup was such that no miracles of any sort took place, and Taylor subsequently declared that he had abandoned trying to get Geller to do proper tests. Yes, the opening sentence in this strong statement is true – but it fails to mention that nothing happened during those tests! The enthusiastic endorsement by Taylor that follows is based entirely on anecdotal material, though Taylor states it as if it were fact. Here is the entire letter, exactly as it was written:

I have tested URI GELLER in my laboratory at King's College, London University with specially designed apparatus.

The GELLER effect – of metal bending – is clearly not brought about by fraud.  It is so exceptional that it presents a crucial challenge to modern science, and could even destroy the latter if no explanation became available.

As a scientist I have been investigating some of the dozens of people to appear to have the ability to bend pieces of metal, first demonstrated so efficiently by URI GELLER.  Some I have tested can even achieve this without contact, as can URI himself.  Others only can do this when they hear GELLER or see him on TV.

Results have been written up in two scientific papers and two further papers are in preparation, as well as a book:  "Super Minds: An Analysis of the Geller Effect".

In January of 1975, that book – by Taylor himself – came out under a slightly different title: “Super Minds: A scientist looks at the paranormal.” It was described on the cover as, “An open-minded inquiry into those strange phenomena that no one has been able to explain – or explain away.” Ten months later, in November, my book “The Magic of Uri Geller,” was published; that book clearly explained the Geller phenomena and revealed just how poorly the “research” on him had been designed, conducted, and reported.

Five years passed.

Then another book by Taylor emerged. It would only be seen briefly. Unlike “Super Minds,” which went through several printings, and sold well all over the world, this one would create zero excitement. On the cover, rather than “An open-minded inquiry…” as we see on “Super Minds,” we now see “”A rigorous examination…” which seems to signify a much tighter approach, and part of the book’s preface indicates that this was indeed true. Taylor wrote:

I started my investigations into ESP because I thought there could be something in it. There seemed too much evidence brought forward by too many reliable people for it all to disappear. Yet as my investigation proceeded that is exactly what happened. Every supernatural phenomenon I investigated crumbled to nothing before my gaze. That is why I have given this book the title it has. It could as well be titled "The Natural Supernatural" or alternatively "The Lying Supernatural." The first title would indicate that nature became supreme by the end of my investigation; the second, that error and deceit became more and more relevant for me in understanding the supernatural as my work proceeded.

Let us not fail to note that in this book John Taylor clearly displays the mark of a true scientist. He recognizes that in his former statements five years previously he may have been honestly deceived, both by his own assumption of his observing powers, and in his misevaluation of the skill of the performers he faced. He deserves kudos for that approach, certainly. And, note, he still holds out the possibility that psi powers might exist, while stating clearly that his extensive re-examination of the facts showed no such phenomena. However, a book that did not extol the supernatural was doomed from the start, and this is a huge change – reversal – of opinion for Professor Taylor in that 5-year period, to say the least. Perhaps Mark Twain had anticipated the Taylor situation when he wrote:

When I was sixteen, my father was the most ignorant man in the world. By the time I reached 21, I was surprised at how much he had learned in five years.

The epiphanous Taylor book is sprinkled with cautious comments on why certain persons are not named in the account, though not citing the draconic libel and slander laws in force in the UK which doubtless inveighed against such inclusions; Taylor was certainly aware of Geller’s litigious tendencies. I feel that the book could have been much more informative and valuable if it had not been produced in that climate of fear and hesitation.

Geller just turned 59 last week, and yes, he’s still bending spoons, despite his current delusional phase…. Can 60 be far behind?




UK QUACKS ALARMED

The media has made much of the fact that Professor Edzard Ernst of Exeter University, Devon, the UK’s first professor of complementary medicine [CM], has reported after extensive research that homeopathy, chiropractic, and the “laying on of hands,” don’t work. For a previous reference to this declaration, see www.randi.org/jr/200511/111805setback.html#i1. To most of us, this is not at all a stunning revelation, but it’s good news to us that a proper academic has had the courage to fly in the face of the extensive UK quack industry.

In 1993, Exeter University was given ₤1,500,000 [today US$2,660,000] by a private donor to study such matters, and their department of Complimentary Medicine was created to do just that. (The word “Complimentary” as used here by Exeter should be “Complementary,” but who am I to teach English to an English university?) The board of the university, says Professor Ernst, had promised to match that contribution, but he says that they failed to come through with the money. Now there’s a fierce battle of I-said-you-said going on.
 
This announcement took place despite the well-publicized endorsement of CM by Prince Charles, who believes that homeopathy is the answer to many of the evils of modern existence, and Ernst’s declarations have of course been met with furious reactions from chiropractors and homeopaths, who have written masses of mail to Exeter to denounce him. Now, due to the fact that the university will no longer support him or his department, Ernst says he’ll have to cease operations there. He says he’s been told that the department will be closing. However, Exeter has denied that charge, saying that Ernst's department has enough money to go on for a couple of more years, and that they are trying to raise more cash. I’d say that there’s not much chance of that, since Ernst is doing real science on CM, and that won’t please the woo-woo element, who control a lot of money.

There are about 3,000 registered homeopaths in the UK and five homeopathic hospitals funded by the National Health Service, and in addition, consumers in Britain spend some £126,000,000 [US$223,000,000] a year on herbal remedies, alone. Most skeptics of homeopathy and herbal medicine recognize that the part of complementary medicine that can and does have value, is the herbal approach. As Professor Ernst himself says,

No other centre in the world has produced more positive results than we [at Exeter] have, to support complementary medicine. Herbal medicine, for instance, can do good….These should not be used on their own, but as complements to standard medicines.

Responding to the widespread objections currently being voiced about his recent statement, Ernst adds:

I think my peers would prefer someone who didn't rock the boat.

Agreed.


TELL ME EVERYTHING

Reader Bob Pagini notifies me of this most revealing set of questions published on an address to which the gullible may go to be fleeced. It leaves little mystery about how the “reader” can derive significant “hits” on the victim, without using more paranormal power than that possessed by a chunk of moss. It’s found at something called, “Psychic Homevisits.” I trust that readers will note, first, the use of the term “candidate” to designate the potential customer – or as we would say, sucker. From the site:

In order to be considered candidates must submit the following:

1. A brief description of yourself, your deceased loved one, your relationship with them and how they passed away.

2. Why you want to contact the deceased loved one.

3. A picture of yourself, the deceased loved one, and any other member of your/their family that this process would involve. Also include a picture of the outside of your home/residence if you have it.

4. Contact Information – Home, Work and Cell Number along with email.

Email the description, contact information, and pictures to us.

At the request of the psychic, please DO NOT include the name of the deceased, any intimate details of the deceased loved one. NO information, including any photographs, will ever be shared with the psychic prior to your meeting.

Why is it that I tend to doubt the sincerity of that last statement? Are we to believe that the agency has no connection with the “psychic,” and that all this data is merely kept hidden away somewhere, for no apparent reason, and is not referred to by anyone? Why is this data being asked for? Everything a “psychic” needs to do a convincing "hot" reading, is included in this interrogation! To echo John Stossel, give me a break!




ON THE INTERNET

The Books of the Year List in the UK Herald newspaper included this item, the personal book selections of novelist Christopher Brookmyre:

I sought succor in a number of works evincing a vivid, clear and entertaining rationalism. Best among these were “Bad Astronomy,” Philip Plait (John Wiley, £10.50), and James Randi's “Flim-Flam!” (Prometheus, £9.98) and “The Supernatural A-Z,” (Brockhampton Press, £8.95) and, a veritable beacon for the sane, “Why People Believe Weird Things,” Michael Shermer (Owl Books, £9.19).

Hey, do I keep heavy company, or what, friends? I’m quite flattered!

“The Supernatural A-Z” mentioned above is the UK edition of my “An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult & Supernatural.” I’ll give you a small comparison between the two editions, indicative of the British sense of decorum. In the American printing there appears this definition:

succubus: (plural “succubi”) A female demon that copulates with men. The princess of all the succubi is Nahemah, believed by the profane to have now retired from royalty and to have opened an all-night diner in Red Bank, New Jersey.    

Apparently that last attribution was too much for UK consumption. Their entry ends after “Nahema.”




COMPLAINING THE RIGHT WAY

While we’re on the subject of reference books, reader David Frederiksen has expressed his concern – in writing to those responsible – about an entry appearing in The American Heritage Dictionary under “atheism.” He wrote the publisher:

I find the definition that you listed in your dictionary for atheism to be prejudiced, bigoted and offensive. Since I have unfortunately made the mistake of purchasing a copy of your dictionary I would like to know if I could get a full refund of my money. I see no reason to pay for such trash.

a•the•ism n. 1. a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.  b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods. 2. Godlessness; immorality.

There is nothing immoral about atheism and atheists most certainly are not in "denial.” Obviously your dictionary is not an authoritative source on the English language if you allow such unfounded bigoted definitions to be included in it.

David received a prompt response from Joseph Pickett, Vice President and Executive Editor of The American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin Books:

Thank you for your email regarding one of the definitions of the term atheism in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language. We feel your point is well-taken, and we think the definition is misleading as phrased and should be reconsidered.

We will change this entry as soon as production processes allow us to accommodate your concerns.

Thanks again for contacting us.

I’ve said it before, friends. We have here further proof that if you complain to the right people, you can get satisfying results! Kudos to Mr. Frederiksen and to Mr. Pickett! But I must mention that dictionaries – technically speaking – do not provide definitions, but rather usages, of the words they list, and they will often give alternative pronunciations, to accommodate different choices in that respect, too. I’m reminded of this every time I hear the usual American pronunciation of the word, “route” – usage given as, “a course, way, or road for passage or travel.” I have always used the first-listed preferred pronunciation, as in “root,” but most here say, “rout” – which in its basic use means “a defeat attended with disorderly flight.” A postal carrier on “appointed rounds” – his or her route – is not, usually, fleeing an invading army while delivering mail. And, while we’re at it – just for holiday fun – ask your friends what the primary use of the adverb “willy-nilly” is. If they say, “any old way,” or “haphazardly,” show them a dictionary. The word is actually derived from “will ye, nill ye,” and is most correctly used in the sentence, “The executioner led the condemned man to the gallows, willy-nilly.” It means, “whether willing or not.”

How do I come up with these things….? And why….?




LIBRARY RESPONSIBILITIES

Reader Frank Ward:

I was perturbed recently to find Kevin Trudeau's "Natural cures..." on the "new books" display at my local branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, so I sent an e-mail to the system's Deputy Director complaining about this book.  In my e-mail I pointed out that "Natural cures..." has been thoroughly discredited by many objective sources and I referred to your [JREF’s] website's archives for a more reasoned and detailed debunking than I could provide.  I added that the fact of being in the library's collection gave the book undeserved credibility while at the same time diminishing the credibility of the library.  I received a prompt reply as follows:

(1) Library staff learned of the book because of huge media hype, (2) They checked a national data-base and found that other major public libraries owned  the book DESPITE THE NEGATIVE REVIEWS (my emphasis), (3) There was a "good bit" of discussion before deciding to add a copy at each branch, (4) The book  "has been talked about a lot on TV" and is asked for daily, (5) In a case like this the library saves patrons from spending their own money, and (6) Patrons can read the book and "judge for themselves how MEAGER (my emphasis) the information is….the wisdom of our librarians to add a book that patrons are demanding, and the wisdom of our patrons to detect a poor book when they read one will put this issue to rest in the short term.         

MY response re saving money was, wasn't public money used for the 10 copies the library bought?  If it DID save money, is this a worthwhile goal if the book is telling people they should give up medically proven treatments for totally unproven alternatives?  Doesn't the library's choosing to add this book serve as an endorsement that skews the patrons' evaluative judgment in the book's favor?  The information in Trudeau's book is not "meager" – it's dangerous MIS-information.  Yes, the book has been talked about a lot on TV – but only in expensive infomercials featuring Mr. Trudeau and approving stooges.  This is hardly justification for adding it to a public library collection.

A final thought: unlike taking on Walgreens, one must remain aware that with libraries the critic runs the risk of charges of elitism (patrons are smart enough to know a "bad" book when they see one) and the related issue of censorship (who are you to say what people may or may not read).

Agreed, Frank. Please keep us informed if there’s any further development in this matter….




A SCIENCE CENTER QUESTIONED

Reader Elliott Minardi, of Toronto, Canada, writes:

I visited the Ontario Science Centre this past weekend to see the fantastic Body Worlds 2 exhibit and noticed something very peculiar. For those who don't know, the Ontario Science Centre is public/private-funded educational foundation dedicated to popularizing science, with a special focus on children. Most students in the Greater Toronto Area have been on at least one school trip to the Science Centre before they reach puberty. 

Despite their reputation, they somehow managed to let something flagrantly pseudoscientific fly under their radar. I assume it's an oversight, as I'd hate to think the Science Centre is trying to cash in on this bunk.  Here's my email to them:

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Body Worlds 2 exhibit and found it very enlightening. I appreciate the Science Centre's efforts to promote science education through their own curriculum, as well as through featured exhibits such as Body Worlds 2. I'm always sure to mention the Ontario Science Centre when overhearing friends complain of nothing worthwhile in movie theatres.

But alongside my praise, I have to share a concern regarding some items for sale in the gift shop near the Body Worlds exit.  While perusing, I noticed a display featuring posters printed with various scientific and medical diagrams, such as the human brain or the human anatomy. This was expected, but the posters they were coupled with were not.  Next to the aforementioned science posters, you have chosen to sell reflexology posters, "prana" posters, and other pseudoscientific paraphernalia which frankly belong in a New Age head shop, not in a revered temple of scientific learning. By associating reflexology with the human anatomy, you legitimize pseudoscience and confuse visitors into believing unfounded claims. I believe this to be a disservice to the droves of curious citizens who visit your campus each year, expecting honest insight into genuine, compelling science.

I ask that you look into the matter and remove any products of dubious scientific merit, retaining the standard of integrity I expect from your organization.

I encourage all Science Centre patrons to visit the Body Worlds exhibit and stop by the adjacent gift shop to see for yourself.  If the posters are still there, write in and let them know you won't support a Science Centre that promotes quackery without conscience.

Thank you, Elliott. We must bear in mind that the gift shop is probably just a leased facility, not stocked or run by the OSC – which fact, however, does not in any way release them from their responsibility of vetting what is offered or advertised there for sale. If you have any reaction to your letter, please let us know….




NO HOPE FOR WHOLE FOODS

Reader Ryan Speck tells us:

After seeing this week's SWIFT and noticing more commentary on Whole Foods (whose stance on homeopathy has lead me recently into several heated debates with friends in my new home of Seattle who prefer their organic foods and line of crap to that of a more reasonable seller), I felt it was pertinent to mention something that I don't remember seeing referenced previously on the JREF site: Whole Foods has no interest in changing their stance on homeopathy and to try to convince them otherwise is foolish, because homeopathy (and "complementary" and "alternative" medicine in general) is their new cash cow, which they have no plans to stop milking.

If you look at Whole Foods' website, they give you a gamut of information on a variety of crap principles regarding all your typical fraud suspects, as well as offering a variety of in-store seminars on such subjects and avoiding the flu through homeopathy. (Try washing your hands and not letting people cough in your face, I say.) But on top of all these references, Whole Foods' normal site links back to their "medical" "information" database at www.wholehealthmd.com, a horrifying bludgeon to the name of science and reason – though thankfully it looks like the site hasn't really been updated in nearly 3 years. It's become fairly obvious that Whole Foods is not in the business of just selling goods and services to the public, but in promoting a New Age lifestyle, consisting of whatever pseudoscience and outright lies come down their monetary pike.

Of particular irony to me is the section entitled "Expert Opinions," where a rogue's gallery of quacks with "M.D." placed after their names, dole out advice to foolish readers on homeopathy and herbal remedies.

I think the most frightening of all is a question from a concerned parent asking for a homeopathic "cure" for a 3-year-old's recurring ear infections. Sadly, the link to their answer is broken, but I'm glad that I'm not forced to read whatever irresponsible advice they have for a parent that should be seeking better care for their child than 1,000,000X-diluted mercury and rose petal potions.

As they say in their "Healing Center":

Rather than prescribing powerful antibiotics or surgery to treat chronic conditions, we prefer to combine the best of conventional medicine with alternative therapies to help the body strengthen and then heal itself.

Which is to say, why use tested, proven, and doctor-prescribed medication that only benefits corporatism, my hippie friend, when you can instead use our expensive vials of worthless placebo to make you feel better?



TIME TABLE FOR QUACKERY

Canadian reader Robert Dunn has sent us an article from the Toronto Star newspaper. I summarize:

According to this article, a timetable for qualifying practitioners of Chinese forms of quack medicine – acupuncture, and various unproven herbal concoctions – has been arrived at in Canada.  Health Minister George Smitherman says it will be four years, after which these ancient “healing arts” can be legally administered by those who adhere to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act. As it stands now in Ontario, anyone can go into business offering acupuncture or other traditional Chinese medicine, including herbal therapies. We have to ask, what tests will be conducted, and who will conduct them? Witches, warlocks, fortunetellers, rune-casters, or crystal-gazers?

Smitherman said he hopes that new publicity surrounding the legislation will create "a higher degree of awareness" among patients. How? Being aware that quackery is now legal, helps Canadian citizens in a way that we cannot determine. The fact that some of these practitioners have spent years of study in traditional schools in China or Canada, and others have learned from elders or in weekend courses, means nothing, technically. A better question is: does it work?

It’s still only a collection of notions, not facts, but at least Canada will have properly licensed, paid-up, quacks.




IN CONCLUSION….

This holiday season, with local hurricane problems and an otherwise very busy schedule rather impeding my paying attention to my personal gift-giving, I opted to accomplish the annual task in a very different way.  I made donations on behalf of my friends, to Plan USA, a charity that I have supported since 1966, back when it was known as “Foster Parents Plan.”  I refer you to www.planusa.org/who for details.  This gift, which I offered in their behalf, supports one of the charity’s current special disaster projects – restoration of the Intensive Care Unit of the National Children's Hospital in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, following a devastating fire there last July.

Plan USA, a private 501(c)3 agency, gives support to children and their families worldwide, without any religious qualifications or agendas, and the actual percentage of donated money that goes to the intended recipients is 81% – an impressive ratio. I was actually able to visit one of the kids I supported, many years ago in Ecuador, and I was strongly impressed with the benefits that my small monthly contribution provided to the whole family. Plan USA is a dedicated organization, and an excellent method of reaching out to less fortunate persons far away; the letters that I receive regularly from the children – through their local Plan office – encourage me to continue with my support.  I urge you to consider joining me as a contributor to this group. I’ve been there, I’ve seen the fine work that’s done, and I fully endorse this charity. Let me share with you here a photo of my latest little friend, Rahyudin, who lives in Dompu, Indonesia. He's going on 5 years.

Presently, I support five children and an AIDS project through Plan USA. My standing order, when one of the recipient families is no longer eligible for aid due to the child’s age, is to re-assign my support to whatever family is most in need, anywhere. The five kids I presently have are in Indonesia, India, Guinea, Tanzania, and Senegal – three boys and two girls. They range from 4 to 13 years of age. Now, through my gift this year, 14 of my friends – willy-nilly! – have joined me in helping to rebuild that hospital in Paraguay.

Maybe you’ll click in on www.planusa.org and become an independent sponsor?  I sincerely hope so.

Also, the 24th meeting of the skeptics circle is going to commence on the 21st of December, so head on over to the New Zealand host, immunoblogging.blogspot.com to read some of the best skeptical blogging the internet has to offer.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and stay in touch with us at the JREF, please.


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