BRIEF REPORTS from INVESTIGATOR 50 TO 59



INVESTIGATOR 50, 1996 September

MARCO POLO

According to the German paper BILD (1995 October 21) German and English experts now doubt that Marco Polo went to China, because:
a. He made no mention of the Great Wall;
b. Although writing much about customs and rituals he made no mention of foot binding;
c. He made no mention of tea drinking;
d. Archives from the period in Genoa and Venice have no mention of China.
Conclusion: Marco Polo reached Persia and relied on Arab writings about China.





INVESTIGATOR 51, 1996 November

COSTLY PARANORMAL

A female TAFE employee in South Australia was suspended after making $40,000 worth of phone calls to information services including Tarot readings. 0055 numbers cost up to 70c a minute and 1900 numbers up to $5 per minute. Information available ranges from counselling and horoscopes to sex advice and tarot readings. These numbers were subsequently banned on all TAFE campuses. (The Advertiser 1996 July 24)


SACRIFICING CHILDREN TO "JEHOVAH"

Photos of 26 youngsters were on the front cover of Awake! magazine of May 22, 1994.

Page 2 says: "In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue."

The magazine discussed three of the youths in detail. Twelve year old Lisa Kosack, for example, died after threatening to, "kick the IV pole down and rip out the IV... and poke holes in the blood."

Whenever the question arises well prepared JW elders of "hospital liaison committees" step into action. They appeal to patients' rights and personal conscience and freedom of worship.

The elders do not mention the intense indoctrination and the threat of excommunication and total shunning. They don't mention the thousands of interpretations taught as "Jehovah's truth" and later changed.

They don't mention, for example, their religion's former opposition to vaccination: "Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the Flood." (The Golden Age 1931 Feb. 4 p.293)

And they don't talk about the former ban on organ transplants (The Watchtower 1967 November 15 pp. 702 704) — including bone marrow, skin and cornea transplants. This doctrine ended with The Watchtower of March 15, 1980. (See Investigator 8, 10; 12)


WORLD'S END — OCTOBER 23

Ian Plimer, Victorian skeptic and author of Telling Lies for God, spoke on Adelaide radio with announcer Julia Lester early on October 23. He said the world would end at 4.30 pm.

Mr Plimer told of the calculation of the Irish prelate James Ussher who in the 17th century calculated that creation began on October 23, 4004 BC at 9am. Mr Plimer said that 6000 years would end that day at 4.30 pm (Adelaide time). He explained that many Fundamentalist religions compare the six work days of the week to 6000 years to be followed by the Millennium.

The world, however, didn't end on October 23. On October 24 local skeptic Allan Lang phoned the station to explain that there was no year "0". This meant that 6000 years will end next year i.e. 1997 on October 23 and not in 1996!

Doubtless Mr Lang got his information from Investigator 10 p.3 and #24 page 20! 

Mr Plimer not being a subscriber got things wrong!



CRUEL SECT

Headlines in a German paper read: Sect Torments German Babies.

According to the report Indian Guru Sant Thakar Singh has 25,000 followers in 60 German cities. To create God like adults new born babies were blindfolded and had one ear blocked with silicone to teach the babies to look inwards. Children were forced to meditate for hours. Stubborn children who did not like the routine are made submissive by being hung upside down by their feet!


ASTROLOGY

About 30% of people take astrology seriously and that although it has long been known to be pseudo science and nonsense. For example back in 1935 The Modern World Encyclopedia said under Astrology:
The pseudo science of reading the fate of human beings from the stars… The pretensions of astrologers are based on arbitrary systems, and such success as they may have can be regarded only as chance or coincidence.
The first attempt to study the stars and to interpret their behaviour were made by the Babylonians, and the pseudo science passed through Greece to India, China, and Rome.
In the Middle Ages, astrology was brought to Europe by the Arabs, who impressed their own particular method of exposition upon it, and by the 15th cent. the ministers of the cult had become so powerful that no Court was complete without its astrologer, and no monarch would dare to feast, fast, or fight unless assured that the stars were propitious. (Volume I, page 355)


BIGTIME FOR RUSSO

Frank Russo phoned and said, "I've hit the big time."

In Investigator 31 Mr Russo gave general consideration to four areas in the theory of relativity. A detailed article focusing on one area, Stellar Aberration, later appeared in Speculations in Science & Technology (1995 September).

Mr Russo said the article will appear in the Physics Abstracts under three categories:
A9530 Fundamental Aspects of Astrophysics
A9880 Theoretical Cosmology
A9100 Solid Earth Physics

JESUS' BROTHERS AND SISTERS

In a statement to his regular audience at the Vatican Pope John Paul II reasserted Mary's virginity by stating that Jesus had no brothers or sisters. (The Weekend Australian Aug 31 - Sep 1, 1996 p. 14)

The New Testament Gospels name four brothers of Jesus and also state he had sisters. (Matthew 13:55 58; Mark 6:2 6)

The Pope said the words "brothers" and "sisters" were used loosely because Hebrew and Aramaic lacked the word for "cousin".

Queried on this point Investigator's anonymous theologian wrote: "New Testament writers quote Psalm 69 a number of times and apply the Psalm to Christ. Verse 8 says 'my brethren' and also 'my mother's sons' the point being that Christ's closest relatives rejected him. We should note that the 'brethren' are the mother's 'sons'."


INCORPORATED SKEPTICS

According to John Foley writing in The Southern Skeptic:
Skeptics SA is finally incorporated. We are now an official body with a constitution. Which means we have an AGM, ordinary membership, committee election and the usual nonsense. But it is necessary that the controlling membership be "sound". There is a lot of money tied up in The Australian Skeptics Trust Fund, and there are people out there who would like to get it for their own use… If membership were completely open, it wouldn't take long before the skeptics were out voted by clairvoyants, psychics, charlatans and con artists. (1996 September p.3)
Mr Foley is the Secretary of the Skeptics SA.


SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES

These were discussed in Investigator 48 in a religious context. According to the Information Please Almanac 40th edition 1995 about four million AIDs (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) cases had occurred worldwide by June 30 1994 since the pandemic began, and 17 million people had the virus (HIV).

In the United States the cumulative total of reported AIDS cases was 361,509 on December 31, and 1993 and deaths numbered 220,871.

The Almanac gave World Health Organization minimal estimates for four bacterial STDs worldwide as:
Genital herpes and viral STD were estimated at 20 million. (p. 86)


CHRISTMAS MAGIC SANK

Father Christmas and his helper fell off an aluminium boat when leaving a party for police officer's children. His soggy white beard hindered his breathing and two police constables stripped and dived in to the rescue. Disappointed children then threw rocks and chanted, "Santa's a fake." (The Advertiser 1995 Dec. 11)


A PROBLEM NOT YET BRIDGED

The building of the Hindmarsh Island bridge was banned in 1994 for 25 years due to unspecified aboriginal "women's business". (Investigator 43)

Afterwards the SA royal commission ruled that the women's business was a fabrication.

A further 6-month inquiry by Federal Court judge Justice Jane Mathews advised that concerns about desecration of aboriginal sites had "insufficient evidence". This cost over $1 million but was ruled invalid by the High Court in September. This led to calls for a third inquiry.

Total costs on inquiries and court disputes have been estimated at $12million which is almost double the estimated cost to build the bridge.

The bridge was promised by former SA Labor Government in 1990 to persuade a Westpac subsidiary to keep a marina company going on Hindmarsh Island. The SA Brown government said in 1994 it would have to pay Westpac at least $12 million if the bridge is not built.

What came out of all this is that the Heritage Protection Act of 1984 seems inadequate for solving disputes involving the issue of secrecy.

The latest phase is dispute over the possibility of special legislation by the Federal Government to exempt Hindmarsh Island from the Heritage Protection Act.


BEAUMONTS NOT FOUND

When three children disappeared from an Adelaide beach in January 1966 it sparked one of the biggest police investigations in Australian history.

Dutch clairvoyant, Gerard Croiset, was flown to Adelaide by property developer Con Polites and stayed for three days in November 1966. The clairvoyant indicated a warehouse close to the beach where, he said, the children were buried in a ditch or tunnel when sand caved in. The landlord at the time did not permit excavation and the floor was later covered with concrete.

By 1996 the warehouse had new owners. Mr Polites too was still around and willing to finance investigation.

Prior to commencement of drilling there was national coverage via Channel 2 on the 7.30 Report (April 26). John Foley of the Skeptics appeared and said, "No clairvoyant's ever got it right yet."

Alan Arthur, retired in 1995 after 30 years as a detective, said, "If the police did excavate every site that every clairvoyant came up with .. .we'd have holes all over Adelaide."

The drill holes failed to reveal remains of any children. It was then decided to excavate the floor to a depth of several metres. By September the warehouse faded from the news and was padlocked.


20TH CENTURY NOT SO BAD

Some religions claim that the 20th century tops every other century in deaths from wars, pestilence and earthquakes.

About 600 years ago the world population was about 1/12 what it is now and yet experienced among other calamities the following:

Mongol invasion of China 1210-1219 35 million deaths
Mongol invasion of China 1311-1340 35 million deaths
The Black Death 1347-1350 75 million deaths
Civil War in China by rebel leader
Zhang Xianzhong (1605-47)  1643-1647
40 million deaths
(From: Guinness Book of Records)


PEOPLE FOREVER INTERNATIONAL

This is a 30 year old movement of people who expect to live forever. Up to 1,000 have congregated together — the oldest in their nineties.

Two members interviewed on television said: "We're saying no… I am not just another body that's going to start degenerating, whingeing about my illnesses. I don't want that life; I want to go on and on.

"I don't believe disease happens to me. I believe I have responsibility for my life. I can choose. I can say I'm not going to have cancer. Cancer is not going to happen to me. I am not going to have heart disease."




INVESTIGATOR 52 1997 January

BLACK SEA FLOOD

Sudden flooding of the Black Sea which raised its level 60 metres 7,750 years ago may be related to Noah's Flood and Noah's Ark. So say Dr William Ryan and Dr Walter Pitman, authorities on marine geology, at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

Sediment samples showed the Black Sea switched suddenly from fresh water to saline. Russian research revealed ancient shorelines. The Black Sea has a uniform sediment layer containing Mediterranean molluscs. Pre flood mud contains roots of vegetation suggesting much of the area was a plain.

A 100 metre deep groove in the Bosporous indicates a sudden rush of Mediterranean water. (The Times Monday December 9 1996)


DISCOVERED! THE PLACE WHERE MOSES MET GOD!

This was the heading of a report in the German paper Bild (Leipzig) of August 1, 1996. The report went on:
"The mountain on which the Ten Commandments were announced to Moses has been discovered!

The German theologian Paul Imhof and the Italian archaeologist Emmanuel Anati stumbled across more than 2,000 finds near the Egyptian-Israeli border from the period 1400 to 1250 BC. The 900 metre high mountain is part of a massif in the Sinai Desert.

The researchers found numerous rock drawings, stone monuments, a cavern as well as a shrine with sacrificial altar and priests' accommodation.

These in their opinion allow conclusions regarding Bible scriptures which report on Moses and the Exodus of the  people of Israel out of Egypt."




INVESTIGATOR 53 1997 March

STAR OF BETHLEHEM

A conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 2 BC became the brightest object in the night sky that year after the Moon.

This may have been significant enough for the Magi to see the event as a new star — the "star of Bethlehem". The birth date of Jesus would then be 2 BC. This would require relocating the death of King Herod from the commonly accepted 4 BC to 2 BC or 1 BC. (The Australian 1996 December 10 p. 11)



INVESTIGATOR 54 1997 May

NO LUCK WITH LUCK

Almost every week newspapers have stories of people trying to solve financial problems by gambling. They lose and then some try to recuperate losses with bigger bets.

One couple defrauded Social Security of $100,000 after losing much of a $130,000 compensation payout at the Adelaide Casino. (Sunday Mail 1997 Feb. 21; The Advertiser March 8)


A young lady gambled away $150,000 taken from the government funded Aboriginal Legal Resource Centre in Sydney. (The Advertiser 1997 Feb. 15) A man lost $26,000 out of a $30,000 compensation payout during 9 months on poker machines. (The Advertiser March 8)

It's estimated that the SA Government will get $273 million from gambling taxes this financial year. Investigator has often pointed out that you can't honestly control luck but you can control yourself and choose not to gamble.


DRINK LIQUID GOLD

For decades urine drinking has had occasional advocates. Last year NEXUS (February March) published the article "Urine Drinking" reprinted from the book Your Own Perfect Medicine (1994) by Martha M Christy.

Urine, according to the article, is "an extraordinary natural healing substance" considered by "the medical research community...to be liquid gold" its contents acting as "natural vaccines, antibacterial, antiviral, anti cancer agents…"

Do not, however, rush to bottle and sell yours because any person's urine is "medicinally valuable" only to himself. To ignore this point and promote yours as "medicinally valuable" might be construed as false advertising!

Writing on liquid gold in the Skeptic Richard Gordon said, "The practice...confers no benefit on the imbiber as the substances contained therein are at best recycled food in a less than tasty vehicle and, at worst, the already rejected by products of metabolism (ie waste)." (Volume 16 No. 3 p. 3)





INVESTIGATOR 55 1997 July

FASTING TOWARD PARADISE

The 11th issue of Nida'ul Islam magazine (January February 1996) had the article "Fasting Ramadan, Its Virtues & Rulings".

The first section of the article explained that the Prophet: "singled out fasting when asked about a deed that leads its doer to the best of rewards, Paradise."

Also: "fasting the month of Ramadhan is obligatory and that Allah has prescribed it for us in His Book."

The next section is about the "Virtues of Fasting" e.g. "Fasting is an expiation of various sins…"

The third section has 25 paragraphs of activities which are permissible and/or enhance the benefits of fasting and activities which nullify fasting. E.g. "Deliberate eating or drinking, making oneself vomit, menstruation, after birth bleeding, injection containing nourishment and sexual intercourse all nullify the fast."

How do Muslim women prevent menstruation and after birth bleeding?


NEW BOOK ON UFOs

Keith Basterfield, a Local Government Community Development officer, has researched three hundred Australian "close encounters". He has studied UFOs for twenty years and is a coordinator of the Australian Centre for UFO Studies. His book, recently released, is UFOs: a report on Australian encounters.

Mr Basterfield is a skeptic: "I consider most sightings are balloons, imagination and natural phenomena." (Sunday Mail June 8 p. 43)

However, there are also: "unknown phenomena at work" and "I accept there are things which are not hoaxes... The Victorian Kelly incident one of the most outstanding in the world, defying explanation."


AGREEMENT POSTPONED

In recent issues of Investigator Vic Lloyd and Harry Edwards disagreed on the implications of continued human population growth. Mr Lloyd has sent a letter saying:
We have both presented our cases and it is pretty obvious that we are not going to agree. I feel there to be a looming tragedy unless some very radical action is taken — but, clearly Harry doesn't see it that way.

As a footnote 1 quote Dr Asimov's Our World in Space: "If anyone thinks that the important reason for exploring space is to find outlets for our expanding population, let him think again...within five thousand years, at our present rate of increase, the total mass of flesh and blood will equal the mass of the known universe."
Mr Lloyd included a press clipping (The Advertiser 1995 December 29) about a world population rise of 100 million— "the biggest 12 month increase yet"


GOOD LUCK PIXIE

A booklet of Pocket Saver Coupons included a coupon offering a "magic 24 carat gold plated Pixie pendant" with chain for $14.95 plus post.

The ad said: "This beautiful Pixie...is believed to be the most powerful Good Luck Bringer of all." The ad referred to "Incredible reports" of "improved...Health, Wealth and Romance" and suggested "Put it through the most demanding test you can."

A full-page ad in TV Plus said, "Your wishes come true with the famous Cornish Lucky Pixie." (June 22)

A request to receive a Pixie to be paid for afterwards from the proceeds of the good luck did not meet with agreement.





INVESTIGATOR 59

CURES & REMEDIES

To learn about superstitions and spells try The Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions (1996 I Opie & M Tatem).

What's a good cure for January 1st hangovers?  A Scottish method is to use a straw brush to sprinkle urine on the sufferers in bed!

Did you know that 19th century British schoolboys wore their caps backwards to prevent being "enticed into the fairy rings and made to dance"? And how could you counteract the bad luck of walking under a ladder?  Simply spit three times!

Good luck to you if you try these procedures.


DON'T GAMBLE

Poker machine patrons in SA lost $364 million in the 1996/97 financial year.  Bets on 10,451 machines at 484 venues totalled $3023 million of which $134 million went in tax to the State Government. (Sunday Mail 1997 Dec. 7 p. 7)

Some losers do stupid things. One lost his dole money, robbed a service station and was sentenced to 5 years. (The Advertiser November 15 p. 8)  A bank officer stole and lost $360,000 and was sentenced to 3½ years. (November 27 p. 9) A casino employee stole from fellow employees' lockers, had to repay what he stole and lost his job. (November 1 p. 17)

The Advertiser reported: "40 per cent of gamblers believe superstitions can lead to big wins on poker machines." (November 1 p. 16)

The social impact of the "pokies" in family breakups, decreased trading and job loss in other areas, addiction to gambling, and crime has been tremendous.

A bill was presented in Parliament to phase out gambling over five years. Premier Mr Olsen responded that compensation (of over $1000 million) "to all those who invested lawfully would be horrendous… The State simply could not afford to pay."  (November 27 p. 9)

The industry employs 17,000 in SA and has a capital value of $1500 million.


CON MEN?  SURELY NOT!

Brian De Kretser sent Investigator press clippings about "superstition" in Darwin:
Mr De Kretser believes, "Darwin is awash with con men"!


RELIGIOUS CRUSADE

About 20,000 people attended Festival SA at Football Park in Adelaide on each of three nights to hear Franklin Graham.

Compare this to 65,000 who turned out in one day in 1959 to hear his father Billy Graham!

Festival SA, which ran from January 30 to February 1, took 500 churches of 16 denominations one year to organize and cost $500,000.

Franklin Graham's half-hour exhortation was addressed to persons who had previous Christian background. There was no proof or evidence — simply the speaker's assertion that this is how things are. The argument was:
We're all sinners and qualify for Hell; Sin is disobedience to God and includes sex outside of marriage, drunkenness, false testimony, dishonoring of parents, sabbath breaking, and following other gods; Sin separates people from God leaving "a great big empty hole in your life"; Jesus was sinless and so qualified to pay for sin — Buddha didn't, Mohammed didn't, Krishna didn't; By dying for us Jesus offers heaven; This night is the opportunity to come forward, "accept Jesus into your heart", be forgiven and make a new start.

About 500 on each night came forward, were led in prayer for forgiveness and spoke with counsellors who wrote details on cards for churches to follow up.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was founded in 1950 and by 1995 had revenues of $88 million.

Franklin Graham was converts at 22, joined the Samaritan's Purse (an international relief organization) in 1974, and was elected its president in 1979. He conducts about ten revivals with BGEA each year. He preached in Brisbane two years ago but church membership did not significantly increase.


JONAH AND THE SHARK

The Sunday Mail had an impressive photo of a diver dwarfed by the massive mouth of a 20 metre-long whale shark. The shark lives off plankton and sucks them up like a vacuum. Marine photographer Valerie Taylor disbelieves stories of such sharks swallowing people but said, "if it did I don't know what you'd do — maybe climb out of its gills."  (1996 September 29 p. 5)

A debate about Jonah extended from Investigator No. 35 to No. 46.


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