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NHNE News Brief 61
Friday, May 16, 1997

"A thought-provoking exploration
of the extraordinary times in which we live."

Millennium Countdown:
960 days until January 1, 2000

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The Businessman & the Fisherman

"One Day in Peace" Planned
Net Terrorism Likely to Increase
"The Bug" to Make U.S. Comeback

Women's Bathrooms Most Germ Laden
Muscle-Bound Mutants
Teacher Blames Reincarnation for Affair

Stay on Red Heifer Story
Terror in the Rivers

Ground is Shifting

Red Heifer Update

The Face of Jesus

Chinese Pyramids Update

Machine Over Man

Dental Laser Approved by FDA
Health Declines Worldwide
Universal Blood Type Close
Natural Mood Booster
Feel the Pain




One day a rich businessman was surprised to find a fisherman lazily smoking a pipe and lying on the riverbank beside his boat.

"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the businessman.

"Because I caught enough fish for one day," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch some more?"

"What would I do with them?"

"Earn more money. With that you could buy a motor for your boat so you could go into deeper waters and buy catch more fish. Then you would have enough money to buy nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats, maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."

"What would I do then?"

"Then you could really enjoy life."

"What do you think I am doing right now?"

---Anonymous, "Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart," edited by Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield, submitted by Rev. Susan Perry


(Source: Jean Hudon, EARTH RAINBOW NETWORK, 5/11/97 via Lew Levenson and Sandy Ezrine)

What if everyone at war on December 31st, 1999, agreed that for one whole day no guns would be fired? This is the premise of One Day in Peace -- that the first 24 hours of the New Millennium would be a time when no guns are fired anywhere on Earth, including television. Think of the silence and the peace! And what if the television programmers of the world went one step further and agreed to not air any programming with a violent content? (The reality is that it would probably be easier to get warring nations to stop shooting at each other than it would be to get the world's television programmers to stop broadcasting violent programming.) One Day in Peace is a project sponsored by EARTH RAINBOW NETWORK and is beginning to gather momentum. For more information contact Bob Silverstein "" or visit <> (JG)


(Source: REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 4/28/97, thanks to Philip R. Henika)

The threat of terrorism is likely to increase around the world as the Internet provides easier access to information on making bombs, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said at a recent forum on terrorism held at the UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA. "We are going to see information continue to spread as to how these weapons can be manufactured in a homegrown laboratory. It's likely to intensify in the years to come as more and more groups have access to this kind of information," he said. Precautions against unconventional arms must be intensified, Cohen urged, as potential terrorists develop chemical and biological weapons and electromagnetic methods that could create holes in the ozone layer or trigger earthquakes or volcanoes. "There are some reports, for example, that some countries are trying to construct something like the Ebola virus," Cohen said. Ebola, one of the most virulent viral diseases known, kills between 50 and 90 percent of its victims. There also has been speculation that scientists could develop ethnic-specific pathogens so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups. (JG)


(Source: Gabriella Stern, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/6/97)

VOLKSWAGEN is planning to bring back an updated version of the small, round-shouldered Bug that became a generational icon in the U.S. in the '60s and '70s. The old Bug offered a cramped, noisy and spine-jolting ride but was a hit because it was relatively cheap, fuel-efficient and had symbolic value as a protest against Detroit's big boats. The last new Bug was sold in the U.S. in 1979, but VW continued making the car in Puebla for the Mexican market. The new Bug will be built in Puebla alongside the old one. The car is essentially a Golf with a number of Beetle-esque characteristics to evoke nostalgia: curvy body panels; round dashboard dials and controls; circular sideview mirrors; side running boards; and indented door handles. Unlike the original, which had an air-cooled engine in the rear, the new front-engine Beetle will be packed with the latest German technology, including an optional fuel-efficient turbo-diesel direct-injection motor. Initially, the Puebla plant will build only a two-door hardtop version, but the German auto maker is considering a convertible version and an all-wheel-drive model. In contrast to the tiny Bug of old, the new one will cater to consumers' craving for space, with more headroom and legroom in front. VW is planning a lot of hoopla surrounding the Beetle's reintroduction next spring. However, the car's fate depends more on its pricing than on slick marketing. VW officials say the base Beetle will cost 10 percent more than a comparable Golf, which starts at $13,470. In 1949, when it was first introduced in the U.S., the Bug cost about $800; in 1977, the last Beetle sedan sold for $3,599. (JG)


(Source: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN ONLINE, 5/6/97)

A new study of the health dangers posed by public washrooms presented at a recent meeting of the AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MICROBIOLOGY has found you are twice as likely to encounter harmful germs in women's washrooms as in men's. That result is especially surprising because researchers found that men are messier than women -- they leave behind more paper towels and men's rooms usually smell worse. There are apparently two reasons for the higher level of germs in the women's washrooms. First, women tend to bring children into the bathroom with them and children tend to bring in germs. Second, women's restrooms get more traffic than men's rooms -- women use the bathroom more often and stay longer. To cut down on the chances of getting sick from a germ-laden restroom, Chuck Gerba of the UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA recommends good hand washing. (JG)


Source: Christine Gorman, TIME, 5/12/97)

When Dr. Se-Jin Lee and his colleagues at the JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE originally set out to find out how a growth factor called myostatin regulated the development of tissue, they produced a strain of mice in which the gene that codes for myostatin had been "knocked out." The resulting mutant animals grew up normal in every way -- except they looked... lumpy. But when the scientists peeled back their fur and skin, what had seemed like extra baggage in the shoulders and hips turned out to be pure muscle -- two to three times the muscle mass of the average pip-squeak rodent -- Mighty Mice! The burly mice seem to be a little slower and less timid than their normal counterparts. "That probably wouldn't be much of an advantage in the wild," says Lee. This discovery could prove to be an advantage to farmers, however, since chickens and cows make their own myostatin. In the future, artificially brawny beef cattle could be a profitable source of fat-free meat. Humans make myostatin as well, and researchers speculate that a myostatin-blocking drug could one day add muscles to the frames of people wasting away from cancer or AIDS. A drug that could triple muscle mass might also find a market among body builders, but that's a long way off. Scientists today know only what myostatin does in mice, and they still haven't determined at what cost to health or longevity. (JG)


(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 5/10/97)

A former teacher says his relationship with a young female student dated to their past lives in Tibet. According to his story, more than 1,000 years ago she saved his life by taking an arrow meant for him and he had to repay the debt of love. A judge didn't buy it, and sentenced Roger Katz to 1 1/2 years in prison. (JG)



"I am very interested in hearing more about the red heifer mentioned in News Brief 58. It seems to me that with the desire to rebuild the Temple gaining momentum, that this is another sign that the prophecy will be manifested in our time. Please make every effort to confirm this story and to stay on it."

---Vladimir Volovik, Sunnyvale, California

[The red heifer story seems to have captured the imagination of many people in the same way that the white buffalo story has. See the article in this issue that confirms the existence of the red heifer and adds some intriguing details. JG]



"I enjoy reading your News Briefs which I find full of useful information and thought-provoking material. One subject, however, I wish you would cover is the trouble with the rivers in North Carolina. A NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY scientist, Dr. Jo Anne Burkholder, has been researching the cause of the massive fish kills, and the results are terrifying. A one-celled animal called "pfiesteria" is thought to be causing our problems because it thrives in nutrient-rich rivers such as those located in North Carolina. This microbe literally eats "holes" in fish and kills them. This is very important and has the capacity to affect a major portion of the country. I live in a county where we are affected by the New River which has been declared "nutrient sensitive" by the State. We are destroying the very home that gives us life."

---Christine Lee, Jacksonville, North Carolina

[We published a preliminary report about the problem in News Brief 36 and plan to do a follow-up report in the near future. JG]



"I have had a very hard time recently with heavy criticism from researchers who feel that I am abandoning the crop circle cause, simply because I am publicly disseminating some of my findings that do not agree with them. The fact that not ALL crop circles are real and that the Oliver's Castle video is bad news, is hard for some people within the ranks to accept. I have turned down several requests to speak in England this year because of the developing situation with these people.

"So I was very heartened to read the kind words of your congratulatory message and I thank you for considering me for the NHNE Toby Award.

"In the last two days, ground appears to have shifted considerably. Yesterday my proposal for funding from Germany towards permanently archiving the whole photographic crop circle database was accepted. Earlier today I learned of 'The Toby' Award. And within the last hour, I have been asked by a major American funder to put together a research proposal because he wants to help me. This last development comes as a special surprise, because I had not even applied for it.

"And so, as we do all we can to assist mankind change his attitudes towards his planet and himself and re-discover his higher self, the work goes on..."

---Colin Andrews

[Colin Andrews was the recipient of our second Toby Award as announced in News Brief 51 ( He is the founder and Director of CIRCLES PHENOMENON RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL. His Web site is <>.]


(Source: Kendall Hamilton, NEWSWEEK, 5/19/97)

Melody is a red heifer who was born on an ordinary farm last year and whiles away her days oblivious to the controversy that surrounds her (News Brief 58). Some people would like to put a bullet into her head; others want to sacrifice her. But to observant Jews, there is nothing ordinary about her.

During the era of the First and Second Jewish Kingdoms (1000 to 600 BCE), the ashes of a red heifer, were mixed with water and used to purify Jews before they could approach the sacred Temple on Jerusalem's Holy Mountain. The ritual traced its roots back to the time of Moses in 1400 BCE when, according to the Book of Numbers, "the Lord gave the Israelites the following regulations: Bring to Moses and Aaron a red cow which has no defects and they are to give it to the priest to be killed in his presence. The priest is to take some of its blood and with his finger sprinkle it towards the Tent of the Holy Presence (the precursor of the Temple). The whole animal is to be burnt. Then a man who is ritually clean is to collect the ashes of the cow and put them outside the camp, where they are to kept for the Israelite community to use in the preparing the water for removing uncleanliness. This ritual is performed to remove sin. Anyone who has become ritually unclean and does not purify himself remains unclean, because the water for purification has not been thrown over him. He defiles the Lord's Tent and will no longer be considered one of God's people. This regulation is valid for all time to come, both for the Israelites and for the foreigners living among them." (Numbers 19:1-10, 20)

No red heifer has been born in Israel since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Some Israelis have greeted Melody's arrival as a wondrous portent for the New Millennium; others view her as an ominous threat to Middle East Peace. The furor springs from the fact that some devout Jews see Melody's birth as a sign from God that the coming of the Messiah is nigh. But many Muslims and some less observant Jews are concerned that extremists might take the red heifer as a signal to destroy the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa, Arab mosques which now sit on the exact location of the former Jewish Temple. They feel that the destruction of the mosques would clear the way for the construction of a third Jewish temple, and possibly provoke a war.

"The potential harm from this heifer is far greater than the destructive properties of a terrorist bomb," wrote journalist David Landau in the influential Israeli newspaper HA'ARETZ. Landau suggests that the cow be destroyed before anything disastrous happens. He has cause to be concerned. In the '80s, a group of Jewish militants was convicted of plotting to blow up the two mosques. Gershon Solomon, founder of the TEMPLE MOUNT FAITHFUL MOVEMENT, a group recently created to promote the restoration of the Temple Mount to the Jews, sees Melody's advent as "another sign that we are very close to the rebuilding of the Temple. This will [allow] big crowds of Orthodox Jews to join our campaign to liberate the Temple Mount." At this time, the Temple Mount is controlled by the Arabs; the closest Jews can approach this holy of holies is the Wailing Wall, the only portion of the Temple structure not destroyed in 70 CE.

The local rabbi in Melody's jurisdiction is not impressed by all the fuss -- he doesn't think she is red enough. "I'm very doubtful whether she is kosher, says Rabbi Shmaria Shore, as he points out white hairs in Melody's tail, snout, and eyelashes. "If I really thought she was, I'd send her away to an undisclosed location." (JG)


By Robert Perry

A mysterious photograph which was reportedly manifested by famed Indian spiritual master, Sai Baba, is becoming increasingly popular as an object of veneration around the world. According to the story, an Australian woman (known as "B.A.") visited Sai Baba's ashram in Puttaparti, India, in 1985. While there, she held up a black-and-white computer-generated printout of the Shroud of Turin. Sai Baba, who is known for his spontaneous miracles, reportedly took this paper from her and "manifested" a blank sheet of glossy photo paper. He then passed his hand over this paper and on it appeared a color "photo" of the face of Jesus. The dimensions of this face matched exactly the dimensions of the face on the Shroud. Furthermore, in the upper left and lower right corners of the photo, one could even see traces of the Shroud image itself, including its distinctive bloodstains. The photo was quite beautiful and has gained increasing circulation, both in Europe and America, including being used on the cover of a book entitled, "Love Without Conditions," by Paul Ferrini.

What is not generally known is that this "photograph" of Jesus is actually a reproduction of a painting created in 1935 by an Armenian artist named Aggemian. Every feature in the photo, including every hair in the moustache and beard, is exactly the same as the painting. The Sai Baba "photo" is a poor-quality reproduction of the original, and being murky and dark makes it hard to tell that it is a copy of a painting and not a photograph. Aggemian's painting, which is based on the Shroud of Turin, has enjoyed some popularity on its own merit. One can even obtain a version of it called "The Original Double-Effect Shroud Image," in which from one angle one sees the painting by Aggemian, and from another angle, the face on the Shroud; from a certain angle, one can see overlapping images of both the Shroud and the painting -- just as in the Sai Baba "photo."

This raises some very interesting questions: Was the "Sai Baba photo" actually "manifested" by Sai Baba or was it produced by other means? Also, does the "Sai Baba photo" violate any copyright laws? The Original Double-Effect Shroud Image, for instance, was copyrighted in 1979 by VARI-VUE in Pelham, New York. Wouldn't it be ironic if a miraculous manifestation broke the law? And most important of all, this may afford us a fascinating and instructive glimpse into the mechanism of miracles. If we accept that Sai Baba actually did manifest this image, he clearly did not reach back 2,000 years in time and manifest a photograph of genuine, unadorned history. Instead, he drew from humanly-created images that are circulating right now.

The Face of Jesus has parallels with the phenomenon of stigmatists, that rare group of Christian believers who manifest wounds that imitate the wounds of the crucified Christ, especially nail holes in their palms. Yet research has shown that nails through palms would be unable to support the weight of a crucified man -- more likely, the nails went through the wrists (significantly, the figure on the Shroud of Turin has nail wounds on the wrists). The wounds of stigmatists, then, reflect popular misconceptions of the Crucifixion, rather than historical fact. If we can take these two examples as our cue, perhaps such miraculous manifestations are not windows into pure history but (at least in some cases) merely reproductions of images already existing in the mass mind.


(Source: Laura Lee, ATLANTIS RISING, Spring/97)

[In News Brief 15, we reported on the suspected discovery of huge pyramids in China. Although new information is sketchy and slow in coming, here is an update on that report.]

For decades one of the few clues of ancient pyramids in China was a grainy black-and-white photo of a huge, shadowy, pyramidal form taken by WWII pilot James Gaussman as he flew over China in 1945. Now thanks to German researcher Hartwig Hausdorf, we have detailed eyewitness reports of the incredible structures complete with photos and videos.

Hausdorf received his invitation to visit the Chinese pyramids from Chen Jianli, whom he met a lecture being given by Eric von Daniken. Chen was born near Xian, the town closest to the pyramids and knew them well. Through Chen's contacts in Bejing, he was able to arrange for Hausdorf to visit the restricted area twice in 1994.

There Hausdorf found the Chinese reluctant to talk about their pyramids. While local archeologists played down the importance of "just a few pyramidal structures near Xian," Hausdorf, in fact, found almost 100 such structures, some 300 feet high (comparable in height to the Great Pyramid of Giza). But things are gradually changing, and the Chinese are beginning to recognize the value of this marvelous archeological heritage -- in October 1996, "CHINA TODAY," an official periodical, ran the first report ever of the structures.

Hausdorf found that the pyramids are covered with clay which over the centuries has set to the consistency of concrete. The pyramids around Xian are oriented either with their main axis east-west or north-south. Many have been damaged by erosion and farming. While the pyramids are undecorated, some have carved stones standing in front of them. In Shandong, there is a 50-foot stone pyramid with a small temple at the apex designed along the golden proportion.

Professor Wang Shiping of Xian estimates that some of the pyramids are 4,500 years old, but Buddhist traditions talk of pyramids 5,000 years ago. The only date that has been confirmed is by Chinese historian Sima Qian whose writings in 86 BC record details of the death of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi in 210 BC. The Emperor was buried beneath a 150-foot tall pyramid consisting of five terraces. The historian states that it took 700,000 workers to construct the monument. First the earth was removed down to ground level. Then a base of molten bronze was poured, on top of which was built a stone sarcophagus. In order to keep the location secret, the exterior was covered with earth and grass to disguise it as a hill and the workers killed when the structure was completed. Legend has it that the pyramid was rigged with numerous booby traps and although some preliminary excavations have taken place around the perimeter of the structure, archeologists are reluctant to proceed any further.

Hausdorf has published two books in German on his findings: "The White Pyramids" and "Satellites of the Gods;" unfortunately no English translations are available at this time. Hausdorf will be interviewed on the Laura Lee Radio Show ( on August 2. (JG)


By James Gregory

Remember the date -- May 11, 1997 -- the day when machines conquered the world. Or more specifically, the date on which Gary Kasparov, the best chess player the world has ever seen, was defeated for the first time ever, in this case by Deep Blue, an IBM RS/6000 SP parallel processor with specialized microchips for chess that could examine hundreds of millions of possible moves per second.

Kasparov had gone into the six-game chess match referring to the chess-playing computer as "The Creature" and saying that man would always beat the machine, barring human error or loss of concentration. Deep Blue consisted of 1.4-tons of chess-playing computer purring away in a 10-by-20-foot, air-conditioned room of a Manhattan skyscraper. "The Creature" lost the opening game when Kasparov befuddled the massive computer's processor by forcing it into situations where it had little to do, resulting in wasteful and foolish moves that proved its downfall.

But it seems Kasparov's crisis came in Game Two. Deep Blue played a classic opening and never relinquished the pressure. So fluid was its play that the grandmasters in attendance all agreed that Blue "played real chess" that day. But what really rattled Kasparov was a move that the computer didn't make. On Move 36, Blue had the opportunity to shift its queen to a devastating position -- clearly the smart choice. Instead it took a subtler but superior tack that wound up being the decisive one in defeating Kasparov. After the champ resigned, he rushed back to his hotel suite to recreate the moves his own chess computers in order to understand how a lump of wires and silicon chips could have such a comprehensive grasp of the finer points of the game. His conclusion was that "for one moment [Deep Blue] played like a god."

Kasparov began showing the effects of facing an opponent whose limitations were no longer certain. When the machine would make an unexpected, possibly foolish, move he would look stunned. He could no longer outwit the computer and was forced into a defensive role. Many said Kasparov should have played his usual, swashbuckling attacking style instead of the careful, slow maneuvering he had adopted with the machine. "The reason Garry lost was that he was not true to himself, not true to his character or his reputation," said American Grandmaster Ron Henley. "He psyched himself out with his anti-computer strategy and he was unable to play with his full potential and full genius." Another Grandmaster, John Fedorowicz, said: "Everybody was surprised that he resigned [from the second game] because it didn't seem lost. We've all played this position before. It's a known position." Kasparov never won another game after the unsettling experience in Game Two.

As the match progressed, Kasparov developed what seemed to be a new-found respect for his mechanical opponent and increasingly gave "The Creature" human characteristics. After Game Two, the world champion said he thought he detected signs of intelligence in the machine. "There are very many discoveries in this match and one of them is that sometimes the computer plays very human moves. In a way I have to praise the machine for understanding very deeply positional factors. I think it is an outstanding scientific achievement." After Game Five resulted in the third straight draw, Kasparov added, "I'm not afraid to admit that I'm afraid. It definitely goes beyond any chess computer in the world."

IBM claimed the event was part chess match and part research project to help build computers that can make complex, simultaneous calculations for applications such as weather forecasting, air traffic control and molecular dynamics. But this battle will be remembered as a dramatic illustration of how spectacularly a mechanical opponent can surpass its assumed limitations. As computers become more powerful, and as programmers become more successful at transforming those calculations into complex behaviors, we will, no doubt, see other examples of computers that don't act like computers. The line between human and machine just got a little fainter. (Sources: Steven Levy, NEWSWEEK, 5/19/97; ASSOCIATED PRESS & REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 5/6,9,11/97)


(Sources: Rhonda L. Rundle, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/8/97; Adam Rogers, NEWSWEEK, 5/19/97)

THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) has recently approved the first laser device for hard-tissue dental procedures. Proponents say lasers eliminate most of the pain of dental work because they don't vibrate like conventional drills; in all but the most sensitive patients, local anesthesia isn't necessary. The lasers also preserve healthy tissue by cutting teeth more precisely. "Use of lasers in dentistry is medicine for the 21th century," said Bruce Burlington, the agency's Director of Devices and Radiological Health.

The laser generates light at infrared wavelengths best absorbed by water. When the beam excites water molecules, it generates a shockwave. The blast, just a few microns wide and propagated through a jet of water squirting from the tip of the handheld unit, destroys the surrounding material with a precise concussive burst. The laser removes decay, enamel, or the underlying dentine with a quiet popping sound and a gentle touch. The procedure is faster, fillings are less likely to loosen, and the laser sterilizes everything it touches.

"I've been a dental educator for 25 years, and these new lasers are one of the most exciting technologies to come along since I can remember," says L. Roy Eversole, a professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry. The model the FDA approved, known as the Erbium YAG, carries a $39,000 price tag, compared with only about $600 for a conventional dentist's drill. Still, patients who have experienced both treatments say it's worth paying more to avoid the pain and noise. "It was fantastic, I can't get over it," says Harry Chulamanis, who had two "enormous" cavities filled, along with other extensive work. The one long session cost him about $600, but there was "no pain, no drills and no anesthetic," he reports. (JG)


(Sources: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN ONLINE, 5/5/97; CNN ONLINE, 4/16/97; REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 5/5/97; Al Hinman, CNN ONLINE, 5/6/97)

A new report by the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) predicts the number of cancer cases will double in most countries over the next 25 years. The same is true for diabetes. According to WHO, the solution to this global problem is actually quite low-tech -- "Don't smoke. Take a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Don't become obese. Carry out physical exercise," says Dr. Paul Kleihues, author of the report.

The main problem is the spreading of the smoking habit. While smoking rates are down in the U.S., that's not the case for the rest of the world. For example, about 60 percent of 18-year-olds in France smoke and the situation is even worse in Eastern Europe, where the levels of lung cancer are the highest in the world. In China, billboards featuring cigarettes are everywhere and consumption is double what it was a few years ago. WHO estimates there are one billion smokers worldwide, and they smoke six trillion cigarettes a year.

"Tobacco is fast becoming a greater cause of death and disability than any single disease," claims one WHO report. John Seffrin, CEO of the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY, has an even bleaker outlook. "We're about to witness the largest manmade, tobacco-industry-induced pandemic that the world has ever seen," he says.

Kleihues says the solution to this global smoking problem should come from the U.S., since American tobacco companies were the ones who exported the problem to the rest of the world. Anti-smoking campaigns are slowly beginning to have an effect. "The Chinese government has now recognized it's a big problem," he says. "They are now trying to induce, slowly, legislation banning smoking in public places." WHO hopes this and similar steps will lead to less cancer and heart disease and, eventually, better global health.

In a related story, The U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) has just approved a nicotine inhaler for smokers who want an alternative to nicotine patches and chewing gum as a method of quitting smoking. ADVANCED THERAPEUTIC PRODUCTS INC., which developed the device, said it is the first form of nicotine replacement therapy to help control a smoker's craving for cigarettes that also provides one of the behavioral patterns that goes with smoking -- the hand-to-mouth ritual. Clinical trials have shown that the rate of smokers quitting is comparable to other products on the market. The Inhaler will be marketed in the U.S. as the "Nicotrol Inhaler" by McNEIL CONSUMER PRODUCTS, a JOHNSON & JOHNSON company and will be available only by prescription.

And if you are using one of the nicotine aids to help you quit smoking, be careful how you dispose of them -- nicotine patches and nicotine gum can be toxic to small children and household pets. Dr. Alan Woolf of the HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL points out, that "even a used patch has as much as six to eight cigarettes' worth of nicotine in it," enough to cause acute poisoning in a small creature. Symptoms include dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. These days, even quitting smoking can be dangerous. (JG)


(Source: REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 5/6/97)

Researchers have discovered a way of changing the surface of highly sensitive red blood cells that could eventually lead to a universal blood type, allowing blood transfusions between people of different blood groups. "This technique is very straightforward and simple to do and is also important for Third World countries that don't have blood banks," said Mark Scott, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at ALBANY MEDICAL CENTER in Albany, New York. Scott invented the method with John Eaton, Ph.D., who now works at BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE in Houston, under a grant from the NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH. The breakthrough will benefit children with thalassemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder that requires repeated transfusions but makes it difficult for the patient to accept donor blood. The research may also be useful in tissue and organ transplantation to prevent rejection, as well as in veterinary medicine where blood banking is very difficult. (JG)


(Source: Sue Miller, NEWSWEEK, 5/5/97)

[In News Brief 33, we introduced you to St. Johnswort, a natural herb that seemed to treat depression more efficaciously than mood-altering drugs. This is a follow-up report.]

People have been ingesting Saint Johnswort, a yellow-flowered plant with the latin name "Hypericum perforatum," for some 2,000 years. The origins are hazy, but some believe that it was first used by the ancient Greeks to drive away evil spirits. Saint Johnswort has been popular in Europe for the last 15 years where it is used as a natural remedy for depression; in Germany, for example, doctors write three million prescriptions for it a year -- 25 times the number they write for Prozac.

This wonder herb has recently made the leap across the ocean to North America, propelled by a rush of books and articles promoting its benefits. Despite the fact that a wide variety of natural mood-boosting supplements already crowd health-food store shelves, Rob McCaleb of the HERB RESEARCH FOUNDATION calls Saint Johnswort "the premier herb for treating moderate depression."

Is there hard evidence to back up this claim? In 1994, THE JOURNAL OF GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY AND NEUROLOGY devoted an entire issue -- 17 articles -- to "Hypericum: A Novel Antidepressant." One of the studies tracked the herb's effects on 3,250 patients suffering from mild to moderate depression, and found that about 80 percent either felt better or were completely free of the symptoms after four weeks. In August, 1996 the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL published a review of 23 controlled studies involving a total of 1,757 depressed subjects. The overall result was that Saint Johnswort worked three times better than a placebo.

Despite the promising studies, researchers know very little about the herb's active ingredients or how it works. What they do know is that the optimum dosage is 300 milligrams of Hypericum extract containing .3 percent of the active ingredient "hypericin," taken three times a day, most commonly as tablets or in tea.

Although psychiatrists traditionally prefer drugs over herbs, some are beginning to incorporate Saint Johnswort into their treatment regimen. Dr. Harold Bloomfield learned about the herb while researching his book "How To Heal Depression." He now gives it regularly to his patients and claims the results are excellent. He has just written a new book, "Hypericum & Depression," and states that the number of U.S. therapists treating patients with the herb has grown from a few dozen to several hundred in just six months.

Is it safe? In Germany where millions of enthusiasts have used the herb extensively for years, there have been no reported deaths. In the study of 3,250 depressed patients, only 2.4 percent experienced any kind of side effect, such as restlessness, stomach irritations, and mild allergic reactions. Antidepressants such as Prozac, on the other hand, typically cause sexual dysfunction, insomnia, and weight loss. This absence of any serious side effects is one of Saint Johnswort's biggest selling points.

Any nagging concerns should soon be put to rest. A large multicenter trial for Saint Johnswort is being planned by the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH. In the meantime, avoid taking the herb with prescribed antidepressants and only make changes to the dosages of prescribed medications after consulting with your physician. (JG)


(Source: NEWSWEEK, 4/7/97)

Are Americans more sensitive, or do they just like to whine? A test conducted by Dr. Eugene J. Carragee at the STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE compared patients recovering from painful fractured thighbones in Vietnam with similarly afflicted patients in the U.S. Although Americans received an average of 20 times more painkillers, 80 percent of them complained about the pain, compared to 20 percent of the Vietnamese. One reason, according to Carragee, may be that while most Americans tend to believe that all pain is treatable, the Vietnamese, with their Buddhist traditions, are prepared to accept some suffering in their lives. (JG)


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