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September 2, 2004

Keep on running, Alan (2/9/2004)
After I wrote the piece last week about slaughterer Alan Yurko getting out of prison, I thought I would help him to tidy up some unfinished business. This is what I wrote to the Ohio Dept of Corrections:

I don't know if the Ohio DRC has been informed by the authorities in Florida, but Alan R Yurko, a technical parole violator in Ohio, was released from prison in Florida on Friday, August 27.

Yurko was prisoner number A 216942 in the Ohio system, and fled to Florida as soon as he was paroled. I believe that the Ohio authorities located him in Florida, but he could not be extradited as he was in prison for the aggravated assault of a police officer and also awaiting trial on a charge of murder. He was convicted of the murder, but a judge ordered a new trial last Friday. To avoid a new trial, Yurko pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to time served, putting him back on the streets.

As he has legally completed his sentence in Florida, there would seem to be no impediment to getting him back to Ohio to face parole violation charges and to complete his sentences for his four convictions there.

Go get him. I do not want to pick up a newspaper to read how this violent man has claimed another victim.

Thank you.

And here is what Ohio DRC said to me:

Thank you for the information you provided on our offender, Alan Yurko.

Yurko was released from the Florida Dept of Corrections on 8-30-04 due to his vacated Florida sentence.

On 9-1-04, Ohio issued a warrant for the offender for the offense of parole violation. Orange County Sheriff's office is cooperating with us and is helping locate the offender.

If I can be of further assistance, let me know.

Arlette Brown
Ohio Adult Parole Authority

That should make me even more popular with the anti-vaccination liars.

September 4, 2004

People try to identify their relatives in the yard of the morgue in Vladikavkaz. Photo: AFP

Beslan (4/9/2004)
The photograph above shows people trying to find their children in a makeshift morgue. The children are there because some "terrorists" believed that the deaths of these children were means to achieve some objective and that rather than being punished for killing children, they would be rewarded in Heaven. They believe this because they have a holy book which explicitly tells them that it is a good thing to kill unbelievers, and the holy book makes no distinction about the age of the unbelievers.

I saw two people interviewed on television about the massacre at Beslan. Both were speaking Russian, and both quite clearly used the word "Islam". In both cases, the voice-over English translation put the word "terrorist" in that place. I assume that this is because of some misplaced political correctness, but very soon we will have to realise that when atrocities like the Beslan school kidnappings and murders occur the underlying motivation is unshakeable belief in fantasy and that the word "terrorist" is almost always a synonym for "Muslim".

I didn't think that they would like it (4/9/2004)
AsThe evil of banality I suspected, the anti-vaccination liars were not very happy when they found out that I had written to the Ohio corrections people to let them know that Alan Yurko was available to come back to serve whatever time he owed to that state's prison system. One suggested that I should spend a long time in hell, and another seemed to think that only a person who was pro-vaccination would consider parole breaking to be a crime. A friend of mine was summarily dumped from an anti-vaccination liar mailing list for simply mentioning that Yurko had been in prison in Ohio. This was not really surprising, as the current mythology about Yurko is that he was employed as a construction worker before moving to Florida (a previous mythology had him being a pre-med student) and the fact that he was imprisoned between December 19, 1989, and April 8, 1997, was inconvenient for the mythologisers. The best response, however, said:

As anyone with any brains knows, Alan is as far from violent as one human being can be. These people ought to spend life in prison plus ten without parole for not only supporting but insisting on the mass poisoning of children and adults. Of course, they could get out for time served if they agree to receiving the same vaccines in the same dosages and the same order as children get.

"As far from violent as one human being can be"!! This is a man with seven convictions for violent crimes plus one for escaping from custody, and who breaks his parole within days of being released. (By the way, I must apologise for getting Yurko's record wrong in something I wrote previously. I had forgotten about his convictions for aggravated child abuse and escaping.) I have always thought that the anti-vaccination liars lived in a different universe, and now I know they have a different dictionary as well. And as for me taking a course of childhood vaccinations, just let me know the time and place and I will be there.

To check up on the latest situation surrounding the slaughterer, I sent the following email to the Orange County Sheriff's office. I expect to be even more unpopular shortly.

I realise that with Hurricane Frances tearing up trees and houses this is probably a matter of low priority for you right now, but has any action been taken to find Alan Yurko who was released from prison in Florida last week? He was Prisoner Number X13917. The Ohio authorities have informed me that they issued a warrant on September 1 in an attempt to get him back to that state to face parole violation charges, and they said that the Orange County Sheriff's Office was helping.

Any information about this man would be appreciated.

Thank you, and I hope that the threat from the hurricane is soon past.

So much stuff, so little time (4/9/2004)
Time has been a bit short at Ratbag Castle during the last week, mainly because I had to attend a training course and examination to become certified as a consultant for the new version of the software which I sell and support in real life. As I like to eat and the bank likes me to pay the mortgage, I thought that it would be appropriate to make sure that I can still have a job after the end of September. Also, I had to rework some of the material from this site for publication in magazines. These things are worth mentioning here again, and you can find links in the next two items.

Creationism (4/9/2004)
The Darwin Club – I want to be a member (click for larger version and details)Early last year, I attended a meeting where a creationist stood in front of a group of Christians (and a very small group of skeptics) and tried to deceive the audience with fairy tales about how young the Earth is. Apart from the fact that the talk was appalling, unscientific, tedious, mendacious, deceitful and probably blasphemous, it was quite a pleasant evening. The cup of tea I had at the end of the talk was nice and the audience members were quite polite to me, although they did seem a little bemused at meeting someone who could not immediately see the truth in the Bible. You can read a report of the meeting here.

Pasteur's Last Words (4/9/2004)
There are some alternative medicine supporters who believe that the way to show that their snake oil potions work is to show that famous people agree with them. This reaches the nadir of madness when people who do not believe in germs claim that Louis Pasteur thought the same. They quote an anonymous biographer as evidence of this apostasy. I found a book by a real biographer, someone who actually knew Pasteur and was there when he died. You can see what really happened here.

True Believers (4/9/2004)
Australasian ScienceI wrote an article for the September edition of the magazine Australasian Science which is now on the newsstands. Some of the content is online, but not the latest Naked Skeptic column. You can read the article here.

There is a Blog (4/9/2004)
I have a Blog!As well as being available through the Back Issues page, the most recent 6 to 8 weeks of front page updates to The Millenium Project are also archived at the Millenium Project Blog. The Blog will usually be updated two or three days after the main site. Unfortunately I don't have the time to convert the content from here into the usual Blog style, where about one-third of the words are spelled incorrectly, one sentence in four has no verb, half the pronouns have the wrong number (when you can figure out which noun they refer to), placement and use of prepositions are both optional, and the Blog owner has a stupid (but cute) screen name. Perhaps I need an AOL account.

[The blog was diverted to another purpose at the end of 2007.]

Speaking of AOL ... (4/9/2004)
Trousers with inbuilt codpiece. As worn by members of the Ratbag Castle staff.I have decided that I will no longer publish emails from AOL subscribers who write to me for help with their genital impairment. I can vicariously sympathise with these unfortunate youths (in the way that a man can understand the pain of childbirth), and I can only imagine how embarrassing it must be for someone to stand at a crowded bus stop and hear the wind whistling through the vacant spaces in his underpants, but I have no answer for these poor young men. I must admit that I once thought of replying to some of the many spam messages offering penis enlargement until my tailor told me how much it would cost to recut all my suits to maintain a modest drape to the trousers.

September 11, 2004

What can I possibly say? (11/9/2004)
On Elisabeth being carried unconscious from the scene of the blast. Photo: Reuters/Ahmad BudionoSeptember 1, 2004, five-year-old Elisabeth Manuela Bambin Musu, known to her family as Manny, became an Australian citizen. This was almost the final step in a four-year process of obtaining permission for Manny and her mother, Maria, to migrate to Australia to join Manny's father. On September 9, Maria took Manny to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to collect her passport. They never went home. Maria was killed by the bomb which exploded outside the Embassy and Manny is now in a critical condition in a hospital in Singapore. The people responsible for this atrocity, Jemaah Islamiah, probably chose the date and target as a way of getting attention as the world was getting ready to remember September 11, 2001, and also to disrupt the elections coming up shortly in both Indonesia and Australia. Their long term goal is the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Indonesia, and they do not care how many security guards, 27-year-old mothers or five-year-old children have to die for their cause.

By coincidence, I was in a second-hand record shop yesterday and I bought two CDs with songs containing lines which made me think about the relationship between religion and terrorism. One was a version of the Bob Dylan song With God on Our Side, which ends with the words "If God's on our side, He'll stop the next war". The other was The Stranger Song by Leonard Cohen, where Cohen sings "It's hard to hold the hand of anyone who is reaching for the sky just to surrender". We have to keep reaching for the sky but we cannot surrender, and we cannot win until we recognise and admit to the fact that the enemy's sole reason for fighting is that he believes that he has God on his side.

I had planned to devote all of this week's update to reviews of two books, both dealing with the dangers of religion. One is The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and the other is God: The Interview by Terry Lane. They come at the problem from different directions (Harris is a philosopher, Lane is a radio broadcaster who used to be a clergyman) but both look at the necessity for religious beliefs and the consequences of faith in the unprovable, one possible consequence being a disregard for the lives of non-believers. After Thursday I felt that I needed to rewrite the review article because I wanted to make some points more forcibly. This meant rereading both books, but I am still a few days away from being able to say what I want to say. I will get back to the reviews some day, but in the meantime you can see something that I wrote almost exactly three years ago today which addressed the problem of unassailable belief. You can read it here.

The Danger of Knowing For Sure

September 18, 2004

He's back inside (18/9/2004)
Baby slaughterer Alan Yurko is back inside. He was arrested on September 9 and is being held in custody awaiting a hearing to have him sent back to Ohio to do some more of the time he owes there. Meanwhile the mythology mills have been running three shifts a day plus weekends to produce fairy tales about this "hero". Some of the stories are listed below, with my comments.

But Bill's out (18/9/2004)
Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group has reappeared, and is back to his old tricks. He seems to be leaving me alone at the moment, and is concentrating his efforts on Dr Terry Polevoy of He has been posting anonymous libels in Internet forums and has left at least one message on Dr Polevoy's answering machine. This coincides with a resurrection of the CCRG web site, which now seems to be promoting something called "Immune System Management (ISM)©". The "©" seems very important, because it appears everywhere that "ISM" appears on the CCRG site. Normally one would expect to find the symbol "®" or "™" or even perhaps "SM", but we are used to Mr O'Neill taking the law in unusual directions. Perhaps he is getting intellectual property advice from the same lawyer who he was going to use to sue me in the World Court, way back when he sent his second ever email to me. Just to refresh everyone's memory, here is that early threat:

From: "CCRG" <>
Subject: Canadian Cancer Research Group
Date sent: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 08:35:54 -0500

Please be advised that in the event reference, link, or mention of the above website, group, or related individuals is not removed from your website by the close of business Friday, February 18, 2000, a libel action will be filed with the World Court seeking exemplary and punitive damages.

Please act accordingly.

William P. O'Neill
Canadian Cancer Research Group
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A creative form of harassment (18/9/2004)
No truth! No courage! No Value!In November last year I mentioned the strange phone calls I had been receiving at home from young men responding to an advertisement on the Internet in which I was supposedly looking for actors for a pornographic movie I was making. The callers were understandably embarrassed when told the truth, but one did mumble that he thought he saw it on the Penthouse site. I couldn't get into Penthouse without paying money, so I thought no more about it.

The calls started up again this week, and I managed to get one man to tell me the address of the site where he saw the advertisement. It contained the following words (and, yes, it really was my home telephone number):

Peter Bowditch of Gebesse Computer Consultants & Pornographers is looking for amateur porn stars to act in hardcore videos to be broadcast over the internet. Any and all ages! Looks unimportant. Please call me at (02) xxxx 8954. We will pay up to $150.00/hr.

The style and sentiments reminded me very strongly of Mr William P O'Neill of the recently-resuscitated but still gasping Canadian Cancer Research Group. I know that Mr O'Neill knows my home phone number because he rang it earlier this year. As it was public knowledge that I was out of the country at the time he probably just wanted to sweet-talk my wife, although she did say that his language was a little salty. I assume he wasn't applying for the acting role, because some of his recent messages to me have suggested that he needs prosthetic assistance due to some inadequacy in, how shall I put this, the equipment department, thus rendering him unsuitable for an active part in porn movies.

New Zealand madness (18/9/2004)
I Meningococcal disease distribution in NZam never really surprised at the antics of the anti-vaccination liars, but sometimes they do cause me to make a reflexive blink. The Immunisation Awareness Society in New Zealand are currently running the following public notice on their web site. Meningococcal disease is a serious problem in parts of the country and these liars were saying that vaccination was pointless because the disease is caused by the analgesic drug acetaminophen or paracetamol. They made the mistake of using someone's trademark and got jumped on. Next time they repeat the lie, and be assured that someone of their ilk will repeat it, they will be sure to use the generic name.


In earlier versions of our website and this PDF file the IAS made reference to the medication, "Pamol®". At no time did IAS intend to imply or state that Pamol® causes meningococcal disease. IAS unequivocally states that neither Pamol® nor other medications containing paracetamol cause meningococcal disease. IAS has withdrawn any and all references to Pamol® in this and all other material and/or publications for which it is responsible.

In an attempt to provide parents with information and options, IAS may be guilty of an over-zealous approach in its wording, visuals and examples. IAS apologises for any misleading or deceptive representations that it may have been responsible for. IAS unreservedly withdraws and apologies for any statement that may have been interpreted as direct advice to consumers not to use Pamol in the treatment of their babies' and childrens' ailments.

Coincidence Department (18/9/2004)
The psychologist Stanley Milgram once proposed a hypothesis, commonly called "Six degrees of separation", which suggested that everybody on Earth can be connected to any other person using about six interpersonal links. I'm beginning to think that Dr Milgram was a little pessimistic. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I went to Canberra to see the local Skeptics group, my daughter Belinda came with me to see her friend Bridget, and we found out later that Bridget's father, John, was to be a speaker at an upcoming conference organised by the Canberra Skeptics. I met John at the seminar and found out that we had at least two common friends or acquaintances, apart from the Canberra people.

A cliché of origamiLast Friday night, Belinda went out with some of her friends to see a late-night showing of The Rocky Horror Movie. They were sitting in Starbucks afterwards discussing origami, as one does, and Belinda mentioned that she knew someone who was very good at it and had written several books on the subject. Pam, the girlfriend of Belinda's friend Jay, asked his name and, when told, said that Richard was one of her father's friends. By the way, Pam's father is a radio broadcaster and I have appeared on his program. The table below shows the links between me and two people that I did not know existed three months ago.

Peter – Belinda – Bridget
Peter – Ian – John – Bridget
Peter – Paul – John – Bridget
Peter – Another Ian – John – Bridget
Peter – Belinda – Jay – Pam
Peter – Richard – Brian – Pam
Peter – Brian – Pam

Much of the "evidence" for the paranormal is coincidence, as if coincidences rarely happen. My recent experience suggests that they happen a lot more frequently than people suspect, and many might not even be noticed. Did I mention that I received a phone call at work last week from someone wanting assistance with the software product that my real-life business is based on? He had never heard of me before he found my name on the software builder's US web site. I have known his brother for more than ten years and I have installed the software in three places where his brother has worked in that time. Spooky, isn't it?

The joy of killing (18/9/2004)
I read in the papers that the buffoons in the National Rifle Association are salivating at the news that the US ban on assault weapons and large magazines will not be renewed, thus allowing people to practise their inalienable right to use Uzis and AK-47s, set on automatic fire, to hunt such vicious animals as foxes and squirrels. Across the Atlantic they use different methods, and the British Parliament has been besieged by buffoons protesting that they are about to lose the right to hunt foxes by riding horses across other people's property following a pack of dogs that are looking for a fox to rip apart. I was cornered at a party once by some chinless wonder who regaled me with the joys of riding to hounds. I made some comment about red jackets and she immediately froze and told me that I must be of very low caste, as anyone with any class knew that the coats were Pink (with a capital "P"). I said that they looked red and she told me that of course they looked red, but they were really Pink. I excused myself and turned to a potted palm for a more intelligent conversation.


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