Psychic Scam Busted
Two fortune tellers apparently failed to foresee the end of their alleged scam in Christchurch (The Press, January 29).
The men were arrested and charged with fraud after they were accused by a Ferrymead person of conning them out of more than $1000. Police believe the men, who apparently touted their mystic trade in a door-to-door routine, may have claimed other victims.
Constable Al Lawn of Sumner police, who arrested the men, said the pair approached the victim earlier. It was alleged they predicted “catastrophic events” for the person and said they would return the next day to tell them how to avoid these events. When they returned to the address the police were called and the arrests made.
Lawn said the charges rested on what the intent of the men — one a 32-year-old Sikh wearing a turban, the other a 30-year-old Indian — was.
The victim was “embarrassed”, and Lawn hoped if there were other victims they would not be too embarrassed to lay a complaint.
The two men had arrived in Auckland the previous week and then travelled to Christchurch.
Lawn said the case was a strange one. “We’re definitely not in the business of going around monitoring clairvoyants.”
Christchurch barrister David Ruth said criminal charges over fortune telling were highly unusual as most people knew fortune telling was “all nonsense and a bit of a gag”.
Good Luck Charms Do Work – In Your Mind
A pioneering study into the effectiveness of “lucky” charms has found they do work — but only in the minds of the people who carry them (Dominion Post, January 6).
British scientists found that though carrying a charm had no effect on events based on chance, such as winning the lottery, those who believed in them felt more confident and optimistic.
In the study, 100 people around Britain were asked to take a supposedly lucky Victorian-era penny with them for a month, and keep a diary as to how their fortunes changed in areas such as finance and health.
Perhaps the most compelling statistic came at the end of the survey when participants were told they could give up the lucky coin — 70% said they would keep carrying it.
Bucket Remark Brings Apology
A massage therapist who told a client her “uterus could end up in a bucket” has been taken to task by Health Commissioner Ron Paterson. He found the therapist tried to financially exploit the patient by prescribing $800 worth of ginger treatments. The therapist has been ordered to give the client a written apology for breaching the patient code of rights (Nelson Mail, March 15).
Fortune Hunter Finds Hits and Misses
Dominion Post journalist Diana McCurdy had an interesting time sounding out the fortune tellers (January 10), and reported a range of responses. “Clair-audio” Tania Kettle (a little voice in her head tells her about the future) reckoned McCurdy’s relationship was going to break up: “There’s no chance with the one you are with at the moment. I believe he’s going back to someone he knows.” Kettle also believed McCurdy was in the wrong profession.
Not so, said medium and clairvoyant Maria Angelica. McCurdy and her partner were spiritually connected and would be fine. And McCurdy was definitely in the right profession; being a little bit psychic herself helped her track down stories.
Feeling warm and fuzzy despite herself, she ended with a visit to NZ Skeptic chair-entity Vicki Hyde, who offered “gentle sympathy”.
“We put our souls into the hands of these people because they are claiming to have some kind of special knowledge. You’re less vulnerable because you’re doing it on a professional basis, but you can still feel the tug of that authority.”
And what does the future hold for the world at large? Maria Angelica believed The Return of the King would win more Oscars than its predecessors — though probably not Best Picture. Tania Kettle saw more cases involving children coming before the courts. The distance between rich and poor in New Zealand would continue to increase. Because of this disparity, immigrants would get a hard time.
Numerologist Eleanor Lefever felt that since 2004 was a SIX year “there’s going to be some surprising things that will happen.”
Vicki Hyde saw the New Zealand cricket team improving markedly (this was before the highly successful series against South Africa), with a new player breathing life into it (Chris Martin, perhaps?). She also said George Bush would win the next US election. This is the woman who predicted the All Blacks wouldn’t make the 1999 World Cup final, remember.
Where Everyone Gets a Haunting
Staff at the Warehouse in Nelson have been getting more than they bargained for, with reports of ghostly goings-on prompting a belated blessing for the building (Nelson Mail, July 10, 2003).
Three ministers blessed the building after two women reported seeing a girl who was believed to have been killed at nearby shunting yards in the early 1900s.
Staff, who knew the history of the girl’s death, had seen her very vividly, store manager Ross Barnett said — “even down to her pale blue dress.”
Archdeacon Harry Whakaruru, one of the ministers who blessed the site, said it appeared the “unusual happenings” had come about after the building was extended across a waterway. The tapu lifting was completely different from an exorcism, he said. It was an “acknowledgement of our old Maori customs that if you disturb our earth mother, you carry out a blessing in respect of the disturbance that has been made.”
Archdeacon Whakaruru said he was called on to bless unrest about once a week across the top of the South Island.
Mr Barnett said the first ghost sighting was well over two years ago. After more sightings recently, he decided to investigate whether the building was blessed when it was first built, and found that it had not been. “For me, it is something I always have done when I have opened up a new store.”
There had been no reports of ghost sightings since the blessing, he said.
Autism Doctor on Professional Misconduct Charge
The doctor who linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination to autism is to be investigated for alleged professional misconduct (The Independent, February 23). Dr Andrew Wakefield’s research prompted one of Britain’s biggest health scares and a drop in the injection’s use throughout the Western world.
The Secretary of State for Health, Dr John Reid, called for the investigation after it emerged that the doctor had failed to declare a financial interest when he submitted his research for publication.
The director of the Auckland University-based Immunisation Advisory Centre, Dr Nikki Turner, said: “We’ve got overwhelming literature showing no link, but that hasn’t rapidly come through to reassure parents. How do you undo a myth; that’s the problem.”
Research published in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal shows that 21% of doctors and 41% of nurses are unsure whether the MMR vaccine is associated with autism or Crohn’s disease. Eleven per cent of the 188 health workers who took part thought that immunisations posed “unacceptable dangers”, although 72 per cent thought that they did not, and 17 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.
Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, admitted that the research would never have been published had it been known that Dr Wakefield had also been working for lawyers preparing legal action by parents who believed that the jab had caused their children’s autism.
He said that the disclosure, admitted by Dr Wakefield, amounted to a “fatal conflict of interest” and that his key finding was “entirely flawed”.
The author’s research fund received £55,000 ($145,738) from the Legal Aid Board for studies on 10 children suspected of having been damaged by vaccines. Four of the children were also used in the highly controversial study that linked the MMR vaccination to autism, it was admitted.
Other allegations, that the research was biased and lacked proper ethical approval, have been rejected by the journal and the Royal Free Hospital in London, where the research was done. A hospital statement said Dr Wakefield, who left his post two years ago, should have declared the interest, but defended the other researchers involved.