Skeptic News: What’s in my Inbox?

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


What's in my Inbox?

I was scrolling through my emails today, looking to see if I had received any Why Are You A Skeptic responses from any of you. Sadly there was nothing I’d missed; no stories of how you’d found skepticism after an all-night bender where you'd snorted ketamine and met God, or how you’ve always been skeptical since the age of two.

Instead, what I did find were some random emails that I thought might be of skeptical interest to everyone. Firstly, as a counterpoint to Craig’s article last week about the James Webb telescope, Creation Ministries International have mailed me about the project, informing me:

“We are told that Webb will see stars and galaxies as they appeared 13.5 billion years ago, which is what is meant by “early”. Note that this is a claim based on belief in the big bang model. What Webb will actually observe will be light from galaxies and stars that are very far away. How long that light takes to get to the JWST is another question. In fact, even the assumed vast distances to the very far away galaxies are model and parameter dependent”

In other words, “if we imagine that light travels faster than scientists say it does, or that it used to travel faster in the past, then maybe the universe is only 6,000 years old”. Of course, having a much faster speed of light (two billion percent faster) throws the entirety of physics out of whack, but if we ignore that pesky detail then this hypothesis is a great idea.

Next I have an email from Josie in Canada telling me:

“I read your article about Father John Rea. We know him personally and we live in Canada. Miracles do happen !”

This is in response to an article I wrote back in 2017 about Father John Rea, after myself and several other skeptics went on a field trip to visit him at one of his healing sessions. As I wrote at the time:

“The idea of John's knowledge is that God has given him messages of who can be healed. John reads out a list of conditions, and for each condition he gives some clues as to who the person or people who are suffering might be… It reminded me of how stage psychics sometimes do a quick fire of throwing out lots of different guesses (the scattergun approach), and then honing in on those that resonate with someone in the audience, while quickly moving on from those that don't fit anyone.”

The email included a PDF called “Major St. Therese miracles experienced or reported at the Living Insights Center, St. Louis, MO, as of 12/22/21”, which documents the supposed miracle healings that have occurred around a statue of St. Therese housed inside the Living Insights Center building. From what I’ve read so far, none of these supposed miracles would pass the Catholic sainthood miracle test.

I received an email from fellow committee member Jonathon Harper, saying:

“My story in the NZ Listener on the Supreme Court test for Peter Ellis's mana is out. At least it will be on the stands next Monday (17th January). Karyn Scherer (the Editor) was great to work with, not quite as pedantic as some of the other publishers I have worked with, but I think very responsible and accurate. What I learnt from her is that tone is important. By that I mean, sticking to what happened, what people said, so if the conclusions you may feel compelled to draw are unpalatable, the 'you' is the reader, and not the writer. Also the idea that it is good to intimate that you have some understanding that we all have foibles, and we are all in this together. Karyn is also very enthusiastic, forthcoming, personable, friendly and supportive so I felt privileged in all the best senses of the word to have worked with her on this.”

If you’re interested in the Peter Ellis case, you might want to pick up a copy of the Listener and have a read.

Finally I found an email sent to the NZ Skeptics committee that I will throw open to our members. If any of you would like to pen a respectful response to Andre, please send it to [email protected] and we’ll forward it on:

Dear Sir,

Even just a month ago I never anticipated that I would find myself a victim of prejudice and discrimination in my own country and all ultimately due to junk, unscientific mumbo jumbo feeding an excess of unchecked power masquerading under the guise of a faux ideology, that it is in the interests of the greater 'public good'

Yes, how could I not be referring to the current, supposed pandemic 'crisis'?

You see, I am one of those dirty, contaminated unvaccinated lepers who supposedly are selfishly placing all of greater society at risk by selfishly refusing to bow my head to Mammon and be baptised by way of the 'jab' into their new-age evangelical church and therefore , by extension, the current state of crisis is all my, and my kindred's fault. Hell, it MUST be true, after all there always has to be someone to blame, doesn't there? Go and ask a Nazi if you don't believe me!

....and, just like the Nazi's one of the first victims in this 'soft war' against civil liberties and the innate human right of an individual to have sovereignty over their own body is to mute freedom of speech, a far too easily achieved objective in this age of digital communication. On this point I have been repeatedly 'censored' for daring to speak-out against this propagandised idiocy and again, just like Nazi tactics I am hastily and stealthily herded into a "nacht und nebel' virtual concentration camp by dehumanising me by the appending of clinical, arms-length labels: "anti-vaxxer" (not necessarily, actually), "inciting vaccine hesitancy " (how about encouraging rational thought and scientific appraisal based on review of ALL the information?), and the thoroughly vile coup de gras from social media; "de-platformed" ....and, "fact-checked false information" (hysterically funny given that this gagging is administeted by an AI software robot triggered only by keywords and not the understanding of actual content).

The population as a majority have willing acquiesced and given politicians and un-elected nameless, faceless beareucrats permission to un-plug their brains at the wall and flick their critical thought faculties to the 'OFF" position.

The term I deem appropriate to describe this manifest unravelling of our former democratic society is "Vaccination Apartheid". To me it is grossly offensive and an affront to my dignity that the government - both national and local - demonstrate that they have no moral scruples whatsoever about compelling me to pay my taxes and council rates which they in turn use to fund a system that writes arbitrary rules to write me out of societal participation. I can no longer enter the local library I pay for unless I flash an utterly worthless, good-for-nothing vaccination pass at the door. No measure of public safety WHATSOEVER is conferred by this requirement. No proper science was ever used to conjure up this stupid rule yet not only does it divide people but it requires a mountain of resources and money to implement it.

The real concern arises that we occupy one specific point of time on a continuum but when we look forward along that time-line into the future then the likely trajectory, now that these nutty policies have acquired almost global momentum, is that one can foresee that the politicians and their beareaucratic minions who craft and implement these oppressive policies have completely ignored real science which has become de-coupled from real-world social impact giving them a free-hand to test the extreme moral and ethical boundaries without regard to long-term adverse societal consequences.

So, my question to you is what position does the N.Z. Sceptics Society hold on this most pressing issue, and more particularly do you have or else, actively support organised opposition to this emerging new dark age? It really cones down to whether you care about the rights of marginalised and discriminated-against people like me. I ask this because I wish to add my voice of protest against these biggotted policies that pretend to be in aid of 'protecting' the public yet are anything but. Currently, I feel at a loss because there isn't really anywhere else to turn. The current crop of protest groups speaking out against these mandate policies all seem to have underlying religious agendas I wish nothing to do with and that have no proper scientific underpinnings (another side-ways leap onto the Flat-Earth!) much less the long-term de-construction of an egalitarian free society.

If you have not so far given any deep thought to this issue would you now consider collaborating with people like me to become the voice of reason amidst this storm? I would most appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Kind Regards, Andre ROUSSEAU.

P.S. Unlike most of the fools one hears pontificating on this issue I used to work in the Pharmaceutical industry in a managerial role. Our company made vaccines for which I had an involvement. Moreover, my role allowed me to see first-hand, the behind-the-scenes machinations of how this industry REALLY works, hence my cynical contempt for how governments have been 'captured' by them. Virtually all of those who advocate these policies frankly, wouldn't know their arse from their elbow. I would set my real-world expertise and experience against theirs, any day.

Baba Vanga predicts the future

Vangeliya Pandeva Gushterova, more commonly known as Baba Vanga, was a Bulgarian psychic. Although she died back in 1996, she was kind enough to leave behind some predictions that may or may not actually be about potential future events. Honestly, the Wikipedia Page for Baba Vanga leaves me suspicious about how much of what is attributed to her she actually said, and how much is just being made up by others (and it’s also one of the worst Wikipedia pages I’ve ever seen grammatically - presumably it’s mainly been written by people for whom English is not a fluent language).

Baba Vanga made some predictions that didn’t come to pass, such as predicting World War III (a nuclear war from 2010 to 2014). There’s only three years left before her prediction of the resurrection of the USSR by 2025 will have failed. She also made some predictions that show an obvious lack of understanding of basic science, predictions that we can look at and know that they are wrong in their premise. For example, she predicted that a cure for cancer would be found, and that it would be an iron based chemical. This shows a lack of understanding that cancer is not a single disease, and that it is very unlikely there will ever be a single cure. She also suggested that immortality would be possible using the hormones of a horse, dog and turtle. She explained this by saying “the horse is strong, the dog is hardy, and the turtle lives a long time”.

So, what does Baba Vanga have for us this year. Thankfully the Herald has documented her predictions in an article, where they tell us that she predicts:

  1. An increase in catastrophes. Apparently Asian countries and Australia will be hit by floods. Given the Tongan volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami, and some freak weather in Australia this weekend, I’d say Baba Vanga’s off to a good start!

  2. A lethal virus in Siberia. Well, I guess like the rest of the world, Siberia will still be suffering from the effects of COVID for a while. But the actual prediction is that a virus frozen in Siberia will be defrosted and start to spread. Whatever this virus is, it’ll have to deal with the fact that most of us are already taking sensible precautions in public, like wearing masks and sanitising our hands.

  3. Shortage of drinking water. I’d be surprised if this prediction of many major cities running out of drinking water came true, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  4. Alien encounter on Earth. This one isn’t going to happen! I’d put money on it.

  5. Locusts in India. This seems to be a fair guess, given that India over the last few decades has suffered from major locust plagues every two to three years - incidents where many more than the usual number of locusts descend on the crops in Indian provinces.

  6. Loss of sense of reality. After the last couple of years of global politics and a serious pandemic, this seems like a likely one - although the article says that this will actually be caused by technology, and not lockdown fatigue.

Of course, all of these predictions have been through several filter layers, including in their translation and the reporting of what the predictions mean. And those filters will likely have morphed whatever Baba Vanga’s actual words were to more closely match how the world is today. So it’s no surprise that we can look at these predictions and consider them to sound plausible, but we’d really have to find the source materials to find out what was actually said - and sadly this is not an easy task.

The closest I can get to the source is that the Herald just copied the list of predictions from an MSN article which merely states them, with no supporting evidence that they’re real. The MSN article appears to be a paid advertising piece written by astrologer Susan Taylor to promote the services of psychic company AstroFame, and includes links to their website and psychic hotline. So, really, this is not journalism - just a New Zealand newspaper copying some made up text from an American advertorial and calling it news.

I suppose at least this makes a change from having to hear what Nostradamus thought was in store for us in the coming year. And if you were wondering, then wonder no more - thanks to the History Channel:

The Invasion of France: “Blue-head shall white-head harm in such degree as France’s good to both shall e’er amount.”

Starvation: “No abbots, monks, no novices to learn; Honey shall cost far more than candle-wax. So high the price of wheat, that man is stirred, his fellow man to eat in his despair”

Global Warming: “Like the sun the head shall sear the shining sea: The Black Sea’s living fish shall all but boil. When Rhodes and Genoa half-starved shall be, the local folk to cut them up shall toil.”

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: “The Moon in the full of night over the high mountain, the new sage with a lone brain sees it: By his disciples invited to be immortal, eyes to the south. Hands in bosoms, bodies in the fire.”

Honestly, the History Channel has a lot to answer for these days - with their shows about Lost Giants, the Knights Templar, Ancient Aliens and the Biblical End of the World. How they managed to think that they have been able to accurately discern the meaning of these oblique quatrains from Nostradamus, or that any of this gibberish is worth reporting on, is beyond me.


I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, the original and most "successful" of them, has not followed its creator’s vision of being a decentralised currency that allows people to make payments to each other without having to go through traditional banking systems. Rather, instead of Bitcoin being used as a digital currency for purchasing online, people are using it as an investment, speculating on its price and hoping for “massive gains”. This is evidenced by both its high price per coin and its volatility. Hardly any Bitcoin transactions are actually involved in buying or selling goods, and the high price of Bitcoin these days means that the Proof of Work idea for securing the Blockchain (the shared list of transactions that records all transfers of Bitcoin) ends up using over 1,000kwh of electricity for each transaction. The promised decentralisation of Bitcoin is also mostly a myth these days. What Bitcoin has become is a way for greedy people to make money from other greedy people. Its creator, the enigmatic “Satoshi”, is probably despairing of what happened to his creation - if he’s still alive.

Of the many cryptocurrencies that have been created after Bitcoin, all have their serious flaws - and many are straight out scams. There are countless stories of rug pulls (currencies that people buy into, just to have the creators walk away with all the money), millions of stolen coins from badly secured exchanges, and cryptocurrencies that don’t even exist, where people are sold a lie.

So, when I heard about a new Cryptocurrency and NFT (Non-Fungible Token - don’t get me started!) called Cryptoland, where your investment in the cryptocurrency could buy you a holiday home on an exclusive cryptocurrency themed private island, I was intrigued. Does this place already exist? Is this a great idea needing investment? Or is this just another scam?

My first stop was a video that the project released - a cringeworthy 10 minutes of animation where the names of cryptocurrencies and buzzwords were dropped liberally:

The basic plan for now is that people can buy Cryptoland NFTs - an NFT is a piece of data (in this case an image) where a record is made in a blockchain that you are the “owner” of that data. In this instance there are 10,000 images that are variations of the Cryptoland mascot, Connie, who is a garish looking gold coin with arms, legs and a face. One NFT might have Connie wearing a pink baseball cap and green sunglasses. Another could have him wearing a white ski jacket and ear muffs. Sixty special NFTs, each sold for around $1 million US, come with the promise of a plot of land on the island of Cryptoland.

The video immediately made me suspicious that at the very least the creators of this project had absolutely no clue what they were doing. A second video included the creators of the project discussing the island’s plans, and included an image of a map with the name Nananu-i-cake. A quick search of that name reveals a Fijian island currently up for sale for US$12 million. So, the island hasn’t been purchased yet - and it appears the project’s plan is to somehow raise money through their cryptocurrency to make the purchase - although they say that the money from NFTs won’t be used for this.

After watching several critical videos, skimming through the Cryptoland whitepaper, reading the online chat (in their Discord channel) and digesting a few blog posts, a bunch of red flags became apparent:

  • In order to be able to participate in this “opportunity”, members first have to earn credits through posting on social media, with tasks such as changing your profile image to a Cryptoland images, adding links to the Cryptoland website to your bio, and writing posts about how amazing Cryptoland is. This is an obvious ploy to generate a fake “buzz” around the new cryptocurrency, making it seem like people are choosing to promote the project when in reality they have to sound positive just to take part.
  • The Discord channel for the project, where participants chat with the creators, is locked down to prevent any negative talk about the project, including the banning of posting links to external websites.
  • The island is supposed to have a casino, despite the fact that Fiji doesn’t allow gambling.
  • The project’s Spanish creators, Max Olivier and Helena Lopez, have a history of running failed projects where they have misrepresented themselves to others. There’s not much online about them, but there is an article (in Spanish) about Max titled “The man all Spanish YouTubers hate”.
  • At least one listed project member has been contacted and responded that they are not connected to the project - suggesting that the Cryptoland website’s Team list is at least in part a fabrication.
  • US citizens are not allowed to buy this currency; presumably this is an attempt to avoid prosecution in the US when everything goes wrong.
  • So far there has been one purchase of a plot of land, from a dubious cryptocurrency speculator who made his money early on in the life of Bitcoin - Kyle Chasse. He appears to have been given the opportunity at a 50% reduction in price, something the creators of this project have tried to hide within the Ethereum blockchain. He’s also a US citizen, which should preclude him from being able to make the purchase.
  • Molly White, a software engineer, has been doing some great work dissecting Cryptoland and the people behind it, and documenting it all on Twitter. Molly received a Cease and Desist letter (or Cease and Decease, according to Cryptoland’s accidental typo in a Tweet), asking her to delete all of her false statements.

This last red flag is worth looking into, as Molly's response to it is priceless. The email sent to Molly said:

"Dear Ms. White,

It has come to our attention that you have been making statements about Cryptoland that are both false and misleading. These statements constitute libel since they defame both Cryptoland and its founders.

We demand you immediately cease and desist making these false and libellous statements, delete them from any platform and issue a public apology on all platforms where the libellous statements have been placed. 

Please be advised that, if you fail to fulfil the petition above, we will have no choice but to take the appropriate legal steps to protect Cryptoland's reputation, including seeking relief in a court of law for monetary damages. 


Cryptoland Legal Team"

Molly responded with:

"Dear Legal Team,

I have removed all of the false statements.

Molly White"

Of course, Molly has deleted absolutely nothing that she wrote about Cryptoland, as none of her tweets about this project are factually wrong. Good on her for standing up to them!

Having spent far too long reading up on this project, I’m happy to call a spade a spade. Cryptoland is a scam, and anyone who invests in it is likely to lose their money. If, by some miracle, the masterminds behind this project end up creating the island of Cryptoland, my bet is that it will not be paradise. Instead it will be a depressing hell-hole where everyone is looking out for themselves - so maybe it will be a fitting monument to the modern day cryptocurrency movement after all.

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