INVESTIGATOR 101 (2005 March)


A West Australian court ruled that a 15-year-old Jehovah's Witness can be given blood transfusions despite the objections of his JW parents. The teenager has cancer and blood transfusion may be needed to treat the effects of chemotherapy. (Sunday Mail 2005, February 20, p 27)

Adult JWs who require transfusions are allowed to reject them, but in the case of children the courts can intervene. The borderline for such coercion seems to be 18 when teenagers are legally adults. A few JWs of that age who required transfusions have been permitted to choose to die.


INVESTIGATOR 102 (2005 May)


It's commonly believed that the Genoese sailor Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 and was the first European to go there.

Actually the Vikings beat Columbus by 500 years. They reached the coast of Canada by about 1,000 AD.

Furthermore, Columbus did not in 1492 set foot on the American mainland. In 1492 he reached San Salvador, Haiti and Cuba. On his second journey, in 1493, Columbus reached Haiti and Cuba.

On his third journey, 1498, Columbus went ashore in Venezuela (South America). On his fourth journey, 1502, he landed at various spots in Central America. He never, however, reached North America.

Another myth is that Europeans believed the Earth to be flat and feared sailing off the edge of the world. Since Columbus had hoped to reach China by sailing west he obviously believed differently.

Indeed, in Spain St Isidore of Seville (560-636) produced an encyclopedia, Etymologiae, wherein it says the Earth is a sphere. This Encyclopedia was the standard reference work for European scholars throughout the Middle Ages.


After the December 26, 2004, tsunami the British Government established the Benfield Hazard Research Centre in London. Its chief, Professor Bill McGuire, addressing an Australian conference of re-insurers, estimated the odds of various potential catastrophes between now and 2075 as follows:

Giant Earthquake that kills hundreds of thousands:            1 in 3
Another tsunami comparable to December 26:                35% to 70%
Volcanic eruption big enough to change world climate:    7%
A mega-tsunami that kills tens of millions:                         1 in 150
Impact of a 1-kilometre asteroid kills ¼ of humankind:    1 in 10,000.
(Sunday Mail 2005, April 3, p27)


As mobile phones proliferated in the late 1980s petrol station explosions increased. The belief developed — promoted on some Internet websites — that the fires were caused by sparks from mobile phones. 243 suspect fires occurred worldwide from 1993 to 2004. In some cities the use of mobile phones at petrol stations is now banned and punishable by fines.

However, phone-caused fires may be an urban myth.

Phone manufacturers conducted investigations in the late 1990s and found that phones could not generate the necessary sparks and therefore posed no danger.

Richard Coates, BP fire safety adviser, investigated many of the 243 fires and concluded that petrol vapour was indeed being ignited by sparks but from static electricity generated when drivers touched their car, not from phones. (The Australian 2005, March 29, p4)


Perhaps relevant to Investigator's "Transmission of Scripture" debate is the news that the 1600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus is being digitised. The British Library plans: "…to scan the entire book using a technique called hyper-spectral imaging." (The Australian 2005, March 29, p29)

The scanning will be done in various wavelengths of light from ultraviolet to infrared.  This will not only create a high-resolution copy but also expose all the layers of ink, corrections and re-writes.

The Codex Sinaiticus is dated to the mid 4th-century AD and was kept at St Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai until 1859. Due to its fragile condition only four scholars have been allowed access to the parts stored in London. But after digitisation is complete the Codex Sinaiticus will go on the Internet.

The Codex Sinaiticus, including 129 pages of the Old Testament in Greek and also the oldest complete New Testament, was retrieved by Constantin Tischendorf a German Bible scholar, in 1844 and 1859.


Dr Davis McCaughey, Victoria's governor from 1986 to 1992 and founding father of the Uniting Church died on March 25, 2005, aged 90.

The Uniting Church is the union, in 1977, of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches. (The Advertiser 2005, March 26, p23)

The 1996 Census put the Uniting Church membership at 1.3 million, comprising 7.5% of the population — Australia's third largest denomination.


The best seller The Da Vinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown has sold 18 million copies in 44 languages. The book's theme is that Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene and left a lineage, and that Jesus wanted Mary to be head of the Church, and that a centuries-long conspiracy by the Church has concealed all this.

Brown says his book is fiction. But he weaves historical facts and existing societies together with imaginary details so convincingly that many readers believe it.

The Vatican sees the book's success as anti-Catholicism and has appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 70, to expose its errors.


The accepted wisdom was that a piece of paper could not be folded in half more than seven or eight times.

Consider an A4 page 1/20mm thick. Fold this in half eight times and the result is an impossible page almost 13mm thick but only 1.2mm long.

So, case proved? No — the number of times paper can be folded in half depends on its thickness and length.

In 2002 Britney Gallivan, high-school student in California, rolled out a 1.2km-long toilet roll and folded it in half length-wise twelve times!


In 1928 a decomposed snail found in a freshly opened bottle of ginger beer led to the famous case Donoghue v Stevenson.

Stories still circulate of insects and animal parts occurring in meals served in restaurants. And not all are urban myths:

Anna Ayala, 39, of Las Vegas was dining at a Wendy's fast food venue on March 22 when something "crunched" in her mouth. She spat it out and — it was a 1½inch well-manicured, cooked finger tip!

Police and health officials took a finger count of the staff but no one lacked any. Police also searched Ms Ayala's home but were, "unable to point the finger". (The Advertiser April 9, p52)  She hired a lawyer for a legal action against Wendy's.

Biting publicity meanwhile bit into Wendy's sales causing lay-offs and reduced hours. In an effort to "put the finger on" someone Wendy's offered $50,000 for information.

Ayala has had a history of, or "a finger in", many law suits. As the Sunday Mail put it: "Finger of blame points to diner".

This time Ayala may have bitten off more than she can chew. On April 21 police arrested her for attempted grand larceny.


In 1991 Frank Sladek (b.1928) began giving away Bibles in Adelaide's Rundle Mall. Investigator Magazine reported:
Frank distributes, at his own expense, free copies of the New Testament… Averaging about twenty copies an hour on one or two occasions per week his total is now 6,000. (1993 January, pp 42-44)

The article focused on Frank's conflict with the authorities: "Satan is using the Adelaide Council to stop me," he said back then.

"Satan" failed and Frank kept giving away Bibles in the same place, totalling 180,000 by early 2005.

Then the conflicted started again — the Council asked Mr Sladek to purchase a "preacher's permit" which costs $20 annually.

The Sunday Mail reported: "Known for wearing army fatigues and pushing his Bible-laden trolley with an Australian flag, Frank says he has never paid for a permit and will not start now." (February 20, p34)

Frank also rejected Council offers of another location. By giving away a "book of morals" where Adelaide's pedestrian traffic is highest and thus offering "hope and direction" Frank believes he is doing a community service.

He faced being fined or moved on by police. Well-wishers of many religions offered to pay for the permit and some sent the Council $20 cheques.

However, "In an about-face, Adelaide City Council…decided to drop the charge and…issued the permit without charge." (Sunday Mail February 27, p24)

Frank Sladek, now 77, lives frugally in a sooted up shed in the Adelaide Hills without running water or electricity. He buys the Bibles from his pension and earnings from part time gardening.


The 263rd Roman Catholic pope, Pope John Paul II, died in April.

John Paul II took the Church to the people. Becoming history's most travelled pope he clocked up 1,250,000km on 104 foreign trips to 130 countries. He celebrated mass on six continents including a record attendance of 4 million at Manilla, 1995.

He issued about 100 major documents including 14 encyclicals and held talks with almost 1,600 heads of state and government.

The Pope also played an important role in the collapse of Communism in what was called "the Hidden History of Our Time".  (Reader's Digest, 1996 October)

Born in Poland in May 1920 Karol Jozef Wojtyla joined a secret seminary during World War II, was elected Pope in September 1978, and survived a murder attempt in May 1981 when a Turk shot him twice.

John Paul criticised affluent nations for inadequate help to the world's poor and also made frequent statements advocating peace. Critics, however, criticised his conservative stand on abortion, women's ordination, contraception, priestly marriage and euthanasia.

John Paul II led the Church for 26 years, the third longest-serving pope, and as head of 1.1 billion Catholics he had more supporters than any other religious leader in history.

Mention of John Paul in Investigator Magazine has been infrequent: Investigator No. 56 reprinted a newspaper report of the Pope's acceptance of the theory of evolution (except for the human soul). No. 85 p23 quoted his stand against child sexual abuse by priests.


Ivan Henk of Nebraska, USA, murdered his 4-year-old son because, "he was the Antichrist — he had 666 on his forehead."

The son, Brendan Gonzalez, disappeared on January 6, 2003.

Repeated searches by up to 100 searchers, trained dogs and dive teams, failed to find Brendan.

On April 29 Henk appeared in court to be sentenced on charges of reckless driving and obstructing an officer, charges unrelated to Brendan.

Sentenced to one year he then stood up, turned to Brendan's mother, and shouted, "The reason I killed Brendan is that he was the anti-Christ. He had 666 across his forehead."  

She started crying and said, "He just said he killed my baby."  

DNA tests on dried blood on a trash bin showed the blood was Brendan's. But 7 weeks of searching a landfill failed to find the body.

In March 2005 Henk pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and in April was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


A gathering of villagers near the Ok Tedi copper/gold mine, in western Papua New Guinea, was planned so as to hand over "sacred things" such as animal blood, sticks and stones.

The idea was to eradicate black magic and sorcery.

Sorcery was part of local culture but the villagers had become fed up with sorcery-related deaths and wanted to put a stop to them.

Christian churches helped organize the event.