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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Urban Legends
What is it with people and Urban Legends? Urban Legends or email hoaxes as they maybe called have circled the internet since email began. I have friends and family that don't seem to understand these hoaxes and just continue to send them out to everyone in their address book. I can usually spot the hoax immediately and believe me I am in no way "gifted". The hoaxes usually contain tell tale signs that they are bogus. While I find most of these emails creative and very amusing there are also dangers involved in these hoaxes. First it usually makes the forwarding person seem na´ve and most of the time the forwarder is embarrassed after I have explained why their email is not true. Sometimes these hoaxes prey on the weak or unknowledgeable. They make the receiver think that they are getting a great deal or great offer. Sometimes these hoaxes make people do things that they wouldn't normally do like give important personal data to a complete stranger. Often times the hoaxes aren't that serious but some common sense should be used.

In an effort to help educate the masses or at least people that have my email address in their address book, I have developed some simple methods to detect these hoaxes. I recently found even more on About.com's website some good techniques so I thought I would share.

How to spot an Email Hoax according to About.com
1. Note whether the text you've received was actually written by the person who sent it. Did anyone sign their name to it? If not, be skeptical.
2. Look for the telltale phrase, 'Forward this to everyone you know!' The more urgent the plea, the more suspect the message.
3. Look for statements like 'This is NOT a hoax' or 'This is NOT an urban legend.' They typically mean the opposite of what they say.
4. Watch for overly emphatic language, as well as frequent use of UPPERCASE LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!
5. If the text seems aimed more at persuading than informing the reader, be suspicious. Like propagandists, hoaxers are more interested in pushing people's emotional buttons than communicating accurate information.
6. If the message purports to impart extremely important information that you've never heard of before or read elsewhere in legitimate venues, be very suspicious.
7. Read carefully and think critically about what the message says, looking for logical inconsistencies, violations of common sense and blatantly false claims.
8. Look for subtle or not-so-subtle jokes - indications that the author is pulling your leg.
9. Check for references to outside sources of information. Hoaxes don't typically cite verifiable evidence, nor link to Websites with corroborating information.
10. Check to see if the message has been debunked by Websites that debunk urban legends and Internet hoaxes. Search Google on the keywords of the email.
11. Research any factual claims in the text to see if there is published evidence to support them. If you find none, odds are you've been the recipient of an email hoax.

Why are hoaxes bad?
Hoaxes are bad because of many reasons. The dissemination of misinformation causes problems for society. Misinformation can be used to create propaganda. Adolf Hitler used misinformation/propaganda to convince a nation to exterminate the Jews. Knowledge is power. Those who seek power seek true knowledge or information.

Hoaxes are a form of Spam. Why is spam bad? Spam causes excessive network traffic. So much so that it costs billions of dollars. Spam will cost the world $50 billion in lost productivity and other expenses, with more than a third of that -- $17 billion -- wasted by U.S. firms, research shows. Information Week Feb. 23, 2005 To put in other terms.it slows down the internet and wastes money businesses could be spending on other things like employees, benefits and investments.

The most compelling reason is that of personal security. Internet crime is a serious threat to individuals. Identity theft is real and can take years to repair the damage. Meeting strangers offline is also very dangerous. We have all read the horrors of these encounters.

So the next time you get an email you think you should forward ask yourself some questions before forwarding the email.

I thought I would include the hoax email I received so you can go through it and find the signs of a hoax.

Subject Line: Read this one right through to the end, rather frightful.

Read this one right through to the end, rather frightful. (this was in bright blue and bold)

In October of 2001, my sister started getting very sick, she had stomach
spasms, she was having a hard time getting around, to walk was a major
chore. It took everything she had just to get out of bed, she was in so
much pain. By March 2002, she had undergone biopsies, and was on 24 various
prescription medications. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong
with her. She was in so much pain, and so sick, she knew she was dying.
She put her house, bank accounts, life insurance, etc., in her oldest
Daughters name, and made sure her younger children were to be with her oldest
daughter. She wanted her last hooray, so she planned a trip to Florida
(basically in a wheelchair) for March 22nd. On March 19th I called her to
ask her how one of her tests went, and she said they didn't find anything
on the test, but they believe she had MS. I thought, oh, my....then I
recalled an article a friend of mine emailed to me..and I asked her...
Do you drink Diet pop?

She told me yes, as a matter of fact she was getting ready to crack one
open that moment, I told her not to open it, and stop drinking the diet
pop....and I emailed her the following article. She called me within 32
hours after our phone conversation and told me she stopped drinking the
diet pop, and she can walk...
she went up the stairs, and the muscle spasms went away.
She said she didn't feel 100% but sure felt a lot better. She told me
she was going to her doctors with this article and would call me back
when she got home.
She called me, and her doctor was amazed, he is going to call
all of his MS patients to find out if they consumed artificial sweetener.
In a nutshell, she was being poisoned by the aspartame in the diet soda,
dying a slow death. When she got to FL March 22nd, all she had to take
was one pill, and that was a pill for poisoning....
she is well on her way to recovery.!....
and she is walking!!! No wheelchair!!!! This article saved her life!

The life saving article: If it says "SUGAR FREE," on the label,
DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!

I have spent several days lecturing at the WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE on "ASPARTAME" marketed as 'NutraSweet,' 'Equal,' and 'Spoonful.' In the keynote address by the EPA, it was announced that in the United States in 2001 there is an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus, that it was hard to understand what toxin was causing this to be rampant.
I stood up and said that I was there to lecture on exactly that subject.

I will explain why Aspartame is so dangerous:

When the temperature of this sweetener exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood
alcohol in ASPARTAME converts to Formaldehyde and then to formic acid,
which in turn causes metabolic acidosis. (Formic acid is the poison found in
the sting of fire ants.) The methanol toxicity mimics among other conditions
multiple sclerosis. People were being diagnosed with having multiple
sclerosis in error. The multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence, where
methanol toxicity is! Systemic lupus has become almost as rampant as
multiple sclerosis, especially with Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi drinkers.
The victim usually doesnot know that the aspartame is the culprit. He or she
continues its use, irritating the lupus to such a degree that it may become
life-threatening. We have seen patients with systemic lupus become
asymptotic once taken off diet sodas. In the case of those diagnosed with
Multiple Sclerosis, (when in reality, the disease is methanol toxicity),
most of the symptoms disappear. We've seen many cases where vision
returned and hearing improved markedly. This also applies to cases of tinnitus.

During a lecture I said "If you are using ASPARTAME (NutraSweet, Equal,
Spoonful, etc.) and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms,
shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches,
tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred
vision, or memory loss-you probably have ASPARTAME DISEASE!" People were
jumping up during the lecture saying, I've got some of these symptoms: Is it reversible?"
Yes, Not drinking diet sodas and keeping an eye out for
aspartame on food labels, yes! We have a very serious problem. A stranger
came up to Dr. Espisto (one of my speakers) and me and said: "Could you
tell me why so many people seem to be coming down with MS?" During a visit to
a hospice, a nurse said that six of her friends, who were heavy Diet Coke
addicts, had all been diagnosed with MS. This is beyond coincidence!
Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, etc. IS NOT A DIET PRODUCT!

The Congressional Record states that it makes you crave carbohydrates and
will make you FAT. The formaldehyde stores in the fat cells, particularly no
significant increase in exercise, etc., Dr. Roberts in his lecture stated
that he had patient who lost an average of 19 pounds over a trial period.

Aspartame is especially dangerous for diabetics. We found that physicians
would believe that they have a patient with retinopathy, when in fact the
symptoms are caused by aspartame. The aspartame drives the blood sugar
out of control. Thus diabetics may suffer acute memory loss due to the fact
that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are neurotoxic without the other amino
acids found in protein. Thus it passes the blood brain barrier and deteriorates
the neurons of the brain, causing in diabetics (as well as in patients not
suffering from diabetes) various kinds of brain damage, seizures, dep
ression, manic depression, panic attacks, rage, violence. (The Aspartame
in thousands of pallets of diet Coke and diet Pepsi consumed by men and
women fighting in the Gulf War, may be partially to blame for the well-known
Gulf War Syndrome. Dr. Roberts warns that it can cause birth defects i.e.
mental retardation if taken at the time of conception and early pregnancy.
Children are especially at risk for neurological disorders and should NOT be given
NutraSweet. I can relate different case histories of children having mal
seizures and other disturbances being on NutraSweet.

Books on this subject are available: EXCITOTOXINS: THE TASTE THAT KILLS -
written by Dr. Russell Blayblock (Health Press 1-800-643-2665) and
DEFENSE AGAINST ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE - written by DR H. J. Roberts, also a
diabetic specialist. These two doctors will be posting a position paper with some
case histories on the deadly effects of Aspartame on the Internet.
According to the Conference of the American College of Physicians "we are talking
about a plague of neurological diseases caused by this deadly poison."
Here is the problem: There were Congressional Hearings when aspartame was
included in 100 different products. Since this initial hearing, there have
been two subsequent hearings, but to no avail. Nothing has been done.
The drug and chemical lobbies have very deep pockets. Now there are over
5,000 products containing this chemical, and the PATENT HAS > >EXPIRED!!!!! I
assure you, MONSANTO, the creator of Aspartame knows how deadly it is.
They fund among others, the American Diabetes Association, the American
Dietetic Association, the Conference of the American College of Physicians This
has been exposed in the New York Times - to no avail. These Associations
cannot Criticize any additives or convey their link to MONSANTO because they
take money from the food industry and have to endorse their products. Senator
Howard Hetzenbaum wrote a bill that would have warned all infants,
pregnant mothers and children of the dangers of aspartame. The bill would have
also instituted independent studies on the problems existing in the population
(seizures, changes in brain chemistry, changes neurological and behavioral;
symptoms). It was killed by the powerful drug and chemical lobbies,
letting loose the hounds of disease and death on an unsuspecting public.

Please print this out or e-mail to family and friends.

End of email

Information on Aspartame Hoax
http://www.snopes.com/toxins/aspartame.asp
http://tafkac.org/ulz/xnutrasweet.html
http://www.lupus.org/education/faq.html#22

How did I find out it was a hoax?
First line was a give away. Read this right through to the end as it is rather frightful. The writer wants a tone of fear.

Lots of UPPERCASE LETTERS. Like The life saving article: If it says "SUGAR FREE," on the label, DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!

No one really writes like this unless they are trying to evoke emotion. Play upon the people's fears.

Google. The first thing I did was Google a key phrase. I chose "sweetener exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood" Google Results Here.

Searching on keywords of a hoax usually always produces results if it is a hoax. Email hoaxes usually contain the same keywords and rarely change the words or word order. There are lots of sites that focus on email hoaxes.

Websites who focus on hoaxes and email threats:
http://securityresponse.symantec.com/ Use their search
Snopes.com is the king of internet hoaxes and urban legends.
Hoaxbusters http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Today I would like to plug an incredible Utah photographer that I have met through my job at Sundance. His name is Willie Holdman. I think his photography is gorgeous and captures the beauty of Utah.

Utah Photography by renowned Landscape Photographer Willie Holdman, brings pictures of Utah scenery to life like never before. His unique Utah landscape photography, as well as his National Park, abstract, desert, mountain, and nature photography, makes visiting his Utah art gallery a real visual treat.

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