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The two sisters sat in the airport lounge, waiting for their flight to Kerala. It was delayed. They were keen to get going. Their mother had died the day before and they were going to settle her affairs. “She had a good life. She lived to 97,” explained one of the sisters. “You know what her secret was? Coconuts.”

In the courts: Hypnotism link to daughter's death

A call was made in the High Court in London yesterday for a fresh investigation into whether there was any possible connection between a woman being hypnotised on stage and her death hours later.

Crunch weekend for new quitters

...and the pounds 50m quitting trade. Ian Burrell on help for 1 January 's ex-smokers

Patients want touchy-feely treatments

issatisfaction with hi-tech nursing and fears about toxic drugs are prompting increasing numbers of patients to demand the "touchy- feely" treatments of complementary medicine.

City: New men and the feel good factor. Mmmm...

You've come a long way, baby, when it comes to using designer toiletries. But it's not just the smells that maketh the man, says Peter Baker. Which is why the enlightened male is waking up to the feelgood factor of aromatherapy products.

Update: Health: Complementary medicine urged

The Government is being urged to encourage complementary medicine in the NHS after a survey found that barriers remain to its usage.

Letter: Holistic health goes way beyond the confines of Neal's Yard

HOW sad that Aminatta Forna's response to the publication of a forward-looking King's Fund study on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was a sneering attack on all things alternative ("Is therapy making fools of women?, Real Life, 2 November). It is true that alternative medicine attracts a preponderance of middle-class women. But it is also true that, as Dr Ursula Sharma points out in the only full study of the subject: "Stereotypes abound as regards the typical user of non-orthodox medicine

Letter: Hypnotised by Diana's spirit

Sir: So, people who pick up discarded rubbish in public parks are now being imprisoned or fined. That's the last time I do my civic duty lest that crisp packet or cellophane wrapper has been left as a mark of respect for Diana.

Letter: A thousand voices don't equal the truth

By setting up Aunt Sallies (sociologists of science who deny science any link to reality), Lewis Wolpert is guaranteed a sympathetic hearing. But his dogmatism reminds me of religious believers attacking sociologists of religion. I particularly dislike his unscientific dismissal of alternative medicine as part of some New Age anti-scientific lurch to the irrational. So, for the record: yes, there are a lot of ex-hippies within alternative medicine who would rather follow a guru than read a scientific textbook (and, yes, public ignorance of science is a dangerous thing). But there are also people like myself who try to think and act rationally, who do not believe in flying saucers or bhagwans, and who take seriously the growing body of scientific evidence for alternative medicine. That evidence is being produced by a large number of doctors, medical scientists, pharmacologists, and even physicists, for whom scientific reality is a sine qua non of worthwhile work. But their efforts are as often as not blocked by the easy prejudice of other doctors and scientists, very few of whom have read any of the published evidence but all of whom recite the mantra "it doesn't work".

Is there anybody out there with Di?

One of the best jokes in the movie Men in Black is that the heroes of the film find out what's really going on from the supermarket tabloids. All the bizarre "Alien abducted my husband and returned him after 30 years" stories are, the film campily tells us, actually true. Having been on another planet myself recently where I had been involved in long, drunken arguments about the existence of aliens, I returned to the equally unbelievable Di-Dodi-psychic chopper story. Here at The Independent we are not preoccupied with such things, well, not officially anyway. That Diana has visited a psychic is further evidence of her mental imbalance seems to be the general consensus among my colleagues. Psychics are dismissed as feeding off ignorance, as doing harm, as frauds. Diana has finally gone mad but at least she has had the grace to do it in the midst of the silly season where her eccentricities fit neatly between crop circles and Elvis sightings.

THEATRE: Anna Weiss; Traverse

Edinburgh Festival: Fringe

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: A relativist load of old nonsense

I have for some time been appalled by the claims of some sociologists of science about the nature of science. The Strong Programme of the sociology of science insists that science is little more than a social construct, another set of myths, little different from any other beliefs. It was thus with enormous pleasure and relief that this extreme relativist view of science has come under both scrutiny and attack in the science journal Nature.

MEDICINE: People at risk from acupuncture

People who use acupuncture to cure health problems could be putting their lives at risk, experts warned yesterday .

Football: Bates explains the Gullit effect

FA CUP FINAL COUNTDOWN; Glenn Moore finds Chelsea's chairman delighted with his manager's first year

Doctors ill-equipped to treat ME

Doctors ill-equipped to treat ME

Quit smoking? I could do it with my eyes shut...

When Glenda Cooper went to a hypnotherapist to end her affair with Nick O'Teen, she found will-power playing a surprisingly important role; He was enthusiastic, and assured me that I'd never want to smoke again. Wildly keen on the idea of an addiction-free life, l got off the phone and immediately lit up
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