Would You Like to Ride in My Beautiful, My Beautiful UFO?

Hundreds of mysterious lights glide across the night sky. Far below, the wary eyes of Americans, trained for suspicion, track the objects. A 911 call is made. A terrorist attack? More likely, an alien invasion. What else could it possibly be? A more mundane explanation is unavailable, so the incomprehensible becomes likely.

Take, for instance, the recent reaction in Greenwich, CT:
It wasn't a bird, a plane or Superman, but residents of downtown Greenwich thought a myriad of lights in the sky just may have been an unidentified flying object passing overhead Saturday night.

The bright, moving lights in the sky caused several people to call police to report a possible UFO sighting. Some reports indicated there had been 30 to 40 individual lights glowing in the night sky.
"These were being propelled," said Urda. "If it was an air current, the balloons would have been very lethargically moving along."

Urda said the "intense" orange lights were traveling in pairs, and sometimes threesomes. Urda estimates he saw 30 to 40 go by.

"They kind of disappeared into the clouds all at the same spot," said Urda. "I was standing there in total amazement."
Similar sightings were reported in Norwich, UK:
As previously reported, Sarah Browne, who first contacted the paper after spotting the light, described the light as being “silent” with no aircraft noise, smoke or trail.

Trudy Gray, who lives near Aylsham, said she had seen a similar light the Tuesday before at about the same time. She said: “It was a continuous orange light, quite high up, going in straight line with no sound, no nothing.”
And in Southport, UK
Emergency services raced to Wyke Cop on Sunday night after residents reported a ball of fire falling from the sky.

Fearing the plummeting fireball was a light aircraft or microlight, search and rescue teams patrolled the area whilst ambulances stood by, though nothing was found.
And in Taunton, UK (Somerset)
And Jane Merchant from Taunton said she was relieved after reading other people's reports of a UFO sighting and claims she saw a similar flickering light “moving briskly and quietly across the sky”.

“Every time I've mentioned my experience no one's taken me seriously,” she added.
Invariably, these UFOs are described as silent, reddish-orangish glowing lights moving briskly - sometimes in a straight line, sometimes erratically. They are reported as moving too slow for a plane, too quiet for a helicopter, yet too fast for a balloon or an oriental sky lantern.

Psychic Sundries

Psychic Lying About Other Psychics Attacking Her
Despite her intuitive powers, psychic Janet Lee probably did not see an arrest in her future, especially just weeks after alleging she was the victim of an assault outside her store on Greenwich Avenue.
However, the self-proclaimed "foremost psychic in New England" was arrested by Greenwich police over the weekend after detectives said she lied about being attacked in town by rival psychics over the summer.
Seems like roving gangs of psychics would find a more ingenious way of taking you down than simple pummeling!

Filed Under Belief (Faith) - Some Uri Geller Magic
Then Uri turned toward me and said, “Now, I want you to close your eyes with your hand still covering your drawing, and then transmit your drawing to me mentally, and when I get it, I will draw on your other card what I think you have drawn.”

So, I closed my eyes and began transmitting to Uri Geller the drawing I made.

After about 20 seconds, Uri said, “I am seeing something. I don’t know what it is, but it looks like this.” Upon saying that, he drew on my other card what I had drawn.

When I saw his drawing I was completely amazed. It was almost a perfect replica of what I had drawn!
I asked Uri how he knew what I had drawn. He replied that “if the image the person is transmitting to me stays in my mind clearly for about 20 seconds, then I know I got it right.”
Well, it's either that or it's simple trickery. Of course, this article wasn't filed under Entertainment...

Psychic Business Struggling for Acceptance
Sophia Anderson set up shop in Boston's famous Italian North End neighborhood September 19th. "I do psychic, tarot cards, palm readings. I do candles, crystals, incense," she explains.

Her vision never included the chilly reception she's now getting from some locals who feel she just doesn't fit in.
Across the street, restaurant owner Khalid Moheydeen says he hears locals talking.

"They feel it's going to be the wrong element here, people who sort of believe in magic stuff, doesn't fit with the neighborhood," he says.
A clear case of discrimination against the stupid.

'Personal Love Psychic' Sued
A Hartford woman says a Sioux Falls psychic adviser who promised to bring her estranged husband back scammed her out of $30,500.

Jane Stockwell filed a lawsuit last week in Minnehaha County Circuit Court against Katherine Adams, who used to run Psychic Experience at 2012 S. Minnesota Ave. in Sioux Falls. Stockwell wants her money back plus at least $50,000 in punitive damages.
Sorry you got scammed, Jane...but why a 'love psychic' when you could have purchased a love potion for so much less?


RockerChic4God Revolts Against BofA

Her name is Ann Minch. She's gutsy, taking a big risk to make her point.

"When I finally made my decision about what I needed to do, it was scary," she said. "I knew I was probably going to ruin my credit. (link)"


Blogger Has Released 'Read More...' Feature

Ooo...I've been waiting on this for a long time. This is just a test post...

Google's Crop Circle Doodle, H. G. Wells, and Zero Wing

On September 4, 2009, Google tweeted "1.12.12 15 1.18.5 20.15 21.19" in association with it's mysterious Google logo showing a UFO making off with the 2nd 'O' in its trademarked name. Using A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc., this decoded to "ALL YOUR O ARE BELONG TO US", a reference to the iconic arcade game Zero Wing, made legendary by the "All your base are belong to us" phrase (frequently shortened to simply AYBABTU). This Google 'Doodle' sparked waves of speculation as to what it all means. The 2nd 'O' seemed to have more significance given that even the file name for the picture was "go_gle.gif". Gogle?

Today, Google has a new doodle - a crop circle, again sparking waves of speculation as to what it all means.
This time, the 'L' seems to be missing and the UFO is hovering over the first 'O' in the logo. As before, Google supplied a mysterious tweet, "51.327629, -0.5616088", which turn out to be coordinates:

View Larger Map

Horsell, Surrey in the U.K. happens to be the central location for H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Also, two UFO reports were filed for this location in 1985.

So, what's the connection between H. G. Wells and Zero Wing, other than the scifi element? H. G. Wells was born on September 21, 1866. Zero Wing was released on September 21, 1989. Seems like Google is gearing up for a celebration of Zero Wing's 20th anniversary. Also, Google itself has its 11th birthday coming up, which will be celebrated anywhere from September 7th to 27th (no one really knows when its official birthday is).

Why the missing 'O'? Why the missing 'L'? Could it be the binary connection (e.g. 0 and 1)? Does the UFO hovering over the 1st 'O' in the crop circle mean it's going to be next? In the past, Google has changed it's doodle to incorporate the its age. Perhaps this is just a process of preparing to install a '11' in the name. Who knows...but it seems like a Zero Wing/Google birthday celebration to me. Just as long as it's not a celebration of Joseph Smith's visitation by the Angel Moroni!


UFO or pterodactyl over Argentinian lake?
A strange object photographed over a lake in Argentina has been described as either a flying saucer or a flying dinosaur.
So that's it? Woo or woo. No other choices? Shall we mourn the loss of creativity at the Telegraph? Has unabashed tabloid journalism stunted their imagination? Are the depths of fecundity only waist high?? One needs only study the picture to realize it's obviously a fat, drunk witch slumped over on her broomstick, trying not to puke as she lurches home. And no, this time I'm not talking about my mother.

More pics here.

Dr. Jay Gordon - Flu Whisperer?

By way of introducing us to why he will not be giving H1N1 vaccines this year to his patients, Dr. Jay Gordon tells us:
I have seen more children and adults with influenza-like illness: 104 degree fevers, muscle soreness, sore throat and negative tests for strep, than in any summer I can remember. I haven’t used the “flu swab” to test anybody, but I’m sure that many if not most of these sick people had Swine Flu. They all felt miserable, and they are all feeling just fine now.
Hellz yeah! I had symptoms like those at one time. I'm telling all my friends that I had swine flu before swine flu was cool!

Dr. Gordon's powers aren't limited to mystical determinations of influenza strains. He also has powers of prognostication - or is a gambler:
I also won’t be giving the flu shot to the kids and parents in my practice unless there are extraordinary risk factors. I anticipate giving none at all this year. I doubt that there will be any really large problems with the vaccine, but I also doubt any really large benefits. As I said, I think that this year’s version of this particular H1N1 is as “mild” as it will ever be and that getting sick with it this year will be good rather than bad. The chances that a new “flu shot” will be overwhelmingly effective are small.
Not sure why "flu shot" is in scare-quotes but "whatever". Dr. Gordon goes on, rambling this way and that in an article that says vaccines can be good, so why give vaccines? He's seems more afraid of giving advice than of the H1N1 virus, but if I can tease one point out of his meandering post, it is that he does not think enough testing is being performed on the H1N1 vaccine. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I assume a new flu vaccine has to follow a rigid protocol of testing before released to the public. After all, new flu vaccines are produced every year, so it's not like we don't have experience in this arena. Yet somehow Dr. Gordon rationalizes that the risk of the new H1N1 flu vaccine is greater than the risk of getting the H1N1 flu virus itself, basing his reasoning solely on his belief that this year's swine flu will be mild. Doctors everywhere are probably coming to the same conclusion, and even the World Health Organization notes:
The vast majority of cases of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) have been mild so far with few deaths. It remains to be seen whether the virus will mutate into a more virulent strain.
And, WHO also addresses Dr. Gordon's concerns about testing:
Q: These must be the fastest vaccines ever produced. Given their fast-tracking, what is the guarantee of safety and efficacy?
...Based on the extensive knowledge available on seasonal vaccines and the results obtained through evaluation of H5N1 avian influenza vaccines, there is no doubt that it will be possible to make effective H1N1 pandemic vaccines.
So, his argument falters. At least he shows a lack of knowledge regarding registering flu vaccines for use in the U.S., because the process with H1N1 is no different than for all the other seasonal strains of flu.


Misadventures in Ghost Hunting

Woman falls to death while 'ghost-hunting' in T.O.

A woman has fallen to her death after attempting to jump across a gap in the roof of a historic building at the University of Toronto while out on a first date.

A male friend was with her at the time of the incident, which occurred on Thursday morning at around 1:45 a.m. local time. The pair, who had been drinking, were reportedly in the building because they thought it was haunted.

Well, that certainly will make her ghost hunting a whole lot easier!


Kevin Trudeau's Appeal

The following is from the excellent Consumer Health Digest #09-36:
The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a contempt ruling against Kevin Trudeau but ordered the lower court to reconsider its penalties. Since 1998, the FTC has charged Trudeau with false advertising and obtained consent agreements several times. In 2006, he began using infomercials to market The Weight-Loss Cure "They" Don't Want Your to Know About. The supposed "cure" was centered around the use of injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). However, scientific studies demonstrated that HCG injections didn't cause weight loss and regulatory actions by the FTC and FDA have curbed their use in the United States. In September 2007, the FTC charged Trudeau with violating a 2004 consent agreement by misrepresenting the book's contents and asked the Illinois Federal Court to hold him in contempt. The court did so, banned him, for three years, from involvement in any infomercials for publications in which he has a financial interest, and ordered him to disgorge $37,616,161, which the judge said was a reasonable approximation of the loss consumers suffered as a result of Trudeau’s deceptive infomercials. In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed that Trudeau had misrepresented the book's contents. However, the appeals judge said that the lower court judge had failed to explain how he had calculated the penalty and that a three-year ban without an opportunity for reinstatement upon good behavior was too harsh for a civil contempt ruling. The lower court still has wide discretion in setting penalties and could consider a criminal contempt finding if Trudeau is given an adequate opportunity to defend himself against such a charge. Casewatch has posted the relevant documents.
$37.6 million? Doesn't seem high enough for the likes of Kevin Trudeau. This guy should be living on the streets!

Walter and The Skeptic

Sir Walter Raleigh wrote an essay called "The Skeptic" in which he said
The skeptic doth neither affirm nor deny any position but doubteth of it, and applyeth his Reason against that which is affirmed, or denied, to justify his non consenting.
He was beheaded in 1618.


I'm Lost

Well...not really...but maybe...

I've been taking advantage of a (no longer advertised) deal with BlockBuster. Pay $10 and get as many videos or games as you can stand for a week (as long as you take only one out at a time). After a few movies, I decided to watch the T.V. show Lost, starting with season 1. Last night I started on season 2. So far, it's been intense, and I bet it's a little different experience than watching it week by week. For one, I don't have to worry about commercials. The shows are only 42 minutes long. And their widescreen. But there are some minor annoyances which makes this show as much a soap opera as a drama. For example, the lead character (Jack) cries in every other episode!

For fans of the show, my take must sound like it's coming from decades in the past. They're so far ahead of me. What, is the show into it's 7th season now? 6th? Something like that. The rep. at BlockBuster is also a fan and said she loved seasons 1-3. In her words, there was an interesting story behind them. Now, she says, they're just on the island, doin' it.

Yeah, I get it. Guess the novelty has worn off. It's like being on this blue marble floating in the hostile black. I'm just doin' it.

Anyway, that's why this blog has lapsed recently. I've been lost.


Update on Psychic Psuit in Montgomery County, MD

Nick Nefedro is a 'gypsy' suing Montgomery County Maryland on their ban against
Every person who shall demand or accept any remuneration or gratuity for forecasting or foretelling or for pretending to forecast or foretell the future by cards, palm reading or any other scheme, practice or device.
I first wrote about this case in July 2008 here. On his syndicated radio program Culture Shocks, Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, examined the law banning fortune telling in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Part of the county's argument is that this law protects its citizenry against fraud. Nefedro's argument is that fortunetelling is his gypsy heritage and he is being discriminated against because he can't practice his heritage here in Montgomery County. Conveniently, Nefedro disregards the wandering nature of nomadic gypsies in his application for a business license to set up shop in Bethesda, MD. Nor do we know the status of his application for licensing a caravan to carry him up and down Wisconsin Ave. to ply his trade, sell his wares, dance some jigs...

Nefedro, through the discrimination aspect of his suit, stereotypes the gypsy culture. Today, many psychics, fortune tellers, palm readers, and astrologers have adopted the gypsy mystique to lend an aura of mystery about their craft. Claiming discrimination, Nefedro also leans on the centuries of persecution that gypsies suffered:

He said the law is nothing more than persecution of Gypsies, who have long been stigmatized as nomadic thieves and con artists.

"Gypsies do exist, and they are not criminals," he said, adding that fortunetelling is "something we've been doing for thousands of years."

Far from practicing fortunetelling for thousands of years, the earliest gypsies, known as the Romani people, show up in history around the 11th century. Their heritage stresses the separation of pure and impure. For example, the genitals and lower body are impure, so underwear and lower body clothing must be washed separately from other clothing. Giving birth is impure and must be done outside the home. After giving birth, the mother is considered impure for forty days. However, gypsy fortunetelling is has become a stereotype promoted in romanticized novels and movies, even though there is some basis in fact (e.g. see Rom and Romnichels here). Regardless of the extent of fortunetelling in the Romani past, the practice of fraud in one's heritage does not give license to continue that fraud in today's society - at least not in Montgomery County.

Under the same Montgomery County law, a New Jersey astrologer, Gerry Stevens, was denied a permit to open up shop on Wisconsin Avenue. The Gazette covered the story:

But Rockville attorney Jody S. Kline, who is representing Stevens along with attorney Robert F. Dato of New Jersey, said Stevens Astrology Readings does not violate county code.

"Astrology is not fortune telling," said Kline, who said his client's business would not violate county code. Kline also said he plans to argue the fortune telling law is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment regarding freedom of religion.

Kline said the astrologer received an OK from the County Attorney's Office in 1996 when Dato corresponded with senior assistant county attorney Alan M. Wright. Since then, Stevens has leased space in Bethesda, but is not able to operate his business because of the permit denial.

In correspondence with the County Attorney's Office, Dato said astrology "interprets the proximity of stars, planets, the sun and moon, thereby providing clients with information that may be of value in determining anticipated courses of action."

But that constitutes fortune telling, said Clifford Royalty, the associate county attorney who is handling the case.

"When Alan wrote his letter, I think he misunderstood what they did," Royalty said. "It seems to me any astrologer is a fortune teller."

It seems like the county attorneys argued that the law was in place to protect the citizens from fraudulent behavior. According to Clifford Royalty,

...the law was most likely passed because "fortune telling is rifled with fraud and the potential to be ripped off."

He said fortune telling is analogous to businesses like adult book and video stores and strip clubs that can have a negative impact on a neighborhood.

In 2001, Monica Mitchell, a 19 year old psychic, lost her case to overturn the fortunetelling ban in Aberdeen City, MD. Walter Stevens, her father-in-law, provided the newsworthy comment:

"Such places of business as she wants to open up are legal across the United States of America, some successful, some not successful. She would like to have the opportunity to either succeed or fail, without being interrupted by local authorities," her father-in-law said.

"We feel that is prejudicial because this business cannot harm anyone, cannot influence anyone, cannot damage anyone and there's nothing criminal about it. It's not like it was a place that sells drug paraphernalia or a nudity bar," Walter Stevens said.

However, Stevens ignores the many scams perpetuated by alleged psychics, with people (particularly elderly women) losing their life's savings due to fraud. By banning fortunetelling for gain, the city and county and state governments can prevent these scoundrels from preying on weaker minds. According to Ben Radford posting on Live Science,
Repeated studies over the course of decades have failed to show strong evidence for the existence of psychic powers. The failure of psychics to predict or prevent tragedies such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or the Sago mine collapse—or to locate missing persons such as Natalee Holloway—suggest that such powers, even if they exist, are not reliable enough to be useful. While many self-professed psychics claim that what they do is entertainment, each year hundreds of thousands of dollars are stolen in confidence swindles involving phony psychics.
But back to Nefedro. In December 2008, he lost his case against Montgomery County. In the following from the Washington Examiner, you can get a hint at the way the judge's mind works:
Clifford Royalty, an attorney for Montgomery County, told The Examiner the court upheld the law and he expected a judge to return a signed copy of his written order this week.

“Insofar as the county law does regulate speech, it is narrowly drawn to serve the county’s compelling government interest in protecting its citizenry from fraud,” Royalty’s order said.

“The judge said he agreed with my argument, that this was a proper exercise of police power and would survive scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Royalty told The Examiner. “The judge also asked counsel for Mr. Nefedro if he’d predicted that outcome.”
Nefedro’s attorney, Ed Amourgis, said he was surprised by the decision.
This was an interesting win for Montgomery County. There are similar laws written into city and county codes across the nation and, within the past decade or so, they have come up against First Amendment challenges and have lost (e.g. see here, here, and here). To judge 'free speech', the law takes into account the content of the speech and generally allows it to be sold (just check out all the books in the New Age section of Barnes & Noble). There are further arguments to be made about the fraudulent intent of said speech as well as the detriment to society, especially when there are other laws on the books that deal with fraud. One of the best resources I've seen to navigate through these weighty issues is an article on the Law and Magic blog, May a Municipality Ban Fortune Telling.

That the Montgomery County law has survived so far is testament to the superb job done by Clifford Royalty, the county attorney who has been down this road before. However, his skills are about to be put to the test because Nefedro has appealed his case and is bringing the ACLU onboard. He's still pushing the gypsy discrimination issue, but I think the ACLU will focus on the First Amendment issue. They are well versed in this arena and have had their success in the past regarding a ban on fortunetellers. Also, there's this:
But the clear modern trend in the United States is to strike down such ordinances and statutes, generally on the grounds that they violate Freedom of Speech and are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. [See Trimble v. City of New Iberia, 73 F.Supp.2d 659 (W.D. La. 1999); Angeline v. Mahoning County Agricultural Society, 993 F. Supp. 627 (N.D. Ohio 1998); Rushman v. City of Milwaukee, 959 F. Supp. 1040 (E.D. Wis. 1997); Argello v. City of Lincoln, 143 F.3d 1152 (8th Cir. 1998); Psychic Science Church v. City of Asusa, 703 P.2d 1119 (Calif. 1985).]

In the City of Asusa case, the court noted:
The City assures us that the ordinance is aimed only at communications that purport to predict future events. Assuming that such a bad would be permissible, however, the ordinance contains no words to this effect. Thus the prohibition against “spiritual reading” would encompass Bible lessons, the bar against “hypnotism” could include hypnosis as an accepted technique of the psychotherapist, the banning of “magic” could prevent numerous popular theatrical performances, and the prohibition against “prophecy” could interfere with many religious services. The ordinance is clearly overbroad, applying to many activities that are protected by the California Constitution.
So, unless Clifford Royalty is a law-god, I think...nay, I predict!...the forces behind the ACLU in an appeals court setting will establish the Montgomery County law as similarly overbroad and that it will be ultimately struck down. However, look for them to make silly arguments like 'if you ban fortunetelling, you must likewise ban weather forecasting, commodities predictions, and medical prognoses." Out of these four, can you guess which one gets pulled out of the butt?

Update 9/2/09: See ACLU of MD's press release here. Legal brief here (pdf warn). Also deleted mp3 download link - it pointed to an episode about Waiter Rants!