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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Electric Comet: The Elephant in NASA's Living Room?

Left: Specimen produced in the laboratory
of CJ Ransom.  Right: Comet Hartley.
Electric Comet: The Elephant in NASA's Living Room?
June 29, 2011 | Michael Goodspeed

For thousands of years, the appearance of a comet in the terrestrial skies has provoked deep anxiety and even collective hysteria in humans the world over. The reasons for this response are not entirely clear. Working with historical testimony, David Talbott and his colleagues have concluded that comet fears originated in a global experience of catastrophe and terror. Behind all of the regional traditions and stories is the memory of the "Great Comet," the mother of all comets. The memory traces to the origins of world mythology, according to Talbott, and is particularly vivid in the story of a cosmic serpent or dragon threatening to destroy the world. The most common ancient ideas attached to a comet were the death of kings, the fall of kingdoms, cosmic upheaval, and the end of the world.

It is well worth asking why this collective anxiety can be provoked with the first appearance of a mere wisp of gas in the heavens. The question is especially appropriate today because of the approach of the Comet Elenin, which is predicted to pass within about 0.233 AU of the Earth in October of this year. Speculations about Elenin range from a theoretical NASA coverup of an "extinction level event," to theories that the comet is actually the ever-elusive planet "Nibiru" of author Zecharia Sitchin's lore. (For a thoughtful meditation on the credibility of some of these theories, see the Subversify.com piece, "Is Google Censoring Nibiru?"). It should be noted here that the leading proponent of the electric universe, Wal Thornhill, has refrained from predicting specific behaviors of Elenin due to the number of unknowns. These unknowns (discussed below) include the Sun's activity, and the constituent material of the comet itself.

One can understand the frustration NASA likely feels when witnessing the carnival of theories surrounding space science news stories today. However, NASA must surely bear some of the responsibility for the evident mistrust and even anger so often expressed toward the agency. On the issue of comets NASA has never acknowledged the failures of the standard theory. We are still told that comets are "dirty snowballs" that formed billions of years ago in a theoretical "Oort cloud." The idea makes no sense and has been repeatedly falsified by the observed behaviors of comets. Silence on such matters is not helpful. When the institutions of science choose a path of denial on controversial matters, rightly or wrongly it can only fuel perceptions of secrecy and suppression.

Read more..

Thursday, September 27, 2012

America’s Electoral System Is Mathematically GUARANTEED to Produce Bad Results

America’s Electoral System Is Mathematically GUARANTEED to Produce Bad Results
Sept 27, 2012 | Washingtons Blog

Our System Forces a Two Party Race, Lacking Popular Representation


The Founding Fathers warned against a two-party system.

But the current election process guarantees a two-party system:



The electoral college can also severely skew the outcome. For example, it is possible for a presidential candidate to win even though 78% of the American public votes against him:



There are better alternatives. For example this:



And this:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bug photography gets no better than this

Bug photography gets no better than this
Sept 25, 2012 | Live Leak




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Critics Slam Standardized Testing for Kindergarteners

(Photograph by Leah-Anne Thompson.)
Critics Slam Standardized Testing for Kindergarteners
Sept 25, 2012 | CommonDreams.org

At least 25 states in the US now mandate at least one formal assessment during kindergarten, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Such a fact speaks directly to a growing (and for many, a troubling) trend of high-stakes early childhood testing taking root across the country.
 
Driven by corporate school reformers and incentived by Obama's "Race to the Top" education policy, the drive to push standardized testing to the lowest grade levels is met with cheers by testing companies like ACT Inc., who stand to profit greatly from such measures.

Opponents, however, told Reuters that the trend was hugely troubling and that adults—especially ones who claim educational expertise—"should know better".

Reuters reports:
Formal tests give a narrow picture of a child's ability, said Samuel Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in Chicago focused on child development. He urges teachers instead to assess young children by observing them over time, recording skills and deficits and comparing those to benchmarks.

But Meisels fears such observational tests won't seem objective or precise enough in today's data-driven world; he says he too often sees them pushed aside in favor of more formal assessments.

"I am worried, yes," he said. "We should know better."

Kari Knutson, a veteran kindergarten teacher in Minnesota, has seen the shifting attitude toward testing play out in her classroom.

During her first two decades of teaching, Knutson rarely, if ever, gave formal tests; kindergarten was about learning through play, music, art and physical activity.

These days, though, her district mandates a long list of assessments.

Knutson started the year by quizzing each of her 23 students on the alphabet and phonics, through a 111-question oral exam. Last week, she brought the kids to the computer lab for another literacy test. Each kindergartener wore headphones and listened to questions while a menu of possible answers flashed on the screen. They were supposed to respond by clicking on the correct answer, though not all could maneuver the mouse and some gave up in frustration, Knutson said.

This week, it's on to math - and a seven-page, pencil-and-paper test. "It's supposed to show them what they'll be learning in first grade," Knutson said. "Like they really care."

In her view, the kids are far too young to tackle formal exams, especially in their first weeks of what is for many their first school experience. "Half of them are crying because they miss mom and dad. When you tell them to line up, they don't even know what a line is," Knutson said.
Read the full story at Reuters

Friday, September 21, 2012

FHFA to States that Uphold the Rule of Law: Drop Dead

image
FHFA to States that Uphold the Rule of Law: Drop Dead
Sept 21, 2012 | Naked Capitalism

If you had any doubt that the ongoing coup by bankers and their allies was proceeding apace, the latest story from Shahien Nasiripour of the Financial Times should settle all doubts.

The pink paper reports that Fannie and Freddie’s regulator, the FHFA, plans to punish impose surcharges on borrowers in states like New York because foreclosures take longer there. This is the excuse, erm, rationale:
US borrowers in states where home foreclosures are costly and time-consuming will have to pay more for their mortgages, the top housing regulator has proposed.

Lenders originating new loans in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and Connecticut will be forced to pay US-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac up to 30 basis points extra for their credit guarantee, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in its proposal.

The fee would probably be passed on to borrowers. The agency said the surcharge would compensate for the increased cost of repossessing homes in the five states, costs ultimately borne by US taxpayers.
And the FHFA was open in that its aim was to put state law on its Procrustean bed:
“If those states were to adjust their laws and requirements sufficiently to move their foreclosure timelines and costs more in line with the national average . . . the fees imposed under the planned approach would be lowered or eliminated,” the FHFA said.
Now the reality, of course, is more complicated. The two mortgage insurers have refused to crack down on foreclosure mills despite overwhelming evidence of their failure to comply with long-established state law requirements. When the robosigning scandal broke, many judges in judicial foreclosure states started taking borrower challenges to servicer standing more seriously. New York’s courts instituted a requirement that lawyers submitting documents in foreclosures certify that they had taken reasonable steps to certify their accuracy. This might sound like a belt-and-suspenders requirement, but from a procedural standpoint, it made it easier for borrower’s counsel to seek sanctions if he though the bank’s attorney was playing fast and loose. And indeed, as we’ve documented, foreclosures ground to a near halt after the certification requirement was instituted.

Conversely, in Florida, the idea that protracted foreclosure times are the product of overly cumbersome court requirements is largely a crock. We’ve been reporting for well over a year that delays in foreclosures in Florida are driven almost entirely by the bank/servicer counsel repeatedly putting off court dates, to the point where judges are annoyed and frustrated. It appears a big driver, if not the big driver, is the depressed state of the housing market. Even with the recent wave of bottom-fishing, servicers seem to want to attenuate the foreclosure process to keep borrowers in homes, which both reduces their maintenance costs and keeps too many foreclosed homes from either being held in inventory a long time (which leads to deterioration in value) or put on the market at once (depressing prices).

What this is really about is a further push to try to achieve national standards, even though real estate or “dirt law” has long been treated by the Supreme Court as a state law matter. So the power of the GSE is being used to pressure state legislatures to join a legal race to the bottom. If state bar associations had instead players their proper role and had disbarred foreclosure mill attorneys, Fannie and Freddie would have been forced to clean up their act on foreclosure processes and the FHFA would not have found it as worthwhile to try to implement this sort of extortion.

I’m not holding my breath, but the GSE haters also tend to be in favor of state’s rights, so it might be possible to craft an alliance between some of the Fannie and Freddie opponents and borrower advocates on the need for the primacy of the rule of law. Congressman Brad Miller minced no words:
It is hard to see this as anything other than bullying states that are protecting homeowners from foreclosure abuses. FHFA has no business holding a state’s new mortgage market hostage to extort weaker homeowner protections for existing mortgages.
This effort to perpetuate bad practices by the GSEs by blaming states needs to be called out and firmly opposed.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mystery Behind Deep-Sea Crop Circles off the Coast of Japan Solved

Mystery Behind Deep-Sea Crop Circles off the Coast of Japan Solved
Sept 20, 2012 | Melissa Knowles


More than 70 percent of Earth is covered in water, and the oceans remain some of the most mysterious parts of our world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 95 percent of what lies underwater has not ever been seen by humans. NASA confirms that humans have better maps of the surface of Mars than of the bottom of the sea.

Earlier this year, off the southern coast of Japan, Yoji Ookata, a deep-sea photographer and diver who has been documenting the deep sea for more than 50 years, saw something he had never observed before. A circular pattern of rippling sand about 80 feet below sea level and 6 feet in diameter was on the ocean floor. Ookata returned to the same spot with a TV camera crew in tow to capture the discovery and figure out who or what had created its intricate design.

Ookata dubbed his new find the "mystery circle" and was shocked to find out that a single puffer fish, no more than a few inches long, had created the circles using just one fin. The tiny fish works tirelessly day and night to complete the design. While the circled sculpture is beautiful to look at, Ookata and his crew learned that the fish's creation maintained a dual purpose. Female fish are attracted to the ridges and valleys left in the sand, and they deposit their eggs in the center. The eggs are then shielded from the ocean currents, as the higher points of the sculpture create a barrier to protect them. The more ridges a sculpture contains, the more likely it will attract the females of the species.

This discovery really just scratches the surface of knowledge about the ocean. The rest of the 95 percent still awaits exploration.


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Deep Impact—Confirming the Electric Comet

Deep Impact—Confirming the Electric Comet
Sept 20, 2012 |



The Electric Universe
Thunderbolts of the Gods + DVD

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fukushima Radiation: Japan Irradiates the West Coast of North America

Fukushima Radiation: Japan Irradiates the West Coast of North America
Sept 18, 2012 | Washingtons Blog

Radiation from Japan’s nuclear accident has turned up in seaweed on the coasts of California, Washington and other parts of the West Coast of North America.

The ocean is so big … how could this be happening? Why didn’t the gigantic Pacific Ocean better dilute Fukushima radiation?

A 1955 U.S. government report concluded that the ocean may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents.

MIT says that seawater which is itself radioactive may begin hitting the West Coast within 5 years.

In 10 years, peak radioactive cesium levels off of the West Coast of North America could be 10 times higher than at the coast of Japan.

As we’ve previously noted, Reuters reports that Alaskan seals are suffering mysterious lesions and hair loss:
Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant
Read more..

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Protect Yourself From Digital Utility Meters

Protect Yourself From Digital Utility Meters
Feb 16, 2012 |



Learn more:

Neurosurgeon Shows How Low Levels of Radiation Such As Wi-Fi, Smart Meters And Cell Phones Cause The Blood Brain Barrier To Leak

Saturday, September 15, 2012

'Lost' City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable

'Lost' City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable
Sept 14, 2012 | LiveScience.com
© LiveScience
A 1669 map by Athanasius Kircher put Atlantis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The map is oriented with south at the top.

Atlantis is a legendary "lost" island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists, and New Agers for generations.

In the 1800s, mystic Madame Blavatsky claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Tibetan gurus; a century later, psychic Edgar Cayce claimed that Atlantis (which he described as an ancient, highly evolved civilization powered by crystals) would be discovered by 1969.

In the 1980s, New Age mystic J.Z. Knight claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who speaks through her. Thousands of books, magazines and websites are devoted to Atlantis, and it remains a popular topic.

The origins of Atlantis


Unlike many legends whose origins have been lost in the mists of time, we know exactly when and where the story of Atlantis first appeared. The story was first told in two of Plato's dialogues, the Timaeus and the Critias, written about 330 B.C.

Though today Atlantis is often conceived of as a peaceful utopia, the Atlantis that Plato described in his fable was very different. In his book Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, professor of archaeology Ken Feder summarizes the story:

"a technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire - Atlantis - attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing in its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled, and incorruptible people - the ancient Athenians.

Overcoming overwhelming odds ... the Athenians are able to defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato's Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of Star Wars."
As propaganda, the Atlantis legend is more about the heroic Athens than a sunken civilization; if Atlantis really existed today and was found, its residents would probably try to kill and enslave us all.

It's clear that Plato made up Atlantis as a plot device for his stories because there no other records of it anywhere else in the world. There are many extant Greek texts; surely someone else would have also mentioned, at least in passing, such a remarkable place. There is simply no evidence from any source that the legends about Atlantis existed before Plato wrote about it.

The 'lost' continent

Despite its clear origin in fiction, many people over the centuries have claimed that there must be some truth behind the myths, speculating about where Atlantis would be found. Countless Atlantis "experts" have located the lost continent all around the world based on the same set of facts. Candidates - each accompanied by their own peculiar sets of evidence and arguments - include the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Bolivia, Turkey, Germany, Malta and the Caribbean.

Plato, however, is crystal clear about where Atlantis is: "For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, 'the pillars of Heracles,' (i.e., Hercules) there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together." In other word it lies in the Atlantic Ocean beyond "the pillars of Hercules" (i.e., the Straits of Gibraltar, at the mouth of the Mediterranean). Yet it has never been found in the Atlantic, or anywhere else.

No trace of Atlantis has ever been found despite advances in oceanography and ocean floor mapping in past decades. For nearly two millennia readers could be forgiven for suspecting that the vast depths might somehow hide a sunken city or continent. Though there remains much mystery at the bottom of the world's oceans, it is inconceivable that the world's oceanographers, submariners, and deep-sea probes have some how missed a landmass "larger than Libya and Asia together."

Furthermore plate tectonics demonstrate that Atlantis is impossible; as the continents have drifted, the seafloor has spread over time, not contracted. There would simply be no place for Atlantis to sink into. As Ken Feder notes, "The geology is clear; there could have been no large land surface that then sank in the area where Plato places Atlantis. Together, modern archaeology and geology provide an unambiguous verdict: There was no Atlantic continent; there was no great civilization called Atlantis."

Myth from misinterpretation

The only way to make a mystery out of Atlantis (and to assume that it was once a real place) is to ignore its obvious origins as a moral fable and to change the details of Plato's story, claiming that he took license with the truth, either out of error or intent to deceive. With the addition, omission, or misinterpretation of various details in Plato's work, nearly any proposed location can be made to "fit" his description.

Yet as writer L. Sprague de Camp noted in his book Lost Continents, "You cannot change all the details of Plato's story and still claim to have Plato's story. That is like saying the legendary King Arthur is 'really' Cleopatra; all you have to do is to change Cleopatra's sex, nationality, period, temperament, moral character, and other details, and the resemblance becomes obvious."

The Atlantis legend has been kept alive, fueled by the public's imagination and fascination with the idea of a hidden, long-lost utopia. Yet the "lost city of Atlantis" was never lost; it is where it always was: in Plato's books.

Comment: This is an excellent little article which sets up the fact that Atlantis may be more accurately defined as the word academic. Think about it. It was the theophanic descriptive for Plato's preface which became a euphemism Atlantis. It seems to have worked to some degree.

The Wind and the Sun

© Wikimedia Commons
Hellenistic statue claimed to
depict Aesop, Art Collection of
Villa Albani, Rome.
The Wind and the Sun
Sept 15, 2012 | William A. Cook

Aesop tells the story of the North Wind and the Sun: who is the stronger? They chose a traveler to test their strength; which of the two could force him to remove his cloak. The North Wind went first, whirling furiously down on the traveler, whipping his cloak to wrest it from him; but the more furiously he whirled, the more securely the man wrapped himself in his cloak.

The Sun abided his time and smiled gently at the traveler, gradually warming the air and surrounding the traveler with warmth and gentleness. Before he had gone many steps, he was glad to throw off his cloak and walk lightly clad among his brethren. The moral: Persuasion is better than force.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the United States had forfeited its moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran's nuclear program because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself." (Newsmax.com, Tuesday, September 11, 2012).

Curiously and perhaps ironically, Netanyahu claimed, "The world tells Israel, 'Wait, there's still time'. And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?'"

And the world might well respond, "When Israel decides to join the world community in a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, and places itself in the same position as all mid-eastern states, bereft of weapons of mass destruction, standing with all other nations as free states, free of its military totalitarianism, free to join its neighbors beyond the walls of isolation it has erected to maintain its tribal nature living in constant fear of its true mid-eastern lineage.

It might find that the communities of the world would find Israel's willingness to abide by international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights justification to join that state as a friend worthy of world-wide acceptance into the United Nations, not a rogue state sustained by the impunity provided by the unequivocal backing of the US.

What moral right does Netanyahu refer to when his state has been operating without morals for 63 years? How strange, yet frighteningly real it is that a person's life can be tracked by madness inflicted by one on utter strangers or on innocents made enemies to further the madness. When I was four Mahatma Ghandi penned this note: "It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage stage. Must you pay the price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has seliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?" ("Letter to Herr Hitler," 1939).

Today there is no Ghandi to pen such a note to Mister Netanyahu as he thrashes about to launch an invasion against his perceived enemy, the state of Iran. His madness is manifest in his deafness to his own contradictions: his moral right to destroy the industrial development of a sister state; his moral right to impose his judgment and his will on the citizens of that state who have done nothing to the citizens of Israel; his moral right to impose his sickness on his fellow Jews despite their pleadings that he does not speak for them; his moral determination that his state has moral rights to the very weapons he'd deny to his neighbors; his moral contempt for the perspectives of Russia and China and Brazil and 117 other nations that declared their objection to his idiocy at the NAM conference held just two weeks ago in Tehran; and, perhaps most glaringly to a citizen of the U.S., his moral condemnation of the President of the United States who has groveled with the best of our Congressional hoard before the altar of AIPAC to declare unequivocal allegiance to this state that has no loyalty to its Golem, just scorn for its weakness, lack of self-esteem and its acceptance of the disgraceful humiliation showered on it by that very state. That is the madness of one who has crowned himself with glory, lifted himself to the pinnacle of self-righteous power, bathed in the adulations of the fanatical hoards that chant his praises in our House of Representatives, and praised the evangelical Zionists that bow before him as they urge him to fulfill the Armageddon promised their sick minds in the book of Revelation.

How sad. Centuries ago, over 2500 to be precise, Aesop penned fables, brief but telling tales of the human condition told in simple narratives, easily understood - even by the least of our intellectual brethren, even by an idiot - that conveyed a moral. The tale of the North Wind and the Sun, the one that began this piece, conveys a simple reality of human history: the future of humankind depends on its kindness to all, its sensitiveness to the plight of others, its desire to aid those in distress, its awareness of the thinking that binds people together and a corresponding awareness to tolerate divergent thought, its hope and dreams for all who live and all who will inherit this earth, its absolute commitment to compassion, to caring, to sharing that all may live and love and know they too are equal to all others, bound in loving kindness that all may dream and live in peace.

That is a moral Netanyahu might consider as he thumps his way from podium to podium damning the Iranians, damning those who will not follow his madness, proclaiming his G-d given right to blast the Iranians from the face of the earth, to slaughter their soldiers, destroy their villages and towns, turn their rivers into streams of flowing blood, slaughtering their people because they dare to oppose his rule as though he ruled the earth even though he is PM of six million in a state the size of Rhode Island, but of such importance it must be the voice of all, or so he believes. If it were not that the Congressmen of this nation, the United States, might listen to his madness, this might be laughable. But that's not the case.

So instead, what if the Israeli State were to take the high moral road built on true morals - to love one another, to love even your enemy, to love as you would be loved - to sit down with the Iranian people, to meet them as equals, to attempt to comprehend how two divergent peoples held at bay these many decades could understand each other, to negotiate an end to verbal hostilities and through dialogue and warmth and gentleness embrace each other that all might live to enjoy today and tomorrow, and forever, together.

Thus might the creative and constructive power of persuasion from both sides overcome the derisive anger and destructive power of force. May we let our ancient ancestors speak for us in lieu of Ghandi.

William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His works include Psalms for the 21st Century, Mellon Poetry Press, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and most recently in 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians. He can be reached at wcook@laverne.edu or his website.

Friday, September 14, 2012

BP Criminality Awarded Government Contracts | Brainwash Update

BP Criminality Awarded Government Contracts | Brainwash Update
Sept 14, 2012 |



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Pittsburgh Ban on Natural Gas Fracking Faces Challenge From State Authorities

Pittsburgh Ban on Natural Gas Fracking Faces Challenge From State Authorities
Sept 14, 2012 |



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For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals

© Matthew Staver/The New York Times
Bob Bellis filled his tanker at a hydrant
in Greeley, Colo., in August to supply a
drilling site. Lease deals with oil companies
are important revenue sources for cities.
For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals
Sept 5, 2012 | Jack Healy

Greeley, Colorado - A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas.

A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.

That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.

And this summer's record-breaking drought, which dried up wells and ruined crops, has only amplified those concerns.

"It's not a level playing field," said Peter V. Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on the parched plains of eastern Colorado. "I don't think in reality that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours."

But industry officials say that critics are exaggerating the effect on water supplies.

Energy producers do not - and cannot - simply snap up the rights to streams and wells at the expense of farmers or homeowners. To fill their storage tanks, they lease surplus water from cities or buy treated wastewater that would otherwise be dumped back into rivers. In some cases, they buy water rights directly from farmers or other users - a process that in Colorado requires court approval.

"This is an important use of our water - to produce energy, which is the foundation of all we do," said Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. "Think about the big users of water - agriculture, industrial development. All these things require energy."

In average years, farmers and ranchers like Mr. Anderson say they pay about $30 for an acre foot of water - equal to about 326,000 gallons - a price that can rise to $100 when water is scarce. Right now, oil and gas companies in parts of Colorado are paying as much as $1,000 to $2,000 for an equal amount of treated water from city pipes.

That money can be a blessing for strained local utilities and water departments, but farmers say there is no way they can afford to match those bids.

"We're not going to be able to raise the food we need," said Ben Rainbolt, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. "How are we going to produce this with less?"

In the spring, during an annual auction of surplus water in northern Colorado, Mr. Anderson and a handful of other farmers were outbid by water haulers who supply hydraulic fracturing wells. Although Mr. Anderson ultimately got the water he needed as bids settled after the auction, the mere shadow of energy producers at the auction offered a glimpse of their growing presence in the rush for Western water.

"Energy companies are moving quickly to shore up supplies," said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. "They're going to find it, and they're going to pay what they need to pay, and it's on an order of magnitude of what crop producers can afford to pay. That changes the whole deal."

Oil and gas companies estimate that they will use about 6.5 billion gallons of water in Colorado this year, and that figure makes up only 0.1 percent of overall water use, according to state data. Their consumption represents more water than is used making snow on the ski slopes or greening the state's golf courses. But it is paltry compared with the deluge needed for irrigation and agriculture, which accounts for 85.5 percent of Colorado's water use.

Still, the industry is growing fast. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission estimates that the state's oil and gas water needs will grow by 16 percent over the next three years.

"Water flows uphill to money," said Mike Chiropolos, a lawyer for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group based in Boulder. "It's only going to get more precious and more scarce."

In June, the group released a study that accused Colorado of underestimating the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, saying the true figure was between 7.2 billion and 13 billion gallons per year - enough to serve as many as 296,100 people.

Despite the drought and worries about water supplies, several cities - and even farmers with water to spare - are starting to line up as eager sellers.

In July, after receiving proposals from several energy companies, Aurora, a suburb of Denver, approved a $9.5 million deal to lease 2.4 billion gallons of effluent water to the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation over five years. It did not come from drinking supplies. It was excess water that "we couldn't capture, couldn't store, couldn't do anything with," said Greg Baker, a spokesman for the city's water department.

But the agreement - the first of its kind for Aurora - drew stiff rebukes from opponents of hydraulic fracturing.

Opponents said the Anadarko agreement would divert water that would have flowed to other users along the South Platte River and send it far from the community. Molly Markert, a city councilwoman who voted against the lease, said she was uneasy about selling municipal water to energy companies.

"I'm not a supporter of fracking," Ms. Markert said. "I don't want to enable them."

For years, Greeley has leased its surplus water to farmers, construction companies and others. In 2008, the oil and gas companies started making offers, said Jon Monson, the city's water and sewer director. Most of the water still goes to agriculture, but the city rented 1,300 acre feet to energy companies last year and is on pace to rent 1,800 acre feet - as much as 586 million gallons - this year.

It is easy math for the city: The farmers pay $30 an acre foot. The oil and gas companies pay $3,300, which will earn the city's water department $4 million to $5 million this year.

Precious as water is, Kreg Edrington, 26, spilled only a little one recent morning as he hooked his tanker truck up to a fire hydrant in Greeley and opened the tap. Like a herd of thirsty elephants, the tankers begin lining up early to fill their steel bellies. In less than 15 minutes, Mr. Edrington's tanker was brimming with leased city water, and he was ready to make the two-hour round trip over gravel roads to a drilling site, where he would empty the tank and turn around for more.

"That's it," he said. "Now I drive away."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity

© alternet.org
Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity
Sept 10, 2012 | Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.

We all have the potential for creativity and there are so many different triggers that can broaden our minds, inspire, and motivate.

Creative people think differently. But why? There is no magic bullet or single pill. We all have the potential for creativity, but there are so many different triggers that can broaden our minds, inspire, and motivate. Of course, there are just as many triggers that can shut down our minds. Since creativity is so important for individual well-being and societal innovation, it's important that we systematically pull the right triggers.

A crucial trigger is the experience of unusual and unexpected events. These events can take many different forms, ranging from the loss a parent to living abroad. But one need not experience any of these specific events to think more creatively. In a recent paper in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Simone Ritter and colleagues propose that any life experience, from the traumatic to the joyful, can lead to flexibility and creativity as long as it diversifies your experiences and pushes you outside your normal thought patterns.

To test their idea, the researchers put people in a virtual reality world where participants took a virtual three-minute stroll through the university cafeteria, and during the course of their walk experienced weird events that violated the laws of physics. In one event, as people walked closer to a suitcase standing on a table, the size of the suitcase decreased, but as they walked away, its size increased. In another event, people were made to feel as though they were walking faster than they really were, and in a third event, as people walked toward a table, a toy car inched closer to a bottle, but when the car actually hit the bottle, instead of falling to the ground it slowly moved upwards!

They also had people take a test of cognitive flexibility where they were required to come up with as many ideas as possible to the question "What makes sound?" Those who generated a greater variety of categories were scored as more cognitively flexible. Those who were actively engaged in the weird virtual-reality world scored higher on the test of cognitive flexibility than a group of people who engaged in a normal version of the virtual world, and higher than a group of people who just watched a film showing the unexpected events. They also found that their results couldn't be explained by differences in positive or negative emotion.

In a second experiment they asked participants to prepare a sandwich with butter and chocolate chips (apparently, this is a breakfast delicacy in the Netherlands, where the study was conducted). Some people were told to prepare the sandwich in an unusual order, first putting chocolate chips on a dish, then buttering the bread, and then placing the bread buttered-side-down on the dish with the chocolate chips. They had another group make the sandwich in the usual order, and another group just watched a video of a person making the sandwich in either the unusual way or the usual way. Again, people who actively made the sandwich in the unusual order scored highest in cognitive flexibility compared with the other groups, and the results couldn't be explained by differences in positive or negative emotion.

These results are provocative and have some important implications. While prior research shows that early traumatic life experiences can be conducive to creativity, thankfully it's not necessary to lose a parent or experience a physical illness to see the world differently. The core feature is actively experiencing a violation of how things are supposed to happen. The results help explain why periods of immigration often precede extraordinary periods of creative achievement: Immigrants bring their own customs and ideas to a new environment, diversifying experiences for everyone.

These results also suggest that if you want to get into a creative mindset, do your normal routine in a completely different way. Write with your other hand. Moonwalk backwards on your way to work. Eat something new for lunch. Smile at strangers. Be weird. With your brain re-shuffled, you'll be in a better position to be creative.

Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist specializing in the development of intelligence, creativity, and personality.

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Nikola Tesla & Atlantean Technology

Tesla & Atlantean Technology
May 24, 2011 |

James McCanney, talks about his book Atlantis to Tesla.

Politics and Plutocrats: A Parade of Inequality

Politics and Plutocrats: A Parade of Inequality
Sept 12, 2012 | Gar Smith

America is currently engaged in the most expensive presidential contest in world history. In the United States, money doesn't just talk - it dictates. How can we hope to make progress on the path to sustainability when the road is blocked by barricades of bullion backed by battalions of billionaires? How do we break through the political gridlock?

Dave Brower's wife, Anne, once put a wise spin on this dilemma. "What we need," she said, is "a cure for greedlock."

Earth's richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This super elite uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favor. In the US, the wealthy dominate our government: 47 percent of US representatives are millionaires, as are 67 percent of US senators. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Congressional wealth has increased 11 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Not only is our economy out of balance with nature, our economy is also out of balance with the practical limits of physical and fiscal reality. As the Occupy movement has indelibly framed it, we are now a society divided not only by haves and have-nots, but we are a nation - and a world - divided into the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Imagine if a tree were engineered like the US economy - with half of its mass centered in the top 10 percent of its height and 40 percent of its mass concentrated in the very topmost branches. Whether redwood or oak, such a tree would not be stable in a windstorm. It would be destined to topple. Of course, nature has better sense.

In 2011, the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) published a report called Outing the Oligarchy designed to focus public attention on "the ultra-rich individuals who benefit most from - and are most responsible for - the growing climate chaos that is destabilizing global ecosystems." It defined them as "a small elite of powerful billionaires who profit from polluting the atmosphere by promoting government policies that support an unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels."

The IFG report illustrated the growing rich-poor gap by visualizing a parade in which all the residents of Canada ambled down a city street on a single day. Let's translate that vision to the US.

Imagine if everyone in America was invited to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Imagine if the parade took just one hour. Imagine if the march began with the poorest people in the lead. Imagine if all the marchers' income levels were indicated by their height. Here's what such a parade would look like:

For the first 10 minutes, the lead marchers (those who survive on only a few thousands dollars a year) look like toddlers, barely a foot tall. Around 15 minutes into the parade, the marchers are not quite so poor: They now stand about three feet tall. This tide of half-sized adults continues for the next 25 minutes. Only after more than two-thirds of the population has surged down the parade route do we begin to see normal-sized marchers (those making an average income). For the next 10 minutes or so, the spectacle resembles a normal parade. Then things start to get really strange.

In the final 10 minutes, we start to see marchers who are wealthier than average: people who are seven, even eight feet tall. In the last six minutes, the marchers loom more than 14 feet tall. With 25 seconds left, the minority of super-rich marchers looks down from a height of more than 30 feet - nearly six times the size of the average marcher; 30 times the size of those who made up the first quarter of the parade.

In the closing seconds of this parade of wealth, the shoulders of some marchers extend thousands of feet into the sky - these are the plutocrats. Finally, bringing up the rear, in the very last second of the march, are the most powerful and dominant members of the power elite - a select band of Godzilla-like oligarchs who look down upon everyone else from an astonishing altitude of 8,000-plus-feet. No wonder the superrich seem so removed and aloof.

Just like the banking system, when something is "too big to fail" it becomes a danger to itself and others. Nature would never tolerate such a system. Nor should we.

Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Are Some of the Most Popular Organic Brands Trying to Take Down Consumer Labeling Efforts?

Photo Credit: Lightspring/Shuttersock.com
Why Are Some of the Most Popular Organic Brands Trying to Take Down Consumer Labeling Efforts?
Sept 12, 2012 | Jill Richardson

You may be surprised by the companies siding with the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dow and other behemoths over the right to know what foods are genetically modified.

Inside the battle over California’s ballot initiative for labeling of genetically engineered foods, Prop 37, is another battle for money. It’s no surprise that more than $14 million of the over $26 million raised to defeat the “Right to Know” labeling initiative is from the biotech industry. And it’s not shocking that the nation’s largest food corporations – PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Del Monte, Kellogg, Hershey, etc. – have kicked in most of the rest.

But then there are some surprises. Companies with no obvious stake in the GE foods labeling battle like Morton Salt, Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Godiva have contributed thousands of dollars. And conscientious shoppers may not be aware that they are buying organic products from brands owned by the companies fighting to defeat Prop 37.

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog organization, recently published an infographic telling which organic brands are owned by major corporations that oppose GE food labeling – as well as which organic companies and brands are supporting the pro-labeling “Right to Know” campaign.

Coca-Cola might not want to label the genetically engineered corn used to make the high fructose corn syrup in its sodas, but it also owns organic and “natural” brands like Honest Tea and Odwalla. Likewise, PepsiCo, owner of Izze and Naked Juice, donated $1.7 million to oppose Prop 37 – more than every other donor except Monsanto and DuPont, and even more than the other four major biotech corporations (Bayer, BASF, Dow, and Syngenta).

Other brands owned by Prop 37-opposing corporations include Lightlife and Alexia (owned by Conagra); Kashi, Gardenburger, Bear Naked, and Morningstar Farms (Kellogg); Cascadian Farm Organic, Muir Glen and Larabar (General Mills); R.W. Knudsen Farms and Santa Cruz Organic (Smucker); and Silk and Horizon Organic (Dean Foods).

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By publishing this information, the Cornucopia Institute made quite a wave. “It's amazing how many emails we've gotten from people saying, ‘I never knew that Kellogg owned Kashi!’ They feel betrayed,” said co-founder Mark Kastel. He adds that consumers might have been in the dark because, “You'll never see General Mills on the label of Glen Muir or Cascadian Farms, you'll see Small Planet Foods,” a practice he finds deceptive.

“People aren't just buying the organic cereal, the organic frozen vegetables,” he continues. “They are buying the story behind the food, and organics has always had this romantic story about stewarding the environment and humane animal husbandry, and one of the reasons consumers assume organic food is more expensive is because economic justice for the farmer is built into the price.” He accuses large corporations with disingenuous organic brands of “farming by press release,” adding that, “It's a lot easier to build a fancy press release and tell how much of your power comes from wind power than it is to deal with many small, family farmers.”

But Cornucopia doesn’t identify itself as “anti-corporate.” Kastel says, “These issues aren't about corporate scale, they are about corporate ethics.” The infographic supports this by identifying a number of organic companies and brands that have donated to the Right to Know campaign, supporting Prop 37 and the labeling of GE foods. These include: Nature’s Path, Amy’s, Annie’s, Dr. Bronners, Nutiva, and more. In fact, since the infographic was initially released, he says some companies have donated to support Prop 37 and then asked Cornucopia to add them to the infographic.

Honest Tea, which was acquired by Coca Cola in 2011, assures customers that it retains 100 percent autonomy, even though its owner is one of the biggest funders of No on Prop 37. Honest Tea points to its own organic certification, its voluntary labeling of its products as free of genetically engineered ingredients, and even its funding of the federal labeling effort, the Just Label It campaign, as evidence of its commitment to the labeling of genetically engineered foods and its independence from its parent company.

The Just Label It campaign, funded by Honest Tea, Horizon Organic, Annie’s, Amy’s, Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and others, focuses its efforts on convincing the FDA to require labeling on all GE foods nationally. Honest Tea says it funds Just Label It but not the pro-Prop 37 Right to Know campaign because it feels the best use of its limited funds is focusing on the national campaign. According to the company, it does not have the funds to devote to smaller, more limited, statewide efforts around the country.

The Right to Know campaign’s co-chair, Dave Murphy, disagrees with this logic. “California is the eighth largest economy in the world,” he says, noting the impact that requiring labeling in this one state will have. Additionally, he lacks faith that the FDA, which has opposed requiring labels of GE foods to date, will be swayed in the near future. On the other hand, a majority of California voters (and a majority of Americans) support GE food labeling, and the ballot measure has a real chance of passing. That said, Murphy is adamant that he does not wish for anyone to boycott any organic products, no matter what their parent company is up to. “That will only hurt the farmers,” he says.

Kastel – a man not known for mincing his words – uses stronger language, calling Just Label It a “damage control scheme” that organic giants set up during a time when they were criticized for agreeing with the USDA’s call for “coexistence” between organics and GE crops. “Their kneejerk response was to thump their chest about how anti-GMO they are.” He adds, “Just Label It accomplished nothing and it never will. As long as we have the campaign finance system we have, it never will.”

The Cornucopia Institute hopes to add a “Missing in Action” section to its infographic, calling out the enormous corporations that have not donated to either side of Prop 37. That list will include Hain Celestial, Stonyfield and Whole Foods. “We're hoping there will be some level of embarrassment,” he says.

Stonyfield’s director of organic and sustainable agriculture, Britt Lundgren, ensures customers that it has endorsed Prop 37. “Although our financial donations have been solely to Just Label It, we support all efforts to require labeling of genetically engineered foods,” she said. “We believe that consumers have a right to know what's in their food and that genetically engineered ingredients are fundamentally different from their non-genetically engineered counterparts and people have a right to make a decision about whether or not they want to consume those foods.”

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So why the choice to fund one and not the other? “Stonyfield invested in supporting Just Label It long before the idea of having a California ballot initiative came to our attention so we made that decision and we invested our funds there,” Lundgren explains. “We only have so much money that we could put toward these things, unfortunately.”

Unfortunately, even though Prop 37 is now polling at 65 percent support, its passage is by no means a slam dunk. So far the campaign in support of labeling has raised $4.5 million, but needs $6 million to $10 million just to try and compete with other side's deep pockets. And money counts, as illustrated by a failed California ballot initiative to tax cigarettes and use the proceeds to fund cancer research that the state voted on in June. It received 67 percent support in March 2012 – before tobacco companies spent nearly $50 million to fight it. By Election Day, June 5, the measure lost narrowly.

It is certain that the food and biotech industries will bury the Prop 37 campaign in a flood of corporate cash. But what is not yet known is whether the Right to Know campaign will receive the resources to counter that cash in time for the election on November 6.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vietnam Vet Leaves This World – To Live in the Trees

“I’ll take the trees – if you please.”
Vietnam Vet Leaves This World – To Live in the Trees
Sept 10, 2012 | Jim W. Dean | Veterans Today

A Green Beret Medic Comes Home in 1974 and after Many False Starts Becomes King of the Tree House World  

“One of the big things in my life was to try to make a living at something that I liked…on that I didn’t sell out on.” …Mike Garnier  

I have a gem for you today folks. Mike Garnier moved to Oregon to put down roots after Vietnam but his desire to make a living working with wood initially ran into one disappointment after another.

Eventually, he raised his sights, literally, to the trees on his property. The rest is now history. He’s the king of Tree House mountain.

Mike owns more tree houses than anyone on the planet. And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, watch the video.


As I began watching the video for the first time myself, I knew right away I was going to feature it on VT just for the great treehouse story alone.

The first bullet quote that had me diving for a notebook was,
“I had to figure out how to make a living off the trees without cutting them down.”
Read more..

 

Our Dangerous Galactic Passage

© NASA
Our Dangerous Galactic Passage
Sept 10, 2012 | Ray Villard

We're only a little more than three months away from the imaginary 2012 End of Times (based on silly misinterpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar). The 2012 doom and gloom folks have glommed onto all kinds of nonsensical predictions where the Milky Way galaxy disrupts us: the passage of the solar system across the galactic plane, or a supposed "grand alignment" with the galactic center will trigger a mysterious and nondescript celestial 'force.'

In reality, our Milky Way really does pose numerous hazards to Earth during the sun's orbital journey around the galactic center. But no future space disaster can be circled on a calendar on Dec. 21 or any other date.

The sun has completed 20 orbits of the galactic hub since Earth formed. Each orbit is called a galactic year -- a vast stretch of time (220 million Earth years) that the Mayans could have never imagined. Whatever cosmic catastrophes might have happened along the way, it has not prevented complex life from arising and evolving on Earth over roughly the past three galactic years. There have been attempts at statistically linking mysterious mass extinctions to cosmic disasters, but we simply don't have enough data, says Colin Norman the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

The reality is that the potential of navigational hazards along our galactic journey lie far into the future over many millions or billions of years. Our distant descendants could come up with strategies to guard against some of these mishaps. However, the biggest threat is from extremely rare energetic events in the galaxy, says Norman.

Killer catastrophes were much more frequent in the Milky Way's formative period, billions of years before Earth was born. Stars were being made at such a voracious rate -- and then quickly exploding -- that the galaxy would have been made uninhabitable by the radiation saturation, says Norman.

This is sobering because we suspect there could be ancient Methuselah planets in the galaxy that might have formed 12 billion years ago (as opposed to Earth's 4.5 billion year birthday). But they would have been sterilized of life by radiation from multiple supernova and hot stellar winds from giant stars.

Over time there have been 1 billion supernovae in our galaxy. They accelerate cosmic rays that irradiate any nearby star systems. Even more devastating are so-called Quimby events. These are an unusual class of extraordinarily powerful supernova that defy conventional explanations for their power generation. It's hypothesized that these super-blasts only happen in very rare stars that are over 100 times the mass of our sun. There could have been 10 million of these popping off in our galaxy to date.

Read more..

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rising Food Prices Continue to Climb, with Prices Up 10% in July Alone

© naturalsociety.com
Rising Food Prices Continue to Climb, with Prices Up 10% in July Alone
Sept 9, 2012 | Lisa Garber

Food prices are rising, and consumers are feeling it. Rising food prices aren’t only hitting America, they are happening around the world. Costs have gone up 10 percent between June and July alone, with corn, soybeans, and wheat reaching record prices. This outpaces the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s estimate of a 6 percent increase.

Rising Food Prices and Vulnerable Populations


While we may all see small changes in the grocery store and in grocery bills, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim says countries reliant on imported grains, especially “Africa and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable.”

The World Bank attributes the price jump mainly to the American heatwave and drought in Eastern Europe, which has hurt corn and soy in the US and wheat in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Use of corn in the production of ethanol in the U.S.—accounting for up to 40 percent of corn crop—has also been blamed for the price jump.

But of course this isn’t the beginning of rising food prices. Costs have been going up for some time now; you can see a food price index we covered around just last Thanksgiving. The food index count, which is an overall score reflecting the total price of the top 6 food commodities, rose to 215 in December of 2010 — up from 90 in the year 2000. Sugar spearheaded the spike, hitting only 2 points away from the 400 mark in December of 2010.

Rice is the only staple that has actually decreased in price (by 4 percent).

G20 Unsympathetic to Those in Need


“We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,” Jim Yong Kim added.

The World Bank is pushing governments to protect at-risk communities, but the G20 group of leading economic powerhouses is waiting until the USDA reveals September estimates for the year’s harvest. Aid group Oxfam decries the “wait and see” approach, but likely to little avail.

Monsanto and Subsidized Farmers


There’s some epic irony at work when Mother Nature wreaks havoc on genetically modified corn, soy, and beet root which have been slowly poisoning consumers for the last decade. Unfortunately, her work also hurts organic farmers trying, as we all are, to desperately make a living.

Millions worldwide will go hungry as food prices rise, but crop insurance will help out subsidized farmers—many of them being the very ones growing Monsanto crops endorsed by the US government.
And who pays for up to 60 percent of insured crops, including GMO and pesticide-riddled varieties? The average taxpayer. So, we have that to think about, too, when we pay a little more for our daily bread.

Additional Sources:

BBC
Natural News
Time

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Real Mars Mysteries for NASA's Curiosity

Real Mars Mysteries for NASA's Curiosity
Sept 8, 2012 |

With the successful landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA scientists will have new opportunities for discovery on the Martian surface. But will investigators be willing to question longstanding assumptions?



Friday, September 7, 2012

Spacing Out: Joe Kiernan talks about strange lights in the South Carolina skies -

Joe Kiernan talks about strange lights in the South Carolina skies -
Sept 7, 2012 |



Joe Kiernan is a resident of North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and he regularly sees mysterious lights in the sky. We talk with Joe about the strange activity in his area. We also talk about a fireball UFO in North Carolina, an upcoming event where military men will talk about UFOs, plus other space and UFO news on this episode of Spacing Out!

Related article:  Mysterious UFOs continue to confuse South Carolina residents

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