Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kon-Tiki explorer was partly right – Polynesians had South American roots

It is probably the most epic journey ever undertaken just to prove a point. Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
17 Jun 2011

Thor Heyerdahl clung to Kon-Tiki, his balsa wood raft, for 4,300 miles to show that Polynesia could have been colonised from South America rather than Asia as commonly thought.

But despite achieving his goal – sustaining his 101 day voyage with sharks caught with his bare hands – the Norwegian failed to sway the scientific community.

Now – 64 years later- new research has finally proved the adventurer was at least partly right after all.

A team of scientists have tested the genetic make up of descendants of the original islanders and found it includes DNA that could have only come from native Americans.

That means that some time before the remote islands – including Easter Island – were colonised by Europeans the locals had interbred with people from South America.

The Polynesian islands are some of the most remote in the world – lying thousands of miles west of South America and thousands of miles east of Asia.

The established theory has always been that Polynesia was colonised via Asia around 5,500 years ago.

This has been backed up by archaeology, linguistics and some genetic studies.

But in 1947, Heyerdahl controversially claimed that Easter Island's famous statues were similar to those at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and sailed a raft from Peru to French Polynesia to prove it could have been colonised from America.

Now Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo in Norway has found clear evidence to support elements of Heyerdahl's hypothesis.

In 1971 and 2008 he collected blood samples from Easter Islanders whose ancestors had not interbred with Europeans and other visitors to the island.

Prof Thorsby looked at the genes, which vary greatly from person to person.

Most of the islanders' genes were Polynesian, but a few of them also carried genes only previously found in indigenous American populations.

Prof Thorsby found that in some cases the Polynesian and American genes were shuffled together, the result of a process known "recombination".

This means the American genes would need to be around for a certain amount of time for it to happen.

Prof Thorsby can't put a precise date on it, but says it is likely that Americans reached Easter Island before it was "discovered" by Europeans in 1722.

Prof Thorsby believes there may have been a Kon-Tiki-style voyage from South America to Polynesia.

Alternatively, Polynesians may have travelled east to South America, and then returned.

However, Prof Thorsby said that his new evidence does not confirm Heyerdahl's theory that the islanders were originally all from South America.

The first settlers to Polynesia came from Asia, and they made the biggest contribution to the population, he said.

"Heyerdahl was wrong but not completely," he said.

The work was presented at a Royal Society talk in London and reported in the New Scientist.

SpongeBob SquarePants Mushroom

A new fungal species has been discovered in Borneo, bright orange and shaped like a sea sponge. It has been named spongiform squarepantsi in honor of everyone's favorite Bikini Bottom resident...

'SpongeBob' Mushroom Discovered in the Forests of Borneo
June 15, 2011

Gulf/BP Cleanup Czar Feinberg Has Denied All Illness Claims

Ada McMahon June 13, 2011

Feinberg says no claims filed on cleanup illnesses," ran an Associated Press headline last week, stirring up more mistrust of the BP claims process among Gulf Coast residents. It is simply not true that sick cleanup workers have not filed medical claims with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), administered by Kenneth Feinberg. Rather, Feinberg and the GCCF appear to be categorically rejecting those claims, saying there is not enough scientific proof that links the illnesses to the BP disaster.

Feinberg told Bridge The Gulf in a recent interview that the GCCF has received "a couple hundred" health claims related to BP cleanup, but has denied all of them for lack of documentation.

What proof do they need?

Feinberg says that the GCCF, which was set up by BP to compensate those impacted by its disaster in the Gulf, would theoretically grant health claims related to the cleanup effort. But he said he has, "reservations about whether those claimants can offer proof," that the BP disaster caused their ailments.

"What proof do they need?," asks Sean Kelley, a cleanup worker whose health claim was denied by Feinberg for insufficient documentation. Kelley had direct exposure to the oil. He removed oil from containment booms and laid boom for nearly two months along the Alabama and Mississippi coast. Kelley believes that exposure to BP's crude oil caused a number of his current health problems, including nausea, headaches, rashes, blurred vision, infections, cardiac issues, and neurological problems like uncontrollable shaking in his limbs, memory loss, and brain fogs that last for hours. He had internal bleeding as well.

Kelley's denied claim included medical bills from multiple doctor visits, and the results of a test showing his blood contains alarming levels of toxins that are found in BP's crude oil.

If it is going to reject claims like his, Kelley says, "[the GCCF] has to come out and say what link and documentation they need."

The GCCF has yet to provide clear guidelines for a cleanup claim it would grant. Even a doctor's note linking an individual's cleanup work to their health symptoms might not be enough, says Feinberg, because the "medical community" needs to agree on the linkage.

The burden of documentation

Advocates on the Gulf Coast wonder how many will go untreated - or even die - waiting for the "medical community" to connect their illnesses with the BP disaster.

"No doctors will help anybody," says Kindra Arensen of Buras, Louisiana. Arnesen, her husband (who worked on the cleanup), and their two children have had infections, respiratory illnesses, headaches, and other ailments since the oil and dispersant disaster began.

Cleanup workers and coastal residents have been diagnosed with acid reflux, stress, and the flu, but seldom chemical poisoning. Some patients say that when they brought up exposure to BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants, their doctors have laughed, refused to do further testing, or privately admitted they can't take on BP.

There are other obstacles to the GCCF process that keep people away from filing claims, medical or otherwise. John Bean, a former clean-up worker, resisted filing a medical claim because he didn't want to sign away his right to sue BP. Giving up that right is a requirement for those who accept a final settlement, which covers all future damages.

Claimants can accept an interim payment without abdicating the right to sue, but that option only reimburses past expenses. This means that people have to pay for expensive medical bills out of pocket, and then hope that the GCCF reimburses them. So far it has not.

This creates a Catch-22 for many sick residents and clean-up workers, Sean Kelley explains; They cannot provide documentation for their claims without tests and doctors visits, but they cannot afford the tests and doctors visits without the GCCF settlement.

Despite these obstacles, John Bean decided to finally file his claim last Friday. Without health insurance, he is facing headaches, diarrhea, vision problems, and a rash that is, "driving me insane." He decided to file because he needs the money for his medical care.

But rather than helping him file a claim, Bean says a GCCF representative told him he had to file for workman's compensation with the cleanup subcontractor he worked for.

Feinberg: BP's agent

"What's the point?" says Kindra Arnesen when asked if she's filed a medical claim with Feinberg. "They're not paying out income claims. So surely they're not going to pay our medical claims," she says. "[Feinberg's] not here for the people of the Gulf. He here's for BP."

Arnesen's point is backed up by the Louisiana District Court, which ruled in February that Feinberg was acting on behalf of BP and had to cease claiming to be neutral. Prior to the order, Feinberg frequently told claimants at Town Hall meetings, "I don't work for BP," and projected the image that he wanted what's best for Gulf Coast residents.

That was just one in a series of missteps that have raised serious concerns about the fairness and transparency of Feinberg's claims process.

Arnesen says that given Feinberg's clear bias, suing is the only chance she has to get BP to redress her family's illness.

Article originally posted on Bridge The Gulf:

Radiation 181 Times Above US Drinking Water Standard

San Francisco Rainwater: Radiation 181 Times Above US Drinking Water Standard
DK Matai, mi2g | Apr. 4, 2011

Radiation from Japan rained on Berkeley, California, during recent storms at levels that exceeded drinking water standards by 181 times. A rooftop water monitoring program managed by the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering detected substantial spikes in rain-borne iodine-131 during those torrential downpours. The levels exceeded federal drinking water thresholds, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels -- or MCLs -- by as much as 181 times or 18,100%. Iodine-131 is one of the most cancer-causing toxic radioactive isotopes spewed when nuclear power plants are in meltdown. It is being ingested by cows, which have begun passing it through into their milk and radioactivity has been detected. [Multiple Sources]

Specific Scientific Data

The iodine-131 level in the rainwater sample taken on the roof of Etcheverry Hall on the campus of UC Berkeley on March 23rd, 2011, from 9:06-18:00hrs Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) states radioactivity levels at 20.1 Becquerels per Litre (Bq/L) = 543 PicoCuries per Litre (pCi/L). The federal maximum level of iodine-131 allowed in drinking water is 3 pCi/L or 0.111 Becquerels per Litre. The sample exceeded the federal guidelines for drinking water by 181 times. The UC Berkeley researchers also discovered trace levels of iodine-131 and other radioactive isotopes, believed to have originated in Fukushima, in commercially available milk and in a local stream within California. [UC Berkeley]

No Official Data Yet

Three weeks after the Fukushima nuclear power plant began spewing radiation into the world’s air, the US government has still not published any official data on nuclear fallout from the Fukushima meltdown. The amount of iodine-131 or other radioactive elements that have fallen as precipitation or made their way into milk supplies or drinking water has not yet been fully revealed. Scientists say an absence of federal data on the issue is hampering efforts to develop strategies for preventing radioactive isotopes from contaminating the nation's food and water. [The Bay Citizen, San Francisco]

Rising Risks

Fukushima radiation is blanketing most of the United States and Canada according to the data and visuals published regularly by the The Norwegian Institute of Air Research. The risks of that radiation falling with rain, have been downplayed by US government officials and others, who say its impacts are so fleeting and minor so as to be negligible. Nonetheless, radiation falling with rain can cover grass that is eaten by cows and other animals. It can also fall on food crops or contaminate reservoirs that are used for irrigation or drinking water. [Norwegian Institute of Air Research or NILU]

Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch -- the nonprofit Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Washington, DC -- sent a letter to President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet and Congress a few days ago urging the US federal government to improve its monitoring of radiation in agricultural land and food in the wake of the Japanese tragedy. The letter from "Food and Water Watch" states: “The three agencies that monitor almost all of the food Americans eat … have insisted that the US food supply is safe . . . the agencies, however, have done very little to detail specific ways in which they are responding to the threat of radiation in food.”


The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states in its April 3rd advisory, "As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said, we do not expect to see radiation at harmful levels reaching the US from damaged Japanese nuclear power plants." The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food safety, has referred questions about potential milk contamination to the EPA, which is taking the lead on testing dairy products for radiation. Early last week, the EPA said it expected to release results of tests for radioactivity in rain and snow within a day or so. Just before the weekend, three days after making that pledge, EPA officials repeated the same statement and said the data would likely be released over the weekend or early this week. So far that data set has not been released. [EPA]


Potentially cancer-causing radiation from Fukushima has been encircling the world, traveling quickly on jet streams high in the atmosphere and falling with precipitation like rain and snow. It is already being detected in air, water and milk in some parts of the United States by local and state agencies. For example, San Francisco rain water radiation levels exceeded federal drinking water thresholds by as much as 181 times recently. A radioactive isotope, such as iodine-131, is supposed to have a half-life of eight days. This is inferred to mean that it breaks down quickly, and it quickly dissipates in the environment. However, the 8 day half-life can be a misnomer because radioactive iodine can really persist in the environment for many months and has a 100 day biological half-life once inside the human body.

Earth facing a mini-Ice Age 'within ten years'

Earth facing a mini-Ice Age 'within ten years' due to rare drop in sunspot activity
16th June 2011

The sun is heading into an unusual and extended period of hibernation that could trigger a mini-Ice Age on Earth, scientists claim.

A decrease in global warming might result in the years after 2020, the approximate time when sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe even decades.

While the effects of a calmer sun are mostly good - there'd be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems - it could see a sharp turnaround in global warming.

An absence of sunspots is not an unprecedented situation. It has happened before, but not since the early 18th century.

Lead researcher Frank Hill, of the National Solar Observatory, said: 'The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show.'

While scientists don't know why the sun is going quiet, all the signs are that it will.

Dr Hill and his team have based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams - weakening sunspots; fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun's corona; and a disappearing solar jet stream.

Dr Richard Altrock, the study's co-author and an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said these three cues show that 'there's a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover'.

Their prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020.

Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots - higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots.

The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth.

Every 22 years, the sun's magnetic field switches north and south, creating an 11-year sunspot cycle.

At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites.

Earlier this month, David Hathaway, Nasa's top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century.

Mr Altrock also thinks the current cycle won't have much solar activity, after tracking streamers from the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere seen during eclipses.

The streamers normally become busy around the sun's poles a few years before peak solar storm activity.

That 'rush to the poles' would have happened by now, but it hasn't and there's no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said.

Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory, another study co-author, said sunspot magnetic fields have been steadily decreasing in strength since 1998.

If they continue on the current pace, their magnetic fields will be too weak to become spots as of 2022 or so, he said.

Jet streams on the sun's surface and below are also early indicators of solar storm activity, and they have not formed yet for the 2020 cycle. That indicates that there will be little or delayed activity in that cycle, said Hill, who tracks jet streams.

There are questions about what this means for Earth's climate. Three times in the past the regular 11-year solar cycle has gone on an extended vacation - at the same time as cool periods on Earth.

Sceptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists.

Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.

Mr Hill and his colleagues wouldn't discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.

'If our predictions are true, we'll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,' he said.

Bigfoot Investigators Hope DNA Test Will Confirm Existence

Bigfoot Investigators Hope DNA Test Will Confirm Existence Of Two Man-Beasts
Lee Speigel

California Bigfoot investigators were shocked over Memorial Day weekend when they found strange markings and hair on their pickup truck windows.

Now, they're hoping DNA tests will prove once and for all the existence of the legendary man-beast.

"On the passenger side window, when I first saw it, I almost threw up," said Jeffrey Gonzalez, an AT&T electronics technician and founder of the Sanger Paranormal Society.

Gonzalez and several others were in California's Sierra National Forest searching for evidence to confirm the reality of the creature. When it started to snow at their campsite, they were forced to leave two of their vehicles behind.

"Two days later, we came back to pick up our vehicles and that's when we found the impressions," Gonzalez told AOL Weird News, recalling what he and his companions noticed on the passenger window.

"Apparently, the creature was looking in the window and left behind dirt and oil on it, leaving such an awesome picture, you can see the nose, the eye, the hair all over the face and the shoulders -- it's creepy, and it's not a bear."

Gonzalez and his friends -- including a former science teacher and a correctional officer -- also found a 12-inch footprint at the site. They concluded their hairy intruder wasn't a bear because none of the four ice chests that were filled with food on the back of Gonzalez's truck had been touched.

But it wasn't just the passenger side window that presented a surprise -- the driver's side of the truck showed the imprint of a much larger creature, strongly suggesting there were two unexplained visitors to the campsite.

"An impression was left of a nose, eyes and lips, but they were extremely large," Gonzalez said. "The lips measured about 6 inches long. You can see that the whole face was full of hair, so when it leaned up against the window, you can see the depth of the eye socket in the glass.

"I've shown people -- non-believers -- this photograph and this totally freaked them out."

After Gonzalez returned home that day, he called a forensic expert to take DNA samples of the fur or hair that was left around the window impressions.

"One of the cautions I have about finding a nose print or anything on the side of a car is that it could be a homeless person, resulting in people letting their imaginations go wild," said Loren Coleman, owner of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

"Of course, if you take a DNA sample and it comes back near-human or primate, then it would match both Bigfoot and a homeless person," Coleman told AOL Weird News.

But what about the addition of the large footprint near the truck where the window impressions were made?

"A 12-inch footprint is not too exciting, because it could be a human or bears imprinting on top of each other," Coleman said.

"In this case, it might not have been a homeless person, but in wilderness areas, there are other hikers and somebody would've naturally put their nose up to the window to look inside the car."

Gonzalez is holding a news conference on June 23 at the Piccadilly Inn in Fresno, Calif.

"I'll be presenting video of both windows, pictures and live testimony from the people who shared the event with me. We will also have a forensic expert who took DNA samples," he said.

Coleman, a long-time investigator of Bigfoot and other legendary creatures that come under the category of cryptozoology, is cautious about the outcome of this kind of news.

"You know, I'd be a fool if I didn't say that I'm hoping there's definitive evidence of Bigfoot found. I hope somebody will turn over any evidence to some scientists who could then hold a news conference at a university.

"Then people won't doubt what's going on."

A 35% Spike in Infant Mortality in Northwest Cities Since Meltdown

June 10th, 2011
Dear Readers,

It is now known that women are more susceptible -- approximately twice as susceptible, or worse -- to radiation's harmful effects than men who get the same dose. Young people are more susceptible than old.

Young children are perhaps ten times as susceptible to radiation's dangers as adults are, because their cells are dividing and establishing themselves. The cells of some organs will continue to divide; but cells such as neurons and heart muscle cells stop dividing at adulthood. Cancer can also get established at this early stage. Cancer usually requires a long sequence of cell changes to occur -- often 10 or 12 or more changes in the cell DNA's structure will have to occur, which can take many years.

Starting early is a very bad thing.

Infants are even more susceptible than young children. Newborns, preemies... immune-challenged... even more so.

Since Fukushima, on the west coast of the United States, our babies are dying at a significantly increased rate (see article, below). Across the country deaths are up as well, though not as much (ibid).

And fetuses. Can we even talk about fetuses? As two cells, separated by space - the sperm and the egg -- "it" is utterly vulnerable! One zap from a nuclear buzzsaw and it's over. So much for the next Einstein! Another Da Vinci? Gone! Oh well, there's millions where they came from, right? (If so, I haven't seen them.)

After the cells start to multiply, they begin "specification", becoming hearts, lungs, brains, bones, intestines, and all the other little warts and dimples that make us who we are as individuals and as a species.

Fetuses vary from "infinitely" more susceptible to radiation's dangers, to thousands of times when they are very small, to "merely" hundreds of times as they grow, to whatever they are at birth -- no one knows precisely. Reasonable estimates can be made. If what is reported below is, indeed, caused by Fukushima, it should surprise no one.

The authors of the article shown below are both friends of mine; I've known them for years. I authored an article or two with one of them. They've both written extensively about the scientific data which condemns nuclear power and been involved in all aspects of research into the dangers of radiation, and are both book authors of wonderful scientific books on the subjects, as well.

They research everything they do very carefully and shoot straight when they talk about it.

They are scientists in the best sense of the word.

Nevertheless, let's hope they're wrong.

If what they report below is even half true, we're all in for a whole lot of hurt. Our babies are taking the "hits" now. We all will in one way or another -- by losing loved ones, if nothing else.

If this anomaly has any other explanation, I challenge anyone to find it. And stop it.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

A 35% Spike in Infant Mortality in Northwest Cities Since Meltdown
Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of Fukushima Fallout?

U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate. While the United States spends billions on medical care, as of 2006, the US ranked 28th in the world in infant mortality, more than twice that of the lowest ranked countries. (DHHS, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2010, Table 20, p. 131, February 2011.)

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.

Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) all of which are taken up in food and water. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart. The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult.

Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.

(Chernobyl ­ Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Alexeiy V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Consulting Editor: Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)

Levels of radioisotopes were measured in children who had died in the Minsk area that had received Chernobyl fallout. The cardiac findings were the same as those seen in test animals that had been administered Cs-137. Bandashevsky, Y. I, Pathology of Incorporated Ionizing Radiation, Belarus Technical University, Minsk. 136 pp., 1999. For his pioneering work, Prof. Bandashevsky was arrested in 2001 and imprisoned for five years of an eight year sentence.

The national low-weight (under 2500 grams, or 5.5 lbs) rate has risen 23% from 1984 to 2006. Nearly 400,000 infants are born under 2500g each year in the U.S. Most of the increase in infant mortality is due specifically to infants born weighing less than 750 grams (1 lb 10 1/2 oz). Multiple births commonly result in underweight babies, but most of the increase in births at less than 750 grams occurred among singletons and among mothers 20-34 years of age. (CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, 52 (12): 1-24, 2005.)

From an obstetrical point of view, women in the age bracket 20 to 34 are those most physically able to deliver a healthy child. So what has gone wrong? Clues to causation are often revealed when there is a change in incidence, a suspicious geographical distribution, and/or an increase in hazards known to adversely affect health and development.

The risk of having a baby with birth defects is estimated at three to four of every 100 babies born. As of 2005, the Institute of medicine estimated the cost of pre-term births in the US at more than $2.6 billion, or $51,600 for each infant.

Low birth weight babies, born too soon and too small, face a lifetime of health problems, including cerebral palsy, and behavioral and learning problems placing an enormous physical, emotional and economic burdens on society as a whole and on those caring for them. Death of a young child is devastating to a family.

As of June 5, 2011, The Japan Times reported that radiation in the No. 1 plant was measured at 4,000 milliseverts per hour. To put that in perspective, a worker would receive a maximal “permissible” dose in 4 minutes. In addition there are over 40,000 tons of radioactive water under that reactor with more radioactivity escaping into the air and sea. Fuel rods are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of reactors 1, 2, and 3.

Tepco, the corporate owner took more than two months to confirm the meltdowns and admitted lying about the levels of destruction and subsequent contamination, resulting in “Public Distrust.” Over 100,000 tons of radioactive waste are on the site.

Why should we care if there may be is a link between Fukushima and the death of children? Because we need to measure the actual levels of isotopes in the environment and in the bodies of people exposed to determine if the fallout is killing our most vulnerable. The research is not technically difficult ­ the political and economic barriers may be greater. Bandshevsky and others did it and confirmed the connection. The information is available in the Chernobyl book. (Previously cited.)

The biological findings of Chernobyl cannot be ignored: isotope incorporation will determine the future of all life on earth ­ animal, fish, bird, plant and human. It is crucial to know this information if we are to avoid further catastrophic damage.

Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life's Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the bookChernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: and

Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group.
** Ace Hoffman, Owner & Chief Programmer, The Animated Software Co.
** POB 1936, Carlsbad CA 92018
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Making the US Economy "Scream"

Friday 10 June 2011
Robert Parry, Consortium News

Modern Republicans have a simple approach to politics when they are not in the White House: Make America as ungovernable as possible by using almost any means available, from challenging the legitimacy of opponents to spreading lies and disinformation to sabotaging the economy.

Over the past four decades or so, the Republicans have simply not played by the old give-and-take rules of politics. Indeed, if one were to step back and assess this Republican approach, what you would see is something akin to how the CIA has destabilized target countries, especially those that seek to organize themselves in defiance of capitalist orthodoxy.

To stop this spread of “socialism,” nearly anything goes. Take, for example, Chile in the early 1970s when socialist President Salvador Allende won an election and took steps aimed at improving the conditions of the country’s poor.

Under the direction of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the CIA was dispatched to engage in psychological warfare against Allende’s government and to make the Chilean economy “scream.”

U.S. intelligence agencies secretly sponsored Chilean news outlets, like the influential newspaper El Mercurio, and supported “populist” uprisings of truckers and housewives. On the economic front, the CIA coordinated efforts to starve the Chilean government of funds and to drive unemployment higher.

Worsening joblessness could then be spun by the CIA-financed news outlets as proof that Allende’s policies didn’t work and that the only choice for Chile was to scrap its social programs. When Allende compromised with the Right, that had the additional benefit of causing friction between him and some of his supporters who wanted even more radical change.

As Chile became increasingly ungovernable, the stage was set for the violent overthrow of Allende, the installation of a rightist dictatorship, and the imposition of “free-market” economics that directed more wealth and power to Chile’s rich and their American corporate backers.

Though the Allende case in Chile is perhaps the best known example of this intelligence strategy (because it was investigated by a Senate committee in the mid-1970s), the CIA has employed this approach frequently around the world. Sometimes the target government is removed without violence, although other times a bloody coup d’etat has been part of the mix.

Home to Roost

So, it is perhaps fitting that a comparable approach to politics would eventually come home to roost in the United States, even to the point that some of the propaganda funding comes from outside sources (think of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.)

Obviously, given the wealth of the American elites, the relative proportion of the propaganda funding is derived more domestically in the United States than it would be in a place like Chile (or some other unfortunate Third World country that has gotten on Washington’s bad side).

But the concept remains the same: Control as much as possible what the population gets to see and hear; create chaos for your opponent’s government, economically and politically; blame if for the mess; and establish in the minds of the voters that they’re only way out is to submit, that the pain will stop once your side is back in power.

Today’s Republicans have fully embraced this concept of political warfare, whereas the Democrats generally have tried to play by the old rules, acquiescing when Republicans are in office with the goal of “making government work,” even if the Republicans are setting the agenda.

Unlike the Democrats and the Left, the Republicans and the Right have prepared themselves for this battle, almost as if they are following a CIA training manual. They have invested tens of billions of dollars in a propaganda infrastructure that operates 24/7, year-round, to spot and exploit missteps by political enemies.

This vertically integrated media machine allows useful information to move quickly from a right-wing blog to talk radio to Fox News to the Wall Street Journal to conservative magazines and book publishing. Right-wing propagandists are well-trained and well-funded so they can be deployed to all manner of public outlets to hammer home the talking points.

When a Democrat somehow does manage to get into the White House, Republicans in Congress (and even in the Courts) are ready to do their part in the destabilization campaign. Rather than grant traditional “honeymoon” periods of cooperation with the president’s early policies, the battle lines are drawn immediately.

In late 1992, for instance, Bill Clinton complained that his “honeymoon” didn’t even last through the transition, the two-plus months before a new president takes office. He found himself facing especially harsh hazing from the Washington press corps, as the mainstream media – seeking to shed its “liberal” label and goaded by the right-wing media – tried to demonstrate that it would be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican.

The mainstream press hyped minor “scandals” about Clinton’s Whitewater real estate investment and Travel-gate, a flap about some routine firings at the White House travel office. Meanwhile, the Right’s rapidly growing media was spreading false stories implicating Clinton in the death of White House aide Vince Foster and other “mysterious deaths.”

Republicans in Congress did all they could to feed the press hysteria, holding hearings and demanding that special prosecutors be appointed. When the Clinton administration relented, the choice of prosecutors was handed over to right-wing Republican Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, who consciously picked political enemies of Clinton to oversee zealous investigations.

Finally Winning

The use of scandal-mongering to destabilize the Clinton administration finally peaked in late 1998 and early 1999 when the Republican-controlled House voted impeachment and Clinton had to endure (but survive) a humiliating trial in the Senate.

The Republican strategy, however, continued into Campaign 2000 with Vice President Al Gore facing attacks on his character and integrity. Gore was falsely painted as a delusional braggart, as both right-wing and mainstream media outlets freely misquoted him and subjected him to ridicule (while simultaneously bowing and scraping before Republican candidate George W. Bush).

When Gore managed to win the national popular vote anyway – and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast ballots were counted – the Republicans and the Right rose up in fury demanding that the Florida count be stopped before Bush’s tiny lead completely disappeared. Starting a minor riot in Miami, the Republicans showed how far they would go to claim the White House again.

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Five Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court – wanting to ensure that the new president would keep their side in control of the courts and recognizing that their party was prepared to spread disorder if Gore prevailed – stopped the counting of votes and made Bush the “winner.”

Despite this partisan ruling, Gore and the Democrats stepped back from the political confrontation. The right-wing press cheered and gloated, while the mainstream news media urged the people to accept Bush as “legitimate” for the good of the country.

For most of Bush’s disastrous presidency, this dynamic remained the same. Though barely able to complete a coherent sentence, Bush was treated with great deference, even when he failed to protect the country from the 9/11 attacks and led the nation into an unprovoked war with Iraq. There were no combative investigations of Bush like those that surrounded Clinton.

Even at the end of Bush’s presidency – when his policies of deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and massive budget deficits combined to create the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression – the prevailing message from the Establishment was that it was unfair to lay too much blame on Bush.

Shortly after Barack Obama took office in 2009, a Republican/right-wing talking point was to complain when anyone took note of the mess that Bush had left behind: “There you go again, blaming Bush.”

Getting Obama

Immediately, too, the Republicans and the Right set to work demonizing and destroying Obama’s presidency. Instead of allowing the Democrats to enact legislation aimed at addressing the financial and economic crisis, the Senate Republicans launched filibuster after filibuster.

When Obama and the Democrats did push through emergency legislation, such as the $787 billion stimulus package, they had to water it down to reach the 60-vote super-majority. The Republicans and the Right then quickly laid the blame for high unemployment on the “failed” stimulus.

There also were waves of propaganda pounding Obama’s legitimacy. The Right’s news media pressed bogus accusations that Obama had been born in Kenya and thus was not constitutionally eligible to be president. He was denounced as a socialist, a Muslim, a fascist, an enemy of Israel, and pretty much any other charge that might hit some American hot button.

When Obama welcomed American students back to school in 2009, the Right organized against his simple message – urging young people to work hard – as if it were some form of totalitarian mind control. His attempt to address the growing crisis in American health care was denounced as taking away freedoms and imposing “death panels.”

Soon, billionaires like oil man David Koch and media mogul Murdoch, were promoting a “grassroots” rebellion against Obama called the Tea Party. Activists were showing up at presidential speeches with guns and brandishing weapons at rallies near Washington.

The high-decibel disruptions and the “screaming” economy created the impression of political chaos. Largely ignoring the role of the Republicans, the press faulted Obama for failing to live up to his campaign promise to bring greater bipartisanship to Washington.

Hearing the discord framed that way, many average Americans also blamed Obama; many of the President’s supporters grew demoralized; and, as happened with Allende in Chile, some on the Left turned against Obama for not doing more, faster.

By November 2010, the stage was set for a big Republican comeback. The party swept to victory in the House and fell just short in the Senate. But Congress was not the Republicans’ true goal. What they really want is the White House with all its executive powers.

However, following Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden on May 2 and with what is widely regarded as a weak Republican presidential field, the Right’s best hope for regaining complete control of the U.S. government in 2012 is to sink the U.S. economy.

Already, the Republican success in limiting the scope of the stimulus package and then labeling it a failure – combined with deep cuts in local, state and federal government spending – have helped push the economy back to the brink where a double-dip recession is now a serious concern.

Despite these worries – and a warning from Moody’s about a possible downgrade on U.S. debt if Congress delays action on raising the debt limit – the Republicans are vowing more brinksmanship over the debt-limit vote. Before acting, they are demanding major reductions in government spending (while refusing to raise taxes on the rich).

A Conundrum

So, Obama and the Democrats face another conundrum. If they slash spending too much, they will further stall the recovery. However, if they refuse to submit to this latest round of Republican blackmail, they risk a debt crisis that could have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy for years – even decades – to come.

Either way, the right-wing media and much of the mainstream press will put the blame on Obama and the Democrats. They will be held accountable for failing to govern.

The Republican propaganda machine will tell the American people that they must throw Obama and the Democrats out of office for stability to return. There will be assurances about how the “magic of the market” will bring back the bright days of prosperity.

Of course, the reality of a new Republican administration, especially with a GOP Congress, would be the return of the old right-wing nostrums: more tax cuts for the rich, less regulation of corporations, more military spending, and more privatization of social programs.

Any budget balancing will come at the expense of labor rights for union employees and shifting the costs for health care onto the backs of the elderly. Yet, all this will be surrounded by intense propaganda explaining the public pain as a hangover from misguided government “social engineering.”

There is, of course, the possibility that the American people will see through today’s Republican CIA-style strategy of “making the economy scream.” Americans might come to recognize the role of the pseudo-populist propagandists on Fox News and talk radio.

Or Republicans might have second thoughts about playing chicken on the debt limit and running the risk of a global depression. Such a gamble could redound against them. And, it’s hard to believe that even their most ardent billionaire-backers would find destruction of their stock portfolios that appealing.

But there can be a momentum to madness. We have seen throughout history that events can get out of hand, that thoroughly propagandized true believers can truly believe. Sometimes, they don’t understand they are simply being manipulated for a lesser goal. Once the chaos starts, it is hard to restore order.

That has been another bloody lesson from the CIA’s operations in countries around the world. These covert actions can have excessive or unintended consequences.

Ousting Allende turned Chile into a fascist dictatorship that sent assassins far and wide, including Washington, D.C. Ousting Mossadegh in Iran led to the tyranny of the Shah and ultimately to an extreme Islamist backlash. Ousting Arbenz in Guatemala led to the butchery of some 200,000 people and the rise of a narco-state. Such examples can go on and on.

However, these CIA-type techniques can be very seductive, both to U.S. presidents looking for a quick fix to some international problem and to a political party trying to gain a decisive edge for winning. These methods can be especially dangerous when the other side doesn’t organize effectively to counter them.

The hard reality in the United States today is that the Republicans and the Right are now fully organized, armed with a potent propaganda machine and possessing an extraordinary political will. They are well-positioned to roll the U.S. economy off the cliff and blame the catastrophe on Obama.

Indeed, that may be their best hope for winning Election 2012.

How the hot dog became the most American food

Served everywhere from Coney Island to the FDR White House, the wiener has come to symbolize our way of life
Felisa Rogers, Eatymology
Saturday, Jun 11, 2011

As the Coney Island boardwalk gives way to textured cement, and traditional Coney Island haunts such as Ruby's and the Cha Cha celebrate their last summer in the shadow of forced demolition, it seems an opportune time to take a look at the history of Coney Island's most iconic emblem: the hot dog.

Although Coney Island is at the epicenter of hot dog history, the dog did not originate on the boardwalk. The lowbrow snack is the bastard American descendant of sausages brought to the New World by immigrants from Germany and Austria (hence the origin of a word that has been getting a lot of press lately: "wiener," which stems from the name of Austria's capital, Vienna, or Wien). Sausage vending was a relatively inexpensive home business for upwardly mobile immigrants, and by the 1860s, the strolling meat purveyors were a fixture of urban street scenes. On September 1894, the Duluth News Tribune described a visit to Chicago:

More numerous than the lunch wagon is the strolling salesman of "red hots." This individual clothed in ragged trousers, a white coat and cook's cap, and unlimited cheek, obstructs the night prowler at every corner. He carries a tank in which are swimming and sizzling hundreds of Frankforters or Wieners. These mysterious denizens of the steaming deep are sold for five cents, which modest charge includes an allowance of horseradish or some other tear-producing substance.
Early frankfurters were prepared in small butcher shops or kitchens and probably featured a coarser grind of meat than does the average modern hot dog, which is the product of emulsifying technology. But it's hard to pinpoint "average." Even today, the definition of "hot dog" is vague: Hot dogs can be made of beef or pork or both, with or without casings. According to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink: "Most hot dogs are made from emulsified or finely chopped skeletal meats, but some contain organs and other 'variety' meats."

The origin of the term "hot dog" is so contentious that there is a 300-page scholarly book on the subject. The author, David Cohen, has been researching the term since 1978. His co-author, the incomparable word sleuth Barry Popik (who is famous in etymology circles for his contributions to the academic study of the word "dude") uncovered the proletarian dog's curiously blue-blooded roots: "Hot dog" was popular slang on the Yale campus in the 1890s; the "dog" was a humorous reference to the dubious origins of sausage meat. As Cohen says, "College students since time immemorial have combined a keen sense of wit with occasional bad taste. Both came into play in referring to a hot sausage as 'hot dog.' The term at first was disgusting, but of course it gradually caught on."

To complicate matters further: Since the publication of Cohen's "Origin of the Term 'Hot Dog,'" an earlier printed reference to hot dogs has emerged: an 1892 article in New Jersey's Paterson Daily Press:

The "hot dog" was quickly inserted in a gash in a roll, a dash of mustard also splashed on to the "dog" with a piece of flat whittled stick, and the order was fulfilled.

Although Germans traditionally serve bread with sausages, our modern hot dog bun may in fact be a product of Coney Island. A 1904 obituary for Ignatz Frischmann describes the Austrian baker as an innovator who experimented until he invented the perfect "Vienna roll" with which to supply Coney Island hot dog vendors. By the time of Frischmann's death, his rolls were indelibly associated with the hot dog. When dealing with such a controversial issue, it's best to get a second opinion. We asked hot dog historian Bruce Kraig (the author of "Hot Dog: A Global History") to confirm the theory, and he said, "I don't see why the Frischmann story can't be true. His creation was emulated by many afterward." In academic terms, that's practically a ringing endorsement.

While it's amusing to imagine academic types devoting a lifetime to the study of "hot dog" etymology, perhaps it's no more ridiculous than anything else. Historians have written treatises on the provenance of Bach's Sonata number 3. Who's to say the humble hot dog should not receive equal attention? The story of the hot dog is the story of the industrious immigrant, the genius of marketing, the creative cook, the boy at the ballpark, the illustrious academic. American nostalgia for the hot dog is almost unequaled: In the popular imagination the hot dog is synonymous with summertime, baseball, camping and, of course, the working man's Riviera.

A Mecca of glittering Americana, Coney Island had it all: racetracks, roller coasters, and legendary amusement parks: Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland, which was ablaze with 1 million electric lights. (On a 1907 visit, Maxim Gorky described Coney Island as a "fantastic city all of fire.") Three rambling luxury hotels catered to the elite, while the Elephant Hotel, which was shaped like an actual elephant (with a cigar store in one leg) had a reputation for prostitution. Prostitutes, dance hall girls, hucksters, gamblers and drunks provided entertainment in other nefarious blocks such as "The Gut," a shantytown in West Brighton, and the Ocean View Walk, a fetid alley nicknamed "The Bowery" because it resembled the dangerous and degenerate Manhattan neighborhood of the same name. While the rich dined on clams at seafood palaces such as Villepigue's, the poor picnicked on sausages from one of the beach resort's many stands.

Charles Feltman is credited with opening Coney Island's first hot dog restaurant, but Kraig debunks the story as a myth, pointing out that Feltman's restaurant was a seafood joint.

"By the 1880s there were many sausage sellers at Coney Island, but Feltman was not one of them. As a good German, he did serve sausages, but in fact he disliked hot dog vendors," Kraig says, adding, "In 1886 he is reported to have railed against sausage stands. Likely the Feltman story came from his association with the great hot dog entrepreneur and publicity genius, Nathan Handwerker."

Handwerker emigrated from Poland and got a job at Feltman's restaurant in 1916. After working there for a year, Handwerker saved enough money to open his own hot dog stand. The hot dogs were produced according to his wife, Ida's, recipe, and Handwerker cooked the dogs on a 12-foot grill. When the subway increased traffic to Coney Island in the 1920s, he was poised to capitalize on the low-budget hordes. Four years after coming to America, Handwerker had founded an empire -- between 1930 and 1950, Nathan's sold up to 50,000 dogs a day. Nathan's dogs are now sold internationally under the slogan "America's Favorite Hot Dog," though I prefer an older Nathan's slogan: "From a Hot Dog to a National Habit."

Like many of our other national habits, the hot dog is complicated. For example, the deep-fried "Texas hot weiner" is not from Texas -- it was invented in Paterson, N.J., by a Greek immigrant who drew on his own cultural roots to create a "Texas chili dog" with a chili reminiscent of Greek spaghetti sauce, savory with slow-cooked meat, cayenne, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cumin. (A dog's historical origins are always disputed -- Pittsburgh, Pa., and Olean, N.Y., also have claims on the Texas hot weiner.)

Meanwhile, the "Coney" should not be confused with a hot dog from Coney Island -- Coneys (chili dogs as interpreted by Macedonian immigrants) are a beloved Midwestern tradition. And "New York System" is the name of a type of dog sold in Providence, R.I. The dog's esteem in the public eye is equally varied. Hot dogs were so indelibly lower class that the Coney Island chamber of commerce attempted to sever the association between hot dogs and Coney Island: In 1913, it passed a resolution forbidding the use of the word "hot dog" on signage. But by 1938, the dog was on the upswing: Eleanor Roosevelt insisted that hot dogs were on the menu when Crown Princess Louise of Sweden picnicked with the Roosevelts on Duchess Hill. Evidently encouraged by the Louise's reaction, the first lady served hot dogs again in 1939, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England visited America. Though the queen ate her hot dog with a knife and fork, the meal was a success. To the embarrassment of some of the royal couple's stuffier cohorts, the king returned for a second helping. The New York Times reported:

It was with some obvious misgivings that Mr. McDermott first conceded ... that the King had eaten hot dogs at the picnic. He said that it was safe to assume that the King had done so since he had announced that he had been looking forward to the chance of sampling the favorite American snack. Later it was ascertained that the King not only came back for more hot-dog sandwiches but that he drank beer with them.
Eleanor's menus prompted the term "hot dog diplomacy," most recently applied to President Obama's dealings with Iran.

There's a hot dog to reflect every facet of America's cultural landscape. In Anchorage, Alaska, reindeer dogs reign supreme. Southerners tout slaw dogs. In Texas you can order a deep-friend coyote tail, or a hot dog wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried. The Tijuana dog (wrapped in bacon and piled with traditional taco toppings and conventional dog condiments) has been slowly migrating across the country since the 1950s. An East Coast variation called the Jersey breakfast dog is served with eggs. The Sonora dog, popular in Arizona, is served on a delicious bolillo (a baguette-like roll that probably stems from the French invasion of Mexico in 1861). During the "exotic" food fads of the 1960s, Chinese hot dogs (dogs wrapped like Chinese dumplings) appeared at dinner parties. Kraig believes that the famous Chicago dog (a steamed poppy seed bun cradling an all-beef dog, topped with tomatoes, minced raw onion, peppers, pickle spear, tomato slices, celery salt and neon relish) is the result of immigrant hot dog vendors in the 1920s who sought to one-up each other by offering insane quantities of toppings. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, you'll find the Philly combo, a kosher-inspired classic that involves an all-beef hot dog and a potato-and-fish cake.

Apart from the variations in actual dogs, the variations in vernacular are equally dizzying: You can eat a dirty water dog (New York/New Jersey 1990s), a pimp steak (Harlem, 1940s), a tube steak (1930s), a red hot (Chicago, 1860s), or just, tellingly, Coney Island chicken.

Felisa Rogers studied history and nonfiction writing at the Evergreen State College and went on to teach writing to kids for five years. She lives in Oregon’s coast range, where she works as a freelance writer and editor.

RIP: Leonard B. Stern

In honor of the death of the creator of Mad Libs, we provide the following obit notice:

[ First Name ] [ Last Name ] , best known for the creation of [ Title ] , died on [ Day of Week ] at a [ Building ] in [ City ] at the age of [ Number ] . A [ Profession ] by trade also known for [ Activity ] on [ TV Show ] and [ Activity ] on [ Movie ] starring [ Actor ] and [ Actress ] .

Awesome Quotes

"Beware of whores who say they don't want money. In the long run these are the most expensive whores what can be got."
William Burroughs

"If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library."
Frank Zappa

“I’ve set my laser from stun to kill.”
“Oh great. If anyone attacks we can blink ‘em to death.”
Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story

"Male menopause is a lot more fun than female menopause. With female menopause you gain weight and get hot flashes. Male menopause — you get to date young girls and drive motorcycles."
Rita Rudner

Retro Photos of the Month

Children's books from the 1950's are so educational!

"I may be a silly," Mr. Bear answered, " but I know when a naughty little girl needs a spanking."

Thanks to Scott Rose of for the photo...


Sambo's Pancakes

Sadly, there is only one left, in Santa Barbara...


Vampirella of Drakulon #1
Beware, Dreamers!
Harris Comics
Jan 1996
Modern Age - USA - English
Comic - 32 pages - $2.95 Writer Archie Goodwin, T. Casey Brennan
Artist Jose Gonzales, Tom Sutton
Colorist Bear Byte Graphics, Brimstone, Kevin Horn
Cover Artist Michael Bair
Cover Colorist Brimstone

Original Ronald McDonald Was Really Creepy

Ben Popken on June 2, 2011

If today's Ronald McDonald looked more like his original incarnation, the McDonald's CEO might have a tougher time defending against those asking for the burger clown's resignation. Have you seen the first Ronald? Played by Willard Scott, he's a clown with a soda cup for a nose and a tray of food as a hat. He also has a food tray attached to his belt which will magically produce three hamburgers in a row on demand. You can see why this Ronald was streamlined into the version we know today. Because he looks like a serial killer.

1963: the introduction of Ronald. Note the meta device of pulling out from the McDonald ad to reveal Ronald is actually watching that ad on a TV set:

Here's one where Ronald skates along and a suspicious child doesn't believe he's who he says he is, or that he should be talking to the clown because his mother told him not to talk to strangers. Ronald allays his concerns by producing three hamburgers in a row out of thin air, which, if you include the one that fell off the clown's head at the beginning, means the kid is eating four hamburgers. Then after that they both go to McDonald's, because Ronald doesn't encourage childhood obesity at all:

In this last ad, released in 1971, Ronald is still played by Willard Scott and has by this time had his food tray hat replaced by a red wig and he has also lost his magic hamburger-producing tray. This ad is for how you can buy little Ronald dolls for only a $1.00 and the dolls hang around the set in an off-kilter mobile. Ronald laughs about how much they look like him. Between the strange closeups, beige backdrop, and static staging, it's quite disturbing. If you'll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to go feed a kitten to an ATM for some reason:

YouTube Clip of the Week: Blue Monk

Thelonious Monk
1963 in Baden-Baden Germany

Strange Disappearances at the Cursed Devil’s Gate Reservoir

This dry, brush-filled flood channel in Pasadena is appropriately named. It’s the scene of some truly diabolical events.

The grim story begins on August 5, 1956, just a few miles east of Devil’s Gate. That day, Donald Lee Baker, a 13-year old Azusan, went for a bike ride with Brenda Howell, 11, from Fort Bragg, who was visiting relatives next door. They headed for the San Gabriel Reservoir that Sunday morning, and were last seen alive that evening.

When they failed to return on Sunday night, their frightened parents notified police, who called out an all-points search for the missing children. Azusa police, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, and hundreds of volunteers combed the suburbs and foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, while Navy frogmen plumbed the 60-foot depths of the reservoir. The only traces of the children found were their bicycles, and Brenda’s jacket.

Donald and Brenda’s disappearance was unsolved until thirteen years later, when a man named Mack Ray Edwards confessed to kidnapping and killing the pair, along with three other children. Edwards, who had helped build Southern California’s freeways, had hidden his victims’ bodies by planting them in highway land that he would pave with asphalt the next day. Convicted and sentenced to death at his own request, Edwards cheated San Quentin’s “Green Room” by hanging himself in his cell in 1970.

But two other young victims are still unaccounted for today, having disappeared in this area under even stranger circumstances. On March 23, 1957, eight-year old Tommy Bowman was hiking on a trail above Devil’s Gate with his family, when he ran a few yards ahead of the others, rounded a corner…and disappeared.

When Tommy’s family searched the brush and repeatedly called his name to no avail, a 400-member search party was sent out, complete with helicopters, mounted patrols, bloodhounds, and professional wilderness trackers. After scouring the entire area for a week, hacking through chaparral and delving crevices and holes just off the trail, the search was called off. Rumors of kidnappers and child molesters were thoroughly investigated, and discounted. Tommy’s disappearance has never been explained or solved.

Yet another child followed Tommy into oblivion just three years later. Six-year old Bruce Kremen was on a hike with his YMCA group not far from where Tommy Bowman vanished, when he began to tire and fall behind the others. Thinking the boy was winded by the exercise and the high altitude, the group leader told Bruce to return to the camp––in plain sight just 300 yards away––and rest. The adult leader then watched Bruce walk the length of the wide, marked trail. When the boy was just yards away from camp, the man rejoined the other children.

But something got Bruce Kremen in those last few steps between the trailhead and the camp. He never made it back, and was never seen again.

Again, a massive search party tore the region apart. Again, there was no evidence of kidnapping or molestation. And again, the San Gabriels claimed a young victim, leaving no clues, no suspects, no remains––and no solution to the cases to this day.

The brutal murders of Donald Lee Baker and Brenda Howell, and the eerie disappearances of Tommy Bowman and Bruce Kremen, led some people to speculate that a curse or jinx hung over Devil’s Gate Reservoir. Much of this speculation centered on the activities of one John Whiteside (Jack) Parsons, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and resident of nearby Pasadena.

Parsons, a brilliant, self-taught rocket scientist whom Werner von Braun called the true founder of the American space program, was also a first-rank occultist. A devotee of Aleister Crowley’s teachings, Parsons joined the infamous English occultist’s Ordo Templi Orientis society in 1941, quickly taking over the group’s Agape Lodge in Los Angeles.

Parsons’ mansion on South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena became the center of Southern California occult bohemia in the 1940s. Notorious for its semi-public “sex magick” ceremonies, chez Parsons was for awhile the home of ex-Navy officer and science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons saw Hubbard, the future founder of Scientology, as a natural magician, and worked with him in a series of strange rituals designed to create a “moonchild”––a sort of anti-Messiah that would overthrow Judeo-Christian civilization, and lead Earth into a new Aeon.

The rituals, which took place in the Southern California outback in late 1946, were said to have opened a portal to another dimension that’s since been a point of entry for all sorts of strange entities. Some occult authors have hinted that the portal is in the Devil’s Gate region, and that the negative energies and beings that pass through it are responsible for the murders and disappearances.

It’s as good an explanation as any other for these tragic, tantalizing events and enigmas.


Nicole S of the Pussycat Dolls

Jennifer Lopez

Christine Hendricks of Mad Men

Kim Kardashian

Blake Lively

Alicia Keys


Megan Fox

Elisabetta Canalis

And the latest entry from Adam Gorightly's campaign for Lindsay Lohan as Prez:

Stoner Cooking: Top Ramen Pizza

Courtesy of
from Dani Fisk
Wrightwood, CA

Hot pizza quick and easy the Top Ramen way!

Cover pizza pan with aluminum foil. Build up foil edges to form about 1/2" tall rim around the pan. Lightly grease the aluminum surface. Cook both packages of Top Ramen noodles in water with pinch of salt. Do not use flavor packets. Drain noodles and set aside. Brown beef, onions and mushrooms together. Drain excess fat. Stir both flavor packets into meat mixture. Set aside. Beat together egg, milk and parmesan cheese. Stir this mixture into Top Ramen noodles. Evenly spread noodle/egg mixture onto pizza pan. Pour spaghetti sauce over noodles. Sprinkle meat mixture over sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden , bubbly brown. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Great for parties!


2 packages Beef Flavor Top Ramen
3 cups water
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 jar spaghetti sauce (15-1/2oz.)
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 pizza pan
aluminum foil

Serves 6

Humor Break: 15 Years Ago & Today...

Duke Nukem, L.A. Noire Released

Fifteen years in the waiting, Duke Nukem Forever was finally released on June 14th, making it the Chinese Democracy of video games. And like the GnR album, the game hasn't lived up to the waiting time according to critics and fans alike. One noted flaw in the game is the ridiculously long loading times. Still, there is something to be said for anything that wallows so shamelessly in politically incorrect humor, and the usage of Billy Squier's "The Stroke" in commercials is the best use of the song this side of Will Ferrell figure-skating as Chazz Michael Michaels.

One game that has lived up to the hype: L.A. Noire, a game set in the city of angels during the '40s by Rockstar Games. No word yet on the follow-up to Grand Theft Auto IV...

Pilger Film Banned By Lannan Foundation

'The War You Don't See'
John Pilger
June 10 2011
Information Clearing House

An open letter to Noam Chomsky and the general public.

Dear Noam

I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, 'The War You Don't See', and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.

Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of 'The War You Don't See', in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website

The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal centre of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.

What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a 'sorry for the inconvenience' from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a 'great honour' it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.

I urge you to visit the Lannan website:

Good people like Michael Ratner, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are shown as participants in discussion about freedom of speech. I am there, too, but my name is the only one with a line through it and the word, 'Cancelled'.

Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily. At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting 'community' in Santa Fe. Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where 'The War You Don't See' was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was forthcoming, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican, which was forced to drop a major feature.

There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organisation, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.

With warm regards

John Pilger

LeBron James and the Quote Heard Round the World

Dave Zirin | June 13, 2011

The most polarizing athlete in sports, playing for the most polarizing team, just gave us the most polarizing post-game quote in living memory. Lebron James, after his Miami Heat lost the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, and after playing profoundly beneath his Herculean stature, said the following:

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point."

Damn. Those who aren’t sports fans — or I guess it’s more appropriate to say, “fans of the many soap operas that swirl around sports” might not realize what a break from the book of clich├ęs this statement represents. Most post-game comments are so polished and filed down, they’d make a Mitt Romney speech look edgy. Players routinely behave for the cameras like they just graduated from the Madeira School for Girls. It’s like athletes went to a Meet the Press seminar on “how to say nothing.”

After last night’s crushing loss, Lebron’s All-Star teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were predictable portraits of propriety. Wade said, “First of all we give credit to the Dallas Mavericks…. We ran into a team that was obviously better than us.” Lebron, after a season that saw him ditch his hard-luck teammates in Cleveland, take his talents to South Beach, and transition from hero to heel, chose to go a different route.

As one could imagine, he is getting crushed across the sports columns and the interwebs for letting the mask slip and speaking his mind. It's being read as the ultimate statement of the “spoiled, arrogant” athlete. One headline read, “Lebron: reminding you that he's super rich and you're not.” Jalen Rose on ESPN said, "He needs to learn to speak to the media. He puts his foot in his mouth time and time again.” The NBC sports site Pro Basketball Talk blared the headlined, LeBron has a few arrogant words for those who hate him [1]. Writer Kurt Hellin wrote, “LeBron is never going to win over many of those haters. But calling them jealous loses some on the fence.... Lebron has a long line of public relations blunders in the past year. You can add this one to the list.”

When I read Lebron's words, frankly, I did a triple take. It’s practically a pro-wrestling quote designed to bring audience "heat" as an end unto itself. I kept thinking of former WWE heel Rick Rude starting matches by saying, “What I'd like to have right now is for all you fat, out of shape, [insert city] sweat-hogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show all the ladies what a real man is supposed to look like." But even in the scripted world of professional wrestling any heel knows that you rile people up before matches, not after.

There's little point in mining Lebron’s psyche for his intentions. Was he being defensive? Insensitive? Even cruel? I have no clue and don't really care. But I do think the quote deserves examination on its own terms. How can we deny the truth that many of us look to sports as a distraction from the trials and tribulations of our own lives? How can we deny that the reason so many of us read the sports page before the front page is that one is both bearable and comprehensible while the other simply isn’t?

We live in a crumbling nation with epic unemployment, two million people behind bars, and vast wealth inequality, while being told that we inhabit the best country on earth and to think otherwise is heresy. In such a world, sports become more than an escape: it’s a refuge. It’s much easier - and emotionally manageable - to hate Lebron James than face our collective future.

Make no mistake, I'm not arguing that Lebron James was trying to point out the way sports deflects attention from other realities. I don’t put his comments in league with another hated athlete, Barry Bonds, who in 2005, asked why Congress had time to investigate steroids while people were dying in New Orleans. But his words should give us pause. There’s nothing wrong, in my view, with sports being a sweet evening escape from the problems that face us the next morning. There is something wrong with seeing athletes as avenues for our aggression when the real culprits exist outside the arena.

Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at

Mark Cuban: Coolest Owner in Sports

The victory of the Dallas Mavericks over the Miami Heat in the NBA finals has largely been portrayed as a deserved vindication of Dirk Nowitzki, and rightly so. But the one guy besides Dirk who probably deserves applaud is owner Mark Cuban, who has confirmed he is the coolest owner in sports since Eddie DeBartolo ruled San Francisco.

The Konformist isn't big on gushing over billionaires, and our position still is even the best owner is basically deadweight. But as far as deadweight billionaires go, Cuban is definitely a king of kings.

Haters say Cuban is obnoxious and arrogant. This is true. But he's the one owner who clearly is in sports not for the money but the love of sports. And two post-victory actions tell you what he is made of. One, he decided to cover the costs of the Maverick's victory parade rather than pawn it off to the cash-strapped metropolis. Two, perhaps more telling but less noticed, he left a $20K tip for the staff on a $90K bar tab on victory night. This was at a club in Miami, BTW, and not in Dallas.

Hopefully he will soon join the fraternities of owners in the NFL, MLB and NHL. Sports needs guys like him...

Mark Cuban will pay for your $110,000 bar tab. And your parade
Kelly Dwyer
Tue Jun 14, 2011

Whitesnake Zinfadel

White Zinfadel has the rep of being a chick wine, but that may change thanks to David Coverdale and his leather-clad band. Their concoction, cleverly named Whitesnake Zinfadel, is as sweet going down as an 80s era heavy metal ballad, but like any Whitesnake ballad, the makers justify by being too badass to dismiss as pussies. So drink up, and if anybody mocks you, revenge will come when you're banging Tawny Kitaen.

Featured Product:
2008 Zinfandel,
Russian River Valley

"It's a bodacious, cheeky little wine, filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness... I recommend it to complement any & all grown up friskiness & hot tub jollies...

Is this love? I believe it is..."

David Coverdale, Whitesnake

$32.00 /bottle, 12 btl maximum per customer*
Save on shipping within the U.S.: Order 3 bottles, only pay shipping for 1.
*Due to prohibitive shipping costs, international orders are not available.