Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CFS to sue USDA for deregulating GM alfalfa

Ethan A. Huff
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
http://www.naturalnews.com/031357_GM_alfalfa_Center_for_Food_Safety.html

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) recent decision to fully deregulate Monsanto's genetically-modified (GM) alfalfa, despite its own findings that doing so will contaminate non-GM and organic agriculture, is a landmark decision that illustrates just how deeply embedded Monsanto has burrowed within the U.S. government. But the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a group that has won numerous cases against GM crops, is gearing up to file a lawsuit against the USDA for this decision, and hopefully reverse it like it has many other decisions. But CFS needs your help to make that happen.

The USDA first approved GM alfalfa back in 2005, but that decision was eventually reversed in 2007 after being challenged in a California court. The court ruled that until a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was conducted, the crops could not be planted. Monsanto, of course, tried to challenge this decision, but CFS and others worked hard to prevent the ban from being lifted, and they succeeded for many years.

CFS also played a crucial role in reversing the decision to allow GM sugar beets to be planted. CFS sued both the USDA and Monsanto over the crop, which just like GM alfalfa was not approved with a proper EIS. CFS won the case and for the first time in history, a judge actually made a ruling ordering that a GM crop be uprooted and destroyed because it was illegally planted.

Time and time again, the USDA, Monsanto, and others have tried to sidestep the law and do what they please, but CFS and other like-minded groups have fought hard to hold them responsible for their illegal actions. And they have been victorious in many of these cases.

NaturalNews recently covered the story of Whole Foods and a few other companies that are petitioning their customers to challenge the USDA's deregulation decision. But the challenge they are pursuing involves a partial deregulation, or "coexistence" plan, that all available evidence says will be a failure.

Instead, CFS plans to sue the USDA outright for its irresponsible decision to deregulate, and ultimately the group intends to stop any and all plantings of GM alfalfa. This plan of action is one that we fully support.

The Cause of Acne

It's confirmed. Dairy products and sugar cause acne.
As our sugar and dairy consumption has increased over the last 100 years so has the number of people with acne. We now have over 17 million acne sufferers, costing our health care system $1 billion a year, and 80-90 percent of teenagers suffer acne to varying degrees. The pimply millions rely on infomercial products hawked by celebrities or over-the-counter lotions, cleansers, and topical remedies. Recent research suggests that it's not what we slather on our skin that matters most but what we put in our mouth.

Many have suggested a diet-acne link, but until recently it has not been proven in large clinical studies. Instead dermatologists prescribe long-term antibiotics and Accutane, both of which may cause long-term harmful effects. In 2009, a systematic review of 21 observational studies and six clinical trials found clear links. Two large controlled trials found that cow's milk increased both the number of people who got acne and its severity. Other large randomized prospective controlled trials (the gold standard of medical research) found that people who had higher sugar intake and a high glycemic load diet (more bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugar, and flour products of all kinds) had significantly more acne. The good news is that chocolate (dark chocolate that is) didn't seem to cause acne.

The dietary pimple producing culprits--dairy and sugar (in all its blood sugar raising forms)--both cause spikes in certain pimple producing hormones. Dairy boosts male sex hormones (various forms of testosterone or androgens) and increases insulin levels just as foods that quickly raise blood sugar (sugar and starchy carbs) spike insulin.

Androgens and insulin both stimulate your skin to make those nasty, embarrassing pimples. One patient recently told me he would give a million dollars for a pill to cure acne. He doesn't need to. It seems that for many the cure to acne is at the end of their fork, not in a prescription pad...

Stay Away from Dairy and Avoid Acne

One scientist referred to milk as a "complex aqueous, suspended fat, liposomal, suspended protein emulsion". What we do know is that milk is designed to grow things--namely, babies--and in the case of cow's milk, calves. It is naturally full of what we call anabolic hormones (the same ones that body builders and A Rod use to grow big muscles, and which cause bad acne). These are mostly androgens (like testosterone) and growth hormones including insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). There is no such thing as hormone-free milk.

Here's a short list of the 60-some hormones in your average glass of milk--even the organic, raw, and bovine growth hormone free milk:

•20a-dihydropregnenolone
•progesterone (from pregnenolone)
•5a-pregnanedione
•5a-pregnan-3ß-ol-20-one, 20a- and 20ß-dihydroprogesterone (from progesterone)
•5a-androstene-3ß17ß-diol
•5a-androstanedione
•5a-androstan-3ß-ol-17-one
•androstenedione
•testosterone
•dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate acyl ester
•insulin like growth factors 1 and 2 (IGF-1 and IGF-2)
•insulin

This is what our government suggests we drink in high doses--at least 3 glasses a day for me, a healthy adult male, according to the mypyramid.gov website. Those guidelines have been strongly criticized by many including leading nutrition scientists from Harvard such as Walter Willett and David Ludwig.

The famous Nurse's Health Study examining health habits of 47,000 nurses found that those who drank more milk as teenagers had much higher rates of severe acne than those who had little or no milk as teenagers. If you think it is the fat in milk, think again. It was actually the skim milk that had the strongest risk for acne. In other studies of over 10,000 boys and girls from 9 to 15 years old, there was a direct link between the amount of milk consumed and the severity of acne.

It appears that it is not just the anabolic or sex hormones in milk that causes problem but milk's ability to stimulate insulin production. It actually may be the lactose or milk sugar in milk that acts more like a soft drink than an egg. Drinking a glass of milk can spike insulin levels 300 percent. Not only does that cause pimples, but it also may contribute to prediabetes. This is true despite studies funded by the dairy council showing that milk helps with weight loss. The question is compared to WHAT diet--a diet of bagels and Coke, or a healthy phytonutrient, antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet with lean animal protein?

Stay Away from Sugar, Refined Carbs, and Pimples

If a glass of milk causes pimples, that may drive you back to your Pepsi. But not so fast. Recent studies also show that sugar and refined carbs (a high-glycemic diet) cause acne. More importantly, taking kids off sugar and putting them on a healthy, whole foods, low-glycemic load diet resulted in significant improvements in acne compared to a control group eating a regular, high-sugar American diet. In addition to less pimples, the participants lost weight, became more sensitive to the effects of insulin (resulting in less pimple-producing insulin circulating around the blood). They also had less of the sex hormones floating around their blood that drive pimples. We know that women who have too much sugar and insulin resistance get acne, hair growth on their face, hair loss on the head, and infertility. This is caused by high levels of circulating male hormones and is called polycystic ovarian syndrome but is a nutritional, not gynecologic disease.

But the dietary influences don't stop there. It is not just sugar, but the bad fats we eat that may also contribute to acne...

How To Prevent and Treat Acne

Eight simple steps will help most overcome their acne problems.

1. Stay away from milk. It is nature's perfect food--but only if you are a calf.

2. Eat a low glycemic load, low sugar diet. Sugar, liquid calories, and flour products all drive up insulin and cause pimples.

3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. People who eat more veggies (containing more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds) have less acne. Make sure you get your 5-9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day.

4. Get more healthy anti-inflammatory fats. Make sure to get omega-3 fats (fish oil) and anti-inflammatory omega-6 fats (evening primrose oil). You will need supplements to get adequate amounts (more on that in a moment).

5. Include foods that correct acne problems. Certain foods have been linked to improvements in many of the underlying causes of acne and can help correct it. These include fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods such as berries, green foods like dark green leafy vegetables, and omega 3-eggs.

6. Take acne-fighting supplements. Some supplements are critical for skin health. Antioxidant levels have been shown to be low in acne sufferers. And healthy fats can make a big difference. Here are the supplements I recommend:

•Evening primrose oil: Take 1000 to 1500mg twice a day.
•Zinc citrate: Take 30 mg a day.
•Vitamin A: Take 25000 IU a day. Only do this for three months. Do not do this if you are pregnant.
•Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols, not alpha tocopherol): Take 400 IU a day.

7. Try probiotics. Probiotics also help reduce inflammation in the gut that may be linked to acne. Taking probiotics (lactobacillus, etc.) can improve acne.

8. Avoid foods you are sensitive to. Delayed food allergies are among the most common causes of acne--foods like gluten, dairy, yeast, and eggs are common culprits and can be a problem if you have a leaky gut.

Following these simple tips will help you eliminate acne and have that glowing skin you have always dreamed of. And it's much cheaper (and safer) than expensive medications and dermatologist visits. Improve your diet and take acne-fighting supplements and you will watch your pimples disappear.

For more information on how to optimize your nutrition and improve your skin, see www.drhyman.com.

Acne: Are Milk and Sugar the Causes?
Mark Hyman, MD.
February 12, 2011
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/do-milk-and-sugar-cause-a_b_822163.html

Exoplanet List to Smash Over 1000?


From Scientific American:

Thirty million kilometers away, trailing the pale blue dot that is Earth as it orbits the sun, is a spacecraft designed to find some of the countless other pale blue dots that may speckle the galaxy. NASA launched this spacecraft, known as Kepler, in 2009 to take a census of Earth-like planets in the hopes of figuring out how common—or how rare—are the conditions under which life has thrived here.

Just over halfway into that 3.5-year campaign, Kepler has not been on the job long enough to conclusively identify any habitable worlds, but its discoveries are growing ever more tantalizing. In a field where small is good—small meaning less like Jupiter and more like Earth—the latest batch of planets netted by the space observatory includes five of the eight smallest worlds now known outside the solar system. All five of the new extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, as well as one more world whose properties are not yet fully understood, orbit a sunlike star called Kepler 11, some 2,000 light-years away. A group of researchers announced the discovery of the six-planet Kepler 11 system in the February 3 issue of Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

Almost simultaneously, the Kepler team was preparing a list of more than 1,200 additional objects the spacecraft has located that may also be planets. "We have a huge number of candidates," says Kepler's principal investigator, Bill Borucki of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "It's very exhilarating," says Borucki, who first put forth the idea for Kepler in 1984 and proposed the concept several times before getting NASA's approval and funding. The data on the numerous candidates are somewhat preliminary and require validation, but a new analysis by a pair of astrophysicists at the California Institute of Technology suggests that the percentage of false positives among Kepler's candidate planets may be less than 10 percent.

If that is the case, then Kepler is well on its way to vastly augmenting the roster of known exoplanets, of which there are now 500 or so, and may have already gotten a whiff of several potentially habitable worlds. "We have 54 planets in the habitable zone of their stars," Borucki says, referring to the temperate orbital zone around a star that would allow for the existence of liquid water on a planet. "One of them is 0.9 times the radius of the Earth, and four of them are less than two Earth radii." Any of those would be the most Earth-like world ever detected outside the solar system. What is more, some of the larger, more Jupiter-like planets Kepler is sniffing at in the habitable zone might have moons, and some of those satellites would themselves be potentially habitable. "It's sort of awesome," Borucki says of Kepler's haul. "The implications are that there are an awful lot of planets out there."

A Wealth of Worlds: Kepler Spacecraft Finds 6 New Exoplanets and Hints at 1,200 More
John Matson
February 2, 2011
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=kepler-11-thousands-extrasolar-planets

New Planet in Solar System?

From the UK Independent:
If you grew up thinking there were nine planets and were shocked when Pluto was demoted five years ago, get ready for another surprise. There may be nine after all, and Jupiter may not be the largest.

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth's, and 375 times farther than Pluto's, which is why it hasn't been seen so far.

But scientists now believe the proof of its existence has already been gathered by a Nasa space telescope, Wise, and is just waiting to be analysed.

The first tranche of data is to be released in April, and astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think it will reveal Tyche within two years. "If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels," Professor Whitmire said. "And that's not easy at our age."

Once Tyche has been located, other telescopes could be pointed at it to confirm the discovery.

Whether it would become the new ninth planet would be decided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The main argument against is that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the Sun's gravitational field. The IAU may choose to create a whole new category for Tyche, Professor Matese said.

The IAU would also have the final say about the gas giant's name. To the Greeks, Tyche was the goddess responsible for the destiny of cities. Her name was provisionally chosen in reference to an earlier hypothesis, now largely abandoned, that the Sun might be part of a binary star system with a dim companion, tentatively called Nemesis, that was thought responsible for mass extinctions on Earth. In myth, Tyche was the good sister of Nemesis.

Tyche will almost certainly be made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and will probably have an atmosphere much like Jupiter's, with colourful spots and bands and clouds, Professor Whitmire said. "You'd also expect it to have moons. All the outer planets have them," he added...

Up telescope! Search begins for giant new planet
Paul Rodgers
Sunday, 13 February 2011
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/up-telescope-search-begins-for-giant-new-planet-2213119.html

The Dark Origins Of Valentine's Day


Arnie Seipel
February 13, 2011
http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate romance and love and kissy-face fealty. But the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually dark, bloody — and a bit muddled.

Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them.

Those Wild and Crazy Romans

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics "were drunk. They were naked," says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, "It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn't stop it from being a day of fertility and love."

Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin's Day. Galatin meant "lover of women." That was likely confused with St. Valentine's Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.

As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages.

Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.

Today, the holiday is big business: According to market research firm IBIS World, Valentine's Day sales reached $17.6 billion last year; this year's sales are expected to total $18.6 billion.

But that commercialization has spoiled the day for many. Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, says we have only ourselves to blame.

"This isn't a command performance," she says. "If people didn't want to buy Hallmark cards, they would not be bought, and Hallmark would go out of business."

And so the celebration of Valentine's Day goes on, in varied ways. Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their beloveds. Others will celebrate in a SAD (that's Single Awareness Day) way, dining alone and binging on self-gifted chocolates. A few may even be spending this day the same way the early Romans did. But let's not go there.

Hard Lessons from the HuffPost Sale

Robert Parry
February 11, 2011
http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/021111.html
U.S. progressive media has had a tough few weeks. First, Keith Olbermann, the pioneer for liberal programming during MSNBC’s evening hours, was sent packing. Then, Arianna Huffington allowed AOL to subsume her Huffington Post into AOL’s right-of-center content for the price tag of $315 million.

Leftist bloggers who had provided free content to Huffington Post, enabling it to become a valuable property, found themselves quite literally sold out, with Huffington pocketing $18 million while making clear that she won’t battle for the liberal banner inside AOL.

Huffington joined with her new boss, AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong, to declare that their focus will be on how many eyeballs can be drawn to AOL, not in pushing progressive causes.

"Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers' needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people," Armstrong said.

For her part, Huffington noted that her Web site was already shedding its political identity, providing more celebrity news and scandal stories, including a new section devoted to divorces. While about half of the traffic was on politics a couple of years ago, she said, that is now down to about 15 percent with only one of two dozen “sections” centered on politics.

Huffington, who burst onto the national stage in the 1990s as a right-wing talker denouncing President Bill Clinton, indicated in the wake of the sale to AOL that she may be shifting her ideology again.

"It's time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right," Huffington told PBS's "NewsHour." "Truly, it is an obsolete way of looking at the problems America is facing."

As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, Huffington used almost the same words when she changed her political colorations a decade ago. In 2000, she told Fox News, "The old distinctions of right and left, Democrat, Republican, are pretty obsolete."

Milbank wrote: “Anybody who expects her to continue as a reliable voice of the left is a poor student of Huffington history. I first came across Huffington in 1995, when she was working at [Newt] Gingrich's Progress and Freedom Foundation, preaching social consciousness to fellow conservatives.

“She railed against ‘big government’ and pronounced: ‘We do our part and God meets us halfway. That's why I'm a conservative.’ That version of Huffington called for strict immigration restrictions. She favored Bill Clinton's resignation and floated the rumor that a former ambassador had been buried in Arlington because Clinton had slept with his wife.”

She thrived as a rightist talking-head during the height of the Clinton-bashing in the 1990s, decrying his marital infidelity even as her own marriage to Rep. Michael Huffington, R-California, had the look of a political arrangement. She divorced the multimillionaire Huffington in 1997, shortly before he disclosed that he was bisexual.

A Second Divorce

Emerging from the divorce with a sizeable settlement, Arianna Huffington also separated from her right-wing ideological family. She moved leftward, filling what turned out to be a lucrative void as an outspoken leader of Hollywood's liberal community.

While many on the Left embraced Huffington’s ideological transformation then – with some wealthy progressives contributing substantial sums to her liberal projects – others remained skeptical, in part, because she never fully explained the reasons for her political shift.

She spoke only generally about how the Right had "seduced, fooled, blinded, bamboozled" her. But some of her critics saw instead an opportunistic calculation in her chameleon-like approach to politics.

In 2005, Huffington founded Huffington Post, which operated with a business model that relied on activists, politicians and entertainers contributing free content. The Web site soon became an important center for progressives critical of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Over time, Huffington Post also featured gossipy articles about popular celebrities. Like other left-of-center sites, such as Salon.com, those stories often emerged as the best-read, encouraging a further drift in that direction as a means of securing advertising dollars.

The commercial success of Huffington Post – resulting from its low overhead due to the work of some 3,000 bloggers writing for free and from Huffington’s effective self-promotion – caught the eye of Wall Street investors and obviously AOL.

Though AOL generally provides right-of-center news content to subscribers – for instance, AOL joined in last week’s hagiography of Ronald Reagan – its management concluded that it could do business with Arianna Huffington.

The sale of Huffington Post to a corporation that positions itself in the right branch of the mainstream media – what many on the Left deride as the MSM – upset a number of the site’s bloggers, including some who vowed to withdraw their work.

A Twitter account, called #HUFFPUFF, urged “jammers, creatives and revolutionaries” to strike back at Huffington’s sell-out. “Arianna Huffington has betrayed us,” the message declared, “so let’s huff and puff her house down.”

The broadside continued: “Socialite Arianna Huffington built a blog-empire on the backs of thousands of citizen journalists. She exploited our idealism and let us labor under the illusion that the Huffington Post was different, independent and leftist. Now she's cashed in and three thousand indie bloggers find themselves working for a megacorp.

“But the Huffington Post is not Arianna's to sell. It is ours: the lefty writers and readers, environmentalism activists and anti-corporate organizers who flooded the site with 25 million visits a month. So we're going to take it back. We'll stop going to her site. And we'll stop blogging for her too.”

In another big disappointment to progressives, Olbermann abruptly left MSNBC last month, announcing his departure in a brief signoff at the end his regular Friday broadcast of his “Countdown” program. Olbermann’s unceremonious push out the door would never have been matched by Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing Fox News toward its media stars.

In that way, Olbermann’s treatment was a reminder to the surviving liberal hosts on MSNBC – the likes of Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz – that they are expendable, too, and that MSNBC experimented with liberal-oriented programming only after its attempts to out-Fox Fox had failed.

In his nearly eight years at “Countdown,” Olbermann was the brave soul who charted the course for other mainstream media types to even mildly criticize Bush. More typical of NBC Universal’s cable shows was the fawning treatment that Chris Matthews afforded Bush in 2003 during the heady days of what was viewed as the victorious invasion of Iraq.

Fish to Fry

NBC’s owner, General Electric, was a charter member of the military-industrial complex and – as a major international conglomerate – had more corporate fish to fry than the modestly higher ratings that Olbermann provided MSNBC. Comcast, the cable giant which is assuming a majority stake in NBC Universal, similarly has more lucrative interests amid the regulatory world of Washington.

This week, Olbermann announced that he would become “chief news officer” at former Vice President Al Gore’s “Current Media,” a struggling media operation that is available mostly over the Internet and in households with digital cable connections.

“Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news produced independently of corporate interference,” Olbermann told reporters. “In Current Media, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have created the model truth-seeking entity.”

Though Olbermann may draw new attention and more viewers to Current, the overall impact of his departure from MSNBC is that far fewer Americans will have access to Olbermann’s influential commentaries which were important in rallying progressives especially during the peak of Bush’s power.

A lesson for progressives from AOL’s purchase of Huffington Post may be that they should be a bit more leery of converts from the Right, especially those who don’t explain adequately what led to their ideological switch.

While liberals seem especially eager to reward ex-conservatives by lavishing them with financial and other support, progressives might consider showing their generosity more to people who have proven their commitment to worthy causes or honest journalism with years of hard work.

All these points, however, go back to the overall weakness of progressives in the field of media. If a powerful liberal cable network did exist, MSNBC might have had second thoughts about treating someone like Olbermann so high-handedly, since he could jump to a competing channel that could badly dent MSNBC’s ratings.

Similarly, progressives behaved in an overly credulous manner toward Arianna Huffington, thrilled that someone with such an outsized media profile – gained from her service as a foot soldier in the right-wing war on Clinton – would turn the bright light of her celebrity on liberal causes and create a home for progressive content.

Having suffered these recent painful reminders of where they really stand in the thinking of corporate media, progressives may want to rethink their own media strategies, forgoing shortcuts and returning to the difficult work of building an effective media infrastructure.

For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege, which are now available with Neck Deep, in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.

Robocop Statue in Detroit


Is there a better way to revitalize Detroit than to make a statue celebrating a human-slaying cyborg cop? Nope.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Good news, sci-fi fans: RoboCop is headed to Detroit.

Just six days after raising donations on the Internet, a group of local artists and fans of the 1987 cult classic exceeded the fund-raising goal of $50,000 this morning to build a larger-than-life sculpture of the crime-fighting cyborg.

With 1,500 donations and hundreds pouring in every day at www.detroitneedsrobocop.com, the group plans to continue raising money until the March 29 deadline to make the statue of "as big and good as possible," said Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf, who is helping raise donations.

"This could be a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar KickStarter," Paffendorf said, referring to the online service hub for ideas looking for funding. "It's remarkable."

The statue has set off debates about the artistic value of a RoboCop statue. Some complain that the movie, about a dystopian, crime-ridden Detroit, would hurt the city's image.

Others said it's a fun way to bring more attention to the struggling, but resilient city...

Sci-fi fans, rejoice: RoboCop statue coming to Detroit
Steve Neavling
Feb. 16, 2011
http://www.freep.com/article/20110216/NEWS01/110216015/Sci-fi-fans-rejoice-RoboCop-statue-coming-Detroit

Drawing of the Week


A sketch of Greg Bishop from The Excluded Middle zine fame:

"I had an itching fit on my nose from nervousness at a lecture and a woman gave me this drawing afterwards, showing the locations of alien implants in my face. She said when I spoke the truth, the aliens activated the implants, causing me to itch and get red."

Who Made The Whoopie Pie?

From the Wall Street Journal:
At the weekly Root's Country Market here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, everyone seems sweet on whoopie pies.

The frosting-filled, hamburger-size sandwiches sell like crazy. More than 1,000 are sold at the Burkhart's Bakery stand every day it's open.

"They originated here," says owner Judy Burkhart.

The whoopie lobby in Maine begs to differ. Though better known for blueberries and lobster, Maine is hoping to lay claim to the pies with a proposal to anoint them the official state dessert. A legislative committee may vote on it Monday.

The result is an interstate whoopie pie fight.

"Save Our Whoopie!" reads a digital petition and video posted last week on the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau's website. It calls the Maine bill a "confectionary larceny."

There's more than just state pride at stake. Whoopies are a whopping business, having spread from mom-and-pop shops in Pennsylvania and Maine to Whole Foods and Harrods in London. They have become staples at bakeries and grocery stores in New York.

Here in Lancaster County, everyone has heard pretty much the same story, which may just be a rural legend: Amish mothers plopped leftover chocolate-cake batter into the oven, filled the result with icing and the whoopie was born. The practical pies were easily transportable for farmers in the field and children at school.

And the name? "The Amish moms used to put the whoopie pies in the children's lunches and when they found them they would yell 'Whoopie!'" says Deryl Stoltzfus, general manager at Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn in Ronks, home to the annual whoopie-pie festival, in which 20,000 whoopies are made in 100 flavors on the big day, including one 240-pound pie.

"We sincerely believe the Amish came up with it," he says.

Don't tell that to Amos Orcutt, founder of the Maine Whoopie Pie Association and chief lobbyist for the Maine legislation. Mr. Orcutt started lobbying to make the pies Maine's state dessert when he read a newspaper article two years ago that suggested whoopies came from Pennsylvania.

"I was appalled and aghast," says Mr. Orcutt, who grew up in Maine and had heard stories about whoopie pies for decades.

He formed the Whoopie Pie Association. "No one was leading the charge for the Maine whoopie pie," he says...

According to the Food Timeline, an independent research project created by reference librarian Lynne Olver, whoopie pies are the descendants of cream-filled sandwich cakes popular in the Victorian era in many European countries. Chocolate-cake variations became popular in the late-19th and early-20th century.

There are differences between the Maine and Pennsylvania whoopies. In Lancaster County, the traditional filling flavor is vanilla, and it is usually made of shortening and sugar. Operations are small and the pies are distributed mostly regionally.

In Maine, marshmallow is sometimes used in the filling, though recipes vary.

Maine has some large industrialized manufacturers, including LaBree's Bakery in Old Town, where more than 100,000 whoopies are pumped out several times a week.

Amy Bouchard's whoopies have been featured on Oprah and are sold at Wicked Whoopies, two whoopie-only bakeries in Maine. Her business, Isamax Snacks, was No. 3,984 in Inc. magazine's top 5,000 fastest-growing companies last year. It grew 33% in three years, mostly fueled by whoopie pies, says Ms. Bouchard.

"Pennsylvania, they have the Shoofly pie," she says, "and if I were them, I would grab on to the Hershey bar."

Nancy Griffin, author of the 2010 "Making Whoopies: The Official Whoopie Pie Book," said she was determined to find the true origin of the whoopie.

The first documented evidence she could find was in neither state. It was from Barry Popik, a Texas researcher who edits a website on the origins of words. His site traces the pies to a 1931 ad in a Syracuse, N.Y., newspaper advertising a five cent "Berwick whoopee pie" made at the now defunct Berwick Cake Co. in Roxbury, Mass. In 1932, The Bedford Gazette in Pennsylvania ran an ad for Washington Bakery for "whoopee pie."

Because whoopie is a catchy name, food historians believe it must have been coined commercially. Ms. Griffin, however, says the name was derived not from the yelps of glee of Amish children but, probably, from a 1928 show tune.

"It is believed they really got their name from the Gus Kahn song" and a popular term used at the time to get around Hollywood censors, says Ms. Griffin. It was called: "Makin' Whoopee."

Bakin' Whoopie: A Pie Fight Starts Over a Cream-Filled Cake
SUMATHI REDDY
FEBRUARY 14, 2011
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576136593240752596.html

Great Quotes

"There are two novels that can transform a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.”

Raj Patel, from “The Value of Nothing”

America's Most Miserable Cities, 2011

Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes.com
Feb 2, 2011
http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/americas-most-miserable-cities-2011.html

Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as the governor of California at the end of 2003 amid a wave of optimism that his independent thinking and fresh ideas would revive a state stumbling after the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

The good vibes are a distant memory: The Governator exited office last month with the state facing a crippling checklist of problems including massive budget deficits, high unemployment, plunging home prices, rampant crime and sky-high taxes. Schwarzenegger's approval ratings hit 22% last year, a record low for any sitting California governor.

California's troubles helped it land eight of the 20 spots on our annual list of America's Most Miserable Cities, with Stockton ranking first for the second time in three years.

Located in the state's Central Valley, Stockton has been ravaged by the housing bust. Median home prices in the city tripled between 1998 and 2005, when they peaked at $431,000. Now they are back to where they started, as the median price is forecast to be $142,000 this year, according to research firm Economy.com, a decline of 67% from 2005. Foreclosure filings affected 6.9% of homes last year in the Stockton area, the seventh-highest rate in the nation, according to online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac.

Stockton's violent crime and unemployment rates also rank among the 10 worst in the country, although violent crime was down 10% in the latest figures from the FBI. Jobless rates are expected to decline or stay flat in most U.S. metro areas in 2011, but in Stockton, unemployment is projected to rise to 18.1% in 2011 after averaging 17.2% in 2010, according to Economy.com.

"Stockton has issues that it needs to address, but an article like this is the equivalent of bayoneting the wounded," says Bob Deis, Stockton city manager. "I find it unfair, and it does everybody a disservice. The people of Stockton are warm. The sense of community is fantastic. You have to come here and talk to leaders. The data is the data, but there is a richer story here."

There are many ways to gauge misery. The most famous is the Misery Index developed by economist Arthur Okun, which adds unemployment and inflation rates together. Okun's index shows the U.S. is still is in the dumps despite the recent gains in the economy: It averaged 11.3 in 2010 (blame a 9.6% unemployment rate and not inflation), the highest annual rate since 1984.

Our list of America's Most Miserable Cities goes a step further: We consider a total of 10 factors, things that people gripe about around the water cooler every day. Most are serious issues, including unemployment, crime and taxes. A few we factor in are not as critical, but still elevate people's blood pressure, like the weather, commute times and how the local sports team is doing.

One of the biggest issues causing Americans angst the past four years is the value of their homes. To account for that we tweaked the methodology for this year's list and considered foreclosure rates and the change in home prices over the past three years. Click here for a more detailed rundown of our methodology.

Florida and California have ample sunshine in common, but also massive housing problems that have millions of residents stuck with underwater mortgages. The two states are home to 16 of the top 20 metros in terms of home foreclosure rates in 2010. The metro area with the most foreclosure filings (171,704) and fifth-highest rate (7.1%) last year is Miami, which ranks No. 2 on our list of Most Miserable Cities.

The good weather and lack of a state income tax are the only things that kept Miami out of the top spot. In addition to housing problems (prices are down 50% over three years), corruption is off the charts, with 404 government officials convicted of crimes this decade in South Florida. Factor in violent crime rates among the worst in the country and long commutes, and it's easy to understand why Miami has steadily moved up our list, from No. 9 in 2009 to No. 6 last year to the runner-up spot this year.

California cities take the next three spots: Merced (No. 3), Modesto (No. 4) and Sacramento (No. 5). Each has struggled with declining home prices, high unemployment and high crime rates, in addition to the problems all Californians face, like high sales and income taxes and service cuts to help close massive budget shortfalls.

The Golden State has never looked less golden. "If I even mention California, they throw me out of the office," says Ron Pollina, president of site selection firm Pollina Corporate Real Estate. "Every company hates California."

Last year's most miserable city, Cleveland, fell back to No. 10 this year despite the stomach punch delivered by LeBron James when he announced his exit from Cleveland on national television last summer. Cleveland's unemployment rate rose slightly in 2010 to an average of 9.3%, but the city's unemployment rank improved relative to other cities, thanks to soaring job losses across the U.S. Cleveland benefited from a housing market that never overheated and therefore hasn't crashed as much as many other metros. Yet Cleveland was the only city to rank in the bottom half of each of the 10 categories we considered.

Two of the 10 largest metro areas make the list. Chicago ranks seventh on the strength of its long commutes (30.7 minutes on average--eighth-worst in the U.S.) and high sales tax (9.75%---tied for the highest). The Windy City also ranks in the bottom quartile on weather, crime, foreclosures and home price trends.

President Obama's (relatively) new home also makes the cut at No. 16. Washington, D.C., has one of the healthiest economies, but problems abound. Traffic is a nightmare, with commute times averaging 33.4 minutes--only New York is worse. Income tax rates are among the highest in the country and home prices are down 27% over three years.

And it does not get much more miserable than the sports scene in Washington. Beltway fans should be grateful for the NHL's Capitals, their only major pro team to finish out of the basement in the last two seasons. The Nationals (MLB), Redskins (NFL) and Wizards (NBA) have all finished in last place in their respective divisions the past two years.

America's Five Most Miserable Cities

No. 5: Sacramento, Calif.
No state taxes $50,000 of income like California, with a rate of 9.55% for that middle-class tax bracket. Sacramento is a one-team sports town, and that team has been awful in recent years. The NBA's Kings have won just 26% of their games the past two-plus seasons.

No. 4: Modesto, Calif.
The median home was valued at $275,000 in 2006; today it is $95,000. And don't leave your car on the street in Modesto, where 3,712 vehicles were stolen in 2009, making for the second-highest auto theft rate in the country. It ranked first in four of the previous five years.

No. 3: Merced, Calif.
The economic downturn and busted housing market hit Merced harder than any other area in the country. Average unemployment of 16.2% since 2008 is the highest in the U.S., as is the city's 64% drop in median home prices.

No. 2: Miami, Fla.
The sun and lack of a state income tax are the only things keeping Miami out of the top spot. Foreclosures hit one in 14 homes last year. Corruption is also off the charts, with 404 government officials convicted of crimes this decade in South Florida.

No. 1: Stockton, Calif.
Unemployment has averaged 14.3% the past three years, which is third worst in the country among the 200 largest metro areas. The housing market collapsed as well, with home prices down 58% over the same time. All the California cities on the list are struggling with the inherent problems the state is facing, including high sales and income taxes and service cuts to help close massive budget shortfalls.

BabeWatch: Grammy Edition


Rihanna


Katy Perry


Kim Kardashian


Nicki Minaj


Ciara

Jennifer Hudson


Jennifer Lopez


Selena Gomez


Nicole Kidman

Hipsters: An Intuitive Perspective


Jaye Beldo
8/21/2010
LavaCocktail.com
http://blog.lavacocktail.com/2010/08/21/hipsters-an-intuitive-perspecitve.aspx

(editor's note: I wrote this after a recent trip to Minneapolis, where the hipster reigns supreme)

What could be more loathsome than that reprehensible bastion of the 80's AKA yuppies? Why hipsters of course-a mutant blend of both yuppies and hippies, conjured up by none other than psychopathic Madison Avenue brujos trying to outdo defense companies in the creation of the most effective and devastating weapons against humanity. What makes hipsters so worthy of our contempt is their hereditary hollowness-truly a marketing, if not genetic triumph far beyond the Grunge phenomena of the 90s. What is so menacing at the heart of all this is the pervasive influence hipsters have on everything from music to politics. Their marketing clout cannot be ignored. One only needs to look at how mediocre so-called "independent" publishers have become who have no choice but to cave in to their trend-a-minute demands. The same goes for music, art and literature as well because whatever enters into the hipster's perceptual field, whether it be a Beethoven sonata or a painting by Velasquez becomes instantly devalued-forever flat lined, no matter how vibrant and life sustaining they once were. In light of this instinctual desire to deaden everything, the hipster is responsible for the annihilation of culture on a global scale.

Hipsterism is an infectious disease rampantly spreading and no one is fully immune from its effects. It has contaminated life on a pandemic scale. As an example, I was in Spain in '08 to give a talk on my work and an audience member told me afterward that the literary references I had made ( esp. to Ortega y Gasset's work The Revolt of the Masses ) would not be understood because the young people in Spain didn't read that kind of stuff anymore. Interestingly enough, I found myself pleading with the young audience at the beginning of my talk not to get sucked into the corporate vacuum cleaner like Americans and to value their culture and heritage. Obviously, my admonitions fell on deaf ears.

In the heart of the hipster lies a glib savagery. The hipster reflexively will consider you in a way that makes you feel like you're being scanned by something not quite human. If the hipster cannot find vulnerabilities to take advantage of, they will move onto the next available prey at hand. All this happens within a mere two or 3 seconds time. There's a kind of predatory absolute in their hearts, which is understandable, considering that it is required for their game- of- chess approach to life. The hipster will do anything whatsoever to checkmate you. Usually this is done with a cold and calculating stare or empty promises they never intend to fulfill in the first place or even bragging in an unsolicited way about their salaries while savoring Rotted Cod, Smoking Loon or some other fashionable wine. Yet, most tragic is how the hipster has virtually zero respect for their elders and the riches of wisdom and experience they possess. Rather, a golden ager's bank account and whether or not they drive a hybrid Toyota Prius matter the most. Personally, I have experienced this with the 20 something crowd who cannot even give even a modicum of thanks for what they get. Expressing gratitude is beneath the hipster and they have no qualms letting you know this. At first I thought this was anomalous behavior but soon found out that, sadly, it is the across the board norm. One hand does not, nor will it ever, wash the other with the hipster crowd.

It is pitiful that hipsters have no ability to discern how they are being manipulated by the corporate powers that created them in the first place. At least yuppies were fully aware that they were materialistic, money grubbing slimeballs. However, hipsters are unconsciously deft when it comes to camoflauging this trait-primarily through their perpetual fixation on whatever trend they are prompted to follow-whether it be drinking Hamm's beer out of a can, which, over thirty years ago was the blue collar worker's only means of salvation at the end of the day, to listening to Coldplay while drafting up their plans to re-model their condos to in order to one up their next door neighbors. ( a contractor I talked to in Minneapolis told me that he made a lot of money by catering to hipsters who he could convince that replacing their marble counter tops with concrete was the in thing to do amongst other ploys.)

Hipsters are not going to go away any time soon considering the enormous influence they have on everything from Hollywood to interpersonal relationships. One suggestion I have for the Lava Cocktail reader is to work on heightening your awareness of their inherent manipulative abilities and protect yourself as best you can from their detrimental glitz, otherwise you will compromise your own humaneness in a way that will be most difficult to rectify. In fact, you may very well become one of them if you don't do this, no matter how old you are.

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" 1,000 Number One Hit


From Billboard:

By storming the Billboard Hot 100 song chart at No. 1, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" makes history as the 1,000th leading song in the list's 52-year history...

The weekly survey launched in the pages of Billboard magazine in the issue dated Aug. 4, 1958, with Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool" reigning over the inaugural listing.

Lady Gaga Claims 1,000th Hot 100 No. 1 with 'Born This Way'
Gary Trust
February 16, 2011
http://www.billboard.com/news/lady-gaga-claims-1-000th-hot-100-no-1-with-1005036702.story

Konformist Flashback: Salton Sea


From top to bottom: Peter Stenshoel, Adam Gorightly, Robert Sterling and sMiles Lewis at Bombay Beach in the Salton Sea, for Kookout 1999. Photo by Greg Bishop.

Coca Cola Secret Formula!!!

The public radio show This American Life has discovered what it believes is the original recipe for Coca-Cola, probably the greatest corporate secret formula of all. According to Time.com:
"Producers of the radio program This American Life came across an article on the history of Coca-Cola in an old copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Coca-Cola's hometown newspaper. Published on page 2B on February 18, 1979, the article received little attention at the time. But, producers say, that's because no one realized the photo used to illustrate the story is a hand-written copy of John Pemberton's original recipe, jotted down by a friend in a leather-bound recipe book of ointments and medicines, and passed down by friends and family for generations."

The only mystery left if the recipe is true is how much sugar is to be used, though my guess is 30 oz. Another difficulty is acquiring the "fluid extract of Coca" in the original mixture, though perhaps that isn't too difficult after all. But the entire 7X secret flavoring is completely intact. Here is the complete recipe:

Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color

The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol: 8 oz
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops

Is This the Real Thing? Coca-Cola's Secret Formula 'Discovered'
William Lee Adams
http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/02/15/is-this-the-real-thing-coca-colas-secret-formula-discovered

This American Life 427: Original Recipe
Originally aired 02.11.2011
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/427/original-recipe

Konformist Book Club: Black Genesis


In Black Genesis Bauval and Brophy combined their investigative skills to answer an obvious, but often-neglected question, “Who were the ancient Egyptians?” With new astroarcheological evidence they built a strong case for “The African origin of the pharaohs,” and have dramatically altered our understanding of the past."
Anthony T. Browder, Author and Independent Egyptologist

From Amazon.com:

Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt
Robert Bauval, Thomas Brophy Ph.D.

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Presents proof that an advanced black African civilization inhabited the Sahara long before Pharaonic Egypt

• Reveals black Africa to be at the genesis of ancient civilization and the human story

• Examines extensive studies into the lost civilization of the “Star People” by renowned anthropologists, archaeologists, genetic scientists, and cultural historians as well as the authors’ archaeoastronomy and hieroglyphics research

• Deciphers the history behind the mysterious Nabta Playa ceremonial area and its stone calendar circle and megaliths

Relegated to the realm of archaeological heresy, despite a wealth of hard scientific evidence, the theory that an advanced civilization of black Africans settled in the Sahara long before Pharaonic Egypt existed has been dismissed and even condemned by conventional Egyptologists, archaeologists, and the Egyptian government. Uncovering compelling new evidence, Egyptologist Robert Bauval and astrophysicist Thomas Brophy present the anthropological, climatological, archaeological, geological, and genetic research supporting this hugely debated theory of the black African origin of Egyptian civilization.

Building upon extensive studies from the past four decades and their own archaeoastronomical and hieroglyphic research, the authors show how the early black culture known as the Cattle People not only domesticated cattle but also had a sophisticated grasp of astronomy; created plentiful rock art at Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uwainat; had trade routes to the Mediterranean coast, central Africa, and the Sinai; held spiritual and occult ceremonies; and constructed a stone calendar circle and megaliths at the ceremonial site of Nabta Playa reminiscent of Stonehenge, yet much older. Revealing these “Star People” as the true founders of ancient Egyptian civilization, this book completely rewrites the history of world civilization, placing black Africa back in its rightful place at the center of mankind’s origins.

About the Author

Egyptian-born Robert Bauval began studying Egyptology in 1983. His first book, The Orion Mystery, was published in 1994, becoming a number-one bestseller translated into more than 25 languages. His research has been featured in documentaries throughout the world. He lives in Torremolinos, Spain. Thomas Brophy, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist who has worked with NASA, including as a member of the Voyager II spacecraft instrument teams. The author of several books, including The Origin Map, and numerous published articles in scientific journals, he lives in Encinitas, California.

Excerpt.
Chapter 2
Wanderlust

From Ford Company Trainee to Camel Driver

Carlo Bergmann arrived in Egypt in the mid-1980s, sent there on a management-training course by the Ford Company. After a visit to the camel market in Cairo, Bergmann was so fascinated by these “ships of the desert” that he resigned from his job and then and bought his first camel in order to become a desert explorer. He set up a base in the oasis of Dakhla, increased his camel fleet to twelve, and roamed the desert in search of lost oases. Bergmann was eventually solicited by Dr. Rudolf Kruper of the Heinrich Barth Institute to assist him in his explorations southwest of Dakhla. But Carlo was not impressed with the way the archaeologists “explored” from the comfort of their 4-WD vehicles. He rightly believed that moving by camel or on foot radically increases the chances of spotting something of value. With blinding sunlight and a landscape that is much the same everywhere, one could easily miss seeing even the entrance to a cave if you were not vigilant and checking every rock and mound along the way. Carlo Bergmann also had the advantage of a “sixth sense” for where to look for prehistoric artifacts that he developed after years of exploring the desert on foot.

Bergmann knew that Bedouins in the past had been telling stories about a “lost temple” in open desert a few days march from Dakhla oasis. They had told the British archaeologist Sir Gardner Wilkinson in 1835 that “some ruins of uncertain date (that) was discovered about nine years ago by an Arab in search of stray camels . . . (and that its ancient) inhabitants are blacks.” Bergmann also knew that Wilkinson had not attempted to verify the story, probably because he discounted it as tall tales by imaginative Arabs. The same happened in 1910 to the British engineer and explorer W. J. Harding King who was also told by Bedouins of a “stone temple” that existed “eighteen hours journey west of Gedida in Dakhla Oasis,” but like Wilkinson before him, Harding King dismissed the story as twaddle. Carlo Bergmann, however, took these stories seriously and, in 2000, after six attempts to locate the alleged “stone temple,” he did, in fact, find something that matched the description and location given to Wilkinson and Harding King. In Bergmann’s own words,

The “stone temple” revealed itself as a conical hill about 30 meters high and 60 meters in length. On its eastern side there is a natural terrace. This platform, which has an average width of 3 meters and a length of approximately 35 meters is about 7 meters above the ground and fenced by a dry wall of stone-slabs. From the distance the place has some resemblance with the Nabataean rock-palaces and -tombs at Petra. When setting my foot onto the terrace my eyes glanced over a breathtaking arrangement of hieroglyphic texts, of cartouches of Khufu (Cheops) and of his son Djedefre, of short notes from stone-masons, of two figures of a pharaoh smiting the enemies and of enigmatic signs (“water mountain symbols”) evidently placed on the rock-face in wilful order. All these engravings were depicted in the midst of representations of animals and human figures from Prehistoric and Old Kingdom times. As pharaoh Djedefre’s name first caught my eye, I christened the site Djedefre’s water-mountain.

The Djedefre Water-Mountain, as Bergmann now called it, is 80 kilometres southwest of Daklha oasis and is now under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). Until recently, however, it was investigated by the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo and the Heinrich Barth Institute of the University of Cologne. The German team reported that the hieroglyphic inscriptions found on the east side of the mound mention several expeditions during the twenty-fifth and twenty-seventh years of the reign of the pharaoh Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza (ca. 2450 BCE). They noted, too, that the name of Khufu’s son and successor, Djedefre, is more prominent and appears alongside (and also within) the so-called water mountain sign, which Bergmann describes as “a pack of horizontal zigzag lines framed by a sharply incised and slightly rounded rectangle, the upper corner of which ending in two small humps.”

The Djedefre Water-Mountain also has rock art engraved on its walls, which is clearly prehistoric, for it shows giraffes, elephants, and other creatures that since at least 4000 BCE can only be found thousands of kilometers farther south in Africa, but must have been here near Dakhla before that date when the Sahara was fertile. Most of the prehistoric rock art and the pharaonic inscriptions are high up on the east face and about 8 to 10 meters above ground. They can be reached by an ancient manmade escarpment that leads to a platform cut into the mound. The platform itself faces due east, the direction of sunrise, and it is very evident when one stands on this platform at dawn that there is astronomical meaning to this orientation, as we will discuss in chapter 4. The most prominent inscription is found dead center of the east face and bears the name of King Djedefre placed inside a rectangle that has two protrusions or “peaks” at the top, the latter being a stylized hieroglyph sign that denotes a “mountain”. The ancient Egyptians used a very similar sign but with a sun disk between the two peaks to denote the idea of “horizon” and “sunrise.” It is thus perhaps relevant to note in passing that Djedefre was the first royal devotee of a new “solar” cult devised by the priests of Heliopolis and was also the first pharaoh to incorporate in his name the word “Re” and, furthermore, added “Son of Re” to his royal titles.

Product Details
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bear & Company (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159143114X
ISBN-13: 978-1591431145

To order:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Genesis-Prehistoric-Origins-Ancient/dp/159143114X/thekonformist

Veteran Bloodied, Bruised and Arrested for Standing Silently

http://www.justiceonline.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5553&news_iv_ctrl=1003
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, 71-year-old Ray McGovern was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized and left bleeding in jail. She never paused speaking. When Secretary Clinton began her speech, Mr. McGovern remained standing silently in the audience and turned his back. Mr. McGovern, a veteran Army officer who also worked as a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, was wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt.

Blind-sided by security officers who pounced upon him, Mr. McGovern remarked, as he was hauled out the door, "So this is America?" Mr. McGovern is covered with bruises, lacerations and contusions inflicted in the assault.

Mr. McGovern is being represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). "It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government's supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech," stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the PCJF.

Mr. McGovern now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Madoff: "They Had to Know..."

Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, in a jailhouse interview published Wednesday, said banks and hedge funds were "complicit" in his multi-billion dollar fraud.
"They had to know," Madoff told New York Times reporter Diana B. Henriques, who is working on a book about the case. "But the attitude was sort of, 'If you're doing something wrong, we don't want to know.' "

Madoff, serving a 150-year prison term in Butner, N.C., did not specify which banks or funds might have known about the scheme, and he didn't say that any of them were accomplices to his scheme.

The Times said that Madoff, in the interview and in e-mails sent to the reporter, claims to have been helping Irving Picard, the trustee seeking to recover assets stolen from investors.

Madoff: Banks 'had to know' about scheme
February 16, 2011
http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/16/news/companies/madoff_interview

Borders Bankruptcy

Borders Group has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and plans to close about 200 of its stores and reduce its staff, the book retailer said Wednesday.
"It has become increasingly clear that in light of the environment of curtailed customer spending, our ongoing discussions with publishers and other vendor related parties, and the company's lack of liquidity, Borders Group does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor," the company said in a statement.

Email Print "As we do close down the stores, ultimately there will be a reduction in employees," said Borders spokesman Donald Cutler. But he didn't say how many workers would lose their jobs.

Borders currently has 659 stores and employs nearly 20,000 workers, including 5,842 full-time employees, both regular and temporary, and 13,661 part-time employees, said Cutler...

Borders in bankruptcy, will close about 200 stores
Aaron Smith
February 16, 2011
http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/16/news/companies/borders_bankruptcy

Presidential Medal of Freedom

The latest list of the Presidential Medal of Freedom winners:

John H. Adams
Maya Angelo
Warren Buffett
George H.W. Bush
Jasper Johns
Gerda Weismann Klein
John Lewis
Tom Litle
Yo-Yo Ma
Sylvia Mendez
Angela Merkel
Stan Musial
Bill Russell
Jean Kennedy Smith
John J. Sweeney

Presidential Medal of Freedom given to former presid
Perry Bacon Jr.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/15/AR2011021506184.html

FeedBack

Sorry, The Confederacy Was About Slavery

Sorry, the Civil War was not about "slavery". It was about the South's insane 50 year demand to SPREAD slavery, according to the word of God (they claimed). If you want to be candid -- that is what the Civil War was about. For some reason, we have not taught our children, and we were not taught, the really vile motivations of Southern leaders, as they claimed at the time. The Southern leaders in Montgomery issued Five Ultimatums -- about three weeks before the South attacked. Southern newspapers announced the Ultimatums with headlines such as "THE TRUE ISSUE". All five of the Ultimatums were about the SPREAD of slavery, against the wishes of the people. That's right -- against the wishes of the people and states. The Ultimatums were printed in newspapers in the North too -- at least two New York papers reprinted them, although they didn't call them "The true issue" New York editors suggested Lincoln obey the Ultimatums to avoid war. The First Ultimatum was that (incredibly) not only that slavery be spread into the territories -- but that the US Congress must do it, by force if needed. When the South mentioned "territories" they meant, of course, Kansas. They were saying Kansas must accept and respect slavery. Kansas had just fought a four year bloody war against the thugs and hired killers from the South. The people of Kansas had just voted 98% to 2% to keep slavery out forever. Never mind that, the Southern leaders FIRST ultimatum, was that slavery be spread (forced) into Kansas, by the US government. This is so astonishing that it gives you a clue of the audacity of the Southern leaders. Did they really think Lincoln was going to force slavery into the territories? No. Of course not. But they were about braggado and threats. This is how they had kept slavery going for 70 years, this is how they treated people. Threats -- and then violence. All five Ultimatums were as goofy as the first. All five completely repudiated the fig leaf of "States Rights" because they specifically stated that states would have NO RIGHTS whatsoever to decide anything about slavery, or runaway slaves or their own courts system. Every US history text book should have the Southern Ultimatums in the next-to-the last page. And on the very last page, put the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln. Compare the two ways we could have gone -- to spread slavery by violence and threats and stomping on the pretense of human or states rights, like the South demanded under threat of war. OR do we go by what Lincoln advocated? A government of the people, for the people, by the people? Southern apologist today dare not repeat what their own leaders bragged about, what their own newspapers called "THE TRUE ISSUE" what their own new country demanded upon promise of war -- the spread of slavery.

http://fivedemands.blogspot.com/
*

Lies My Teacher Told Me
Duncan Burns
duncanburns@yahoo.com

Most of the History and Social Studies texts are, simply put, bloody awful. No wonder few students come away with any lasting interest in history, beyond passing the requisite tests.

Historical review should be an ongoing process; it is all too often hampered by the PC of the right and the left.

Chevron Runs from Judgment in Ecuador

Greg Palast - Exclusive for Truthout
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chevron petroleum Corporation is attempting to slither out of an $8 billion judgment rendered yesterday by a trial court in Ecuador for cancer deaths, illnesses and destruction caused by its Texaco unit.

I've been there, in Ecuador.

I met the victims. They didn't lose their shrimp boats; they lost their kids. Emergildo Criollo, Chief of the Cofan Natives of the Amazon, told me about his three-year-old. "He went swimming, then began vomiting blood." Then he died.

And then I met Chevron-Texaco's lawyers.

When I showed Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez the epidemiological studies tracing childhood cancers to their oil, he sneered and said , "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude — which is absolutely impossible."

The Texaco man stated, "Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer."

President Barack Obama has said that the British-based BP must pay for all the damage it caused in the Gulf.

I've just returned from the Gulf and I can tell you, it's grim, it's terrible. But compared to the damage caused by Chevron-Texaco, the Gulf blow-out is a picnic.

So now, Mr. President, will you stand by your words and tell this renegade, deadly US corporation to pay for the damage they have done?

At the end of my meeting with the oil company lawyers, I showed them a document in which Chevron-Texaco directed its underlings to destroy evidence.

The oil company men said they would get back to me with an "explanation." It's been three years, and I'm still waiting.

There is another insidious game being played by Chevron. The oil company's ethically-challenged law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has attempted to block the Cofan and other victims of Chevron from having legal counsel. They have even convinced some pinhead judge to block collection of Ecuador's judgment because harming Chevron would be a blow to "global business."

It would - and it should.
*
Greg Palast's investigation of Chevron's oil drilling operations in the Amazon for BBC Television Newsnight is included in the DVD compendium Palast Investigates.
Get a signed DVD or download the film.

Palast's investigations are supported in part by the Puffin and Cloud Mountain Foundations and the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501c3 charitable trust.

GregPalast.com

Kleptocrats at work

Paul Craig Roberts
Feb 9, 2011
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_6897.shtml

Kleptocracy is as old as government. Exotic car broker Michael Sheehan discovered an amazing case nine years ago when he was invited to purchase rare Ferraris and McLaren F1s from a Brunei collection. He writes about it in the current issue of Sports Car Market. [Not online]

Brunei is a family-owned oil Sultanate of 400,000 people located on the island of Borneo in southeast Asia. A brother of the sultan was finance minister until 1997, when the Asian financial crisis hit Brunei. The Arthur Andersen accounting firm was called in to audit the books. The accountants found that between 1983 and 1998 $40 billion had disappeared and that the finance minister himself had personally spent $14.8 billion.

The finance minister had a collection of 2,500 exotic cars, 500 properties, five yachts, and nine world-class aircraft. He had managed to spend $900,000,000 in the London jeweler Asprey, apparently guaranteeing the old age retirements of a number of attractive women who consort with kleptocrats.

The finance minister was allowed to keep 500 of the cars, but he had to turn in the rest of his loot -- to no avail as we shall see.

Sheehan went to Brunei to view the cars. From his general description of the collection, I estimate that the finance minister had paid six figures for the least expensive car in the collection. Many cost much more. McLaren F1s cost $1,000,000 new. They are more valuable now. In October 2008, one sold at a London auction for $4,100,000. Many of the cars were custom built. Some of the high speed Ferraris “were coated in radar-absorbent matt-black coatings and fitted with infrared cameras for night driving.” Easily more than one billion dollars of Brunei’s oil revenues had found their way into the finance minister’s car collection.

Sheehan reports that the cars were stored in about 12 buildings “surrounded by a high wall topped with razor wire and with a bomb-proof front gate” and patrolled by “armed Gurkhas with very serious German shepherds.” The security was for naught, because “the air conditioning was off, but the tropical sun was not.” Years of heat and humidity had destroyed the cars. The storage facilities had become a car tomb.

Sheehan concluded that most of the cars were in such a state of ruin that only a few of the cars had sufficiently high inherent values to support commercially viable restorations. The best use of the rest, Sheehan decided, would be to turn them into an artificial ocean reef.

The careless waste is shocking and even more so to car buffs who consider many of the ruined cars to be artistic masterpieces. This is the kind of opulent waste that we associate with family-owned countries. But before we Americans start feeling superior, consider that the U.S. government puts the Brunei finance minister to shame.

On January 29, 2002, CBS Evening News reported that the Pentagon had lost track of $2.3 trillion, yes, $2,300 billion. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld admitted, “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” “We know it is gone,” said Jim Minnery of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, “but we don’t know what they spent it on.”

Reported thefts from Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction aid rival Brunei’s missing billions. Pallets of cash stacked high have been flown out of Afghanistan in plain view. The stories of corruption and missing funds are so numerous that they are no longer reported.

The U.S. Congress, at President Obama’s request, recently passed the largest military spending bill of all time in behalf of the share prices of the military/security complex, while many of the 50 states teeter on bankruptcy and default on pensions and municipal bonds and slash education, medical, and other services. For “our” government in Washington, it is a no-brainer that the profits of the military-security complex take precedence over every need of the American people.

If the Brunei finance minister’s billion dollar car collection becomes an artificial reef, it will foster marine life. In contrast, Dick Cheney seriously damaged, perhaps for many years to come, the Gulf of Mexico, because Cheney believed a few extra bucks for the oil companies were more important than safety standards. The missing safety standards have cost British Petroleum $20 billion in clean up and restitution costs.

U.S. taxpayers are paying the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security $56,336,000,000 this year to porno-scan and grope them and otherwise invade their privacy, while millions of Americans are foreclosed out of their homes.

How are the priorities of the US. government superior to those of the Brunei finance minister? When it comes to waste and corruption, lies and deception, the U.S. government has no equal.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary U.S. Treasury, Associate Editor Wall Street Journal, Columnist for Business Week, Senior Research Fellow Hoover Institution Stanford University, and William E. Simon Chair of Political Economy in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com.

Egypt Welcomes the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss

KINGSTON, NY

15 February 2011 — The Egyptian people in Liberation Square celebrated, the world leaders weighed in, and the global media parroted the tale of “history in the making.” The big bad Hosni Mubarak has "listened to the voices of the Egyptian people" and has bowed to their demands to finally end his 30-year presidential rule.

On February 11th, the news came in a brief statement made by freshly anointed Vice President Omar “Egypt is not ready for democracy” Suleiman: "In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic. He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state.”

Following the announcement, Nobel Prize recipient (and the West’s favorite opposition leader) Mohamed ElBaradei said it was the "greatest day" of his life and that "the country has been liberated."

The “greatest day” was summed up in a USA Today headline: “Mubarak resigns; military takes over in Egypt.”

Trends Journal subscribers didn’t have to wait until February 11th to know the outcome of this “history in the making.” In our February 1st Trend Alert we forecast:

As we will see in Egypt, military coups will be disguised as regime changes. Already the public is being conditioned to view the Egyptian military as beloved liberators. But in fact they are simply another arm of the autocratic government, no more familiar with democratic ideals than the dictator they replace...who had himself been drawn from the ranks of the military

History has not been newly made – it has only been repeated. Since the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, when army officers overthrew King Farouk I, the nation has been run by members of the military…until Friday, by former Air Force General Hosni Mubarak.

And now, Omar Suleiman (Egypt’s spy chief until Mubarek appointed him to Vice President on January 29) will also serve on the Armed Forces Supreme Council that will run the country, according to Al Jazeera.

Suleiman’s ascent to VP had been long in the making. According to a 2007 WikiLeaked US diplomatic cable titled 'Presidential Succession in Egypt' – "Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Soliman (sic) was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. Many of our contacts believe that Soliman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario."

In addition to Suleiman being accused of viciously stamping out political opposition and killing, jailing and brutalizing public dissenters during his 17 years as intelligence chief, he was also the “CIA’s man in Cairo” for, in part, devising and implementing the US rendition program. Beginning under President Clinton and continuing through the George W. Bush regime, the US, instead of bringing suspected enemies of the state (i.e., “terrorists”) to trial, would kidnap them and send them to Egypt, the destination of choice, to be interrogated and tortured.

Heading the Supreme Council of the newly “liberated” Egypt is Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who, according to a WikiLeaked 2008 diplomatic cable, is referred to by mid-level Egyptian officers as ''Mubarak's poodle'' - incompetent and archaic but intensely loyal to his President. The cable assesses Tantawi as having “opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power.”

Other Council members include Defense Minister Lt. General Sami Anan, chief of staff of the Egyptian army, and Air Marshal Ahmed Shafiq, the new prime minister – all stalwart Mubarak supporters.

Yet, despite those in charge being the antithesis of democracy, President Obama proclaimed, “Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day. The people of Egypt have spoken – their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same.”

“It’s an Egyptian version of ‘Change We Can Believe In,’" reported our man on the scene of the insurrection, John Anthony West, Executive Editor of the Trends Journal. “The people cheer and wave flags, and say exactly the same stupid things except in Arabic. Even the idiot exultation of the press whores sounds the same!” commented West, who arrived in Egypt two days before the protests began on January 25th, and has just returned to the States.

Mr. West warns, “Expect something even more dramatic, drastic and long-lasting when the nationwide, inescapable non-change sinks in a few months from now.”

As with Egypt, in the “Democratic” USA, politicians, media and the nation-at-large put their trust and better judgment in the hands of their glorious, benevolent, military men and their magnificent war machines. Yet, as history has long proven, military rule, (decried as “juntas” in countries the US does not do business with) is invariably brutal and only infrequently does legislative power return to the people. If elections are held they are usually rigged and the only change is a change of clothes – from a tailored General’s uniform to a tailored Armani suit.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Trend Forecast: Getting rid of one person does not make a revolution. As aptly noted by such infamous “revolutionaries” as Marx, Lenin, and Pol Pot, no revolution can succeed that doesn't replace all members of the former ruling class.

In Egypt, the military class still rules and the power of the 18-member Supreme Council of the Armed Forces goes uncontested. The Council’s first actions have been a suspension of the Constitution, dissolution of Parliament and imposition of a ban on labor strikes.

In what appears to be a concession to protestors, the Council has promised to stay in power only on a temporary basis, and to hold fair and open elections within six month’s time…which is essentially the same election timetable proposed by Mr. Mubarak.

While no one can predict whether the military rulers will relinquish power and allow free elections, what can be assumed is that they will not willingly forego the estimated $2 billion in annual US aid the Egyptian government receives.

Since Mubarak’s exit, Beltway policy wonks and political front-men have been urging Washington to funnel funds to “pro democracy” groups in Egypt as part of an effort to influence the shape of the next government, to insure “stability” and support US foreign policy interests.

Trends Forecast: The developments in Tunisia, Egypt, and now spreading to Yemen, Algeria and beyond, are the manifestation of a trend long in the making – one we predicted in our “Off With Their Heads 2.0” Autumn Trends Journal. Not confined to North African and Middle Eastern nations, what is now unfolding is a prelude to a series of civil wars that will lead to regional wars, that will lead to the first “Great War” of the 21st century. (See “The History of The Future: Trends 2012: The Great War,” Trends Journal, Spring 2010)

To schedule an interview with Gerald Celente, Trends Journal publisher, please contact: Zeke West, Media Relations, zwest@trendsresearch.com 845 331.3500 ext. 1

©MMXI The Trends Research Institute®

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Octopus Conspiracy: One Woman’s Search for Her Father’s Killer

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/ff_octopus_conspiracy/all/1

The Octopus Conspiracy: One Woman’s Search for Her Father’s Killer
Andrew Rice
February 4, 2011

On the morning of July 1, 1981, three bodies were discovered behind a shabby, concrete ranch house on Bob Hope Drive, a main drag in a sand-swept stretch of California’s scorching Coachella Valley. The corpses were sprawled in a semicircle, on chairs and beds that had been dragged into the backyard. Each of the victims—the house’s owner, Fred Alvarez, his girlfriend, Patricia Castro, and a guest named Ralph Boger—had been killed by a single .38-caliber gunshot to the head. Police surmised that Alvarez and his friends had been planning to sleep outdoors to escape the heat of the house, which had no air-conditioning, and were surprised in the dark by one or more assailants. There were few clues and no witnesses left at the scene; the crime had all the hallmarks of a professional hit.

Boger’s daughter, Rachel Begley, who was 13 at the time, says she learned of her father’s death from a television news bulletin. Her parents were divorced, and though she spent occasional days with her dad, riding in his motorcycle’s sidecar, she didn’t know enough about his life to make sense of what had happened. The police would eventually conclude that Boger and Alvarez were killed in connection with shady doings at the nearby Cabazon Indian reservation. But Begley’s mother shielded her from all the murky details of the investigation.

After the murders, Begley went through a rebellious phase and fell in with a bad crowd. By the time she was 15, she was pregnant and had dropped out of high school. Eventually she got her GED and moved to Iowa. She says she would periodically wonder about the case and check in with the police, who never seemed to have any new information. Beyond that, she didn’t have time or tools to delve too deeply.

Then one night in 2007, she idly typed her father’s name into Google. She didn’t find much, but as she clicked through the few results that came up, she found a book entitled The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. Based on the work of a fringe freelance journalist, the book argued that the 1981 triple slaying was wrapped up in an enormous plot involving arms dealing, private-security firms, and the upper echelons of the Reagan administration. Skeptical but intrigued, Begley dug deeper and discovered that over the years the murder case had taken on a curious life of its own, preserved on obscure websites and nurtured by a grassroots community of obsessives. To these conspiracy theorists, Boger’s killing was the work of a secret syndicate that they called the Octopus, because its tangled tentacles supposedly reached into some of the most powerful organizations in the world.

Begley’s simple Google search launched a four-year-and-counting odyssey, during which she has devoted herself to tracking down forgotten documents, corresponding with federal prisoners, putting questions to Oliver North, and even confronting the man who may have shot her dad. Her work, she says, has placed her own life in danger and made her a target of the same forces that killed her father. And yet she cannot stop. She keeps following the siren song of the conspiracy theory, the same beguiling cognitive path that lures others to the JFK assassination and Area 51. What was once a family tragedy has blossomed into something else entirely, a vast puzzle whose solution promises to illuminate not only her father’s death but the dark forces behind the world’s apparent chaos.

On a sweltering afternoon last June, Begley was sitting in front of a wheezing Dell Dimension 8300 desktop, beneath a photocopy of a prayer for protection from “evil spirits who prowl about the world,” trying to sum up the dimensions of the Octopus conspiracy. “You’ve got the drug people, mixing with the mafia, mixing with the Hells Angels, mixing with the government—various governments, actually,” she says as she clicks around on the computer. “This is where I piece it all together.”

Begley lives and works in a rickety house at the end of a gravel road, next to a small pond and a rotting wood barn in a rural town outside Louisville, Kentucky, that she doesn’t want named for security reasons. Out front, her “guard dog,” an aging flat-coated retriever named Lucky, lazes beneath her porch. Begley is 43 and heavyset, with piercing blue eyes. On this day, her air conditioner is broken, and her round face glistens with sweat. She has four children, and for the moment she is collecting unemployment and selling a line of weight-loss shakes to make money on the side.

Before she heard about the Octopus, she never gave much thought to politics or read the newspaper, and she certainly didn’t size up her dad—a bearded mechanic who liked to drink, smoke pot, and ride motorcycles—as the type to be tied up in byzantine plots. “I thought it was a normal thing,” Begley says of the killings. “Well, murder is never normal, but I thought somebody went to try and rob them or something.”

In fact, within days of the crime, investigators had fixed their suspicion on John Philip Nichols, who was serving as financial manager for the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, a group of fewer than 30 descendants of a desert people that had long inhabited the Coachella Valley. Nichols was encouraging the Cabazons to open a casino, a radical idea at the time that caused clashes with the police and attracted some alleged mob associates to the reservation. Boger’s friend Fred Alvarez, a dissident tribe member, opposed the plan. Before his death, Alvarez had approached a local reporter to talk about blowing the whistle. “There are people out there who want to kill me,” he warned. No one knew what Alvarez was preparing to disclose, but initial speculation involved embezzlement.

When Begley stumbled upon The Octopus, though, she found a more nefarious explanation: Nichols proposed to use the tribe’s sovereign status to build an arms factory on the reservation and ship weapons to Central American rebel groups like the Contras. Drawing heavily on a San Francisco Chronicle investigation, the book reported that he had struck a partnership arrangement with Wackenhut, a private-security firm with alleged ties to the CIA and Republican Party.

That strange story was widely reported in the early 1990s. But since then, others had embroidered those findings with more bizarre information, speculation, and extrapolations. Before long, Begley was tearing through websites and bulletin boards, finding herself drawn into the conspiracy. Much of what she found traced back to Danny Casolaro, the freelance journalist who had been the first to write about a shadowy “international cabal” of covert operatives he dubbed the Octopus. Casolaro tied the Cabazon tribe’s arms company to a Reagan crony, who figured in the so-called October Surprise of 1980 and was connected to a computer program called Promis, which was supposedly used for spying. In 1991, the writer was found dead in the bathtub at a West Virginia hotel, his wrists slashed. Authorities deemed the death a suicide, but others presumed Casolaro was killed because he knew too much.

“Most of the stuff, I didn’t believe,” Begley says. “I thought all these people were making money off my dad’s murder, writing these books.” She was angry enough, in fact, that she was determined to prove the speculators wrong. At the time, Begley was working in customer service for an Internet service provider, which was moving its back-office operations to another state, and she was spending her days sitting idly at her computer, waiting to get laid off. Begley had once worked for a collections agency, and she knew how to track people down. “I went into it with a mindset, I guess, almost like a police officer would,” she says.

No one had ever been charged in the killings. Nichols was long gone—he had died of a heart attack in 2001. But Begley talked to Alvarez’s sister, who recounted her family’s thwarted efforts to get the police to pursue the case. She then found William Hamilton, the developer of the Promis software, who had collaborated with Casolaro on his investigation. Hamilton called her back on her cell phone as she was leaving work one day, and he talked and talked until his battery died. “It was like—boom,” she later said. “He dumped it all in my lap.” Begley may have started out trying to resist the Octopus, but she gradually gave in to the theory’s implications: Her father had been caught up in a vast conspiracy, and it had killed him.

So Begley dove deeper, into the submerged ecosystem of interconnected message boards where initiates continued to discuss and dissect the Octopus. “I was one of those thinking that the conspiracy people were weird,” she posted on one of these boards in 2008. “Then I had my eyes opened, REALLY FAST.”

As she set out on her search, one of the first things Begley did was fashion a new identity. She came up with a screen name, Desertfae, and introduced her character in a series of YouTube videos. The first ones, set to pounding music, consisted of montages of images—an Indian chief, a close-up of her eyes—and cryptic messages: “I am lost … I need your help and guidance to bring closure … I will be silent no longer … Soon the clues and proof will be found.”

As Begley plunged into the world of the conspiracy theorists, she found more than facts and assertions—she found a community with its own rules, ethics, and currency. And it was a difficult one to penetrate; the cluster of people devoted to studying the Octopus tended not to throw their arms open to newcomers. Over the years, they had built a kind of gnostic society, a belief system that was both all-encompassing—a grand unified theory of everything sinister—and exclusionary, open only to the select few who could accept the devastating truth. They were suspicious of outsiders and divided into factions that warred over arcane points, often accusing one another of being double agents.

With persistence and a convert’s zeal, Begley managed to win the trust of some of the leading theorists. She formed a particularly tight bond with Cheri Seymour, a matronly San Diego woman who had been working for nearly 20 years on a book called The Last Circle. The two sealed their friendship with a transaction of weathered documents, the Octopus community’s customary medium of exchange. Copying Seymour’s files, which the author had gathered from archives, courts, and a confidential source’s hidden trailer, Begley glimpsed the far reaches of the speculation: bioweapons, Lebanese heroin shipments, Howard Hughes, the yakuza.

There were many competing interpretations of the Octopus—Seymour was particularly interested in the alleged role of entertainment company MCA—and they were infinitely adaptable, able to accommodate the Patriot Act or the financial crisis. Devotees found and fought one another on sites like Above Top Secret, conspiracy clearinghouses that host every conceivable thread of discussion. Begley forged an alliance with a retired FBI agent who was exploring a link between the Octopus and Satanic cults. She did battle with a prominent UFO enthusiast who thought the Octopus was hiding the government’s collaboration with a colonizing alien force. (In January, online sleuths discovered that alleged Arizona assassin Jared Lee Loughner was a regular poster on Above Top Secret, but his bizarre ramblings about currency and space travel, widely disdained by other contributors, never touched on the Octopus threads.) Begley also developed a venomous rivalry with Virginia McCullough, a California writer who accused her of being an enemy impostor, not really Ralph Boger’s daughter. When Begley posted a copy of her birth certificate online, McCullough called it “a cut-and-paste job.”

“I do not believe that Desertfae is a ‘victim,’ and she has not posted any information that she is who she claims to be,” McCullough wrote on one message board. “She is a low-stage puppet reporting to the puppet master and two or three of his minions.”

The man McCullough called the puppet master is a federal narcotics prisoner named Michael Riconosciuto, Casolaro’s principal source, who had worked for the Cabazon arms company in the 1980s. The convict, who claimed he’d been framed, continued to play a leading role in the factional wars, penning letters in loopy cursive to numerous correspondents. Shortly after Begley began communicating with Riconosciuto, she posted a new video, entitled “OMG Michael Called!!!!!” Looking rattled, she reported that Riconosciuto had warned that the Octopus was watching. Then she cut to shaky handheld footage of a black helicopter that had appeared over her house.

Begley wasn’t scared off the trail. She interviewed retired cops and unearthed new witnesses. She amassed thousands of documents: news clippings, police reports, Casolaro’s notes, leaked memos, reams of legal filings and depositions. (For a secret cabal, the Octopus was remarkably litigious.) Informants found her website or friended her on Facebook and promised they could tell her about the Octopus from the inside. “If you’re involved with some kind of high-level weird thing,” she explains, “and you’ve held it in for 20 or 30 years, and you can’t talk about it, eventually you’re going to be, like, ‘I want to tell somebody before I die.’”

Begley continued to post YouTube videos documenting her investigations, and before long they started winning a small but avid viewership—and not just fellow conspiracy theorists. It seemed the police were paying attention as well. Back when she had first begun investigating, Begley called the police department in Riverside County, where Coachella is located, telling them the case was bigger than Watergate. She got a dismissive response. But after she started posting her videos, she received a phone call telling her that the cold-case squad was reopening the inquiry into her father’s murder.

Soon, Begley focused her attention on one player in the killing: Jimmy Hughes, a former Cabazon reservation employee who worked for John Philip Nichols. In 1984, in the midst of a business dispute, Hughes implicated Nichols to the police, claiming he had ferried a cash payment from Nichols to some unidentified contract killers for the Alvarez hit, which he said his boss had called a “US government covert action.” The police had looked into Hughes’ claims but gradually shifted their suspicion to the informant himself. At that point, Hughes fled town, and the grand jury investigation into the murders fizzled.

Begley discovered that Hughes had become an evangelical minister based in Honduras. In December 2007, she began trying to contact him, but he ignored her. She had an idea why: On the website of a religious group, she discovered an autobiographic essay Hughes had posted that sounded eerily familiar. In it, he called himself “a hit man with a new mission” and told a story of elite military training and a career as a contract killer, a life that was transformed when he was born again. She also found a list of upcoming speaking engagements, which indicated that Hughes was scheduled to address an evangelical banquet in Fresno, California. Begley booked a flight.

On a rainy evening in February 2008, Begley sat in the gilded ballroom of a historic Fresno bank building as Hughes took the floor to preach. Inside her handbag, she carried a hidden camera that peeked out through a discreet hole she’d cut just beneath the zipper. Next to it sat a loaded pistol—just in case.

Hughes, a stocky 51-year-old with a graying buzz cut and raspy voice, bounded around, bellowing tales of his past brutality. Begley, nervous and bleary-eyed from a sleepless cross-country flight, exchanged incredulous text messages with an accomplice who had come along as backup: Mikel Alvarez, Fred’s son. When Hughes finished his performance, Begley and Alvarez came forward with a rush of adrenaline, introducing themselves to the sweat-soaked evangelist as the children of the murder victims.

“Can’t say nothing about that,” Hughes stammered. “It’s a long time ago—it’s in the past.”

“Not for us,” Begley said, insistently. “We’re trying to get resolution.”

“I don’t care who got killed,” Hughes shouted, attracting the bewildered attention of others at the banquet. “I was trainedin the military. I killed people all over the world, right or wrong, because the government ordered me to.”

Hughes stalked off, fuming, and Begley began to cry. That seemed to bother the minister, because he came back, speaking in a tone that was softer but full of veiled menace. Apparently, he had seen her web videos. “Are you aware that that goes all over the world? Are you a crazy lady?” Hughes said. “Think about your children. They need a mother.” He told Begley and Alvarez that the murder was a “mafia hit,” and though he didn’t explicitly admit to carrying it out, he intimated that he knew much more.

“Your parents were involved in some very dangerous things,” Hughes said. “It’s a lot bigger than just the murder of this guy or the murder of that guy. You’re talking political people. You’ve got babies to take care of, mama. Go home tonight and be at peace.”

Suddenly, the murky crime had come into focus, and the conspiracy theorist confronted an unaccustomed feeling: vindication. Hughes’ outburst seemed to confirm Begley’s deepest fears and also her most far-fetched fantasies. After so many decades of false starts and mysterious ends, Begley had finally hit upon something undeniably tangible—an actual lead in the case. Within two days, Begley posted excerpts of the confrontation to YouTube, ending her video with a postscript in stark black and white: “This ‘crazy lady’ wants the murders solved. The Octopus will be exposed.”

Shortly before Begley confronted Hughes, she began cooperating with John Powers, a Riverside County homicide detective who was investigating the reopened 1981 murder case. When Powers saw the video of her run-in with Hughes, he was impressed. “The statements she got from him,” Powers says, “no police officer would ever have been able to get.” He and Begley went on to form an unusually tight partnership. She shared everything she learned with the man she called “my detective” and helped to persuade a pair of reluctant witnesses to offer damning testimony against Hughes.

Still, the case had to overcome some curious obstacles. Powers was surprised to find that the records of the 1980s grand jury investigation had somehow disappeared. And it turned out that the district attorney of Riverside County, a long-serving prosecutor, was actually related to Hughes. Because of the conflict of interest, the case was transferred to the California attorney general’s office. After much procedural wrangling, a warrant was finally issued. In September 2009, Hughes was arrested at Miami’s international airport. Begley posted a celebratory video, scored to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” It flashed up an image of Hughes’ mug shot, across which she had scrawled: “Gotcha.”

As fond as he was of Begley, Powers’ arrest complaint completely ignored the Octopus conspiracy. The detective doubted that a jury would believe—or even be able to follow—the abstruse connections that purportedly linked Hughes to the CIA, the Contras, and all the rest. Instead, he wanted to focus on the old dispute over building a casino on the Cabazon reservation. “Nichols thought he was going to be making millions, and Fred Alvarez was a threat to that,” Powers says. “That was motive enough for murder.”

On the afternoon of July 1, the 29th anniversary of the murders, a grim-faced Begley walked into a courtroom in Indio, California, for an important hearing. The chamber was packed with an expectant crowd of reporters, members of Hughes’ family, and a few supporters from the Octopus community, including Cheri Seymour. Hughes was ushered in, wearing chains and an orange jumpsuit.

Then Michael Murphy, a dapper prosecutor from the attorney general’s office, rose and delivered a shocking blow. “We have lost confidence in our ability to proceed with the prosecution,” he said. Begley closed her eyes tightly as the prosecutor gave a vague reason for his sudden about-face, something about “new information” and a reassessment of the evidence. Begley was allowed to address the court. “How many people must die or suffer at the hands of Jimmy Hughes,” she asked, “before he is brought to justice?” But the judge dismissed the charges anyway. It was enough to make you wonder, if you were of a certain mindset, whether the fix was in.

Afterward, Powers stood next to Begley outside the courtroom as she addressed the television cameras, sobbing. The detective was disgusted by the outcome. The attorney general’s office gave no further public explanation for its decision, but Powers sensed that the prosecutors were eager to “dump” the case. Murphy, he said, started to question the credibility of the witnesses Begley had uncovered. Throughout, Begley had used Twitter and Facebook to mobilize the Octopus believers to pressure Murphy, and at least a few called the prosecutor to urge him to look beyond Hughes and dig into the myriad connections they had spent decades documenting. Begley’s devotion and inventive use of the Internet had helped to ensnare Hughes, but the obsessions of her fellow travelers may have helped to undermine the prosecutor’s confidence. (Murphy declined to comment.)

Powers, for his part, doubts there ever was an Octopus. The detective blames Nichols, the self-aggrandizing adviser who convinced the Cabazons to build a casino, for conjuring the intrigue that continued to befog the case long after his death. “Nichols had a lot of people fooled,” Powers says, “believing that he was some secret spook working for the government.” Even Nichols’ own underlings bought into his mystique; Powers thought it entirely plausible that Hughes truly believed his boss gave orders on behalf of shadowy overlords. In that sense, the Octopus may have existed, if only as a deceived and malignant state of mind.

On the night of his release, Hughes emerged from jail into a furnace blast of desert darkness. “Only God can justify and vindicate those who are really innocent,” he triumphantly told reporters outside the Indio jailhouse. Fearing retribution, Begley had already split, driving over the mountains to San Diego, where she holed up at Seymour’s house. “It’s not over by a long shot,” she told me on the phone. Her cell phone kept ringing: the Los Angeles Times, Dateline NBC, her newly materialized pro bono lawyer, a victims’ rights advocate who often appeared on Nancy Grace’s talk show.

Finally, the world seemed to be listening. “Actually, this might be better,” Begley says, sounding curiously invigorated. Though this experience has been draining, it has given her a sense of purpose, of a momentous cause. Hughes might be free, heading back to Honduras, but in a way, defeat offered a perverse validation. The Octopus wouldn’t be the enemy she thought it was if it gave up its secrets so easily. “You’re going to find out real soon,” Begley says, “that the world isn’t what you think it is.”

Andrew Rice (andrewrice75@yahoo.com) is the author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget. This is his first piece for Wired.