How much truth is there to the conspiracy theories that the FBI deliberately killed the Branch Davidians?
Today we’re going to delve into the deepest, ugliest corner of urban legendry: conspiracy theories claiming that the US government deliberately attacks and kills its own citizens. In this case it’s the infamous 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas resulting in the deaths of some 75 people inside. The accepted narrative is that the Davidians, intent on apocalyptic death according to their prophecies, committed mass suicide as the federal agents entered the compound with armored vehicles; while the conspiracy theory holds that it was the federal agents who set the fires in a successful effort to murder the entire population inside. Today we’re going to examine the claim, and find out how we know what we know.
The Branch Davidian sect, originally an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had been on its land outside Waco for nearly 60 years when young Vernon Howell took it over in the aftermath of a 1987 armed raid. He luckily escaped conviction, changed his name to David Koresh (telling his followers that Koresh meant “death”), and assumed the role of prophet. A few years later, a confrontation with federal authorities led to a six week siege that ended with the complete destruction by fire of the compound as tanks rolled in with tear gas, killing Koresh and 75 other Branch Davidians inside.
The conspiracy theories came thick and fast. The most prominent were popularized by a pair of independent filmmakers, Linda Thompson (who was a full-throttle conspiracy theorist best known for her film Waco: The Big Lie) and Mike McNulty (who was more measured, and received an Academy Award nomination for Waco: The Rules of Engagement). We’ll take a look at the two most commonly repeated claims:
Houston doctor Stanislaw Burzynski – a rock star in the alternative medicine world – has spent decades fighting state and federal regulators, who often have taken a dim view of his claims to be able to cure the terminally ill patients no one else can help, using unapproved medicines available only from him.
The Texas Medical Board has repeatedly tried and failed to shut Burzynski down, arguing that the pugnacious Polish immigrant puts patients in danger by marketing unapproved and potentially risky cancer drugs of his own invention.
Burzynski’s latest battle begins Thursday, at a disciplinary hearing in the state capital.
Yet that disdain hasn’t deterred patients from around the world from seeking care at his Houston clinic.
Now, Texas medical officials are trying a different tactic.
Source: Discovery News
[. . .]
Spawning Conspiracy Theories
The Jade Helm Chemtrail program, also known as PC-GE234 or “Operational In-Order” has been deemed a tremendous success by military planners and by all accounts, has exceeded expectations.
“I mean, the proof is in the results,” continued Lieutenant Colonel Jake. “We had the Texas Governor calling their National Guard to ‘monitor’ Jade Helm’s activities a few weeks ago. Now the Governor is calling the President for help with the floods. I’d say that’s the kind of submission and obedience we’re looking for before the great calamity arrives in October.”
According to people in the know, which includes mostly insane people, Operation Jade Helm’s purpose is to . . .
Conspiracy theory that a military training exercise is going to lead to martial law.
Is a United States military training exercise really a covert operation to establish martial law? Can the governor of Texas and action hero movie-star Chuck Norris do anything to protect us? The training exercise is called Jade Helm 15 and it has some people completely terrified. Today we focus our skeptical eye at one of the more influential conspiracy theories in recent history.
Jade Helm 15 is a joint forces military training exercise that is planned for July 15 to September 15, 2015. It combines forces from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Activity is planned for seven states, with Army Special Operations Forces working primarily in five: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Texas. According to military press releases and public statements, the exercises are meant to help train US military forces and to practice in a variety of environments. Such exercises also allow leadership to practice joint force coordination, which is often critical in military engagements. The public, in general, is not expected to see much activity because the majority of these training exercises will be conducted in rural areas.
That’s the official story. But then there are the conspiracy theories where the story the US government tells is said to be but a misdirection from the alleged “real” purpose of the exercises, which include such elements as these:
- It is really an exercise to ready the military for martial law.
- It is designed to teach how to capture and imprison dissident citizens.
- It includes repurposed Walmarts where mysterious closings and construction are underway.
- Prisoners will be re-educated in soviet-style “training” camps.
It is not really an exercise, but an actual military action against Al Qaeda forces in Mexico. And so on …
On Monday, April 27, 2015 a town hall meeting in Bastrop, Texas found Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria in front of a very concerned crowd of Texans. The audience filled the normal meeting area, and an overflow room. Citizens wanted to know what was going on with Jade Helm 15. They did not like or trust Lastoria’s answers.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded to the concerns of these citizens by directing the Texas State Guard (not the National Guard, as was widely misreported) to monitor the military training operation. This order was sent in a letter which reads in part . . .
An unclassified document that outlines a US Army training exercise scheduled for this summer includes a color-coded map that refers to Texas as “hostile territory” and calls a portion of California an “insurgent pocket,” leading a certain fringe on the internet to claim the exercise is really a dress rehearsal for a government plot to declare martial law.
The training exercise, known as Jade Helm 15, is scheduled to take place between July 15 and September 15 across parts of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and will involve Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other Special Ops forces. The uproar is over a slideshow presentation that outlines the effects the exercises might have on local populations. The US Army would not confirm the legitimacy of the document.
On the Sleuth Journal, a website that describes itself as an independent alternative media organization and also sells “preparedness and survival items,” author Dave Hodges said the drill was actually about “the brutal martial subjugation of the people of Texas, Utah and Southern California who have risen up against some unspecified tyranny.”
“A careful analysis reveals how this drill is connected to Army policies associated with the confinement of detainees in what is commonly called FEMA camps!” Hodge wrote, describing a conspiracy theory in which the government imprisons citizens in FEMA disaster camps. “This drill is undoubtedly the most frightening thing to occur on American soil since the Civil War.”
Infowars, the conspiracy-minded site founded by Alex Jones, also published a story on Jade Helm 15, calling it a plan for the “brutal martial law takeover of America [that] labels Texas and Utah as ‘hostile’ states due to their strong cultural identities.”
Also See: Was Alex Jones an alarmist 13 years ago or is he an alarmist today? (iLLuMiNuTTi.com)
God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? Far more mysterious ways than the measles virus does, at least — we know a hell of a lot about the virus, like how to inoculate people against it. But God, He’s mysterious, and one of His earthly servants, Kenneth Copeland, is not a fan of vaccines, instead urging his flock to “teach our children to eat right” as part of “God’s health and wellness plan.” (And yes, in that video, Copeland promotes the completely discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.)
Big surprise: Copeland’s church is at the center of a measles outbreak that has infected at least 10 people in Tarrant County, Texas. As another famous Texan said, oops.
The Dallas Morning News says that Copeland’s megachurch released a statement Tuesday explaining that a “visitor” to the church had been exposed to measles on an overseas trip:
Eagle Mountain International Church, about 50 miles northwest of Dallas, released a statement Tuesday that said a visitor attended a service who had been overseas and was exposed to measles.
“Therefore the congregation, staff at Kenneth Copeland Ministries and the daycare center on the property were exposed through that contact,” the statement said.
Al Roy, spokesman for the county’s Public Health Department, said the 10 cases are connected and the department has “been working with individuals who attend the church.”
In what appears to be first-time concern for vaccination, the church offered two free vaccination clinics so that parents could add a little extra to God’s natural protection from disease.
- In Completely Unforseeable Coincidence, Anti-Vaccine Church Hit By Measles Outbreak (wonkette.com)
- Vaccine-Denying Pastor’s Flock Smote with Measles (reason.com)
- Measles Outbreak Traced To Kenneth Copeland’s Church (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- There’s a Measles Outbreak at Vaccine-Denying Pastor Kenneth Copeland’s Fort Worth Church (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Faith Healer Convinces Followers To Never Vaccinate, Now Church The Center Of Measles Outbreak (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
- Vaccine-fearing Texas megachurch urges flock to immunize after measles outbreak (rawstory.com)
By Marc Lallanilla via LiveScience
The Marfa Lights, mysterious glowing orbs that appear in the desert outside the West Texas town of Marfa, have mystified people for generations.
According to eyewitnesses, the Marfa Lights appear to be roughly the size of basketballs and are varyingly described as white, blue, yellow, red or other colors.
Reportedly, the Marfa Lights hover, merge, twinkle, split into two, flicker, float up into the air or dart quickly across Mitchell Flat (the area east of Marfa where they’re most commonly reported).
There seems to be no way to predict when the lights will appear; they’re seen in various weather conditions, but only a dozen or so nights a year. And nobody knows for sure what they are — or if they really even exist at all.
The Native Americans of the area thought the Marfa Lights were fallen stars, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The first mention of the lights comes from 1883, when cowhand Robert Reed Ellison claimed to have seen flickering lights one evening while driving a herd of cattle near Mitchell Flat. He assumed the lights were from Apache campfires.
Ellison was told by area settlers that they often saw the lights, too, but upon investigation, they found no ashes or other evidence of a campfire, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
During World War II, pilots from nearby Midland Army Air Field tried to locate the source of the mysterious lights, but were unable to discover anything.
Lovers of the paranormal have attributed the Marfa Lights to everything from space aliens to the wandering ghosts of Spanish conquistadors.
Academics, too, have tried to offer a scientific explanation for the enigmatic lights. A group of physics students from the University of Texas at Dallas concluded that headlights from vehicles on nearby U.S. Highway 67 could explain at least some of the reported sightings of the Marfa Lights.
Another possible explanation is the refraction of light caused by layers of air at different temperatures. This optical illusion, sometimes called a superior mirage or a “Fata Morgana,” according to Skeptoid.com, occurs when a layer of calm, warm air rests above a layer of cooler air.
A Fata Morgana is sometimes seen in the ocean, causing a ship to appear to float above the horizon. The temperature gradients needed to produce this optical effect are common in the West Texas desert.
Still others speculate the Marfa Lights may be caused by . . .
- What are the Marfa lights? (sott.net)
- chookooloonks wild west road trip: the marfa lights (chookooloonks.com)
- Packing for Marfa (wherethedartfalls.com)
Humans interbred with an unknown hominin in Europe, then crossed the Bering Sea — say what?
When we first looked at the report of the bigfoot genome, it was an odd mixture of things: standard methods and reasonable looking data thrown in with unusual approaches and data that should have raised warning flags for any biologist. We just couldn’t figure out the logic of why certain things were done or the reasoning behind some of the conclusions the authors reached. So, we spent some time working with the reported genome sequences themselves and talked with the woman who helped put the analysis together, Dr. Melba Ketchum. While it didn’t answer all of our questions, it gave us a clearer picture of how the work came to be.
The biggest clarification made was what the team behind the results considered their scientific reasoning, which makes sense of how they ran past warning signs that they were badly off track. It provided an indication of what motivated them to push the results into a publication that they knew would cause them grief.
Melba Ketchum and the bigfoot genome
The public face of the bigfoot genome has been Melba Ketchum, a Texas-based forensic scientist. It was Ketchum who first announced that a genome was in the works, and she was the lead author of the paper that eventually described it. That paper became the one and only publication of the online journal De Novo; it’s still the only one to appear there.
The paper itself is an odd mix of things. There’s a variety of fairly standard molecular techniques mixed in with a bit of folklore and a link to a YouTube video that reportedly shows a sleeping Sasquatch. In some ways, the conclusions of the paper are even odder than the video. They suggest that bigfeet aren’t actually an unidentified species of ape as you might have assumed. Instead, the paper claims that bigfeet are hybrids, the product of humans interbreeding with a still unknown species of hominin.
As evidence, it presents two genomes that purportedly came from bigfoot samples. The mitochondrial genome, a small loop of DNA that’s inherited exclusively from mothers, is human. The nuclear genome, which they’ve only sequenced a small portion of, is a mix of human and other sequences. Some are closely related, others quite distant.
But my initial analysis suggested that the “genome sequence” was an artifact, the product of a combination of contamination, degradation, and poor assembly methods. And every other biologist I showed it to reached the same conclusion. Ketchum couldn’t disagree more. “We’ve done everything in our power to make sure the paper was absolutely above-board and well done,” she told Ars. “I don’t know what else we could have done short of spending another few years working on the genome. But all we wanted to do was prove they existed, and I think we did that.”
How do you get one group of people who looks at the evidence and sees contamination, while another decides “The data conclusively prove that the Sasquatch exists”? To find out, we went through the paper’s data carefully, then talked to Ketchum to understand the reasoning behind the work.
- How the attempt to sequence “Bigfoot’s genome” went badly off track (arstechnica.com)
- Bigfoot DNA results are textbook example of being blinded by belief (doubtfulnews.com)
- What DNA Sequencing Really Found Out About ‘Bigfoot’s’ Identity (theblaze.com)
By Carol Christian – (Houston, Texas) – via Houston Chronicle
A self-described psychic who triggered a media frenzy when she told authorities a Liberty County couple had a mass grave on their property has been ordered to pay the couple $6.8 million.
A Dallas County judge issued the judgment May 7 against Presley “Rhonda” Gridley, the sole remaining defendant in a lawsuit filed a year ago.
“Whether it will be collectible, we’re going to pursue that,” said Dallas attorney Andrew Sommerman.
Gridley, 50, failed to appear in court May 7 for the bench trial before Judge Carl Ginsberg in the 193rd State District Court, records stated.
Ginsberg found that Gridley had made defamatory statements about Bankson and Charlton on June 6, 2011, when she volunteered false information to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that a mass grave containing dismembered bodies was at the plaintiffs’ home.
The defendant’s false statement injured the plaintiffs’ reputation and exposed them to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and financial injury, the complaint stated.
For damages suffered, the judge awarded $3 million in damages to Bankson and $3,849,000 to Charlton, plus 5 percent interest from the date of the occurrence in 2011.
- Psychic Oredered To Pay $6.8 Million After Making Mass Grave Claim (dreamindemon.com)
- Texas couple sues psychic for ‘mass grave’ claim (lunaticoutpost.com)
- Psychic Who Said a Texas Couple Was Hiding a Mass Grave Now Owes Them $6.8 Million (blogs.dallasobserver.com)
- Psychic Must Pay $7M Over Very Bad Prediction (newser.com)