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TBR News December 18, 2012

Dec 18 2012

The Voice of the White House

            Washington, D.C. December 15, 2012: “The horrible mass shooting by a young man with severe emotional problems at a grammar school is bad enough but now the yapping, squealing and demanding voices of the media to control guns is almost as bad. The simple fact is that the boy who shot over twenty small children, several teachers and his mother was an obvious mental case. Supposing that instead of his mother’s guns, he had taken a wooden rolling pin and used it on the victims. Would there then be a hue and cry to ban all rolling pint? To confiscate them from an irresponsible American public? The truth is that a nut took an inanimate object and killed innocent people with it. The government and its allies in the media are very much afraid because a huge number of Americans are armed and an armed public could, if necessary, chase them out of office at the best and shoot them dead at the worst. The media is virtually worthless and can always be counted on to follow orders. And because the public gets much more timely, and accurate, news from the Internet, the subscription lists of all newspapers, magazines and the like are shrinking with the speed of the Greenland icecap. Aside from confiscation of firearms, the government would love nothing better than to get iron control over an Internet that is far more informative and independent than the media.”


from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 125
December 13, 2012


            In the George W. Bush Administration, Vice President Dick Cheney advanced the idea that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch, and that it was therefore exempt from the sort of oversight mechanisms — including classification oversight — which it might otherwise be (and previously was in fact) subject to.

            Somewhat unexpectedly, this conception of a Vice Presidency that transcends the three branches of government reappears in the 2012 edition of the Plum Book, an official publication which lists thousands of employment positions for appointees within the federal government and which is published every four years.

            “The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter,” the new 2012 Plum Book states in Appendix No. 5, reproducing identical language from the 2008 Plum Book.

            This language was first introduced in 2004, when that year’s Plum Book also stopped listing most of the previously identified staff positions in the Office of Vice President, with the exception of the Chief of Staff (I. Lewis Libby) and one other assistant.

            By 2008, even those two staff listings had been deleted from the Plum Book as the Office of the Vice President retreated into further concealment.

            However, while replicating the language of Cheneyism, the latest Plum Book restores the deleted coverage of the Office of Vice President.

            Thirteen current OVP positions are now listed.  And the Office of the Vice President appears — as it did prior to the Bush Administration — under the heading of the Executive Branch.


            New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made publicly available include the following.

            The 2010 Census: Count Question Resolution Program, December 7, 2012

            An Analysis of STEM Education Funding at the NSF: Trends and Policy Discussion, December 12, 2012

            Value-Added Modeling for Teacher Effectiveness, December 11, 2012

            Teacher Quality Issues in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, December 10, 2012

            U.S. Farm Income, December 10, 2012

            The National Flood Insurance Program: Status and Remaining Issues for Congress, December 10, 2012

            Department of Defense Energy Initiatives: Background and Issues for Congress, Decembr 10, 2012

            Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, December 10, 2012

            Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, December 10, 2012

            Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress, December 10, 2012

            Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, December 10, 2012

North Carolina judge reduces three death sentences over racial bias

Killers to serve life in prison after proving prosecutors at original trials actively sought to keep blacks from sitting on juries

December 13, 2012

by Ed Pilkington in New York


A judge in North Carolina has commuted the death sentences of three convicted killers having heard evidence that prosecutors in their original trials had consciously prevented black people from sitting on the juries.

Judge Gregory Weeks, who sits on the superior court of Cumberland County around Fayetteville, delivered a withering ruling in which he was scathing of a prosecutorial system that he said displayed “racial consciousness and race-based decision making”.

The judge commuted the three prisoners’ sentences to life imprisonment without parole, having been convinced by “powerful and persuasive evidence” that the state had distorted the composition of juries to render them overwhelmingly white.

“The court finds no joy in these conclusions. Indeed, the court cannot overstate the gravity and somber nature of its findings. Nor can the court overstate the harm to African American citizens and to the integrity of the justice system that results from racially discriminatory jury selection practices,” Weeks said.

His ruling to commute the sentences of Christina Walters, Tilmon Golphin and Quintel Augustine was issued on Thursday amid dramatic court scenes. The courtroom was packed with relatives of the prisoners’ victims, who included a police officer killed by Augustine in 2001, and a highway patrol trooper and sheriff’s deputy killed by Golphin in 1997.

As Weeks read out his judgment, Al Lowry, brother of the killed highway patrol officer Ed Lowry, shouted out: “Judge, you had your mind made up the first day.”

The court was also full of police officers who staged a walkout as Weeks was handing down his ruling.

The commutations were made under the Racial Justice Act, a law introduced by the then Democrat-controlled North Carolina state legislature in 2009. It allows death row inmates to challenge their death sentences if they can prove that racial bias played an influential factor on them being put on death row.

This year the now Republican-controlled assembly whittled down the law, but it remains on the books in a more limited form.

The introduction of the law has opened a window onto previously hidden evidence of widespread, almost systemic abuse of the jury-selection process to prevent black people sitting in judgment on their peers. A study by Michigan state university into North Carolina’s jury selection process found that discrimination was rampant right across the state, with twice as many black people excluded from service in death penalty cases as other groups.

The first death row inmate to have his sentence commuted under the Racial Justice Act was Marcus Robinson in April. The MSU study found that in Robinson’s case the discrimination was even more blatant, with some 50% of potential black jurors being rejected from jury service compared with just 14% of other ethnic groups.

The court heard that African Americans had been struck from the jury in the Robinson trial because they belonged to the civil rights group NAACP, or because they had studied at an historically black university. One potential juror was turned away because he had served in the US army, another because he answered a question with the reply: “Yeah”.

Weeks, who also presided over the commutation of Robinson’s sentence, said on that occasion that “discrimination in jury selection frustrates the commitment of African Americans to full participation in civil life. One of the stereotypes particularly offensive to African American citizens is that they are not interested in seeing criminals brought to justice.”

Under the restrictions to the Racial Justice Act introduced by the now Republican-held legislature, death row inmates must now provide more than mere statistical evidence that discrimination took place. In the three new cases, the court was presented with the hand-written notes of prosecutors at the time of the original trials that suggested a conscious intention to make the juries as white as possible.

The court heard that a body of North Carolina district attorneys had even held training sessions for prosecutors in capital cases on how to exclude black people from juries without falling foul of the law.

Cassandra Stubbs, a senior lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the latest rulings had sent a clear message that racial bias had no place in death penalty cases. “Whether we look at the big picture of the statistical evidence or the close up evidence from the prosecutors’ notes, there was overwhelming proof of discrimination,” she said.

Florida scientists prepare to release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes
US Frankenstein-Experiment: designing genetically modified organisms that pass a fatal birth defect to non modified ones by way of mating that eradicates the offspring before birth.

December 7, 2012

            Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which can spread the dengue fever.(Reuters / Stringer)
Hundreds of thousands of mutated mosquitoes could soon be unleashed in Florida, but don’t worry: scientists say they have a plan.

            It might sound like something out of a low-budget horror film, but the US Food and Drug Administration really is considering whether or not they should allow scientists to send thousands upon thousands of genetically altered insects into the wild.

            If all goes as planned, mosquitos modified by some serious Frankenstein treatment will be introduced into the Florida Keys and ideally mate with skeeters that carry the deadly dengue fever, passing along in the process a fatal birth defect that will hopefully eradicate the offspring before birth. From there, scientists say they expect the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the dangerous disease will be decimated in only a few generations without causing any major implications for the native ecosystem.

            “The science of it, I think, looks fine. It’s straight from setting up experiments and collecting data,” Michael Doyle of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District tells the Associated Press.

            No vaccination against dengue fever is currently available in any part of the world, and although the mortality rate associated with it is low, it’s still a serious concern. In the Florida Keys where the economy relies on tourism, an epidemic of any sort could be catastrophic. Some fear that sending mutated mosquitos into the environment could have grave implications as well, though, and are asking for more thorough testing before the FDA makes a decision. Of course, it doesn’t help the scientists’ case that it will take several rounds of releasing genetically modified mosquitos in order for their plan to work.

            “The public resistance and the need to reach some agreement between mosquito control and the public, I see that as a very significant issue, outside of the (operating) costs, since this is not just a one-time thing,” Phil Lounibos of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory tells the AP.

            The plan to put lab-altered insects into the ecosystem is expected to not harm any humans since the female mosquitos that bite won’t become infected. Real estate agent Mila de Mier tells the AP that she’s still concerned, though, and clearly isn’t the only one: her petition on Change.org, “Say No to Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Release in the Florida Keys,” has garnered over 117,000 signatures.

            “Even though the local community in the Florida Keys has spoken – we even passed an ordinance demanding more testing – Oxitec is trying to use a loophole by applying to the FDA for an ‘animal bug’ patent,” reads the petition. “This could mean these mutant mosquitoes could be released at any point against the wishes of locals and the scientific community. We need to make sure the FDA does not approve Oxitec’s patent.”

            “Nearly all experiments with genetically-modified crops have eventually resulted in unintended consequences: superweeds more resistant to herbicides, mutated and resistant insects also collateral damage to ecosystems. A recent news story reported that the monarch butterfly population is down by half in areas where Roundup Ready GM crops are doused with ultra-high levels of herbicides that wipe out the monarch’s favorite milkweed plant.”

            “There are more questions than answers and we need more testing to be done,” it continues.

            Health officials believed that dengue fever was eradicated entirely years ago, but a handful of cases have been discovered in the Florida Keys in 2009 and 2010. If humans are infected, they can experience extremely high body temperatures, swollen nodes, full-on rashes, vomiting and, in some cases, death.

Beer is good for you: study finds anti-virus powers

December 5, 2012 


TOKYO — Consuming large quantities of a key ingredient in beer can protect against winter sniffles and even some serious illnesses in small children, a Japanese brewery said citing a scientific study.

A chemical compound in hops, the plant brewers use to give beer its bitter taste, provides an effective guard against a virus that can cause severe forms of pneumonia and bronchitis in youngsters, Sapporo Breweries said Wednesday.

In research with scientists at Sapporo Medical University, the compound — humulone — was found to be effective in curbing the respiratory syncytial (RS) virus, said the company, which funded the study.

“The RS virus can cause serious pneumonia and breathing difficulties for infants and toddlers, but no vaccination is available at the moment to contain it,” said Jun Fuchimoto, a researcher from the company.

The virus tends to spread in winter and can also cause cold-like symptoms in adults.

Fuchimoto said such small quantities of humulone were present in beer that someone would have to drink around 30 cans, each of 350 millilitres (12 oz), for it to have any virus-fighting effect.

“We are now studying the feasibility of applying humulone to food or non-alcoholic products,” he said. “The challenge really is that the bitter taste is going to be difficult for children.”

The research also found that humulone alleviated inflammation caused by infection from the virus, the brewery said.

Irish oil field ‘much bigger than previously thought’

December, 2012
by Peter Flanagan
Belfast Telegraph

            Providence Resources has said the amount of oil that can be recovered from a huge oil field off the Cork coast is much greater than was previously thought.

In a statement released to both the Dublin and London stock markets, the company said two new technical studies found that about 280m barrels could be recovered from the Barryroe field, far greater than had been previously estimated.

In March, Providence said Barryroe, which is close to the Kinsale Gas Field, could have more than 1bn barrels on site. Previous estimates had claimed about 16% of that could be brought on shore but that has now been revised up.

Providence technical director John O’Sullivan said: “These reservoir and dynamic modelling studies have identified significant productive potential, which is consistent with the test and other data that we have previously announced.

“These results will now be factored into our ongoing field pre-development work where we have kicked off a key engineering study to identify and select the optimum development concept.

“As part of this study, we will obviously consult and solicit feedback from both regulatory and local stakeholders on an ongoing basis,” he added.


The estimated number of barrels recoverable from oil field off Cork

How the Mighty (Mississippi) Has Fallen: Historic Drought Plagues US

Continuing drought forecast for already dessicated US as low river levels thwart traffic

December 14, 2012

by  Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Common Dreams

As the worst drought in decades continues to plague the US, the Mississippi River is withering towards historic lows with widespread impacts for commerce.

The most recent Drought Monitor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows nearly 62% of the contiguous United States under moderate to exceptional drought.

There are 13 states that have 100% of their area in some level of drought, and three of those–Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri–are Mississippi River states.

The river is under a “low-water crisis,” with record low levels on the horizon.

“All the ingredients for us getting to an all-time record low are certainly in place,” Mark Fuchs, a hydrologist at the NOAA in St Louis, told the Guardian.  “I would be very surprised if we didn’t set a record this winter.”

“I’ve been out here 46 years and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Darrell Alford, a 66-year-old captain of a tow boat, told Bloomberg while navigating the Mississippi. “You’re on edge all the time.”

Bob Anderson, spokesperson for the Mississippi Valley division of the Army Corps of Engineers, adds: “We’ve never really had a drought quite so severe as this year.”

The low levels are affecting commerce, as the river serves as a highway for transport of all manner of goods.  The Guardian adds:

Shipping companies are hauling 15 barges at a time instead of a typical string of 25, because the bigger runs are too big for current operating conditions.

Barges are being sent off with lighter loads, making for more traffic, with more delays and back-ups. Stretches of the river are now reduced to one-way traffic. A long cold spell could make navigation even trickier: shallow, slow-moving water is more likely to get clogged up with ice. […]

“There are so many issues at stake here,” said George Foster, owner of JB Marine Services. “There is so much that moves on the river, not just coal and grain products, but you’ve got cement, steel for construction, chemicals for manufacturing plants, petroleum plants, heating oil. All those things move on the waterways, so if it shuts down you’ve got a huge stop of commerce.”

In an effort to keep traffic moving along the river KMOV St. Louis reports that “the Army Corps of Engineers will begin blasting the riverbed in an effort to keep the channel open for barge traffic.”

In addition to being seen as a sign of further climate change-induced disasters to come, the drought and its effects on river traffic have real economic costs.

The Guardian reports that “about $7bn in vital commodities typically moves on the river at this time of year – including grain, coal, heating oil, and cement.” And Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters wrote in November:

Sandy’s damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012. While it will be several months before the costs of America’s worst drought since 1954 are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America’s GDP by 0.5 – 1 percentage points, said Deutsche Bank Securities this week. “If the U.S. were growing at 4 percent, it wouldn’t be as big an issue, but at 2 percent, it’s noticed,” said Joseph LaVorgna, the chief U.S. economist at Deutsche. Since the U.S. GDP is approximately $15 trillion, the drought of 2012 represents a $75 – $150 billion hit to the U.S. economy. This is in the same range as the estimate of $77 billion in costs for the drought, made by Purdue University economist Chris Hurt in August.

The hope of the drought and its effects ending soon is bleak.  The NOAA foresees “drought conditions lingering or intensifying over much of the central and western United States.”


SpyPhone: Pentagon Spooks Want New Tools for Mobile ‘Exploitation’

December 13, 2012

by Spencer Ackerman


The Pentagon wants to upgrade its spy corps. And one of its first jobs will be finding out what’s on your iPhone.

If the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) gets its way, it’ll send an expanded cadre of spies around the world to scope out threats to the U.S. military. And it won’t just be a larger spy team, it’ll be a geekier one. The DIA wants “technical exploitation” tools that can efficiently access the data of people the military believes to be dangerous once their spies collect it.

That’s according to a request for information the DIA sent to industry on Wednesday. The agency wants better gear for “triage and automation, advanced technical exploitation of digital media, advanced areas of mobile forensics, software reverse engineering, and hardware exploitation, reverse engineering, and mobile applications development & engineering.” If the DIA runs across digitized information, in other words, it wants to make rapid use of it.

One of the emphasized cases here is “captured/seized media.” Think, for instance, of all the flash drives, hard drives and CDs that Navy SEALs seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Flynn wants to understand both the text they’d contain, through “automation support to enable rapid triage,” and their subtexts or metadata, using “steganography” tools to decipher coded messages and “deep analysis of malicious code/executables.” And that’s on top of “deep hardware exploitation of complex media with storage capacity” and reverse-engineering tools “to discover firmware artifacts.”

As data goes mobile, in people’s pockets and backpacks, so goes the DIA’s focus. The agency wants “custom solutions that allo[w] exploitation of mobile devices” like cellphones and tablets “not commonly seen or devices not supported by commercial kits or tools.”

All this is part of an overhaul the DIA is experiencing under the new leadership of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn spearheaded a similar push when he was the chief intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command, pushing its operatives to focus as much on snatching a dead terrorist’s hard drive as on killing him in the first place. At DIA, Flynn’s part of the creation of an enlarged spy corps called the Defense Clandestine Service, which is supposed to work alongside the CIA to cultivate networks of snitches. It’s already meeting some resistance.

Internally, the DIA is heavily bureaucratic: About half of its 17,500 employees aren’t out in the dangerous parts of the world; they’re based in and around Washington. Flynn’s hired six private security contractors to train his employees in self-defense, rugged living and other necessities of an expeditionary lifestyle, an effort worth $20 million. Just as substantially, Flynn’s congressional overseers are dubious. The Senate version of next year’s defense bill, approved last week, prohibits the Pentagon from hiring any additional spies until it can “demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine HUMINT,” a term for human intelligence.

But the technical exploitation tools DIA wants don’t have to wait for any such demonstration. The current Defense spy corps can use them just fine. And in keeping with Flynn’s history of rapidly pushing information from the special operators who collect it to the analysts who make sense of it, the wish list seeks tools to integrate all this data “into local and national databases … and made readily available to analysts from the tactical to national levels.”

If all of this sounds broad, that may be the point. The wide net DIA is casting pertains to “collection, transmission, prioritization, analysis, and dissemination of collected/captured materiel, and advanced technical exploitation tools application, configuration support, and training functions to units worldwide.” Even if the Pentagon can’t yet hire more spies, it can make the ones it’s already got much geekier.

Stool Pigeons Anonymous-

            InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector. InfraGard is an association of businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States. InfraGard Chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories

“The InfraGard Nations Capital Members Alliance (INCMA) exists to serve our growing network of subject matter experts in the National Capital Region (NCR).”

            “It is our mission to improve and extend information sharing between private industry and the government, particularly the FBI, when it comes to Critical National Infrastructure. As a result, timely intelligence is delivered, cases are initiated, vital economic assets are protected and lasting relationships are formed.”

            The benefits of joining InfraGard include:

> Network with other companies that help maintain our national infrastructure.
> Quick Fact: 350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.
> Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards and much more.
> Learn time-sensitive, infrastructure related security information from government sources such as DHS and the FBI.
> Get invitations and discounts to important training seminars and conferences.
> Best of all, there is no cost to join InfraGard

            Our 1900+ membership is voluntary yet exclusive and is comprised of individuals from both the public and private sector. The main goal of the Washington, DC Nations Capital Chapter of InfraGard is to promote ongoing dialogue, education, community outreach and timely communication between public and private members. Furthermore, to achieve and sustain risk-based target levels of capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all hazards or events, and to minimize their impact on lives, property, and the economy.

            InfraGard members gain access to vital information and education that enables them to in turn provide assistance to prevent and address terrorism and other transnational crimes. InfraGard members are provided threat advisories, alerts and warnings and access to a robust secure web-VPN site and e-mail. InfraGard also helps promote an effective liaison with local, state and federal agencies, to include the Department of Homeland Security.

            The FBI retained InfraGard as an FBI sponsored program, and will work closely with DHS in support of the CIP mission. The FBI will further facilitate InfraGard’s continuing role in CIP activities and further develop InfraGard’s ability to support the FBI’s investigative mission, especially as it pertains to counterterrorism and cyber crimes. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection are currently executing an InfraGard Partnership Program Plan under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in December 2007.

            Current Washington Field Office (WFO) cleared InfraGard members are encouraged to register on the Cybercop ExtraNet Portal to validate your affiliation with this chapter. For more information on how to become a member of InfraGard, please visit InfraGard National for more details.

            For More Information E-Mail: kara.d.sidener@infragard.org

Mayan apocalypse looms large in the week ahead

Bad enough that the Christmas shopping is still not done, some people are preparing for the end of the world on 21 December

December 16, 2012

by Ian Sample, science correspondent

The Guardian

            Had the Mayans been skilled in predicting the future, they might have foreseen that a week already chock-full with jobs undone, frantic present buying and horrific office parties was hardly the best time to trouble people with the bothersome chore of preparing for the apocalypse. Not that the Mayans are to blame for the hullabaloo over 21 December 2012. On this date, some believe the ancient civilisation expected the end of the world through as many varieties of cataclysm as the internet’s servers can hold. The sun will unleash a deadly storm. Earthquakes will tear the planet asunder. A rogue planet will plough into Earth in a cosmic re-creation of bar billiards. No, no, and no.

There is no doubt the Mayans were big on time. Poke about at the right ancient monuments and you will find reference to dates that go back billions and billions of years. But it is their calendar, the so-called long count cycle, which features here. Put simply, the calendar spans around 5,125 days. Line it up next to a Gregorian calendar, and the last day happens to fall on or around Friday.

What happens when the calendar ends? Not much. Scientists confidently predict that the worst upheaval we humans face at the end of this, and indeed any other calendar, is the need to get a new calendar. And perhaps nurse a celebratory hangover.

To their credit – because to say nothing might be worse – scientists have come forward to explain the fallacy, or sometimes that misinterpreted grain of truth, which lies behind each of the doomsday scenarios. In a move that gave short shrift to hedging, the US space agency released a video intended for 22 December 10 days early. Nasa has called it Why the Earth Did Not End yesterday. Academics did their part too. They traipsed from studio to studio to lay out the mundane truth for TV and radio audiences. Some spoke to otherwise respectable journalists for newspaper articles.

John Carlson, director of the Centre for Archaeoastronomy at the University of Maryland, is one of only a dozen or so active researchers on the Mayan calendrical system. “I often get asked what’s going to happen on the day. I say lots of things are going to happen. Some people will be born. Some people will die. A car headlight will burn out. There will be earthquakes, like there are every day. And none of this will have anything to do with the ancient Mayan calendar,” he says.

Lest there be any doubt, he speaks the next lines loudly and slowly: “There are no ancient Maya prophecies for anything to happen on this date. There. Are. None.”

And yet, it seems, some people prepare. From Italy come reports of a lawyer who plans to ride out Armageddon in a bunker built under his villa. In parts of Russia, the shelves were emptied of fuel, matches, sugar and candles, supposedly in anticipation of something worse than winter in Russia. The French government’s sect watchdog, Miviludes, has an eye on the idyllic mountain village of Bugarach in case doomsday cults arrive, after word got around it will be the only place left standing.

For every person who takes the fantasy seriously – to call it a prophecy is an overstatement – scores more find it harmless fun. For others, the end of the world is a business opportunity. Dedicated websites flog dried food, gas masks and other cheerless items. Brewers have chipped in with a range of apocalypse-themed beers. And last week, a Chinese furniture maker unveiled a limited supply of 300,000-yuan (£30,000) survival pods. The former farmer claimed the glass-fibre balls could withstand waves 1km high. The Guardian has not seen his workings.

How did this become a global phenomenon? Carlson traces its roots back to the romanticism of lost cities in the jungle, the beautiful and enigmatic glyphs, and what some considered the mysterious fate of the Mayan people. These ingredients were perfect for potboilers like Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s 1896 Mayan fantasy, Heart of the World. But another book may have been more significant. In 1966, the US archaeologist Michael Coe wrote The Maya and, in a section about the calendar, mentioned the word Armageddon. Carlson says that was a key moment. “It was Michael Coe who planted this meme in modern culture,” he says. From then on, the idea was embraced by New Agers, and spread farther through the internet. Today, the number of books on the Mayan calendar is close to 3,000. Probably six are of any worth, says Carlson.

Why are we fascinated with end of the world scenarios? “In part it’s a reflection that we’re all obsessed with our own mortality, but there’s a wider context. In a strange way, it’s kind of comforting to think that when we go the whole thing goes, that we’re at a special point in history,” says Chris French, professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

For doomsday believers, the toughest of times is that moment of anticlimax, when the world keeps turning and the clock ticks on. History has told us the get-outs: claim the world was spared at the last minute, recalculate the date of the apocalypse, or become disillusioned and kick yourself for believing in the first place. Will this week be the last we hear of the end of the world? Don’t you believe it. “After this passes, there will be someone else predicting the end of the world,” says Carlson. “Trust me.”

Too big to flood? Megacities face a future of major storm risks

As coastal urban areas expand, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels

December 17, 2012

by Bruce Stutz for Yale Environment 360



            By the middle of the century, the scores of billions it cost to compensate the greater New York City area for being unprepared for superstorm Sandy may seem like a bargain. Without major adaptation measures to increase the level of storm protection beyond a 1-in-100-year event, the value of the city’s buildings, transportation, and utilities utility infrastructures currently at risk from storm surges and flooding — an estimated $320 billion — will be worth $2 trillion by 2070, according to continuing studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


By then, the OECD says, the metropolitan area will rank behind only Miami and Guangzhou, China, at the head of a list of the world’s megacities with the most flood-vulnerable assets. In all these cities, sea level rise will meet a tide of urbanization in the coming decades and set the scene for storms with ever-more catastrophic consequences.


Some of those cities with the most at-risk assets now — Tokyo, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Nagoya — will, over the next 50 years, be surpassed by Calcutta, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tianjin, Bangkok, Ningbo, and Ho Chi Minh City, booming Asian coastal metropolitan areas where trillions of dollars in economic assets will be vulnerable. So will many millions of these cities’ residents, most of them poor and living in low-lying areas.


Just as banks grew “too big to fail,” over the next half-century these coastal megacities may grow “too big to flood.” But flood they will unless they dramatically revise their growth strategies and undertake major infrastructure projects designed to protect them from the dual threat of rising sea levels and intensifying storms, experts say.


Based on the conservative assumption that sea levels will rise by only 18 inches by 2070, the OECD finds that total assets vulnerable to flooding and storm surges of just 10 of these cities could account for some 9 percent of the world’s GDP. But many climate scientists and coastal experts note that sea level rise forecasts by groups such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not factor in the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. When they are taken into account, these experts say that global sea levels could well rise 3 to 6 feet this century, leaving scores of cities and massive amounts of economic infrastructure dangerously exposed.


“Even assuming that protection levels will be high in the future,” the study states, “the large exposure in terms of population and assets is likely to translate into regular city-scale disasters at a global scale.”


Guangzhou, for instance, now with at-risk assets of only $84 billion will, by 2070, have more than $3 trillion worth of exposure, only slightly less than that of an increasingly at-risk Miami, the study predicts. As these cities’ rapidly growing economies attract more migrants, many people will be forced to settle in surrounding low-lying lands at or even below sea level. Over the next 60 years, the flood-vulnerable population of Calcutta will grow from 1.9 to 14 million, of Guangzhou from 2.7 to 10.3 million, according to the OECD. Ho Chi Minh City’s storm-vulnerable population is projected to grow from 1.9 to 9.2 million, Miami’s from 2 to 4.8 million, and New York/Newark’s from 1.5 to 2.9 million.


Robert Nicholls, the coastal expert who was lead author of the 2007 OECD report and a recent update, says that while he was impressed with New York’s ability to recover from the recent superstorm, he believes the city still faces the same question as these other coastal megacities: With sea level steadily rising, how much longer can they leave their growing populations and increasingly valuable infrastructures with so little protection. He points out that New York City, protected to only a 1-in-100-year flood event, has a larger GDP than London, Shanghai, or Amsterdam, all of which are protected to a greater than 1-in-1,000 year flood. Flood gates and levees protect Shanghai, while a storm surge barrier in the Thames protects London. Huge tidal barriers are designed to protect Amsterdam and Rotterdam from 1-in-10,000-year floods.


Many of the fastest-growing coastal cities have little or no protection. And in many of these cities higher sea levels will be exacerbated by sinking coastlines — a geological process accelerated by pumping of groundwater from coastal aquifers.


“If you’re going to live in these places you’re going to spend significant resources protecting your people and your assets,” says Nicholls, co-leader of the Cities and Coasts Research Program at the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “How long can you depend upon having the capacity to bounce back?”


Going beyond Nicholls’s projections, a 2011 report by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency focused on the growing Asian coastal megacities and found that by mid-century, sea level rise, subsidence, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will pose “enormous adaptation challenges” to these already flood-prone cities.


A case in point: Ho Chi Minh City, a city of 8 million that now accounts for 23 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, will continue to attract industry and migrants. By 2050 its population could reach 20 million. As the city grows, its surrounding agricultural and forest land will decline, while its industrial zones expand. At the same time “warmer temperatures in the South China Sea are expected to increase the frequency of tropical storms and typhoons,” which will bring heavy rains and high storm surges, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.


By 2050, Ho Chi Minh City will see floods “increase in both depth and duration,” the ADB report stated, with 67 percent of the city’s industrial areas underwater during these extreme events, as well as much of the city’s transportation network. A flood that would today affect some 26 percent of the city’s population will, by 2050, affect 62 percent, the ADB report said.


“The landscape of vulnerability has changed spectacularly,” Vinod Thomas, director general of the Asian Development Bank, said in an interview. In the last 30 years, he said, the number of major floods in the region has nearly quadrupled. Over this time, the ADB says, the Asia-Pacific region generated almost about 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, but also accounted for 38 percent of global economic losses due to natural disasters. Most of the large cities in the world classified as having extreme risks of climate vulnerability are in Asia, and by midcentury the region will face annual disaster losses in excess of $19 billion, the ADB says.


“The population exposure in urban centers will be breathtaking,” says Thomas.


Last year’s severe monsoon flooding in Bangkok was a stark demonstration of the economic assets that are increasingly at risk across the globe, and especially in Asia. In recent years, major industrial complexes have sprung up around Bangkok, producing everything from automobile parts to electronics; Thailand, for example, produces roughly a quarter of the world’s computer hard drives. Those industrial parks stand on what used to be rice paddies and wetlands, where floods, while they may have ruined a season’s crop, also fertilized the land.


Last year’s flooding, the heaviest in 50 years, put many of those industrial parks underwater, as fearful city Bangkok officials redirected floodwaters through canals around the capital and inundated populations and industrial zones surrounding the city. Chemicals, oil, and waste polluted the land and water. The flood, which cost the city some $4.65 billion and Thailand $45 billion, disrupted the global computer and automotive industries, especially the Japanese car sector, which had moved some of its operations to Japan following the Tohoku earthquake. Toyota, for instance, was forced to cancel overtime at its Japanese plants. The floods affected factories in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.


Experts say the global ripples of the Thailand destruction are a sign of things to come if cities and nations do not begin planning for sea level rise and more powerful storm surges.


For example, in Manila, where 2009 floodwaters from tropical storm Ketsana rose up to 21 feet and inundated more than 80 percent of the city, the seasonal precipitation may increase as much as 4 percent by 2050. The result in economic terms? In Manila, the ADB report says, “the additional costs of sea level rise from a 1-in-30-year flood would be approximately… 6 percent of GDP” the ADB report says.


This, says Thomas, is the “great revelation” of worsening natural disasters: In these growing megacities, “storms are no longer an interruption to business as usual that you get over and move on from, but are a systemic risk to economic development.”


That these cities are becoming an increasingly important part of Asia’s and the world’s economies will only compound the effects of major floods. “What would happen if you had three Bangkoks in the same year?” Thomas asks. “How would it affect the supply chain, and how would it be dealt with?”


Flooded roads and infrastructure such as ports and airports, says Thomas, will have greater impacts as the economic links among these coastal cities become more complex. Thomas says a major paradox of this century is that we are concentrating more of the world’s wealth and population in vulnerable coastal areas, just as sea level rise and more powerful storms put them at greater risk.


Thomas points out that Asian Development Bank investments of some $10 billion over the last 15 years have produced important early storm warning systems in Bangladesh and extensive flood control projects in Pakistan and Indonesia that have saved thousands of lives. At the same time, the ADB recommends that Asian cities emphasize ecosystem solutions, such as preserving urban wetlands and mangroves.


Thomas hopes that as a result of its recent studies of sea level risks, the Asian Development Bank will invest more in structural and environmental mitigation so that Asia’s future storm response and rehabilitation costs will decline. ADB estimates, for instance, that $1 billion in proposed adaptation measures for Bangkok, including improving waterways and pumping capacity, could reduce the extent of flooded areas by some 50 percent.


“The UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction estimates every dollar spent for disaster prevention saves $4 in recovery costs,” says Thomas, noting that Japan now spends roughly 5 percent of its annual budget on disaster and risk management.


The OECD projects that some $35 trillion of the world’s assets will be at stake in these coastal cities by 2070, and the ADB warns that natural disasters that can derail economic growth and development are “becoming increasingly endemic.” And yet, says Nicholls, he’s found “a surprising resistance to looking at what can be done,” even among those most familiar with the problems.


“Society reacts to events,” he says. “Studies don’t trigger action. Floods trigger action.”

December 16, 2012 07:00 AM

‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’ – Let’s Talk About Mental Illness

by Susie Madrak


Crooksand Liars

This is also very sad. And infuriating. I used to work with a woman who had not one, but three kids like this. One was hospitalized after trying to kill her. He was 10.

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’smother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman.Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

L. Ron Hubbard

Clearly, no greater man has ever lived. Even beyond single-handedly inventing the scientific field known as Dianetics and founding an immensely popular religious cult, L. Ron Hubbard has by his own account led a most extraordinary life: conversant in seven languages, decorated war hero, scientist, inventor, philosopher, film director, musician. And his success as a writer and a messiah is undeniable.

            It is common for people to assume that Hubbard was a pathological liar or some manner of megalomaniac when they learn his life story, because it certainly does sound incredible. But his followers have carefully researched their founder’s biography and secured all the documentation to prove their claims. Although this paperwork has yet to see the light of day, or is in fact contradicted by more readily-available sources, the simplest explanation is that Hubbard made some powerful enemies in the government who would stop at nothing to discredit him. Because it simply defies reason that so many people would choose to follow anyone who concocted stories as fantastic as these about himself. And anyway, truth is stranger than fiction.

            Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in Nebraska in 1911. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Helena, Montana. There he quickly blossomed into a cowboy poet. According to an official biography, Ron was “riding broncos by the age of 3, soon breaking them, and at 6, he became a blood brother of the Blackfoot Indians.” At the same time, he began reading the works by Shakespeare and Greek philosophers. If this was claimed of anyone else, you would be right to be skeptical. Especially considering that nobody’s been able to verify exactly where this ranch existed. But Montana is infamous for its poor record-keeping; everybody knows that.

He was definitely a force to be reckoned with. In kindergarten, little Ron was defending his neighbors and classmates from bullies twice his age by using a form of judo his grandfather called “lumberjack fighting.” That’s right: he was in kindergarten. None of the former kids actually remembers Ron taking care of business, but people easily forget things from their childhoods.

            In 1922 the family moved to Washington state, where Ron joined Boy Scout troop 10 the following year. Sometime around Christmas, the kid evidently developed a powerful hankering for an Eagle Scout patch because he earned his remaining 18 merit badges by March 25. That works out to one badge every 4.7 days. Nowadays, Scouters tend to frown upon rushing through the advancement system, because it tends to create “paper Eagles” — kids who hold Scouting’s highest rank but can’t remember how to tie their knots. But maybe things were different back in 1924.

             In 1930, Ron enrolled at George Washington University’s school of engineering. He studied for a career in civil engineering, but left after only two years. Perhaps he was bored by the pace of the coursework. Or maybe he just decided he would benefit more from an autodidactic approach. For whatever reason, his GWU transcript included six D’s and four F’s. The simplest explanation is that these were simply clerical errors which Hubbard never bothered to correct.

War hero

 A year and a half before Pearl Harbor, as a civilian Ron had already begun fighting the Nazis. He was piloting a boat up the Alaskan coast when he stopped off at Ketchikan. There he met the owner/operator of KGBU radio. Evidently the area had been experiencing mysterious interference in the station’s transmissions. Ron immediately had a hunch: it was none other than the work of a German spy, out to disable America’s communication systems to prevent the prompt relaying of emergency information. Hubbard made a full report to the FBI, thus thwarting the plot. For some reason, the government still denies that this ever took place, but then they deny a lot of stuff we know to be true.

            Ron volunteered for the Naval Reserves in 1941, where he distinguished himself with a brilliant military career. In August 1942, Lt. Hubbard was assigned to the YP-422, a patrol boat at the Boston Navy Yard. After a single training exercise, the Navy decided that Hubbard’s talents were being wasted on such an insignificant task. Somehow the Axis had infiltrated the Navy Yard, because the Commandant stripped Hubbard of his command after only a single training exercise. Or maybe he was simply intimidated by the young officer’s complete and utter mastery of leadership and sailing skills.

             Hubbard got shuffled around to a couple of desk jobs before managing to convince the Navy of his value as a commanding officer. So in May 1943 he took charge of a submarine chaser, the PC-815. As luck would have it, on the very first day of its maiden voyage, Hubbard’s subchaser encountered sonar contacts off the Oregon coast. He spent the next several hours hunting two submarines, dropping depth charges and shooting at surface debris with deck guns. The next day, four other ships and two Navy blimps were brought in to aid in the hunt. Evidently Hubbard’s quick thinking ruled the day, because no trace of the submarines could be found. No doubt, they were both lying wrecked on the ocean floor.

             It was Hubbard’s bad luck that the battle took place directly over a known magnetic deposit, which made it impossible for instruments to distinguish between the wreckage and the minerals in the seabed. Which is of course precisely what made it the ideal spot for enemy subs to hide. But the Navy brass refused to acknowledge the heroic feat. So they scapegoated Hubbard, claiming that he had simply become confused by the geological feature and wasted all his ammunition on phantoms. They were probably just worried about inciting panic among the populace.


 He was admonished and then ordered to take his ship to San Diego, where it was to remain for a two-year assignment. On June 28, after a day of training exercises off the coast, Lt. Hubbard ordered his men to practice firing at a practice target floating near some uninhabited islands. They unloaded all kinds of ammo into the thing, including four 50-caliber artillery rounds. At least two of those rounds missed the target and struck the island.

After the crew returned to San Diego the next morning, they were surprised to learn a few things:

the island was called South Coronados

South Coronados island actually belonged to Mexico

South Coronados island was actually inhabited, by Mexicans

the Mexican government had, in fact, filed a formal complaint about the shelling

 Evidently bowing to Mexican pressure, the Navy brass showed no mercy. They formally reprimanded Lt. Hubbard and stripped him of his command. According to the comments in his fitness report, L. Ron would never again captain a naval vessel:

Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgement, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised.

 In November he was assigned to serve as the Navigation Officer on a freighter, the SS Algol. There he spent nine months trying not to die of boredom. Finally, he was accepted into a three-month Military Government course at the Navy Training School on the campus of Princeton University. It is really astonishing that Hubbard managed to make it through the course, because he soon wound up in a VA hospital, where he spent two years recovering from extensive war injuries. As he put it:

Blinded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back, at the end of World War II, I faced an almost non-existent future. [...]

And so there came a further blow — I was abandoned by family and friends as a supposedly hopeless cripple and a probable burden upon them for the rest of my days. Yet I worked my way back to fitness and strength in less than two years, using only what I knew about Man and his relationship to the universe. I had no one to help me; what I had to know I had to find out. And it’s quite a trick studying when you cannot see.

I became used to being told it was all impossible, that there was no way, no hope. Yet I came to see again and walk again.

 As inspiring as Hubbard’s recovery was, it was even more amazing that he had made it through the entire government class at Princeton both blind and crippled. Once again, if you heard this story about anyone other than L. Ron, you would be right to question it. Especially given the fact that Lt. Hubbard’s medical records include nothing more serious than an ulcer. Which is troublesome, until you discover that Hubbard wound up making some very powerful enemies near the end of his life, who would like nothing more than to discredit him and his work.

Crusader against the Dark Arts

 After his miraculous recovery and discharge from the service, L. Ron was sent on a secret mission to infiltrate a coven of warlocks in Pasadena, California. The government instructed Hubbard to destroy it from within. Unfortunately, there is no record of any government agency making such a request, but you really can’t expect the Feds to hand over sensitive paperwork like that. But there is independent documentation that L. Ron successfully insinuated himself into the group.

First he befriended Jack Parsons, the head of the Agape Lodge. In no time at all, they became best friends. Next, he seduced Jack’s girlfriend Betty. (It’s unclear whether this was an assigned objective, or just a fringe benefit.) In early 1946, Parsons wrote a letter to Aleister Crowley, who was the head of the parent organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis:

About 3 months ago I met Capt L Ron Hubbard, a writer and explorer of whom I had known for some time... He is a gentleman, red hair, green eyes, honest and intelligent and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affections to him.

Although he has no formal training in Magick he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduce he is in direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles. He is also interested in establishing the New Aeon, but for cogent reasons I have not introduced him to the Lodge.

 As illustrated in the letter, Jack had come to trust L. Ron implicitly. In fact, Hubbard had proposed a financial arrangement to speed the disintegration of the Lodge:

We are pooling our resources in a partnership which will act as a parent company to control our business ventures. I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends, there is little loss...

 Parsons coughed up $20,970.80, Hubbard threw in $1,183.91, and with that $22,154.71 in seed money they formed Allied Enterprises. Then L. Ron suggested that they invest in yachts. They would buy underpriced boats in Florida and sell them in California. Since he was an accomplished sea captain, Hubbard would sail them to Los Angeles. This idea sounded good to Jack. So in May, Hubbard and Betty left for Florida on a boat-buying mission.

            Evidently, part of the government plan to root out the coven involved squandering its financial resources, because as soon as Hubbard got to Florida he drained the Allied Enterprises bank account and spent it all on three yachts and a whole lot of high living.

            In the end, Parsons went to court but only managed to recover about half his money. The financial trouble must have hindered the Agape Lodge, and by extension the OTO. After being apprised of the situation, Crowley dispatched a message to his subordinate expressing utter dismay:

From our brother's account he has given away both his girl and his money -- apparently it is an ordinary confidence trick.

 Which was certainly true, of course. Except what Crowley didn’t know — and the feds still refuse to admit — is that Hubbard had done it all for Uncle Sam. It is quite possible that without Ron’s courageous undercover work, America would today be overrun by the forces of evil.

Self-help guru

 In 1949, Hubbard began developing a theory of mind which would prove revolutionary. In his model, the human brain was a system akin to a digital computer. And just as you can improve a computer system’s performance by defragging its hard disk, L. Ron believed that you could accomplish the same optimization by clearing space in a person’s long-term memory. In doing so, the subject is capable of freeing himself of the lingering effects of negative memories — eliminating psychological and psychosomatic illnesses, vastly improving memory retention, and boosting the I.Q. score. This is accomplished by reliving the bad experiences in a trancelike state, where they are dealt with and disposed of, one at a time.

This scientific field came to be known as Dianetics. Inauspicious as it may sound, Dianetics was introduced to the world in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. A few weeks later, a full-length book was published entitled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Healing. It soon became a best-seller, moving 150,000 copies in the first year alone. The system set forth in these works and other magazine articles would change the lives of millions.

            By following Hubbard’s regimen they were relieved of all forms of irrational behavior, including unhealthy compulsions, repressive inhibitions, and psychosomatic illnesses. At which point, they were considered “Clear” — absolutely free of self-defeating influences. A person who was Clear had harnessed the extraordinary powers of the human intellect. In so doing, they would appear to be superhuman in the eyes of the “Pre-Clears.” Hubbard revealed that Buddha and Jesus Christ, far from being divine, were simply ordinary mortals who had progressed “a shade above Clear.”

            Another startling realization Hubbard made during his years of research was that people with serious physical or mental problems were almost always the victims of dozens of abortion attempts. As he explained it later, “attempted abortion is very common.” Each such incident left a mark on the unborn fetus, along with the mother’s engagement in sexual intercourse, masturbation, douching, morning sickness, and constipation. This revelation was so unsettling that it drew fire from many critics. For instance:

Hubbard's extensive discussion of things sexual, his concern with abortions, beatings, coitus under duress, flatulence which causes pressure on the foetus, certain cloacal references, all suggest to me a fascination which borders on the obsessive, as if he possessed a deep-seated hatred of women. All of them are being beaten, most of them prove to be unfaithful, few babies are wanted.

 Strident opposition to Hubbard’s insights extended into the federal government as well. As part of an orchestrated effort to discredit him and drive him out business, the FBI opened a file on Hubbard and began tracking his activities. But even as the enemies were closing in, Ron did not cease his research, which led him to discoveries even more earth-shattering.

Savior of all humanity

 In late 1953, L. Ron Hubbard announced to the world that the Dianetics system was more than just a self-improvement mechanism — it was also the key to understanding the source of mankind’s spirituality. In other words, Dianetics was now a religion. Hubbard termed his new faith Scientology.

            Ron had made this unparalleled discovery through a technique established in Dianetics — reliving past experiences to root out traumatic memories. Hubbard proposed that the earlier the memory, the more impact it has on the grown subject. Many adherents of Dianetics wind up re-experiencing life events all the way back to the gamete stage, remembering the consciousness they had when they were just a sperm cell. In fact, Hubbard realized that he could use this method to remember past lives, all the way backward through one’s evolutionary ancestors, thus proving once and for all both evolution and reincarnation.

             He also empirically calculated the age of the immortal soul (or more accurately, the thetan), which he determined to be trillions or quadrillions of years. (This figure is significantly older than the planet Earth.) LRH revealed that our material bodies contain a collection of these thetans, one of which is dominant and the rest fight for control. Which brings us to the centerpiece of L. Ron Hubbard’s mind-blowing theology. It turns out that our spirits were actually transported to this planet 75 million years ago — back when its proper name was “Teegeeack” — by an impossibly cruel dictator known as Xenu.

            Xenu was the head of the Galactic Federation, a group of civilizations on 76 planets in our general neighborhood of the cosmos. As a result of incredible overcrowding problems, Xenu ordered that millions or billions of political dissidents from the various planets be brought to Teegeeack, where they were brainwashed and their souls implanted into the local fauna. Many dozens of these thetans were crammed into each animal. Then the creatures were dropped into volcanoes and vaporized with hydrogen bombs. Through Scientology, LRH provided the means by which a person can exorcise his unwanted thetans and undo Xenu’s brainwashing.

This process is extremely dangerous if done improperly. So naturally, the Church of Scientology is very careful about who receives the full briefing. It’s the kind of thing that could permanently damage the psyche of an unprepared mind. Which is why none of this information is provided to Scientologists until after years of mental preparation and training.


 Almost overnight, Scientology opened centers across America and England. What had been only a self-help discipline a few years before had suddenly grown into the single most important institution in the history of humankind. Ron alternated between continuing his groundbreaking research into the mind and giving lectures on the subject of Scientology.

            It was soon thereafter that elements of the government began to focus on undermining the Church of Scientology and its founder. Hubbard wrote a letter to the FBI in July 1955 informing them of an IRS plot intended to destroy him. The FBI ignored his plea for help, proving their complicity in the effort. The intimidation and harassment worsened over the next decade, eventually driving LRH to escape the jurisdiction of the United States. And Britain. As well as every other nation on Earth.

            At L. Ron’s direction, the Church of Scientology began assembling a fleet of ships in the late 1960s. Hubbard transferred the church’s files and principal staff members onto the Royal Scotman (later rechristened the Apollo). Then the church’s mobile headquarters put to sea, with its founder at the helm.

            LRH remained at sea for the next few years, thus evading the clutches of the corrupt governments of the world. This is the period Scientology’s enemies like to claim that Hubbard turned into some kind of paranoid Howard Hughes-like recluse. That he was terrified of dentists and doctors and refused to be treated by either. That he became addicted to prescription drugs. That he became capricious and cruel with his crew. That his mind and body both deteriorated to an appalling state. All of which is utter nonsense.

            If Hubbard’s primary concern was in dodging law enforcement, creditors, and process servers, it was simply needless to live at sea for several years. He could have accomplished the same thing by secretly purchasing a huge large tract of land in an out-of-the-way location, and establishing a fortress there under a cover story intended to deflect suspicion. That would have been simpler than spending years on an ocean liner.

            Eventually, LRH returned to the U.S. and ordered the church to quietly procure a sprawling land parcel near Hemet, California. There they established a defensible compound disguised as a small-scale film studio and duplication house for corporate training videos so they could avoid attracting unwanted attention. Hubbard lived there for a few years, before retiring to a similar low-profile facility constructed near the small town of Creston, California.

Moving on

 Three days after the founder’s death, the news was broken to the church membership at the Palladium theater in Los Angeles. Hubbard’s successor, David Miscavige, delivered the eulogy. Miscavige stressed the fact that Ron had not actually died, but rather progressed to a level above human (much like what Marshall Applewhite would attempt to do a decade later):

“Thus, at 2000 hours, Friday 24 January 1986, L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used in this lifetime for seventy-four years, ten months and eleven days. The body he had used to facilitate his existence in this universe had ceased to be useful and in fact had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside its confines. The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists. Although you may feel grief, understand that he did not, and does not now. He has simply moved on to his next step. LRH in fact used this lifetime and body we knew to accomplish what no man has ever accomplished — he unlocked the mysteries of life and gave us the tools so we could free ourselves and our fellow men…”

 And so ends the story of the greatest man who ever lived.

13 Mar 1911   Lafayette Ronald Hubbard born to Harry Ross Hubbard and Ledora May Hubbard, Tilden NE.

1 Apr 1924      13-year-old Boy Scout L. Ron Hubbard receives the rank of Eagle Scout in Washington, D.C. Hubbard later claims that he was the nation’s youngest Eagle Scout, despite the fact that the national office has never recorded that factoid.

1928    During a trip to China, a teenaged L. Ron Hubbard records the following observations in his diary: “They smell of all the baths they didn’t take. The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here.”

1 May 1930     LaFayette Ronald Hubbard joins a Marine Corps Reserve training unit. He is placed on inactive status the same day, and spends only five weeks of his 18-month stint actually doing anything.

Sep 1930         LaFayette Ronald Hubbard enrolls in the civil engineering program at George Washington University. He spends two years in the program, ultimately earning six D’s (General Chemistry, Differential Calculus, Integral Calculus, Plane Analytic Geometry, Electricity and Magnetism) and four F’s (First Year German, Differential Calculus, Molecular and Atomic Physics).

13 Jul 1931     L. Ronald Hubbard earns Commercial Glider Pilot Licence #385 after 116 flights.

23 Jun 1932    The Doris Hamlin sets sail for the Caribbean from Baltimore.

13 Apr 1933    Hubbard marries Polly (aka Margaret Louise) Grubb in Elkton, Maryland.

25 Jun 1941    L. Ron Hubbard receives his commission in the Naval Reserves, as a Lieutenant junior grade.

4 Feb 1942      The US Naval Attaché in Melbourne reports: “By assuming unauthorized authority and attempting to perform duties for which he has no qualifications, he became the source of much trouble. […] This officer is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give impressions of his importance. He also seems to think he has unusual ability in most lines. These characteristics indicate that he will require close supervision for satisfactory performance of any intelligence duty.”

25 Sep 1942    The Commandant of Boston Navy Yard notifies Washington that L. Ron Hubbard is ill-suited to run a ship: “Lt. L.R. Hubbard is in command of YP 422 completing conversion and fitting out at Boston, in the opinion of the Commandant he is not temperamentally fitted for independent command. It is therefore urgently requested that he be detached and that order for relief be expedited in view of the expected early departure of the vessel. Believe Hubbard capable of useful service if ordered to other duty under immediate supervision of a more senior officer.”

1 Oct 1942      Hubbard summarily relieved of his command. He had been assigned to the USS YP-422.

18 May 1943   On the very first day of its maiden voyage, the USS PC-815 encounters one or two enemy submarines off the coast of Oregon. Its commanding officer reports to CINCPAC that he expended all depth charges on the suspicious sonar contact and also fired many rounds of ammunition at what might have a piece of driftwood. The next day, the chase is joined by four other ships and two blimps. No sign of any submarine is ever found.

28 Jun 1943    In an attempt to get in some impromptu target practice, the crew of the U.S.S. PC 815 fires four 50-caliber artillery rounds at a floating object. Unfortunately, this object is right in front of the inhabited island of South Coronados, and at least two shells strike land.

7 Jul 1943       “Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised.”

15 Jul 1943     Lieutenant Lafayette Ron Hubbard is relieved of his command for conducting an unauthorized gunnery practice and violating the territorial waters of the nation of Mexico.

27 Sep 1944    Navigation Officer Lt. Hubbard just so happens to be inspecting a load of cargo being brought aboard the SS Algol when he notices a molotov cocktail made out of a Coke bottle. Hubbard is detached from the ship a few hours later.

Aug 1945        Hubbard is introduced to the Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis in Pasadena.

5 Sep 1945      Hubbard is admitted at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California for “epigastric distress.”

10 Aug 1946   Without bothering to get a divorce from Polly, Hubbard marries Sara Elizabeth Northrup in Chestertown, Maryland. Sara is the former girlfriend of Jack Parsons who went by the name of Betty.

24 Dec 1947    L. Ron Hubbard divorces his first wife, 16 months after marrying his second.

17 Aug 1948   L. Ron Hubbard is arrested for bad checks in San Luis Obispo, California. In court a fortnight later, Hubbard pays the $25 fine.

Spring 1949     Addressing a sci-fi group in Newark, New Jersey: “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion.”

9 May 1950     Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is published.

23 Feb 1951    “I was in my apartment on February 23rd, about two or three o’clock in the morning when the apartment was entered, I was knocked out, had a needle thrust into my heart to give it a jet of air to produce ‘coronary thrombosis’ and was given an electric shock with a 110 volt current. This is all very blurred to me. I had no witnesses. But only one person had another key to that apartment and that was Sara.”


12 Jun 1951    Hubbard granted a divorce from Sara, on the basis of her “gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty.”

1952    Hubbard marries Mary Sue Whipp.

10 Apr 1953    L. Ron Hubbard writes a letter to Helen O’Brien, revealing his newest idea for revitalizing his Dianetics business. He proposes that they apply for a church charter in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and convert their existing storefronts into “Spiritual Guidance Centers” — although he asks her for help in thinking up a better name for the ersatz chapels. In closing, Hubbard asks for O’Brien’s input on the idea, saying “I await your reaction on the religion angle.” And thus, Scientology is conceived.

18 Apr 1973    L. Ron Hubbard orders the Church of Scientology to launch Operation Snow White.

28 May 1974 L. Ron Hubbard writes to the Navy asking for the 17 medals he often claimed to have won in World War II. Three weeks later, the Navy sends back the four medals he actually won, and none of the 13 imaginary ones.


8 Jul 1977       FBI agents raid the offices of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. In addition to burglar tools and surveillance equipment, agents seize approximately 90,000 pages of documents and files, the contents of which blow the lid off Operation Snow White.

17 Mar 1978   L. Ron Hubbard is convicted in absentia of fraud by a French court. He is sentenced to four years in prison and a $7,000 fine.

15 Aug 1978   A federal grand jury indicts nine Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue, for criminal acts in furtherance of Operation Snow White. The charges include burglarizing government offices and stealing official documents, perjury, conspiracy, and obstructing justice.

Mar 1979        L. Ron Hubbard secretly moves to Hemet, California.

Feb 1980         L. Ron Hubbard secretly moves to Creston, California.

Jun 1983         “I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in the house! Scientology and black magic. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period. To perform black magic generally takes a few hours or, at most, a few weeks. But in Scientology it’s stretched out over a lifetime, and so you don’t see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology — and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works.” Penthouse interview.

20 Jun 1984    The court issues its ruling in Scientology v. Armstrong: The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and the bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating, and inspiring his adherents. He has been referred to during this trial as a “genius,” a “revered person,” a man who was “viewed by his followers with awe.

23 Jan 1986    L. Ron Hubbard drafts and signs his Last Will and Testament.

24 Jan 1986    L. Ron Hubbard dies in a motorhome near Creston, California, a few miles north of San Luis Obispo. He is cremated and his ashes dumped into the Pacific Ocean. The news is revealed three days later.

25 Jan 1986    The coroner’s post mortem describes L. Ron Hubbard as having “long, unkempt” fingernails and toenails, and “10 recent needle marks” on the right buttock beneath a band-aid. The church did not permit an autopsy

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