TBR News March 1, 2019

Mar 01 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. March 1, 2019:” The Antichrist is described by Pentecostals as the “son of perdition” and the “beast”!

They claim that this interesting creature will have great charisma & speaking ability, “a mouth speaking great things”.

The Antichrist, they allege, will rise to power on a wave of world euphoria, as he temporarily saves the world from its desperate economic, military and political problems with a brilliant seven year plan for world peace, economic stability and religious freedom.

The prophet Ezekiel names him as the ruler of “Magog”, a name that Biblical scholars agree denotes a country or region of peoples to the north of Israel. Many have interpreted this to mean modern day Russia. It could also be Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, perhaps one of the Baltic States or even the lewd and dissolute Socialist Sweden.

His power base will include the leading nations of Europe, whose leaders, the Bible says, will “give their power & strength unto the beast.”

The Bible even gives some clues about his personal characteristics. The prophet Daniel wrote that the Antichrist “does not regard the desire of women.” This could imply that he is either celibate or a homosexual. Daniel also tells us that he will have a “fierce countenance” or stern look, and will be “more stout than his fellows”–more proud and boastful.

Unfortunately, the so-called Book of Daniel was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, not many decades earlier as its proponents claim, and has been extensively modified by early Christian writers to predict the arrival of their personal Messiah, or Christ, on the Judean scene. The so-called “wonderful” prophetic statements put into the mouth of Daniel are absolutely and wondrously accurate…up to the reign of Nero and then fall as flat as a shaken soufflé afterwards

It is well known that Pentecostals loathe homosexuals, among many other groups not pleasing to them, and would like nothing better than to shove them into a bottomless pit filled with Catholics, rock and roll fans, teenaged mothers, Communists, gun control advocates, Tarot card readers, Christian Scientists, abortionists, Wayne Newton fans, Asians, Jews, African-Americans and Latino Surnamed Hispanics.”


The Table of Contents

  • Back home from Hanoi, Trump faces more political headwinds
  • Factbox: Democrats in U.S. Congress take aim at Trump with multiple probes
  • ‘God knows how I’m alive’: how a teen defied his parents to get vaccinated
  • How Facebook and YouTube help spread anti-vaxxer propaganda
  • Looking for Life on a Flat Earth
  • The Reptilian Elite
  • Secret Societies Control the World
  • YouTube turns off comments for videos showing kids
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

Back home from Hanoi, Trump faces more political headwinds

March 1, 2019

by March 1, 2019


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump embarked on his trip to Vietnam with a political cloud hanging over his head and keen to show progress on a thorny foreign policy issue that has befuddled many of his predecessors

Now, he is just back from a Hanoi summit with North Korea that collapsed and the cloud has grown darker.

While Trump’s much-hyped meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un broke up in disagreement over sanctions linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, testimony from his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who accused him of breaking the law while in office, represented a potentially damaging development for the president at home.

Trump faced challenges on other fronts: sensitive talks with China over a trade deal, a slow-rolling crisis in Venezuela, tensions between India and Pakistan and an attempt in Congress to kill his emergency declaration aimed at securing funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller may also end his probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election in a matter of days – ensuring that speculation about the role of Trump and his campaign will keep making headlines.

Before Trump left for Vietnam, he privately complained that Democrats would go ahead with the Cohen testimony, violating an unwritten rule against attacking the president while he is overseas. He also wished the Mueller report was finished.

Back at the White House on Friday, the Republican president unleashed a series of tweets slamming Cohen and accusing him of lying.

“He was very unhappy that they were holding the hearings while he was overseas,” said one person who was present and asked to remain unnamed. “He was also very unhappy that the Mueller investigation had not been concluded before he left. He felt that there was a cloud hanging over him.”

While at the summit, Trump cut the talks about North Korea’s denuclearization short and the two sides gave conflicting accounts of what happened, raising doubts about the future of one of Trump’s signature initiatives.

The White House had included a signing ceremony for a deal on Trump’s public schedule in Hanoi – and then abruptly canceled it. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo complained about reporters being obsessed with what he tried to dismiss as “process” and said they were “radically uninformed.”

“Y’all shouldn’t get hung up on things like that,” Pompeo told reporters traveling with him.

As the summit unfolded, Trump kept up to date with Cohen’s testimony from his suite at a Hanoi hotel despite the 12-hour time difference.

The conclusion among Trump’s inner circle was that the president came out of the week okay, feeling there was not much new in Cohen’s testimony and that Trump was getting credit for walking away from a potentially bad deal with the North Koreans.

“There were no surprises this week,” said Christopher Ruddy, a conservative media mogul and a close friend of the president. “We knew North Korea was a tough nut to crack and that Michael Cohen was going to say a lot of nasty stuff. At the end of the day I don’t think it changes the political climate for President Trump,” Ruddy told Reuters.

But the Cohen testimony raised questions among Trump allies about the ability of Republicans and the president’s re-election campaign to organize a proper response.

“Where’s the defense of the president?” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump friend, told ABC’s “This Week” program on Wednesday.

In Congress, efforts to block Trump’s national emergency declaration intensified with the introduction of legislation in the Republican-led Senate, although it faces an uphill path to passage.

Trump will have a friendly audience on Saturday when he addresses the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference in a Maryland suburb of Washington.

At CPAC on Thursday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel was quick to defend Trump’s handling of the Vietnam summit.

“He walked away rightly because he said we’re not going to take away the sanctions if you not going to de-nuclearize,” she said to applause.

Additional reporting by James Oliphant and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tomasz Janowski


Factbox: Democrats in U.S. Congress take aim at Trump with multiple probes

March 1, 2019

by March 1, 2019


(Reuters) – In addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other federal prosecutors, several U.S. congressional committees are pursuing investigations focusing on President Donald Trump, looking at questions regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election as well as the Republican president’s finances.

Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in January, giving them new investigatory powers including the ability to issue subpoenas. Republicans control the Senate.

Mueller is due to submit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether the president unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Mueller’s findings and those of the congressional committees may influence whether Congress seeks to impeach Trump and remove him from office.

Here is a look at some of the work of congressional committees.


This committee, under Democratic Chairman Elijah Cummings, possesses wide-ranging oversight authority. The committee on Wednesday became the first congressional panel this year to hold a public hearing involving a key player in the issues surrounding Trump, his former longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

The hearing produced new allegations of wrongdoing by Trump including after he took office in January 2017. Cohen himself has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and other charges and is due to begin serving a three-year prison sentence on May 6.

His allegations included that Trump knew in advance that the WikiLeaks website would release Democratic emails that U.S. officials have said were stolen by Russia to harm Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Cohen also said Trump directed the plan to pay “hush money” ahead of the election to an adult movie actress who has said she had a sexual encounter with him. Cohen provided the committee with documents including a check to him signed by Trump that the former lawyer said was to reimburse him for the payment to Daniels to buy her silence.

Cummings said the committee may try to get the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his former accountant, Allen Weisselberg, to testify in light of Cohen’s statements.


This committee, which oversees taxes and the Internal Revenue Service, is studying ways to obtain Trump’s tax filings. Trump previously has refused to divulge the tax documents, citing an IRS audit. U.S. presidents and presidential candidates for decades have routinely made their tax filings public in order to be transparent about their personal finances.

Committee members have raised questions about whether the tax returns could reveal whether Trump had any income related to investments or other business dealings with Russia or other countries. The committee’s chairman is Democrat Richard Neal.


Democratic Chairwoman Maxine Waters wants to investigate Trump’s ties with Deutsche Bank AG, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, as well as information about potential Russian money laundering through the bank. This committee oversees the financial services industry including banks.

When Republicans controlled the panel, they refused Waters’ requests to subpoena records held by the bank, which maintained that privacy laws prevented it from providing information without subpoenas. The Senate Intelligence Committee also has expressed interest in looking into Deutsche Bank documents.


This committee, whose chairman is Democrat Adam Schiff, oversees U.S. intelligence agencies. It aims to examine the scope of Russian influence in U.S. politics, potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow and whether any “foreign actors” hold leverage over Trump, his family, his business or his associates.

Schiff has said he will subpoena Mueller’s complete final report on his investigation if it is not given to Congress. Schiff also has said he will call Mueller to testify if necessary.

There was partisan bickering on this committee when Republican Trump ally Devin Nunes was its chairman before Democrats took control in the House in January. Trump has often criticized Schiff including in a Twitter post misspelling the congressman’s name to sound like an expletive.


Like its House counterpart, this committee also oversees U.S. intelligence agencies. In a rare bit of bipartisanship in a Congress with deep partisan divisions, Republican Chairman Richard Burr and senior committee Democrat Mark Warner have been conducting an in-depth look into Russia’s role in influencing U.S. elections.

While they have worked in a collaborative way, Burr has said he has not yet seen “anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Warner publicly disagreed with Burr and cautioned against any conclusions until the investigation was finished.


The committee, whose chairman is Democrat Jerrold Nadler, oversees the U.S. Justice Department and federal law enforcement agencies. It has investigators combing through court documents related to Mueller’s filings to determine potential topics for committee hearings. The panel is focusing on the numerous contacts Trump’s campaign had with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. The panel also intends to look into whether previous testimony given to Congress and federal investigators by figures associated with Trump has been false or misleading. Nadler also is expected to subpoena the Mueller report if it is not released.

Compiled by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham

‘God knows how I’m alive’: how a teen defied his parents to get vaccinated

One teen’s story of breaking with his anti-vaxxer parents went viral. Now he wants to be a voice for the importance of vaccines

March 1, 2019

by Anna Almendrala in Los Angeles

The Guardian

Last November, Ohio teen Ethan Lindenberger entered a subcommunity on Reddit called “No Stupid Questions” and wrote:

“Now that I’m 18, where do I go to get vaccinated?”

While a teen getting routine shots is an unremarkable event for most families, Lindenberger was raised to believe that vaccines cause brain damage, autism and other developmental issues. But nearing the end of high school, he had come to think differently. And he needed advice:

“As the title explains, my parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme. It’s stupid and I’ve had countless arguments over the topic. But, because of their beliefs I’ve never been vaccinated for anything, god knows how I’m still alive. But, i’m a senior in high school now with a car, a license, and money of my own I’d assume that I can get them on my own but I’ve just never had a conversation with anyone about the subject”.

Lindenberger’s Reddit post made headlines across the United States as a measles outbreak in Washington state refueled debates around the small, but energetic anti-vaccination movement in the country. The social media post gave people hope that those raised to believe unfounded claims about vaccines could change their minds and make a different decision than their parents.

Close to two dozen teens and young adults have reached out to him on Reddit and Instagram since journalists began writing about him, Lindenberg told the Guardian. But there’s no evidence indicating a wave of children are defying their parents to get vaccinated.

Though it’s too soon to say whether more young adults will follow in Lindenberger’s footsteps, the teen’s story and the response to it have helped dispel the monolithic image of the anti-vaxx community, and have provided public health officials with clues on how to better approach those hesitant of vaccines.

I can actually do something about this’

Vaccines have provoked hesitation and skepticism since scientists began experimenting with the first inoculations in the 1800s. Experts agree that the current age of vaccine skepticism is largely rooted in a now debunked and retracted 1998 study that claimed to find a connection between the MMR shot, or the measles, mumps and rubella combination vaccine, and the onset of autism.

As anti-vaccination sentiment around the world has grown, countries like the Philippines, Israel and Ukraine are experiencing large, fatal outbreaks of measles. In small, under-vaccinated communities in the US, measles is also spreading, mostly among unvaccinated children in New York City, Washington and Texas.

Growing up in Norwalk, Ohio, Lindenberger never questioned his parents’ decision to stop vaccinating him and their other children when he was two years old. But doubt crept in at 13 or 14, after seeing the angry and aggressive responses to a post his mother had written on social media about the dangers of vaccines. People called his mother’s post propaganda and false information, Lindenberger told the Guardian. “Why has this thing that has been so black and white suddenly seem like there’s a lot more to it?” he wondered.

In high school, Lindenberg began reading more about the other side of the vaccine debate. His search led him to peer-reviewed studies and articles published by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eventually, he concluded there was scientific evidence that vaccines were more likely to prevent devastating and fatal disease, but no proof that those vaccines caused autism and other developmental issues. He confronted his parents, who stood their ground and reiterated their beliefs that vaccines would harm him.

When he turned 18, a friend helped him realize that he was old enough to choose to get vaccinated, with or without his parents’ consent. That’s when he turned to Reddit.

“That’s when it clicked for me – this opinion that I’d disagreed with her on for at least a year or two now can become action,” said Lindenberger. “I can actually do something about this.”

Lindenberger has since gotten vaccines for HPV, flu, hepatitis A and C, and tetanus, and he and his medical team have come up with a schedule for the rest of them.

Teen rebellion and social platforms

Public health experts and researchers who study vaccine skeptics point at various reasons why some teens move to question the anti-vaccination beliefs they were raised with and make a different decision about their health.

For some, it could boil down to the different ways older and younger generations use the internet and consume media. The parents of teens might be accessing anti-vaccination information and online communities through Facebook, blogs and websites, while their teens might be on a platform like Reddit, where anti-vaccination influence has yet to gain a foothold, said Dr Peter Hotez, the dean of the national school of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and author of the book Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism, a memoir about his own daughter.

In addition, Hotez argues, the so-called anti-vaxxer community is diverse. “When I look at vaccine-hesitant parents, roughly two-thirds of them are not deeply dug in,” Hotez said about the families in his own practice and research. “They read some garbage on the internet or Facebook or [watched] the documentary Vaxxed, but you can talk them off the ledge.”

“It’s true [that] there’s another 10 to 15% that are deeply dug in and completely buy the conspiracy theories, but I think that’s a minority.”

Indeed, research shows that only a small percentage of parents are seriously worried about the safety of vaccines, while most who are hesitant agree that vaccines are necessary but have questions and doubts about their safety. For example, a 2011 survey of 748 parents found that of the 13% who said they followed an “alternative” vaccination schedule, only 17% said they refused all shots, while others either refused only certain injections or delayed them.

Another reason could also be developmentally-normal “individuation”, said Elisa Sobo, the chair of the anthropology department at San Diego State University.

“In the teen years, as they start to individuate, [teens] often try things to distinguish themselves from their parents,” Sobo said. One way could be to question vaccination skepticism.

And as a researcher who studies selective-vaccinating families, Sobo also says she isn’t surprised to see some teens breaking off from their parents’ beliefs.

“Many, if not most families that selectively vaccinate, [also] promote thinking for yourself,” she said. These teens may have been raised to question authority, and this line of thinking eventually extended to the authority of their own parents.

The butt of the joke

Eighteen-year-old John P from New Jersey took to Reddit with a similar question to Lindenberger’s last January. A military scholarship he had won for college required him to be fully vaccinated, but he had only received a few vaccinations in childhood.

He’d only realized his family approached things differently at the age of 16, when he began laughing at “anti-vaxxer memes” on Reddit, but soon realized that his family might be the butt of the joke.

“I thought it was funny,” said John. “Then my mom started talking about it, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’m one of those kids.’”

John’s mother explained that when John was a young child, he had a severe reaction to a vaccine and even had to go to the hospital. The incident, which John believes to be a coincidence, put her off the prospect of continuing his vaccinations.

Now that his scholarship requires vaccines, however, she is facilitating doctor’s visits for John to get all caught up before school begins in the fall.

“She knows that I can’t go to school without the scholarship, and that I can’t get the scholarship without the shots,” said John. “She doesn’t like it getting done, but she’s more than willing to help me because it saves money in the long run.”

A voice for scientific evidence

The diversity of anti-vaccination families offers several inroads for public health experts who want to encourage them to comply with the US’s recommended vaccine schedule.

For one, skeptical or fearful parents who have questions about vaccines shouldn’t be shut down or ridiculed for expressing their thoughts, said Heidi Larson, the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“Many people who develop anti-vaccine views did not start that way but become more rigid in reaction to what they see as the orthodoxy and rigidity of science and medicine,” she said.

“When they say you’re stupid, slap you in the face and give you moralizing rhetoric, this is not going to make you feel good,” Sobo echoed. “You’re trying to educate yourself, and to be cut down for that is going to make you turn away from mainstream health care.”

Lindenberger agrees with the experts. He said that pro-vaccination arguments can’t be successful without taking into account the emotions of the people who are hesitant about shots, and that while he acknowledges his parents are misinformed about this one issue, he loves his parents, respects them and is grateful for their care.

He hopes to go to seminary and eventually take on a pastoral role, and says that this brief foray into public health communication and education has made him realize that wherever he ends up serving, he wants to continue to be a voice for scientific evidence on the importance of vaccines.

“I would really want a church to either allow my pastoral position to vocalize those ideas, or to allow me to distinguish between my pastoral role and my personal role as a citizen and as a human being to speak out on issues like this,” he said.


How Facebook and YouTube help spread anti-vaxxer propaganda

Companies have acknowledged the problem and are taking modest steps to discourage misinformation

February 1, 2019

by Julia Carrie Wong

The Guardian

In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on an unusually fraught issue with an uncommonly blunt statement: “Vaccination is an important and timely topic,” he wrote in a Facebook post about the book On Immunity by Eula Biss. “The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.”

But when members of Facebook’s “community” seek information about vaccines on Facebook itself, they may be steered toward unscientific, anti-vaccination propaganda. On YouTube, a rival social media platform owned by Google, users seeking information about vaccines are similarly nudged toward anti-vaccination misinformation, much of it designed to frighten parents, even as a measles outbreak rages in the Pacific north-west.

The Guardian found that Facebook search results for groups and pages with information about vaccines were dominated by anti-vaccination propaganda, and that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm steers viewers from fact-based medical information toward anti-vaccine misinformation

These findingscome amid global concern over vaccine hesitancy, which the World Health Organization (WHO) named as one of its top 10 threats to global health in 2019. And they raise questions about the efficacy of Facebook and YouTube’s efforts to clamp down on harmful misinformation.

Both Facebook and YouTube have begun treating misinformation that can lead to “real-world harm” (as Facebook terms it) as a special category meriting additional scrutiny and mitigation. These policy changes followed public pressure over incidents revealing the consequences of viral misinformation, such as a spate of lynch mobs in Sri Lanka and India linked to false rumors of child abductions spreading on WhatsApp, and the harassment of victims of mass shootings in the US on YouTube.

On Friday, YouTube announced that it would reduce the amount of videos that “could misinform users in harmful ways” that it recommends to viewers. And in July, Facebook introduced a policy of deleting misinformation that was designed to provoke “violence or physical harm”.

Neither company named anti-vaccine propaganda as a primary target of those policies, but in response to queries from the Guardian for this article, both indicated that they were moving toward taking steps to address it. A spokesman for YouTube said that some anti-vaccine videos will be treated as harmful misinformation under its new recommendation approach. And a spokeswoman for Facebook revealed that the company is exploring new options for addressing misinformation related to vaccines and other health issues.

In the meantime, the real-world harms of vaccine misinformation are well established. A recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health found that half of all parents with small children were exposed to misinformation about vaccines on social media. A public health emergency was recently declared in Washington state, where low rates of vaccination have led to a measles outbreak with 37 confirmed cases so far. According to the WHO, measles has increased by 30% globally.

Simple searches of Facebook and YouTube show how anti-vaccination propaganda can outperform fact-based information. Using a new account with no friends or likes, the Guardian used Facebook’s search bar to begin typing the word “vaccine”. Facebook’s autofill quickly began suggesting search terms that would steer a user toward anti-vaccine misinformation, such as “vaccination re-education discussion forum”, “vaccine re-education”, “vaccine truth movement” and “vaccine resistance movement”.

Even if a user continues with a neutral search term, such as “vaccination”, the results are dominated by anti-vaccine propaganda. The top 12 groups returned by a search for “vaccination” were all anti-vaccine, led by two misinformation groups, “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” and “Vaccination Re-education Discussion Forum” with more than 140,000 members each. Facebook search results for pages were also weighted toward anti-vaccine propaganda, with eight anti-vaccine pages among the top 12.

“We are committed to accurate and useful information throughout Facebook,” said a Facebook spokeswoman, Andrea Vallone, in a statement. “We use a range of factors to inform search, including the overall popularity of a post and your Facebook connections. We remove content that violates our Community Standards, show articles that might be misleading lower, and show third-party fact-checker articles to provide people with more context. We have more to do, and will continue efforts to connect people with educational information on important topics like health.”

The company noted that anti-vaccine propaganda does not by itself violate Facebook’s rules for content.

Facebook also accepts advertising from anti-vaccination groups, boosting the performance of misinformation. The company’s political advertising archive shows how Stop Mandatory Vaccination, whose ads have included blatantly false statements such as “vaccines kill babies”, and other anti-vaccine groups use Facebook’s advertising tools to target their propaganda exclusively at women.

On YouTube, autofill search suggestions also appear to default toward anti-vaccine propaganda.

And even when users find scientifically sound content about vaccines, such as a video uploaded by the Mayo Clinic about the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (the top search result for “MMR Vaccine”), YouTube’s “up next” algorithm recommends that users next watch an anti-vaccination video.

A spokesman for YouTube said that the company does include some anti-vaccination videos in its definition of “content that could misinform users in harmful ways”, but did not clarify which. The spokesman said that the change to the recommendation algorithm will be gradual, and only affect a small number of videos.

The spokesman also noted that YouTube has begun using Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica entries to provide additional information to users directly underneath videos on certain topics, including the MMR vaccine. The box defines the MMR vaccine, but a user must follow the link to find information about the fraudulent claims that have been falsely made about its supposed dangers.


Looking for Life on a Flat Earth

What a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth.

May 30, 2018

by Alan Burdick

The New Yorker

In the last Sunday afternoon in March, Mike Hughes, a sixty-two-year-old limousine driver from Apple Valley, California, successfully launched himself above the Mojave Desert in a homemade steam-powered rocket. He’d been trying for years, in one way or another. In 2002, Hughes set a Guinness World Record for the longest ramp jump—a hundred and three feet—in a limo, a stretch Lincoln Town Car. In 2014, he allegedly flew thirteen hundred and seventy-four feet in a garage-built rocket and was injured when it crashed. He planned to try again in 2016, but his Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, netted just two supporters and three hundred and ten dollars. Further attempts were scrubbed—mechanical problems, logistical hurdles, hassles from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Finally, a couple of months ago, he made good. Stuff was leaking, bolts needed tightening, but at around three o’clock, and with no countdown, Hughes blasted off from a portable ramp—attached to a motorhome he’d bought through Craigslist—soared to nearly nineteen hundred feet, and, after a minute or so, parachuted less than gently back to Earth.

For all of that, Hughes might have attracted little media attention were it not for his outspoken belief that the world is flat. “Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he told the Associated Press. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”

Hughes converted fairly recently. In 2017, he called in to the Infinite Plane Society, a live-stream YouTube channel that discusses Earth’s flatness and other matters, to announce his beliefs and ambitions and ask for the community’s endorsement. Soon afterward, The Daily Plane, a flat-Earth information site (“News, Media and Science in a post-Globe Reality”), sponsored a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than seventy-five hundred dollars on Hughes’s behalf, enabling him to make the Mojave jump with the words “Research Flat Earth” emblazoned on his rocket.

To be clear, Hughes did not expect his flight to demonstrate Earth’s flatness to him; nineteen hundred feet up, or even a mile, is too low of a vantage point. And he doesn’t like that the mainstream media has portrayed things otherwise. This flight was just practice. His flat-Earth mission will come sometime in the future, when he will launch a rocket from a balloon (a “rockoon”) and go perhaps seventy miles up, where the splendor of our disk will be evident beyond dispute.

If you are only just waking up to the twenty-first century, you should know that, according to a growing number of people, much of what you’ve been taught about our planet is a lie: Earth really is flat. We know this because dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos describe the coverup. We’ve listened to podcasts—Flat Earth Conspiracy, The Flat Earth Podcast—that parse the minutiae of various flat-Earth models, and the very wonkiness of the discussion indicates that the over-all theory is as sound and valid as any other scientific theory. We know because on a clear, cool day it is sometimes possible, from southwestern Michigan, to see the Chicago skyline, more than fifty miles away—an impossibility were Earth actually curved. We know because, last February, Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics point guard, told us so. “The Earth is flat,” he said. “It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.” We know because, last November, a year and a day after Donald Trump was elected President, more than five hundred people from across this flat Earth paid as much as two hundred and forty-nine dollars each to attend the first-ever Flat Earth Conference, in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Look around you,” Darryle Marble, the first featured speaker on the first morning of the conference, told the audience. “You’ll notice there’s not a single tinfoil hat.” He added, “We are normal people that have an abnormal perspective.”

The unsettling thing about spending two days at a convention of people who believe that Earth is flat isn’t the possibility that you, too, might come to accept their world view, although I did worry a little about that. Rather, it’s the very real likelihood that, after sitting through hours of presentations on “scientism,” lightning angels, and NASA’s many conspiracies—the moon-landing hoax, the International Fake Station, so-called satellites—and in chatting with I.T. specialists, cops, college students, and fashionably dressed families with young children, all of them unfailingly earnest and lovely, you will come to actually understand why a growing number of people are dead certain that Earth is flat. Because that truth is unnerving.

The November conference was held in a darkened ballroom of an Embassy Suites near the Raleigh airport. Dozens of rows of chairs had been set out and nearly all were filled. To my right, a young couple with a stroller listened intently; a man in front of me wore a T-shirt with the words “They Lied” across the back. Onstage, Marble recounted his awakening. Marble is African-American and was one of a handful of people of color in the room. He had enlisted in the Army and gone to Iraq after 9/11; when he returned home, to Arkansas, he “got into this whole conspiracy situation,” he said.

For two years, Marble and his girlfriend drank in YouTube. “We went from one thing to another to another—Sandy Hook, 9/11, false flags,” he said. “We got into the Bilderberg, Rothschilds, Illuminati. All these general things that one ends up looking into when you go on here, because you look at one video and then another suggestion pops up along the same lines.” Finally, he had to step away. “You come to a place where you start to feel that reality is just kind of scary,” he said. “You’ll find out that nothing, ultimately, is what it seems to be. I hit my low point, where everything was just terrifying.”

Marble found the light in his YouTube sidebar. While looking for videos related to “Under the Dome,” a TV sci-fi drama, he came across “Under the Dome,” a two-hour film, which takes the form of a documentary, by Mark K. Sargent, one of the leading flat-Earth proselytizers. The flat-Earth movement had burbled along in relative darkness until February of 2015, when Sargent uploaded “Flat Earth Clues,” a series of well-produced videos that, the Enclosed World site notes, “delves into the possibility of our human civilization actually being inside a ‘Truman Show’-like enclosed system, and how it’s been hidden from the public.” (Access to those videos and more is available on Sargent’s personal Web site, for ten dollars a month.) It announced itself as “a Reader’s Digest version” of the flat-Earth theory; Marble watched it over and over, all weekend.

“Each thing started to make that much more sense,” he said. “I was already primed to receive the whole flat-Earth idea, because we had already come to the conclusion that we were being deceived about so many other things. So of course they would lie to us about this.”

If we can agree on anything anymore, it’s that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it’s disagreeable, in which case it’s fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of “60 Minutes,” revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is “to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

The flat Earth is the post-truth landscape. As a group, its residents view themselves as staunch empiricists, their eyes wide open. The plane truth, they say, can be grasped in experiments that anyone can do at home. For instance, approach a large body of water and hold up a ruler to the horizon: it’s flat all the way across. What pond, lake, or sea have you ever seen where the surface of its waters curves? Another argument holds that, if Earth were truly spherical, an airplane flying above it would need to constantly adjust its nose downward to avoid flying straight into space. If, say, you flew on a plane and put a spirit level—one of those levels that you buy at the hardware store, with a capsule of liquid and an air bubble in the middle—on your tray table, the level should reveal a slight downward inclination. But it doesn’t: the level is level, the flight is level, the nose of the plane is level, and therefore the surface of Earth must be level. Marble performed this experiment himself, recorded it, posted it on YouTube, and a co-worker started a Reddit thread that linked to it. Soon Marble had twenty-two thousand followers and a nickname, the Spirit-Level Guy.

“We’re not trying to express any degree of intellectual superiority,” he said at the conference. “I’m just trying to wake people up to the idea that they’ve been lied to. It’s what you would do with any friend.”

The modern case for a flat Earth derives largely from “Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe,” a book published, in 1865, by a smooth-talking English inventor and religious fundamentalist named Samuel Rowbotham. I found a copy at a bookseller’s table in the corridor just outside the conference ballroom, alongside books about the Revelations and New Testament apocrypha. The vender, a friendly woman who looked to be in her late sixties, offered her thoughts on Earth’s flatness and the enshrouding secrecy; I moved on when she got to “the Jews.”

Rowbotham began espousing his theory in the eighteen-forties, writing and lecturing under the pseudonym Parallax. He envisaged a disk, with the North Pole at the center and Antarctica a wall of ice around the perimeter. The sun, moon, and stars? All less than a thousand miles away and “much smaller than the earth from which they are measured.” Rowbotham proceeded by way of “zetetic” reasoning (from the Greek zeteo, meaning “to seek or inquire,” he explained), arguing that the facts show that Earth is flat whereas the theory of its roundness is unproven. He had demonstrated this himself at a drainage canal in the east of England. The canal runs arrow-straight for six miles, and Rowbotham, standing at one end, claimed to be able to see a boat at the other. (The planet’s curvature drops eight inches for every mile of distance squared, so an object six miles away ought to have been twenty-four feet below the sight line.)

Rowbotham’s ideas gained traction, and when he died, in 1884, his followers formed the Universal Zetetic Society. It published a magazine, The Earth Not a Globe Review, that decried the teaching of astronomy to schoolchildren, ridiculed evolution, and entertained alternative theories, including the possibility that Earth is a cube. And it developed a base in the United States; until the nineteen-forties, the town of Zion, north of Chicago, followed a strict religious code that embraced a flat-Earth doctrine. The Universal Zetetic Society sputtered out but was revived under different names over the years—in 1956, 1972, and 2004. The core model remained largely unchanged from Rowbotham’s day, although it was updated to account for space travel and other mid-twentieth-century fictions.

I encountered Robbie Davidson, the organizer of the conference, in a corridor outside the ballroom. Davidson is the director and sole employee of Kryptoz Media, a company based in Edmonton, Canada. He is tall and sharp-featured, and when he speaks his sentences spill into one another. He told me that he was turned on to the flat-Earth scene in 2015; before that, Kryptoz was marketing cryptocurrencies to everyday consumers. He described the modern flat-Earth community as a confluence of three strains of thought. “There’s the conspiratorial,” he said. “It’s like, ‘That’s kind of weird with the moon landing. Maybe I’ll look into it. What else could they be lying about?’ ” The second is “the scientific-minded,” people who “just want to go out and do the experiments.” The third, Davidson said, “is the spiritual—people that want to say, ‘Wait a minute, what would happen if I took the Bible literally?’ ” In style and substance, the flat-Earth movement is a close cousin of creationism. At the end of the conference, Davidson would be screening his new documentary, “Scientism Exposed 2,” which dismisses dinosaurs, evolution, gravitational waves, and a spherical Earth as part of a broad agenda “to hide the true creator of Creation,” according to the trailer.

Davidson was pleased with the turnout in Raleigh and was already planning for the 2018 conference, in Denver; another, in Canada, will be held this August. “More people are waking up,” he said. Davidson was careful to note that the conferences are unaffiliated with the Flat Earth Society, which, he said, promotes a model in which Earth is not a stationary plane, with the sun, moon, and stars inside a dome, but a disk flying through space. “They make it look incredibly ridiculous,” he told me recently. “A flying pancake in space is preposterous.”

Here are some reasons why you may think that Earth is actually a rotating sphere. For one, some of the ancient Greeks said so: if the moon is round, Earth must be, too (Pythagoras); as you move north or south from the equator, you see a changing array of stars and constellations (Aristotle); you can calculate Earth’s circumference by comparing the lengths of the shadows of two tall sticks placed many miles apart (Eratosthenes). More recently, we’ve noticed that solar noon—the point in the day when the sun is highest—doesn’t happen everywhere on Earth at the same time. (Time zones were invented to address this dilemma). Also, the higher you climb in elevation, the farther into the horizon you can see; if Earth were flat, you’d see an equal distance—to the edge of the world, with a strong enough telescope and an unobstructed view—regardless of altitude.

Human engineering seemingly takes Earth’s curvature into account. Lighthouses are deliberately built tall so that their beams can be seen from ships far away, over the intervening curve of sea. Radio towers send their signals dozens or hundreds of miles by bouncing them off the ionosphere, which wouldn’t be necessary if Earth were flat. A long bridge appears flat because its span parallels Earth, but its supports betray the curvature; the towers of the Verrazano-Narrows, in New York, are more than an inch and a half farther apart at the top than at the bases. And, of course, we have photographic evidence of a globular planet—millions of examples since the nineteen-fifties, taken by spacecraft and orbiting satellites.

Flat-Earthers have lists of reasons why round-Earthers—globers, globetards—are wrong. Perhaps the most comprehensive is “200 Proofs that Earth is Not a Spinning Ball,” a video posted to YouTube by Eric Dubay, a yoga instructor who regards himself as the true modern reviver of flat-Earth philosophy. (Dubay has also gained attention for his Holocaust denialism.) Many of the proofs fall into the you-can’t-definitively-prove-that-I’m-wrong category. If Earth is spinning on its axis at a thousand miles per hour, as scientists say, why isn’t there a powerful wind blowing exclusively from one direction? (Dubay: “The proof that the Earth is at rest is proved by kite flying.”) If Earth is a ball, why are there no direct flights across Antarctica from Chile to New Zealand? (“These flights aren’t made because they’re impossible.”)

Of course, such arguments prompt further questions. If Earth is actually flat, why does the sun rise and set? Where does it go at night? If it’s true that the sun and the moon never actually dip below the horizon but instead travel in wide circles around the North Pole, what keeps them aloft? And what about all those satellites I’ve seen being launched into space?

The responses recede along a path from half-baked to evasive. The sun is barely three dozen miles wide (see Thomas Winship’s “Zetetic Cosmogony,” from 1899), so of course its rays don’t illuminate the whole of Earth at once; as it moves farther from you it appears closer to the horizon, just as the farthest in a series of streetlights appears closest to the ground. And those televised rocket launches? They’re fake. (Notice how the camera angle quickly shifts from a ground-up shot to one supposedly on the rocket itself, looking back toward Earth. And all of those alleged images of a round Earth were Photoshopped.) Yes, you’ve been told, or you’ve read, that Antarctica sees weeks of twenty-four-hour daylight—but have you ever been there and seen it for yourself? Gravity, too, is just another theory; flat-Earthers believe that objects simply fall. (“ ‘Gravity,’ they love that one,” Marble said, using air quotes. “Grabbity—with two ‘B’s.”)

“Facts are not true just because they’re facts, if that makes any sense,” Jeran Campanella, who soon followed Marble to the stage, told the audience. Campanella is in his late thirties, with a serious face and a close-shaved head. Like Sargent, he gained prominence through a series of YouTube videos exposing the round-Earth hoax, although he has personalized the flat-Earth outlook by labelling it “Jeranism.” (“No, it is not a religion,” his Web site notes. “It is simply my name with ‘ism’ added at the end.”) His video presentation had glitched out, so he worked from his notes, reiterating the movement’s core belief: ninety-nine per cent of received wisdom is questionable; if you can’t observe it for yourself, it can’t be trusted. “It simply comes down to, Have you been there? Have you been to Saturn? Have you been to Jupiter?” Campanella said.

To insiders, the message is empowering. Trust in your senses. Don’t accept the word of a talking head. (Set aside the paradox of a man onstage imploring his large audience to ignore him.) “We all live in the world; we can see what’s real and what’s not,” Campanella said. “Science is really an excuse for people to be stupid.” Mike Hughes, the rocket builder, told the A.P. in November, “I don’t believe in science. I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula.” The conference audience was frequently encouraged to “do your own research,” which mostly seemed to involve watching more YouTube videos and boning up on Scripture.

Flat-Earth logic is by turns mesmerizing and maddening. There is no gravity, nothing to restrain it, but as a theory it explains fewer phenomena than the theory it seeks to supplant. In the corridor, I met a documentary filmmaker—there were several milling around at the conference—who had been following the flat-Earth community for months. His face bore a look of despair. “If you’re going to dismiss everything as a hoax, you’d better have something clear to replace it,” he said, his voice rising toward apoplexy. “If you tell me your car isn’t blue and I ask you, ‘Well, what color is your car?,’ don’t fucking tell me, ‘I don’t know, but it’s not blue.’ What color is your fucking car?!”

When I reëntered the ballroom, the audience was watching a short documentary that managed, within two minutes, to mention NORAD, the Pentagon, the falsehood of evolution, NASA, the 9/11 hoax, George W. Bush, and Stephen Hawking. (“Do you really believe he’s had A.L.S. for fifty-three years?”) I had already heard references to other well-known conspiracies—Pizzagate; Sandy Hook; the mass shootings in Las Vegas, Paris, and Orlando. One attractive aspect of the flat-Earth theory, it seemed, was that it served nicely as an umbrella for all the other coverups. “It’s the mother of all conspiracies,” more than one person told me.

Many things, the flat-Earthers understand, are being hidden. God, of course. Also, beyond the Antarctic ice wall lie thousands of miles of land—“an America 2.0,” one speaker said—that powerful people are keeping to themselves. Onstage, Mark Sargent had suggested that the world was run by “a small, scary group of smoking men sitting around a table.” NASA, meanwhile, is hoarding billions of dollars in taxpayer money for its operations, which include guarding the ice wall with armed employees and paying frizzy-haired actors to pretend to float in zero gravity. The astronauts are Freemasons, sworn to secrecy. The other workers, the engineers and functionaries, have either been duped or don’t want to speak out, for fear of losing their jobs.

I wondered aloud how a conspiracy so vast—decades old, involving every space agency and airline pilot in the world, and requiring the coöperation and silence of tens of thousands of underpaid Photoshop grunts—could have been kept under wraps. “Most of the lower levels of government are not in on it because of a handy practice called compartmentalization,” one man told me. That word came up a lot. “I don’t think that all scientists are lying,” another man said. “The teachers aren’t lying. It’s just compartmentalized—they don’t know.” Another attendee offered himself as evidence: he worked for a contractor building a supercomputer for a national laboratory, but he no idea what his co-workers in other government departments did. “You’re familiar with compartmentalization?” another man, a former Marine, said. “It’s easy to do when only a few hundred people are in on it. And they’re all Satanists and Luciferians.”

At five-thirty, the conference broke for the day and the crowd spilled out into the hotel atrium for happy hour. I needed a drink, and, to my surprise, Evangelical flat-Earthers sometimes do, too; many had gravitated, or perhaps simply fallen, toward the bar, where they talked excitedly among themselves and ate pretzel snacks. Several of the speakers, including Sargent and Campanella, were surrounded by admirers who were seeing them for the first time in person. The atmosphere was convivial, like a class reunion.

“It’s a big family,” a man named Ben Campbell told me. He gestured toward the hotel restaurant across the atrium: “I could walk into there and sit down with anyone!” Campbell was from Las Vegas and wore a name tag that read “Ben from Vegas.” In Vegas, Campbell organizes a weekly flat-Earther meetup at a local bar. There are flat-Earth meetups in cities around the country; the one in Denver, where the next Flat Earth Conference will be held, is particularly active. The Vegas chapter draws about three dozen people and the number has been growing, Campbell said; for many, it was the one place where they felt comfortable expressing their ideas.

Believing in a flat Earth is hard work; there is so much to relearn. The price of open-mindedness is isolation. “It took me about four months before I could talk to someone outside the apartment about this,” Marble said during his presentation. “You’ve gotta be ready to be called crazy.” Several people described the relief of “coming out” as a flat-Earther. “You can tell people you’re gay, you can tell people you’re Christian, but you don’t get ridiculed like a flat-Earther,” I overheard one woman say. “It’s really that bad.” At the bar, I fell into conversation with a woman who was attending a real-estate conference in the hotel. She asked what my conference was about; when I told her, she doubled over with laughter. I cringed a little, protectively, and glanced around to see if anyone had heard her.

The reward is existential solace. This, I came to understand, was the real draw, the thing that could make, say, an unemployed clerical worker drive twelve hours, alone, from Michigan to Raleigh. To believe in a flat Earth is to belong not only to a human community but to sit, once again, at the center of the cosmos. The standard facts of astronomy are emotionally untenable—a planet spinning at a thousand miles per hour, a mote in a galaxy of unimaginable scale, itself a mote in the vast and expanding universe. “That, to me, is a huge problem,” Campanella said. “You are a created individual. This is a created place. It’s not an accident; it’s not an explosion in space; it’s not random molecules joining together.

You, we, are special. “It’s like God is patting me on the shoulder, saying, ‘You deserve this!’ ” a man from New Orleans told me. He was a trucker, the son of a former newscaster, and an occasional musician. As we were talking, an older man in a wheelchair approached and, in a drawl, introduced himself and asked if we were Christians. He brought up the notion of infinite space and the lack of a creator. “How can people live with that?” he asked.

“Those people are fucking miserable,” the trucker said. “They’re so unhappy.”

The footing on this flat Earth is unstable. At the conference, several speakers made reference to “shills” within the community, people purporting to espouse the theory but who in fact belong to some deep-state counterintelligence program aimed at making the movement seem laughable. In 2016, Dubay, of the “200 Proofs” video, called out Sargent, Campanella, and other figures as “suspected controlled opposition shills,” and last year in a radio interview he called the November conference a “shill-fest.” Even the flat-Earth bureaucracy is suspect. At the end of the conference’s second day, a panelist mentioned a plan to set up a nonprofit to carry on the work. This brought a rebuke from a woman in the audience. “You had me up until I heard the gentleman say, ‘The reason we had to scramble to get the 501(c)(3),’ ” she said. “In my research, I found out that’s a Luciferian contract.”

Even Samuel Rowbotham, the founding father of the modern flat Earth, was suspected of not actually believing the theory he popularized. In 1884, Henry Ossipoff Wolfson, a former secretary of the Zetetic Society, wrote a scathing exposé on his “old friend.” He noted that Rowbotham, a.k.a. Parallax, was “an accomplished quack” who went by several pseudonyms, including Dr. Samuel Birley. This Dr. Birley, who was not a doctor in the medical (or any) sense, was known for selling Birley’s Phosphorus, “the world’s best nerve restorer,” which promised to cure a long list of ailments, including mumps, deafness, hair loss, varicose veins, epilepsy, and spinal disease. The notion of a flat Earth, Wolfson wrote, was “only one of the means for decoying the suffering part of humanity, for whose benefit he pretends to live, but whose units, in the meanwhile, assist him in enlarging his fortune, over which he keeps most careful watch.”

The flat Earth was perhaps a scam, an emotional salve with no basis in physical reality. Now it has become both real and surreal, like a performance-art piece in which nobody can tell the actors, stagehands, and audience apart. “Do you think Trump knows? Do you think he knows that space is fake?” Campanella asked at one point. When I pressed Davidson on whether he truly thinks Earth is flat, he replied, “Well, I don’t know one hundred per cent, but I would say that I’m very sure what it’s not. I definitely do not believe that we’re a spinning ball flying through space.” If nothing else, the flat-Earth community has tapped into a form of mental perpetual motion: if you think it, it must be true. Solipsism is the new empiricism.

More than once at the conference, I heard the flat-Earth “debate” depicted as a Biblical confrontation. “This is a struggle between good and evil, the soldiers of light versus darkness,” Marble said. Maybe he’s right. Maybe this is how Lucifer arrives: not in a spotlight but cloaked in fog, creeping in, sowing ignorance and doubt. The devil is in the lack of detail or any regard for it.

“So many people in today’s world simply accept what they’re told,” Campanella said. “Whether it’s about their beliefs, whether it’s about their science, whether it’s about where you live. And if you’re going to accept what you’re told, you need to be open to the fact that people will always lie to you. . . .  People will lie to you. If they can get one over on you, if they can do something that makes you less knowledgeable, that makes them make more money, that makes you into a slave, then they’ll do it. I should tell you that.”

I must tell you, as a friend, that I agree completely.

Alan Burdick is the author, most recently, of “Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation.”


The Reptilian Elite

On the 40th anniversary of the moon landing — or was it just a sinister hoax? — TIME looks at 10 of the world’s most enduring conspiracy theories



They are among us. Blood-drinking, flesh-eating, shape-shifting extraterrestrial reptilian humanoids with only one objective in their cold-blooded little heads: to enslave the human race. They are our leaders, our corporate executives, our beloved Oscar-winning actors and Grammy-winning singers, and they’re responsible for the Holocaust, the Oklahoma City bombings and the 9/11 attacks … at least according to former BBC sports reporter David Icke, who became the poster human for the theory in 1998 after publishing his first book, The Biggest Secret, which contained interviews with two Brits who claimed members of the royal family are nothing more than reptiles with crowns. (Picture Dracula meets Swamp Thing).

The conspiracy theorist and New Age philosopher, who wore only turquoise for a time and insisted on being called Son of God-Head, says these “Annunaki” (the reptiles) have controlled humankind since ancient times; they count among their number Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bob Hope. Encroaching on other conspiracy theorists’ territory, Icke even claims that the lizards are behind secret societies like the Freemasons and the Illuminati. Since earning the dubious title of “paranoid of the decade” in the late 1990s, Icke has written several books on the topic, including his latest work, The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy, while operating his own website — complete with merchandise and advertisements.


Secret Societies Control the World


If you were really a member of the global élite, you’d know this already: the world is ruled by a powerful, secretive few. Many of the rest of us peons have heard that in 2004 both candidates for the White House were members of Yale University’s secretive Skull and Bones society, many of whose members have risen to powerful positions. But Skull and Bones is small potatoes compared with the mysterious cabals that occupy virtually every seat of power, from the corridors of government to the boardrooms of Wall Street.

Take the Illuminati, a sect said to have originated in 18th century Germany and which is allegedly responsible for the pyramid-and-eye symbol adorning the $1 bill: they intend to foment world wars to strengthen the argument for the creation of a worldwide government (which would, of course, be Satanic in nature). Or consider the Freemasons, who tout their group as the “oldest and largest worldwide fraternity” and boast alumni like George Washington. Some think that despite donating heaps of cash to charity, they’re secretly plotting your undoing at Masonic temples across the world. Or maybe, some theorize, the guys pulling the strings aren’t concealed in shadow at all. They might be the intelligentsia on the Council on Foreign Relations, a cadre of policy wonks who allegedly count their aims as publishing an erudite bimonthly journal and establishing a unified world government — not necessarily in that order.


YouTube turns off comments for videos showing kids

Online video platform YouTube has said it will disable user comments on almost all videos featuring children. The move comes after recent reports of pedophile activity targeting such content.

March 1, 2019


YouTube has said it will block comments on most videos featuring minors after reports that pedophiles were leaving inappropriate comments and connections to child porn alongside innocuous content showing children.

A YouTube creator, Matt Watson, revealed last week that a glitch was allowing such comments and connections to be shown next to the videos. The news prompted a number of advertisers to pull their ads.

The move comes as YouTube and other internet platforms face increasing calls to prevent hate speech, violence and conspiracy theories from being promulgated online.

Lost advertisers

The company, owned by internet giant Google, said on Thursday that it would take several months to turn off comments on videos featuring minors but called the step an important move to protect children.

“We recognize that comments are a core part of the YouTube experience and how you connect with and grow your audience,” the platform said in a posted message to creators of videos. “At the same time, the important steps we’re sharing today are critical for keeping young people safe.”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also tweeted that her company had made the safety of children a priority.

Google said that a small number of channels with videos featuring minors would be allowed to retain the comment function, but would be asked to actively and independently monitor the comments to ensure no inappropriate content was posted.

YouTube lost many advertisers last year amid concerns that the platform was hosting objectionable material in the form of messages promoting such things as conspiracy theories and white nationalism.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

March 1, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.


Conversation No. 19

Date: Thursday, June 27, 1996

Commenced: 9:30 AM CST

Concluded: 9:45 AM CST


GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And to you, Gregory.

GD: Do you have some time now or could I get back to you later?

RTC: Now is just fine. What’s on your mind?

GD: You had been speaking of the overall CIA organizational control in certain domestic areas. I’ve been making rough notes and I would like to get a bit more from you.

RTC: I don’t mind discussing these matters with you, Gregory, but I must ask you to be very, very careful about whom you discuss these things with. Do not, I beg you, ever tell Tom Kimmel about what you and I discuss. He would run to his superiors so fast he would make Jesse Owens look like a paraplegic.

GD: No, no, I wouldn’t even consider that. I know about him. My assurances on all of this. You see, sometime, I might like to upgrade the Müller books and since he worked for you in D.C., some detailed background might be in order. If I put in enough detail, it would shock the brass there into comparative silence. They wouldn’t have to get their paid rats to squeal about me being a fraud or worse.

RTC: OK. Just so we understand each other. These pissheads keep calling me to warn me about how horrible you are and I really don’t want to keep hanging up on them.

GD: Can they make trouble for you, Robert? If so…

RTC: No, retired old crock as I am, I could wipe them out with one phone call and they know it. While we’re on the subject, I have made it very clear that if they overtly go after you, they will have me to answer to.

GD: Thanks for the support. I must tell you that I always wear a bulletproof vest but on my back. That’s where I need it, believe me.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah, well, Gregory, welcome to the club. Now what were you interested in discussing?

GD: All right. Fine. Here we go. We have spoken…or rather you have…about the size and complexity of the CIA. From its humble beginnings as a sort of digest of foreign intelligence for the President. And now, it’s huge. And you discussed the press and business and so on. How great is the overall power or control and how obvious is is? Do you have agents in the local Post Office for instance?

RTC: No, not that finely tuned. As you said, we started out small and ended up big. That’s the way of bureaucracies. Expand or die. Old Hoover hated us and tried his best to take us over but he failed. There were more of us that there were of him and while initially we dealt only with foreign matters, as a matter of pure survival, we turned our eyes and attention to the domestic market. Hoover was in a constant attack mode, whispering, rumor spreading, attempts at internal spying on us, aggravated turf wars and so on.  We not only had to get around him, and did so by being more than useful to the President and also, note this Gregory, by expanding and getting more power. These things have a life of their own but with increasing power comes increasing omnipotence. Eventually, we did an end run on Hoover, although we continued to work with him but very gingerly, and then we moved with caution into the domestic business and political field. For both security and, I might add, profit. I was in charge of business contacts as it were and often a CEO would come to me complaining that this or that country was interfering with their business. Could I help? Of course I would try and if the interference was bad enough, we would try to help our friend by replacing the troublemaking government or president, or king, involved. We justified this by telling the President or his top people that the target country, or president or king was a current serious threat to the security of the United States. In order to support our thesis, we went to one of our wholly-owned think tanks like the RAND people and have them prepare a supportive paper on order. This I would look at and make suitable changes if needed and forward it to our man, or men as it were, on the staff of the New York Times followed by a personal call to the publisher or senior editor and hey presto, the very next day a wonderful story would be on the front page of that influential paper.

GD: Above the fold?

RTC: Yes, above the fold. On the upper right. And the president and his people would see this just before we paid him a solemn visit with our RAND evaluation added to our own. It never failed and pretty soon, the public would learn that the Shah of Iran was running away or that this or that tinhorn dictator like Trujillo got snuffed by what we liked to call ‘dissident internal elements.’

GD: I knew about Guatemala from my uncle. The family had connections with Grace and United Fruit…

RTC: Well, you know what I mean. You know, this usually works but in one case, it did not. We were asked by our mob friends to get rid of Battista in Cuba who was shaking them down more than usual so we were happy to oblige fellow workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Unfortunately, one of our people put Fidel Castro forward as a brilliant reformer and out went Battista and in went Fidel. Of course we do not talk about that.

GD: What happened to the careless agent?

RTC: We don’t talk about that, either.

GD: Robert, have you heard about the joys of finely ground glass? I mean ground in a pestle until it’s like face powder, not gravel.

RTC: Oh, yes, indeed I have. It destroys someone careless enough to eat something the stuff is mixed into. But it takes quite a bit of time before the arteries give way. I don’t recommend it for emergency situations. Still, shooting someone is so public. Better the heart attack, don’t you think?

GD: Yes. A French medical fellow originally developed the drug and Müller got it. Gave it to the CIA. He said it worked better than chucking inconvenient people out of the window. Heini was, all in all, a very considerate person. He used to be concerned, he once told me, about the people and vehicles that might be down below. Someone rapidly descending from ten floors up would do terrible damage to a casual pedestrian, not to mention the damage they could do to a parked car. No, once he got in with your people there, I notice defenestrating seemed to stop and the heart attack surged forward. Harry Dexter White is a case in point.

RTC: Ah, my yes, old Harry. Got him before he was up for sentencing and decided to talk. Although perhaps Stalin had a hand in that, don’t you think? Qui Bono, Gregory?

GD: A good point.

(Concluded at 10:01 AM CST)




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