TBR News October 1, 2017

Oct 01 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 1, 2017: “When people download a film from Netflix to a flatscreen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are.

Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home – the rise of ‘connected’ gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people ‘bug’ their own homes.

The CIA claims it will be able to ‘read’ these devices via the internet – and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home.

Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps – and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells.

These web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.

‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters –  all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’

One of the world’s biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside ‘connected’ white goods.

The ARM chips are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors – and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance.

It’s a concept described as the ‘internet of things’.”


Table of Contents

  • Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters
  • Beyond Catalonia: Separatist movements in Western Europe
  • Hezbollah says Israel pushing region to war
  • The curious case of the alien in the photo and the mystery that took years to solve
  • Should they go back?
  • Puerto Rico could face 6 months without power
  • Examining Poor School Performance in the U.S.



Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters

October 1, 2017

BBC News

Catalan officials say at least 337 people have been injured as police used force to try to prevent voting in Catalonia’s independence referendum.

The Spanish government has pledged to stop a poll that was declared illegal by the country’s constitutional court.

Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations.

In the regional capital Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.

What is the latest?

The Catalan regional government and health department both said 337 people had visited hospitals or health centres.

Separately, the Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been hurt. The national police and Guardia Civil were sent into Catalonia in large numbers to prevent the vote from taking place.

  • Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said: “The unjustified use of violence… by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people”
  • Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said police had “acted with professionalism and in a proportionate way”
  • Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido blamed Mr Puigdemont for what he termed the day’s senseless events
  • The Guardia Civil, a paramilitary force charged with police duties, said it was “resisting harassment and provocation” while carrying out its duties “in defence of the law”

One voter, Júlia Graell, told the BBC that “police started to kick people, young and old”, adding: “Today, I have seen the worst actions that a government can do to the people of its own country”

In Girona, riot police smashed their way into a polling station where Mr Puigdemont was due to vote, and forcibly removed those looking to place their ballots. Mr Prigdemont was able to vote at another polling station.

The BBC’s Tom Burridge, in Barcelona, witnessed police being chased away from one polling booth after they had raided it.

Since Friday, thousands of people have occupied schools and other buildings designated as polling stations in order to keep them open.

Many of those inside were parents and their children, who remained in the buildings after the end of lessons on Friday and bedded down in sleeping bags on gym mats.

In some areas, farmers positioned tractors on roads and in front of polling station doors, and school gates were taken away to make it harder for the authorities to seal buildings off. Firefighters have acted as human shields between police and demonstrators.

Referendum organisers had called for peaceful resistance to any police action.

Meanwhile, FC Barcelona’s match against Las Palmas later on Sunday will be played behind closed doors, after Barcelona said the football league refused to suspend the game.

Why is a vote being held?

Catalonia, a wealthy region of 7.5 million people in north-eastern Spain, has its own language and culture.

It also has a high degree of autonomy, but is not recognised as a separate nation under the Spanish constitution.

The ballot papers contain just one question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” There are two boxes: Yes or No.

Pressure for a vote on self-determination has grown over the past five years.

But Spanish unionists argue Catalonia already enjoys broad autonomy within Spain, along with other regions like the Basque Country and Galicia.

Why is Madrid so opposed?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the vote goes against the constitution, which refers to “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”.

Central government spokesman Iñigo Mendez de Vigo accused the Catalan government of being inflexible and one-sided, but it is a charge that Catalan nationalists throw back at Madrid itself.

Before Sunday, demonstrations by independence campaigners had been largely peaceful.

Thousands of extra police officers were sent to the region, many of them based on two ships in the port of Barcelona.

The Spanish government has put policing in Catalonia under central control and ordered the regional force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to help enforce the ban on the illegal referendum.

Before the poll, Spanish authorities seized voting materials, imposed fines on top Catalan officials and temporarily detained dozens of politicians.

Police have also occupied the regional government’s telecommunications centre.


Beyond Catalonia: Separatist movements in Western Europe

Catalonia’s regional government plans to hold its independence referendum on Sunday. But separatist movements are not unique to Spain: Several other European regions have aspirations of becoming autonomous.

September 30, 2017


The fall of the Soviet Union and break up of Yugoslavia created several new countries in Eastern Europe. Borders in Western Europe, by contrast, have remained firm. Yet, this foundation is being challenged by a series of independence movements, some of which are militant. They have varying chances of success.


Nowhere in Western Europe is the call for independence louder than in Catalonia. The regional language was oppressed in the Franco years, but Catalonia has since achieved a considerable amount of cultural and political autonomy, including its own regional parliament. That is not enough for many of Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents. They want their own country, largely for economic reasons. They believe that the central state is sucking their wealth dry. The region that includes Barcelona accounts for 20 percent of Spain’s GDP.

On Sunday, the regional government wants to have a referendum. Spain’s conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy is firmly against it, calling it unconstitutional. The central government in Madrid is trying to block the referendum through the courts and by using police force.

Basque Country

Catalonia looks to its Spanish neighbors in Basque Country. It is the only region in Spain that does not send its tax revenue to Madrid to be shared across the country. Basque Country is responsible for its own taxation, sending just a small amount to the central government. However, it is a poorer region than Catalonia.

Like Catalonia, Basque Country was also oppressed by the Franco dictatorship. Its history has created a more militant push for independence, giving rise to ETA separatist group, which killed more than 800 people in 50 years of attacks. In 2011, the organization declared an end to violence.

Neither attacks nor talks have brought Basque Country closer to independence: Madrid rejects the idea as it does for Catalonia.


Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for more than 300 years, and many Scots have been less than happy about that. They already have their own parliament, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) has been pushing for full independence. The referendum in 2014 failed to achieve that, however, but independence sentiments were again stoked by the Brexit result in 2016. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) reasoned that her country, which voted largely to remain in the EU, should not be forced to automatically leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. She is floating the possibility of another referendum for 2018, when the details of Brexit are clearer. But opinion polls show the result would likely be the same as in 2014.


The pro-independence leader of the New Flemish Alliance, Bart De Wever, leads Belgium’s current Chamber of Representatives. Wever is convinced Belgium will one day break up and his Flemish-speaking Flanders region would be economically better off without the country’s other region, majority French-speaking Wallonia.

If that were to happen, there would be little of Belgium left: It would lose more than half of its people and economy, calling into question Brussels’ status as EU capital and NATO headquarters, as well as the future of Wallonia. The leftover Belgian region could then be absorbed by France, Luxembourg or even Germany. At the moment, however, there are no immediate plans for a Belgian break up.


The secession movement in northern Italy is purely financially motivated. The region is Italy’s industrial powerhouse and banking center, producing most of Italy’s GDP. Many in the north feel their poorer compatriots to the south make off with their hard-earned money. The Lega Nord party in the 1990s wanted a complete split from the rest of the Italy, calling their region “Padania,” referring to the Po river valley. Since then, the focus has shifted away from a clean break and towards more control over finances.

South Tyrol

Even further north in Italy is the region that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War. There followed a period where South Tyrol was Italianized under Mussolini, before gradually gaining more political and linguistic autonomy after the Second World War. Now the prosperous region is allowed to keep and control most of its revenue.

South Tyroleans were largely satisfied with this arrangement, but separatist sentiments were stirred up by the debt crisis. After Greece, Italy has the highest amount of debt in the Eurozone. Many in South Tyrol didn’t want to have anything to do with the problems of Italy’s central government in Rome.


France has long tried to deny the island of its local language and fought strongly against independence movements. The National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) tried to pressure France by force, attacking representatives and French state symbols. The separatist group announced an end to hostilities in 2014, but the potential for conflict remains. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin made some cautious proposals in the 2000s to allow for some autonomy. This was strictly opposed by the opposition. They feared other regions would then want to break away, too. The central government in Paris tends to pay little regard to regional languages, which are viewed as a danger to national unity.


Hezbollah says Israel pushing region to war

October 1, 2017


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Sunday of pushing the region to war in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and said nowhere in Israel would be safe if such a conflict were to erupt.

Tensions have risen this year between Iran-backed Hezbollah and its arch enemy Israel, which last fought a major conflict in 2006. Israel has said it would use all its strength from the start in any new war with Hezbollah.

In a speech to followers, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the Israeli government did not have “a correct assessment of where this war will lead if they ignite it”, and did not know how it would end.

“They do not have a correct picture about what is awaiting them if they go to the idiocy of this war,” Nasrallah said.

Israel does not know where such a conflict would be fought, or who would take part, he added.

Nasrallah said earlier this year that a future Israeli war against Syria or Lebanon could draw thousands of fighters from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan, and could take place inside Israel.

Israel is concerned by Tehran’s steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or the groups it backs, especially Hezbollah.

Nasrallah was speaking on Sunday on the occasion of Ashura, when Shi‘ites commemorate the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, the Imam Hussein, at Kerbala in 680.

He called on Jews who emigrated to Israel to “leave and return to the countries from which they came so they are not fuel for any war that the idiotic Netanyahu government takes them to”.

Were war to erupt, he said, they might not have long to leave. “They will have no secure place in occupied Palestine,” he said.

Netanyahu said in August that Iran was building sites to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon, with the aim of using them against Israel.

Tens of thousands of Shi‘ites wearing mourning black marched through the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut to commemorate Ashura, when Hezbollah rallies supporters around its political causes.

Men with boxes of tissues weaved through the crowds, handing them to those weeping in mourning.

“All of these crowds are answering Nasrallah’s call, Hussein’s call, saying we are ready to give ourselves and souls and blood and children and all we own in sacrifice to this religion,” said Deeb Hussein al-Annan, whose son was killed fighting for Hezbollah in Syria in 2014.

“We are defending the cause and our existence [in Syria],” he added, holding a flag emblazoned with a picture of his son.

The group’s role in Syria is the focus of controversy in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s opponents say it has dragged Lebanon into the conflict. Hezbollah says it has stopped extremist groups such as Islamic State from advancing into Lebanon from Syria.

Nasrallah said the battle against Islamic State must continue “in every place to eliminate Daesh”, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

Reporting by Tom Perry, Laila Bassam, Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman


The curious case of the alien in the photo and the mystery that took years to solve

September 30 2017

The Guardian

In the spring of 2012, Chicago videographer Adam Dew received a mysterious phone call from his former business partner Joseph Beason. “I have something to show you,” Beason said with urgency in his voice.

Later that day, Beason showed Dew a series of slides. The slides had been found 14 years earlier by his sister, who had been hired to dispose of the belongings of an elderly woman who had recently died. His sister couldn’t bring herself to jettison the collection, and so she took the box home, placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Many years later, she finally projected the slides on to her bedroom wall. She saw vivid color photographs of Dwight Eisenhower on what appeared to be a postwar victory train tour, pictures of Bing Crosby and Clark Gable, as well as several photos of European towns. Figuring they had some historical significance, she sent them to Beason, who had worked in book publishing.

Now Dew scrolled through the slides. Some were stunning and had the unmistakable clarity of Kodachrome – Kodak’s revolutionary mid-century color processing. He wondered how the person who took them was able to get so close to Eisenhower. They must be important, he thought.

Then Beason showed him another picture, the first of two nearly identical slides. These had not been in the tray, but tucked underneath, wrapped in parchment paper.

Dew gasped. Staring at him was a small, brown, withered body inside what appeared to be a glass case. The figure had withered arms, shriveled legs, a large triangular skull with elongated eye sockets, and a tiny sliver of a mouth.

He had but one thought.

He was looking at a dead space alien.

Until that day, Dew had spent little time pondering UFOs. He’s a stout father of three who shoots freelance sports videos for a living. People would describe him as gruff, diligent, short on chitchat – hardly the type to be chasing little green men. But he just couldn’t stop thinking about the slides.

“I knew immediately it was a good story,” Dew told me a few months ago as we sat outside a coffee shop in Fredrick, Maryland. “Whatever was on that slide was a great story.”

Dew had long dreamed of making a documentary, and suddenly he had the ultimate topic. He convinced Beason, his friend, they should research one together.

The pair found out that the pictures were found in the garage of a woman named Hilda Blair Ray near Sedona, Arizona.

Dew only knew of one UFO place – Roswell, New Mexico, just a state away. A UFO supposedly had crashed there in 1947, and many believed it to be one of America’s biggest government cover-ups. (In its 231-page report about the incident, released in 1997, the US air force denied all of it).

Could this be related?

News accounts and military documents all confirm a celestial device tumbled to earth that night in Roswell, but this is where the stories divide.

Witnesses and their relatives describe a destroyed flying saucer that broke into two wreckage fields. Aliens, many of those witnesses say, were found in the mangled craft, and then transported to a top-secret site. The military, after first announcing a flying disk crash, quickly revised their story, saying it was actually an experimental weather balloon.

For years, the Roswell incident was largely unknown outside New Mexico until 1978, when a Canadian nuclear physicist named Stanton Friedman met an air force officer who had been there. Intrigued by the man’s story, Friedman researched the case, and helped make a documentary called UFOs Are Real. Soon after the documentary’s release, the town turned into an extraterrestrial mecca, giving birth to a culture of self-declared researchers yearning to find the “truth” about the event.

Some of those, like Tom Carey, a retired Philadelphia businessman with a background in anthropology, and Don Schmitt, who owns a ranch in southern Wisconsin, have written several books on the subject. But so far their evidence is only anecdotal, and their years of research have not provided any physical proof aliens crashed at Roswell.

“If Roswell turns out to be true, it’s the story of the millennium,” Schmitt says.

By 2012 time was running out on Roswell. With nothing tangible to link the accident to aliens, Roswell was becoming a cold case.

Then Joseph Beason contacted Tom Carey.

At first, Carey was suspicious. He had been disappointed enough times by phony claims of Roswell evidence, and his first reaction was to distrust any new discovery. To make matters worse, Beason also struck him as secretive, insisting that anyone who looked at the slides must first sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Still, Carey felt an obligation to pursue any Roswell possibility so he signed the non-disclosure, and in return he was emailed a scan of one slide.

When Carey opened the email attachment in his Philadelphia-area home office , he jolted in his seat. Clearly visible on the figure’s head was a dark mark similar to other black blotches across the body’s torso. It appeared to be some kind of skin discoloration, but to Carey, who has anthropology degrees from two different universities, that mark on the head was something else.

“Child of earth,” he said to himself.

In the American south-west lives a small reddish-brown insect called the Jerusalem cricket. It has a faint, dark indentation on its head, almost like a newborn’s still melding skull. The Jerusalem cricket’s more common name is the potato bug but in Spanish it is known as el niño de la tierra – “the child of earth”.

The daughter of Dan Dwyer, a Roswell firefighter in 1947, has said her father saw three of the aliens at the crash site. When pressed by his children to describe them, he had said: “Child of earth.”

Those three words had haunted Carey for years. What did that mean? Carey assumed it had something to do with the Jerusalem cricket, but how?

Now the answer glowed from his computer screen.

“For me, that was almost like a fingerprint,” Carey says. “When I saw that image and saw that marking on that body lying on the slab, it jumped right out at me. That’s what Dan Dwyer was talking about. Also, the body looked exactly like what had been described to me by several eyewitnesses: frail, big head, et cetera. My first thought was: this has to be one of the Roswell bodies. It wasn’t a sketch, it was a photo – and it was taken right after recovery.”

Suddenly, Roswell had its most promising lead in years.

“What do you want of me?” Beason remembers Carey asking.

“I want you to help verify,” Beason replied.

With Carey and Schmitt’s guidance, Beason and Dew began what UFO experts call “an investigation”. They took the slides to professors, color experts and animators. They cut one of the images from its cardboard border to look for a date code, then had it run through a drum scan to improve clarity. A digital illustrator made a 3-D image of what the body might look like alive.

They consulted people at the Kodak headquarters in Rochester, New York. The experts told them the slides were real, had not been tampered with, and were from between 1945 and 1950, making it possible the photos were taken right after Roswell.

They looked more into Hilda Blair Ray’s life. She had a pilot’s license and worked as an attorney. She was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Minnesota’s law school and had married a geologist named Bernard. The couple moved to Midland, Texas. Bernard became head of the powerful West Texas Geological Society. They never had children. They roamed the world.

Beason and Dew started to suspect Hilda might have known Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie. (Eisenhower’s great-granddaughter Laura once claimed the president actually met aliens while he was president.) They wondered how deep Hilda and Bernard’s connections went. Looking at a map, they realized Roswell, New Mexico, is 250 miles from Midland, Texas. They thought that seemed close.

“You start to fill in the blanks,” Dew says.

Carey took a photo of one of the slides to an old associate at the University of Toronto, Richard Doble, who noticed the figure had half as many ribs as a human, no collarbone and its arms attached to the top ribs.

“The more you look at it, the more you realize it is not from earth,” Doble later said.

But finding other opinions was challenging. Schmitt says American scientists “hold up a cross like to a vampire” when the word extraterrestrial is used. He and Carey also worried that any Roswell evidence taken to a US college that received federal funding would be shipped to the military and disappear forever.

Dew still wasn’t sure he believed in UFOs but he was starting to think the figure in the slides was something. The more he went around Roswell, the stranger people acted. “Does the government know you have this?” one woman asked. Several others told him to “be safe”.

Soon, Dew grew paranoid. He worried powerful people were interested in his slides. He wondered why the same white van kept parking in front of his house. His wife thought his UFO pursuit was absurd and wanted nothing of it.

Finally, he loaded a copy of the slides on to his phone and went to Roswell. He showed the photos to the children of witnesses and filmed their responses. Then he tracked down Eleazar Benavides, an air force base veteran who claims to have seen the aliens when they were brought to the Roswell base.

“That’s what I saw in 1947,” Benavides said after looking at the slides.

“That was a chill-inducing moment for us,” Dew says.

Dew started to put together the trailer for his documentary, which gives a flavor of his truth-seeking efforts.

By the fall of 2014, whispers trickled through the UFO community that Carey and Schmitt had photographs of a Roswell alien.

The world of UFO research can be a vicious one, filled with self-proclaimed researchers certain they can find evidence others have not. “You don’t need an advanced degree to be a UFO researcher,” says Kevin Randle a UFO researcher himself, as well as an author, blogger and radio host. “In 10 minutes you can say: ‘I’m a UFO researcher’ and start posting on [internet message] boards.”

Many of these “investigators” turn on each other, and Carey and Schmitt could hear the sniping about their slides. People wondered what they were hiding. They couldn’t respond – they had signed a non-disclosure.

Finally, Carey couldn’t hold back. While speaking at a UFO conference in November 2014 at Washington DC’s American University he blurted: “We have the smoking gun!”

He told the audience about Hilda and Bernard, about the Eisenhowers, about the slides in the box, about the shriveled body in the pictures and about the Toronto anthropologist who said the figure wasn’t human.

Within days, the entire UFO world knew about the alien in the slides.

But since Beason and Dew wouldn’t show the slides publicly until they proved the body was an alien, the UFO community was flustered. Tom Carey had access to the smoking gun, and he couldn’t show it? Rather than hail Carey’s proclamation, the message boards and chatrooms that make up the vast extraterrestrial internet buried it in scorn.

“Smells like bullshit,” said one Reddit poster.

“Sasquatch community is rife with charlatans like this,” said another.

“A carefully-prepared scam,” wrote a UFO blogger.

Carey and Schmitt were shocked. While accustomed to criticism for their research, they lived shielded from the modern internet’s rage. Carey couldn’t comprehend someone calling him “a hemorrhoid with glasses”.

“Say it to my face!” Schmitt wanted to scream to his invisible attackers.

By early 2015, Beason and Dew knew they had no choice but to reveal the slides. The pressure to do so was extreme and Dew needed money to fund his documentary. Dew spoke to a reality show producer, hoping to build a TV special around the slides, but the offer was too small.

The only appealing proposal came from Jamie Maussan, an investigative journalist based in Mexico City. Depending on whom you talk to, Maussan is either a fearless crusader tackling environmental issues or a sensationalist with an unhealthy UFO obsession.

Maussan wanted a great slide-revealing spectacle in Mexico City. He said attitudes about UFOs are more open there than in the US.

He imagined renting the Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City’s grandest theatre, and said they could sell a live stream of the event around the world. He had a name for his extravaganza: BeWitness. He promised Beason and Dew enough money to fund a documentary.

Beason and Dew hated the idea: it sounded like an overblown fiasco. But Maussan was their best option, so in early 2015 they signed an agreement for BeWitness, and sent Maussan a scan of the slides. He took the scan to Mexico’s National Forensic Institute where researchers found 20 anomalies in the figure’s body that they said made it different from a human’s, including the extra-large head, four sets of ribs instead of 10, the position the eyes, and the fact it lacked a pelvis.

On 5 May 2013, Cinco de Mayo, nearly 7,000 people paid between $20 and $86 to attend BeWitness.

The show was more than four hours long, the list of speakers endless.

Carey and Schmitt gave a PowerPoint presentation. Doble testified that the body was not human. The forensic scientists described the anomalies they discovered.

Beason found BeWitness too much of a spectacle to attend. Almost to prove his point, a person dressed as a giant alien strolled the stage.

Then Maussan projected the two slides on to enormous screens.

At first, there was little response from the UFO world.

Though the slides had been on huge screens in the auditorium, they weren’t easy to see online. Many people noticed what appeared to be a reflection of a woman’s leg and the corner of a bench in one photo. It looked suspiciously like something from a museum. No one could tell for sure.

Three days after BeWitness, someone involved in the show leaked a high-resolution scan of one slide to a group of skeptics. The next morning, Beason called Dew as he prepared to leave Mexico.

The placard they could never read had been deciphered.

A member of the Roswell Slides Research Group posting under the screen name Neb Lator examined the high-resolution image using SmartDeBlur Pro, a software program easily found on the internet. Several hours later, the placard’s top words had cleared enough to be deciphered.


Further deblurring revealed most of the placard’s other writing:

“At the time of burial the body was clothed in a (unreadable) cotton shirt. Burial wrappings consisted of these small cotton blankets. Loaned by Mr (unreadable) San Francisco, California”

Dew was stunned.

“No way could they read in two days what it took us three years trying to decipher,” he says.

The deblurring had to be phony, he thought.

For a few days Carey and Schmitt, much like Dew, refused to believe the placard actually had been read. They accused the Roswell Slides Research Group of photoshopping the placard. Carey released a statement calling the members “a cast of characters” and accused one of “being party to a UFO hoax years ago”.

But soon more information was unearthed. A better reading of the placard identified the mummy’s donor as an SL Palmer. Debunkers located government records showing Palmer discovered the body in 1896 near Montezuma Castle, a series of cave dwellings cut into the Arizona cliffs about 30 miles from the garage where Beason’s sister initially found the slides. The records included evidence that the child was Native American, and photos of the burial site along with pictures of the body spread on blankets not long after its discovery.

The mummy was traced to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum in Mesa Verde, Colorado. The museum confirmed the child’s body had been on display for years. Which is where it seems an attorney and geologist named Hilda and Bernard might have snapped photos of it in the later 1940s.

“The Smoking Gun: RIP To The Roswell Slides,” screamed a UFO blog headline.

“Fraud Put To Rest,” said another.

“Busted,” shouted one more.

The UFO world mocked Carey and Schmitt for not realizing their Roswell alien was a mummy in a museum. “The whole investigation was amateurish,” scoffs Kevin Randle, the UFO researcher and radio host. How could everyone not see the pictures clearly came from a museum? Did they really think that even if Dwight Eisenhower somehow knew the Rays he would let them look at something as top-secret as a dead Roswell alien?

Not long after the placard’s deciphering, Carey was pulled from a prime speaking role at a top UFO conference. Humiliated, Carey and Schmitt apologized to the Roswell Slides debunkers.

“I came back to the States thinking: the only redeeming thing is that 99% of the American press has no clue or idea about this or that it happened,” Schmitt says.

They wondered how they could have been so wrong. They considered the previous three years, and concluded that Beason and Dew had duped them by distorting the slides and blurring the placard, making it impossible for anyone to read. They said Beason and Dew only showed them a low-resolution photo that kept them from realizing the body was in a museum.

“It was a very sophisticated hoax,” Carey says. “Dew manipulated the slides. The one clue we couldn’t figure out was the placard, but they played hocus pocus with the placard. We were given something that had been altered.”

“These guys would tell you they were being up front and honest, but they were controlling the slides,” says Schmitt. “I shouldn’t have trusted them as much as I did.”

But why?

“M.O.N.E.Y. That’s why [Dew] did it,” Carey says.

Night is falling outside the coffee shop where Dew tells his story. He gazes into the inky darkness then shakes his head.

He says he and Beason did show Schmitt a high-resolution version of the slides early in their investigation, and the experts they approached were those recommended by Carey and Schmitt. He insists he has always tried to “remain neutral” about the slides, even as he and the others let their imaginations stretch random pieces of Hilda’s background into believing they had the world’s only photos of a Roswell alien.

When asked if he wanted too much for the body to be an alien – something Carey and Schmitt both admitted to me that they themselves did – and that he was willing to set aside all good sense, he said: “I’m definitely guilty of not discouraging the talk [of it being alien]. It was good for the project.”

Beason has moved on, but Dew wants to finish the documentary. He will call his film Kodachrome, a tribute to the red processing label stamped on each of Hilda’s pictures. It is, after all, the reason he dedicated four years to the slides and why he still clenches his jaw as he denies Carey and Schmitt’s charge that he manipulated the photos.

“They got their hopes up,” he says. “They will never get the answers they are looking for. They dedicated their lives to this. Me, I just go back to shooting high school football.”

He chuckles.

His laugh clanks empty under the vast night sky.


Should they go back?

Barbuda is a wasteland. Dominica is devastated. Puerto Rico has no power. Hurricanes have come and gone, but the 2017 season has seen a new category of psychic storm

September 30, 2017

by Anthony Faiola, Samantha Schmidt, Marc Fisher

The Washington Post

Codrington, Antigua and Barbuda

Jenita Cuffy rounded the old almond tree, its branches now snapped like twigs, as she headed toward her office at Barbuda’s ruined hospital. The island’s public-health nurse hadn’t been back in nearly three weeks, since every soul was evacuated from this flat disk of an island laid waste by Hurricane Irma.

With the people gone, it was as though Barbuda had gone feral. Abandoned dogs had formed packs and were taking down livestock. From the hospital courtyard, Cuffy could smell death — animal carcasses rotting in the rubble. A corner of the roof had collapsed, the windows blown in. The medical dorms were a scrap heap. An ambulance was wedged into a tree.

“This doesn’t look like my island,” Cuffy said.

Before the storm, Barbuda was a forgotten Eden about the physical size of the District of Columbia. Its 1,800 inhabitants were family, literally. The descendants of African slaves brought centuries ago by the British, many islanders were related. The workdays were short and the rock lobster — freshly caught and free — were sweet. They’d grill them up at picnics down by the caves at Two Foot Bay National Park. There were no street addresses. Collecting mail meant a call from Joyce Lynn Webber at the post office.

“Eh, you got mail down here, come by,” she’d say.

That life was blown away.

Now Cuffy was back, just for a few hours, to help set up a temporary clinic — a step, she hoped, toward getting scattered Barbudans back to their island home.

But would they come back? Should they? Would she?

In this, the cruelest season of storms that anyone alive has known, entire islands, such as Barbuda, have been wiped clear. There’s no power across Puerto Rico, and it probably won’t fully return for months. Dominica is devastated, with no commerce and hardly any usable homes. St. John and St. Martin — playgrounds for the affluent and homelands for the descendants of slaves, adventurers and colonizers — have been boomeranged back to a time before luxury resorts and timeshare condos.

The storms pushed the islands back to the primitive, basic state that made the sandbars of the Caribbean so alluring to European empires, pirates and tourists for half a millennium

Investors, governments, visitors and the people who have called these islands home for generations now wonder: Has something elemental changed? Might paradise turn uninhabitable? Is it time to go?

Devastation is part of the natural cycle of life in the islands. During the past four decades, the region has been hit by more than 200 major storms, which killed more than 12,000 people and caused nearly $20 billion in damage, according to an International Monetary Fund study. About 1 percent of the Caribbean’s gross domestic product is wiped out every year.

“Storms shape the history of these places,” said Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, a geographer and author of “Island People: The Caribbean and the World.” “And people have been leaving these islands for decades,” heading for New York, London, Paris and other more stable places in countries that once colonized the Caribbean.

But in recent years, hurricane season has delivered more intense storms. “A person in the Caribbean generally would experience one Category 5 hurricane in a generation,” said Tahseen Sayed, the World Bank’s Caribbean country director. “In two weeks, we’ve had two Category 5 hurricanes.”

The result is not only physical damage and economic strain.

“There’s a new, strong consensus that storms are getting worse and climate change is to blame,” Jelly-Schapiro said. “You didn’t hear that even a few years ago. For the first time, people are saying, ‘I love this place, but maybe it’s not a place where we can live.’ ”

hree hundred miles west of the devastation that was Barbuda, Maria Roman and her husband, George Matta, live on what feels like a new island within their island of Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria cut their neighborhood off from the rest of their mountain town, collapsing the bridge over a 200-foot-wide river. Roman and Matta were left marooned, without food stores, gas stations or emergency services. The only way out was to wade across the river or drive more than three hours around the mountains — nearly impossible with little to no gas.

“I call it lost in space,” Roman said.

This is home, but it wasn’t always so. Roman, 54, grew up in Jersey City, then moved to Puerto Rico in the mid-1980s, when her parents decided to retire to their native island. Roman met the man who became her husband, and he got a job running a ranch, and next thing they knew, they’d made a life on the island.

But Roman often has felt the pull of the mainland. She doesn’t like the isolation of the countryside. And each time a hurricane has hit, each time her neighborhood of San Lorenzo lost power or water, she longed for the comfort of New Jersey.

After Hurricane Georges in 1998, she wanted to leave, but she needed to care for her wheelchair-bound mother and father, who have since died. And she felt connected to her neighbors. Her husband had a good job. And college was cheaper for her daughters than it would be on the mainland.

After Georges, “everything was calm for 19 years,” Roman said. Until this year, until Irma, and then Maria. “This is like a nuclear bomb was thrown at Puerto Rico,” Roman said.

Roman has had it. As soon as her younger daughter graduates from nursing school in May, she said, the family will move to the mainland.

That daughter, Merari Matta, 24, longs for the better pay and quality of life up north. On the island, “the power always goes, hurricane or not,” she said. “The water always goes. There’s a lot of inconsistency.” If the storm had hit themainland, she said, help would have arrived faster.

Like many people in the Caribbean, Roman and her family have a relatively easy way out. The Caribbean diaspora is vast and deeply connected. About as many Caribbean natives live in North America or Europe as in the islands; immigrants from the region make up 20 percent of the population in greater Miami and 7 percent of New York City. Half of Caribbean immigrants around the world send remittances to support relatives back home, and 70 percent belong to organizations on their islands, according to a World Bank study.

For Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, the back and forth is even more fluid.

Roman’s sister, Aurea Roman, lives in Jersey City. She can’t imagine living on the island. As a single parent on partial disability, she said, “all the convenience for me is here.” She can get food delivered to her home. She can use public transportation, such as buses, trains and taxis.

“I like the island to visit, but to so-called live? No,” she said. In Puerto Rico, “I panic.”

Aurea had not heard from her sister in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, and was relieved to learn from a reporter that she is okay. She now wants them to join her in the land of safety and comfort.

“If they want to come,” she said, “I’ll buy them a ticket right now

Hurricanes kill and destroy. Things small and large — toys and family photos and entire buildings — vanish in torrents of water and gusts of wind.

“Eden is broken,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said at the United Nations after Hurricane Irma. “To deny climate change . . . is to deny a truth we ha

The tragedy storms wreak was powerful enough that William Shakespeare heard about it in England. “The sea that roar’d to us,” Prospero said in “The Tempest,” “did us but loving wrong.”

Hurricanes can also revive and renew. Crops come back stronger than before. People learn to build smarter. Storms also cement the bonds of people who share the intimate spaces of islands, which are, as Jelly-Schapiro put it, “both a world apart and con

Storms drive people out. “Hurricanes have been an important aspect of migration in the Caribbean at least since the late 19th century,” said Yale historian Stuart Schwartz, author of “Sea of Storms,” a history of hurricanes. People leave because they are dispirited or because the storm destroys their livelihood, wiping out sugar plantations or gutting resort hotels.

“Puerto Rico was already in an out-migration crisis before the storms,” Schwartz said. The island lost 10 percent of its population in the past two years, mainly because of deep financial woes. “This could make it much worse.”

But in a struggling economy, many people can’t leave. Gabriel De la Cruz, his wife, Luisa Rodriguez, and their son Ismael, lived in Loiza, one of the poorest suburbs of San Juan. It had already suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Irma when Maria ravaged the town on Sept. 20, destroying 90 percent of all residences. The family lost nearly everything.

De la Cruz, who works as a cook, might move to an area less prone to hurricane damage. Loiza “is going to be a desert town,” he said. But moving to the mainland is impossibly expensive, he said. He’s been there before, living in the Bronx for four years, paying more than $800 a month for a room in a shared apartment. In Loiza, the family’s three-bedroom house cost just $400 a month.

But it is gone and De la Cruz doesn’t know how it might be replaced. That work is months, maybe years, away.

While $48 million already has flowed from an 18-nation insurance consortium to seven island governments to jump-start the buildback, the region’s U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, were in financial distress even before the storms. Now, their paralyzing debt crises have been compounded by a near-halt in commerce.

The World Bank has encouraged island nations to build in resiliency — put much of the electrical network underground, invest in drainage systems, pass stricter building codes, rebuild hospitals so they can double as storm shelters. On islands that have taken such steps, recent storms have caused far fewer deaths than strong hurricanes did in the past, Sayed said.

“The whole thing is about cost-benefit analysis,” said Saurabh Dani, a disaster-risk-management specialist at the World Bank. “The social and economic cost of trying to recover from a devastating storm makes you realize that it might be worth the cost” to invest in expensive precautions such as moving electrical wires from overhead poles to underground trenches.

Major storms can paralyze production in agriculture and industry for years, Schwartz said, but “hurricanes bring benefits too — eliminating insects, renewing fields.” The difference between long-term devastation and quick recovery depends on “the willingness of the government to spend on preparation,” he said. “One dollar spent in preparation is worth four in recovery.”

Gaston Browne, prime minister of the former British colony of Antigua and Barbuda, views the storm as an opportunity. From the ruins of his country’s smaller island, he wants to build a Barbuda powered only by solar energy. Telephone lines could go underground. Houses and the hospital could be rebuilt to withstand monster storms.

Since Irma, Browne said he’s won commitments for grants, loans or other aid from China, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates and Canada. He’s soliciting more.

Browne, an Antiguan, said Barbudans must learn to be more self-sufficient, and that means abandoning a centuries-old communal land system in which the descendants of slaves built houses on land they believed belonged to all. Browne wants to create modern property rights, allowing Barbudans returning home to their ravaged island to buy their land for $1. That would pave the way for them to win mortgages to rebuild and to buy insurance.

“We are trying to build an ownership class in Barbuda,” he said. “What is so bad about the government bringing Barbuda into the 21st century so that it’s not a giant welfare state?”

Some Barbudans smell a rat, a land grab that could lead to large-scale development. Indeed, the government is backing major tourism projects, including one led by actor Robert De Niro that would revive a long-shuttered resort once favored by Princess Diana.

Cuffy is among those who fear the government plan. Paying $1 for prime land near a Caribbean beach might seem like a gift. But Barbudans saw land as a birthright. You picked your parcel and you built. Nobody owned it. Everyone did.

That land is now barren, a mudpit of ruins.

“I’m not really ready to take it in, what’s happened,” Cuffy said. “It’s just, where do you start?” Her voice broke. “How do you start? Can you? I worry that it will never be the same. Everybody’s gone. Everybody. And I know some won’t come back. I don’t know if we will.”

he is decked out in her Sunday best, her husband, Peter, and son Garen by her side. They have come to worship at a small revival hall behind St. John’s Pentecostal House of Restoration on Antigua, 39 miles across sparkling turquoise waters. Their preacher from back home on Barbuda, Bishop Nigel Henry, offered solace and spirit to his displaced flock. By boat and airlift, Barbudans had found a temporary home on Antigua, in shelters and the homes of Antiguan families.

“Affliction,” Henry cried out, his voice echoing through the church. “My people, we have an affliction. It’s like a lawn mower took down our island, and it’s amazing that we’re still here, still alive. Our little island didn’t bother anyone. All we did was love to have fun. And yet still, we had it. A Category 5 plus plus plus.”

The old folks might go back, the bishop said, but “a lot of the younger ones, they’re going to find jobs, go to schools, here in Antigua. I don’t think they’re going back.”

It’s a question Cuffy and her family already are mulling. On Antigua, Garen, 9, swiftly acquired a taste for KFC and Big Banana Pizza — the kind of chains that never made it to Barbuda.

Last week, he was in the back seat of a family friend’s car when it suddenly started to rain. Garen curled up in a ball. The rain summoned memories of the bathroom cupboard where his parents had hid him as Irma tore at their Barbuda home.

“He says he won’t go back, ever,” Cuffy said. “It puts me of two minds, you know. I want to go back . . . but he’s my son.”

Later, in the small Antigua apartment a cousin has lent them, Cuffy’s 60-year-old mother, Junie John, wasn’t hearing any of it.

“We got to go back, it’s home,” she said, slapping her hands on her lap.

Lestroy John, Junie’s husband and Cuffy’s stepfather, chimed in: “Oh, we goin’ back. My people there. Gonna be there.”

Cuffy went silent. She recalled the 1995 storm, Hurricane Luis, which tore things up good, but not like Irma. Junie remembers the earthquake in 1974. It was bad, too. And it’s not like family never left. One sister moved to the District, the other to Antigua. But they left for work, not to escape the storms.

“We always rebuilt, we always stayed put,” Junie John said. “My mother always told me, ‘Junie, mind your land.’ We have done that. No gonna stop now.”

Faiola reported from Antigua and Barbuda; Schmidt from Puerto Rico; and Fisher from Washington.


Puerto Rico could face 6 months without power

September 30, 2017


After Puerto Rico was pummeled by Hurricane Maria last week, a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, the island has been left in shambles. After suffering widespread power outages thanks to Irma, one million Puerto Ricans were left without electricity. 60,000 still hadn’t gotten power when Maria brought a total, island-wide power outage and severe shortages in food, water, and other supplies.

As of today there’s still no power on the island except for a handful of generators powering high-priority buildings like select hospitals, and the island likely won’t return to full power for another half a year. This also means that there are next to zero working cell phone towers and no reception anywhere on the island.

Due to the blackout, many residents are relying on small gas-fed generators, and fuel is running out (though authorities in Puerto Rico insist that it’s a distribution problem, not a shortage). Puerto Ricans are waiting in six-hour lines for fuel, while many stations have run completely dry.

In most of Puerto Rico there’s no water either – that means no showers, no flushable toilets, and no drinkable water that’s not out of a bottle. In some of the remoter parts of the island, rescue workers are just barely beginning to arrive.

Puerto Rico is experiencing all of the normal catastrophes brought on by a major hurricane – and then some. In Houston after Harvey and Florida after Irma, wastewater pumping systems failed, causing significant sewage spillage. The same is almost guaranteed to happen in Puerto Rico thanks to the sustained power outages, but will be greatly exacerbated by the fact that the island’s electrical system was already “degraded and unsafe”.

In fact, nearly every problem typically faced in the wake of natural disaster will be amplified and accelerated in Puerto Rico thanks to long-existing financial and environmental problems and far fewer rescue and relief workers.

Florida and Texas also dealt with contamination from Superfund sites, but Puerto Rico has a whopping 23 in its relatively tiny area.

According to the US Department of Health and Public Services, a superfund site is “any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.” These sites are put on the National Priorities List (NPL), a list of the most dire cases of environmental contamination in the US and its territories. These are places where a person can’t even walk on the ground and breathe the air without seriously endangering their health.

Even within the designation of Superfund, sites can be ranked in their level of catastrophism, and Puerto Rico is home to one of the very worst. For sixty years the US military used Vieques, an outlying island, for extensive bomb testing. Two thirds of the island now have extreme levels of contamination which have been related to disproportionately high cancer rates among the 9,000 residents. Even today Vieques remains blanketed with unexploded bombs, bullets, and projectiles.

Puerto Rico also has more contaminants to worry about thanks to the coal industry, which has been stockpiling coal ash in southern Puerto Rico. According to Adriana Gonzales of the Sierra Club, an uncovered five-story pile of coal ash situated next to a low-income and minority community in the town of Guayama threatens to toxify the entire area thanks to its content of heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, and chromium that will be released when the rain liquefies the ash.

The coal industry also dumped thousands of tons of coal ash in Puerto Rican landfills for years, a common practice that has recently mushroomed into a disaster as local landfills overflow thanks to the territory’s financial crisis. While the ash is not Puerto Rico’s (it’s owned by Pennsylvania-based Applied Energy Systems) they are now faced with its toxic burden, despite the fact that the Puerto Rican government ordered the company to cover and secure the pile under the threat of Hurricane Irma, weeks before Maria hit.

Puerto Rico’s fallout of Maria will result in a long, long road to recovery. Even though the island is home to 3.5 million US citizens, help is few and far between compared to response in the US, and the island’s pre-existing poverty and environmentally dangerous Superfund Sites will make rebuilding a tricky and toxic business, costing in the billions of dollars.


Examining Poor School Performance in the U.S.

International students are critical of American education. Brookings explains why.

March 23, 2017

by Aria Bendix

The Atlantic

American teens spend far more time on sports than they do on their studies. At least that’s how international students see it, according to a report out Wednesday from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. In an effort to “shed light on what is peculiarly American about American high schools,” the report surveyed hundreds of foreign-exchange students for a “fresh perspective” on the U.S. educational system.

And valuing sports over knowledge is distinctly American, according to these foreign students. Nearly two-thirds of foreign-exchange students in the United States view American teenagers as placing a much higher value on athletic success than teens in their home countries do. By comparison, only 5 percent of international students say American teens place a much higher value on success in mathematics than teenagers abroad. Around 65 percent of foreign-exchange students also feel that American teens spend less time on homework than their international peers.

Of course, these impressions don’t necessarily correspond to reality. Around 40 percent of foreign-exchange students in the United States told Brookings that American teens spent just three or more hours on homework each week. But a 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that American 15-year-olds spent an average of six hours per week on homework, placing the United States ahead of the global average and on par with countries like China and Australia.

Things don’t get much better in the classroom: Foreign-exchange students find U.S. classes less challenging than those abroad. A related Brookings survey from 2001 revealed that nearly 60 percent of international students found their U.S. classes “much easier” than classes in their home country. This number rose to 66.4 percent in Wednesday’s report.

Tom Loveless, the report’s author, concludes that international students think U.S. schools “do not fully embrace inculcating knowledge as the high school’s primary institutional mission.” But how true is this perception? Are U.S. schools any less rigorous or knowledge-focused than their international competitors? Well, the foreign-exchange students might be onto something.

Math scores in the United States declined by 11 points since the last PISA in 2012.

To determine how the United States compares with other educational systems, Loveless turned to two reliable international assessments: the Program for International Students Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). Although the two tests are highly correlated, they don’t necessarily test the same knowledge or skills. And while the PISA studies 15-year-old students every three years, the TIMSS studies fourth- and eighth-graders every four years. Both programs conducted tests in 2015 and released their findings the following year. Compared with other economically developed countries in Europe and Asia, the United States was not a top performer on either test.

In fact, Loveless finds America’s PISA scores to be “mediocre.” From 2012 to 2015, the nation saw little change in its performance in science and reading, ranking just ahead of the international average for both subjects. By contrast, math scores in the United States took a significant dip in 2015, declining by 11 points since the last PISA in 2012.

The nation’s scores on the TIMSS are slightly better. The report finds that eighth-grade American students saw a significant improvement in their math and science scores in 2015, with math scores rising by 26 points and science scores by 17 points over the last two decades. While Loveless describes this as a “rosier picture,” the data becomes more sobering when he considers the results for Singapore, the highest-scoring nation in both math and science. In 2015, the United States trailed Singapore by 66 points in eighth-grade science and by 103 points in eighth-grade math. At this rate, Loveless estimates, it could take more than 140 years for the nation to close the gap in its math scores.

Still, U.S. schools need not panic about its overall performance. Out of around 70 educational systems tested by the PISA, the United States scored equal to or better than 51 nations in science and equal to or better than 55 nations in reading. Similarly, out of 42 educational systems that tested eighth-graders using the TIMSS, the United States scored equal to or better than 35 nations in both math and science.

Ultimately, Loveless finds that “comparing the U.S. with other countries must be done with caution.” New Zealand, for instance, is often heralded for its strong academic performance, despite seeing a steady drop in its TIMSS scores. In these instances, when data offers a limited understanding, it becomes increasingly important to consider what students have to say. That means, if the reactions of international students are any indication, the United States has a long way to go before competing with the world’s top-performing educational systems.


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