Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brain Drain

Here's an intriguing report about a bizarre theft that has occurred at the University of Texas at Austin. When this story first hit the news on Tuesday, it was being reported that 100 brains had disappeared from the basement of the university's Animal Resources Center.  Among these organs, according to initial reports, was the brain of the infamous sniper Charles Whitman (a former U.S. Marine responsible for murdering 16 people and wounding 32 others during a shooting spree that took place on the campus of the University of Texas in 1966).  According to the co-curators of the collection, Prof. Lawrence Cormack and Prof. Tim Schallert, the formaldehyde-preserved brains had disappeared without a trace.  As of Wednesday afternoon, however, this story changed abruptly. Here's the new spin coming out of UT Austin….

Below are excerpts from Rick Jervis and Doug Stanglin's 12-13-14 USA Today article entitled "Mystery of Missing University of Texas Brains Solved":

AUSTIN -- The mystery of the missing brains at the University of Texas appeared solved Wednesday afternoon.
UT officials released a statement saying the 100 brains believed missing from a neuroscience lab were actually destroyed in 2002 as part of routine disposal of biological waste.
"We believe the workers disposed of between 40 and 60 jars, some of which contained multiple human brains, and worked with a biological waste contractor to do so safely," the statement read. 
University officials also denied earlier claims that the missing brains had surfaced at another university and said they had "no evidence" that one of the missing brains belonged to Charles Whitman, the infamous UT campus sniper, "though we will continue to investigate those reports."
The missing organs, which represent about half of the university's original collection, had been stored in jars of formaldehyde in a closet in the university's Animal Resources Center, where studies of human brains also occur, prior to the building's renovation, it said.
The brains have been used by neuroscience students to study everything from Huntington's disease to Parkinson's disease, depression, strokes and other disorders.
The Animal Resources Center originally got the organs in 1986 from the Austin State Hospital, formerly known as the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, under a "temporary possession" agreement.

The specimens were assembled by Dr. Coleman de Chenar, a resident pathologist at ASH. They were taken from deceased patients at the hospital from the 1950s through the 1970s, when surgical lobotomies and electroshock therapy were common [...].

As for the missing organs, the university said in a statement that it will investigate "the circumstances surrounding this collection since it came here nearly 30 years ago" and is "committed to treating the brain specimens with respect." It says the remaining brain specimens on campus are used "as a teaching tool and carefully curated by faculty."
The 100 remaining brains at the school have been moved to the Norman Hackerman Building, where they are being scanned with high-resolution resonance imaging equipment.

To read Jervis and Stanglin's entire article, click HERE.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Greatest X-Mas Present of All!

Announcing the greatest X-mas present of all!  Yes, indeed, friends and enemies, my scintillating second book SPIES AND SAUCERS is now available on Amazon!  This Dec. 25th, why not give the gift of incurable paranoia to your closest friends and family?  The mental and physical strain of receiving SPIES AND SAUCERS as a gift is known to be immediate and dramatic, as documented by several health care professionals in Switzerland and the Ukraine!  As you sit near the fireplace drinking tasty eggnog and hot chocolate with marshmallows, watch in stunned amazement as your parents accuse you of being a foreign secret agent, the local police arrest the family dog for sedition, and your spouse rats you out to Homeland Security in quick succession!  What more could you want this cheery Yuletide season?  Click HERE to order your copies of SPIES AND SAUCERS TODAY!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Banker Necrology

The necrology of prominent bankers continues.  These excerpts are from the 11-20-14 edition of the South China Morning Post:

"A prominent Citigroup banker has been found dead in the bath of his Manhattan flat, with his throat cut.
"Shawn Miller, 42, was a Citigroup managing director who was global head of environmental and social risk management.
"Ambulance crews declared him dead at his apartment after responding to an emergency call on Tuesday afternoon.
"Investigators were waiting for the medical examiner to determine a cause of death, police said, adding that he had suffered a 'neck laceration.'
"The New York Post reported that Miller's throat was slashed and that no knife was recovered, leading authorities to suspect foul play […].
"Miller advised on sustainability matters, including environmental and social policies related to industries such as mining and renewable energy […]."
"Citigroup Banker Shawn Miller Found Dead in Flat, with His Throat Cut," the article from which the preceding paragraphs were excerpted, can be seen in its entirety by clicking HERE.

It's worth mentioning that I've written about this expanding necrology in previous posts.  One such entry, "Dead Bankers and CIA Agents Are Falling from the Sky," can be found HERE.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kerry Thornley & the Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald

Fifty-one years ago today, on live television, Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby in the basement parking lot of the Dallas Police Department.  Click HERE to listen to Oswald's friend, Kerry Thornley (who wrote a novel based on Oswald's life several years before the JFK assassination), discuss the web of peculiar synchronicities that swirled around both Oswald and Thornley during the years preceding the JFK assassination.  In this segment Thornley also offers just a few of the many reasons why he believed Oswald couldn't possibly have shot the President on November 22, 1963.

This would also be an appropriate day to revisit "The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald" as compiled by the late, great Mae Brussell.  You can read Oswald's final words by clicking HERE.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Harpo Marx, Freemason!

Today is Harpo Marx's 126th birthday.  In honor of this illustrious occasion, I offer this tale about Harpo told by his younger brother, the one and only Groucho:

"Oh, I've got to tell you a wonderful story about Harpo!

"We had an uncle by the name of Felix Levy.  He was a 32nd Degree Mason and Harpo's one ambition in life at that time was to become a Mason just like my uncle.  I forget how the number system of the Masons works.  I think the lowest number is three and from there you can go all the way up.

"It's a lot of horse shit but the Masons believe in it.

"Anyway, Harpo finally became a Mason and he was very proud of the pin he'd wear in his lapel that would show everyone what he was.  It had taken him three or four years to become a Mason and he really treasured that pin very much.

"One day he picked up a dame in front of a theater and brought her to his dressing room because he wanted to lay her.  Before anything she asked him if he had any money and Harpo admitted he had none because we hadn't yet performed the first show.  Instead he said, 'Do you see this pin?  It's my treasured possession.  I haven't any money, but if you'll go down on me I'll give you the pin.'  And that was the finish of the Masons.

"He had talked for years about getting this Masonic pin and he gave it up just to get his head blown.  But we were young then and getting your head blown was considered kind of a triumph.  This was when we were in vaudeville.  Well, now we're really off the track.  Weren't we talking about our early films?"

--from pp. 146-47 of The Marx Bros. Scrapbook by Groucho Marx and Richard J. Anobile (Grosset & Dunlap, 1974)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Myron May, Energy Weapons and Disembodied Voices

Here are choice excerpts from Mark Schlueb and Stephen Hudak's 11-21-14 Orlando Sentinel article entitled "FSU Shooter Myron May Feared 'Energy Weapon,' Heard Voices, Thought Police Were Watching Him":

Hours before Myron May strode into a Florida State University library with murder on his mind, he left a series of chilling voicemails saying he was being attacked by an "energy weapon" and had a scheme to expose it "once and for all."
Those messages, along with mysterious packages that May mailed to friends before he shot three people, were the culmination of what seemed to be a mental breakdown several months in the making.
Two months ago, the promising young prosecutor went to police and told them that people were watching him through cameras planted in his apartment and talking about him through the walls. Last month, May abruptly resigned from his job, and a worried ex-girlfriend told police he suffered from mental problems that were getting worse.
May, an FSU alumnus, was killed by police early Thursday morning. On Friday, May's three victims were identified as Elijah Velez, 18; library employee Nathan Scott, 30; and Farhan Ahmed, 21. Velez was grazed by a bullet and treated at the scene and released. Scott, who was shot in the leg, was released from the hospital Friday night. Ahmed remained hospitalized in critical condition Friday evening […].
At the time May began showing signs of mental instability, he was an associate trial attorney in the felony division of the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office in Las Cruces, N.M. He'd previously worked in the area as a public defender.
Prosecutor stunned
District Attorney Mark D'Antonio said his colleagues saw no sign of May's mental decline.
"I nearly fell off the chair," D'Antonio said Friday, describing when he learned of the shooting. "It was as shocking to me as it could have been. The staff took it hard. He was very well-liked."
May's visit to the police station in Las Cruces happened on Sept. 7.
"He stated that he can constantly hear voices coming through the walls specifically talking about actions he was doing," an officer wrote in an incident report. As an example, May cited a time he had climbed out of a bubble bath and began applying lotion.
"He specifically stated he heard voices say, 'Did you see that, he never puts lotion on,' " the report states.
Police said there was nothing they could do, and May responded that he planned to hire a private investigator and wanted his report documented.
Weeks later, on Oct. 6, May's co-workers arrived at work to find he had cleaned out his office and left, leaving a resignation letter on his desk. The letter thanked D'Antonio, was professional and showed no sign of a breakdown.
"None of us saw any clue," D'Antonio said. "If I had known, we could have gotten him some help. Maybe this wouldn't have happened."
The next night, police were called to the home of May's ex-girlfriend. May had just left, after showing up rambling and giving her a piece of a car he said was a camera that police had placed in his SUV. May's former girlfriend, who had dated him for about 15 months before breaking up two weeks before, was worried about his state of mind.
"Myron has recently developed a severe mental disorder," police wrote in a report. "Myron believes that the police are after him and are bugging his phone and car, as well as placing cameras in his home and car."

May's ex-girlfriend said he'd been taking prescription medication and had recently been taken to Mesilla Valley Hospital for a mental health evaluation. He had not made suicidal or homicidal threats, but had been acting erratically.
"He has been staying up four to five days straight with no sleep and recently he took a trip from Las Cruces to Colorado and back again in one day with no reason," an officer wrote.
Police went to May's apartment to check on his well being, but he wasn't home. They issued an alert for his vehicle for an "officer's safety/welfare check" […].
May was also a member of a Facebook group called "Targeted Individuals International." Targeted Individuals are people — often seen as conspiratorial or delusional — who contend they are targets of spying, harassment or abuse, sometimes by electromagnetic radiation weaponry.
On Friday, NBC News reported that May had reached out to another "targeted individual," Renee Pittman Mitchell, about a week ago through Facebook.
"He told me he just didn't want to go on living like this," Mitchell told NBC News. She said May left her three voicemails between 9:19 p.m. and 9:42 p.m. Wednesday, just hours before the shooting.
"I am currently being cooked in my chair. I devised a scheme where I was going to expose this once and for all and I really need you," he said in one of the messages, which NBC News reported had been authenticated by a relative as May's voice. "I do not want to die in vain."
In an email sent at 11:19 p.m., he wrote: "I've been getting hit with the direct energy weapon in my chest all evening. It hurts really bad right now."
That message was sent […] just over an hour before the shootings at FSU. But May had apparently already made provisions to share what he believed was happening to him.
According to a friend and the Associated Press, May mailed packages to friends that were due to arrive Friday. May snapped photos of the envelopes and messaged them to friends via Facebook before mailing them from Tallahassee. One arrived in Texas, according to the Associated Press. Another was intercepted by postal authorities in Orlando.
Joe Paul, who attended FSU with May, alerted Tallahassee police about the package headed his way.
"What did he send everyone? Was it a manifesto? Was it a message? I don't know," said Paul, 35, who formerly resided in Orange County. "I think I'm just as curious as everyone else."
A few minutes before 12:30 a.m., May shot Velez and Ahmed outside Strozier Library. He then entered the library and shot Scott, but did not pass through the lobby turnstiles. When he went back outside, he was confronted by police.
On Friday, Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said he'd been told May had shot at the six FSU and Tallahassee police officers who first arrived on the scene. A day earlier, Tallahassee police chief Michael DeLeo had declined to answer questions about whether May had fired or pointed his weapon at police.
Meggs said once the investigation was completed he would impanel a grand jury to examine the shooting, and added that he believed all three FSU victims had been shot by the time the police arrived.

"There were two groups that had guns, the police and the dead guy. And the police weren't shooting civilians," he said […].
May's Facebook page shows that he recently shared a link to a video interview from the television show "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura" that featured an interview with Dr. Robert Duncan, "who put together the technology that allows the government to transmit thoughts and voices into the heads of Americans."
Amy Hoffman, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Winter Park, said the type of delusions described in police reports are likely a sign of serious mental illness.
"Paranoid delusions of this nature can be associated with major mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or in some cases bipolar disorder," Hoffman said.

It's unclear whether May, 31, had exhibited any sign of a mental health problem before the past few months.
"Typically, the age of onset for a major mental illness in males is the early 20s," Hoffman said.
To read the unexpurgated article, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Here Come the Spy Planes

"And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They're American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds."
--Laurie Anderson, "O Superman," 1981

Here are a few brief excerpts from Kate Knibbs' 11-13-14 article entitled "WSJ: A Secret U.S. Spy Program Is Using Planes to Target Cell Phones":

"A secret U.S. spy program used fake cell phone towers attached to airplanes to scan citizens' cell phones and collect their data, the Wall Street Journal reports […].

"The scheme, carried out by the Technical Operations Group of the U.S. Marshals, uses devices known as 'dirtboxes' to mimic powerful cell tower signs. These dirtboxes are strong enough to trick phones to automatically switch over to their signals, even if a real tower is nearby. The small-winged airplanes operate from at least five major airports, and they can fly over most of the U.S. […].

"'There are some serious and troubling legal questions about this program,' EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury told me. 'It's important to note this is very different from the government getting this information from a phone company. In the last few months, many state courts and legislatures have required law enforcement get a probable cause search warrant to use these devices. The US Marshals should explain how this program works and what kind of court authorization, if any, they're obtaining to fly planes with 'dirtboxes.'

"That another instance of a large-scale, secret surveillance program from the U.S. government has been exposed will undoubtedly continue to corrode the public's faith in the government's commitment to protecting privacy.

"The fake phone tower signals used work even on phones with encryption, like the iPhone 6, so there's virtually no way phone makers could've prevented this from happening.

"The Justice Department has neither confirmed or denied the WSJ report. I reached out to the Justice Department and it declined to comment."

To read Knibbs' entire article, click HERE.