Thursday, April 16, 2015

Binnall of America

Join me live Thursday, April 16 at 9pm ET on the popular podcast, Binnall of America LIVE Audio. Host Tim Binnall and I will be having a frank discussion on the state of UFO research and troubling stories that 'mainstream' ufology chooses to ignore.

Learn more at the Binnall of America website about the many topics Tim has explored and the guests he has hosted. Previous shows may be accessed in the archive.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

David Jacobs and Insults to Intelligence

A couple of posts were recently published at the blog of Alfred Lehmberg in which he raised legitimate concerns about the so-called work of retired historian, investigator of alleged alien abduction and hypnotic regression advocate Dr. David Jacobs. In addition to the points raised in the posts, I also appreciated comments submitted by microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn. I interpreted the comments to be a welcome reminder of how professional research is conducted at institutions which actually value the welfare of human research subjects and adhere to industry standards of obtaining informed consent. Such dynamics seem to chronically elude Jacobs and those who make excuses for failing to follow such protocols. 

Alfred -
If I may offer one point of clarification...
Although I agree completely that acquiring and analyzing samples from alleged hybrids is essential, it is not possible for me to work with Dr. Jacobs. The rules regulating research conduct at my institution would prohibit that collaboration.
Defending himself from the accusations of improper conduct leveled by Emma Woods, Dr. Jacobs took refuge in the claim that he was not actually conducting any research. Instead, he stressed he was only taking oral histories.
Here is the problem from my perspective - the ambit of oral history taking certainly does not include collection of biological samples and their analyses. Moreover, since Dr. Jacobs explicitly stated he was not doing research (biomedical or otherwise), it seems unlikely he provided his subjects with sufficiently detailed informed consent documents to allow for sample collection. In order to obtain permission from my institution to collaborate on any research involving human subjects, it would be necessary to provide full documentation of the research scope, all informed consent documents and plans for dealing with any adverse events that might be foreseeable. After all the necessary documentation has been reviewed, investigators must receive formal approval or an explicit declaration of exemption from the Institutional Review Board before any work may proceed. These requirements are non-negotiable and approvals can never be obtained retroactively. 
But what if Dr. Jacobs, now working as an independent investigator, decided to finally do some real research and collect samples under the aegis of acceptable informed consent rules? Even if the new work met every standard for the ethical and safe conduct of human subject research, I would still refuse to collaborate with him. The events and information regarding the Emma Woods debacle all convinced me I want nothing to do with Dr. Jacobs.
Tyler Kokjohn

It is not unusual for me to be asked my thoughts on various aspects of alleged alien abduction, including the actions of David Jacobs. I have identified his work to be so extremely poor and misrepresented to contain evidence it actually does not that it has become increasingly difficult for me to express my views about it in what I feel are proper proportion to its lack of validity. There is so much ineptness that it is actually challenging to adequately cover it. 

I will offer a few points for consideration below, but please allow me to emphasize that the possibility some people may experience phenomena representing genuine mysteries does not hinge upon the competency or authenticity of David Jacobs and his peers. The fact such researchers could reasonably be interpreted to have made fools of themselves does not equate to necessarily nullifying Fortean topics as a whole. 

The subjectivity and shameless promotion of unsupported beliefs contained in the statements of typical abduction-researchers virtually negates their efforts in and of themselves. The lack of rationality has become so prevalent that at this point I seriously doubt many of them sincerely believe their claims and pro-ETH stances, as compared to simply promoting an agenda they view as advantageous. 

Concerning David Jacobs specifically, I find the following points and contradictions to be relevant:

- In 2011 the False Memory Syndrome Foundation reported that, in response to the accusations leveled by Emma Woods, Temple University asserted Jacobs was only collecting oral histories, not conducting research.

- Contradicting the Temple stance, Jacobs claimed in 2012 to have facilitated DNA-related tests and conducted such research.

- Jacobs further stated the tests in question provided no conclusive results, yet he failed to revise his hypotheses or make details of the tests available for public review. Issues of informed consent and related concerns may apply.

- During a 2014 presentation, Jacobs asserted that he does not conduct hypnosis with alleged alien abductees, but uses relaxation techniques. This is in direct contradiction to the facts he has frequently discussed hypnosis as an investigative tool during his presentations, repeatedly written about its implementation as a memory enhancer, claimed to have been composing a book on the use of hypnosis with abductees and, earlier in literally the same presentation, stated that he began doing hypnosis in 1986. 

- While claiming to believe Emma Woods was being assaulted on an ongoing basis by sexually deviant ET-human hybrids, David Jacobs suggested as a partial solution that he could send her a chastity belt. He became familiar with the device, he explained to her, at a sex shop specializing in bondage dominance that he frequented quite often. Suffice it to say that is not standard protocol for providing functional support to the sexually abused. Neither is it indicative of sincere concerns for the woman or suggestive of authentic belief in dangerous hybrids. 

- Jacobs claimed to believe electronic messages originating from the computer of "Elizabeth," an alleged alien abductee, were composed and sent by a menacing ET-human hybrid, not Elizabeth. When pressed to explain why forensic evidence of the circumstances could not be obtained, Jacobs stated, among other dubious excuses that actually did not make sense, Elizabeth had curtains over her windows and one could not see inside.

There is much more, but if you require more than that to have your intelligence insulted, I don't know what to tell you. I've been thoroughly insulted for quite some time now.   

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hypnosis, the Placebo Effect and Human Experimentation

It has been said that hypnosis and the placebo effect are so heavily reliant upon belief and suggestion that it would be hard to imagine how a placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study. I would fundamentally agree with that. Let's consider the placebo effect and how it relates to the UFO community staple, hypnotic regression.

The American Cancer Society describes a placebo (pluh-see-bow) as "a substance or other kind of treatment that looks just like a regular treatment or medicine, but is not." It's a harmless medicine or procedure prescribed more for psychological benefit than physiological effect. It has no therapeutic value and is used as a control in testing new drugs; the drugs must demonstrate substantially better measurable results than the placebo being administered to the control group.

A primary factor of how medication makes
people feel may be their expectations
As we might envision, a great deal of speculation and rather fascinating questions surround the placebo effect. A researcher named Ted Kaptchuk made legitimate attempts to put a yardstick to some of the dynamics. While most studies focus upon the results of the drugs being tested, Kaptchuk was more interested in the placebos.

Harvard Magazine reported Kaptchuk's work was met with both praise and criticism but, take it or leave it, he raised valid questions. In some circumstances, it was difficult to discern if drugs had any particularly different subjective effects at all from placebos. Kaptchuk indicated that even when physiological benefits could be measured among patients given respiratory medication, they reported similar subjective interpretations of their physical conditions, or how they felt, as those given placebos. Observations were also made about patients desiring to be helpful to the researchers and deliver the results anticipated.

What I'm getting at here with hypnotic regression and the placebo effect is that there is virtually no difference between the two. If people believe that investigators of alleged alien abduction have the power to put them in trance states and clarify memories of encounters with extraterrestrials from years gone by, there is little way to validate or invalidate that belief. Slippery slopes.

Moreover, qualified professionals tell us that hypnosis subjects tend to assign more validity to hypnotically retrieved memories - and reject the notion the memories might be inaccurate - than other memories. They also tend to defend the accuracy of their memories more than their peers who have not used techniques designed to supposedly enhance memory. Hypnosis subjects tend to cling to belief in the retrieved memories even when the material is conclusively demonstrated to be inaccurate and false. 

The work of Ted Kaptchuk further showed us the potential value of a good bedside manner. Patients given positive attention ("I’m so glad to meet you"; "I know how difficult this is for you"; "This treatment has excellent results") experienced, or perceived, significant results. Suffice it to say I would fully expect to find that dynamic prevalent among relationships between clients and their hypnotists who present themselves as friendly, charming and empathetic of the trials and tribulations of alien abduction.

Injections reportedly induce stronger
placebo effects than achieved via pills
On a related note, studies are suggesting – and the American Cancer Society indicates – that different means of delivering the placebo come with effects of varying value. An injection works better than a pill, for instance, and a big pill is more effective than a smaller pill.

A 2009 document released by the Department of Defense reported detainees at sites such as Guantanamo Bay were interrogated while drugged. In at least one circumstance, the DoD revealed, a detainee was the subject of a "deliberate ruse" in which interrogators injected him with what he was led to believe was "truth serum." The report also included reference to a 2002 meeting attended by Defense Intelligence Agency interrogation personnel and mental health specialists in which it was noted, "Truth serum; even though it may not actually work, it does have a placebo effect." A 2010 white paper subsequently published by the Physicians for Human Rights called for further investigation and suggested human experimentation was taking place.

I will be presenting more on these topics and several related areas of interest in an upcoming book. It is on track for completion and release in a few months.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nigel Watson's New Book Set for Release

The latest book from writer/researcher Nigel Watson is scheduled for a May release in the USA. 'UFOs of the First World War: Phantom Airships, Balloons, Aircraft and Other Mysterious Aerial Phenomena' is published by The History Press and may be pre-ordered on Amazon for about 15 bucks.

'UFOs of the First World War' includes sighting reports and related stories from the UK, the USA, Europe, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The 'Mirror' has offered a summary of the book, and Amazon allows browsing its table of contents and first few pages.

Nigel Watson is known for such previous work as his 2013 'UFO Investigations Manual' and 1990 offering, 'Portraits of Alien Encounters'. He has been published by 'Wired', 'Fortean Times' and 'Magonia', among other outlets. 

Watson has generously provided insightful and appreciated content for 'The UFO Trail', including in late 2013 when he discussed ethics of exploring the fringe. Earlier the same year he addressed questions by email in which he provided moderate and even-handed perspectives on reports of high strangeness. Watson explained that his study of psychology helped him understand the complexities and inadequacies of human perception, circumstances which might particularly come into play during exceptional situations.

"Every ufologist should gain some understanding of the basics of human psychology," Watson wrote during the email exchange.

Asked what he thought most important for writer/researchers to understand when delving into reports of UFOs, alien abduction and related subject matter, Watson replied, "That there is no all embracing answer to why people keep reporting UFO sightings and alien abductions. The reasons vary according to the witness and their sociological and cultural background."

More recently, Nigel Watson was consulted for a piece published in the 'Metro' about the Roswell slides. He explained there is considerable cynicism and skepticism surrounding the slides for reasons including the UFO community has been promised such evidence in the past and it turned out to be fakes and hoaxes. Watson observed it rather remarkable that even when purported evidence was conclusively demonstrated to be useless, as was the case with the so-called 'Alien Autopsy' film, it continues to be hotly debated in some quarters of ufology. 

To find out what Watson learned about WWI era reports of UFOs and high strangeness, check out 'UFOs of the First World War: Phantom Airships, Balloons, Aircraft and Other Mysterious Aerial Phenomena'. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.   

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Relevant Web Links on Romanek Case

The latest news on the Stan Romanek saga involves a court ruling that he is competent to stand trial. My summary of developments in the case was posted at Frank Warren's 'The UFO Chronicles':

Stan Romanek Update: Trial Date Set in Child Porn Case

Frank has a section of his website devoted to the Romanek saga. It contains a number of articles and may be browsed at:

Posts with label Stan Romanek 

Additional key links of potential interest include:

The initial February, 2014, story published in the local Loveland, Colo. newspaper, the 'Reporter-Herald', that Romanek was arrested on child exploitation charges:

Loveland man arrested on child exploitation charges  

A February, 2014, press release from the Loveland Police Department detailing the charges against Romanek, possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as explaining the charges were leveled after the LPD acted on tips provided by the Department of Homeland Security:

Loveland Police Department Press Release

A July, 2014, article I published, containing a summary of reports obtained from the Loveland Police Department about a reported assault on Stan Romanek. The assault allegedly happened in the days following his February arrest. According to the police reports, Romanek claimed that he suspected authorities had assaulted him, but LPD Detective Henry Stucky eventually suspended the assault case, concluding the evidence was not consistent with the alleged fight having actually occurred:

Police detective: Evidence not consistent of a fight in Romanek assault case

A March, 2015, article published by the 'Reporter-Herald', in which it was reported that Romanek may proceed to trial. Additional information about circumstances surrounding the charges was included, as well as Romanek's claims of harassment:

Court rules Stanley Romanek can stand trial

Lastly, here is a case tracking summary, where the latest status of Romanek's case and the next scheduled court date may be monitored:

Larimer County District Attorney's Office Case Tracking Summary 

The short version of the long story at this point is that after several medical and mental competency tests, numerous status hearings and a questionable reported assault on Romanek, a trial on the child exploitation charges is tentatively scheduled for October. That is of course pending any motions and events that may happen in the mean time.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Scientists periodically express concerns about a population at large which fails to trust the scientific method and those who practice it. Such dynamics are observable within the medical community and a segment of the public which resists vaccinations, for example. We are often told the blame lies in widely accepted yet irrational conspiracy theories and a general lack of education.

That is certainly accurate to some extent, but not entirely. At least partially to blame is the fact the intelligence community (IC) has a long and well documented history of exploiting the medical field and its unsuspecting patients.

Does that justify the public spreading measles around elementary schools? No, of course not – but that is not the point being offered for consideration.

The argument being put forth is that the environment created by collaborations between the IC, medical doctors and the professional research community propagates distrust and paranoia. The lack of public education has been used by the IC as an advantage at times, it is not always to its detriment, and to cite it as virtually the exclusive reason medical science is questioned is arguably hypocritical and disingenuous. It is true that rumors and inaccurate information fuel the public lack of trust of the scientific community, but it is equally true that the exploitation of the public shares some of the blame. Stick around a few paragraphs and you'll see one of the ways this ties directly to the UFO community.

The late Dr. Ewen Cameron served as president of both the American and Canadian Psychiatric Associations. He also received grant funds originating from the CIA and Project MKULTRA Subproject 68. While directing the Allan Memorial Institute, a psychiatric hospital located at McGill University during the mid 20th century, Cameron conducted some of the most heinous experiments attributed to MKULTRA. Exploited were individuals seeking care for or questionably diagnosed with mental illnesses. Courts awarded financial compensation to dozens of Cameron's victims, and hundreds more were continuing to seek legal judgments as recently as 2004. 

The Bronfman Building of McGill
McGill's history of covert involvement with the powers that be understandably resulted in student advocacy groups monitoring school research contracts, grant awards and related activities. In 2014 Demilitarize McGill uncovered evidence that a study and survey conducted by the psych department and funded by the Canadian military was misrepresented to its research subjects. Concerns of ethics were raised when some 80 Somali Canadians were interviewed about their interests and activities, but researchers failed to inform the subjects the study was funded by the military and designed to assist in profiling terrorists.

Earlier this month Demil McGill obtained documents and records indicating university personnel were involved in a scheme to deflect oversight and public scrutiny from their military-funded weapons research and development. The plan included professors using their home addresses as locations of businesses listed as securing contracts actually carried out at McGill. Those do not seem like the actions we should expect of administrators and researchers who wish to bury indiscretions of the past and prioritize having their work and statements accepted as high in integrity.

Among the more blatant known instances of medical professionals willfully deceiving and harming research subjects was the Tuskegee Study. Hundreds of African American men were allowed to suffer from syphilis in order to study its progression. Many were intentionally infected without informing either them or, obviously, their sex partners. The Center for Disease Control reports the 1932 study was originally projected to last for six months but went on for 40 years. The involuntary and inadequately informed research subjects were lured with promises of free healthcare, among other benefits.

In 1994 the Clinton administration launched an investigation into claims that human research subjects were intentionally and unwittingly exposed to radiation. The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments concluded that an estimated 11,000 Americans were treated negligently by their federal government during experiments, some of which were fatal. Records showed that, similarly to those exploited during the Tuskegee Study, some of the radiation victims were misled to believe the tests were harmless and they would be rewarded with free healthcare for their participation.

Next time you hear someone carrying on about how ignorant and irrational the populations are in countries that resist international medical aid and vaccinations, you might consider asking them if they are aware the CIA executed a bogus vaccination drive in 2011 in Pakistan. The ruse included recruiting a senior Pakistani doctor who was actually extracting DNA samples from children for intelligence purposes, not vaccinating the juveniles. He was later arrested by Pakistani intelligence services for cooperating with the American intel agency.

It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out that such operations do not foster public trust in the medical community, or that ignorance and paranoia are not the only hurdles to overcome. It's not just a matter of whether or not the public believes in the validity of the review process that approved a vaccination, it's also a matter of trusting the motives of those administering it. Obviously, such concerns are not entirely unfounded, and, even if the occurrences of betrayal are relatively rare, they still contribute to the challenges. The covert operations are part of the origins of the misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors. After all, they were intended by design to be misunderstood and exploitative in the first place. That's part of the culture that evolved.

And then there's this. If you've never heard of the anti-vax efforts of Retired Major General Albert Stubblebine III and his wife, Dr. Rima Laibow, it's not because they aren't trying to get your attention. The couple operate a nonprofit corporation, the Natural Solutions Foundation, and a closely related website, Dr. Rima Truth Reports. A more unsubstantiated bunch of dire conspiracy theories posted by a retired career intelligence officer on a single website you may never find.

Stubblebine and Laibow inform their following of such news as vaccinations are for the purpose of turning our children into autistic worker drones. Promoted is a stance of no vaccines, ever, under any circumstances. The couple also report that the powers that be are keeping secret an ebola cure, nano silver, because they want us all to die. According to Stubblebine, there is a major plot afoot to exterminate a high percentage of the human race, leaving the elites to enjoy the planet thereafter. And so on.

Before the couple was informing the public of such important news that Laibow claimed resulted in a "serious attempt" on her life, they were high profile members of the UFO community. Laibow, a psychologist, supported the use of hypnosis as an investigative tool for alleged alien abduction and was a speaker in Pensacola at the 1990 annual MUFON shindig when the Gulf Breeze Six came to town.

Stubblebine is one of 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' guys and was credited with the development of Remote Viewing, as well as heading up the CIA-funded exploration of it. More recently he's been raging about everything from 911 to chemtrails. Learn more about the couple and their ufology adventures by searching this blog or, of course, conducting an Internet search.

In March of 2012, Retired Colonel John Alexander was emailed by this writer. He was scheduled to speak at the Ozark UFO Conference, and permission was sought to interview him for a blog post during the event. He replied he would be happy to meet, and suggested to get with him at the conference.

Topics intended for discussion with Alexander, who presents himself as extremely anti-conspiracy, included the actions of Stubblebine, among other items of interest. Unfortunately, when approached at the conference, the colonel expressed that he had changed his mind and was declining to be interviewed. He suggested he felt 'The UFO Trail' was too conspiracy-oriented to entertain its questions.

The opportunity was taken, however, to ask Alexander how he and Stubblebine, a man he worked with directly, could have so many conflicting accounts of what took place. Alexander briefly replied that Stubblebine was his former boss, and added that he does not know why Stubblebine says the things he says. 

The rest of us still don't either, but perhaps some related issues deserve their share of attention. Among them would be the glaringly obvious: There are reasons in addition to ignorance and paranoia that people don't trust authority. If the government and its researchers sincerely desire to be viewed with more integrity, there are steps they can take to improve the situation other than condemning the public for its lack of respect. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Characteristics of Quality Research

"[I]t will be interesting to see how cognitive dissonance will work for this new episode of 'Roswell my love.' In any case I've enjoyed the witness who saw the man who saw the man who saw the man who saw the bear..."
- Rosetta, 'UFO Skepticisme'

There are different kinds of research. Some people and organizations conduct scientific research. Others do quality research that is not scientific but is still professional and credible. There are characteristics of professional research that can be easily identified as either present or absent.

Please keep in mind that the subject of a written work or presentation is not necessarily a primary qualifier of its value. That might be considered particularly important among those interested in such often marginalized subjects as UFOs and conspiracy theories. The topic one chooses to study and present is often not as relevant to the credibility of the finished product as are the manners it is studied and presented.

The professional research community recognizes certain protocols that include staples such as citing sources when making assertions. Such sources should be among those recognized as legitimate, which include, for examples, college websites, newspaper clippings, papers published by qualified experts and declassified government documents.

"Research holding the
torch of knowledge"
at the Library of Congress
Writer/researchers who are excellent at following such protocols include George P. Hansen and Annie Jacobsen. Please note their differing areas of expertise: Hansen has published a great deal of work on the study of the paranormal, while Jacobsen has delved extensively into the covert and often questionable activities of the intelligence community. Again: It is their standards of research and presentation that make their work professional, not their choices of interests.

Another characteristic that should be expected to be present in quality research, particularly when it involves a group or organization, is the accounting of various aspects of the project, such as personnel and funding. If researchers desire to be granted respect and offered our attention, we should never feel we are prying or asking overly intrusive questions when we desire to know who worked on a project. Similarly, how funds were acquired and allocated should always be presented overtly and prominently if groups received significant financial backing to conduct their endeavors. Once again, please note that such procedures are not necessarily related to the topic of the research project, but its execution and presentation.

Writer/researcher James Carrion addressed such issues during an appearance last year on the Paracast. Highlights of the interview were posted on 'The UFO Trail'.

"This whole subject is so muddied already," Carrion explained, "what you don't need is more cover up, more deception, more obfuscation."

Such cover up and obfuscation are leading indicators of poorly conceived projects. Prior to the 2013 Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, organizer Steve Bassett initially declined to disclose the financial compensation allocated to former members of Congress and described it as "private". He later indicated they were each paid $20,000.

Similarly, UFO researchers participating in the mock hearing repeatedly declined to discuss details of their compensation. Some went as far as to agree by email to field questions yet failed to reply when sent the actual queries. Another deferred to Bassett. None of those asked provided a direct answer about their financial compensation.

In their defense, the failure to be cooperatively forthcoming about financial matters could probably be much better described as an overall ufology shortcoming than an aspect of the CHD. There often seems to be a prevailing feeling that the less said, the better.   

Below par financial reporting and questionable project management were inherent to the disappointing Ambient Monitoring Project. Touted and much anticipated as a scientific effort to quantify environmental conditions surrounding reports of alien abduction, project director Tom Deuley repeatedly struggled to publicly explain key issues of funding, including sources and amounts, which were never conclusively disclosed. Board members of organizations involved in the AMP failed to provide direct answers about its financial and operational status for years, often contradicting one another. 

In bringing this post to a close, let us consider more of Carrion's statements on the Paracast podcast. Discussing the failed MUFON-BAASS relationship, Carrion said, "There very much has to be a large amount of transparency when you're going to be involved in something of this nature. You can't hide anything. So, for example, when Bigelow hid the source of his funding and would only reveal it to John Schuessler on the MUFON board, that lack of transparency really rubs me the wrong way. That tells me there's something being hidden for a certain purpose and I don't want to be involved in that."

Emphasis mine - and that's arguably the bottom line.

In the end, a very solid point could be made that dissecting the discrepancies and contradictions of questionable projects sometimes only pulls us further into the shell game. Perhaps the wise would tell us that when we identify the omission of characteristics of quality research, we've already learned all we need to know in order to assess the so-called work. When protocols are not followed, a great deal of skepticism is justified. 

On the upside, we are empowered to identify high quality research. Moreover, we might consider allocating proportionate attention.